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Van Der Graaf Generator - H To He, Who Am The Only One CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

4.31 | 1486 ratings

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The Quiet One
Prog Reviewer
5 stars V to d, G to G, is this band the Only One (with those initials)?

Van der Graaf's Generator's proper second album(The Aerosol Grey Machine was intended to be a Hammill solo album), H to He, Who Am the Only One, released in 1970 is, surprisingly, an extremely mature prog rock record, I can barely listen to a flaw in the compositional and instrumental aspects. While with The Least We Can Do Is to Wave Each Other the band showed that they were rather original and wouldn't start their career making covers or playing a blues tune like many bands from the time, they were still far from being top-notch songwriters.

H to He is indeed a vast improvement over the, still great, previous album, and might be even better than Pawn Hearts, and of course up-there (or better than) with Godbluff and Still Life

As you should know, this band delivers a one-of-a-kind style of Prog with lead instruments being Hugh's subtle organ and David's original saxophone playing, not something you hear from your everyday Prog band. Also, the other unique and surely most acknowledged feature is Peter Hammill's theatrical vocal delivery. These three components are what make Van der Graaf Generator so original and at the same time, so difficult to get into. If you're able to digest all these three ''special features'', then H to He, Who Am the Only One is definitely the best you can get.

Already with the menacing ambience and the catchy organ/sax riff of Killer, the band easily demonstrated the 70's audience that they wanted to be remembered. Peter's vocal delivery is probably my favorite part of the song, he adds an essential strength to the music which very few singers manage to do. The song throughout doesn't have many time changes as you would expect, it's rather straight-forward and pretty structured, yet there's the sufficient subtleties and great instrumental playing to keep the listener's attention all through.

The album moves on with House with No Door, giving the listener a break. It's a beautiful song all through, musically speaking, while the vocals can be seen as depressing, though undeniably suitable. The main performer is unquestionably Hugh Banton with his gorgeous piano, fitting bass playing and occasional silent organ playing underneath the piano. Once again, the originality and cleverness of this band can't be clearer.

Next there's Emperor in his War-Room, definitely a more prog-oriented song compared to both previous songs. It has the never-ending contrast between delicate passages with David's flute, Peter's less edgy voice and Hugh's gentle organ, and more ferocious passages with the great, though overlooked, talent of drummer Guy Evans, Fripp's singular guitar sound and Peter's theatrical singing. Excellent song compositionally speaking, though I prefer the more simple-headed, though by no means less rewarding, previous songs.

Follows-up the second longest song from the album, Lost. Alongside Emperor in his War-Room, these two are the more adventurous songs from H to He. With its windy introduction, you really can't predict what will come next; Peter soon follows the same odd windy melody. However, it's just a matter of time until it changes to a short transitional passage of dark and semi-dissonance themes, very similar to the dark and chaotic passage from Man-Erg. After that, the song mainly travels through tranquil territory, mainly some nice sax lines and floating organ. Still the climax occurs later on when Peter pronounces the words ''I Love You'' in a very meaningful manner, after those words the band gets denser though not necessarily heavier, indeed a fantastic ending to a great composition.

The album finalizes with Pioneers Over C., my favorite song from the album and there's a good reason why it is. It starts with some obscure organ playing and resounding percussion which soon Peter would accompany. Suddenly, a groovy bass line abruptly changes the theme, and then once again it changes of pace, this time to a very mysterious one reminding me of Pink Floyd's magnum opus, Echoes. However, once again, this doesn't last long and the band changes of pace again. The band later on repeats all these themes, however with subtle modifications. The reason why this song is my favorite from H to He is that it features most of the great aspects this album offers; there's the tranquility and mysteriousness, there are catchy hooks, a bit of complexity here and there, plus all band members are essential for the final result of this song.

As a conclusion, H To He, Who Am The Only One is undoubtedly a classic Prog Rock record for it having 5 highly original and well composed songs, and each different from each other showing different aspects that Van der Graaf Generator is so good of pulling-off, one of them being transmitting spine-chilling lyrics.

5 stars: a masterpiece of Prog Rock.

The Quiet One | 5/5 |


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