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

H TO HE, WHO AM THE ONLY ONE

Van Der Graaf Generator

 

Eclectic Prog

4.31 | 1087 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'He To He, Who Am The Only One' - Van Der Graaf Generator (8/10)

The sixties had finally ended, and progressive rock was now finally standing on its own two feet. Although most of the recognition would go to the likes of King Crimson, Yes, and ELP, it is my opinion that Van Der Graaf Generator released among the most inventive music of the period. Whether it be their unique style, their brilliant use of keyboards, or the gorgeous voice of frontman Peter Hammill, I have found myself more drawn to this band's work than most any other 'classic' prog act. The oddly titled 'H To He, Who Am The Only One' is among the band's most acclaimed works, perhaps only dwarfed by the subsequent 'Pawn Hearts' and 'Godbluff.' Although the band's work here doesn't move me as much as my favourite VDGG music, 'H To He' deserves recognition as a classic in the band's canon.

Van Der Graaf Generator is quite clearly a prog rock band, but one thing that makes them stand out is that they were a fair bit gloomier than most of their contemporaries. This reflects in both their music and the highly poetic lyrics of Peter Hammill. Although the concepts and themes that drive this music has much in common with a lot of 'prog,' Van Der Graaf Generator approaches it differently here. 'H To He' delivers Van Der Graaf Generator's signature style in droves; a tight blend of jazz, classical music, and psychedelia. To elaborate, VDGG feel like a jazz band playing classical music through psychedelic rock means. Also notable about the work here is that there is virtually no guitar in their work, although there are plenty of Hugh Banton's gritty keyboard textures that make up for it.

The songwriting on 'H To He' favours longer compositions, often based in storytelling or metaphor. 'Pioneers Over C' for example, details the story of a space voyage gone sour, while 'Killer' and 'The House With No Door' are both allegories for isolation. Peter Hammill certainly has a penchant for the morose in his poetry, and this is sure to turn off listeners who want something a little more optimistic. As is common in all Van Der Graaf Generator album, 'H To He' becomes memorable not first as an overall album, but for its many 'wow' moments. Each of the five tracks here are given some amazing passages, be it a gorgeous vocal melody, dramatic climax, or jazzy break. The songwriting and structure of these pieces is excellent, although the main issue with the work here is that all of these songs feel just a little too drawn out for their own good. Even the beautifully tender 'ballad' track 'The House With No Door' feels as if it could have done with a minute sliced off. Much of VDGG's best work has been indulgent like this, but I do feel that 'H To He' contends with this issue a little more than say, my favourite of their albums, 'Pawn Hearts'.

That's not to say that there is filler here, merely brilliant ideas slightly short of being used optimally. 'H To He' is not my favourite VDGG album, but there is more than enough here to demonstrate why I love them so much.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |

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