Van der Graaf Generator – World Record (1976)

Artist Credit
Hugh Banton Bass, Composer, Guitar, Keyboards, Pedal Steel
Guy Evans Drums, Finger Snaps, Percussion
Peter Hammill Composer, Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
David Jackson Flute, Keyboards, Sax (Alto), Sax (Soprano), Sax (Tenor), Wind
Pat Moran Engineer

Released in the latter half of 1976 as a half-hearted attempt at some sort of commercial focus in the U.K. and U.S., World Record suffers from several ailments: there was much tension in the band at this point, particularly between leader Peter Hammill and keyboardist Hugh Banton. In the end, the band would split apart, with Banton and wind player David Jackson leaving, while Hammill and drummer Guy Evans recruited replacements. World Record is very much a divided record, sounding beautifully clean, but lacking in both performance and focus. Evans plays as well as ever, but without the creative spark of earlier records; Hammill, meanwhile, was responsible for the rambling, scattered “Meurglys III (The Songwriter’s Guild),” a lumbering piece named after one of his guitars. (I don’t agree) Of the cuts present, the best are the operatic “Masks,” which mines one of Hammill’s favorite themes, that of identity, and “Wondering,” written in collaboration with Banton. “Wondering” is beautifully hymn-like until the very end, when it suddenly becomes querulous and uncertain, ending the album both with a note of hope and a desperate question.

These days I mainly just talk to plants and dogs
All human contact seems painful, risky, odd,
So I stay acting god in my own universe…
There is nothing else to say. Peter Hammill creates one of the most beautiful pieces in rock history. Just take your hat off and listen to this 21-minute marvelous song once again with your eyes closed: “Meurglys III (The Songwriter’s Guild)”

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