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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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James Lee
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Definitely one of the most important links in the psychedelic-progressive chain; a nice transition work somewhere between DONOVAN's storytelling and "Court of the Crimson King".

"Killer" starts with easily approachable (for the time, anyway) sounds and hooks- organ and guitar rock, with a bit of sax. The vocal soon lets you know this isn't your typical freak-out; violent marine imagery wasn't widely used among the hippie bands. The normal disappears even further after the first chorus, with a lysergic guitar solo over tumbling keyboards. A queasy sax takes over, oscillating wildly, and eventually brings us back to the verse. This time there's no doubt he's using metaphor- he pretty much tells us- and then it's a quick return of the main riff and a big finish.

"House With No Door" is another emotional metaphor song, couched in a laidback piano ballad. I think of pre-70s Bowie (you know, the album with Wakeman...), and unfortunately also of Tim Curry at the end of "Rocky Horror". Hamill definitely wants to get his point across, and carrying a tune- or fitting the lyrics to the space given- is a secondary consideration. It's a pleasant song, even if it does get a little redundant by the time they're done with it.

"The Emperor in His War Room" gets a bit more like CRIMSON with the help of a guest guitarist, and also features some good flute work and harmonies. This is a bit moodier in tone, going from a dark and slow feel for most of the song to a wilder climax, and the lyrics are more abstract and dramatic than the previous songs.

"Lost" tempts us with some jazzy passages and unusual chord changes, but the basic feel of the album remains the same in the vocal sections. It's romantic desperation here, and somehow feels like the climax to a larger work. Strangely, the guitar work is more characteristic of Fripp than "The Emperor"- even though it's no longer Fripp playing. The movement from opening to climax is well-paced and more natural than the other epics on the album, but the more progressive sections seem to have little to do with the rest of the song.

"Pioneers over c" starts very like an early space jam by PINK FLOYD ("Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun") but adds some spiky groovy sections to shake up the flow a bit. Hammill pulls out all his vocal tricks, for better or worse (the harmonies are nicely spooky but the falsetto is a little too Tiny Tim); there are some musical explorations here as well, especially near the close of the piece.

VDGG has certainly earned a place in the hearts of fans of classic prog, despite (or, I suspect, because of) a much smaller recognition factor than the other giants of the first wave. It is a unique sound, mainly due to Hammill's vocal style, and captures the feel of those first movements on the road to prog as we know it. Personally, after years of attempts to find value in the band I'm still ambivalent at best; I appreciate them for their place in time, but I'm not bowled over by the musical performances or the theatricality, and the emotional content of the album is at best an uninspired, pretentious mawkishness. Many people have found real delight and satisfaction from this album, so I must grumpily defer (the way I do with DREAM THEATER, among others) and objectively rate this one rank higher than I believe the album merits on its own.

James Lee | 2/5 |


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