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Recensie

Kerstmis komt vroeg dit jaar. Na de geweldige boxset van Caravan (Who Do You Think We Are? met 37 cds!) komt nu nog een magnifieke set en wel van het onvolprezen Van Der Graaf Generator gezelschap, een boxset waar de kerstman namens mij ook grif de portemonnee voor trekt. Deze box bevat namelijk alle platen die VDGG uit heeft gebracht op het befaamde Charisma Label (The Least We Can Do is Wave to Each Other, He to He Who Am The Only One, Pawn Hearts, Still Life, World Record, Godbluff, The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome, Vital) in remastered versies, aangevuld met alle beschikbare BBC-sessies die de band heeft gedaan. Uiteraard zijn er ook nog live-opnames opgepoetst en wel (Live in Rimini 9th August 1975, Live at Maison de la Mutualité Paris 1976) met naast deze 17 cds in totaal, nog eens 3 blue-rays met surround mixen en tv-opnamen. Sterren in de boxset zijn de vier nieuwe stereo mixes (ook in high resolution op dvd) van Pawn Hearts / H to He/ Still Life / Godbluff, die klinken als een klok en de absolute voorkeur hebben om de band in haar volle glorie te beluisteren. Deze versies zijn ook als zelfstandige drievoudige cd’s te kopen, dus als je geen geld (over) hebt voor de boxset (wat ik me als fan eigenlijk niet kan voorstellen) dan kun je alsnog je slag slaan en de buurt op hoog volume laten genieten van een van de meest onterecht genegeerde pilaren van de progrock!

VDGG — The Charisma Years Box

'Refugees' and 'Killer' singles presage the complete VDGG The Charisma Years Box, 4 x 3-disc album Special Editions, and UK festival date for 2021. Other UK and continental European dates are rescheduled for 2022.

A lavish 20-disc Box — 'The Charisma Years Box' comprising 17 CDs and 3 Blu Ray discs — covers Van Der Graaf Generator's entire recorded works for Charisma Records, including previously unreleased tracks and previously unreleased footage. And brand new Stereo and Surround Sound remixes.

Single releases — Refugees (Single Version), Killer (New Stereo Mix), and Pilgrims (New Stereo Mix) will precede release of 'The Charisma Years Box', with further singles TBA. And album releases — 4 x 3-disc Sets and 4 x Facsimile Vinyl LPs will also be released.

Live in 2021 — Festival announcement not embargoed: << We can announce that Van Der Graaf Generator will make their first UK festival appearance since 1976 co-headlining the Beautiful Days festival on 22nd August 2021. Other UK and continental European tour dates have now been rescheduled to 2022. Guy Evans: "The last UK festival we played was Reading '76. The Reading organisation was practically family. We were somewhat nervous though. The PA broke down right at the start of our set just after John Peel announced us, so were stuck up there for a while without sound. But then amazingly, we aced it, going from strength to strength, egged on by the really appreciative audience. It was the first time since 1972 that we played Killer, which brought down the house, and the heavens!" >>

The Charisma Years Box

The liner notes from 'The Charisma Years Box' put it well:

"Musical pioneers, boundary-pushers, visionaries. Savage, beautiful, experimental, enduring. Although born in the creative maelstrom of late 1960s Britain, the music of Van Der Graaf Generator has inspired a host of musicians of varying style and taste, from John Lydon to Marc Almond, from Mark E Smith to Bruce Dickinson... seemingly laid to rest as a band in 1978, they have since been reborn and revitalised for the 21st century."


VDGG released 8 albums for the legendary Charisma label. Each was ground-breaking. The influence of the band's unique music would be felt in the ensuing decades by many artists in many genres. 'The Charisma Years Box' features all their Charisma albums newly remastered from first-generation master tapes.

And much more:

Also featured — 2 CDs of a recently discovered and previously unreleased entire concert recorded in Paris in December 1976 by French radio, and all of the surviving BBC sessions recorded by the band.

In addition — a Blu Ray features all of the surviving high-quality VDGG television footage and promotional films including from German TV's "Beat Club" in 1970, a filmed appearance at The Bataclan in Paris in 1972 for the French TV show "Pop Deux", the 1972 appearance on "Pop Shop" for RTBF Belgium, a live performance shot by Belgian TV in Charleroi in September 1975, promotional films of Wondering and Cat's Eye, and a 20 minute documentary with live footage shot by Austrian television at The Kohfidisch Open Air Festival, Austria in June 1978.

Remixes — the albums H to He Who Am the Only One, Pawn Hearts, Godbluff and Still Life have been stunningly remixed from the original multi-track tapes in both Stereo and 5.1 Surround Sound by Stephen W Tayler. (These 4 albums will also be made available separately as 3-disc Sets, including Original Stereo Mixes.)

Packaged with a 68 page book and rare photographs, 'The Charisma Years Box' is the definitive collection of Charisma work by the legendary Van Der Graaf Generator.

And vinyl LP releases are due in 2022 — The Least We Can Do is Wave to each Other, H to He Who Am the Only One, Pawn Hearts, and Godbluff will be released separately as Facsimile Vinyl LP editions.

Guy Evans:

"It’s perhaps an impossible agenda for the remixing engineer to make the tracks sound as good as possible and to somehow make us, mainly me, have played better. But Stephen Tayler has for sure in these new mixes given us all a remarkable new sonic perspective.

From the moment I picked up on hitherto vanished cymbal lines in Arrow, and the newly balanced kit, I was hooked. Then it was those quirky second vocal lines that I hadn’t heard since the original tracking sessions at Rockfield, and a new clarity given to subtle flute and electric sax lines.

The stereo mixes included here are themselves great, and the 5.1s are a revelation! Not in a whizzo cinematic sense, no mind-blowing pyrotechnics, just more space for everything to exist, more depth to get engrossed in.”

Hugh Banton:

"It's almost 50 years since Pawn Hearts was released in October 1971, the same month as the world’s first-ever microprocessor chip was brought to market. Even the humble pocket calculator had yet to make much of an appearance, and an FM radio in a car was usually an optional extra. It’s quite hard now to recall a world where the technology for recording music consisted solely of tape recorders.

Trident Studios had a pristine Hammond C3 and what has been described as ‘the best rock’n’roll piano ever’, a vintage Bechstein, always a treat to play; I believe all four of us contributed piano parts to varying degrees. Rockfield possibly managed to surpass even that with their Bӧsendorfer.

Using the pedals on an organ was by no means unfamiliar to me. I’d habitually visualised imaginary bass-pedal lines ever since I first played a pipe organ at school during the ‘60s. Nevertheless the band’s switch from Nic Potter on Fender bass to me on Hammond pedals proceeded at impossible speed, with barely six days between the two gigs. Intrepid youth!”

Peter Hammill:

"Well here we are as young men, pushing away, exploring away. This is about as comprehensive a documentation of that exciting time in our lives as it’s possible to get. We had the luck to be given an enormous amount of freedom by Charisma Records to find our own way – and an audience - from the outset. This meant we pushed ourselves as much as we could.

It’s wonderful to have the whole recorded history of those years collected together as a complete set and the new mixes shed quite a different light on many of the pieces.

Somewhat to our own surprise, we’ve had a later lease of life after our reunion album and concerts. And as the trio of Hugh, Guy and myself, we’re still working away and will be playing live again as soon as circumstances allow us. This remains a fun job.”

and Stephen W Tayler (remixes engineer):

"Unearthing the 16-track tapes for H to He and Pawn Hearts, recorded at Trident, was a real flashback for me. I started my career at Trident Studios not long after these albums were made… eventually becoming chief engineer, strongly influenced by the Trident attitude and sound. The ideas and sounds there were quite extreme when compared to other studios. There was lots of experimentation and rule-breaking.

Hugh Banton was sent the new surround sound versions and the new stereos went to each band member. Hugh himself is a trained audio engineer and has a 5.1 surround system. I then waited for their notes, which were minimal and helpful. They all sounded so happy!

Finally Guy Evans was nominated to come over and check out the surround mixes at Real World… his response was quite emotional. He said it was like listening to the albums for the first time! That was a very special day which I will always remember. It is such an incredible privilege to have been involved in remixing these iconic albums.”

This is music beyond genre. This is a band apart, with their influence widespread across many artists and genres and across time. The timing couldn’t be better. Fifty years since Pawn Hearts, and the great band returns just as a fresh crop of new bands is being compared or could be compared to Van Der Graaf Generator: including Black Midi; Black Country, New Road; and Squid.The Charisma Years are all here and present, with new twists, new aspects, new mysteries, new sound, new vision. All is to behold, together, complete for the first time. At last.
Door Andre de Waal op

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