Okay, I confess, the distractions were cleared as soon as the postman handed it over, straight to Plague of Lighthouse Keepers, and of course it sounds wonderful, how could it not? It could have been any number of tracks really but that was the one that originally pulled me in. It is slightly strange without the crackles and all shining and bright, like someone fresh from the dentist with a new set of teeth or a painting just back from the restorers with so much colourful detail revealed, bits you maybe knew were there and weren’t sure if you could see them before or you just maybe imagined them? But is is too clean? This is going to take a little getting to know, and yes, if I am still here this time next year will I reach for these new mixes or the original piece of well played much loved vinyl? It is like seeing and hearing a “better” (almost flawless) version of yourself in the mirror, or meeting your better other self, the one that isn’t cracked and busting for air, the one Mr Hammill has sung about many times. Now hey, we’ve already brought you all the news and the details of this extensive box set that features a very very large slice of Van Der Graaf Generator’s expansive 1970’s output and regulars around here will know how we feel about all things Van Der Graff or Peter Hammill, it is no secret that I’m a frothing fan and I’m not the only one.
And I imagine the only people interested in this box set are the people who already have most of what is in this box set? We already gave you the details a couple of months back and well frankly I don’t want to be standing here writing some over-detailed book about it all when I could just crank it all up and demand you leave me alone with all these pieces of eight for at least the rest of the month. But it does feel brighter, a very shiny footprint on that wet sand, it feels like it does when you get new contact lens and you can maybe see just a little too much detail and it might just take a few days to adjust to your reflection in the mirror, but does it shine too much? I can’t honestly tell you, ask me in a year. Was it worth of the painstaking effort? Oh yes for unlike that restored painting, you still have the original as well and yes I am enjoying this detail, it does feel good, it does feel right and there is a point in catching this breath although is some of that dirty sax a little too clean? I can’t honesty say, not yet.
Oh look, I’ve got the live version of Arrow (recorded in Paris in 1976) on now and however much this is all cleaned up and represented you just can’;t take away the magic of it all, the warmth of it all, the expanse of is all, the smell of it all humming in the air Far more, far far more than just a band you can put in a neat little box called “prog Rock” without Mr Nadir punching his way out to confront you, I mean, catch hold of that BBC session version of Killer from 1970 and tell me it isn’t laced with punk rock danger! As for that raw as fuck version of Man Erg recorded for the BBC and introduced by john Peel, is any wonder that we found ourselves sitting not far from Johnny Rotten at a Peter Hammill solo show sometime in the late 80’s? like Cardiacs, Van Der Graaf are one of those almost secret pleasures (not guilty ones, nothing guilty here), that you either obsessively get or you haven’t invested enough time and effort into getting it yet. It isn’t easy, things like this should never be easy. never comfortable, and yes it should cause the painter in the studio next door to come hammering with demands to turn it down as well as enquiries as to “what the hell is it anyway?”, jeez, that session version on Man Erg is good!
One of the many many things I love about this band and the people who make up the band (and their solo projects) is that there’s always something new to discover hidden beneath the complicated surface, always another version, another live video or a recording uncovered, there’s such a vast catalogue. There’s whole lifetimes of work here in this vast box set, you can’t listen to all this in one go and even if you could then being to expected to write some kind of cohesive review, nah, that’s the job of those glossy monthly things, it isn’t what we do here and anyway I want to slowly explore this over the next few months. I’ve been dipping in and out far too much already and it should be rationed and day dawns dark and surely if you’re interested in a box set then all you really need to know is is it any good? And I always wondered how people could obsess over Bowie when there’s Hammill? There’s a lot of people who just don’t know about this band and this front man and box sets are for the converted, the believes, all we really want to know is is it a good one or one of those cobbled together rip offs, and well yes (without any consideration for the price of these things when there’s tubes of paint to buy and most of us can’t afford the price of a pint these days), this is one of the good box sets, yes, this is a good one, you pretty much knew that already though, we’re preaching to the converted here and the interesting thing really is the missionary work, there are people out there who are yet to discover the enormous thing that is Van Der Graaf Generator (sw)
The details of the box set are all here – ORGAN THING: A new Van Der Graaf Generator single, all the box set and re-issue news and notes, well a new mix and a rather beautiful one, Refugees…
And if you don’t already know, then just watch this…
And meanwhile, only yesterday Peter Hammill poster this rather exciting image on his Twitter feed