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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

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars With this strangely titled album, VDGG take you one step further into their sombre and lugubrious world. As potter exits throughout the album, Hugh Banton will handle that duty as well as most of the keyboards. However, as remastering job clearly reveals ( much better dynamics gives new life to bass lines) , it is obvious Banton is not as good as Potter was, but this is rather tenuous.

With the concert favourite ( but not mine) Killer to start up side 1 with its rather silly (IMHO) lyrics lamenting shark's loneliness at sea, one can see/hear the difference the remastering does but this is even more obvious in the next House With No Door that gains a new life especially with the good Banton bass lines. However the track gaining most is The Emperor: this track used to bore me stiff but this is simply not true anymore with Monsieur Fripp making a superb appearance again much bolstered by the re-mastering job.

The second side is a mixed bag as it contains my fave track, but also a very flawed second track. Lost is rather like the pinnacle of the album with the song meandering between the many moods and Hammill's voice together with Jackson's sax sends shivers down my spine still some twenty years after. Pioneers Over C has many orgasmic moments but also a few flaws, of which the weak Help Me chorus that is so obvious it becomes weak, the other being the semi Free jazz sax solo that gets simply ... lost! (Have they got their track titles mixed-up?) Not as bad as I make it to be , but here although the re-mastering job still does marvels , a good song-rewriting (correcting more an just the two flaws I mentioned) would help even more.

The first bonus track is a real gift, being a live-in-the-studio track holding many improvs that can only give us a hint of what was VDGG in concert at that time. It holds some magic moments and some lengths, but it is an outstanding track. The second bonus track (The Emperor) is less interesting as it can be considered as an alternate take, although there are some notable differences. If it had the Fripp intervention on this version , I might even like it better than the album version.

Again, this album is also available in mini-Lp sleeve and if you are to buy the remastered version, you might want to make the little extra financial effort to acquire the superb Paul Whitehead-signed gatefold sleeve.

Report this review (#7788)
Posted Wednesday, February 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars 1970 was a watershed year for progressive rock. That year saw the newly-born musical form -- in the shape of bands like Genesis, Yes, Jethro Tull, and Gentle Giant -- gain strength and conviction, consciously exploring and exploding the "limits" of rock, with a spirit of pure unfettered experimentation. Two pioneering bands who had been key progressive rock players from the genre's emergence each recorded their third albums late that year: King Crimson's eclectic LIZARD added overt jazz flavours to the mix, and Van Der Graaf Generator's oddly-titled H TO HE, WHO AM THE ONLY ONE (the first part of the title refers to the thermonuclear fusion of hydrogen to helium in the sun) further expanded the boundaries of progressive in the form of an oftimes dark, and sometimes disturbing masterpiece.

The two albums have more than a passing resemblance: Like LIZARD, "H TO HE" has strong jazz influences, largely expressed through the dynamic sax of David Jackson. In addition, Crimson's Robert Fripp puts in a guest appearance on the Van Der Graaf album, adding his trademark electric guitar to "The Emperor in His War Room." Furthermore, both LIZARD and "H TO HE" are prime examples of "difficult" albums that can be initially challenging, but ultimately very rewarding auditory experiences. I was a latecomer to the music of Van Der Graaf Generator, and I admit that it took several listens before this disc really began to "sink its hooks" into me. Yet I soon found that I was no longer playing the disc out of a sense of duty for reviewing purposes, but as a source of musical pleasure. I use the word "pleasure" guardedly, however, because founder and lead singer Peter Hammill's introspective lyrics are often illustrative of the axiom that "some of the best art arises from pain."

On the disquieting, almost menacing opener "Killer," Hammill sings of a monster fish born "on a black day, in a black month, at the black bottom of the sea" that, though "very lonely," kills all that draw near, then muses that "I'm really rather like you, for I've killed all the love I ever had." Death, loneliness, and the need for love are recurring themes on this brooding work. "House With no Door," aided by Hugh Banton's melancholy piano and Jackson's flute, offers an effective, sadly beautiful portrait of the artist as a tortured man, imprisoned in the cavern of his skull, whose self-made "walls" have shut out the love that he so desperately needs and craves. The aforementioned "Emperor in His War Room" deals, through gruesome imagery, with the wages of a misspent life: "Begging for your life, as the impartial knife sinks in your screaming flesh.... You must pay the price of hate, and that price is your soul." The next song, "Lost," is perhaps the album's strongest (with the final track, it also contains many of the disc's more up-tempo, heavier moments), and finds Hammill, with a voice that favourably compares to that of Gabriel in its embittered and impassioned delivery, addressing the spectre of a lost love.

Throughout the disc, Hammill's singing is very strong. Sometimes he almost whispers, sometime he nearly screams and spits out his lines, while at other moments he affects a falsetto that may well have helped shape the later vocal acrobatics of Gentle Giant. Peter Hammill is certainly no boring or undistinguished vocalist! At several junctures, his singing reminds me of Bowie's during his MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD era, and the final track, the bizarre, science-fictional "Pioneers Over C" has a theme which is reminiscent of Bowie's "Space Oddity" -- that of a lost and lonely spaceman.

As with LIZARD, I wouldn't want to listen to this CD too much; hearing Hammill's searing depictions of inner pain, self-loathing and regret can be cathartic (he's likely worse off than you!), but also disturbing. Still, H TO HE, WHO AM THE ONLY ONE, is a classic recording that is a must for Van der Graaf fans, and essential listening for all who would discover just how wildly experimental, powerful and moving progressive rock could be in its infancy!

Report this review (#7796)
Posted Tuesday, February 24, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars another very good album from VDGG, sometimes maybe too many experimetns a la King Crimson but it's much better than Wake Of Poseydon for example. Fantastic keyboard work on this LP appears like inspiration for Jethro Tull 's A Passion Play (my favorite album of all times).
Report this review (#7790)
Posted Monday, March 1, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars I gotta say that I haven't heard anything in my life before as good as this album and I've heard GENESIS's "Selling England By The Pound", FLOYD'S "Dark Side Of The Moon", TULL's "Aqualung" and I can go on and on with this list the way it opens with kills you, but the moment just when you hear one of the most beautiful sad songs ever is when you really can't help crying, that song is "House With No Door", which in my opinion is just outrageous.
Report this review (#7792)
Posted Friday, March 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars I own several VDGG albums (Thanx mate) that im very fond of...i finally got around to this ....and i must say im blown away ,not only by the music but most certainly the lyrics. Peter Hammill must have had some serious dark experiences in his write these kind of lyrics. "killer" is an absolute fantastic track....the haunting theme..the sadness of the voice...the lyrics...ohhhh....darkness indeed. Until now my favorite albums, by this outfit were:"Godbluff" & "Pawn hearts". But now im not so sure about this is an amazing record.....its like you´re drawn into ...ahem...its....inner darkness...that may sound strange to you...but i dare you to listen to this fantastic album....and then tell me im- wrong!! Ive allways thought that a good prog record couldnt be without guitarsoloing. VDGG has proved me wrong. Still there are some guitar courtesy of mr. Fripp (need i say King Crimson?)on the track"Emperor,part one". And of course Hammill plays the acoustic now and then. Back to the album....its an absolute stunner of a prog album. Hammils voice almost crawls all over the music...which is carefully laid out!! There are plenty for ALL prog freaks to sink their teeth into...both lyrically and dear prog friends, go find this...put it on...pour your favorite drink ..sit in your best chair....lean back....listen....and it´ll all come to you. ENJOY...oh..and by the way..the cover is by none other than :Paul Whitehead. He of Genesis cover fame!!
Report this review (#7793)
Posted Friday, March 26, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Another winner, a bit inferior than "Pawn Hearts", even though in a number of songs it's also more influential than "Pawn Hearts", sometimes with a major impact on the common listener. It depends on our tastes naturally: think of "Killer", but also "Emperor in His War-Room (Part 1: The Emperor, Part 2: The Room) ", which is absolutely original and creative too, despite of being less influential for example than the mythical suite "Plague of Lighthouse", from "Pawn Hearts". It never minds, to me this album is recommended anyway!!
Report this review (#7794)
Posted Sunday, April 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars It's amazing how much this band improved in the span of three albums. Just listen to the AEROSOL GREY MACHINE and you'll find a band more or less sticking in the psychedelic realm, with some folk overtones. The Least We Can Do is Wave to Each Other is the band finally finding their trademark sound, thanks to the inclusion of David Jackson. But you can tell, just by listening to that album that even better things were to come, and that would be their next two albums. Of course, I'm focusing on "H to He Who Am the Only One". I own the American LP version on ABC/Dunhill which features the same basic artwork, but with different background, and the lyrics included in the gatefold, rather than the back cover.

The album opens up with "Killer", dominated by David Jackson's sax. A little known prog band that recorded for RCA/Neon called Raw Material recorded a song called "Ice Queen" for their 1971 album Time Is, which bears more than a passing resemblance to "Killer". "House with No Door" is a piano-oriented ballad, while "Emperor In His War Room" features some killer spacy organ from Hugh Banton, Robert FRIPP even makes a guest here! The music gets lengthier with "Lost" and one of my all-time favorite VdGG compositions, "Pioneers Over C", in which the artwork in the gatefold represents this song. The lyrics obviously have strong sci-fi overtones, with a spacy sound. Might not be their most aggressive album, but a must have for all Peter HAMMILL/VdGG fans.

Report this review (#7797)
Posted Friday, May 7, 2004 | Review Permalink
James Lee
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.

Report this review (#7803)
Posted Monday, June 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
[email protected]
5 stars Impressive, macabre, beautifull. Some words to describe one of my favourite albums. Starting with "killer" that has one of the most wicked riffs in the prog history. " house with no door" a very beautifull and deep ballad. All the three last songs are different masterpieces. The drummer is awesome and i love his style. Listen this picture.
Report this review (#7804)
Posted Tuesday, August 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
Carl floyd fan
4 stars A little bit of a let down after the 2nd album because there is only one mood for the most part and there are no real big changes of pace like the 2nd album (from calm to, literally, impending doom). Still, this is a classic in its own right and is worth the money you pay for it because the musicians are passionate about the music they play and very talented.
Report this review (#7806)
Posted Tuesday, September 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars Clearly a second-rate progressive band. They never hit it big and this album, one of their best, demonstrates why. Overblown lyrics, awful singing, dusty, dated sound, clumsy, unimaginative playing on boring songs. There are some fine instrumental passages, notably the Fripp solo, but that's not enough to keep one's attention.
Report this review (#7808)
Posted Sunday, October 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars H To He Who Am The Only One is definetely one of the best all time top5 progressive rock albums of all time!!!!And Peter Hammill along with Robert Fripp are the most gifted, genius, progressive with the true sense musicians/personalities in the whole prog scene!The album is a must ina every record collection aside from progressive rock.It is a gem and an anthem to modern music.
Report this review (#7809)
Posted Thursday, December 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
[email protected]
5 stars With the passage of time, I tend to listen mostly to side B : « Lost » and « Pionneers over c. » are to me the very definition of what Van Der Graaf Generator was made for. Also, I find the sound of this album absolutely amazing - giant steps ahead of the sound on the preceding album, The Least We Can Do... H to He is also the VDGG album on which Peter Hammill's voice, who later tended to shout excessively (which partly ruins to me even extraordinary songs such as Children's Faith in Childhood's End), is the most powerful and clear at the same time. And the sound of the saxophones is so full you'd believe it is in the next room.

I know that most fans put Pawn Hearts and Godbluff ahead of H to He, but sound-wise I'd say H to He (Who Am the Only One) is certainly the VDGG album to start with as a general introduction for the newcomer : it is the most accessible Van Der Graaf Generator recording, the one whose sounds ages best.

Thirty five years after its recording, Pionneers Over c. remains an extraordinary moment of rock music. While the soul-searching «Lost» opens the door for further evolution towards an increasing ability to marry deeply-felt music with highly elaborated construction, «Pionneers Over c.» illustrates the science-fiction side of Van Der Graaf Generator with amazing beauty, setting the ground for «The Sleepwalkers» and «Still Life» to come. It is also a VDGG purist's dream : all the bass you hear is organ- generated (who needs electric guitar anyway? saxophones and organs to the job much better!)

I don't like many prog rock bands (for example, I can't stand ELP and can endure Yes only at very small doses at a time). But Van Der Graaf Generator to me is something very different. What we refer to as "progressive rock" is often a very cerebral kind of music, too often relying on virtuoso execution and coldly constructed, without much feeling. Thus, to my view, the boredom that too often accompanies this type of music. But with Van Der Graaf Generator something completely different happens. For this one-of-a-kind band, with its one-of-a-kind sound, succeeds at the very, very rare achievement of producing progressive rock that can move the heart and the soul as much as the most taking Mississipi blues, as the most eerie of Bartok's "nocturnal" movements.

Van Der Graaf Generator are the greatest poets of the prog rock planet.

Report this review (#7811)
Posted Sunday, January 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars H to He was my introduction into the crazy yet amazing world of Van der Graaf Generator. I must say that Peter Hammill is certainly one of the most versatile singers of all rock. Really in a league of his own. "Killer" kicks off the album with a nice hook that really brings you into the song, but then really gets freaky and quite scary, but a very awesome track. "A House with No Door" might very well be my favorite track off the album, its really quite a sad song and Hammill's vocal delivery makes it believeable. "The Emperor in his War Room" is a great song with guitar contributions but Mr.Fripp himself. "Lost" and "Pioneers over c" are both wonderful lengthy tracks. All in all I find this album better than Pawn Hearts. A must have for any prog collection.
Report this review (#7812)
Posted Monday, January 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
[email protected]
5 stars Killer is good, but too Known!. House with no door : an impressionist ballad, full of classic details. Nice piano, bass on the right way to contain a solid woodwins in a template and beautiful voice Emperor: VDGG+KC(70-71´s, Islands period): 10 X 10 Pioneers and Lost: complexity and investigation, all in a way: to prepare the next work, more complex and perfectly: Madness involving the thoughts of a lonely man...stranger still!?

Report this review (#7814)
Posted Sunday, February 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album introduced me to the music of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR, which took some time for me to digest. There are some elements in their style that I don't like even today, but the good things really please me. A-side of the LP with three first tracks is awesome, but the seconds side is too cacophonic for me. Aggressive changes in and the moods created didn't please me very much. Still even so, the first side makes this as a worthwhile album. The lyrics are wonderful, and at least once the globe in the album cover doesn't show America in it.
Report this review (#7817)
Posted Monday, April 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars "H to HE..." (which is a chemistry formula for something) has a different sound to it compare to VDGG's first two albums. it's sound is way more progressive unified. it's the first time we see 'movements' in VDGG's pieces (what would take an important part in 'pawn hearts') in 'The Emperor in his War-Room' and 'Lost' (two movements each). 'killer' is one of prog's best pieces ever in my opinion. you can say that this album got VDGG the final stamp as a true prog-rock band. it's another step towards VDGG's best albums (and among prog- rock's best as well) - 'pawn hearts', 'godbluff', and 'still life'. you can also see the inspiration of the landing on the moon which were common in prog music at this time in the closing piece 'pioneers over c'. in conclusion - it's a very good album, but the best is yet to come!
Report this review (#7818)
Posted Wednesday, April 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars H to He is a formula of life. Without that reaction we would have not been here. It is all happening in the Sun. And PH&co tried in this album to run such a reaction, obviously. You need quite significant doses of energy to succeed, if you do you release robustly much more energy. And I think they did. I at first found some PH solo stuffs of the 80s with no idea of VdGG, but when I heard this for the first time (it was the first VdGG album I heard) I liked it more than his solo works. The best was still to come, that is true, but I cannot help rating it 5* (actually 4.5 * rounded up).
Report this review (#7819)
Posted Wednesday, April 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I might have overrated "Least We Can Do..." out of personal and emotional reasons, but "H to He" is a bit stronger album for sure. Nic Potter is still present, while Fripp as guest in "Emperor in His War Room" gives a Crimsonesque sound to this track. The whole side 1 is amazing with "Killer" and "House with No Door", impeccable musicianship with confident Hammill vocals. "Lost" and "Pioneers" on the flip side (of a vinyl) are more requiring efforts, not very captivationg on the first listen, but very rewarding when finally you learn how to appreciate it! Overall masterpiece with dark gothic feeling, space philosophy and jazzy/avantgarde improvisations. 5+
Report this review (#7820)
Posted Saturday, April 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Though their next album, "Pawn Hearts", is my favorite VdGG album, this one is the one that I return most often too. With one of the greatest songs opening the album the music slips deeper into claustrophobic darkness as the album progresses, builiding on one main conceptual theme - isolation. The contrast between haunting beauty and madness is really remarkable here and creates a very unique mood to it all. The bleak and haunting mood of the music really relates to Peter Hammill's lyrics, making for an intense and subtly unnerving listening experience that is hugely rewarding in the end, something that the band continued doing (for an even more frightening effect) on their next album. This is done superbly on tracks like "Emperor in his War-Room" and the closing epic "Pioneers Over C." especially. This is definitely one of my favorite albums both musically and conceptually and should be listened to on headphones, alone in the middle of the night for best effect.

Highlights: The whole thing.

Report this review (#7822)
Posted Thursday, May 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR's first mature album, with all musicians more or less established by now. The exception is Nic POTTER, who plays bass on some tracks before he had decided to leave and have Hugh BANTON cover on organ pedals. Otherwise, the lineup is as usual: the ever-strange Peter HAMMILL and his unique vocals, David JACKSON's haunting, and sometimes frentic sax, Hugh BANTON's ghastly organ textures, and Guy EVAN's virtuosic masterful drumming.

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR is perhaps the most underrated and unrecognized band of all the 70s prog groups. They lie on the fringe of fame, and are perhaps the best band never to break the American market (although they were wildly popular in Italy). Their brand of dark symphonic rock and existentialist ponderings are simply magnificent, and it's really a shame they didn't do better than they did.

All of the songs on "H to He" (which refers to "the transformation of Hydrogen to Helium, creating vast amounts of energy with power our universe") center around the universal theme of lonliness, aloneness, and recluse. The first song is "Killer," a catchy, dark song about a fish who kills everything it loves, and is thus lonely. The lyrics are somewhat awkward and sophomoric, but the message still reaches through. There is a strange dark psychadelic jam somewhere in the middle, featuring a cavernous organ and freaky sax honks. Also noteable is the acoustic guitar which appears in the background, one of the few times HAMMILL actually plays.

"House with No Door" is a piano ballad, with the main focus being the lyrics. There is also a bass somewhere in the track, which BANTON plays, that sounds excellent, and some flute courtesy of JACKSON that sounds wonderful. The song deals with the theme of being trapped in a house, a metaphor for yourself and the fact that we are all trapped within ourselves, essentially alone.

War, and the decay and death which it causes and is created by is the theme of "The Emperor and His War-Room." The main focus is a general, an emperor of war who knows nothing but how to kill. He is essentially a victim of his circumstances, doing what he does because it is all he knows. This is the literal interpretation of the fish in "Killer," the real-life example that that song explained metaphorically. The first half, "The Emperor", is a pondering montage of shadowy imagery and ghostly flute and organ backdrops. Halfway through the song is a bridge over which Robert FRIPP lays down the only electric guitar on the album, which leads into "The Room." This section is much more catchy, with lyrics that sum up the Emperor's situation and creates a final climax.

"Lost" is the traditional theme of post-breakup loneliness and hopelessness, drawn out to great epic lengths by HAMMILL. The music seems to float in and out, tons of themes segueing together in random fashion. This doesn't make it bad by any stretch of imagination, just harder to describe.

The final song, "Pioneers over C" is musically in a similar fashion as "Lost", with many themes strung together. This song is more epic and spacey than the last, the sci-fi theme of space pioneers travelling at the speed of light (C, as in E=MC2) and becoming trapped in a bodiless, empty world of eternal nothingness. The sax goes really insane towards the end, and a theme in 14/8 appears towards the end, looping on and on endlessly as it slowly fades into a spacey, atmospheric section.

Overall, the album, is not quite as mature as "Pawn Hearts", but still every bit as good musically and lyrically. However, the structure is not quite as organized as the next album, giving the album a more drifting, haunting feel. Highly recommended to people who are in the mood for something different, something dark, or something good.

Report this review (#37071)
Posted Monday, June 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars One of my favourite prog albums of all time, H To He is a compelling document of Peter Hammill and VDGG's dark vision. While other albums contain great songs such as Refugees, After The Flood, A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers and Scorched Earth, none have hit me as consistently as this one.

Every piece bristles with intensity. The opener Killer, about a mean-ass fish that craves companionship, is perhaps the ultimate example of VDGG's ability to rock without guitars. The sax of Jackson and organ of Banton (one of the deadliest and least acknowledged combinations in rock) hit the spot time and time again as the rhythm section of Nic Potter (who left halfway during the recording of this album, which led Banton to fill in on bass for House With No Door and Pioneers Over C) and the efferverscent drummer Guy Evans breeze through moods and time signatures effortlessly.

And then there's the incredibly gloomy House With No Door (frequently cited as one of the bleakest songs in all of prog) which is another example of Hammill's extraordinary power to break your heart with just a few words. His uncertain screamed falsetto as his "body rejects the cure" is nothing less than a lethal weapon and aided and abetted by some glorious flute playing from Jackson and a double keyboard outro (Hammill on piano and Banton on organ) it ensures that House With No Door is yet another unforgettable VDGG song.

The Emperor In His War Room is probably the closest VDGG comes to "conventional" symphonic prog as practised by the likes of Genesis. With Banton building up an enormous wall of organ sounds before a fusion-inspired solo exchange between Jackson and King Crimson's Robert Fripp guesting on guitar, this piece is a thing of beauty.

The desolation that informs much of VDGG's music charts new territory on the totally intriguing sci-fi piece Lost, "I know we'll never dance like we used to " could easily sound lame in the hands of numerous other singers, but Hammill is nothing if not an artist. The strange interchanges between beautiful symphonic melodies and harsh, occasionally discordant jazzy passages are damn impressive and I also really like the space that the band find in the mid-section when they deconstruct and then recalibrate this 11-minute epic with a monstrous ending sequence.

This wouldn't be a classic prog album without one whopper of a closing track and while Pioneers Over C probably has my least favourite vocal melody of the five brill tunes here, it is perhaps the most ambitious cut of the lot. At times barely audible, often ethereal and on occasion downright ferocious (and yet hardly containing a solo of note!) this is yet another VDGG tour-de-force that emphasises that the band's music is not for the faint-hearted.

Overall, this album is a virtually flawless exhibition of inspiring, challenging, emotionally-draining progressive rock music, and it really must be heard by everyone. ... 92% on the MPV scale

Report this review (#37909)
Posted Tuesday, June 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The second of "The Fantastic Four" releases begins with the nightmarish "Killer", composed by Hammill, Hugh Banton and old pal Chris Judge Smith (VDGGs first drummer and the man who created the name Van Der Graaf Generator). Driven by a powerful sax riff, this song is a perfect opener for a perfect album. "House With No Door" is softer, a beautiful ballad which agains highlights Jackson (this time on flute). Hugh Banton played bass with his organ's pedals (Nic Potter left the band in the middle of recording sessions). "The Emperor in His War Room" has a very special guest: Robert Fripp on guitar (I wonder how an entire album pairing Hammill and Fripp would sound). Another great song "Lost" follows well. The last song ("Pioneers Over C") is IMHO as classic as "Plague of Lighthouse Keepers", in terms both of lyrics and melodies, but it's not as praised as the side-long epic. Another highly recommended album.
Report this review (#38941)
Posted Saturday, July 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
Peter Pan
5 stars This is a review of the remastered version of "H to He, Who Am the Only One".

The album was first released in December 1970 and is a kind of link between "The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other" (February 1970) and "Pawn Hearts" (October 1971) . More accessible as the latter one but still the first full-fledged typical VDGG fusion music merging elements of rock, jazz, classic, the European romantic song - and maybe pre-punk.

The remastering process has led to a great transparency and clearness of all the instruments and voices and revealed fascinating details you couldn't hear before. The sound is so brilliant that you can even hear clearly David Jackson's blowing technique in a breath-taking sax solo in "Pioneers Over C".

The only short-coming of this exquisite edition is the handling of Peter Hammill's voice in some parts. It experiences de-emphasizing in volume in heavy instrumented sections - an effect I generally don't like in remastered material. And though the lead singer's voice is unique and impressing (I think Peter Hammill is the best singer in rock music) some unevennesses get shown now. He is a rock and not an opera singer but the former analogue and as well the modern digital recording techniques tend to smooth the lead vocals.

On the other hand all this contributes to the live atmosphere of the studio productions in these days. The remastered album demonstrates what great musicians the VDGG members are. As if you were in the studio yourself you can study their playing as a band on all takes but best in the ever-touching "A House With No Door".

Two songs which I formerly didn't like that much have profited most from the remastering process:

At first "Pioneers Over C" which is about one of Peter Hammill's favourite topics: scientific alienation and which goes into describing the fate of astronauts lost in time and space. Several science fiction movies like "A Space Odyssey"or "Event Horizon" were on to this topic - years and decades later!

The other song is "The Emporer in his War-Room". In the middle-section you can enjoy Robert Fripp's stunning overdubbed guitar(s) played similar to "21st Century Schizoid Man".

The bonus tracks bring two previously unreleased songs:

- At first the extensive and wild improvisation-like "Squid 1 / Squid 2 / Octopus", a part of VDGG's live shows then. Originally this tune was planned to become a part of the intended double-album "Pawn Hearts", which was released only as one LP as Charisma decided. Three other recorded but not published songs now emerge on the remastered "Pawn Hearts" CD.

- Secondly the first version of "The Emperor" which I like better than the released one though lacking "The Fripp".

Both bonus tracks have the same great sound quality since they are taken from the original tapes like all the remastered material of the VDGG catalogue.

Overall this gorgeous edition and the extensive beautiful booklet have been compiled with much love and care. This is the album of choice for the entrance of "A Young Person's Guide to VDGG".

Report this review (#39178)
Posted Monday, July 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The third work of announcement in 1970 "H To He Who Am The Only One". Nick Potter in charge of the base secedes, and the guest is participating in this work. Robert Fripp of other KING CRIMSON is received in the guest. The world of lyrics of Peter Hammill extends variously from looked one to an imagination story and a Gothic. The performance is avant- garde.
Report this review (#43769)
Posted Monday, August 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
[email protected]
5 stars This album is pretty amazing, definitely a classic. Imagine an unholy cross between Lizard and Acquiring the Taste (it came out before either), with a dash of Saucerful of Secrets, add the most tortured maniac vocalist of any prog band, and you've just about got it. If you are a fan of any of those albums (and you know who you are), then you just have to have this one. Still, this record manages to be darker still, and even more cerebral. Hammil's voice is unapproachable, Jackson's sax spits fire, and Banton's organ sounds like Tony Kaye on a bad acid trip. Their buddy Fripp shows up to enhance the texture with some acoustic guitar. My favorite track is Pioneers over C, a chilling science-fiction tale about the first people who attempted to travel over the speed of light and what happened (or didn't happen) to them. An enigmatic, haunting epic which stays with you.
Report this review (#47378)
Posted Tuesday, September 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
con safo
5 stars The first VdGG Masterpiece.

H To He Who Am The Only One was my first exposure to VdGG, it was a hard album to understand on first listen, but after a few listens its true beauty is realized. The exclusion of electric guitar in most songs may seem odd to some but VdGG create music like noone else. Hugh Banton (Organ) and David Jackson (Sax) create a swelling, swirling texture that is VdGG's alone. All complimented brilliantly by Guy Evans fantastic and original drumming style. But VdGG could not be mentioned without naming the seemingly insane but ultimately brilliant front man Peter Hammill. His vocal style is all his own, and his versatile delivery is unmistakable.

The album opens with one of my favorite songs of all time, "Killer" a song about a killer fish living in the ocean who longs for love and companionship but is essentially doomed to be alone due to his killer instincts. Sounds quite silly but Hammill makes it work. The music is the real treat in this song, peter Hammill's slight acoustic contribution mixes great with Hugh's sinister organ, and David Jackson gives one of the most insane solo's of his career, squealing and unpredictable, this is a heart attack put to music.

"A House With No Door" is a rather depressing track lyrically, but one of the most beautiful VdGG compositions as well. Mournful piano and beautiful flute, delicate and dark, all a perfect backdrop to one of my favorite Hammill performances. "The Emperor in His War Room" is again a very dark song about the consequences of living a life of war and death. The song describes the torture and eventual killing of the emperor without mercy, Hammill's delivery is very vivid and powerful. The song also features the guitar of King Crimson front man Robert Fripp, adding some much needed magnitude to the track.

The last two songs are the high point of the album, two 10+ minute masterpieces. "Lost" is a song about lost love and the madness, fear and confusion that ensues. Quite frantic at times, but musically brilliant. David's eccentric sax is the highpoint of this song and remains one of Jackson's crowning moments IMO. The final song "Pioneers Over c." is a brilliant closer to this album, a long spacey song about a space mission gone wrong, where upon reaching the speed of light the crew is sucked into an alternate universe, and all on the ship become lost in a place unknown, "dimly aware of existence" and doomed to float in a living death for all eternity. Quite the trip. Near the end of the track all structure seems lost when Dave's sax is the only instrument playing only to explode into a psychedelic and atmospheric freak out, an immense but eerily beautiful passage. The song regains structure and the song ends with only Hammill's voice: "I am the one who crossed through space, or stayed where I was, or didn't exist in the first place" classic Hammill, and a very fitting ending to this trip of an album!

A masterpiece of progressive rock, and an essential addition to any prog fans collection! 5/5 - con safo

Report this review (#53761)
Posted Saturday, October 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
Marc Baum
5 stars Van Der Graaf Generator - H To He, Who Am The Only One Review of Remastered Edition by EMI/Virgin 2005

Years before, I listened to my original copy of "H To He, Who Am The Only One" and focused that it needs something like a new issued version. Well, EMI/Virgin must have been listening because my prayers have been answered. H to He is the first one I've picked up and based on the excellent quality I will absolutely be getting more. Peter Hammill himself handled the spiffy remaster, in consultation with his former bandmates, all of whom were involved in the production of this series. There is a 16-page book with lyrics, photos, credits and liner notes, and best of all two bonus tracks, a studio run-through of "The Emperor in his War Room" recorded 6 months before the album version, and the legendary "Squid/Octopus" recorded live in the studio.

VDGG were a progressive rock group of the highest order, featuring keyboardist Hugh Banton, drummer Guy Evans, woodwind virtuoso David Jackson and the inimitable Hammill on vocals, guitar and piano. Outgoing bassist Nic Potter appears on about half of the record, with Banton filling in on bass pedals for the rest. "H to He Who Am The Only One" was their second proper record and remains a great album to this day. As much as I love "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other", I think this one is the superior record and marked the peak of creativity out of the first band period.

The opening track, "Killer", is the all-time prog classic here and sounds amazing in remastered form. VDGG were one of a number of early prog groups on the Chrysalis label, along with bands like Lindisfarne and Genesis, that suffered from murky production that sounds dated to modern ears. The detailed, cleaned-up sound here is revelatory and a real godsend for fans. The melodic piano ballad "House With No Door" is also here, featuring Jackson's wonderful flute work. Sometime VDGG collaborator Robert Fripp turns up to lend some electric guitar bite to "The Emperor in His War Room". "Lost" (one of the most sad and depressing pieces I've ever heard, with brilliant lyrics by master Peter Hammill) and "Pioneers Over C" are two excellent prog epics, with the latter going completely over the top a la "After The Flood" on the previous record.

But I'm saving the best for last! "Squid/Octopus" is a 15 minute jam filled to bursting with everything a prog fanatic could dream of and more. This is the only surviving track from an aborted live in the studio album intended to be part of "Pawn Hearts" before Chrysalis torpedoed the double-album idea. This is an absolutely killer prog epic of the highest order, unbelievably brought to light after all these years. Words really fail me except to say that it is reason enough to buy this CD. There you'll get also an early outtake of "Pioneers Over C", which sounds great and finishes this wonderful remastered cd nicely.

This is one outstanding addition to my prog collection and I highly recommend it to progheads. "H To He" was favourite VDGG album beside "Pawn Hearts and "Godbluff", now with the bonus material and the remastered mix with excellent bass sound, it stands alone. Pure prog excellence during 7 songs and about 71 minutes - what should a proghead ask for more?

10/10 points = 99 % on MPV scale = 5/5 stars

point-system: 0 - 3 points = 1 star / 3.5 - 5.5 points = 2 stars / 6 - 7 points = 3 stars / 7.5 - 8.5 points = 4 stars / 9 - 10 points = 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of progressive music

Report this review (#58645)
Posted Wednesday, November 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars well I'm giving this a five. These guys are the most creative and unique band ever, I think, although that doesn't make them the best. They are very good though, and this album proves it. All the songs are about equally good, and so the album is consistently good with very very few weak spots.

It starts off with the kind of jazz rock of Killer, it's not exactly jazz though, listen to it on here if you want. Great great song, great vocals and sax, and great lyrics about the loneliness of being a... killer shark?! Cool, I know. ALso, never before has a sax sounded so good.

House with No Door is a sad sounding emotional piano/flute ballad similar to Refugees, the melody is sad but nice to hear, and the chorus is good. It's pretty much the same thing for 6 minutes though, so maybe that is a minor flaw.

The Emperor in his War Room is a very good song, with great lyrics and cool flute playing, some really cool riffs and melodies here, very dark, brooding scary stuff: sometimes soft, sometimes heavier. Awesome guit solo from Fripp himself about halfway through, very cool. Love the organs too. All in all a great song.

Lost is a great song, starts out with a fluttery flute melody, reminsicent of the "Dark world Village" music from Zelda: A link to the Past, and being a huge fan of that game, this brought a smile to my face. This has some cheerful upbeat melodies, some darker emotional melodies, and some strange dark mideastern-esque melodies. The second half is undoubtedly better, featuring very epic melodies and riffs near the end. Cool Cool song.

Pioneers Over C. is a really cool song. It has several different melodies, a couple of which are almost typical classic rock stuff with a VdGG twist, then there's a really emotional spacy melody, and a couple of mideastern kind of spacy melodies, and they all blend together quite well, showing VdGG's creativity and uniqueness. This is a cool spacy song, about outer space, and I love the title. The unnacompanied sax solo about halfway through is a little annoying, mostly because it doesn't amount to anything, and the ending is similar to the ending of 21st Century Schizoid Man, all caucophonous jazz noodling going crazy, and its kind of annoying, I think a more epic ending would be fitting to such a song and album, but ah well, its still good.

So here we have five solidly great songs, very few weak spots, great singing and playing all around. This is strange music at times though, beware. But as prog is all about being anything but safe, I think this deserves the full 5 stars.

Report this review (#66728)
Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
[email protected]
5 stars The music and lyrics on VDGG's third album are deliciously dark. Feeling a tad depressed?? Just listen to this masterpiece-in a Black Room of course-and you'll be wondering what goes on in Peter Hammills head. With words like these I am sort of surprised the guy never ended up being a rock casualty. The music is stunning.soundscapes galore, Hugh Banton is at his absolute best on this,superb organs oscillators etc, he even plays bass on a couple of tracks. The sci fi feel on H to He is clever, allegoric to the minds workings. I am still not sure if Pioneers over c is really about time travel, or did the hero/ antihero just fall down in his brain. This LP led me to buy everything VDGG have recorded, thus it gets 5 stars.
Report this review (#69541)
Posted Thursday, February 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars 4.4/5.0

This is a very good, emotional, smooth yet fluid album. The mood is often melancolic, with a soft piano and a warm voice (House with no Door). At other moment it is urgent, agressive, spatial with active saxes and keyboards (Lost). It ends with more experimentation and changing atmosphere (Pioneers over C.).

This is very close to be a masterpiece, and this is surely an album that every prog fan should own. Can be listened in any situation, especially when you are in a melancolic mood. 4.4/5.0

Report this review (#74064)
Posted Tuesday, April 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This was the first VdGG album I bought back in Jr. High School in 1971. I had already listened to bits of the first two records, as a friend of mine loved Necromancer, but when I heard this album, with headphones the first time, it blew my mind. It's just as good through the big speakers but man, with phones on parts of this are downright scary. Being into all the other prog. rock bands of the day, key changes and meter changes were no big deal for this style of music, however VdGG took it to a new level. The emotion in Hammill's voice and the moodiness of Banton's keys just set the tone for something I'd never heard before. Jackson's no slouch, with melodies that range from quirky to aggressive to beautiful, kind of like Hammill's voice, come to think of it. The voice is not perfect, I don't think it would work if it were. Could Jon Anderson of Yes sing with the depth of emotion that's needed to make this stuff work, I don't think so. His voice is the song, the compositions are written around the voice and the lyrics. Nobody else could even begin to think up stuff like this, so while Hammill's voice is not perfect, it is perfect for this band. As a former drummer myself, I even had a jazz teacher, I loved what Evans brings to this sound. Just to be able to play these songs is one thing, but to make it sound easy is something else. His jazz style has a loose feel that makes the whole thing come together. I love Bruford, but his style would not have worked here.

The songs are just great. Pioneers may not be one of my favorites, but the others make up for it big time. In Killer, Hammill uses his voice like another instrument in the verse, actually, he does that a lot. The loose rythmic feel of Banton's solo, is countered by the tightness of the rythym section during Jackson's wild ride. Stunning. House with No Door should have been on the radio, but by then, I don't think VdGG really cared about airplay. House is one of the few songs by this band that stays melodic (Refugees and Out of My Book too), from beginning to end. I used to play this on piano, beautiful sad song. The Emperor goes from soft to rock hard all within the first verse. The organ coming in reminds me of tanks starting up their engines. It kind of growls a bit as it gets going. Fripps solo is inspired (I read they used the first tracks that were recorded because he couldn't top them). I especially love the melody line at the end of the solo, brilliant. Hammills lyrics paint a picture so vivid it reeks of death, his favorite subject. Lost is another of my favorites with changes galore. I love everything about this song. I didn't listen to these songs for a while, with the change from records to tapes and then cd's throwing a wrench in the works, but when I heard this song again it all came rushing back with a vengence. Incredible journey this one is. As I said, my least favorite track is Pioneers but I still listen to it most of the time. Once it gets started, I have a hard time turning it off until it's over. This is a must have disc.

Report this review (#76191)
Posted Tuesday, April 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is probably my favorite Van Der Graaf Generator's album so far! Well, this record is globally more melodic and catchy than the other next ones including Pawn Hearts itself: it remains very progressive all the same, despite many tracks are less complex compositions. There are less experimental parts that often use to go nowhere with VDGG: I notice a better overall structure. I automatically make a connection with the second album Divergence of the progressive band Solution: the same punchy and bottom bass, the weird sax parts that sound alike, the typical catchy and not complex piano, the very similar drums and the almost identical dirty organ in the background. I also find that Hammill's voice is often more in the background, so that it is more bearable. I must admit that many of the miscellaneous lead & backing vocals are more pleasant, varied and better arranged than usual. There are excellent mellow flute parts, like on the "Emperor in his war-room" track. "Lost" has a couples of interesting faster structured parts, which contrast with the usual slow rhythm of VDGG. The very progressive "Pioneers over C" is sometimes surprisingly good and sometimes too weird for nothing, flirting with minimalism and dissonance: that's why it is probably my least favorite track on this record.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Report this review (#76751)
Posted Sunday, April 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Van der Graaf Generator's third studio album is the beginning of what their fans consider to be their best era. Peter Hammill, David Jackson, Hugh Banton, and Guy Evans along with guest musicians Nic Potter and Robert Fripp create lush and dissonant songs with introspective lyrics that are highly metaphorical and have a singer that can belt out emotions in airy falsettos and jagged bass registers. Throughout the five pieces on this album, the listener is taken through many different themes, such as suicide or utter depression and the feeling of being lost, but the music is well conceived and well played on the parts of all musicians on the album. What's for certain, though, is that this album began a long string of excellent albums from this group and for the next five years they never made an album that was less than excellent.

Killer has a nice piano/organ/sax motif that is really creative and catchy at the same time. Hammill's vocals are jagged and he recites the lyrical material quite well, although the music is a bit too overpowering during the vocal parts. A nice distorted organ comes in around the fourth minute giving a more uneasy feeling to the piece and Evans does some spectacular drumming during these sections, giving frenetic and precision fills every chance he gets. There is some nice acoustic guitar towards the seventh minute, Hammill's precise arpeggios add a more complete and wholesome feel to the piece as it comes to a close. House With No Door is one of the most depressing songs I've ever heard. It begins with a solemn piano motif and some heartfelt and sincere vocals from Hammill (who really shows his vocal skills on this piece. A nice organ/flute interlude adds a more triumphant and joyous feel to the piece, but then it slips once again into that manically depressed feel when Hammill's vocals return to the foray again. The piece then endures a long instrumental ending in which the main piano theme is reiterated and given a couple of runs at a solo (which is quite nice and it actually ends it well).

The Emperor in his War Room is the only song on the album to feature guitar maestro Robert Fripp, and he really comes out of it swinging. Beginning gently with acoustic guitars and light flute and organ melodies, the piece quickly picks up in pace at the will of Hammill's searing vocal performance. Towards the middle a nice bass line lays the foundation for the ascending flute/organ unison riffing with a great snare pattern from Evans and some precision fills. The second half of the song is where things really get going, with some great breakdowns and some majestic vocals before the ending section which feels more like a jam, with some solid rhytmic underwork while Fripp belts out a superb guitar solo (that is double tracked with two different solos on top of each other) that is really fitting with the piece. It actually brings about the mellow ending section which ends the song off similarly to as it began. Lost starts off with frantic organ/flute melodies with a hectic drum pattern underneath. The song then goes through many complex instrumental and vocal passages before becoming an all out freak out musically. Add in some cool 7/8 breakdowns followed by a dissonant 6/4 riff and therein lies the latter portions of the song prior to the bombastic and grandiose ending with every instrument reaching a peak before hitting a final note and ending with a dissonant display of power in a fadeout. Pioneers Over C is the final piece of the album and begins with a moody organ riff and some great drumming and percussion from Evans. It ends the album with a very majestic yet uneasy feel, with some nice unison sax/bass/organ riffing and some calming Hammill vocals before the acoustic interludes. It tends to drag a bit towards the end with meandering riffs and a sax interlude that is really just varying noises from it, but on the whole I like the piece and it ends the album well.

Overall, while not a masterpiece, H to He, Who Am the Only One is a spectacular album that began a long string of great albums from Van Der Graaf Generator (and yielded two masterpieces in Pawn Hearts and Still Life). There are many excellent moments, but the main problem lies in some dragged on bits in Pioneers Over C, but even that isn't that bad. It's a near masterpiece in my opinion and you can't go wrong with a purchase of this album (especially since now it's remastered with some killer bonus tracks from what I've heard, although I don't own a remastered copy). Highly recommended. 4.5/5.

Report this review (#85612)
Posted Thursday, August 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I very recently had a dream in which I was listening to a Van Der Graaf Generator album, I don't know which one but it was good. I remember listening to a guitar solo and thinking "woh, Peter Hammill is an amazing guitarist, I've never heard this solo before." I then remember thinking "nah, that can't be Peter Hammill it must be Robert Fripp because he plays on some Van Der Graaf Generator albums." I woke up the next morning and reflected on this strange dream. For the rest of the morning I listened to some Van Der Graaf Generator albums searching for the album guitar solo I heard in my dream. If that dream tells me anything, its that I listen and think about prog too much.

I here lots of talk about Pawn Hearts being the darkest Van Der Graaf Generator album, I however disagree and I think that "H to He Who am the Only One" is. Just take one listen to the album and you will see what I mean, the references to death and torture are very obvious. Even look at the song titles,"Killer", "The Emperor in his war Room" and so on. Also lines like "Live by sword and you shall die so" and "bodies torn by vultures" cement the idea into my mind. You're probably thinking "so what?" Well I'm just saying that "H to He Who am the Only One" is the darkest Van Der Graaf Generator album.

Though I don't like very dark and depressing albums, I have to say that even though "H to He Who am the Only One" has many unpleasant references, it is in no way a bad album. When you compare the death vocals in stuff like Opeth to the stunning voice of Peter Hammill you may think Opeth is the more haunting of the two. You know what's funny? "H to He" is more haunting because unlike Opeth, Van Der Graaf Generator is able haunt you with eerie sounds, vocals and atmospheres, while Opeth relies on insanely loud music and death vocals. I'm not sure if Opeth is trying to scare anyone but I have to compare VDGG to something.

The Saxophone and Peter Hammill's chilling vocals have always been the defining factor to the uniqueness of Van Der Graaf Generator's music, and this album is no different. From the Opening seconds of the first song "Kille"r, you'll get the feeling that H to He is going to have a lot of sax. And when the first lyrics come sounding like this "So you live in the bottom of the sea, and you kill all come near you" there is an immediate chilling atmosphere. This atmosphere spans the entire album but it is strongest in "Kille"r and "The Emperor in his war Room".

The first song on "H to He" "Killer", sets the mood of the entire album as well as I've ever heard, as I've said earlier even from the opening seconds one can deduce a chilling album is immanent. The Saxophone is the standout here along with Peter Hammill's vocals. For once you are able to here the guitar on this song; it's not half bad either. Killer is perhaps the best song on "H to He" and for me it is on my most played tracks list. Following "Killer" is an equally good song called "House with No Door" which has an overall more pleasant melody and a more inviting feel, while not as prominent as "Killer" it is still a worthy song. Next on the board is the menacing "The Emperor In His War-Room", this song is genuinely disturbing and it is very effective at painting images of torn corpses and dead people. This may not appeal to everyone but I just have to say that it isn't as bad I make it out to be. "The Emperor In His War-Room" is another high point on "H to HE" and it shows true progressiveness and some flute for once! Lost, the next song starts off with a very lively tune which inevitably changes and becomes darker. Lost passes through several time changes and in the end has a crashing finish. The last song on "H to He" is another very chilling song which is proficient at creating.images. There is a long mostly instrumental section which starts around the sixth minute and leads to the almost unfinished end of the piece, and album.

1. Killer (5/5) 2. House With No Door (4/5) 3. The Emperor In His War-Room (4/5) 4. Lost (5/5) 5. Pioneers Over C. (4/5) Total = 22 divided by 5 (number of songs) = 4.4 = 4 stars Excellent addition to any prog music collection

So far its been all praise from me, and you are probably think why I only rated "H to He" four stars, well that's because it's difficult to enjoy. I'll let you find out what I mean. The remaster of "H to He" comes with two bonus tracks called "Squid 1-Squid 2- Octopus", a interesting 15 minute epic and the first version of "The Emperor In His War- Room." I'd recommend this album to who ever.

Report this review (#88015)
Posted Wednesday, August 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars The most accessible album in the VdGG catalog (relatively speaking!), this album shows a young band with prodigious talents that would develop into the monsters of "Still Life" and "Godbluff". Peter Hammill in particular had not quite developed the "stentorian" roar that he would become famed for, but his style is already dramatic and full of abrupt quiet/loud dynamics. Jackson and Banton are already exploring the sonic limits of their traditional instruments, and Guy Evans is definitely already a fully-developed beast on the drums. This is very much a late 60s album, with lots of psychedelic touches that would later be absent from the band's more avant-garde work. The compositions are varied. "Killer" veers between King Crimson bombast and almost a proto-hard rock sound, a dramatic song that doesn't contain Hammill's best set of lyrics, but is entertaining nonetheless. "House With No Door" is a brooding ballad of loneliness and mental illness of a kind that Hammill would come to specialize in- its sparse arrangment and gentle vocals are very effective. "The Emperor in his War Room" is perhaps the least successful piece, being a little scattered and overwrought, but does feature some good work by Robert Fripp on electric guitar, and is an evocative story based on Marquez's "The Autumn of the Patriarch" (I think), with lots of disturbing imagery. "Lost" is another long piece that is also good, but like "The Emporer in his War Room" suffers a bit from a lack of focus. "Pioneers Over c", the most experimental piece on the record, is also possibly the most successful, utilizing bizarre melodies and unusual arrangements to portray space explorers crossing into a different space/time continuum and suffering the effects. VdGG was definitely never afraid to take chances, a policy that would pay off on the highly unusual "Pawn Hearts" and most of the albums thereafter. This is a great album for the frightened VdGG newbie to sample, but is also a wonderful listening experience on its own. Even if they'd never made another album, it would be a classic.
Report this review (#88699)
Posted Friday, September 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars -Historical Information

As I've written in my review on Vdgg's previous release, "The least we can do is wave to each other", Nic Potter was very young and probably the "strange" atmosphere of the music combined with Vdgg's decision to continue without bass guitar lead to his departure. Hugh Banton replaced bass parts playing bass guitar on some songs during recordings or playing bass pedals. In this cd, apart from the classic Vdgg line-up (Hammill-Evans-Jackson-Banton), there is also King Crimson's Robert Fripp featured as a guest appearance on the third track, "The Emperor in his war room".

-About the cd

This cd was released the same year as "The least we can do is wave to each other" and thus they have many similarities. This cd is said to have several references to modern physics like for example the part of the title of the album, "H to He", refers to the fusion of hydrogen nuclei to form helium nuclei while "c" in "Pioneers over c" refers to the speed of light. This seems to be Hammill's ideas since he had done a degree in liberal studies in science in the Manchester University.

"H to He" is my favourite from Vdgg's first releases. A really representative album of Vdgg's sound that everyone with a respectful prog collection should have. A real masterpiece in which all Vdgg's distinctive elements are present. Vocals that are theatrical, emotional, powerful and unique at the same time and lyrics that seem more like poetry like for example those of second track, "house with no door" (Hammill wrote poems before he started writing lyrics). Peter Hammill was lucky enough to have amazing musicians in his side like Guy Evans, a true genius with an amazing sound and brilliant musical ideas, Hugh Banton who had to think not only about his powerful, dominating melodies of the organ but also about the bass parts and manages to do an amazing job showing how talented he is and finally, David Jackson, a master of both tenor and alto saxophone that this time has more space to improvise and lead playing melodies all the time.

This cd consists of five songs (without the bonus ones) all of which are amazing. Memorable, powerful, emotional, dark, dominating, haunting are few words that may describe the overall atmosphere of the album (and probably Vdgg's sound). Amazing musicianship, compositions, atmosphere, lyrics, music, vocals and a guest appearance from Robert Fripp. What else to we need to call an album a masterpiece?

Report this review (#93065)
Posted Monday, October 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars For me this is chronologically the first real masterpiece of progressive rock. Together with "Still life" this is the most accesible VDGG album, excellent from the beggining to the end. VDGG is not only one of the most original bands from the prog scene, but they are also very daring by choosing to play with very little guitar.
Report this review (#95057)
Posted Thursday, October 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This had until the re-issued always been my least favorite of the First Three Charisma VDGG recordings. That's is not to say I didn't like the record I just rated its Third. Well that has certainly been changed by the additional material on the new CD. Squid/octopus is utterly awesome , and is the shining jewel in the collection of odd and sods. This record has always been a very strong set, starting with the monster that is Killer a track even those who didn't get VDGG at the time liked. House with no door is probably the closest this album gets to a throw away track but is very pleasant and sets the stage nicely for The Emperor In His War-Room , which is a brilliant example of art rock. Side two started with Lost which is the best cut on the recording and ends with the excellent Pioneers Over C.This is an unusual track from a lyrical point of view as it tells a Sc-fi story, this track has many different themes running through it and works very well. This is were this near faultless set used to finish but now we are treated to the awesome Squid 1 / Squid 2 / Octopus without a doubt this is the best unreleased extra on any of the reissues or the box for that matter and is essential showing as it does what a great song this had been live. The other version of emperor is also very good. The new re-issue is by far the most interesting of the first three recordings and the most consistently good. It gets all five stars and deserves more than 5 in reality a must buy for all VDGG fans and an important recording for prog heads. It is really nice to see that VDGG are now accepted as one of the most important prog bands and have finally started to attract the kind of following they always deserved. The Italians and the French got VDGG faster than the UK but better late than never as they say. Nic Potter left part way through this recording which is a shame in my opinion as his bass playing was (and is) a highlight of the tracks he is on, notably Killer in this case.
Report this review (#95232)
Posted Friday, October 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album is about loneliness, as one can see from its name. At the time of listening to this record, I felt lonely, but music did not touch me deep enough, to feel it as positive experience. I will start with the first track, "Killer", which is good song, and as always with intelligent poetic lyrics, but singing here is not so good to me. First of all, it sounds like Hammil narrated (spoke) lyrics, and did not sing them. And instruments are neither much complicated nor interesting to me. There are only few strings of acoustic guitar playing here, with Saxophones and keyboards making me feel boring. Only interesting moments come with Hammil changing his vocal melody somewhere in the middle of song, and after that, screaming Saxophone gets interesting, too. It brings many emotions of showing loneliness and pain connected to loneliness. Anyway, this is good song, but the next one, "House with No Door" is the one that I would skip rather than listen. Again, I heard almost speaking vocals, boring piano, uninteresting bass, with no soul. Always makes me sleepy too much. "Emperor on his War-Room" is also good song, but not breathtaking from me. Here we have guitar master Robert Fripp, playing electric guitar as a guest. He plays nice, but only for less than half minute, and does not fit the best in the song. Nice choir stands at the end of this track, which made me enjoying for the first time on album. Song called "Lost" is really lost, even musically. This is where even drummer started to irritate me. This is more chaotic, than composed track. All the time the band tries to play something complicated, but somehow, that just does not do anything to my ears. Songs are long, and more long than interesting to me. Pioneers over C. is again confusing track, not melodically too much, very hard to appreciate. I knew that this album gets high ratings over all prog community, so I wondered how it can be that I do not understand this record. I listened to it three times, or even more, but I did not feel many musically bright lights. This is one of the hardest albums to me, for sure. It is done well, but this is only for fans of the band, in my opinion. Production is characteristic to band of seventies, not above the average; I could compare it to production of Deep Purple. Fans of guitar will not be very happy with this album, and I was not satisfied, not only because of almost no guitars, I was bored with style of Hammil's singing, with rhythm keyboards, with lack of musical action and melody. Maybe I am just not fan of the band, and it might be only my problem, anyway.
Report this review (#98433)
Posted Sunday, November 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars A great, but overrated album.

There's that term again. This album is really good, and shows how far VDGG had come in a matter of a few years, but its severely overrated by many fans here, and I'm one of them. This album might be one of the most mysterious and complex in VDGG's collection, though not in a techinical standpoint.

Killer is a personal favorite of mine, and has an eeriely similar feel to the classic Sabbath riff in "Iron Man" (although this was produced well before it). This little track highlights the strength of VDGG well, the dark undertones, the wonderful organ rich tone, and the blending with the sax. Emperor in His War Room is good, but the first half of the song is much better than the second. Lost, is indeed, a very lost track, and the worst of the 5 presented here. It seems this track has tinges of the sounds from Aerosol Grey Machine in it as well. It ends well though, with a powerful cresendo. The last track is a mixed bag, overextending its welcome and paling in comparison to the epic to come on Pawn Hearts.

Overall, this is another good VDGG album. I enjoy the first half of this record much more so than the 2nd, a bit odd considering on Pawn Hearts this would be completely reversed. VDGG really finds their sound here, able to craft dark pieces of music with the help of Hammill's voice and Banton's organ.

Report this review (#99844)
Posted Tuesday, November 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars The theme of this record is isolation or loneliness.This third release from the band is more complex and darker than thier previous two albums.

Things get started with "Killers" a dark song that is a fan favourite. I love Peter's vocals on this one, especially the way he carries a note. There is some crazy sax playing that is not melodic at all (haha). "House With No Door" is a mellow tune with gentle vocals, piano, drums and flute.The focus is on the lyrics on this one. "The Emperor In His War Room" is my favourite track, opening with flute. I guess it's kind of redundant to say the vocals are theatrical ...yeah I thought so. I really do enjoy Mr.Fripp's guitar solo more than half way through the song.

"Lost" is a melancholic song about lost love, some great organ play on this one. "Pioneers Over C" is about getting lost in space, and is filled with many tempo and mood shifts. It just seems like a good melody is happening when it stops, this happens a lot in this song. I really like this record, I was reminded of KING CRIMSON at times and enjoyed the flute and sax melodies and of course Mr.Hammill's vocals.

Great album ! Right there with "Pawn Hearts" as my fav VDGG albums.

Report this review (#101180)
Posted Thursday, November 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Each album of the VDGG first era (except The Aerosol Machine which I discovered recently - 2003) has had a strong influence on me. I really do not know why. I already have described my love for "Refugees" on The Least We Can Do, let's hear what they have achieved here.

"Killer" is an old number from Hammill during VDGG's prehistory (he wrote it 1968). It has the typical VDGG's sound. A bit heavy at times but good. Lyrics are talking about a killer fish living alone on the bottom of the sea. Quite simplistic according to VDGG standard. "House With No Door" is a beautiful pearl. Another example of Pete's great songwriting and interpretation: such emotion in his voice. Low tone, pleasant and quiet, so quiet. It brings you a feeling of tranquility. Jackson will play some flute as well on this number. Peter invites the other band members to join him in this melodic trip (you know, I love melody). IMO, it is the second best number of their first generation era (my fave one being "Refugees" of course).

"The Emperor In His War Room" starts accordingly with a Chinese style instrumental intro. One can easily imagine the court of a Chineese Emperor ... Very quiet. One could think that is an ode to a beloved one while it describes the act of a tyran, with violent lyrics "They stare out, glass-eyed aimless heads, bodies torn by vultures. You are the man whose hands are rank with the smell of death." These lyrics remind me those of "One For The Vine" (Genesis) : smooth and melodic song with warlike lyrics.

Harmonious moments, soft song, not too complex (it is the second of the genre on this album, which is quite unusual for VDGG). Great bass from Potter and strong keys by Hugh. This is how I like the band the most and probably why I believe that the second VDGG generation will deliver the best output.

On the contrary "Lost" is a more complex song : at times very melodious (oh boy, how much I love those moments !), at others quite difficult to approach, almost reaching the cacophony level (but that's VDGG). Jackson at his best. Peter so expressive. Just listen to the end of the section :"The Dance In Sand and Sea". It is pure emotion, so tense and subtle. A wonderful moment. The finale (quite usual) will provide a scary and dark feeling, the whole band exploding in a furious storm of bass, keys and sax. Another highlight (but it is almost the third one...).

"Pioneers Over C" is another episode in the VDGG story. Peter will say that it was his sole attempt to write a sci-fi song. I quote Peter : "In this particular case, my hypothesis (I reserve the right to other time/eventuality options) is that the pioneers go into a time warp, endless living death, the void: unable to get back to earthly reality at all". At times (around the sixth minutes, for about 3'30") they remind me of KC : impro and jazzy. These moments are NOT the ones I liked the most in their repertoire.

A very good album that could have led to a masterpiece if "Pioneer" would have been shorter and less disjointed. Since I purchased the vynil version in 1974, I haven't heard yet the bonus tracks available on the remastered CD release. When reading the track list, I guess they should be interesting. Four stars.

Report this review (#107609)
Posted Monday, January 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
el böthy
4 stars Definitly a very good album, and a great place to start with VDGG...I didn´t start here and hated their music for almoust a year...had I first listened to this album it might not had happen that way, who knows?...back to the album

VDGG has finally found the winning formula in compositions which gives us an album with 5 strong songs that go from the more rocker Killer to the sad and beautiful House with no door to the more spacy Pionner over C with a good flow in between, making the album as a whole a very satisfing expirience. Hammill shines (as always) in vocals and lyrics, specially in House with no door, which supported by a piano and gentle drums shows VDGG softer side while being deep and never, not for one minute, cheesy. Same thing happens with Lost, one of the two suits along with The emperor in his war room for having different movements which (of course) have tittles of themself, this song, which is a song of lost love does not get cheesy at any moment, which makes the over emotional vocal delivery of mr Hammill so much satisfing. Still, my favorite song is The emperor at his war room, arguably the strongest of them all, with great work from all four of them, specially Evans, a drummer which I truly love, yet never seems to get enough press as the rest of the members. I love the chorus of this song, with Evans fast drumming while Hammill delivers one (of many ) incredible moments from his lyrics, sung as always, down right perfect. The only song I dont like that much, but still think is pretty good, is Killer, a live favorite of the fans. Therefor, I can´t call it weak, just...not something I like that much.

Overall this is an excellent album, some weak moments here and there but the good ones make you forget them completly. Highly recommended to any prog fan, and, as I said before, great place to start with this awesome band!

Report this review (#107651)
Posted Tuesday, January 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
[email protected]
4 stars I must say, I like this album almost as much as Pawn Hearts. But....but....there is just something that keeps it from being a masterpiece. It's just not quite there yet, but you can hear the seeds being sown for Pawn Hearts in this album for sure.

Killers is the first VDGG song I ever heard (on a prog box set I picked up years ago) and on the strength of that one I looked up info one them and ended up getting Pawn Hearts. I probably would have still wanted more had a gotten this one, but there is nothing wrong with starting with the best album first :-) A good song that shows off the best aspects of the band; the vocals, the sax, the inventive organ work, and the excellent and unique drumming. Not really one of my favorites any more but a very good song nonetheless.

House with No Door is somewhat bland, though features some great flute work from Jackson and Hammill's typically depressing lyrics contrasting a mellow and somewhat cheerful melody.

The Emperor is a great longer track with various changes in dynamics, tempo and time signature. Some great Hammill lyrics and vocals here, and a quite interesting psychedelic multi tracked guitar solo from Robert Fripp (his only contribution on this album).

Lost is a song I happen to like, mainly for the lyrics as they remind me of a particular obsession I had with a certain female friend when I was younger. Much like the song, things didn't work out so well :-) Still, there are some interesting parts and great ending (fading out into cacophony).

Pioneers is one of my favorite VDGG songs, a sort of musical interpretation of faster than light travel and its consequences on the traveler. A very rare song for Hammill, not being a painfully personal introspective song but a sort of sci-fi epic. Some great sections and schizophrenic time changes do a good job of relaying the paradoxs of light speed travel (to me, anyhow).

All in all, a very good album that I like quite a bit. The remaster is worth picking up just to have the excellent 15 minute Squid 1/ Squid 2/ Octopus (plus, the sound quality is quite improved over the original CD release). This album is the place to go next if you like Pawn Hearts, just don't expect an album as good. But this certainly pointed the way to that album.

Report this review (#112733)
Posted Monday, February 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
[email protected]
3 stars Here I am gain, Mr. party pooper staining VDGG rep. Song by Song. Killer, the main melody is really not that memorable. As with a lot of VDGG songs, for me, they seem primarily to carry Hammill's vocals & lyrics. The middle 2-3 minutes do get going, but they bring me back down upon returning to the melody. Stading out on this track is one of the few times I've heard an acoustic guitar on a VDGG song. House with no Door - Nice piano melody slowly building up to the usual VDGG organ sound with backing ensemble. Apart from the organ, this actually wouldn't be out of place on a Bowie album. The Emperor In his War-Room - if you've read about the early King Crimson references to be found in VDGG's music, this is where it's the most obvious. But the overall sound is still the organ driven VDGG ensemble playing with the last 3 minutes given over to FRipp playing his typical solo. Again, VDGG classic sound, but I'm left waiting to be hooked. Lost- intro brings to mind many early proggers, organ arpeggios, hi-hat propulses the beat along, with sax matching the organ, then to the classic VDGG sound. Again, I'm waiting, but it never tips me over to wanting to hear it again ... Pioneers - An almost soulful organ intro, but then back to the usual after the first verse. It just seems to be one of the several melodies that VDGG repeat throughout their catalogue.

So again, the caveat emptor, if VDGG clicks with you, you'll love this. If they haven't before, they won't do it here either.

Report this review (#115097)
Posted Wednesday, March 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I can't add anything crucial, but for change I want to praise a Truly Outstanding Prog Masterpiece, and along with Pawn Hearts I have no difficulty to say so about this one as well. It's not a perfect album, but to me captivating enough to give full rating.

'Killer' is built on a heavy sax riff and the lyrics are brilliantly strong and very metaphorical. 'House With No Door' has even more depressing lyrics - a painful plea for contact - but the piano dominating music is tender, beautifully matched with Hammill's emotional vocals. 'The Emperor in His War-Room' has some moments of pure magic. Moving seamlessly between calm and loud, it's one of my favourite VdGG tracks. Generally angst and violent contents in music is not my cup of tea, but VdGG has some extraordinary exceptions to the rule.

The B side has two epics. 'Lost' is yet another painful longing for lost love by Hammill. It may not be among their strongest compositions as a whole, but again it has moments of hair- raising emotional strength. 'Pioneers Over C' seems to be the inspiration for the space- themed cover art. A classic, and in its improvisation-like quieter parts reminding of 'Plague of the Light-house Keeper'. Well, Pawn Hearts has three fantastic long tracks and here are five tracks, none of them individually in the level of Pawn Hearts, but still I love this album as much. Both would be on my Top20 of all time Prog albums. One hears its age easily, but it's the part of the magic.

Report this review (#125659)
Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Take a prog band, now replace the guitar with a sax and organ... and make the frontman evil. Now it's Van Der Graff Generator!

This band plagued with bad luck is always able to make such exceptional releases, and "H to He" is one of those. Starting with the choatic KILLER the album refuses to let up until the end. HOUSE WITH NO DOOR is a very well done slow song, one of the standouts of the album, LOST is equilly grand, if longer, faster and much more chilling. The two best tracks, however, come in the form of EMPEROR IN THIS WAR ROOM and the dark, scary, PIONEERS OVER C. The former would make a very nice song to play at a certain president in this the year 2007, with it's political lyrics, while the latter may seem a bit dated being that the story is focused on a space voyage that takes place in the far off year of 1983. PIONEERS... is still a great track, twisting and turning off the road that is typical music, coming to an end with the typical VDGG maelstrom of sonic fury, my personal favorite part of the album.

When it comes right down to it VDGG has always been a band capable of many scary things; scary, haunting, and terrifying... did I say scary? This album is no exception, with many of the tracks capable of making you afraid of the dark. Maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point. 4 stars goes to the scary people with the scary music.

Report this review (#134121)
Posted Tuesday, August 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This was my second VdGG album i bought, the first was The least we can do is wave to eachothers wich was a great starting album, anyway the only VdGG song i ever heard before i started buying thiere albums was White Hammer so i hade not heard anything from this album before i bought it wich i always like i like to not know what im geting. The album starts with Killer and i remember loving this song very fast after yust some lisening its a sax riff driven tune and very straightforward and catchy coming from VdGG great lyrics and singing from Hammill very good rocking opener to the album, after that the album gets much softer with the incredibly sad ballad House with no door, i cant say many songs have made me cry but this one have, i have played it for friends who dont like prog rock or dont even know what prog is but this song everyone i played it for have liked. Its very emotional and moving, if this song dont make you feel anything you got a heart of stone. After that sobfest we get a more typical VdGG number The emperor in his war- room starting with great flute playing by jackson and later nice organ riff by Banton this is one of my abosulte favorite VdGG songs ever this song also have a great Fripp guitar solo towards the end he was a big VdGG fan and guested on this album and Pawn hearts very nice stuff and as always amazing singing and lyrics by Hammill. Okay now the album gets a bit weirder with Lost this is a very complex song and will proboby take you many lisen to love but trust me its amazing song many tempo shifts the ending with hammill sining I love you is fantastic. The orginal LP ended with the most heavy prog rocking song on the album Pioneers over C and to be honest this is a song i still find new things in every time i hear it i have hade the album for i think 2 years now but this song is simply incredibly complex and wierd not my favorite from the album but still a cool way to end this amazing album, and i dont know if i will ever undestand it completly but then again its about space travels so it shuld be wierd and hard to understand yust dont get mad if you dont like it the first time you hear it. The 2005 remastered edition CD got 2 nice Bonus tracks an never before realed live in the studio version of the song Squid 1 / Squid 2 / Octopus from the Aerosol gray machine album and this version of it is superior in everyway the orginal will sound very lame and tame after you heard this one simply amazing and an alternative take on The emperor in his war-room wich i dont realy hear much difrence between the 2 but i gues there is some still i dont mind too hear this amazing song another time so i never skip it. Well this is a masterpice of prog for sure not an easy lisen so be warned lisen with an openmind and dont give up if you dont like it rightaway this is some of the hardest prog to get into but when you do you will love it and never get tierd of it.

Report this review (#135515)
Posted Thursday, August 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars ''The least we can do is to wave to each other'' made it up to the top 50 of the UK charts with the Melody Maker magazine stating that ''if all bands sounded like this, the British scene would be ten times as great''.However Potter was not exactly enthusiastic with the more experimental path the band was taking.After playing bass in three tracks of the new album, he decided to leave (later to perform with Van der Graaf and the offshoot Long Hello group) after a last show in August 70 at the Plumpton Festival.The remaining members audiotioned one Dave Anderson for about a week, but as things did not turn out well musicwise, keyboardist Hugh Banton decided to play the rest of the bass lines and perform them on bass pedals on stage.The third work ''H to He, who am the only one'' was recorded as a result sporadically throughout 1970 at the Trident Studios, featuring also Robert Fripp in one track.The album's main themes were inspired by modern physics, this one was released on Charisma at the fall of 1970.

Van der Graaf Generator would take the step to an upper level with this work, which marks them undoubtfully as one of the pioneers of the emerging British Prog scene.The intense poetry of the previous work is limited, leaving its place to a more melodramatic atmosphere full of complex ideas, influences from Classical, Jazz and Psychedelic Rock and a labyrinth of fine twists and abnormal song structures, with the exception of the more laid-back ''House with no door''.5 quite long and intricate pieces with powerful sax scratches and deep Hammond organ, a great rhythm section and even some discreet flute work.Guitar work seems now more balanced between acoustic and electric lines as a result of a more complex and progressive attitude.The tracks' length provided the band with plenty of room for impressive breaks, instrumental workouts and of course expressive, lyrical moments with Hammill's dramatic voice in evidence.Thus, the atmosphere is always changing between smooth, Psych-influenced parts, frenetic themes with sax and organ in evidence and strong, jazzy influences and delicate, somewhat orchestral moves with a more melodic aspect.The interplays are mostly great and very dense, only negative thing seems that sometimes the music sounds extremely complex and often switches tempos and climates too early.But the innovative approach of the band would have been a true shock back in 1970.

Rather different from the previous album.Richer in sounds and instrumental interactions, this third effory by Van der Graaf Generator sees them entering their most mature period, playing 100% progressive, dark-sounding and groundbreaking music, that inspired so many groups over the years.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

Report this review (#144591)
Posted Sunday, October 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars ...a review of the 2005 re-mastered CD...

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR was ahead of the curve in late 1970, at least compared to other Proggers emerging at the same time. In 1970 GENESIS was only beginning to find its voice on the band's second album, "Trespass"; YES was busy treading the backwaters of bourgeois orchestration on "Time and a Word"; KING CRIMSON was still in creative disarray after losing two of its original members; and the debut albums of both ELP and Gentle Giant were just then hitting the shops.

Even so, the original 1970 vinyl edition of the second proper VDGG album "H to HE" probably shouldn't merit anything more than a respectable 4-stars, marking as it did a significant step forward in scope and sophistication, but for a band still with its best years ahead of it.

Today, more than thirty-five years later, this 2005 CD reissue easily earns that coveted (and, in this forum, all-too generously awarded) fifth star of distinction. Not only has the re-mastered sound been polished to a surprisingly bright and vital sheen, but the addition of two long bonus tracks (extending the album by another twenty-four minutes) makes it an essential purchase, for students of Golden Age Prog in general and fans of Van Der Graaf Generator in particular.

The first of these is the awkwardly titled "Squid 1/Squid 2/Octopus", an astonishing live-in-the-studio enlargement of two tracks from the early "Aerosol Grey Machine" era, recorded during the "Pawn Hearts" sessions and intended for the proposed but aborted second disc of that classic 1971 album. I'm amazed the song lay dormant in the vaults for so long: this is Van Der Graaf Generator at its untethered best, with more than fifteen minutes of tightly controlled psychedelic mayhem showing what a formidable unit this group must have been on stage.

It begins with Peter Hammill singing a plaintive ballad over a solo acoustic guitar, but don't let your guard down too soon: within seconds the full band is firing on all cylinders and Hammill is screeching his lungs out as if possessed. The performances of all four musicians are electrifying (and near telepathic: notice the pinpoint accuracy of their stop/start unison runs), with highlights divided equally between the gothic majesty of Hugh Banton's organ, the aggressive jazziness (not an oxymoron) of drummer Guy Evans, and perhaps best of all the signature snarl of David Jackson on saxophone.

Jackson was unique among horn players of the period, with a more experimental style owing nothing, repeat: nothing to any popular Jazz or Blues tradition. The band didn't employ a dedicated electric guitarist (enlisting the aid of Crimson King and kindred spirit ROBERT FRIPP on this and other albums), but Jackson easily filled that gap with sounds no mere guitar could match: check out his celebrated solo on the album opener, "Killer", sounding as if he's attempting to throttle a struggling alley cat. And his creative use of a wah-wah pedal on the extended "Squid/Octopus" medley anticipates the similar sound developed by the great MILES DAVIS during his primal "Dark Magus" years, shortly afterward.

The second bonus track is a likewise live-in-the-studio rehearsal of "The Emperor in His War Room", almost identical in form to the final album version appearing earlier on the disc, but with the lack of any overdubbing (including the distinctive sustain of Fripp's guest guitar solo) giving the song a more appealing immediacy.

The original album itself has already been thoroughly chewed and digested elsewhere in these pages, so I won't dwell on it long except to note how remarkably fresh the music sounds after all these years, despite (or maybe because of) the sometimes overwrought poetry of Peter Hammills's lyrics. Hammill was always one of the more literate songwriters of the era, and deserves high marks for youthful ambition even when his narratives shaded toward the melodramatic (as in the brilliantly tortured exposition of the 11+ minute "Lost").

The album closer "Pioneers Over C" is a fascinating case in point. The C of the title is presumably Einstein's constant: the speed of light, proximity to which can do funny things to the fabric of space and time, as suggested by the enigmatic album title and equally obscure Paul Whitehead cover art (what exactly is that contraption floating in low earth orbit?).

Science fiction themes were not uncommon in early Prog (think of the Space Rock of PINK FLOYD at the time), but this was Psy-Fi out of a J.G. Ballard nightmare: a pessimistic look at the inner terrors of outer space, with an uncanny lyrical sense of temporal dislocation ("We are the ones they are going to build a statue for," says Hammill's astral traveler, his voice jumping unpredictably between octaves, "ten centuries ago...or were going to, fifteen forward.") The song offers an interesting perspective of the Final Frontier, especially after the mind-blowing evolutionary optimism of Stanley Kubrick's 1968 cinematic head-rush "2001: A Space Odyssey", and indicates how the 22-year old Hammill was, like his astronaut protagonist, a man sometimes uncomfortably ahead of his time.

Well, so much for brevity. Add a dozen-page CD booklet filled with historical background, band photos, and song lyrics, and this already excellent album emerges in the 21st century as a belated masterpiece of truly progressive music.

Report this review (#151157)
Posted Friday, November 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars A masterpiece, no doubt. I'm going to add a little, very little contribution to such a lot of passionate comments. First of all i'm referring to the edition without bonus tracks, as to say the 1989 CD release, that i bought ten years ago after having literally used up an old red TDK (and still moving me, when i take it out from the drower, just to remember). TDK. Five wondeful, amazing tunes, and amogst these my favourite "House with no door", one of the best songs ever composed, capable of revitalizing the inner sense of the Leibnizian theory of monad, and all so persuasively, the same desperate solitude to which are condemned the killer-whale, the emperor, the dancer,and finally the Pioneers, and the Peter Hammill vocals such as all music are the melancholic ministers of this overturned teodicea.
Report this review (#152970)
Posted Tuesday, November 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars At this point, the Band's lineup had solidified, even though they use guest musicians. Nic Potter still plays bass on a few of the tracks, and Robert Fripp guests on The Emperor and his war Room on guitar. This album is overall much more consistent than the last one, with strong playing from all 4 musicians. Killer seems to be a straight ahead rock song, but with some interesting lyrics and tasteful bits mixed in, including of the most dissonant sax solos ive ever heard. This song is pure VDGG, but in a different sense than songs like darkness and white hammer. House With No Door is a piano ballad, but Hamill puts emotion into it, making it beautiful and powerful. Emperor in his War Room is the highlight of the album, with some great flute and Hamill vocals. The song starts slow and builds, with the fast section containing a great solo by the frippmeister himself. the song alternates going fast and frantic with some heavy drumming and slowly moving forward, sounding scared still, and with the flute ever present. the ending is softer again, with Hamill shouting to the night and sounding purely awesome while doing it.

Side 2 of this disc is incredible. Lost is another classic VDGG epic, with a slightly odd opening with flute and sax overdubbed to make a nice sound. And Hammill comes in to imitate the organ arpeggios underneath him. you can hear the drama in Hamill's voice and it is great. at about 2:30, the organ comes in with a distorted riff and the hard section builds up with some interesting sax riffs, overdubbed with itself. then a soft part comes and builds into the most dramatic moment of the song. then it moves into a jazzy section with some nice drumming from evans, and a great solo from Jackson. The song moves through many more changes before ending in a dramatic operatic section from Hamill, shouting "I Love You!" several times. Pioneers over C is perhaps on of the best VDGG songs ever conceived, with a nice spacey intro. then the hammond riff slowly comes in, with Hamill's vocal line imitating it, and some bongos underlying it all. The lyrics are futuristic, like " We left the earth in 1983". the vocals slowly build, then cut off to make way for a great bass riff. the sax imitates it, as does Hamill in this upbeat section. Then the acoustic guitar comes in to strum us into a beautiful section with great sax and singing. the lyrics are still Sci-Fi, and this section leads into a hard rocking part with great organ work and soaring vocals from Hamill. Then Hamill does an a capella part that is perfect. it all leads into the same progression of parts from earlier, but slightly different. the middle of the song contains some great acoustic work from Hamill, as well as some bells and chimes. A free form Sax solo unaccompanied follows, followed by a distorted version of the opening part, and an ethereal ending with Hamill solely singing, and then some hard riffing from sax and organ and pounding drums.

Overall, very close to masterpiece, but they had to eliminate songs like House with No Door and Killer that, while very well done on this record, weigh the other far more complex songs down slightly. The next step would be the best, with them achieving perfection.

Report this review (#154618)
Posted Friday, December 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album, most people have said so, is rather odd. And, according to my CD booklet, this is merely due to the group's alienation while writing. I find even stranger, though, that there is a (vague) concept about this album: loneliness. You may disagree on that point, I am indeed pushing a bit hard on the idea.

I do believe so because in all songs Hammill describes a psycopath (who compares itself to a lonely shark, pretty disturbing), someone who is trapped inside its own world, a paranoid tyrant (with support of one of the men who created 21st Century Schizoid Man... which gives plenty of credit), a broken heart dropped in a metaphoric island and a lost man in deep space. Seen that the group wrote the material in hermetic conditions, it isn't impossible that their music actually describes themselves. And that's why you are likely to enjoy the album. In spite of the dissonances, bizarre vocals and arrangements, it represents very human feelings (which, I'm afraid, sound more like VDGG than Genesis or Harmonium. Not that there's anything wrong with them! Both are a walk in paradise...), therefore identifying yourself will, perhaps, make you enjoy the album quite a lot.

And, IMHO, I do think it is better than Pawn Hearts, in which Hammill fully unleashes his romantic (and noisy) inspiration in A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers. Four and a half stars will do for H to He. ;)

Report this review (#155100)
Posted Monday, December 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I never got to listen VDGG as a young guy like the other great masters of prog because the Puget Sound area didnt get their records.Dont get me wrong.We had two great rock radio stations KISW and KZOK and they played Yes,Rush,Pink Floyd,Kansas and other more popular prog bands but not bands like Gentel Giant or VDGG which I learned thru word of mouth.Finally in 2005 VDGG albums/CDs could be bought here and I was blown away.Not only top notch musicianship but Peter Hammill has one of the best voices in all of rock.This is one outstanding album with no weakness.I think Guy Evans is a outstanding drummer and track 1 Killer is a prime example.What more can I say its a masterpiece.
Report this review (#155687)
Posted Monday, December 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Very much a continuation of the sound Van der Graaf Generator had on their previous album, H to He, Who Am the Only One is a little sharper in the instrumentation and sound quality.

I think this is a litte better than The Least We can do is Wave to Each Other, but still not worth the excellent mark. The music is centered around Peter Hammill´s vocals, but this time around there are more instrumental passages and especially David Jackson begins to show something special with his wind and brass instruments, just listen to the solo in Killer and you will know what I mean.

Van der Graaf Generator don´t really fall under my personal taste, but I still admire them greatly. I think they are very innovative and exciting, but Hammill´s voice turn me off. It´s a real shame because he is really skilled and his lyrics are some of the best in prog rock. A matter of personal taste I reckon.

I will give this album 3 stars for the innovative nature of the music, and some great moods here and there, but I can´t give it more when I really don´t find it that essential. I wouldn´t take my word for it though. This is the kind of album that you have to listen to yourself and then make your own judgement.

Report this review (#156361)
Posted Sunday, December 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars It is a tremendous tribute to Peter Hammill, Hugh Banton, David Jackson and Guy Evans that Van der Graaf Generator's second album, the wonderfully inventive "H to He Who Am The Only One", sounds as fresh and new today as it did nearly 40 years ago.

Opening with the brilliant "Killer", the album is a wonderful mix of rock, jazz and modern classical influences. Peter Hammill's lyrics, as usual, are superb but it is the band's music making that makes this the wonderful album that it is. The instrumentation arrangements are outstanding: in particular the way that David Jackson weaves his saxophones and flutes into the songs is absolutely magic. Hugh's playing of various keyboard instruments and an "oscillator" is equally inventive.

The bonus tracks include an early version of "the Emperor in his War Room" and, more interestingly, an excellent new work "Squid 1/Squid 2/Octopus" which was recorded after the release of this album and is previously unreleased.

Indispensable for Van der Graaf fans who don't yet have the CD in their collection.

Report this review (#163097)
Posted Monday, March 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album, along with Still Life is my favourite after what I see as VdGG's magnum opus, Pawn Hearts. The oddly titled H to He, Who am the Only One is the direct predecessor to Pawn Hearts and it's here that you can see them really developing their signature dark, avant garde, jazzy prog. It all starts off with the fan favourite Killer, one of my favourites as well. Hammill's dark lyrics describe a fish that lives in the depths of the sea and kills everything. The music is befitting to these lyrics, and is alternately a simple catchy melody and some really twisted free-jazz type music with dissonant sax and organ parts contributing to the tension of the song. That tension is relieved by the next track, the ballad House With No Door, which though lyrically dark is a very mellow song with a dark mood that is rather haunting. The next track makes this worth buying for King Crimson fans, as Robert Fripp guests on The Emperor in his War Room with some of his signature guitar parts that you can tell are him immediately, as nobody else can sound like Fripp. Lost is one of my favourites on this album, as is the track that follows it, Pioneers Over C. Both are mini epics that are among the best tracks that the band has written. The former deals with themes of an unrequited passion and is alternately frantic and beautiful. The latter is about a group of people that become lost in space, confused about their very existence and is quite wonderful musically as well, with a memorable sax melody, a catchy bass line, and some frantic instrumentals. In my view, H to He isn't quite the masterpiece Pawn Hearts is but I am not hesitant to call it a masterpiece nonetheless, as I do enjoy every minute of this album and it is among the band's most intense, dark material.
Report this review (#163581)
Posted Sunday, March 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Another beautifull offering from VDGG, the title H to He, Who Am the Only One would suggest a fusion album, but in fact it's dark gothic symphonic rock, with pulsing rhythms, and indeed a little jazzy fusion element interwoven through the music. intense symphonic music carried by amazing organ, great sax, good lyrics and great emotional singing make up this great album.

The album starts with the for me VDGG signature song Killer a great opus about dead in the sea (sharks as solitary creatures in an immense ocean, symbolism in Peter's lyrics are always present and often quit strong). Very strong melody's and great singing, just great. Next in line we have House With No Door Again there's a lyrical symbolism about solitary and isolation from individuals in relation to others (The album title does bare some relevance to the lyrical content) a beautifull soft symphonic song with great vocals and nice piano works.

The Emperor In His War-Room A two part suite with very strong dark melody's, slow build up and intense atmosphere. Lost starts the second part of the album, great melody, some melancholic parts between more intense and fabulous organ/sax parts, I really like the part at 3:00 minutes, with some good sax in a speeding melody. Great track. Finally we come to Pioneers Over C A futuristic space epic, again about being lost and emotionally detached from humanity, a somber and yet surprisingly uplifting song.

For me this is classic VDGG stuff, and a great listening experience. 4,5 stars with a recomendation for all who enjoy dark heavy music, or emotional content, it's all there.

Report this review (#164013)
Posted Saturday, March 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
Italian Prog Specialist
3 stars Another holy cow of prog, another revered record, Van Der Graaf Generator's H to He, Who Am The Only One takes the new record of longevity when it comes to the period I've listened to it. Before reviewing it, that is.

I was warned that VdGG might be a little tough to get into, a statement both true and false. Musically I don't find this as challenging as I had imagined. It's complexity instead lies more in the dense, dark, whirling, mood-swinging atmosphere that cloaks this album, augmented by Peter Hammill's characteristic and dynamic vocal capabilities and the surprisingly stark lyrics. King Crimson is never really far away. A testament of this are the instrumental, more experimental passages that riddles especially the longer songs, plus a little dissonance here and there.

Guitar isn't VdGG's instrument of choice. Walking that way might be a big drawback for those of you that can live without it, I hardly noticed it until Fripp delivered a trademark dissonant solo in the album's, in my opinion, greatest song, The Emperor In His War Room, a wonderful flute- and organ-laced song with some discreet acoustic guitar. Thick flute, some saxophone and sturdy Hammond organ drives the heavier parts, making it a thoroughly enjoyable eight minutes.

All of these elements are all top-notch in my book. So most of the times I've listened to the album, with new hope and fresh ears, I've found myself analysing why I don't consider this a masterpiece. And after every listen I come to the same conclusion. What I can't fully appreciate is the vocals. Not Hammill's tone, no, that's just fine, but the overly dramatic, theatralic, way he delivers them. Perhaps it's even, as one of the previous reviewers noted, that the melody oh-so-often ends up carrying the vocals, over-shadowing itself in the progress.

What is for sure is that I'm not finished with this album, and that I'll gladly will be sucked in to its unique atmosphere and...secrecy many times more. But still, three stars.


Report this review (#164963)
Posted Tuesday, March 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars This one absolutely stunned me. I had listened to Killer on this site, and couldn't get enough of it. I had no idea what was coming. H to He is, despite having references to physics in the title and some of the songs (I'm not a science person at all, but for those of you who are, the nerd element should make this album even cooler), a very slick package.

Killer, as I mentioned above, stuck with me very seriously. Powerful brass work from David Jackson backs Peter Hammill's arching voice just beautifully. It's aggressive and menacing while still being flat out fun to listen to. Uptempo and filled with something of a rock sound, this song is a very good way to wean yourself or a loved one onto this band, as sometimes they can be a lot to swallow.

House with No Door is my least favorite track on here, though many fans consider it one of the best Van der Graaf Generator songs of all time. It's mellow and pretty, but lacks the same impossible hooks that the other four tracks have. That's not to say that I don't really like it. I just don't love it, is all.

The Emperor in His War Room is straight up awesome (I use that word at risk of sounding twelve, but I think it is merited here). The flutes are gorgeous. The melodies get stuck in my head for weeks at a time, sometimes. Robert Fripp plays a mean guitar throughout, and I think that the occasional addition of this instrument adds power to the times when it actually is around. Well, that, or the fact that it's Fripp himself playing it that adds the power. Sometimes it's hard to know for sure.

Lost is long and beautiful. It builds and builds throughout its length, to culminate in Hammill's chilling I love you line being repeated. Very well done.

Pioneers over C is probably my second favorite here, to The Emperor. I just love the way the song stops occasionally and drops into a nice little bass business, which is then each time promptly joined by the saxophone. The vocals are some of the most convincing of the entire album, I think, even when they are leaping around and sounding mildly like just randomly chosen notes. What a way to close an album. What a way.

All in all, if you are going to start in on VdGG, do what I did, and start here. It's a great way to get a feel for them, while still saving their bigger releases for later when you are a bigger fan of the band. Or, at least, that's how I feel.

Report this review (#168638)
Posted Thursday, April 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I won't go into any eloquent detail, just a very brief summary of my The cover artwork is very poor, but this is otherwise a fantastic album. Killer is exactly that, a killer song with great hooks. House With No Door is a beautiful ballad, I like how Peter hits the higher octaves. The Emperor In His War Room is an epic masterpiece. I really enjoy Lost, too, although Pioneers Over C is a little all over the place and lacks the melodic segments found in the previous tracks. The extra fishy tracks (Squid 1, 2, Octopus) on the remastered CD are excellent, very jazzy.

The Pawn Hearts album seems to be almost unanimously considered their crowning achievement, but I have listened to their first 5 albums and I find Pawn Hearts the weakest, although by no means awful. In order of preference I would say 1. H to He, 2. The Least We Could Do..., 3. Aerosol, 4. Godbluff, 5. Pawn Hearts. Looking forward to the next 5 releases!

Report this review (#168764)
Posted Saturday, April 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars That's how a band is made. Van Der Graaf Generator chose a style of their own, different from any other rock band and that style is shown for the first time, on its final form, on H to He.The VDGG folks then knew exactly what they'd do and develop next. VDGG would be from then on recognised as a dark band. The scientific theme is very cool and original, the songs are bloody great. The lyrics are much more mature(though they'd improve to perfection during the following years) than the Aerosol and The Least stuff, Peter Hammill was rising as a lyricist and vocalist, making himself each time more confortable on his throne. David Jackson was already at his peak, a peak that would last for years: he is one of the greatest blow musicians of all time(in terms of rock). Banton and Evans were very well too and would only get better. Fripp's guest appearence is a welcome surprise: he gives us a majestic solo. If I had to pick a song among the others as the best, I'd do so with Pioneers Over C. A truly masterpiece that alone is worth the whole album. Their choice was made, although they were still a bit naive, the following album would show them on their finest form.
Report this review (#171843)
Posted Wednesday, May 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Surely , in the early 70's many pioneers took all the credit by introducing new genre of rock , never been known before . the years 1969 - 1970 was the diversion period to create this new genre of music . Up to my knowledge VDGG , as a previous magazine owner , did not get the proper recognition at that time , H to He wasn't at the same platform with Thick as a brick , Meddle , Foxtrot , Fragile or Lizard . In my opinion this style of music starts to be acceptable in the mid 70's . H to he is the proper album to introduce the skills of Peter Hammill as Vocalist & guitarist , and Hugh Banton as a keyboardist, also David Jackson as sax & flute player . The arrangements are nearly perfect in this work , lyrics & peter's voice match with each other , Fripp's participation in The Emperor was really an excellent choice . This album from 1970 , kept away in my drawer for nearly 38 years , is a wonderful work , i'm really enjoying every single track of it now , ANDDDDDDD , it's never too late to do so ,, isn't it ??????? Up till now , Goldbluff , Pawn Hearts , H to He , World Record & Still Life are the best Progressive rock releases ever in the world of progressive music , Believe it or not all these stuff are Materpieces . Tracks Toni
Report this review (#173343)
Posted Monday, June 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars An odd album in the VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR discography, 'H to He' doesn't achieve the greatness of subsequent albums.

The subject matter is uniformly bleak, addressing the human condition and our tendency to drive away those we love, leaving us lost. The opener does this by using the extended metaphor of a shark as the killer of all who dwell in the sea. Surprisingly for VDGG the song is rather a standard rock piece, with a saxophone and vocal hook, and (despite the typical VDGG fan praising their complexity) has become a fan favourite. It's an odd beginning to the album, the edginess they introduced on the previous album missing here.

It doesn't reappear on the second track, a laid-back piano ballad. Again, there is little of the usual sharpness: HAMMILL's voice is restrained (apart from a rather poor falsetto) and JACKSON's sax is given a rest. The whole thing reminds me of the sort of music ELTON JOHN was doing at the time: 'Tumbleweed Connection' and all that. All very sweet. Nor does 'The Emperor in His War-Room' do much to dispel the miasma of pleasantness, with a gentle flute and choral vocals. The second part, 'The Room', warms up a little, with the saxophone coming down from the shelf to accompany drums, bass, guitar and organ in a - I almost said pleasant - workout. Another hook makes this song one the listener wants to return to again and again.

'Lost' brings us back to typical VDGG territory: a compelling mixture of assonance and dissonance, of melody and cacophony. Forget the ridiculous title to this album: this is in reality the album's title track. Though the beginning is gentle, it constantly threatens, finally breaking out for 'The Dance in the Frost'. The final track rounds off the album well, extending the metaphor of 'lostness' into outer space.

This is a good place to start your VDGG collection: not because it is the best - far from it - but because it's possibly the easiest to penetrate, with the least amount of sharp edges to cut yourself on.

Report this review (#174423)
Posted Thursday, June 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
5 stars H to He Who Am the Only One is an excellent album from Van der Graaf Generator, definitely one of their best alongside Pawn Hearts (their best), the much celebrated Godbluff and the incredible The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other. The album begins with the dynamic 'Killer' which is easily the best track on the album and a concert favourite. It focuses on a narrative perspective from a killer shark who wants to be loved but has an impulse to kill outside of its control: "You crave companionship... because the whole of your life you've been living alone". Interesting enough, the real highlight beyond the lyrics is the way Hammill delivers with absolute conviction and the way that the instruments compliment the keyboards with saxophones and percussion that is off beat at times but never out of time. Perfectly in synch, all the instruments blend to create a soundscape of doom and majesty and it captures the imagination unlike anything the early 70s had to offer. At 8 minutes the track flows beautifully from one segment to another, and features an erratic instrumental break that almost transports you under the sea witnessing a shark attack, the shrill saxophone bursts could be a fish screaming in pain, and the deep rumbles could be the shark swimming to its next meal. 'Killer' is an instant classic and a must for anyone interested in this genre of music.

'House With No Door' is one of the contemplative existentialist pensive tracks where Hammill contemplates life and the purpose for his existence.

'Emperor in his War Room' gets back to the greatness of VDGG, a torrid saga of an Emperor who "cradling his gun, after choosing the ones you think should die... crawling over the windowsill into your living room." The bodies that are "torn by vultures" are left to die by the "saviour of the fallen, protector of the weak". Once again terrific lyrics overladen by mellotron, atmospheric drums and saxophone, and the relentless bass.

"Lost" is another brilliant track that begins with a swirling dervish of keyboards and wrong chords that are used to maximum effect. It's as good as it gets and moves all over the place, with time signatures that are difficult to emulate. This is one of the more complex tracks from the band, and features an excellent saxophone and keyboard solo that drives the song forward to the final section The Dance in the Forest. One part pulses with a driving bass while a thin saxophone contains a strong esoteric melody. The echo of the saxophone adds to the sense of alienation and bleakness. It all ends on an off kilter series of notes that speed up into a frenzy that finally fades out.

'Pioneers Over C' is one of the best VDGG tracks and begins with a high pitched atmospheric note, then a low rumbling Hammond keeps the jagged rhythm in tact somehow, while the percussion kicks in. It's a great sound and prepares the way for Hammill's spaced out lyrics. "Somebody help me I am falling down" he cries. I just love the riff of the bass and sax in this track that stops and starts and even features quite a beautiful acoustic arrangement and spars saxophone. "The universe is on fire exploding without flame" - fair enough if the universe is going to go foom it may as well be to the melodies of VDGG. Heavy stuff throughout it never becomes overbearing thanks to the excellent structures of each track that range from tranquility to an out of control maelstrom.

The bonus tracks are surprisingly good and worth the effort. "Squid/Octopus" is a fantastic lengthy 15 minute epic that works well on a number of levels. From the estranged vocals, "I wish that you would set me free forever, but these rings on my arms are too deep...", down to the way it blasts and spews waves of noise using instruments from acoustic guitar to mellotron. I love the way it loses control halfway through almost improvisational in places and then somehow finds its way again, nobody could jam like these guys. The end is stuffed up with an added cymbal hit and the band members curse and laugh. But who would care after the way this track spiralled all over the place, but I guess these guys were perfectionests.

The early take of 'Emperor in His war Room' is more or less a curio and is a rare look at the makings of a classic track. It does sound different without the overdubs and atmospherics but is no the less the better for it.

Overall, H to He... is absolutely quintessential VDGG and my CD collection would be the poorer without it. Along with Pawn Hearts and Godbluff, I can't recommend this more highly.

Report this review (#177850)
Posted Tuesday, July 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
TGM: Orb
5 stars Review 62, H to He, Who Am The Only One, Van Der Graaf Generator, 1970


The hardest-hitting, perhaps the greatest, prog albums have an essence of their own, a certain SellingEnglandbythepoundness or Brainsaladsurgeryness (Plato can do it, so can I ;) ), rather than being a collection of song ideas with or without an underlying theme, by the same artist, in the same year. Htohewhoamtheonlyoneness is an oddity. Despite the fluent theme of loneliness, the songs are thoroughly different, with fiery dissonance and calm beauty coexisting within the album, and initially, the album, and indeed some of the songs. Nevertheless, regardless of the range, the elusive feel of the album is there, and impacts more powerfully every time. For me, such an album is without doubt a masterpiece.

That waffle aside, H To He Who Am The Only One is a superior effort to its perfectly good predecessor in several ways. First, the lyrics have really fallen into place, and have moved on from simply interesting and well-constructed to incredible emotional journeys with enigmas and clever wordplay incorporated in them. This album in particular is lyrically one of the two or three strongest that I own. Second, Hammill's vocals, which were previously exquisite and superb, have begun to flex themselves inquisitively, trying out new ideas constantly rather than going for a sound/tone and sticking to it for a song. Finally, the songs are slightly more distinctive to my ears, which is merely a personal preference issue.

Where we get to the really interesting features of the album, though, are the production and the album's basic 'features'. The production is clear and appropriate, with a very clear drum and bass sound leaving no mess or unhelpful material in the background to interfere with Bantom's crystalline organ chords, yet no feeling that there should be something else there when the organ or piano drops out. There's the space for the two leads to intertwine over the top of the organ and bass, while Hammill can display his incredible range, and the under-appreciated Guy Evans can use his classic rolling percussion sound with intense fills to full effect. And while all this goes on, there's no feeling of crowding, and nonetheless the feeling of loneliness, loss, rage, rejection and, finally, escape goes straight from the speakers to the soul. Van Der Graaf Generator at one of their many finest moments, and an incredible experience if you can really immerse yourself in it.

Killer opens the album with style, moodiness and a thick organ-sax-piano riff that manages to, with supple variations, hold up the piece perfectly. The parable of the fish (coincidentally, this makes the album lyrically presenting loneliness in sea-break-land-break-space progression), representing men isolating themselves through alienating those around them, is delivered with a dark, almost watery, vocal, and the entire presentation gives a unique dark-sea feel (as opposed to the sweeping majesty of Echoes or Firth Of Frith). Hugh Bantom's organ-work is viciously choppy, using swelling jabs and swipes to full effect as a counterpart to the smoother (at least, outside of the solo) sax, while the first really Van Der Graaf Generator piano makes its appearance (as do brief, but brilliant acoustic swirls that appear and then are gone with no grating whatsoever), directing the mood intensifying without melodrama, and substantiating the background for some of the zany soloist parts on occasion. Guy Evans gives a phenomenally strong performance, keeping up a consistently interesting and mobile background percussion performance with his characteristic second-long intrusions on the lead. However, no description of the song would be complete without an acknowledgement of the three mindblowing solos, a swirling, aggressive, grinding noise, probably from Bantom's general direction, Jackson's chaotic sax whirlwind and his later gorgeous, smoother solo. Of interest, too, is the ending. Where it appears to be scaling up to the classic bluesy crescendo, the band have the restraint and taste to conclude it quite decisively without bowing to that convention. This leaves a smooth segue to...

The beautiful and harrowing A House With No Door. Very much softer than its predecessor, but no less moving. Beautiful piano melodies take the lead, substantiated and backed by a more prominent and directional bass, and Evans' drumming and percussion taking an equally impressive and prominent role in a soft song (another reason I consider the man so overlooked. There aren't many percussionists who can really do that for a soft song). Hammill, however, remains the main focus, with his mournful, steadily unsteady, almost self-deprecating (in feel) vocal and perfect lyrics ('There's a house with no light/All the windows are sealed/Overtaxed and strained, now nothing is revealed...inside'). His voice manages to include majesty and, in the final verse, this incredible switching between his fairly high male voice and a (perhaps falsetto is the right word, but I doubt it) near-female, equally high, yet distinctly different sound flawlessly. An unforgettable vocal and lyrical performance, which is only made sweeter by the quality of the rest of the piece's components. Jaxon contributes a lush flute melody, with the unusual backing of an odd organ setting as well as the piece's basic components, and then heightening the feel with the addition of saxes (I think it could be the two-saxophones-at-once trick). Soft organ adds a touch of tasteful depth to the piece's conclusion, which is reached by a lush piano-bass duet. So different from the opener, but equally perfect.

The Emperor In His War Room is a third style again, with a more earthly vocal from Hammill, emphasising the sharp edges of the imagery-thick, cleverly constructed and menacing lyrics about the fall and isolation of a dictator. Musically, the piece is very much augmented by the presence of the far-famed Robert Fripp, first on delightfully vicious acoustics, and then in a bizarre, winding solo running parallel to the solid work of the band. Another chief feature is the presence of the flute (complete with a couple of effects) as a lead instrument, and some very solid bass and organ-lines contrasting with its airy, escapist feel. Menace and tension ooze from the piece, but also a genuine pity for the subject. Evans extensive militaristic percussion provides another burst of intensity. Here lie both the tense atmospheres that would make A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers and the more conventional features of H To He. The use of contrast is very strongly and subtly done, and the piece slows and thins very carefully to alter the listener's emotions.

Lost is a very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very special piece to me. In addition to being one of at most five musical pieces that have reduced me to tears, it is so utterly, perfectly romantic. Hammill takes one of the most conventional, generic topics of rock and writes about it poetically, intelligently and with feeling. The delivery matches, stretching with desperation, almost-weeping with loss, and moving to majesty, anger, sadness and longing with a natural flow. The music, though at first I was somewhat taken aback by the frantic nature of the opening sax/organ line, is to match. The opening theme is often reprised much more slowly in the later parts of the song, softly echoing and remembering the perceived frantic passion of the old relationship. The playing is perfect throughout, with Jaxon's brief, emotive spins and warm, but mournful, hums making full use of the human breath resemblance of the sax. Piano and organ are both handled in much the same style, smoothly, but with a constant feeling of utter and crushing loss. Evans again contributes fantastically, never breaking the feel with his style, though even including a very subtle and low-key use of something quite like the eighties drum thwack. The bass-work is smooth, clear, and independent, giving emphasis wherever necessary. Individually, all of these components are superb, but together the scale and beauty leaves me stunned every time. The interplay between sax and organ leads, coinciding with the most exemplary of the shining organ chords earlier referenced, simply has to be heard. I wish I could describe it better, but Lost goes so far beyond words that these are insufficient. This song alone would justify an album.

Pioneers over C (both a brilliant pun, and potentially a double-scientific reference, C being Carbon and c being the speed of light) begins with a soft, restrained rhythm and a crackling swirl, feeling distant (especially in the drum part, which sounds like a bongo to me). This initial distance is then varied throughout the song for force and effect, sometimes glaring with stark bass parts and at others slipping away with soft background organ and acoustic leads. Hammill again gives an absolutely stellar (pun not intended) performance, slipping away from our consciousness and roaring back into it, proclaiming exuberantly 'We are the lost ones', before slipping back around his own vocals. Harmonies are used with attention to detail, and the brilliantly stark lyrics are furthered by the stunning delivery. Aside from a slightly wider percussion set, and a much more prominent use of acoustic rhythms than previously, Pioneers Over C also features a greater role for the bass in providing active direction. Jaxon again manages to steal the show with sax bursts, including a particularly avant-garde breathless wandering. Pianos wander from ear to ear, and the organ provides both subtle and overt additions, as well as a rocking riff towards the end. The dark-space atmosphere (like the previous dark-water and dark-earth ones) is sustained flawlessly throughout, and the band clearly has a conviction in what they are doing that overrides any resistance. I have actually ended up on one occasion staring out of my window holding up my arms to the stars, so carried away by the atmosphere.

So, in conclusion to the rather long preceding passage, Htohewhoamtheonlyoneness not only exists, but it is also utterly incredible, beautiful and tragic. In fact, it is almost unique in its effect on me. So, with it being my second favourite album of all time, I can only give it my most exaggerated score. Go forth, Htohewhoamtheonlyoneness, and prosper!

Rating: Six Stars

Favourite Track: Lost, though all are incredible.

Report this review (#179708)
Posted Saturday, August 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars

Masterpiece from first song to the last one.

I would say this is high class album from a high class band. With this release Van Der Graaf Generator established themselves as one of the most brilliant bands from the '70. It could be that is only a matter of personal taste but for me they are absolutely my favorites.

Everything is extraordinary: musicality, the way instrument are played, lyrics, the voice of Peter Hammil, David Jackson's sax.

I had recently listen to this album and everytime when I'm doing this the music-the sounds are keep flowing in my mind days after this. I feel like I've been Doomed to vanish in the flickering light, disappearing to a darker night. There is so many poetry in the lyrics and it is very clear that there was a big deal of attention paid to this aspect. You will simply be overwhelm by the lyrics.

Maybe is hard to imagine that it is possible to combine concept from modern physics with poetry and music but Van Der Graaf Generator were able to do this in a perfect way.Pioneers over C is a good example of this. The song tries to go through a journey and imagine the human condition during the time when the first astronauts will experience this. This is basically a fictional song and there is no scientific claim behind this song. Incredible song !

Lost is a song about loneliness and has very good lyrics and overall mood. There is big amount of perdition and confusion which arose from this song.

There is a kind of music which you will in the end love(There's a house with no door).

You wore different moods but the right one was never around(I wore my moods like different sets of clothes but the right one was never around).

Is simple. Try this one. You will not regret. This will grow in you and in time you will be able to fully appreciate it.

Thank you Van Der Graaf Generator for this great experience on this great and wonderfull realm of music.

Report this review (#179956)
Posted Monday, August 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
1 stars This is the third album from a group of guys who are anything but Stoic.

I've tried and tried and tried with Hammill and his little group so many times that I've lost count, and whenever I listen to them, they come off as either dragging their music out way too much or trying to be as emotional as possible, but not really taking it anywhere in developing songs. How so many people think these guys were major developers in progressive rock, I don't know. I find them to be anything but that. Hammill could actually be a good vocalist if he wasn't going back and forth in between barely comprehensible whispering and shrilling his lungs out. He'd make a fairly decent vocalist in a metal band for certain, or even an emo band, and it works here with the music, but the music isn't of very high quality anyway. Except for Killer, the rest of the tracks are absolute chaos. And even still, Killer doesn't reach mediocrity. To me, the ideas take way too long to develop or they try to develop them and then they end up going off to nowhere. This is a band that prefers to ride off of emotional highs (drug-inspired or otherwise) rather than work on trying to be competent instrumentalists, something that many other musicians I feel are much better at doing anyway. If Hammill knew just to tone down his vocals a bit instead of trying to be highly emotional, and the band developed these songs at least some, this would be an enjoyable album. I know some prog fans would want to drag me off to the gallows for saying such things, but I need music that actually takes ideas and sees how far it can run with them. For this album, the main idea is going for mediocrity, and failing at even that. I'm sorry, but I can't give this album anything other than 1 star. If you never listen to VDGG, consider yourself lucky.

Report this review (#189563)
Posted Sunday, November 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Van Der Graaf Generator's 3rd album is continuation of direction taken on previous release. We got almost same proportions of peaceful parts and furious variations on both albums. However I think this release is slightly better than previous one. First track Killer sounds like classic rock song ripped by crazy progressions of Banton and Jackson. In fact it wasn't a new song back then cos it was written in 1968. It reminds me a bit Genesis from Trespass. House With No Doors is peaceful and quiet, same as Refugees of 'Least' but it's not so melodic. And listen closely to vocal parts. Vocals are recorded on completely different level if compared with other songs. I wonder why they did that but if turn off the balance you won't hear vocals at all. Strange thing. The third track is Emperor. It's very interesting piece where we can hear something that later took impressive progress and became songs like Scorched Earth or LaRossa. Escpecially LaRossa. But if we talk about LaRossa I think this song wouldn't be written if not Lost, fourth track on 'H to He'. Partly peaceful, partly anxious and restless. I think Dave Jackson did great job on that. It's definitely one of the best VDGG songs but same good if not better is Pioneers Over C. This 13 minutes long epic ain't a horroshow like The Sleepwalkers on Godbluff but it's amazing how the band wanted to show all their skills in this one piece. It's everything in it. Quiet parts, melodic parts, psychedelic parts, crazy sax variations, interesting keyboard parts. Who knows, maybe Dave Jackson was the best musician in VDGG of course if we don't count Hammill who's voice is like an instrument. Lyrical side of that last song is also very interesing. It's about travelling with more speed than speed of light. In icy cold space. Chilling. This song is simply crazy and this is one of the songs you have to hear before you die. This album isn't maybe the best VDGG release but still very important and very good album. Great addition to any prog rock music collection.
Report this review (#190237)
Posted Sunday, November 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is an excellent album by Van Der Graaf Generator, but I feel like they hadn't quite yet found the sound that would make their next two albums masterpieces of prog. I personally might say this is a five star album to me, but only because I have been in a VDGG mood the past couple days and im really loving all their music. I realize, however, that this album has a few flaws and is not quite up to the level of the albums their future peak. For those who have not heard anything by Van Der Graaf Generator, they are definitely different from the other 70's prog bands in the symphonic section. Their music is dominated by saxophone rather than guitar, and Peter Hammill has a distinct voice that many love, but some do not. If you have never heard any of their music, this is not the best place to start, I think Godbluff is a better and more accessible album. For someone who already like the band, though, this would be an excellent addition to your music collection.

The first song, Killer, is a dark heavy and chaotic song to match the lyrics about a fish that isolates itself by killing the other fish, which is interesting when you think about the metaphor. This is followed by another depressing song, House With No Door (VDGG is not a particularly happy band) that highlights Hammill's emotional vocals. While very sad, I think it is a beautiful song and one of the highlights of the album. Emperor In His War Room, Lost, and Pioneers over C are all good songs, but they are not quite as compelling or memorable as say the songs on godbluff. They have a lot of great parts, but there is something missing as though the band was getting very close to something great, but just not quite there yet. Emperor In His War Room, features guest musician Robert Fripp of King Crimson playing guitar, and his addition makes this song a little more like classic guitar driven prog than the others, but this is still not an album I would recommend for someone who has never heard anything by the band. Nevertheless, this is an excellent dark prog album and it would make an excellent addition to any prog collection. If you are a fan of the band, you need to have this album. If you just dont like them, it probably wont change your mind. If you have never heard them, start with Godbluff. It is hard to rate this album because I recognize that VDGG is polarizing, so it is hard to generalize this album's place in all prog music collections. I will give it four stars because I think it is excellent and I would hope that there arent two many prog lovers out there who just cant stand Van Der Graaf Generator.

Report this review (#209912)
Posted Thursday, April 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Truth
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars Man oh man Van Der Graaf didn't get enough attention! This album is awesome! Killer could've been a killer mainstream prog song, (it sounds a lot like 21st Century Schizoid Man only a little bit better,) with it's jazzy theme and dark depressing lyrics. The lyrics are probably the reason it didn't become a hit because they are to bleak. On House With No Door the balladry is amazing when you compare it to the first track because of how much slower the pace is. The lyrics are just as, or maybe more, depressing as Killer but it makes for a great lyrical theme much like Pink Floyd. Emperor In His War Room is the song that keeps this from being a masterpiece. It's just slow and the theme isn't catchy enough to like. However they make up for it with Lost, another jazzy tune, which blasts off with excitement the minute it starts and just gets better as it goes on. Pioneers Over C has one of the catchiest bass lines I've ever heard and makes for a great listen! Overall what makes this album good is David Jacksons killer saxophone playing and Peter Hammills obscene yet amazing voice and songwriting! Great stuff here!
Report this review (#212539)
Posted Sunday, April 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars This moment had to come. I had to review this album, for it has a history for me. When I was 15 years old and I started listening to my first prog (Arena, wich I downloaded by accedent), I started to look for more of this new kind. I downloaded classics with completely no knowledge about what to expect. I had The Court of the Crimson King and this strange Who am the Only one. The first I started to like after some time, the latter I thought what awfull. I wasn't read yet I guess. Somehow I had always remembered the lyric "There's a House with no Door...". It felt so totally strange back then. Five years later I've gathered this vinyl collection of 120 progrecords, most of them from the seventies it was time again to give this Van der Graaf Genetor a new trie. And... succes!

I have all there important recordings (The Least to World Record) and I realy think this one is their absolute masterpiece! The lyrical concept of the album is about desolation, confusion and loneliness and what time is when you're completely isolated. The latter I fiend very interesting from an philosophical point of view. It made me think a lot about the subject. Because the Van der Graaf Generator sound is very known to a lot of people I will mostly talk about the lyrical content of the songs.

In the first song Killers we are told about a fish that eats all other fish around him, so he's very lonely. In the end of the song the link to a emotional live of someone who's a killer in social relations. Stange thought, but it works very well! Good opener, not to extreme.

House with no Door grew on me a lot. I now can even play it on the piano! What is left of one if he live totally isolated. "Now nothing is revealed but time", sings Hammil. Again a sort of link to an social/emotinal perspective. Great ballad!

The Emperer in his War-room. The main theme of this song was also something I could remember very well from five years ago... this theme touches my very soul. As the title suggest it's again a song about some lonely figur who makes discisions for his own to protect his people. This is one of the best epics written by Van der Graaf Generator. It has a lot of themes, but they sound a bit apart. Like songs within the songs. It took me some time, but I realy enjoy this!

Lost is another great song, but it feels not as special as the other, so I won't talk about it too much.

And then my alltime favourite, the hardest song on the album, the most philosophical progsong I know. THE PIONEERS OVER C. I have no good words to discribe this song. Musically it's good, but the power lies in the perfect balance and cooperation between words and notes. The song is about someone who goes into space to explore with the knowlegde that he well never come back. During the song this person begins to feel more lonely and enstranged from his human nature, replace be an unsure dark being that has no control over his reality anymore. "No-one knows where we are, they can't feel us precisely..." sings Hammel. After this a great sax solo comes in wich you will here the confusion and the strangness of the one so isolated from al living. "There is no fear here, how could such a thing exist in a place where living and knowing and being have never been heard of? After this we hear some more interesting lyrics on the main themes and then the final sentence sung in desperation by Hammil: "I am the one who crossed to space, or stayed where I was, or didn't exist in the first place". This sentence has been very important for me. What are with no other around us? What are we in total isolation, who are we without touch? What will become of are awareness? All philosophical questions arising from this one epic. A true masterpiece. I trie to inspire a lot of people around me with this great song.

Well... one of my favourite records of all time. The music's good, the lyrics perfect. The philosophical feel perfect, the atmospheres devine. I could never have unsterstood this record when I was 15 years old.... but now.. Solid five stars!

Report this review (#212559)
Posted Monday, April 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Van der Graaf Generator is just not a band I love. However, for various reasons over time I have grown to appreciate their work in a way I wasn't able to before. That does not change the fact that they are still low on my list of not just progressive rock but music in general. The lyrics are free verse poetry but seem to integrate well with the music, even though the lead vocalist (I hesitate to use the word "singer") has a style that can be uncomfortable at times. The organ and saxophone are the primary instruments throughout, a combination I also never cared for, but for the most part the music is only mildly eccentric. I think I would recommend this to people looking to get acquainted with Van der Graaf Generator.

"Killer" After a great saxophone introduction, Peter Hammill begins one of his most solid vocal performances. The subtle organ work is exceptional, and the even subtler acoustic guitar during the second verse grabs my attention. The instrumental section doesn't suit my taste at all, with that loud, low lead instrument, and I have never cared for the squeaking runs of David Jackson's saxophone, talented though he may be. The words are expressive and free-flowing, and describe a shark that lacks companionship because the other fish fear it (sounds like something a second grader might have come up with, but it has its own strange metaphoric charm).

"House with No Door" A softer piece, with a great chord progression on the piano and gentle vocals from Hammill, the second track is another good "introductory" song for the uninitiated I think. I really enjoy its soothing nature and beautiful simplicity.

"The Emperor in His War-Room" This track begins softly and darkly, with delicate harmonics, but soon screeching organ and harsh flute jump in to accompany Hammill. The guitar solo that introduces the second part of the song really reminded me of King Crimson, and with good reason- that's Robert Fripp playing there. All in all, this is a dark song that has some intriguing and masterful lyrics.

"Lost" The sprightly introduction ushers in something a bit different from the previous melancholic and menacing songs. There's a lot of variety in this lengthy piece, while the organ and saxophone are steadfast throughout. A common and repetitive progression brings the song to a dramatic conclusion.

"Pioneers Over C" The longest song on the album morphs through many different musical sections. Placid organ and percussion is the canvas on which Hammill paints his many words at first. A bass riff pops up from time to time unexpectedly. The acoustic guitar sections are my favorite, and the worst part of the song to me of course is the directionless saxophone bit in the middle (which proceeds without accompaniment). It is easily the most disjointed composition on the album, but Hammill's dramatic vocal theme is repeated often enough to keep it grounded. The ending is raucous and really not my thing at all. I think it's safe to say that for the most part, it's this last piece that drags down an otherwise excellent and creative collection of work.

Report this review (#218795)
Posted Friday, May 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Peter Hammill am the only one.

This is H To He, Who Am The Only One, by Van Der Graaf Generator. It is their third album, and it shows them evolving into their trademark sound. This is some of the most theatrical progressive rock I do believe I've heard.

Beginning vibrantly, we have fan favorite "Killers". Here is where the band revels well in the guitar-less saxophone rock that weaves a fantastic riff alongside Peter Hammill's immaculate vocal delivery. Right form the start, you'll hear a great deal of organ and saxophone interplay, and this turns into an absolutely brilliant combination.

But don't put this band down as a one trick pony. House With No Door compliments well in its dark and haunting ballad style melancholy. A rousing flute accompaniment is added deep into the mix, with lilting melodies floating together with with Hammill. His vocal delivery could carry many of the songs by itself. He is certainly becoming of a skilled opera singer. This album climaxes splendidly, and with powerful emotional resonance.

Van Der Graaf Generator usually delve into depressing and darkly melancholy moods interspersed between their aggressive and violent sax rock theatrics. I absolutely love the originality put forth from these individuals, and their ability to attack as a cohesive rock unit. Guest guitarist Robert Fripp shows his talents on Emperor In His War-Room. This song begins mainly as a soft and bleak flute ballad, twisting and turning from stark contrasting soft and hard. Near the end of the song, Fripp and the band let loose with dissonant and fiery jazz blasting that can be quite shocking. The song thus has a slight King Crimson edge to it, of which I don't think anyone could easily complain about.

The lyrics are quite deep and add another level to the musical experience. I enjoy Hammill's intonation, and sheer singing abilities. Also, for a progressive band, they deftly weave many hooks and melodies into the songs. The entire band gets a chance to shine, and the music holds a sort of "trademark" diversity. That is to say it is easily identifiable as VDGG, but it is still diverse and varying. The organs, flute, saxophone, and vocals dance so vividly together as to craft a masterpiece of music. The song structures are complex and jazzy. The playing is top of the line, and the creativity is pouring through in waves.

Lost is the most overtly jazz based song herein, and features a heavy organ line with saxophone blaring together. It shifts elegantly from a majestic saunter, to a venomous aural assault. A marching build-up makes this song very impacting and powerful. The extended length of the track causes me to feel as if it meanders for too long, but it consistently remains interesting, and is a thoroughly enjoyable listen. A touching and emotional song.

The album's closing track is Pioneers Over c. The tribal organ build that kicks it off is quite tasteful. The acoustic guitar used adds even more breadth to the sound, and makes this track an epic and haunting effigy of musical talent. Grandiose in scale, and implemented majestically. Throughout the album, the rhythm section never falters, and add spice at the right times. A mature and complex end to a superb collection of songs.

In all, a musical masterwork, and a testament to the creativity of VDGG. I don't recommend this to those who require a guitar to be the forefront, or those who don't care for vocals, or vocals delivered with a very dramatic bent, as the case for those like Hammill, etc. The band gives us a very emotional and creative album with hooks and melodies placed well within complex structures and musical imagery. I love this album, as with most of their work. They create many memorable melodies utilizing saxophone, organ, flute, and Hammill's voice. The themes would be further condensed and refined for Pawn Hearts, but it is in a sort of aggressive infancy, here. Plus, that sax riff to Killer is excellent. Essential VDGG.

Best Moment - Killer

Worst Moment - Lost, but still great.

***** atomic Stars.

Report this review (#220456)
Posted Tuesday, June 9, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars He's colourless, odourless, tasteless and non-toxic, but still a gas

Of all the genre heavyweights, it is perhaps VDGG who are paradoxically the worst fit for these emperors second-hand clothes as they usually inhabit a world far removed from the cramped cosmos of progdom. Are there any bands equally revered by such strange bedfellows as John Lydon, Siouxsie Sioux and Julian Cope? (Answers on a metal postcard please)

There exist on this site numerous entreaties to caution with regards paddling in the shark infested waters of Hamill & Co as if the phenomenon were something of an acquired taste for the tyro prog connoisseur. As well intentioned as such dire warnings are, they do unfortunately completely miss the mark as haplessly as that of a lifeguard who mistakes a floaty for a man-eater i.e. VDGG are NOT a progressive rock band at all and but we do stubbornly persist in measuring high performance motor vehicles in terms of horse power?.

To wit, the ensemble's output has been wedged with acquisitive ceremony into a crown that resembles a rather figure hugging piece of headgear. I am sure that Peter Hammill would be flattered to be considered in the same breathless reverence as that of Yes, ELP, Genesis, Gentle Giant et al while silently recoiling from the latent threat of 'guilt by association' manifest by the worst excesses of his peer group(s) L.A.M.F.

However, H to He Who Am the Only One represents at least two landmarks for prog i.e probably the wankiest album title EVER in a field brimming with stiff and eager competition together with the most overtly 'proggy' and accessible album the combo ever released and maybe the only one that wears such credentials without any hint of self consciousness on its gatefold sleeve.

The 'oblivion express with connecting flights to outer obscurity' as represented by the sublimely bizarre Pawn Hearts is only tenuously prefaced here, as VDGG had good cause to dilute the 'beta' version toxicity of the latter and instead, exploit more traditional structure, harmony and form. That is not to say they have sold out Man, or compromised their artistic vision, after all the poison bottle can't hurt you, it's the contents that do the dirty work.

Killer has one of those enduring riffs that hoist the song up to the rarefied heights of a 21st Century Schizoid Man or Roundabout but there the resemblance ends, as Hammill runs a much tighter ship than Fripp or Anderson and routinely punishes conformist curs with a swift walk along the gangplank. Perhaps it's the gentlemen of the 'pressgang' who are most guilty of recruiting such unwilling conscripts?. Prog Rock and VDGG part company the moment Hammill opens his mouth:

- So you live at the bottom of the sea and you kill all who come near you but you are very lonely, because all the other fish fear you .....And you crave companionship and someone to call your own; because for the whole of your life you've been living alone. -

Peter embodies a vocal personality and range that is utterly unique and were it nor for his admirable discipline and restraint, just might threaten to overpower most of the musical works to which he contributes (see Arrow). He is also an unswerving adherent to the rule of 'only write about what you know' in this case, himself and is all too aware of the charges of self-indulgence that such a path will invariably attract from unwittingly ironic critics. As deeply unpleasant and repellent as the creature is that inhabits Killer, I suspect it is really addressed to a dark and malevolent self burrowed very deep within the Hammill critter himself. Bury your treasure deep, and your refuse, deeper. BTW There is a short chordal passage that appears a couple of times before the end that naggingly recalls a Stranglers song (Something Better Change?)

A similar unpalatable depiction of the author is explored in A House with No Door, where Hammill embellishes the building analogy with the merciless eye of a self absorbed and neglectful caretaker:

- There's a house with no bell, but then nobody calls. I sometimes find it hard to tell if any are alive at all outside. There's a house with no sound; yes, it's quiet there ...there's not much point in words if there's no-one to share in time There's a house with no door and there's no living there, one day it became a wall ... well I didn't really care at the time. There's a house with no light, all the windows are sealed, overtaxed and strained now nothing is revealed but time I don't know you, you say you know me, that may be so, there's so much that I am unsure of ... You call my name, but it sounds unreal, I forget how I feel, my body's rejecting the cure .....Won't somebody help me ......? -

There can't be many better expressions of a terrifying isolation and loneliness in the entire spectrum of rock. The music here is a piano fuelled ballad both wistfully light and poignantly dark that somehow never once strays into the sentimental snare lying patiently in wait for those considerably less sure footed than Hammill and his collaborators. I also detect the calling card of some of the existentialist thinkers here e.g. Camus and Sartre who share Hammill's disavowal of any spiritual consolations for we humanoids.

If VDGG were ever invited to appear on a King Crimson tribute album they could, in a gesture which bespokes more sincerity than their hosts, offer up an original i.e. The Emperor in His War Room, which acknowledges a large debt to the spirit of early Fripp & Co with its hippy gothic facade and melodramatic lyrics that must have brought a pang of envy to Pete Sinfield. Yes, it's a tad cheesy and juvenile in places but music this stirring and dynamic wedded to Hammill's inimitable tonsilry makes it probably my favourite VDGG track ever. Blimey Guvnor !, are the darting black liquorice tongued guitar phrases towards the end those of the grounded Red Baron Fripp himself? (They are)

Despite my unease about some of the martial lyrical conceits, the following just blows Sinfield out of the paddling pool:

- Ghosts betray you, ghosts betray you, in the night they steal your eye from its socket ...and the ball hangs fallen on your cheek -

This (unnamed) tyrant/despot is haunted and ultimately suffers from the guilt that goes hand in hand with biting same.

If lovesongs are ten a penny in popular music you ain't gonna get much change out of Lost. At just over eleven minutes we have here one of the very few songs of any genre which does justice to the ineffable vagaries of the human heart. During its convoluted and tangential pathways, Hammill vocalises both the exaltation of the lover and its harrowing corollary, the unrequited adoration of the beloved. There is, like so much of Peter's art, a confrontational and implacable sense of frustration imbued in this music that leaves its indelible mark on the receptive listener, so beware serial love rats, this is not a track you will ever get laid to:

- It was far too late to contemplate the meaning of it all, You know that I need you, but somehow I don't think you see my love at all Looking out through the tears that bind me my heart bleeds that you may find me .. or at least that I can forget and be numb, but I can't stop, the words still come, I love you -

Should you think the foregoing twee and even (cough) 'soppy', and remain unmoved by the emotion in Hammill's voice on those last three time-worn words, you are without any shadow of doubt, merely a fridge magnet blessed only with sight and hearing organs.

Judging by the (dreadful) artwork and (ditto) title that adorns this album with its 'failed zero gravity satellite TV installation by scantily dressed astronaut' motif, I suspect that Hammill may have had a keen interest in contemporary science, or at least some of the more credible science fiction from authors like Poaul Anderson, Isaac Asimov et al, as there are hints of such references in Pioneers Over c (With the deliberate lower case 'c' denoting the speed of light?) Such weighty and speculative topics are way over my furry head readers, so I'm afraid I can't even begin to guess what Peter is on about on this track. Despite that, I can at least recommend some yet more spiffy and memorable music which brings this wonderful record to a satisfying conclusion.

I fear however that for some nay-sayers, something could be deemed absent. There is not a trace of humour or irony anywhere on this document. Does this matter? I mean you can admittedly have too much of a bad thang y'all so just don't go expecting this to be some sort of 'chuckle avalanche' as Peter & the Boys do at the very least, acknowledge a very hard won, misshapen and fragile joy of life.

I purchased this album in its original vinyl incarnation a long time ago and although I enjoyed it, have to admit that I was probably too immature to appreciate the depth and sophistication that is contained therein. It certainly has stood the test of time, and will reward closer scrutiny by ANYONE discerning enough to dispense with looking up a zipcode for 'No Fixed Abode'.

Report this review (#228683)
Posted Monday, July 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Sleepwalker
4 stars Van Der Graaf Generator's third release shows a much more mature and consistent band compared to their previous release, The Least We Can Do. H to He, Who Am The Only One contains some of VDGG's finest moments and doesn't have a weak moment at all. Every song, every riff, and even any single note played on this album is where it belongs and makes this album an album with no actual flaws (which is quite an achievement). This doesn't mean everything is perfect though, some songs are more interesting than others, and even more important, this is probably VDGG's most accesible release; That means the album doesn't have as much expressive vocals from Hammill as Pawn Hearts and doesn't have the raw power of Godbluff.

H to He's opener is an anthem, and probably the least interesting song on the album. It is a killer though, it really is. "Killer" is a song that features different moods, styles and riffs. Definitely the second half is very good, and really is what I expect from the band; great music with emotion and progress. H to He features some very emotional moments, like the soft "House With No Door" and the fantastic "Lost". "Lost" is one of the best songs from this album and probably one of the best VDGG has ever made. The song moves from an upbeat first part to a haunting second part, definitely one of the best love songs I've ever heard.

Though the album is pretty accesible for VDGG's standarts, it does contain some extraordinary moments. One of them is "Pioneers over C.", a very striking and experimental song. "Pioneers Over C." moves from bombastic and dramatic moments to parts lead by ambient sax and soothing vocals. Really a brilliant piece. Another powerful and experimental piece is "The Emperor In His War- Room". This is what probably is the most powerful and extreme piece on H to He. The music here starts very soft, but makes some unexpected turns to mysterious moments, very powerful choruses. This combined with Guitar Playing by King Crimson's Robert Fripp creates a very memorable experience.

H o He, Who Am The Only One really is among VDGG's best. Because of it being pretty accesible compared to other VDGG releases, this is the album I would recommend to people who are getting- or trying to get into Van Der Graaf Generator's music. Of course, this means it is a must for VDGG fans. I had a hard time deciding whether I would rate H to He four or five stars. For that reason, I give it four stars. It is a brilliant piece of music, which is very close to being perfect, but it does not have the same striking power albums like Pawn Hearts and Godbluff have though.

Report this review (#236271)
Posted Tuesday, September 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars H to He is the first VDGG album where they come to grips with their dazzling musical strengths. The result is a solid album with some of their best material.

I'm referring to Killer of course. This is one of VDGG strongest tracks and would wind up somewhere high in my favourite song list (if I would ever get to making one). The reason is that it combines all things typical VDGG (strong melodies, disturbing singing, weird instrumental sections, insane sax work) with a slightly ironic touch that gives it a nice extra twist.

House With No Door and Emperor display a calmer side of VDGG and are both gorgeous tracks. With Lost however, they lose me. It fails to convince me and reveals one of Hammill's weaknesses: Even though he is one of my favourite singers, he needs a strong musical backbone. If the music is not good enough to sustain his vocally excessive style, then he easily becomes very irritating and spoils the entire track in the process.

With Pioneers over C, they are back on the right track. I believe this is another fan favourite and indeed it has a lot of things going for it, but I think it is too long. With the middle section cut out it could have been twice as much fun.

VDGG had not yet achieved the restraint of the Godbluff era and from time to time their ambitions run ahead of them, but the album has still some of their lighter, romantic side and might therefore appeal to the prog heads that aren't appealed by the anger of their later years.

Report this review (#236920)
Posted Thursday, September 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Third VdGG album is better than their fourth, "Pawn Hearts", for sure. Even if not perfect, but you can find some melodies, some structurised songs and much more music, then in their next work.

Again, music is better mixed and recorded, but sound is far from perfect. But at least I can hear really strong drumming, many sax solos and quite nice ( in moments) keyboards. Hammil voice again is main accent, but at least all other sounds are better balanced.

Still using more usual album structure ( 5 songs instead of "Pawn Hearts" 3 long amorphous compositions), in combination with much better drums it build much more musical atmosphere all around.

Here you can find almost all VdGG is known - Hammil voice, sax solos , some moody melodies, some rhythm breaks. I think in fact that album represents VdGG music of that period as the best example.

Again, I think it is far from masterpiece and sounds very dated now. But at least it's enough listenable with many interesting moments.

Report this review (#244850)
Posted Friday, October 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'm a farily big Van Der Graaf Generator fan, thanks to my step-dad loving them. This is the second album that I have bought from them, and its definatly one of my favorites. Its much better than the first two albums because of its complexity, and much richer sounding songs, to me at least. Peter Hammill (one of the best vocalists ever in Prog Rock history) sings very well on this album, he gives some pretty dark lyrics to this album too. This is pretty jazzy sounding to me too, which I definatly like. Most VDGG albums are pretty jazzy for most of the time, if not all of the album being jazz-influenced.

"Killer" is my second favorite track. The lyrics are kind of silly, but its kind of funny. I think its talking about a killer shark in the bottom of the sea, and its killing people. The music is very good. Its pretty dark, and lurky, dark-jazz sounding to me. The vocals are definatly a soundout, and the acoustic guitar in the song is definatly soothing to me. Its a true progressive rock classic in anyones eyes. "House with no Door" is pretty intersting, very pretty, though not very interesting. The piano on this song throughout is very amazing. The vocals are soft on this song, smooth. The bass sounds really wierd on this track, very mid-rangy and odd sounding, it reminds me of Rush's "Caress of Steel" album for some reason, the bass tone at least. The lyrics are very nice, very sad, the way Peter sings it. "The Emperor in his War Room" is my favorite song of the album definatly. Its the heaviest of all the tracks on the album. The lyrics are dark and pretty scary, but this song is pretty much perfect from my standpoint. Its the perfect length too for that type of song. "Lost" is very good too, though not the best song, its pretty uplifting to me and its so energetic. The vocals and the keyboards are a true standout for this song, the drums are fresh sounding too. "Pioneers over C." is the only song that is too boring to me. It drags a little, though its a fresh idea definatly.

This is a great prog album, a classic, though maybe not as good as the next album. It deserves a good place in my heart for being the second album from VDGG that I have ever bought, and its a good one too.

Report this review (#246268)
Posted Sunday, October 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars My Van Der Graaf Generator story began with Pawn Hearts and although that album has grown on me over the years I never considered it to be a masterpiece. This matter only complicated things because in my frustration with my first experience I swiftly moved on to the band's second period (1975-78) without giving the early material the proper introduction that it deserved.

Luckily I revived my curiosity about a year ago and finally acquired H to He, Who Am the Only One. Once I discovered this album it actuality put the material on Pawn Hearts in a whole different light for me. Hopefully my experience will help some of you brave Van Der Graaf Generator explorers on your quest!

So what exactly did this album have that made me change my opinion about the band's early material? I'll give you my first hint, it wasn't Killer because if anything this track sounds almost as amateurish as the band's previous material but it's saved by the strong lyrical context. House With No Door is a whole different story. Subtle, delicate and an overall pleasant experience all around. Still, most fans might argue that The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other had an equally great little ballad called Refugees and they would be...right! So let's move on.

Trust me when I say that this album has a few more aces up its sleeve and The Emperor In His War-Room fits that metaphor quite well. There is just nothing I could say that will do justice to this magnificent piece of progressive rock music. To this day I still haven't heard another Van Der Graaf Generator composition that could even try to challenge the highest regards I have for this work. Let's just say that it's an epic tale that involves the issues of power, injustice and the aftermath. In other words it everything that you want to hear when Peter Hammill's marvelous lyrics are combined with an equally great instrumental composition.

Lost has the most ridiculous intro sections that I've ever heard and it does in fact offset the rest of the performance for me. Fortunately the ending section makes up for that miss in a glorious fashion and things get back on track with the somewhat lengthy Pioneers Over C. which is a define improvement of the ideas that were explored on After The Flood.

H to He, Who Am the Only One is my favorite album from the bands early years and I definitely recommend to start the journey here!

***** star songs: House With No Door (6:03) The Emperor In His War-Room (9:04)

**** star songs: Killer (8:07) Lost (11:13) Pioneers Over C. (12:05)

Report this review (#266608)
Posted Tuesday, February 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Apart from the fact that VDGG created original, inspiring music, it is the special atmosphere they create with their music which draws the attention. Listening to VDGG puts you temporarely in a different world. For H to He, Who Am the Only One, this is certainly also the case. It is one of the albums that I am not that familiar with, which makes it interesting to listen to after so many years. While Peter Hammill solo often touches a dark mood, VDGG music is for me much less dark. I cannot say that I know of another band who is able to build the exiting tension in music as VDGG. This album is certainly as good as the best albums of the band.
Report this review (#271886)
Posted Sunday, March 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
The Quiet One
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.

Report this review (#274004)
Posted Wednesday, March 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars On the previus album, The least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other, Van der Graf, have allready shown that they have a unik aproach to Prog. music, and made a point that they should belong up there with King Crimson & Gentle Gaint, as those prog. artists thats got the dare and ability to evolve the 70's prog. rock scene, with hard to get into recordings, of high quality. With "H to He, Who Am the Only One" they just make it even more evident. The underlying organ/piano foundation, makes a base for some of early prog rock's most interesting sax arrangements. Some very beautiful flute, and good vocal preformance, reminding me of early Bowie works (a compliment). The Compositions themself, may not be as interesting to me, as those of the other prog. giants of the time, but the arrangements on the other hand are often supreem.

Elements that deserves special mention: "Killer" the sax playing here, oh dear! This is an great opener indeed. "House with no door" A nice ballad all together. Showing the full protential of the vocalist. "Emperor in His War Room" The addition of Fripp's guitar on this track, make it worth extra attention, and also showcase to me, what kind of energy im sometimes missing on the other tracks. "Pioneers Over C." Especialy the mid to last part, VDGG at its best.

The downside to this recording is that sometimes it all becomes too theatrical for my taste, but I do generely get personally moved by what im listning too. Important album in the early development of prog. ? 4 stars

Report this review (#276848)
Posted Thursday, April 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Van Der Graaf came right around when I was starting to get into prog, and I was just starting to find out about the thousands of prog bands that have existed over the past 50 years. I remember vividly how Killer immediately implanted itself into my brain, and i would listen to that song constantly- it was so different, being based mostly on Hammill's incredible voice and key-sax interplay as opposed to traditional guitar-based instrumentation, not to mention it was incredibly catchy. However, it took me a while to listen to and fully digest the other tracks, which turned out to be equally impressive. House With No Door is a simply incredible song that pretty much captures the feeling of soul-crushing depression in its six and a half minutes. The Emperor is another incredible song, with guest guitars from Robert Fripp. I was never a fan of Lost, but it's an okay song. And then, the closer, Pioneers Over C comes back with nice intensity and Hammill's always great lyrics, though the middle section could have been trimmed or omitted. Problem is, as time has gone on, I eventually got kinda bored of this album, and really a lot of things like it. Despite this, H to He is a very good album that rewards repeated listening by a dedicated and focused listener, but it is not flawless, as it contains some unnecessary instrumental passages and doesn't quite shine so bright in places. I think that as a musical work it may deserve 4 stars, but I really can't be that generous towards and album that I really never find myself wanting to listen to, or able to complete in one long block. So, I believe H to He is a solid three star album, and a strong one at that.
Report this review (#277561)
Posted Sunday, April 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars "H to He, Who Am the Only One" was the first album I heard from Van der Graaf Generator and I must say this selection did not leave me disillusioned. One of the more celebrated works from VDGG, "H to He..." is exactly like a roller coaster ride, with various emotions running rampantly throughout. Anxiety, exhilaration, and madness are just some of the qualities characteristic of VDGG's third album. But not all of "H to He..." is an exciting ride at the carnival. Some parts are like the petting zoo to a disgruntled, teenage boy being forced by his parents to attend said carnival, inadequate and ailing.

Actually, the less attractive parts of the album are not that excruciating. The only real weak song on "H to He..." is "Pioneers over c.", a sort of failed attempt at free-style jamming, which leaves the listener feeling somewhat apathetic. Granted, there are interesting qualities in the song but just not enough to excite or induce much positive emotion. It puts somewhat of a damper to the ending of the album, which is otherwise a very strong effort from VDGG.

Luckily, the positive qualities outweigh the negative by a lot. The album opens up with "Killer" and throughout the song, there is David Jackson's saxophone, which many of us have come to love, including myself. "House With No Door" is much more somber, but so beautiful. Featuring the ever masterful vocals from Hammill, this song is certainly one of the highlights of the album.

Continuing with the positives, "The Emperor in His War-Room" features chilling guitar work from Mr. Robert Fripp of King Crimson, adding to the suspense that comprises the great third song from the album. And alas, we reach "Lost", the pinnacle, and consequently, my favorite song from the album. Filled with majestic, rich vocals and music, this songs serves as a tremendous example showcasing the giants that are Hammill, Jackson, Potter, Evans, and Banton.

The bonus track to this release, "Squid 1/Squid 2/Octopus", deserves an honorable mention, making up for the sub-par "Pioneers over c.".

While not the masterpiece, "H to He, Who Am the Only One" is definitely worth obtaining whenever the chance presents itself. Without a doubt, it deserves four stars, and rightly so.

1. "Killer" - 8/10

2. "House With No Door" - 8.5/10

3. "The Emperor in His War-Room" - 8.5/10

4. "Lost" - 9.5/10

5. "Pioneers Over c." - 7.5/10

42/5 = 84% = 4 stars

Report this review (#281431)
Posted Tuesday, May 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars H to He, Who Am My Favorite VdGG

So, here it is, the album which I consider to be their best. H to He, Who Am the Only One has it all...the so-called "progressive rock anthem" of "Killer", a softer, melancholy piece in "House With No Door", collaboration with Fripp on "The Emperor in His War Room", and the truly epic, wild and crazy songs in "Lost", "Pioneers Over C" and, on the remastered version, "Squid 1/Squid 2/Octopus". I've only ever known the album with that track as the album closer, and I don't think it would sound right to me anymore to listen to it without it. I really love this band's sound, though. Some people have a problem with Hammill's voice, it seems. It is definitely an acquired taste, but once you're used to it his vocals are something incredible to behold. Beyond the vocals, the most important elements are definitely the sax and organ. Thankfully, we've got some incredible players for these, David Jackson and Hugh Banton. Jackson's sax always manages to cut right through me, with all his squealing and mad multi-saxing, and Hugh's organs are often truly demented. I love demented organ and squealing sax, so it's not too surprising that I really love this band. For me, the less interesting tracks are those which are more reserved...I love VdGG at their all-out most chaotic. None of the tracks on this one are weak, though. "House With No Door" is probably my least favorite track on the album, though it's got a lot of good stuff going for it. It's just a bit too tame for my preferred VdGG sound. The last two (three, in my case) tracks, though are probably some of the most essential VdGG tracks to listen to, for me. Ever since I first listened to the album, I was lost in the music from the opening dissonant flute/whatever lines of "Lost" on to the little bit of studio dialog captured at the end of "Squid 1/Squid 2/Octopus". These three are where the band really gets going to their chaotic best, and as I mentioned earlier I absolutely love the wilder side of VdGG. I realize that up until this point I've somehow neglected to mention Guy Evans and his drumming up until this point. His drumming is sometimes overlooked due to the power of the others, but he's a true force to be reckoned with as well. A lot of others have gone into detail about the vocals. I'll spare you all my poor attempt at that, because other reviewers have already done them good justice, though I will mention that my favorite vocals/vocal performances of the album are on "Pioneers Over C" and "Squid 1/Squid 2/Octopus". Those two tracks are my favorite EVERYTHING from the album, though, so it's not overly surprising. "Squid 1/Squid 2/Octopus" is possibly my favorite track from any of the "big" names in prog, and I'm continually amazed/saddened that it didn't make it to any of their albums.

For my particular listening habits, this is the band's true pinnacle, followed ever so closely by Pawn Hearts. This one is also what I would consider the best starting point for the band, as Pawn Hearts can be a bit of a tough listen if you don't know what to expect, while this album sort of eases you into their world with the first few tracks. I definitely recommend seeking out the 2005 reissue of the album, because of "Squid 1/Squid 2/Octopus". The other bonus track is an alternate version of "The Emperor in His War Room", and while it's interesting it's not more than that to me. Overall, this album definitely deserves "masterpiece" rating. Five stars from me.

Report this review (#281732)
Posted Wednesday, May 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars A few hours ago wrote a post in which I commented how much I dislike VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR, but immediately remembered that I had not heard "H to He, Who Am the Only One" in decades, so even when my prejudices against this band are strong and never cared for it, decided to give it a new chance.

The result is not surprising when you are a fan of Progressive Rock, because you may hate an album for years, but in the 100th listen, find something you haven't found before and start to like it. This is the case with this excellent release, probably have listened it 20 times before today and didn't like it, but this morning one listen was enough to prove me the music is great and enough to pay it at least 5 times in the last 6 hours.

The album starts with the fantastic "Killer", a track that reminds me of "21st Century Schizoid Man", even when there's no real resemblance, probably David Jackson in the powerful Sax is the key for the similarity. But that's not all, "Peter Hammill" sounds more or less like "David Bowie" in his days as Ziggy Stardust mixed with some sort of Jazzy Psychedelia of great complexity but strong melody that I enjoyed from start to end.

."House with no Door" starts with a piano and Peter in the vocals in a song that seems like David Bowie singing an Elton John song, a mood that goes on until more or less the third minute, when again a flute that takes us back to "In the Court of the Crimson King". Not a very complex track, but extremely beautiful and surprisingly for me, with great melodic sense, and at the end Peter Hammill nicely supported by Hugh Banton in the organ, prove how versatile they are.

"The Emperor in his War Room" is simply brilliant, it has all the elements to be considered a Progressive Rock icon (even Robert Fripp), the interplay between Banton in the organ and Jackson in the flute is impressive, the radical changes are surprising but always respecting the melody, and of course Fripp performance is as good as usual. A song that has everything.

"Lost" is a strange song, some sort of hard Rock mixed with a few troubadouresque moments all blended with a huge dose of Psychedelia and dramatics, keeps the listener in constant suspense asking himself what's coming next, and the good thing is that they never disappoint.

The original version ends with "Pioneers Over C", which is the reason why I won't rate this album with 5 stars, absolutely cacophonic and makes me think that VDGG took the experimental thing too far, weak closer for a good album

My version of "H to He, Who Am the Only One" has two excellent bonus songs, but as usual I won't review them, because I like to comment an album in the way the author released it, of course it's not a reason to leave "Squid 1 / Squid 2 / Octopus" (Specially the breathtaking organ solo) and "The Emperor in his War-Room (first version)" un-listened, because both are excellent tracks.

As I mentioned before, won't go with 5 stars because of "Lost", but any rating bellow 4 stars would be unfair for an essential album.

Report this review (#283128)
Posted Saturday, May 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars 10/10

"H To He Who am The Only One" is one of the best prog albums ever made.

It's a shame that this album was always behind the shadow of the great masterpieces of VDGG, like "Pawn Hearts" and "Godbluff". This is the band's first real masterpiece, dense of all the elements that make them so unique sounding. In fact, I might prefer this album to Pawn Hearts. The style is typical Eclectic prog style: very present sax and flute, pretty heavy sounding organ, jazz influences, as well as classical ones.

The opener is the sublime "Killer", one of Hammill's best creations, with an effective melody and with an impressive wall of sound. The song structure is impressive as well. One of the best eclectic prog songs ever. if the previous track was one of the band's best fierce and powerful songs, "House with No Door" is most definitely one of their best ballads. Once again Hammill's voice is stunning in it's beauty and delicacy. Such a fine piece of MUSIC. "The Emperor in His War Room" is another masterpiece, that alternates calm and suspended moments with the aggressive organ in the chorus. This is so far the most complex song. "Lost", though is even more complex. Another masterpiece, of course, of the same strong impact as the previous track, but it's a lot longer (it arrives to eleven minutes) "Pioneers Over C." is the final track, the greatest maybe. Twelve minutes of what VDGG really wants to do: create some original music keeping at the same time some nice and hearable melodies.

One of the best prog albums ever made. I recommend to whoever is a fan of the genre, or whoever is into Art Rock.

Report this review (#283179)
Posted Sunday, May 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This puzzlingly named album (apparently referring to the basic exothermic reaction of hydrogen to helium, the chemical reaction that causes the sun and stars to be suc excellent sources of energy) shows a band, for the first time, completely comfortable in their own shoes. Their sound is nailed in this album, both their extreme moments as well as their ballads.

Killer, for me, represents one of the best tracks from this version of the band. I quite enjoy the lyrics to it, and Peter Hamils singing finally reaches that unique, exaggerated theatric voice of his that I enjoy so much. David Jacksons sax is the other star in the song, squealing all over this epic, high energy track. In this album and the next, the band would experiment a lot with dissonance, (they did so on the previous album as well, to a lesser extent, especially in After The Flood), and we get our first real taste of that here.

The next song, House With No Door, continues the theme of loneliness and alienation, although this one takes a complete 180 in approach, relying more on piano and the more emotional side of Peters vocals. Yet, being performed by Van deer Graaf means that this song is anything but a simple ballad; the drumming is far too dense for us to forget who we are listening to, and Jackson makes his presence known as well. I enjoy the lyrics to this track immensely.

The next two tracks are both enjoyable, although I enjoy Emperor less than House With no Door and Lost is the only track from this album that seems to disappear from my mind as soon as it stops playing (although I enjoy it while it is on). Each of these tracks is closer to Vander Graafs ballad style than their epic, and the slow curve down in enjoyment is ultimately the low point of this album.

Luckily, the low point of this album is not so low, and the album is bookended with the strongest tracks, so you are impressed from the beginning and leave satisfied.

Pioneers Over C, like every other track on this album, deals with alienation and loneliness (the Who Am The Only One part of the album title should have given away that this album would feature this theme strongly). Musically, this one is the strongest on the album, featuring both the intensity of Killer and strong, quieter parts. The lyrics rival House With No Door in cleverness, and in this song, Nic Potter truly shines. (I would argue that this track is his best work with the band). It shifts between ethereally haunting moments to catchy sax-backed sections to spacy singing over guitar chords to dissonant sax and back without breaking the coherence of the piece.

This leaves us with an album that should not be ignored by any fan of progressive rock who enjoys drama, darkness (11/11 or otherwise), clever lyrics, and an adventurous spirit.

Special note must be given to one of the bonus tracks. I usually avoid mentioning bonus tracks, unless they are particularly impressive. (In fact, after the first few listens, I usually stop the album before the bonus tracks start). Squid1/Squid2/Octopus, one of the bands longest tracks at 15 minutes, sounds like it was only cut from the album due to space constraints. It features everything that made this album such a delight, and although it doesn't quite reach the heights of either of their official epics (A Plage of Lighthouse Keepers or Meurglys III), and seems a bit looser in in form than anything else from H to He, I still enjoy it immensely. It is largely an instrumental track, and contains some very adventurous moments from the entire band. This track makes it worth tracking down a copy of the expanded version of this album, even if you already own the original version,

Report this review (#283254)
Posted Monday, May 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'd say fans should start with H to the He but that would really be spoiling them. H to the He is a perfect blend of the early, apocalyptic fury of The Least we Could Do, mixed with more compelling lyrics, better riffs, stronger melodies and better arrangements. Essentially, the album is a more complete try at the style started on The Least but again it's important to note that this album also has a completely different sound. The Least had a very organ thick, plodding sound that created an atmosphere of doom that was a bit heavy handed but effective. Here, the arrangements and melodies are generally lighter and more spry, with saxophone, flute and piano making much of a presence. As a result, the mood lightens up a little but the songs don't: this actually increases the effectiveness of the mood created, as the doom could seem nearly cartoonish on the Least. The sound mix is dominated by flute in a way never heard before or later and the feel of each song is much lighter and relaxing.

Killer is the first song and perhaps the best remembered. It does indeed have an incredible set of riffs, incredible lyrics, Hammill singing like never before as well as a memorable mid song jam. It has a bit of the "plodding" sound of The Least but is done better than any song there.

House with No Door is another ballad in the style of Refugees but done a bit less operatic than before. The melody here is mostly piano based, giving it a lighter feel. The lyrics are pretty pessimistic. The playing is great and the melodies are truly moving and memorable. Peter tends to create ballads that become bombastic but effective but here he scales back to a mere 6:30 and keeps the arrangements light throughout, focusing on effective contrast between piano and organ as well as melodic variations on the same basic melody.

The Emperor in his War Room features an upbeat flute introduction and features quick playing as well as a great staccato vocal melody from Hammill. The lyrics discuss a war mongerer pondering war and are very effective: Hammill has stopped declaring truths and tries coming to them through character studies. The melodies here are catchy and constantly switching: it is here where you can see how effective a prog band they had become. The playing features incredibly complex melodies but the melodies retain catchiness.

Lost is a flute dominated ballad that may meander at times but still coalesces into a series of melody shifts, climaxes and contrasts. It never hits the same way Refugees or House with No Door do but it serves as a nice contrast between Emperor the Pioneers Over C.

Pioneers Over C features some of Peter's best lyrics. While still sci-fi they ponder a scenario where astronauts are flying over the speed of light and pondering the fact that everyone they know will have died after they have finished. It features an incredibly moody opening with one of Peter's best riffs, several melody and mood switches, great arrangement ideas (Dave's sax part during the faster parts is incredibly anthemic) while still retaining an essential mood and staying coherent. Gone are the days of the wide ranging confusion of After the Flood: the song has multiple parts and sections but they never seem tacked on how they did in After the Flood.

Essentially, this is VDGG's best pure prog album. Later albums became a bit more personal and created a bit more of different style. However, this album is pure prog through and through and it is one of the best prog records of 1971, already an incredible year. Peter never again created an album that balanced progressive playing with great melodies, diverse and effective arrangements and ear catching singing and lyrics. He probably could have coasted on variations of this sound (as many prog bands tended to do) for a decade but the fact that he kept changing his style (even when it became frustrating and difficult) is a testament to his ability and his artistic integrity. Listening to this album, one gets the sense of a talented composer while later albums give a sense that the man would never, in a million years, sell out.

Report this review (#299954)
Posted Tuesday, September 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars Extremely Over-rated, IMO.

I never understood why any of the VDGG albums before Pawn Hearts gained any recognition. H to He, Who Am The Only One, showcases some of the weakest song writing and lyrics that Peter Hammill has ever produced. Overly dramatic, songs with far too many parts or far too few (none of which flow together), and all around mediocrity.

Killer, with its admittedly cool hook, fails miserably with its absurd lyrics. Had the band re-worked this song several years later, it could have been much better.

House With No Door is easily the best song on this album. Just a humble ballad, it is the only song I can take seriously. Hammill manages to get past the angst and write lyrics that I feel are genuine. This song really saves the album from complete failure.

Emperor in His War Room has been called a number of things on this site: influential, creative... but no one but myself has called it boring. A nine minute song with all of two parts? Is this Van Der Graaf Dylan? Fripp's guitar work carries it at the end, but couldn't save it from being what it is - a boring song.

Lost is probably the second best song here, but I can't listen to it without thinking of ways it could have flowed better. Whatever success is gained with Lost, sadly, is immediately forgotten when the awful Pioneers Over C comes around.

Never has an epic failed so incredibly as with this beast of a closer of an album. Parts flow into one another with the grace of a bird with one wing, Hammill's lyrics fail miserably at conveying whatever semblance of a plot there is for this song. Listening to this song in it's entirety is an exercise in endurance for me. Just so bad... and for nearly 13 bloody minutes.

I have listened to this album nearly a dozen times trying to understand what makes it one of the cornerstones of prog-rock, and I just cant understand. I enjoy other VDGG albums, Pawn Hearts and Godbluff mainly. But this album just seems to be the work of a much, much less mature and competent band. Fortunately, VDGG had much better work in their future, this album just simply is not among that work. Listen at your own risk.

Two Stars.

Report this review (#300125)
Posted Wednesday, September 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars I must say, I like this album almost as much as Pawn Hearts. But....but....there is just something that keeps it from being a masterpiece. It's just not quite there yet, but you can hear the seeds being sown for Pawn Hearts in this album for sure.

Killers is the first VDGG song I ever heard (on a prog box set I picked up years ago) and on the strength of that one I looked up info on them and ended up getting Pawn Hearts. I probably would have still wanted more had I gotten this one, but there is nothing wrong with starting with the best album first :-) A good song that shows off the best aspects of the band; the vocals, the sax, the inventive organ work, and the excellent and unique drumming. Not really one of my favorites any more but a very good song nonetheless.

House with No Door is somewhat bland, though features some great flute work from Jackson and Hammill's typically depressing lyrics contrasting a mellow and somewhat cheerful melody.

The Emperor is a great longer track with various changes in dynamics, tempo and time signature. Some great Hammill lyrics and vocals here, and a quite interesting psychedelic multi-tracked guitar solo from Robert Fripp (his only contribution on this album).

Lost is a song I happen to like a great deal, mainly for the lyrics as they remind me of a particular obsession I had with a certain female friend when I was younger. Much like the song, things didn't work out so well :-) Still, there are some interesting parts and a great ending (fading out into cacophony).

Pioneers is one of my favorite VDGG songs, a sort of musical interpretation of faster than light travel and its consequences on the traveler. A very rare song for Hammill, not being a painfully personal introspective song but a sort of sci-fi epic. Some great sections and schizophrenic time changes do a good job of relaying the paradoxes of light speed travel (to me, anyhow).

All in all, a very good album that I like quite a bit. The remaster is worth picking up just to have the excellent 15 minute Squid 1/ Squid 2/ Octopus (plus, the sound quality is quite improved over the original CD release). This album is the place to go next if you like Pawn Hearts, just don't expect an album as good. But this certainly pointed the way to that album.

Report this review (#300222)
Posted Thursday, September 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is an emotional wonder. One characteristic about VDGG's sound that has always stuck out to me is the passionate emotional intensity that prevails in their sound. Something about the mix of fat sax sounds, lush keyboards, and Peter Hammill's singing really has an emotional depth that is rarely found elsewhere. This, coupled with dynamic writing and brilliant lyrics really has an effect that drives home (among other things).

Do you like driving 70's elements? In here. Do you like ballads? In here. Do you like several- part pieces? In here. Do you like insane sax solos? In here. Do you like inventive melodies and gripping harmonies? In here. This album really has quite a bit of varied material packed into 47 minutes, but never loses it's characteristic tone or feeling.

"Live by sword and you shall die so, All your power shall come to nought, Every life you take is part of your own, Death, not power, is what you've bought."

The song meanings are quite deep, talking about topics such as moral philosophy, personal emotional struggle, and physics. (Well, the physics is really just referenced in the titles.. Pioneers over C? C = speed of life. H to He = Hydrogen to Helium. Think about it.) But, as I demonstrated, they are also written quite poetically. Whoever wrote them spent a long time placing the meanings together in polished and artistic ways that really show. I normally don't judge music by the content of it's lyrics, but in a case like this it really adds an extra bit of magic to the sound.

I very much recommend this album to anyone with any sense of patience that enjoys the sounds of emotional music.

4 stars

Report this review (#340054)
Posted Wednesday, December 1, 2010 | Review Permalink
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars First of all, I have always loved the title of this album, HE standing for helium. The lyrics of Peter Hammill are great here. His singing is not too shabby either. I don't understand why some have a problem with his vocal delivery; do they prefer cookie monster vocals instead? This was the last VDGG album that bassist Nic Potter played on for awhile(he would be a member of Van Der Graaf, without the Generator, later on). Organist Hugh Banton plays the bass on "House With No Door" and "Pioneers Over C", while Potter does the other three songs. Guest Robert Fripp does a guitar solo on "The Emperor In His War Room."

Of course, we cannot ignore the contributions of saxophonist/flautist David Jackson or drummer Guy Evans, either. I love the early studio albums of VDGG because they have things on them that could not be reproduced in a live setting. The bass, for example, was missing in concert after Potter left; and sometimes you hear both sax and flute at the same time. Not to mention Hammill's sometimes double-tracked vocals which makes his vocal delivery even more powerful. This was released in 1970 when the distinction between "progressive rock" and "heavy metal" was not yet clearly defined. The riffs on "Killer" and "Pioneers Over C" have a lot in common with the heavy rock of the time.

The album begins with "Killer", which is one of VDGG's best and most well known songs. This is simply classic prog at it's finest. Nice mix of organ, sax and piano. The acoustic guitar doesn't really stand out but the song would not be the same without it. Great drumming in this song. Cool harmony vocals in places. I love the modified organ solo in the middle; it almost sounds like a cello. There is some dissonant sax soloing here as well. "House With No Door" is the most mainstream sounding song. A great piano-based ballad. I like the echoed hi-hat. Sax and flute play in unison. Nice. Great instrumental middle section. Good piano playing at the end.

"The Emperor In His War Room" has good flute parts. Some harmony vocals. Love the jazz- rock vamp during Fripp's multi-tracked solo. Some cool call-and-response vocals. I really like the beginning of "Lost" which sounds equally jazzy and folky. Great modified organ which gets phased before a jazzy section. Some martial drumming in the middle. Jazzy sax later on. Modified organ comes back and the music does a start/stop thing with modified sax. I like how how the tempo slowly increases at the very end.

"Pioneers Over C" starts very spacey. Some tom-toms with a great organ riff. The lyrics begin: "We left the Earth in 1983..." Hendrix also had a song which mentioned 1983. Silly hippies, if they seen the state of the music industry in 1983 back then, they would have commited suicide. Love the riff on bass/sax/organ. This song changes a lot throughout. More harmony vocals here. Nice acoustic guitar with bells or something in the middle. Some tympani later on before some free jazz style sax playing. Then some fast classical piano and atmospheric organ. Goes back to the beginning parts near the end.

The sound and production is really good for an album from 1970. One of VDGG's best albums, but not quite a masterpiece. The only reason I wouldn't give this 5 stars is that some parts of "Lost" and "Pioneers" are not as good or timeless as the rest of the album. Nonetheless, this is an excellent album and every serious prog fan should at least hear it once in their lifetime. 4 stars.

Report this review (#372702)
Posted Tuesday, January 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album was my first experience with Van Der Graaf Generator, and I can say I'm impressed.For his year (1970), this album is somewhat ahead of its time, and can be considered one of the first masterpieces of progressive rock.

The first three tracks, "Killer " , "House With No Door" and "The emperor in his war-room" (which has the special participation of Mr. Fripp) are of the highest quality and deserve to be heard, especially "Killer" that was the first track on the album I've heard and is one of my favorites of band.However, the same can not be said of the two epics that close, "Lost " and "C. pioners over. " In the latter, I do not got no respect positivoe.12 minutes of total lost.

4 stars.This album is not as good "Godbluff" but is far superior to" Pawn Hearts " and " Still Life" ".

Report this review (#410579)
Posted Thursday, March 3, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars He to He, Who Am the Only One was my first Van Der Graaf Generator album, chosen by what I thought to be interesting artwork. After listening to the album, I pretty much decided that VDGG was a band that sounds kind of goofy. Peter Hammill's voice is something that I continue to find extremely annoying, but the music here isn't entirely bad.

"Killer" starts with kind of a jazzy rock riff, but doesn't exactly sound strong and kind of reminds me of clown music. The song gets darker and more serious near the middle, and actually sounds cool and frantic. The following sax solo is equally frantic and is a nice touch to the initially goofy sounding track.

"House With No Door" is a soft piano based track with exceptionally annoying vocals. The instrumental portion of the track is very soothing, especially after the frantic previous track.

"The Emperor In His War Room" starts as a soothing and atmospheric track with beautiful flute playing, but eventually gets a little bit rockier. I find the track to be boring until just after halfway through, where a phat bass groove kicks in, but Hammill's voice ruins it for me.

"Lost" kicks off on a goofy note, being swift and quirky sounding with Hammill's clowny vocals and quick drumming. There is a rather dark instrumental passage featuring heavy guitar and some slightly avant sax that sounds entertaining and soon gives way to a softer passage. The second half of this track is more enjoyable and is noticeably jazzier and heavier, ridding itself of the goofy impression left by the introduction.

"Pioneers Over C." starts out sounding dark and captivating, but Hammill's vocals again quickly set this song on a goofy feel. The music goes through many changes, some jazzy, some more avant, and even a beautiful acoustic passage.

This honestly isn't a bad album, and the music is often quite pleasant and dark compared to a lot of progressive rock, but Peter Hammill's voice absolutely ruins the listening experience for me. He definitely has a love-it-or-hate-it kind of voice, and if you can get past it then you will find a terrific listening experience in this album.

Report this review (#431089)
Posted Monday, April 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars The artwork may be one of the weirdest things you'll see, but the music here is as progressive as you can get! For those who are a little confused by the title, I can inform you that 'H to He' refers to the fusion equation where hydrogen is fused to form helium, and the equations are shown on the sleeve. What 'Who Am The Only One' means is anyone's guess . After 'The Least We Can Do...', it seems that Van Der Graaf Generator now threw themselves whole-heartedly into the progressive rock vein. There are just 5 tracks here, but in my opinion 5 is the magic number when it comes to 70s prog. To me, this is a loose concept album, with each of the 5 songs portraying a different story about being alone.

With Killer, we take the form of a shark at the bottom of the sea. The verses are very catchy, but not the sort of thing you'd like to sing out loud. The highlight is the immensely energetic instrumental, which is nearly three minutes in length. This is a great album opener.

House With No Door is a slow, moving piece, much like Refugees from the previous album. Hammill shows off his impressive vocal range in the last verse. The flute solo is lovely, and the outro is also remarkable in it's simplicity.

The Emperor in his War-Room is a longer track, which is split into two sections. This is a lyric heavy track with very little time for instrumentals. Fortunately, the lyrics are very evocative, with wonderful eloquent descriptions. I particularly like second section, The Room as it gives great contrast to the otherwise rather repetitive song.

If you like your music complex, then Lost is for you. In addition to being over eleven minutes long, this track sports changing moods, tempos and time signatures! This song has tons of verses and changes the perfect amount to stay interesting the entire way through. The musical themes all sound great, and I can find no fault with this track! One particular highlight is the mathematical approach to the instrumental at 8:34, which would be copied later by Rush in By-Tor and the Snow Dog.

Pioneers Over c is a sci-fi song, to go with the scientific formulas found on the sleeve. For example, the c in the title refers to the speed of light. As with the last track, I can find no fault with this epic song. The music is always interesting with musical ideas being thrown back and forth. A wonderful prog classic. The inner gatefold gives a haunting image of what the lost astronauts in the song might see; their galaxy is out of reach, and they are abandoned.

If you have not heard 'H to He, Who am the Only One', then you are doing yourself an injustice. This is a shockingly good album, and is on par with 'Pawn Hearts'. Rarely will you ever hear so many good musical ideas on one album, which seems to be a norm with the legendary Van der Graaf Generator. Released in 1970, this album shows VdGG getting prog absolutely right before everybody else.

Report this review (#437861)
Posted Friday, April 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars The least they can do ... is another masterpiece!

After "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other", this record is, again, another masterpiece. Compared with the previous album, the style is largely confirmed but the tone is more darker and gothic, and there is large space for experimental parts. Nic Potter has left the band, but there is the special guest Robert Fripp playing in one of the tracks, the excellent The Emperor In His War Room.

The historic members are in great form: the terrifying sound of Banton's Farfisa organ dominates the scene; Evans perfectly builds complex rhythmic variations; Jackson is great as usual with aggressive sax solos, but above all is the extraordinary voice of Peter Hammill, especially in the delicate piano ballad House With No Door and in the more intricate and experimental Lost, probably the best song of the album. In this track in particular, Hammill really reach an amazing level in terms of ability to interpret the vocal parts. The dramatic tone of the singer and the intensity of his interpretation makes Lost not only the most beautiful song on the album but perhaps the best of the career of VDGG. The aggressive opener Killer, is another highlight, with an experimental use of wind instruments by Jackson .

Only the long Pioneers Over c. (inspired by science fiction themes) despite an excellent organ introduction is sometimes a little monotonous, without prejudice, howewer, the high rating of the album, that shall be considered a timeless masterpiece of progressive rock.

My personal rating: 9 / 10. Five stars.

Best song: Lost

Report this review (#459117)
Posted Saturday, June 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars 1970 was an absolutely fantastic year for the Charisma label. Genesis put out Trespass, Rare Bird released their masterpiece (As Your Mind Flies By), and the label gets to release not one but TWO classic albums by VdGG! H to He Who Am the Only One builds on its predecessors' achievements and diversifies the sound and mood a little - songs like the opening Killer show a bit more of a sarcastic sense of humour in the lyrics, with absolutely furious instrumental breakdowns (of which Jackson's saxophone work is surely the highlight), Pioneers Above C is a bemused puzzle about the implications of relativity for faster-than-light travellers, whilst House With No Door is a broken-hearted lament whose treatment of the everyday, down to earth subject of romance stands in stark contrast to the more esoteric concerns of the previous album.

Add a Robert Fripp guest appearance on The Emperor In His War Room, a stark warning to all abusers of power, and you have a package to excite any prog fan. A more than worthy successor to The Least We Can Do..., H to He Who Am the Only One is even more impressive when you consider the status of other major league prog bands in 1970.

- ELP were just making their first faltering steps and hadn't cut Tarkus yet. - Yes hadn't yet brought Rick Wakeman in to complete their classic lineup; the Yes album was certainly good, but it didn't yet have their classic sound. - Jethro Tull had yet to completely embrace a prog direction, and wouldn't do so until Aqualung came out. - Genesis were missing Phil Collins and Steve Hackett, and whilst Trespass was a decent enough start I think many will agree it was outshone by later albums. - Pink Floyd were meandering around *still* trying to find a new identity after Syd Barrett left. - Gentle Giant had just cut their debut and were still honing their craft. - King Crimson were undergoing a series of lineup changes, and hadn't managed to produce anything to match their all-powerful debut.

All this is enough to convince me that, whilst all of the above bands would grow to their full potential in the 1970s, at the start of the decade there was simply no force in the progressive scene more innovative, creative, emotive, or powerful than the mighty, all- powerful, all-conquering Van der Graaf Generator. And this album, if you listen to it and compare it to any 1970 release from the above, is more than ample proof of that.

Report this review (#472750)
Posted Thursday, June 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars How to characterise this strange band? Well, if Gentle Giant are the eclectic group who take Yes's bright harmonies and crazy complexity even further, then Van der Graaf Generator are the eclectic group who take Genesis's thick, chordal sound and dark, philosophical lyrics even further. This is evidenced by the common correlation that people who significantly prefer Yes to Genesis, also prefer Gentle Giant to Van der Graaf Generator, and I am one of those people.

This album is not bad, but even it's best song did not blow me away (being the fairly straightforward 'Killer'). What I can say in favour of Van der Graaf is that they are ambitious and unafraid to take chances. The thing is, these chances are always the same: the band plays a riff or a chord sequence for a while, gets bored of it, and proceeds to play five other unrelated riffs or chord sequences, sometimes returning to an earlier one, and thinking that the end result is a "song". Okay, in fairness, this only applies to side two of this record, because the songs on the first side have a structure. 'Killer' is catchy, and explores little musical ground but makes up for it with killer organ and sax solos (pun definitely intended). 'House With No Door' is a melancholy ballad of sorts. It's nothing special, but I commend it for being the only song on the album where there isn't a relentless Hammond organ continuously grinding the same few chords into your ears. 'The Emporer In His War Room' is where things start to go downhill, with the pieces now being far too long for what they have to offer, and with no varying instrumentation at all. It is saved, by a decent guitar solo from Robert Fripp, from falling into the same meandering depths of side two.

'Lost' is a very appropriate title for a structureless sequence of themes. Even when a couple of the riffs are quite good (which they are), I just can't get the same enjoyment from them when they have no context, no purpose. And this is barely differentiable from 'Pioneers Over C', which is in much the same vein. A few moody organ chords, some minimalistic sax riffs, a bit of dissonance here and there. There's nothing particularly wrong with it, but nothing that stands out from the endless sound collage either.

And the whole thing has Peter Hamill's love-it-or-hate-it poetry splattered over the top.

The lead singer takes a boring, 'submerged' album and makes it spacey and lofty with his singing, or acting, I should say. His dark poetry that seems to blend "space philosophy" with geeky, scientific topics, resulting in some of the most cringe-worthy lyrics I have ever come across. If you're fond of eccentric men theatrically screaming their thoughts on existence, death, time, space and antimatter, then you're in luck. Myself, I would struggle to tell it apart from a list of Progressive Rock clichés compiled by Rolling Stone magazine, who probably haven't even heard this band.

I was disappointed by this band. Although side one of this album is fairly listenable, and worth listening to more often, the other half doesn't benefit from a hundred listens. And the whole record is burdened by omnipresent squealing and grinding from the organ and sax, with the aforementioned poetry on top. "Samey" is not a good adjective to be describing a progressive rock band with, but that's what it is. I can stretch to three stars on this, mainly for Killer, but the overwhelmingly positive response to this album is a bit shocking to these ears.

Report this review (#511921)
Posted Tuesday, August 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars This album was my first experience with Van Der Graaf Generator and Peter Hammill. I picked up a used copy of the LP because I saw Robert Fripp was a guest artist. And I'll admit that at the first listen, I didn't like it. Hammill seemed overemotive, sometimes out of control, and the music itself, while interesting enough, seemed almost sloppy.

But after a nuber of spins on the turntable, something clicked. and Hammill's voice, while still occasionally grating, actually started sounding good to me. And while the band often wrote lumbering prog tunes, the intricacies began appearing to me. And while I wouldn't say VDGG is one of my favorite bands, I do like them enough to own quite a few of their albums.

Being the first to me, I still like this one at least as much as any of their albums. And of the five pieces, only House With No Door, the quietest piece on the album, fails to hold interest. The rest are majestic prog, with strong keyboard and drum work, with some simple outrageous sax work by David Jackson.

Report this review (#561227)
Posted Wednesday, November 2, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
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.

Report this review (#568809)
Posted Wednesday, November 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
Prog Sothoth
Prog Metal Team
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.

Report this review (#587538)
Posted Tuesday, December 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars H to He, Who Am the Only One is a testament to the Prog rock genre. Literally the pinnacle creation of Eclectic Prog. Forget the guitar in this music, these guys make the album work! With only 5 songs (6, since I have the remaster), they bust out an influential album that defines them as the creator of their style of prog. Nothing short of amazing.

Killer was the first reason this album was incredible. The main riff is ominous yet simple. It's enough to get one excited for what's next. Hammill's vocals are just great, with his bellowing and sustain. Evans is amazing on the drums with this song, filling in all the empty space. The middle section/organ solo/sax solo is by far the best segment this album has to offer. The speed and ferocity of the middle solos is what brings this piece to great heights; the demonstration of musicianship.

House With No Door is a good favorite, not just for its piano, but the lyrics and Hammill's singing. He does hold up the song very well and shows dynamics in his singing. This song is also fun to sing along to, and is a kind of soother depending on the mood. The lyrics can be depressing, but its similar to many of the other songs and fits with the overall tone of the album.

The Emperor In His War Room became a recent favorite, not just because of Evans' drumming, but also because of the harmonies and use of sounds. The panning from left to right and echoes used. The song does go over a similar pattern throughout, but its full of paranoia and sensation. The lyrics match up with the sound of music, and the eerie sounds make it all the more come to life.

Lost is such a long winded piece, with the intro not necessarily matching the rest of the song. A key thing to notice is how fast-paced the song can be then transition to a maudlin piece. The lyrics are terribly depressive like House With No Door, but you can hear the agony in Hammill's voice... comparable to Epitaph by King Crimson, but Hammill seriously blows Lake out of the water. You can't tell if there's a transition between parts of the song either. Even though the lyrics sound fictionally different, they share the song together. Also the ending, which I find interesting... It sounds like the ending of 21st Century Schizoid Man, but fades out quickly, like its cutting the listener off from what's actually happening. I would really like to hear the end, with all that insanity, but maybe that's the band's way of saying there doesn't need to be an end to it.

First time I listened to Pioneers over c was late at night. The "Touch with my mind" chorus and the sax solo really creeped me out. I avoided the song until I chose to listen to it several times more. The overall complexity of the song astounded me, which was probably why I initially didn't like it. There's so much going on in those 12 1/2 minutes, ranging from a sax playing by itself, to fast paced piano/drums/flute overdubbed with toms and creepy synth effects, to an even creepier Hammill singing. The horror in the story is truly brought out, and the conclusion is certainly the best part. After Hammill's last chorus, it takes about another minute to end the song, which boosts the gravity of the end. This remains my favorite song on the album and should be considered one of the best songs they've made.

I haven't listened to Squid 1/Squid 2/Octopus enough to put my opinion on it. But in the times I have listened to it, I thought it to be a good piece, and felt it would sound interesting live around their time period. It sound like a studio recording, but even more sounds like a live-studio recording.

My only complaint is that the track times listed on the remaster packaging are all wrong and jumbled up.

This is truly one of the best prog albums I've listened to so far, and I continue to enjoy it with every single listen.

Report this review (#615917)
Posted Sunday, January 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team
5 stars Finally! A VDGG/PETE HAMMILL album that I absolutely love! Neither Pawn Hearts, Silent Corner, Camera, nor Godbluff were able to win me over. But this! This is glorious! Great singing, great variety in instruments, tempo and mood. With the opener, "Killer," (10/10) we get great, tight musicianship with powerful vocals. As a matter of fact, this is the first time that I've really felt the power of Hammill's vocals--and how they actually fit the song and the music supports and intertwines with them. Great drumming, and--a first! a truly awesome electric guitar solo. Amazing mix of the instruments, too. I love the wayward sax being mixed so far forward, and then moving all over--as if he's running from the law, trying to get away from the band. And then he fades to back (caught/subdued?) B-vox! Yes, there are strains of King Crimson, ELP, Black Sabbath, and even Moody Blues here, but this is a killer song! My favorite VDGG/Hammill song yet.

"House with No Door" (8/10) softens the mood with an almost-Hal David lyric, sung quite delicately--and quite melodically. Kind of a pop-blues song of the Procul Harum school, nicht wahr? Love the double flutes backed by flutey organ. Nice restraint from Pete. (I always expect that scratchy-screechy power voice at each song's climactic points.) (I wonder where this song went after the fadeout, i.e. what kind of jam it evolved into.)

"The Emperor's in His War-room" (7/10) explores some sounds that are more familiar to me from Uriah Heep (organ style) and Jethro Tull (breathy flutes) sounds. Here we also have the type of Hammill vocal that always turns me off: where the engineering/mixing effects used to 'compartmentalize' or 'quarantine' his voice make him feel so separate from the music. Not like "Killer." 5:20 shift in music is very cool?kind of Moody Blues-ish.

"Lost" (10/10) brings us down the rabbit hole. A very engaging, mesmerizing beginning, swirling and spiraling until church organ and breathy sax comfort us for a few moments. Back to swirling--this is a rollercoaster ride! Now the flat 'recovery' zone--then swirling, climbing, swirling, climbing, until we're in free fall (3:00)--but no crash! Instead, we level out and get to catch our breath. Then a slow climb (military march drums). Where are we going? We're lost! In Limbo! Then it starts again: very slowly the swirling sneaks up on us. Hammill's trying to earn our trust--or hypnotize us! Love the Jefferson Starship "White Rabbit" chord change after Hammill sings out "Reality ?" Then the JC Superstar descending chords around 8:15 and continued starting at 9:15. "I love you-u-u-u-u!" fades Hammill as the train proceeds to its crash ending and souls fade away. Brilliant!

"Pioneers over C." (10/10) starts quietly. I love that Hammill's voice is mixed 'into' the music at this point. A composition of amazingly tight twists and turns--performed to perfection! So tight! Great vocal tricks to portray the various persons/beings in the song. Amazing section from 5:10 to ! So sensitive--almost heart-wrenching! Hammill is a god! Love the tympanis. And the other- worldly sax. "Help!" 8:18 section is one of the best space music representations since 2001: A Space Odyssey. Truly a masterpiece of theatric rock.

No question: A masterpiece of progressive rock. Essential.

Report this review (#623211)
Posted Monday, January 30, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars In one word - excellent

VDGG is one of the most intresting and demanding band from progressive rock realm that no doubt about it, with Peter Hammill holding one of the most beautiful and haunting voices ever to be heared in this realm, with their third offer H to He, Who Am the Only One is no diffrent, they remains among the ginats of the gewnre untill today. The album released in 1970 at famous Charisma label the second VDGG album from same year is a totaly winner to my ears, when I hear pieces like Killer and specially House With No Door everything turns to pure magic. Little better in passages as previous one, but keeping the same attitude as on The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other, Peter Hammill and co done a great and unforgetable job here. Every musician shines on every pieces, haunting vocal parts all over, all is top notch. It is very surprising to see across the years how this band despite their enormous talent and inovation brought in prog rock zone they remaining in the shadow of names like Genesis, Pink Floyd or Yes. Is strange isn't it. So, this album must be held high when we talk about pioneers of prog rock music. One of the most intresting and catchy albums from their discography and among their best from their first phase. recommended for sure, 4 stars easy.

Report this review (#754258)
Posted Thursday, May 17, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Van Der Graaf Generator has always been a dark and strong band, with an obscure atmosphere in their songs, the energetic Peter Hammill's voice and David Jackson's inevitable saxophone, all these built together over the great sound of Hugh Banton's screaming organ, Guy Evans' astonishing drum playing and Nic Potter's bass (before he left the band for a while). And all these elements can be found in "H To He, Who Am The Only One", which is, with no doubt, one of the highlights of group. With two albums released before this one by the band, here we finally discovered the sound they would develop within their long career as musicians.

Since the very beginning we can hear the strong sax playing its tune loud but clearly. "Killer" is a great opener which shows the whole potential of this band, with all instruments, including Hammill's voice, blowing your head off until the end of the song. "House with no door" begins with a beautiful piano structure over the rest of instruments start to appear joining the melodic voice and the emotion it emanates. I really like the great flute solo around the middle of the song. The next song combines successfully melodic lines with strong chords and guitar riffs. Here we have the great Robert Fripp playing his guitar in the way he only knows to do it, adding a great solo near the end of the song. "Lost" is considered one of the most representative pieces of the band. And it makes sense. Here we find psychedelic music united with epic sound and voice and distorting bridge parts which are usual in the band first period discography. I enjoy the part of the song which begins around the forth minute, with the sax atmosphere and Hammill's voice floating over it. "Pioneers over C" follows its predecessor musical style and talks about a futurist theme in space full with crazy organ and sax riffs. It ends with Hammill singing in psychedelic style and a last riff of the sax and the organ.

In conclusion, this is a great album which I highly recommend to start with in order to really appreciate VDGG music, due to the fact that here you can recognize elements from the whole discography of the band. "H To He, Who Am The Only One" it's not only one of Van Der Graaf best albums, but one of the best in progressive rock scene. Hope you enjoy!

Report this review (#755190)
Posted Saturday, May 19, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars My second favorite Van der Graaf's album with several important songs. Killer is a powerful piece with mighty music and good lyrics and one of the songs that people usually remember from VdGG. Full of emotions. And then, House With No Door. That's my song of heart. Quite different from another Van Der Graaf songs. Beautiful, fragile and sad. It was the first song I've ever heard from them. The Emperor and Pioneers over c are another great songs, but Lost is my third favorite from these. It's the proof that songs about love do not always include 'baby baby oh baby', but very clever lyrics and dark, sad music. The bonus Squid1/Squid2/Octopus is an interesting piece as well. And lest I forget, I like the cover. It's the only VdGG cover that seems to me notable from an artistic point of view. 4.7/5 (It's not Pawn Hearts, but it's great)
Report this review (#772418)
Posted Saturday, June 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ever since I heard this album, it was more than ten years ago. The first impression of the album was fair to middling. Although, as I could think of then when I was about ten years old. Hah, it was too loud and incomprehensible for my ears. But! Eventually, I began to catch memorable moments. The first song I loved with the first time was 'A House With No Door'. One of the best they (the band) have ever made! It sounds so soft and a bit sad with a dark atmospheric background that I classify it as a 'Space Rock'. Another 'Space Rock' theme is "Pioneers Over C". Name of the song speaks for itself. I really liked poetic size of the lyrics and the unique voice of Peter Hammill. His psychedelic singing here is just outstanding! No matter how much I listen to this song, it still kills me outright. 'Killer' has always frightened me with its dark and tense atmosphere, but now it sounds really cool for my ears. Just listen to Mr. Hammill's singing! Colorful aggression with breathtaken lyrics makes me shudder (with delight, of course) with every time. 'Emperor...' and 'Lost' are no less masterpiece. The first one even my favorite song by VDGG and the second - one of my favorite lyrical perfomance. Undoubtedly, 'H to He...' one of the most progressive albums of 'Classic Era'. Dynamic, sophisticated and at the same time a little prosaic and lyrical album. Excellent addition to every prog rock music collection! 4,9/5.
Report this review (#805522)
Posted Friday, August 17, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is the record that introduced me to this band back when I was a teenager in the '80s. I remember thinking at the time that this is a really great band except for the singer and the lyrics. Peter Hammill is definitely an acquired taste and once you get it, there is no going back. But on this record, his style is still forming. This album has it's fair share of ridiculous lines like "You can't have two killers living in the same pad." or " A thousand mouths are filled with rusted metal. Your face a shade of green. Somehow you try to speak with all of that garbage in your mouth." and "We are the ones they're going to build a statue for ten centuries ago." And one more, "At night they steal your eye from its socket. And the ball hangs falling from your cheek." But someway and somehow it works and gives this album a spacey charm I can't quite explain. Killers kicks things off with a medium paced rocker of sorts with a narrator telling describing a sea monster living on the bottom of the sea that pretty much devours anything within it's reach causing it to live in solitude. This ends up being a metaphor for the narrators own mistakes on how he treats loved ones rendering himself alone.

House With No Door sounds to me like a prelude to "Man Erg" With Hammill struggling with sharing himself with others. This song is driven by Hammill's piano and Evan's drums. it also contains a really nice flute solo backed by sax.

Emporer in His War-Room, is basically about hateful war monging leaders and the prices they'll pay for their actions. here we have Robert Fripp making a nice appearance. Depite it's goofy lyrics, it's a good song.

Lost. here Hammill laments about a lost love amid a sprawling jazz-like atmosphere. Nice changes throughout. One of my favorite tunes.

Pioneers Over c. Lost in Space! And time and existence. Very Star Trekesque but alot of fun. Some far out sax interludes grace this one. H to He is most certainly of its time, nobody writes stuff like this anymore!

Report this review (#871426)
Posted Tuesday, December 4, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Van Der Graaf Generator's "H To He" is a very difficult to describe. It has very strong yet also subtle themes throughout, from mathematical equations explaining the speed of light in the inside booklet, to these sort of ordeals that lead to power, hence isolating you from the rest of the world. You can read so much into these topics, which makes the album appreciable on so many levels - from absolute scrutiny to relaxed and half-asleep. The album is a substantially huge step onwards from their previous album "The Least We Can Do Is Wave At Each Other", both musically and thematically. The lyrics, too, are just as good and if not better than ever before, and prove VDGG to be a truly indulgent progressive band, creating timeless music and... unique album names and artwork.

"Killer" introduces some of these themes, but furthermore shows the rawness of VDGG for me. The basic saxophone riff allows lots of room for the piece to be played out and to build up. Has a wonderful atmosphere and does actually very musically sophisticated as the piece goes on. Great lyrics and tones on all of the instruments, with intriguing effects towards the end of the song, and some excellent chord progressions - one of the highlights being the acoustic guitar entering about midway through. Sounds outstanding on the album, and an immense opener. "House With No Door" then comes nicely out of it to contrast the chaotic heaviness of a killer's tale. Brilliant chord progressions with some inspiring yet very basic lyrics. Almost as good as its majestic successor "Man-Erg", but lacks the climatic sections. Perhaps more time was required for it to allow it to develop onwards. Nevertheless, still outstanding, and a great track that you can really relax to, and interpret the lyrics - possibly the best song on the album for me.

"The Emperor In His War-Room" features incredible experimentation and orchestrated saxophones and Hammill's guitar harmonics and keyboards. The lyrics and vocal techniques are entirely spectacular. Develops very well as a track, one of the keys to this being a fantastic Robert Fripp guest solo, in the style of his newly released "Lizard" with King Crimson. Superb melodies and tensions too, and enters the "Lost" suite brilliantly. This track is a little too played out and saxophone-centered for my liking. Some glorious moments but doesn't quite hold together or is as structured as the previous tracks to me. Still much more than commendable, and finishes on a certainly regal climax of organised chaos, as heard on "Killer", plus the hauntingly sung lyrics "I love you" presenting perhaps a hallucinating, indefinite reunion with a loved one as indicated by the music.

"Pioneers In C" ends the album, and I still think I haven't entirely understood it yet. Beautiful and very vivid melodies and lyrics by Peter, especially the "We are the ones" sections - nothing at all like it! I can't help feeling I'm missing something though... Fabulous and honest experimentation as progressive music should be, with very talented instrumentalists conveying the piece to the listeners so exquisitely and precisely. Just about every instrument each member can play makes an unreal appearance on here, and ends the album on another musically puzzling humming organ. "H To He, Who Am The Only One" is such a grand, kind of palatial album, that marks the beginning of a string of otherworldly albums by the ridiculously underrated Van Der Graaf Generator.

A-: One of the early masterpieces of progressive rock. Very true to the genre and the album in question being so delightfully timeless and thought-provoking as any great work.

Killer: ***** House With No Door: ***** The Emperor In His War-Room: ***** Lost: **** Pioneers Over C: *****

Report this review (#984678)
Posted Sunday, June 23, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars H to the He, Am the Only One is the first album from Van Der Graff that I listened too, and consequently I believe it is probably the first essential album (though the previous two are not bad by any means). Perhaps the first thing one notices is the very unique sound these guys achieve. The band (and this album) is marked by extremely complex instrumentation filled with crazy tempo changes, odd time signatures, and erratic song structures. Peter Hammill's theatric vocal style, and constant use of the saxophone (and to a lesser extent, the flute) are also heavily associated with the band. Finally, like fellow eclectic proggers King Crimson, VDGG experiments greatly with a variety of sounds and styles, which include dissonant and/or free form passages.

Each song represents a different part of VDGG, in my opinion. The opening 'Killer' is probably the most common sound and style the band usually plays, which is a series of up- tempo, and sometimes aggressive sax melodies that are repeated and developed throughout. 'House With No Door' shows the softer side of the band, which is mostly in a low-tempo, and with restrained instrumentals, especially Hammill's vocals. The structure is relatively simple, being divided in two similar parts by a very nice flute solo.

'The Emperor In His Room' is a rather gloomy song, filled with wandering flute. But there are still tons of heavier, up-tempo passages throughout, especially near the end, which has a nice loose jam feel.

'Lost' and 'Pioneers Over C' are two classic lengthy VDGG tracks, which combine a ton of blazing, heavy, rhythmically complex passages with slower, softer, melodic parts to achieve some interesting dynamics. The latter is probably the lesser of the two, if only for the annoying free form sax solo in the middle.

This is one of those albums which I like, but need to be in a certain mood for. The dissonance, experimentalism, and overly aggressive and theatric vocals don't always work for me like they might others, and unfortunately, the production is abysmal at best. VDGG have done better in future albums, but, despite my relatively low rating, I believe this is a solid introduction to the band's unique sound and style and is a good album in general.


Report this review (#1009677)
Posted Thursday, August 1, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
5 stars For this second masterpiece in a row to grace the year 1970 from one of the earliest of progressive giants..... VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR, I have to put on my Freudian psychologist's hat in order to understand the complexities of the allegories going into the truly poetic lyrics of Peter Hammill, who IMO is the best of the best in terms of singer / songwriter sensibilities in a progressive rock context. Every verse is constructed to milk out the desired emotional response with the musical accompaniment designed to heighten those precise desired effects.

This was my very first VDGG album that I ever heard and upon first listening I actually didn't like this at all. It seemed like a very bad pompous version of David Bowie, an art rock artist who to this day I feel has some similarities with Mr Hammill, however as we all know Bowie went in a more accessible direction and garnered well deserved success for his art rock contributions to the musical world and VDGG, sadly, while going down the same path and adding layers of complexities on their work bench didn't quite get the same results and although the magic can be clearly heard after many listens, the contemporary listening audience wasn't ready for such startlingly complex, darkened and mournful music when it was released much like my first encounter.

The title of this album has always intrigued me and it is by no means obvious as to what its reference may be, however after listening to this album several many times and studying the lyrics, it seems to me that the odd title H TO HE, WHO AM THE ONLY ONE taken with the obsessive fascination with abuse of power as well as the cover art depicting a lonely pair of legs in space with two rounded objects representing a pair of over-sized testicles makes me think that the actual meaning of this album is to represent the disconnecting nature of improperly used testosterone.

H TO HE symbolizes the fusion of hydrogen to helium and the WHO AM THE ONLY ONE changes the chemical symbol He from helium to the subject pronoun "he." This represents the mindset that male humans are the next logical step in creation after the primary building blocks of matter and that a man who is filled with testosterone and damaged psychologically can usurp power and go on to do nasty things by placing himself as the center of the universe and therefore making it possible to justify ruthless actions no matter how brutal or cruel. As far as anti-war stances go occurring in music, it just doesn't get any more poetically perfect or musically masterful than this splendid album by Peter Hammill and the gang.

Outer space and inner space seem more similar than not and a true poet like Hammill supplicates these portrayals like no other. "Pioneers Over C" perfectly represents this theory IMHO while referencing the laws of physics, it actually has a second meaning euphemistically referring to the tyrannical abuse of power. I see this piece as representing the domination of the natural and social worlds in a detached and frozen manner. The image of a man lost in outer space looking down on the world below viewing the world in disdain as he becomes increasingly isolated from the human family below and as this downward spiral escalates the desire to control and destroy only becomes stronger and stronger until....

This album really ramped up the experimental tendencies started on the previous album and because of the musical direction, bassist Nic Potter just couldn't get down with the whole thing and left the band in the middle of recording this album. Organist Hugh Branton whose keyboard playing is a major ingredient to the band's sound picked up bass duties and went as far as incorporating the bass parts with his foot pedals when playing live in addition to his already complex and haunting organ playing. David Jackson continued to amaze everyone with his rare ability to play two wind instruments simultaneously and with Guy Evans staying on as percussionist the band found a stable lineup that would be considered their classic lineup and they would go on to pump out some of the absolute best music ever made on this planet.

As with the last album every song flows perfectly into the next mixing pleasant melodies with jarring outlandish outbreaks of cacophonous sounds that perfectly emphasize lyrical subterfuge in their deliveries. Despite my countless listens to this masterpiece of music I am still floored by it. It not only ages well but because of the roundabout way of presenting the lyrics i'm constantly considering new meanings in the lyrical content. An intellectual teaser to say the least but one that fascinates me and keeps my constant interest. Of all the albums I have rated five stars this one comes close to the top of my list for best albums of all time. A timeless classic that I never tire of and sounds better after every listen.

Report this review (#1201244)
Posted Monday, June 30, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars H To He, Who Am The Only One is an absolute VDGG masterpiece. The songwriting here is more sophisticated that is has been in the past, and the musicianship still reigns supreme, and the compositions are still incredibly complex if not more so. This music is highly eclectic and jam packed full of instruments from all eras of time, consisting of the obvious sax and keys. One thing that I've always loved about VDGG is the absence of organ sounds, usually opting for much more interesting keyboard variations. Most of the music is full of energy, but is always wildly creative and never boring in th least. And ofcourse Peter Hammill's voice...what a gift!!! Very highly recommended masterly crafted eclectic prog.
Report this review (#1328927)
Posted Saturday, December 27, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars I remember buying Pawn Hearts years ago based on how highly it's regarded by the prog community, but it never really clicked with me. I think I may have listened to this album too at least once before, but I couldn't say how long ago. I think my biggest problem with Van Der Graaf Generator is Peter Hammill. His voice is definitely the focus, with the music mostly serving to drive the vocals along. I just don't find his voice particularly interesting. He sounds like a prog rock David Bowie, which probably sounds like a great thing, but I have the same problem here that I do with a lot of 60s/70s Bowie songs - the music just isn't interesting enough to grab my attention, being neither catchy or interesting enough for me.

'Killer' and 'House With No Door' go past without grabbing my attention, but 'Emperor In His War-Room' has some nice moments, the flute in particular. 'Lost' is another Hammill-heavy number, peppered with some instrumental sections that, even for someone who is not at all that familiar with VDGG, can only be described as VDGG-esque - repetitive organ/keys riffing with sax. The different sections of the song just seem to flow into each other without a lot of direction (to my ears), and I don't find much of it memorable. 'Pioneers Over C' is the first track where I notice a bass guitar (was it there in the other tracks and low in the mix? I'm not interested enough to go back and check), but the track follows the VDGG formula, just with bass & sax leading the riff rather than organ & sax. Oh wait, a break in the music so the saxophonist can tune his instrument, and then back to the repetitive riffing.

Yeah, I just don't think I'm ever going to understand VDGG's popularity in the prog community. I'm sure this was pretty revolutionary in 1970, but listening to it after hearing what came after in those early-to-mid 70s first, it sounds like the prototype that was improved upon by later bands. I shouldn't fault VDGG for being a trail-blazer, but all the same I just don't find this particularly interesting.

Report this review (#1518206)
Posted Friday, January 22, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars Review Nº 64

In my humble opinion, Van Der Graaf Generator is with Gentle Giant and King Crimson, probably, one of the three most creative, original and progressive bands that ever existed. With the exception of King Crimson, which always had an impressive number of fans, Van Der Graaf Generator and Gentle Giant, had only a very small but very faithful group of supporters, probably due to the originality and the difficulty of their music.

This is my fifth review of a Van Der Graaf Generator's album. The others are their fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh studio albums 'Pawn Hearts', 'Godbluff', 'Still Life' and 'World Record' which were released in 1971, 1975 and the last two in 1976, respectively. 'H To He, Who Am The Only One' is their third studio album and was released in 1970.

The line up of the album is Peter Hammill (lead vocals, acoustic guitar and piano), Hugh Banton (vocals, Hammond and Farfisa organs, piano, oscillator and bass guitar), David Jackson (vocals, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones and flute), Guy Evans (drums, percussion and tympani) and Nic Potter (bass guitar). The album has also the presence on guitar of Robert Fripp of King Crimson, as a guest musician. Potter left the band mid-way through the recording sessions. After it, the group decided to carry on without a new bass guitarist, with Banton alternating bass guitar and organ bass pedals. Therefore, the Hammill, Banton, Jackson and Evans quartet is considered the classic Van Der Graaf Generator's line up, and were they, that recorded and released their following great masterpieces.

'H To He, Who Am The Only One' has five tracks. The first track 'Killer' written by Hammill, Chris Judge Smith and Banton is a catchy and beautiful dark song. The saxophones of Jackson and the organ of Banton are present continuously and are very well supported by a brilliant rhythm section by Potter and Evans. This is one of my favourite songs from the band. It portrays the usual hunting musical atmosphere that this band is able to create with their music. The second track 'House With No Door' written by Hammill and Jackson is probably the most calm and beautiful ballad composed by the band and it's also a rather depressing track, lyrically speaking. It's a very delicate and dark song and is also one of my favourite songs from the group. It can show us how great this group can be, even in their quietest musical moments. The third track 'The Emperor In His Room' written by Hammill is a track divided into two parts: 'The Emperor' and 'The Room'. This is another very dark song, which is about the consequences of living a life of war and death and describes the act of a tyrant with torture and the dying of the emperor, with some very violent lyrics. It's the fear and aggression that speaks here. This is another brilliant piece of music with great lyrics and with a magnificent flute work by Jackson. Here we can listen to the guitar work of the master Robert Fripp who plays guitar as a guest as he also did on their next album 'Pawn Hearts'. The fourth track 'Lost' was written by Hammill and is also divided into two parts: 'The Dance In Sand And sea' and 'The Dance In The Frost'. This is another brilliant track. It's a song about loneliness, lost, love and madness, also with very good lyrics, which is a Hammill's traditional trademark. There is a lot of musical variety in this piece of music. 'Lost' is one of the most depressing pieces of music written by this brilliant artist called Peter Hammill. The fifth track 'Pioneers Over C' written by Hammill and Jackson also contains the usual hypnotizing sax and keyboard musical lines. 'C' is the scientific name of the speed of light, and this song is a sort of a musical interpretation of faster than light travel and its consequences on the travellers on their voyages. Musically, it's one of the strongest songs on the album, which sounds great, and finishes perfectly well, this wonderful masterpiece. 'Pioneers Over C' represents a mature and complex end to a superb collection of songs.

Conclusion: In my humble opinion, Van Der Graaf Generator have five studio masterpieces, 'H To He, Who Am The Only One', 'Pawn Hearts', 'Godbluff', 'Still Life' and 'World Record'. Unfortunately, of all these five masterpieces 'H To He, Who Am The Only One' is the only one that I own a copy only a few years ago. Due to the high quality of the others, I had never paid much attention to it and I always thought that it probably wouldn't be at the same quality level as the other four. I was truly wrong and I'm deeply ashamed of it. But now, I'm finally doing justice to this another great album released by this so fantastic and unique band. To my taste, this is probably the most beautiful of all their albums. 'H To He, Who Am The Only One' was probably released too early for the progressive standards, but it remains, as unique as it was then. It has so many parts of Van Der Graaf Generator's music that have set the benchmarks for many bands to came next. I really think that every musical progressive collection should have, at least, three Van Der Graaf Generator's albums, 'H To He, Who Am The Only One', 'Pawn Hearts' and 'Godbluff'.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Report this review (#1540875)
Posted Friday, March 18, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars Would Give a 4.5 But Can't. Hot off the trail of their second album "The Least We Can Do...", Van Der Graaf Generator comes at the listener with full force in this epic 45 minute album. Although it is still a little rough around the edges, this album can be considered as one of VDGG's best. Song topics include feelings of depression and loneliness (aka an everyday walk in the park for Hammill).

Killer starts off the album, and it does so flawlessly. This track, about a shark who kills everything and then gets lonely, is considered a staple of the band's live set, and a staple of their discography in general. Its a jarring, proggy mini-epic that deserves all the recognition it gets.

The House With No Door slows things down a bit, though still discusses the same depressing topic as Killer. I personally prefer this track over the former, but both are amazing. This track is piano and vocal-led, and features some of Hammills best vocal performances to date.

The Emperor in His War Room is the next track, and an epic one at that. Fun Fact: This track features King Crimsons Robert Fripp on guitar, and boy does he play his guitar. The inclusion of Fripps searing, epic solo was a smart choice on the bands part to evolve the sound of the song that much further. The song itself has an interesting topic matter: It is about an emperor who tortures people and starts wars, but the ghosts of those he killed come back to haunt him. Amazing track.

Lost is another great track, if not a little too long. It may drag at times, but man, this track is amazing, Featuring some of Hammills most straightforward songwriting, the band had to go back and add instrumental passages to add to the song length and depth. An amzing and strange track, but like I mentioned, they could have cut the song length by 2 minutes and still gotten the point and effect of the song across.

Pioneers Over c is a nice epic and a great way to end an amazing album. I have the same problem with this track as I do with Lost, though, I feel it can drag a bit at times. Nevertheless, it is a great track and a great addition to the album.

I hope you enjoyed my review of H to He, Who Am the Only One! - Scorpius

Report this review (#1638301)
Posted Wednesday, November 2, 2016 | Review Permalink

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