I like the cover which merges an outerspace blue marble photo of the earth (centered on the middle east, oddly, not Europe or the US) with an LP. Musically, it’s a lot of the same kind of stuff we’re used to and then suddenly not. It’s a very different beast than Still Life, which was released only six months before.

vdgg-wrOpening track When She Comes closes with an interesting Spanish castanet thing, but it’s a proper rocker. For the most part. The second verse almost had me feeling I’d tripped into a Leonard Cohen song: ‘And you think she’s really with you, / and you think that she’ll always stay, / always ready to forgive you, / always ready to grant you her mercy / but in her own way,’ but Hammill twists in his own vision of things, namechecking ‘The Belle Dame [is] without mercy’ from Arthurian mythology.

A Place To Survive also rocks out pretty mightily with Jackson’s horns positively screeching at times over Banton’s mellotron arpeggios. It closes with the the sound of the recording tape being pulled thin, garbled and distorted. Masks, which closes side 1 (just a note or two short of actually resolving musically), continues the musical intensity with another confused/complex Hammill character who confuses the face he shows the world with the face he shows himself. Or something. Lyrically, it reminded me a bit of MC 900 Ft Jesus’ The Killer Inside Me, though that might be a little twisted.

Side 2’s 21-minute epic, Meurglys III (The Songwriter’s Guild), has a long reggae section. The first 13 minutes are a normal proggy VDGG song with lyrics about not knowing the truth or thinking the truth is there but in the end it’s not. And then the bass takes over and there’s several minutes of that loping 70s reggae beat with some way-down-in-the-cutaway guitar work. It’s cool, but a little unexpected. (The 2015 live version on Merlin Atmos clocks in at 15:24 and keeps the reggae to a minimum.)

The initial release of the album closed with Wondering, which starts as a flute-based (or rather synth-flute-based) waltz and evolves into something musically anthemic, but lyrically ambivalent. In the first iteration of the last line, wondering if it’s all been true, the last word is spoken and intoned like a question. The line is repeated several times with the word true usually sunk below the instrumentation.

The reissue also includes rather fuzzy Peel session versions of When She Comes and Masks. (Noting again, that I’m listening on Spotify, so gauge the term ‘fuzzy’ as you will.)