How on earth do you "introduce" someone to the music of Van Der Graaf Generator
? Is there any one album in their catalog that can be considered truly representative of all the moods to which they were prone? Could one put together any single disc's worth of songs that would allow the uninitiated to make a reasoned decision about whether or not they were yet ready for the full-length "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers"? There isn't -- but you can't blame Virgin for trying -- and coming very close to succeeding. Released to follow up on the media support granted the VDGG
box set by offering the curious a budget sampler of the full treat, the nine tracks here touch upon almost all of the group's strongest points, most notably the sensation that you are entering a place where few others dare to tread. "Darkness," "Killer," and "Man Erg," from the earlier phase of the band, retain their power to paralyze the unwary, all the more so when they appear interspersed with the stirring "Theme One" and the incandescent "Refugees" -- surely the most affecting song Peter Hammill
has ever written. From there, four numbers from the band's mid-'70s reincarnation indicate just how purposefully far from even the progressive rock mainstream VDGG
were capable of drifting -- and why their 2005 reunion was so keenly awaited. Of course, "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers" will probably still take a lot of getting used to, but even longtime fans will admit that.