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Van Der Graaf Generator (UK) - 1971 - "Pawn Hearts" ******
(45 min, "Charisma")

To be honest, I became acquainted with the creation of Van Der Graaf and Peter Hammill (I call this unique community just Van Der Hammill) only in the middle of the 1990s. It is because these Titans, unlike all of the others, were for many years unknown here in Uzbekistan for some reason. The first albums by the Van Der Hammill community that I listened to, were "Godbluff" and "Nadir's Big Chance", and they become a real revelation for me. During a few of the following business trips to Moscow, I purchased all of the albums ever created by Van Der Hammill (including all four of the "volumes" by The Long Hello). Back to Van Der Graaf Generator, while "H To He Who Am the Only One" was one of the very first Classic Symphonic Art-Rock masterpieces, "Pawn Hearts" was, IMHO, the creative peak of the band. This is not only one of the most complicated and intriguing albums ever created within the framework of the Symphonic Art-Rock genre. "Pawn Hearts" is also filled with a deeply profound yet fascinatingly interesting (just perfect) lyrical content. Peter Hammill is my favourite lyricist in general. As for his solo works, "Roaring Forties" (1994) I love almost as much as the hero of this review. content

Van Der Graaf - 1977 - "The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome" *****

The last official album of the legendary Progressive group. After the departure of Hugh Banton and David Jackson the bandleader Peter Hammill has lost also the "Generator", but by no means the energy. PH (vocals, guitars, keyboards), this mastermind together with the original members Nic Potter (bass) and Guy Evans (drums) that year (1977) kept the Legend alive, adding into the lineup virtuoso violinist Graham Smith. It is the only album of the band that sounds anything but VDGG (except the co-project VDGG / Long Hello in 1985). There's absolutely no organ, only Peter's piano plays sometimes. Structurally quite complex, as always, this work contains the "hardest" songs VDGG ever composed. Peter sings here into the accompaniment of his own rhythm or acoustic guitars together with an excellent rhythm-section (great bass!) and masterful violin passages by Graham Smith. An unusual, not easy for a quick comprehension (especially for a typical VDGG fan) yet excellent album, full of interesting themes, arrangements and solos. An outstanding track(s) - Cat's eye / Yellow Fever. "Charisma Records". content

Vidales, Alfonso (Poncho) (Mexico) - 1995 - "Entre 2 paredes" **

Sad to say, but this solo debut album by the Cast mastermind, genuine composer and keyboard wizzard Alfonso Vidales is undoubtedly the weakest work he ever created. Then you may ask me, what kind of music is "Between 2 Walls"? It is just a set of short keyboard pieces played by Alfonso himself with the occasional "help" of awful programmed drums. I can't describe this album even as experimental. So, I would rather go on writing of Alfonso's unique creation in the Cast Overall View. content

Vidales, Alfonso (of Cast) (Mexico) - 1998 - "Clavico" ****
(70 min, 'Cast')

The second solo album from the leader of Cast is musically far from all things Alfonso has created for the band's repertoire, as well as the first one. "Clavico", however, sounds by no means as experimental-ambient as "Entre 2 Paredes". The majority of the compositions that feature "Clavico" are all-instrumental and, stylistically only, they in some ways remind Rick Wakeman's rhapsodies from his self-titled album of 1979. Quite a solid set of excellent instrumental pieces that showed the other sides of Alfonso's compositional (including Classical) and performing talents was suddenly changed for songs on the last three tracks of the album. I would have nothing against such unexpected changes of the album's (obvious) conception, if only these songs had been interesting. Quite on the contrary, all the three songs sound boring and even uninspired, being as if added here just to have a 70-minute album instead of a 55-minute one. This way, instrumentally the excellent "Clavico" became just a good mixed album. Thank God, Alfonso didn't intermix them with all-instrumental tracks, otherwise it would have been much difficult to exclude them by programming the CD-player. content

Villebrad - 2006 - "Alla Ar Har Utom Jag" *****
Record Heaven)

Yet another one in a long series of debut releases that Swedish label Transubstans bring out from year to year, picking up probably any newcomers among their native prog bands, regardless of the style they play in. This time around, they've found a quartet from Uppsala, VILLEBRAD, which turned out to be an excellent choice. Villebrad's "Alla Ar Har Utom Jag" is a really curious synthesis of classic Art-Rock and New Wave, the innovativeness of the style being beyond question, although at least one point of comparison can be used - Landberk. It was really interesting to know what could happen as a result of the clever blending of symphonic instrumental textures and pop vocals. Recommended. content

Virgin's Dream - 1972/2000 - "The X Tapes" ****
(65 min,

"The X Tapes" includes all the compositions ever recorded by obscure German outfit VIRGINS DREAM plus two bonus tracks that the keeper of the band's name, singer and keyboardist Rolf Trenkler made in the '90s under his old pseudonym, Trep-X. The band's original eight tracks all were taped in the distant 1972, but saw the light of day only in 2000. The music ranges from organ-driven proto-progressive Hard Rock with English vocals to clearly psychedelic staff - such as on the monstrously long instrumental, Der Blau Kapuzinermonch, which by the way is just woven out of rock improvisations. In all, this is quite a good, honest music, reflecting the tendencies that were more than merely peculiar to Germany's Rock scene until Eloy and Brainstorm finally broke through the armor of so-called Krautrock. Unfortunately the recordings were not remastered for this CD issue, and inasmuch as they are poor in quality, I only can appreciate the music. The listening process itself doesn't give any pleasure to me, while I am not an audiophile and never was capricious regarding any sound. content

Voivod (Canada) - 1991 - "Angel Rat" ****

In my opinion, this softest album of Voivod is also the only weak from their "prog"(!) discography (1988-1993). Unlike "Dimension Hatross" (1988) with its wild tempos, Voivod's actions are so far from heaven, for example, musically "Angel rat" is simply a lullaby, with very accessible structures and arrangements. You may call that style Hard'n'Prog, if you want. Nevertheless, I always prefer "Angel Rat" to many of the well-known current Neo-Prog-Metal bands (sort of Royal Hunt, Saviour Machine, and even Symphony X). See also "V" in "Detailed Reviews". content

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