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


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

4.31 | 1563 ratings

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Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
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.

Cygnus X-2 | 4/5 |


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