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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

Prog Sothoth
5 stars Dem pesky kids 'en their cott'n pick'n noisy keyboards are at it agin. Wait...what?

Yep, VdGG aren't your typical rock band with the guitars front and center ready to roast your brain and have your parents wondering where they went wrong weaning you & such. But the band can unleash quite a racket even without much usage of electric guitar fury. They didn't really need it. Blasting "Killer" with the windows wide open back in 1970 must've caused some neighbors to build bomb shelters in their back yards. "Surely the end must be nigh!"

Winding down my obsession with 1970 albums, I figured it's about time to review possibly the crème de la crème of what prog rock had to offer that year, being H To Da He, Who Am Da Only One, or something like that. It's the highest rated album from 1970 at this time here in the Archives, and it's a doozy. Not only that, but it's the second album they released that year, with their prior album being another corker. These guys pretty much owned prog in 1970 in retrospect as far as their legacy is concerned, and neither of their efforts that year are considered their grandest achievements by many respected and a few derided prog historians. It was the end of one era and the beginning of another, and the Van dudes coasted through that critical juncture like kings on parade.

Whereas The Least... had one foot in the sixties and the other looking forward to the seventies, H to He... was already firmly entrenched in the early 70s. The songs are more structure based and technical instrumentally, and experimental moments were based more on avant garde jazziness than acid freakouts. Musically the band had improved, but to be honest I'm one of those few weirdos that, if I had to choose, would have The Least... as my desert island album by the band, since atmosphere and mood are important elements to my listening experience. H to He certainly has it, but it's got nothing on The Least's foreboding sense of terror and hysteria. Still, H to He is one hell of a victory march towards the last days of 1970, and once I was finally able to absorb everything this beast threw at me, I knew I was listening to something special.

"Killer" starts things off on one of their catchiest notes. Immediately the lyrics are dark and in your face like a freshly baked and freshly thrown apple pie. Cream pies tossed to the kisser is funny, but a 'hot off the oven' baked apple one planted square in the face will not induce laughter. Try it sometime, you'll see. There's a middle section with some wacked out soloing that introduces us to the fact that this band has no intentions of playing things safe. As a whole, though, this tune got me immediately hooked.

"House With No Door" sounds like something that would have fit snug in Bowie's Hunky Dory, which wasn't even released until the following year. Yep, this band was ahead of much of the game.

"The Emperor In His War-Room", also known as "the song with Fripp in it", is where things started getting rough for me the first couple of listens. The band are getting more adventurous and breaking their tunes into parts now. It's still a good number, and Fripp kicks in right when I needed it since I was feeling a bit, for lack of a better word, "heavy" by then.

It gets tougher. "Lost" bounces around between tunefulness and meandering around for patches, but the payoff at the end is worth it. Hammill's harrowing cries of "I Love You" is a theatrical bombshell. If John Cusack was blaring the ending of this epic at Ione Skye in Say Anything instead of "In Your Eyes", she would have either ripped her shirt off or called for a SWAT team. Unfortunately we'll never know.

"Pioneers Over C" is the most difficult of the lot, but still has quite a few memorable moments. David Jackson truly has mastered the ancient martial art of drunken sax playing, and he lets us know it.

Unlike their other 1970 offering, this was a tougher nut to crack for me, but I did hear enough cool and downright incredible things rearing their heads here to keep giving it a shot, and now I love this bugger. I'm still having issues with Pawn Hearts even after all these years, and don't get me started on some of their later stuff. H to He, on the other hand, has completely won me over at this point, and yes, it's essential, clever and one hell of a ride if you give it a chance.

Prog Sothoth | 5/5 |

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