Van der Graaf Generator

Vital [Bonus Tracks]

(CD - Astralwerks #CVLCDR 101)

Review by

"From the most extreme live band in the world," warned the album's advertising, "the most extreme live album." And, though that was certainly a dangerous boast in 1978, at the height of the U.K. punk explosion, it was also an accurate one. From the moment the show opened with a blistering version of the B-side "Ship of Fools," on through three new songs ("Mirror Images," "Door," and "Urban") that would never see release during what was left of VDGG's own lifetime, and continuing through a dynamic stretch of old favorites, Van Der Graaf's live show was at its most dynamic since the early '70s, and the ensuing Vital double live album recaptured every last drop of sweat. The record's transition to CD was never going to be easy. Too long for one CD but too short for two, it was finally shorn of two tracks ("Sci-Finance" and the closing "Nadir's Big Chance" shakedown), and it never really got over the operation. It sounded unfinished, and a less than pristine mastering job left most fans still playing their vinyl copies. However, 2005 saw Vital regain its right to its title. A lot of bands released double live albums during the 1970s and some of them were even rather good, but only Van Der Graaf constructed the one that should be part of every rock fan's library, and the one that still reminds listeners why the group was worth reissuing in the first place.

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