Reviewed by DBSilver on 16 Jun 2003
I like tribute albums - though they seem to rarely live up to the material or band that is the subject of the tribute. The potential for winning ranges from revitalizing an old song to adding new insight to either the words or music. The downside can result in a merciless brutalization of a given song.
Eyewitness - A Tribute to VDGG
is an ambitious tribute to Peter Hammil and Van Der Graaf Generator and hits both sides up and down quite firmly.
When I ordered this album a couple of years ago I was very excited as I am a hugh mark for the music of Hammil/VDGG. I think that everyone ought to like this stuff - if only they could just get over the quirkyness of the music and peculiarities of Hammil's voicalizations. Alas not everyone can make themselves overlook such things and though VDGG/PH are influencial true greats in the world of prog - there was never any chance of the VDGG audience being wide (nor does it including many women).
What gets a high grade:
- French TV's Pioneers Over C. Vocals are passable, intensity is good, and instrumental performances are outstanding. This is the poster child for the what and why of tributes.
- Zauber's Theme One. Most delightful, an instrumental that really sounds good.
- Germinale's Merglys III is a treat. Vocals are similar to Hammil (even though they are with an slight Italian accent), but the music is both updated and changed in an intriguing way. They prog this out fully, but also give it a psych feel that's a winner. Because this is a long an varied song filled with numerous changes, Germinale has quite exposed here and this is a risky song for that reason. But Germinale delivers fully and totally.
- Gizmo - House with No Door is a fresh play -sounding like some hippy 60's psych band playing it. I liked it and this is a perfect example of how a tribute effort can make a song gain a new life.
Egoband's Arrow... is a fresh performance -traditional enough but also with plently of freshness. Sometimes great material helps to get a good grade and here is just such a case.
- Jay Tausig's On Tuesday's Slend Threads is actually very good.
- Art And Illusion's Lizard Play is an example of why I like Tribute albums - to have songs like this. It is a fresh but faithful take on this song.
What gets a passing grade: These are songs that sound close to VDGG/HAMMIL or at least not appreciably worse:
- Landberk does a nice job with Afterwards. Nothing special but nice.
- TNR's Last Frame cannot match VDGG. This is a very powerful song and the piano/violin combo is fine - but the vocals not good enough to be drawn out so slowly. On the other hand, if I had not heard VDGG's version I might think this rendition is very good. A hard one to call.
- Irrgarten's Still Life but not fresh enough to play instead of the original.
- C.A.P.'s Faint-Har and the Sermon actually sounds nice with the vocal although the Italian accent is very apparent. Funny though that with the instrumental the song takes on a neo-prog completxion.
Deus Ex Machina - After THe Flood. They could not have picked a better fit for their style of play. Their preformance which is inspired and appropriately aggressive. The vocalist does a great job in spite of not sounding at all like PH.
- Notturno Concertante's Vision sounds like Genesis song. The vocals are excellent until the male/female vocal harmony where they try to give it a Buckingham Nicks treatment but where the harmony notes feel like the wrong ones as often as they feel like the right ones.. Still, this song has enough positives to pass (barely). It is a tribute - and interpretation and had serious potential to be a real success.
- Men Of Lake's Killer rocks pertty hard and is not a bad tribute to this song.
- Jay Tausig & Friends - Tausig has a nice enough vocal but is only OK
What gets a failing grade and/or causes ear pain:
- Finisterre's Refugees hurts both vocally and musically.
- Epicentro's Lemmings and worst of all it gets 11 minutes of time.
- Luna Incostante's Necromancer is original enough which is a positive it doesn't sound at all like a VDGG/PH song in their hands. Unfortunately, this doesn't make it work very well.
- Twenty Four Hours - Darkness (II/II) the recording as it sounds like they were performing just outside of the actual studio but recorded from mic's in the studio. Also the singer can't handle this song.
- Nostalgia's Out of My Book is hurt by the accented vocal and the distance recorded in the voice which lacks enough power to stand up to the band's mix up front in the sound. The vocalist isn't up to the demands of the song either.
- Finnegans Wake - Squid One. Nothing much to say here - I didn't like the song or the perforance.
Hard to say if this album is worth your dime. I bought it before hearing it and it doesn't get much playtime. Some interesting songs but I would guess that there are not enough peaks for me to consider reacquiring it if my own copy disappeared.