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Van Der Graaf Generator

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Van Der Graaf Generator The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other album cover
4.08 | 1238 ratings | 73 reviews | 34% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1970

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Darkness (11/11) (7:27)
2. Refugees (6:22)
3. White Hammer (8:15)
4. Whatever Would Robert Have Said? (6:17)
5. Out of My Book (4:07)
6. After the Flood (11:28)

Total Time 43:56

Bonus tracks on 2005 Charisma remaster:
7. Boat of a Million Years (3:50) *
8. Refugees (single version) (5:24) *

* Respectively B- & A-side of 1970 Single

Line-up / Musicians

- Peter Hammill / lead vocals, acoustic guitar, piano (2)
- Hugh Banton / Farfisa organ, piano, backing vocals
- David Jackson / tenor & alto saxophones, flute, backing vocals
- Nic Potter / bass, electric guitar
- Guy Evans / drums, percussion

- Mike Hurwitz / cello (2)
- Gerry Salisbury / cornet (3)

Releases information

ArtWork (UK): VDGG, C.C.S. Advertising & Jim Flynn (design) with Ged Grimmel (photo)

LP Charisma - CAS 1007 (1970, UK)
LP Probe ‎- CPLP 4515 (1970, US) Different cover art

CD Charisma ‎- VJD-28072 (1988, Japan)
CD Caroline Blue Plate ‎- CAROL 1826-2 (1992, US)
CD Charisma - CASCDR 1007 (2005, Europe) Remastered by P. Hammill w/ 2 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other ratings distribution

(1238 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(34%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(50%)
Good, but non-essential (13%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by The Owl
4 stars Dark, scary, gothic and yet oddly hopeful in parts ("Refugees"). This is where their sound started to form. Good Halloween disc (especialy "Darkness 11/11" and "White Hammer" (the ending is the sound of impending doom!)

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars With this album, we plunge into the fantastic world of VDGG without any hope or resurfacing or even finding an exit. If you got this far and had the urge to investigate this band, why would look for an escape, anyway? So with the first album of the classic era, VdGG with its almost definitive line-up (only bassist Nick Potter will make an early exit) strikes for gold with this album. I will review the remastered album as the difference is enormous compared with the first generation Cd (not necessarily all that positive, because the remasters are horribly EQ'ed), which I never owned as I had friends lending them to me, until recently as I bought the Mini Lp sleeves, which comes very close to capturing the excitement of the big vinyl covers, this being valid for the next two albums also.

Right from the first seconds, can we tell the difference with the wind noises of the opening track Darkness (written on a Nov 11, hence the second part of the title), do we hear Jackson's first growls on his sax sounding like a mist/fog horn (much the same way he will do in the Plague Of The Lighthouse Keeper), something I had simply never heard before even after some fifteen years of listening to the album. Darkness is gaining tremendously from the remixing and is even more awesome (and awe-striking). Refugee is also profiting from the remastering job as the cello is clearly better heard as well as the bass guitar. The album version is more easily recognizable than the single version available as the second bonus track. White Hammer is still the monster track it ever was but the remastering job was not as good as I was expecting it to be: The enormous effect-laden sax-induced screams supposed to represent the torture of the Spanish Inquisition is still atrocious (which it is supposed to be since it is torture) but till way too loud and really ruins the enjoyment of the track. Oh well! "Un coup dans l' eau ŧ.

Side 2 ( I will always have problem not thinking of the VDGG vinyls) then starts with the average Whatever Robert (Fripp?) Would Have Said has some rare electric guitar from Potter and the no-less average Out Of My Book however flute-laden it is. Both tracks gaining little interest IMHO from the remastering job done on the album. Clearly the pinnacle of the album is the 11 min+ After The Flood. The sinister atmospheres and strong dramatics are clearly an acquired taste as is also the effect-laden Hammill screams still way too loud and unsettling, also maybe an odd choice in the remastering choices operated. Nevertheless the whole track is blood-curdling, not just that awkward scream. "Uncanny Masterpiece" would've said Roger Townstart, had someone not stolen his line a year before. The real gift of this releases is the superb B-side of the Refugee single Boat Of A Million Years , which blends really well with the rest of the album tracks. Actually since his track was not accessible to me for decades, it gets always a second and third spin.

The real interest is there to acquire those remastered Cds with worthy bonus tracks, especially if you make the fully justified financial effort for the mini-Lp sleeve. But you may not want to get rid of that first generation CD, because the remastering's EQ'ing will not be to everyone's tastes, namely in audiophile quarters.

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Having decided to stay as a proper band after the hazardous recording of their debut album, VdGG managed to make their musical offer progress along the road of stylistic maturity. You can notice without any doubt that the musicians are joining forces in a more cohesive manner: definitely, the entry of saxophonist/flautist extraordinaire David Jackson served as a mechanism to motivate the instrumental ensemble to work creatively on the increase of psychedelic intensity in the harder passages, and on the delicacy of the softer ones (the flute parts in 'Refugees' and 'Out of My Book' are just amazingly beautiful). With Jackson assuming a prominent presence in the band's sound, Hugh Banton feels specially challenged to explore his Gothic and orchestral leanings on his Hammond and Farfisa organs mostly (is that an organ on fire in the closing section of 'White Hammer'?). Meanwhile, the rhythm section of Evans/Potter lays a confident foundation for all this sonic amalgam. And last, but no least. on the front side, Hammill delivers a major level of energy and passion in his singing - influenced by Kinks' Davies and Bowie -, as well as a more interesting and varied poetry in his lyrics (ranging from the existentialist fury of the opening number to the anti-dogmatism proclamation in 'White Hammer', to free association in 'Whatever Would Robert Have Said?', to the scientific reflections of the closure). The opening number 'Darkness 11/11' is an explosive manifesto of angst towards the apparently lack of meaning in human life: though being a slow song, it serves as an energetic entrance. The lyrical beauty of 'Refugees' - one of my all time fave VdGG tracks - is just too captivating to be believed. but it is real, as it is majestic in sweet melancholy. Things get pretty rougher for the next two numbers: 'White Hammer' somewhat recaptures the mood of 'Darkness' taking it to a more frenzy level, while 'Whatever Would Robert.' sounds more ironic (inscrutable lyrics, indeed - not even Hammill himself remembers what they're about), something like a mixture of early KC and late 60s Dylan, including an effective sax solo in the middle. 'Out of My Book' stands out as one of the few really peaceful songs in VdGG history: the main key to its warm beauty resides in the delicious Barocco flute and organ textures. This one momentary rest gives the listener enough strength to face the powerful sonic display of the closing number 'After the Flood': had it been part of any of their two following records, it would have been less restrained and more fiery, but again, as I said in the first lines of this review, this record shows a VdGG headlong to their maturity, but not quite there yet. Anyway, it wouldn't take long before it happens. Not a perfect masterpiece, but a fine prelude to them - I give this album 4 stars.

P.S.: The few guitar parts that appear in this album were split between Banton and Potter.

Addendum: The 2005 remastered release includes two bonus tracks. The first one is 'The Boat of Millions of Years', which shows what VdGG's first album woulda have sounded like had hackson been a member at the time. The other one is the single version of 'Refugees', which is a bit shorter than the original - due to the presence of string arrangements and harpsichord during the second half, this rendition feels more majestic.

Review by Proghead
4 stars "The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other" was VdGG's second album, but the first with the classic lineup. David Jackson was now a member, and the band added Nic Potter (who left by 1971) for bass work. And of course, Peter HAMMILL, Hugh Banton, and Guy Evans. This album often shows VdGG at their more mellow side, like "Refugees", and "Out of my Book". "White Hammer" shows the band at their more aggressive side, and I remember the noiser passage of this song startled my cat. "After the Flood" is without the doubt the album's high point. The lyrics have obvious apocalyptic themes. I like the part where you hear this electronic voice yell: "Annihilation!". It sounds very much like a Dalek you hear on the BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who (I could almost imagine it saying, "Extermination", since the Daleks always had the habit of saying "Exterminate"). I wondered if members of VdGG were watching Doctor Who, because of that Dalek like voice included in the song. To me, I find their following two albums, "He to He..." and "Pawn Hearts" to be better albums, but this is still worth having.
Review by Carl floyd fan
5 stars VDGG really found there niche quickly with a mix of goth, art and symphonic, progressive rock all rolled into one. Plus the vocals are absolutely amazing, with so many different temperments from the calm, "out of my book" and "refugees" to the freaky sounding "after the flood" and "white hammer". This is an overall masterpiece and I would reccommend this as a good starting place for anyone who is new to the band. It will give you a good idea of what to expect from VDGG as a whole, with the jazzy elements, dark elements and the occasional light hearted passage with ever changing dynamics on the vocals.
Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Anybody interested of Van der Graaf Generator might start listening their records from this album, as I believe it contains the main elements of their artistic style found from their other major records. It is not also as difficult as some of their following albums, and not as clumsy as their first one in my opinion. "Darkness (11/11)" opens the record with subtle mysterious sounds, from where the song's musical forms slowly start to appear. A typical and really great composition is revealed, melodies shimmering anxiety, strengthened by Peter's aggressive wailing vocals reciting a long poem, supported with strong presence of bass guitar, keyboards and saxophone. These elements brewed in their first "Aerosol Grey Machine" have now matured to the sound, which dominates their heyday career starting from this record. "Refugees" is possible the most exceptional song here, being a ballad for hippies with chamber orchestrations and power and style, resembling slightly "The Whiter Shade of Pale" after the jazzier opening phases. At least this is my most favorite song of this band, areal anthem of anthems. "White Hammer" starts solemnly with the church organs, turning to more sinister sounds, describing the atrocities of medieval inquisition. The final moments of the long song start to chart the iconoclastic zones of aural terrorism, this characteristics found also from their two following studio albums. "Whatever Would Robert Have Said?" (Maybe "I'll play some guitar on your next album"?) is a more calmer melodic song driven by organ / saxophone / acoustic guitar, having jumpy phases and an calm floating middle part. It was also filmed to the German Beat Club television show, and I recommend to get those Beat Club DVD's for many really fabulous vintage music films captures. "Out Of My Book" is an acoustic ballad for guitar and flute, leading to the closing number "After The Flood". The eleven minutes long track starts again in a pretty way, and then moves to more disturbing areas of feeling. This song has most adventurous solutions of the album on it, and lots of rhythmic and thematic changes. Partly it is great, but I would have personally appreciated little more coherent arrangements, which probably would have killed the avantgarde elements intended. If you like this song here most, I believe you might like their "Pawn Hearts" album quite much. I liked the other tracks more, and as a whole I consider this as a very recommendable album.
Review by Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I just listened again to this album in order to be sure what I am writing. This was my favourite since some 20 years ago when I start listening to this kind of music. The magic is still there and it is even stronger. I still get the same shiver and a feeling of pure horror on the opening menacing sequences of "Darkness" like in those times when I listened it for the first time! "Refugees" is still one the most beautiful crying ballads I ever heard. Here the band was complete with Jackson and Potter, adding the signature sound of saxes/flutes and bass respectively. VdGG were somewhat peculiar band lacking the electric guitarist and bassist in most of their career, concentrating on the sounds of organ and saxophones. On this album, however, Potter (who would soon left the band to rejoin not earlier than 1977 "Quiet Zone") adds both instruments fantastically, giving a feeling of a "pure" rock band. This is evident in "Whatever Would Robert Have Said" and "After the Flood" where he plays additional electric guitar, with distorted feedback effects similar to the unique style of Jorma Kaukonen of JEFFERSON AIRPLANE. Having read other reviews, I carefully listened to the album again trying to find some weaknesses or inconsistencies but I could not. It may be a very personal adventure but I cannot help giving this wonderful piece of art the highest mark! Essential staff!!!
Review by NetsNJFan
4 stars "The Least We Can Do." is a very good offering from the seminal prog rock band, Van der Graaf Generator. This 1970 LP can really be considered the first true VdGG LP, as it is the first with the prominent sax and flute player David Jackson, and the first to embrace a fully progressive sound. It is much less psychedelic than 1968's "Aerosol Gray Machine", which initially began as a Peter Hammill solo album. From the first song (aptly named "Darkness") we immediately can see the path VdGG will take for the rest of the decade, dark atypical saxophones, crawling Hammond organs, and intense vocals from Hammill, all building up to a final chilling emotional climax. The next song is one of the most beloved in the VdGG catalog. "Refugees" is a song which defies description. It is a piece which features some of the most beautiful vocals and lyrics ever sung by Hammill on a VdGG record. This song never fails to evoke intense emotions in me, and most people that listen to it. It is both optimistic and melancholic at the same time, a truly gorgeous track. (Note: this was also VdGG's only chart hit, albeit in Italy, where they were very popular). The next track, "White Hammer", is a bit of a let down after the masterpiece that is "Refugees", and is overly long for its material. Things improve with "Whatever Would Robert Have Said?", which features very good lyrics (typical Hammill), but also typical VdGG music which does become a bit repetitive after repeated listens due to lack of instrumental variety. The next song is the weakest song on the album, which is a bit too gentle for VdGG, which thrives on abrasiveness. This song kind of meanders without purpose before ending, giving way to the album's epic, "After the Flood". This is another album highlight, a track full of social conscious and foresight. It speaks of impending global warming disaster, back in 1970. Quite impressive. Here they are able to construct equally ominous music for their message. Hammill, both lyrically and vocally is at his best here. They manage to inject quite a bit of variety into this 12 minute track, making it gripping through its entirety. It even has acoustic guitar alongside the ever present sax and organ, a nice addition. Of course this album is essential to any fan of VdGG or dark, gothic prog, but the fact is it is uneven and is only good, but it is an omen of great things to come from a very talented band - 3 stars.

(I am tempted to give it five stars simply for "Refugees", but that is not quite fair).

[i]After some review, I am bumping this album up a star. It is a bit better than I let on, but it takes time. A slow-burner. White Hammer in particular is a more powerful (if still stretched track) than I initially let on. Take this as you will...[/i]

Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A truly polarising group is Van De Graaf Generator. The intensely personal lyrics of Peter Hammill coupled by his fiercely dramatic vocal style (which to the unitiated will sound surprisingly like that of David Bowie) has unnerved more than one potential listener, and one can only imagine how this music would have gone down among the hippie crowds that VDGG first started playing to. Despite Hammill's larger than life presence, it's very wrong to think of VDGG as being a one man show. The group was also powered by the great sax-playing of David Jackson, keyboardist Hugh Banton and Guy Evans' relatively unnoticed drumming (note that guitar rarely came into the picture).

This album was VDGG's second and saw a drastic shift in style from the hurried opener Aerosol Grey Machine. Also featuring the bass playing of Nic Potter, The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other contains my single favourite VDGG song. I can't think of words to describe this sci-fi masterpiece that is Refugees. It's heartbreakingly beautiful, achingly sad, and incredibly dense with sweeping organ, cello, brass and choir parts, and a tale from Hammill who is scornful and mournful in turn. "There we shall spend the final days of our lives, tell the same old stories", he sings of his beautiful lost tribe. And I really don't know what to say. I confesss I rarely listen to this album without putting this song on at least thrice.

The rest of the album is only just very good, which is why, despite containing my favourite VDGG moment, it doesn't rank among my three favourite albums by this group. After The Flood is probably the first great VDGG style dark epic with loads of shifts in dynamics and a general ferentic sax and organ fuelled helplessness to it. Darkness, which enjoys a slow build up before taking life with a psychedelic solo and is concluded by some fat sax from Jackson, and White Hammer (which has a really ominous coda with some real "heavy-metal" distorted saxophone work) are fine in their own right, but would be surpassed by similar styled material on subsequent albums H To He Who Am the Only One and Pawn Hearts.

Whatever Would Robert Have Said, is a strange mixture of Hammill narrative and acid-rock freak outs, bur Out Of My Book, on the other hand, is one of the most light-hearted pieces VDGG put out (well certainly after Aerosol Grey Machine). This acoustic piece with a beautiful underused chorus and some delectable flute from Jackson certainly offers some much-needed respite from the otherwise unrelenting darkness that pervades most of the album.

A fine album, with many imposing moments, and one glorious, glorious sci-fi masterpiece, The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other is the first landmark VDGG recording ... but there would be at least three more to come! ... 82% on the MPV scale

Review by The Crow
4 stars Very good album here...

With this album Peter Hammill (what a wonderful singer!) and his partners began to sound really great, developing their so personal way of understanding the music. Sometimes soft and relaxing (Refugees, Out Of My Book...), sometimes dark and chaotic (White Hammer, After the Flood...), this album is full of details and really good music. Only some weak moments don't let this album being a masterpiece in my opinion, because all the tracks have a high quality most of the time.

Best tracks for me: Darkness (11/11), White Hammer and the outstanding After The Flood (very much in the style of later releases...).

Very recommended band and album for dark progressive's lovers.

Review by lor68
3 stars After their controversial (and immature too!!) debut album - except on the remarkable but not extraordinary song entitled "Necromancer" - the present work shows a more defined style: in fact the gothic mood by P. Hammil begins to emerge, by means of three dark songs such as "After the flood", "Darkness" and the ever-green "Refugees" (this latter still performed nowadays). Of course better things came afterwards, especially if you consider their best albums like "Pawn Hearts" or "H to He" . nevertheless you can taste the dramatic mood of P. Hammil, along with his typical stunning vocalism, which is already worth checking out at least. After all in these early years (especially when Pink Floyd and Soft Machine were the most successful psychedelic/prog bands, during some particular gigs in the UK) He began to develop such an interesting dark prog genre, which soon became his own "trademark", even though his success was not equal to that one acclaimed within the psychedelic circuits (do you remember the Ufo Club in London?!). By means of this "The least We can do." Hammil began to trace his definitive music path and in this manner it seemed He let his dark and dramatic music play without particular resistance from the usual listener.but after all, in spite of some intricate passages being so difficult to take, especially in the following albums (talking about his brainy approach), He was a unique artist, being able to reinvent himself several times in the course of his career. Well the present work it's only his first step, being anyway important from the historical point of view. Otherwise P. Hammil is a great vocalist and a diverse composer as well still today, and for me almost all his albums have got their own peculiarity, in spite of being tiring also "The least We can do." is interesting!

Final score: between 3 stars and 4 stars

Review by Marc Baum
5 stars Review of Van Der Graaf Generator - "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other" Remastered Edition

The debut "Aerosol Grey Machine" was more an Peter Hammill solo album than an real band work, all the songwriting and composing was under his direction. With the second record things changed radically. Any single member brought on creative ideas for the new record and finally this is the "real" VDGG debut. The band started to write longer, epic-styled songs like "Darkness", "White Hammer" and "After The Flood", which were all on the same high level and showed the independence of creativity, that the band explored to this point. In view on this, I feel somehow reminded on the process of Genesis after their debut, and the maturity on their second album. Musically you can't compare these two bands at all, but in historical point of view there are definitely some similaritys.

The remastered cd version by EMI released in 2005 is the definitive edition. It contains an digital mastered, larger sound, by far superior to the old version. The extensive sleevenotes, lyrics and band biography are essential items for the listener, to understand the background and involvements surrounded. The band also talks about compositional freedom inside of the booklet, and the album was recorded in four intensive days, full concentration by the members to deliver a great job, and that's what "The Least We Can Do." finally is, specially this remastered cd. There are also two bonus tracks, which are short, but round up the album perfectly. The first bonus track is "Boat Of Millions Of Years", which is a nice simple song, the second is the single version of "Refugees", with different arrangements and ideal fade- out for the finnish of the record. To that more later.

Track by track:

01 - Darkness: The title of the song is perfectly chosen - It says all about the band and their (new) image and they really started to discover it here. This song is magical, dark and colourful at the same time. An furious start all the way! (Track rating: 9/10 points)

02 - Refugees: This was the first song I've heard by them and brought me to tears as I heard it the first time. If there is one representative ballad for symphonic prog, that would be it. The song is about leaving home and go to another place to live there (a personal written piece by Peter Hammill). One of the most moving songs in prog! (Track rating: 9.5/10 points)

03 - White Hammer: An epic with an scary, harsh ending part, interestening lyrics and dark atmosphere throughout the song. (Track rating: 9/10 points)

04 - Whatever Would Robert Have Said?: A piece with relaxed intro but a wild, proggy middle-part, great guitar-work in the ending part. Variation in a nice way. (Track rating: 8/10 points)

05 - Out Of My Book: The second ballad on the album, with once more personal lyrics by Peter Hammill. The instrumental work is simple, but very effective, especially the acoustic guitar is very good, also the organ. Peter Hammill's voice is very sentimental and shining too. Nice piece! (Track rating: 8.5/10 points)

06 - After The Flood: The closing track of the original record and an fascinating epic. The song is about over eleven minutes long and isn't as aggressive as "White Hammer", but very beautiful, the flute part after three and a half minutes reminds me a bit on Jethro Tull, but that's only a personal opinion. Check it out, I somehow imagine Ian Anderson on flute here! The song is getting faster after more than five minutes and the saxophone of David Jackson takes a big part in duality with Hugh Banton's volcanic organ playing. (Track rating: 9/10 points)

Bonus Tracks:

07 - Boat Of Millions Of Years: The original album is already over, now there comes the first bonus track, which is in a simplier style, but with an anthemic chorus and memorable arrangements. Counts the album up a little bit (if this is possible). (Track rating: 8/10 points)

08 - Refugees (single version): Single version of the beautiful Refugees, seems like a revisition on the end of the record and rounds it up very well, that's how I like to have an album closed. That version is also quite different to the original version, with few different arrangements in instrumentation. This version was also part of a soundtrack, read more in the booklet. (Track rating: 9.5/10 points)

That was my review about this remastered edition of "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other", I highly recommend it to all prog/VDGG fans, even to those who have the old version of the album. If you want to be up to date, watch out for this superior cd in packaging and sound quality. I look forward to review the other VDGG Remasters in the next few days.

Record rating: 9 + 9.5 + 9 + 8 + 8.5 + 9 + 8 + 9.5 = 70.5 / 8 tracks = 8.8125 = 9

Van Der Graaf Generator - "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other": 88 % = 9/10 points = 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

Review by Bj-1
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This was Van der Graaf Generator's first step into the dark and uncompromising terretories, and about half of the material here is almost threatening in nature such as the doom laden "After the Flood" that by my opinion is the scariest track the band ever did, the last half of it representing the world flooding over backed up with even more disturbing music. Similar onslaughts can be found at the end of "White Hammer", a masterful dissonant conclusion that is probably the tensest moment in the british prog scene, a true volcano of organs and saxes.

The rest of the album is really good as well, "Darkness" effectively sets the tone for what to come followed by the beautiful "Refugees" that is easily one of Hammill's most emotional moments with the band. The overal quality of the album though is not as good as it's followers but it's still a solid effort (think "Trespass"-era Genesis mixed with the most chaotic moments of early King Crimson with shadows of Pink Floyd).

Review by thellama73
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars VdGG is a really excellent, yet often overlooked, group in the Prog Rock canon. Personally, I am drawn to their very dark sound and subject matter, and to the use of saxophone which is something of a rarity in this style of music.

The first half of this album is just perfect. Darkness 11-11 gets things going with a sinister bang, balancing creepy atmospherics and heavy melodic hooks. Refugees is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. It brings me close to tears every time. Side one concludes with White Hammer, a song about the Spanish Inquisition and their infamous witch hunts. Now here most people complain about the squalling sax, but I have to disagree. I happen to love loud, obnoxious saxophones, so if you're like me, you'll love this track.

Side two is where things begin to go wrong. The band seem to have exhausted all of their best ideas and turns in a set of mediocre tunes. The final epic, After The Flood, is in many ways the most disappointing track. I always expect the 10 minute plus epics to be highlights, but this one is kind of awkward and ends up being passable, but no more.

However, I think the excellence of side one warrants my rating of four stars entirely.

Review by ZowieZiggy
4 stars Thanks to the new line-up (Jackson is there) there is a significant change in the sound of the band in comparison with their first release. In 1969, their manager was a fed up with big labels, so he deicded to create one of his own. Charisma was born ! In 1970 VDGG (obviously) and Genesis were signed. Nothing less, nothing more. They will record this album in FOUR days (which is the double than for "the Aerosol...). I bought this album somewhere in 1974. It was my third VDGG (I worked backwards : the first one was "Pawn Hearts"). The opener "Darkness 11/11" set the pace to what VDGG will be known for : complex, intriguant, non-commercial music. This is a typical VDDG song (first period). It was written on November eleven (hence the title).

What comes next is, for me, one of the most beautiful song ever written. I bought this album a very long time ago, and still today after I don't know how many listenings, I always feel so deep in love with the track. The lyrics are so dramatic, Peter so intense. This song has passed the proof of time (I have been through quite a lot of musical experiences so far - almost forty years of music addiction, lots of genres involved).

Each time I listen to this song it is truely like an amazement. It is (for me) a shivering moment : I think of those millions of people for whom the West (or maybe the North now) is refugees'home. A song that really kicks your ass : not with the rythm of course but with the lyrics and Pete's interpretation and sincere emotion. WONDERFULL.

FYI, Mike & Susie (a future British actress) who are referred to in the song were old friends from Peter. They had shared a flat for about six months. When they were about to leave, Peter was full of melancholia that he wrote a song about people looking for a home. This nostalgia is magnificently rendered into this jewel.

"White Hammer" is another track in which Jackson's influence is truely noticeable. I usuallly do not like sax and related instruments but, boy ! David is really great. The scary finale is absolutely gorgeous (although difficult to access). Actually, I have never (and still don't) understood how I could love such a band as VDGG : they have everything that would usually make me run away from this : sax, very complex songs, cacophonic at times, tortured singer (great lyricist but not a great singer). I'll never know the answer but the fact is that I am a die-hard VDGG fan.

"Whatever Would Robert Have Said" is a weird track with strange lyrics ("I am the hate you still deny, though the blood is on your hands"). It is not very accessible. Quite experimental but so typical for VDGG. It switches often between very quiet accoustic moments to strong keys / sax.

"Out Of My Book" is a soft, fresh song, a bit like "Refugees". Very emotional and melodious. "After The Flood" is a great track. Heavy at times (keys & sax), jazzy & complex at others. But also melodious thanks to Peter's vocals. Jackson's work is really incredible here. Another highlight.

The directions for the future are all set. On the remastered version, there are two (short) bonus tracks : "The Boat Of Millions Of Years" (not bad) and the single version of "Refugees" which is substantially shortened. A very good album. Four stars.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars There are certain songs and albums that are able to bring me so much joy. I should also add to that vocals because when I hear Peter Hammill sing I can't help but smile. Mr.Hammill has said that this record is really their first proper album as it was truly a group effort where they put their hearts and souls into it.

"Darkness (11/11)" is the perfect opening track for this record and also one of my favourites. You can hear the wind blowing hard as bass and cymbals join in. Next up are the vocals, drums and sax as we now have a full sound. Now that's a way to build a song ! This is an amazing tune ! I don't know why but this brings out my emotions it's so freaking good ! "Refugees" features beautiful vocals and lyrics. Heart rending lyrics actually. Flute and cello only add to this atmosphere. Some powerful organ 3 minutes in.

"White Hammer" is about witch hunting in the middle ages. More incredible organ and lots of tempo changes. There is an amazingly heavy and dark passage 6 1/2 minutes in as Jackson plays some ripping sax with dissonant sounds to follow. "Whatever Would Robert Have Said ?" is a crazy, psychedelic flavoured tune about their name sake Robert Van Der Graaf who invented the static electricity generator. Some good electric guitar on this track. "Out Of My Book" is a mellow song with strummed guitar and organ. "After The Flood" is a mind blowing song ! There are mood shifts throughout and a nice flute solo 3 1/2 minutes in. Hammill is at his theatrical best and check out the wall of sound that ends before 7 minutes. Dissonant sounds to end it.

Easily 4.5 stars and a must have for prog fans everywhere. This is classic.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other" is the 2nd full-length studio album by UK progressive rock act Van der Graaf Generator. The album was released through Charisma Records in February 1970. Itīs the successor to "The Aerosol Grey Machine" from September 1969 and features two lineup changes since the predecessor as bassist Keith Ellis has been replaced by Nic Potter, and David Jackson (tenor and alto saxophones, flute, backing vocals) has been added as the fifth member. "The Aerosol Grey Machine (1969)" was released under the Van der Graaf Generator monicker in an agreement with Mercury Records to release singer Peter Hammill from his contract with the label, but it was ultimately more a solo album by Hammill than a band effort.

Although most of the writing credits go to Hammill, the material on "The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other" was rehearsed and arranged as a band, with the other band members also contributing their ideas and compositional input to the basic song structures. While "The Aerosol Grey Machine (1969)" was a pretty raw and unpolished album, "The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other" is a more detailed and elaborate release. Producer John Anthony encouraged studio experiments including double tracking of Jacksonīs saxophones, and putting distortion filters on Hammillīs vocals. While the recording sessions were concluded after only 4 days, the result is a massive improvement over the material featured on the debut album.

The material is generally dark, heavy, and organ and vocal driven progressive rock. Hammill is an expressive vocalist with a distinct sounding voice and a commanding delivery, and his lyrics are quite interesting too. "Refugees" being a sort of romantic nostalgic tale of emigrants (I understand Hammill may have had another meaning behind the words, but thatīs how I interpret them), "White Hammer" dealing with the Malleus Maleficarum and the subsequent witchhunts, and "After the Flood" telling the tale of an apocalypse caused by a massive flood. Some tracks are dark and heavy ("Darkness (11/11)" and "White Hammer"), while others feature a slightly lighter but still melancholic atmosphere ("Refugees" and "Out of My Book"). The original album release featured 6 tracks, while the 2005 remaster features two bonus tracks, which are the two tracks from the April 1970 "Refugees"/"The Boat of Millions of Years" single. The single version of "Refugees" featured a nine-piece orchestra arrangement and itīs quite different from the original album version.

What strikes me the most when listening to "The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other" is how unique and original Van der Graaf Generator already were this early on in their career. The combination of Hammillīs voice and paatos filled (at times almost theatrical) singing, the dark organic organ and piano playing by Hugh Banton, the many great saxophone and flute parts by Jackson, the busy organic drumming by Guy Evans, and the solid bass patterns played by Potter make up a whole, that is unlike any other artist on the scene. There are some acoustic guitar parts here and there (played by Hammill), and Potter also plays some electric guitar (predominantly on "Whatever Would Robert Have Said?"), but the guitar is not a dominant instrument on the album, although "The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other" is probably the Van der Graaf Generator album featuring most guitar parts.

"The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other" features a detailed, powerful, and organic sounding production job, which suits the material perfectly and upon conclusion itīs not just a giant leap forward from the debut album, itīs also a high quality progressive rock album on its own terms. A highly original release fully deserving a 4 star (80%) rating.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Maybe among the most underrated of the 70's prog rock legends,VAN DER GRAAF GENEARATOR were born in 1967 under the influence of vocalist/composer Peter Hammill.Their first LP ''Aerosol grey machine'' (1969) was just a good psych rock album,however it was the arrival of saxophonist/flutist David Jackson that had a drastic impact to the band's sound.VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR were the first band to be signed by Charisma Records and in 1970 they released their sophomore effort ''The least we can do is wave to each other'' album with a unique sound based mainly on slow-tempo saxes/flutes/keyboards and the intense dramatic vocals of Hamill.Hardly you can identify any electric guitars in this work,but ''The least we can do...'' remains an excellent rock album built on a dark melancholic atmosphere,lyrical themes and amazing instrumental parts like flute-led harmonies,sax improvisations and some Hammon-organ magnificance..if my opinion counts to you, this work can be only compared with KING CRIMSON's originality,VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR's second album needs to be reached by any serious music/rock lover!

Review by LiquidEternity
3 stars Van der Graaf Generator is one of those bands that can really blow you away or can send nothing at all inspiring your way. I love the band, don't get me wrong, but there is very little in the way of spectacular on this album. All in all, it's pretty good, and solid enough, but not a good place to start, and not as powerful as their later stuff will turn out to be. Refugees is worth the price of the album alone, being a very nice little ditty about, well, refugees. The music is pretty soft, but with a beautifully awkward middle section that makes me smile every time. White Hammer is, for the most part, average, except for the vicious outro. I checked the booklet about five times to make sure that, no, that is not Robert Fripp cranking out that wickedly distorted guitar. A sick riff from well before sick riffs really were all that cool. Top it off with a wild, almost atonal saxophone solo, and you have the highlights of the album. The rest is alright, simply average at best.

All told, it comes to a middling rating, despite some good songs. Van der Graaf get much more exciting after this record, though.

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "The Tangerine Dream Police knocked on my door in the middle of the Knight Area, waking me from a comfortably numb Wakeman reverie and as I opened the Gates of Delerium, I was brutally propelled to the Pallas floor by a Starship Trooper who promptly read me my Wrights and Rushed me back to the Prog Colosseum on Sinister Street for further interrogation. The not so Gentle Giant promptly took my Passport so that I Can never Return to Forever. They had received a Weather Report concerning my IQ's inability to enjoy Van Der Graaf Generator and were curious to Focus on what kind of Triumvirat of Ekseptions I had committed. Yes, there was a Trace of Synergy in my lack of Sense of Solution to this horrible void in my massive Prog collection but I could never penetrate the Discipline of the Hammill Collage and found it to be Brand X. Not amused, The Rocket Scientists tied me to the Soft Machine with its huge Gong, hoping to Inquire about my Crime of the Century. The Druid even used a Glass Hammer on me hoping for a confession. The Khan wanted me to see the Clearlight. After Crying, I was released the next morning and ordered to begin my Renaissance Saga by listening to this album until I fall in love with it". This is what my favorite Prog Store owner did, in obviously less theatrical tones, to influence my continuing prog education. "You have a gigantic collection but no VdGG? That's not acceptable", was his comment on handing me this disc.

I see why it is not that obvious for me as VDGG requires a certain mindset, the stark almost gothic spirit that runs through its grooves weave a somewhat somber atmosphere that is light years removed from the more child-like Genesis fare. The lack of your standard electric guitar, here replaced by the austere saxophone style of David Jackson, the monolithic spooky organ that rejects any synthesized sound, the intense drumming of Guy Evans, all combined to scare me away from admittedly a Prog necessity. "Darkness (11/11)" is exactly that, a howling breeze introduces the piano/organ onslaught, sax blaring noisily and nastily, with the ghostly voice of Peter Hammill crueler than the wind at times, not an easy listen by any stretch. Very British in feel and tone, the Banton organ solo certainly evokes an aura of schizophrenic and psychedelic hysteria. "White Hammer" swells with a certain foreboding doom, swirling in nightmarish imagery, Potter's ballistic bass ponging all over the place, jousting with the surly organ ripples, while the raging vocals hurl bile at the sax's sardonic almost trumpet like refrains. Certainly way more intense than the parallel Genesis fare of the time, even when slowing down to a crawl only to blister back into sheer turbulent gloom, frigid keys fending off sweltering sax forays with impudence. "Whatever Would Robert Have Said" is also skewed with a contrasting cocktail of weird and soft passages, quite lurid and uneasy with cacophonic exhortations by all musicians, a trippy Nic Potter electric guitar laced jam gone berserk. On the other side of the spectrum , "Refugees" masquerades as a gentler lament, with Peter's higher pitched voice urging the lyrical despair of leaving one's homeland in a contrast of hope and pain , dancing an almost medieval dance around the sprightly Jackson flute and the almost Whiter Shade of Pale-like organ sluice. Admittedly a beautifully fragile song with a massive choir crescendo that certainly elicits goose bumps. "Out of My Book" is another typical whimsical british musical tale, spiraling in all directions, controlled frenzy where simple melody intercourses with dissonance, grandiloquent flutes fluttering "sans souci". Not exactly commercial or ear- friendly. "After the Flood" is probably where Gentle Giant got some inspiration, a bubbling brew of initially sweeter environments that slowly evolve into a more debilitating sound, almost severely disturbing, where flute and sax vie for supremacy, the bombastic swells of the hurled chorus maintaining this sense of dissonant manic imbalance that will certainly spook your local vampire. Hammill sounds almost like a mentally deranged Donovan, less mellow yellow and more raging gray, relying on that stinging, insistent chorus to keep grinding the theme into oblivion. Chilling soundtrack music for the Apocalypse. The bonus tracks are interesting , the short "Boat of Millions of Years" is a chilling ghostly exaltation, pent up fury and discord put into a pot pourri of sound, like psychedelic heavy free jazz fest. A single and slightly shorter version of the gorgeous "Refugees" puts this once controversial album to rest and I am forced to admit that there is certainly a lot to discover and admire, just never really looked in that direction. For some it's Giant or Embryo, for others its Henry Cow or Magma, my hard nut to crack is Van der Graaf. It's never too late to realize that "the least we can do is wave to each other". 4.5 mea culpas

Review by russellk
3 stars VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR are something of a cause celebre amongst prog rock fans, who love them for their darkness and unconventionality. They were the antithesis of the gentle, melodious sounds of symphonic prog: HAMMILL's half-spoken acerbic voice and strident, BOWIE-like delivery, JACKSON's brittle, dissonant saxophone and the sharp-edged timbre of the music all serve as unmistakable markers of this band. Eschewing moments of beauty, and most certainly going nowhere near the cheese and repetition of pop music, they are a compelling example of '70s progressive rock.

That doesn't mean this is a great album. VDGG are a lo-fi band, relying on basic sounds to create their effect, and the ponderous drumming and shrieking sax at the end of 'White Hammer', while having the requisite ominous effect, really has not dated well. Compositionally the songs are a mixture of structure and improvisation, the latter being rather unconvincing in places. The opening and closing tracks are the highlights, introducing the VDGG tradition of theatrical performance unmatched by any of their contemporaries - and no doubt explaining their popularity in Italy.

I see this album as 'Trespass's evil twin. Raw material in the formation of prog rock - certainly it spawned a whole sub-genre of psych-prog dissonant madness, much of it brilliant - but of itself not especially demanding, compelling or well-formed. The real VDGG masterpieces were, in my view, still to come.

Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Let the black clouds gather.

Though not always called their first album thanks to record labels slapping the band's name on what was supposed to be Peter Hammil's debut, The Aerosol Grey Machine, this really is the start of the prog behemoth, Van Der Graaf Generator [VdGG]. What we have here is one amazing first step for any band, and if this had been their sole output many of us would have been deeply satisfied (good thing they went on to make several albums on par or above this gem). I'll never forget the first experience I had with this band, reading about them in a special edition magazine all about prog back when my progressive scope was limited to Rush and a taste of Pink Floyd. The magazine said that whenever these guys played, it seemed like black clouds would gather overhead, that they were one of the darkest and most malevolent sounding bands to come out of the progressive golden era. And I agree heartily.

For those still unfamiliar with this group, VdGG is a very interesting group to first lay ear upon. No (lead) guitar, we instead have a lead saxophone and organs accompanied with madman vocalist Peter Hammil with his emotional, evil and British voice box at the front. While not a group that revolves around its front man entirely, VdGG do rely on Peter heavily for the moods in some of the songs, because as beautifully or as darkly as the band can play it's only accentuated by his voice. Take for example the heart crushing Refugees, a slow and serene song made into the song it is by Hammil's delicate delivery of the vocals. This is the kind of song that can bring tears to your eyes if you're not careful, as Hammil's voice and lyrics paint a very beautiful picture.

But while that may be a very pretty song on the album, the rest balance it out for the evil factor in a heartbeat. White Hammer is one of the songs often brought up for doing this, and for a reason. The song opens with some brooding organs before letting in Hammil's voice, gradually gaining volume until the saxes add to the mix until we get to the last two minutes of the song and the world simply begins to end, the entire instrumental section going into chaos in a kind of black cloud that eventually lets the song engulf itself (and the listener) in complete darkness. No prog fan should live their life without having said they've heard this song - truly brilliant.

Other songs on the album have different effects, although never really losing that dark factor. Whatever Would Robert Have Said is a bit more upbeat with its vocals and rhythm section, although it still has that cataclysmic chaos to it at certain points. Out Of My Book is another slower tune that's not quite as tear jerking as Refugees, but still very pretty and somewhat delicate with the pleasant flute section and acoustic guitar. The opener, Darkness (11/11) shows the audience what they're in for with a subtle intro of dark sounds, piano and drums with quiet vocals exploding into the chorus with Hammil and the sax at full blast at last. Some whispered voices make for another scary experience as Hammil continues his vocal rampage, Jackson close on his tail with the sax. This is a song that exemplifies what the band does very well, and based on this one song you can really see where the rest of the band's material over the years will come from.

However, the biggest standout on the album is likely the closer, the 11-minute After The Flood. This is a song whose style would be used a lot more on the band's next album, H To He Who Am The Only One, with it's heavy use of organ, and really would have fit well on that album as well. It's really the organ that takes the lead on this one even if the acoustic guitar and saxes fly around in the background. VdGG still lets loose with the chaotic sections such as Hammil's delivery of ''The ice is turning to water....''. Then, coming into the middle section we get barraged by a furious Jackson on the sax as the instruments all go to hell once more. Frantic and powerful drumming in there as well as the organ takes the lead with it's malicious riff. The volume picks up once more as Hammil and the boys take us onto the end.

This is a marvelous work by the VdGG crew that deserves full praise. Perhaps not for the weak-hearted, but what prog is? With enough malice and darkness to go around the table quite a few times this makes for an excellent listen and an excellent addition to any prog collection. 4 whit hammers out of 5. Evil, dark, and oh so good.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I first heard about this band when reading a Prog special magazine from the UK and I was intrigued as to what these guys sounded like as the magazine said the band played weird, unfriendly music that was dark and foreboding. So I bought one album after another and became engrossed in their unique eclectic sound. Van der Graaf Generator's The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other (Wave, will do for short) is another of the early albums of the 70s that relies heavily on experimental, improvisational techniques and complex song structures.

'Darkness 11/11' starts with a wonderful brooding, throb that pulsates before Hammill interjects with a quiet soft delivery, "Day dawns dark, it now numbers infinity..." It is Potter's bass that really shines on this track, and it is complimented by Banton's estranged keyboards, and an excellent saxophone by Jackson. All the mayhem is held together by Evans who drums in jaded rhythm patterns that somehow add to the gloom and sense of dread, "Don't blame me please, for the fate that falls, I did not choose it," it is one of VDGG's best.

'Refugees' relies heavily on keyboards, mellotron and is an ode to passing friendships, namely Hammill's long lost friends and flatmates, Susan Penhaligon who was an actress in the 70s, and classical musician Michael Brand. An edited single bonus track is included but the 6 minute version is the one to savour.

After this relative calm VDGG launch into 'White Hammer', a nasty ditty about the torture of witches in 1486. It is not as dark as it first appears, and sounds rather ambient in places, but the final piece segues into a heavy handed Hammond and saxophone break that really sounds off kilter to the max. It's about as weird and unfriendly as the band could get and has a chilling after effect. The track begins to gain momentum and is suddenly silenced.

'Whatever would Robert Have Said' is an underrated classic of VDGG, and improves on each listen. It features all the aspects of prog from jagged riffs to symbolic lyrics that reference the Van der Graaf Generator scientific instrument, that causes your hair to stand on end using electric pulses, "Flame sucks between the balls of steel, nothing moves, the air itself congeals."

'Out of my Book' is one of the more pensive, reflective tracks of the band, in a similar style to much of 'Still Life', and seems to be the calm before the storm. The storm is 'After the Flood', which is the perfect way to end the album. It's another mini epic that moves from sublime quietness to freaky outbursts of musical estrangement. When Hammill screams "Total Annihilation!" he sounds like a Dalek exterminating those who stand in the way. The saxophone takes on a morbid feel that is punctuated by drums and bass. Hammill ends with contemplative vocals, "When the water falls again, all is dead and nobody lives", and we believe him, such is the overriding and chilling conviction in his delivery.

'. Wave .' is another excellent album overall and features an interesting bonus track 'Boat of Millions of Years' which certainly is worth a listen, as is the edited 'Refugees'. A great VDGG album that showcases these musical pioneers and boundary pushing visionaries' impact upon the rock world.

Review by TGM: Orb
3 stars The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other, Van Der Graaf Generator, 1970


The Least We Can Do... comes a little before the thoroughly incredible H To He, Who Am The Only One, and is a good and fairly interesting album. However, though Van Der Graaf Generator would probably be my joint favourite band, I can't say that this compares very favourably with the following four masterpieces they were to release. Hammill's vocals are consistent and excellent, but certainly don't have the experimental and quirky edge which instantly drew me into the group's work. Equally, the instrumental and lyrical content is all quite strong with a number of high points, but still overall feels a bit vulnerable in comparison with the following albums.

I'd say that the two soft songs, Refugees and Out Of My Book, are a bit more successful than the aggressive and grandiose choices, and the album as a whole is fairly consistently solid, but the soul-tearing moments of instrumental fury are missing in a few places. Lastly, I actually dislike White Hammer's vocal section. Essentially a good album, with its own individual feel and merits, but more of an album for the band's fans than one I'd consider a general milestone of progressive rock.

The bleak Darkness 11/11, the lyrical opposite of Rush's Freewill (brilliantly phrased, denying the possession of Freewill and from a first person viewpoint) opens the album with incredible force, wind sound effects; neat basslines and piano pervade the piece. Jaxon's superb twinning of the electric sax and acoustic sax, comes to the forefront in the instrumental sections, and Banton and Evans, though not often coming to the forefront, are extremely effective when they do.

The gorgeous Refugees is an incredibly human and connective song about, essentially, leaving a way of life behind. Lush cellos and flute hold up the piece's substance, while Hammill's extremely high and clear vocals convey the remorseful lyrics ('we're refugees, walking away from the life we've known and loved/nothing to do nor say, nowhere to stay, now we are alone'). Throughout the piece, the vocals are changing, moving to a lower range, and being supplemented by substantial backing harmonies, and with them moves the music, incorporating superb percussion and piano (this time from Hammill). A truly beautiful song, with a lovely organ/flute ending.

White Hammer is the only Van Der Graaf Generator song I've so far heard that I actually dislike. Not only are the lyrics a bit of a mess, and lacking in impact, but the delivery is equally a little flat. Admittedly, a range of vocals are used, from grandiose to aggressive to a more intimate tone, but the final lyrical line, 'The white hammer of lo-ove' simply falls flat. There are positives to be had in the musical content, Hugh Banton's organ rocks appropriately, if a tad repetitively, in between its more reflective tones, while Nic Potter's bass is enjoyably mobile and energetic. The rather light cornet from Gerry Salisbury works quite well in providing a dated feel.

However, the real merit of the piece is the very, very strong instrumental conclusion that follows the rather weak vocal section. The organ takes on a bone-shattering force of its own, as do the saxophone wails. This gritty terror evoked by Jaxon and Banton and potent elephantine percussion lead the song to its conclusion.

Whatever Would Robert Have Said is probably my favourite of the album's darker and heavier pieces, with gritty guitar from Nic Potter complimenting Hammill's frantic vocals, the underpinning acoustics, and organ throbs, as well as a superb set of lyrics ('I am the peace you're searching for, but you know you'll never find/ I am the pain you can't endure, but which tingles in your mind'). All the performances are top notch, with David Jackson's soft sax complimenting the Frippish guitar wails suprisingly well. Mysterious, atmospheric and chaotic.

Out Of My Book is the album's second soft piece, with a rather more acoustic focus, and odd flutes and complimentary organs backing up the vocal changes. Guy Evans percussion is highly impressive here, adding in a few touches without intruding greatly, and Nic Potter's bass again is strong, adding an almost-plucked counterpart to the acoustics. The lyrics and vocals are sublime, and the piece overall is a complete success.

After The Flood is an awkward piece to review. Long and certainly grandiose, with a fierce set of sax riffs and organ additions, and enough neat additions from acoustics and all sorts of bizarre sounds to hold up the instrumental side (which includes a rather amusing Mission-Impossible-reminiscent-section). It is unfortunate that the highly repeated 'The water rushes over all...' and 'and when the water falls again...' are nothing more than grandiose. The delivery just isn't personal enough for my liking. Still, Evans is on top form, and there's plenty to enjoy, especially the 'And then he said: (Einstein quote here)' section. It just doesn't quite satisfy me constantly, which is a bit of a shame as an ending piece.

The two bonus pieces, a neat aggressive acoustic-led piece called Boat Of Millions Of Years, and a single cut of Refugees (substantially different from the album version, so still a worthy conclusion), are both strong and interesting. The former is strong on all counts, and fits in with the album's feel.

So, if, like me, you're a fan of Van Der Graaf Generator, this should definitely follow the four big albums plus the slightly (in my opinion) under-rated World Record, and should have more than enough good material to keep you satisfied, even if it's no match for Van Der Graaf Generator's string of masterpieces. If not, the soft pieces do need to be heard, but I can't imagine the album as a whole doing a lot for you. Characteristically dark, frenetic, multi-faceted and solid. Three stars.

Rating: Three Stars Favourite Track: Refugees

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Not much better then the debut in terms of quality but a great leap ahead in style. Considering this album is from '69, it is a landmark album in the development of prog. But trying to defend its historical value is not what keeps me awake at nights. The simple truth is that this a far from accomplished album.

Things start off pretty cool though. With Darkness we get a groovy track that sets off cautiously but gradually builds into a heavy bass driven organ and sax inferno. Great! Refugees is the closest thing VDGG would come to a pop song. It would match nicely on an early Hammill solo album but it's too lightweight here. White Hammer returns to the heavy sound of Darkness but lacks both the coherence and melodies to make it listenable. Mind you, in the last two minutes something finally happens and we get treated to a slab of frenzied sax compelled by an ominous and threatening organ groove. Awesome! Next on to 'side 2'. First of all I'm sure Robert would have said it was a very weak song. The next one, Out of My Book is a little gem but would have fit better on Hammill's Fool's Mate. After The Flood is another cumbersome try at progressive song writing but the material it is made off is too ineffectual to make it interesting to anyone but a hardcore fan. If you have the remastered version you can end in beauty with the entirely pleasing Boat of Millions of Years, one of the strongest short VDGG songs. Well, they only have 3 of those anyway right?

So if you're a devoted fan or plan on becoming one, you might give it a shot. Otherwise I would advice to keep it as the last album to visit. 2.5 stars for the original album, the remaster adds another half.

Review by progrules
4 stars This second release by VDGG was actually my first purchase of this band. I played it a couple of times a few years ago when I bought it, thought not too much of it and put it aside. When I got more and more involved with PA I found out this band is extremely popular with many proggers so I had to dig into their discography a bit more I figured. I bought Pawn Hearts, Godbluff and Still Life in a relatively short period and reviewed them all; the reviews weren't really positiv as VDGG will never be one of my favorite bands. I closed the VDGG book for a while until my progfriend Friso (kingfriso on PA) asked me about it since he happened to know this album was in my collection. Ashamedly I had to admit I didn't have a clue and I had to give it another go to be able to tell the outcome.

I played the disc a couple of times and because I by now could compare the music to three other VDGG albums I looked at it from a different perspective and I can tell you that helped big time. After these few spins I got more and more enthusiastic about this early effort I have to admit. I'll go through it song by song to give the respective opinions.

Darkness (11/11) is an energetic song with great and fierce sax by David Jackson and also impressive vocals by Hammill who appeared to sing much better on this album than on those later on. Superb climax at the end of the song as well. 3,75*.

Next up is my favorite track on this album and probably my most favorite VDGG song ever, Refugees. Not really fair by me because this is by no means a typical VDGG song because of it's beauty and great melody, features that are far from distinctive VDGG features. But I can't help it, I can only tell my truth, can't I ? I wish they played their music like this throughout their entire career but alas they decided differently and I will have to live with that i guess ... 4,5*.

White Hammer starts in a calm way but this lasts for a minute or so before Banton's organ accompanies and the song gets more powerful, I like the distant trumpet close to the three minute mark. This appears already the third song in a row that is a lot better than I could detect on any of their three so called masterpieces. Don't worry, it's just the opinion of a non fan so what do I know ? Raging ending of the song by the way. 3,5 stars for this.

Whatever would Robert have said ? is the intriguing title of the first song of the B-side (I reckon) but I fear it's the most intriguing aspect to me as I have a hard time to interpret this one. Second half of the track is ok with a great instrumental passage. 3,5*.

Out of the Book is the second gentle song on this album (along with Refugees) and also the shortest. Again I'm a bit mesmerized by it. The flute (Jackson) works nicely for me. 4*.

After the Flood is a short epic of over 11 minutes to close the album with a prominent Hammill once again proving he's a major factor on this album, to me his best vocal performance in the bands discography and then I'm talking about throughout the entire album. The second half of this song is the precursor of the next few albums by the band with distorted sax and organ going completely nuts just like they do on several occasions on Pawn Hearts. It would be inconsistent of me if I suddenly appreciated it here so I will have to subtract something in the score here: 2,5*.

But in the end it can't spoil the fun for me anymore for this album. I was harsh with my rating for Pawn Hearts but I still vindicate it. On the other hand I think it's only fair to compensate it slightly by rounding up the score here to four stars. I never thought this band could ever pull off something like this and also because of that I can justify the high score.

Review by friso
3 stars Van Der Graaf Generator's second album sees the band waving their sixties psych influences goodbye, though one could argue 'Whatever Would Robert Have Said?' and 'Out Of My Book' are still rooted in that musical period. Becoming ever more progressive in this period, the band offers three longer songs with extended song-writing and interesting structures. 'Darkness (11/11) is successful in introducing the audience to that Hammond organ based in-your-face doom only VdGG could cast. The band would combine the abstractness of progressive rock with a very unpolished, personal & direct performance of Peter Hammill - which still splits prog audiences in two. 'Refugees' is a churchy or gothic ballad and arguably one of the most beautiful moments of their career. That 'West is Mike and Suzy' line really hits. The longer tracks 'White Hammer' and 'After the Flood' have some grate memorable lines, but also some over the top avant-garde moments that I dislike. To my tastes, the band would greatly improve on that on the next album. The album has a nice warm sound, but towards the center of the vinyls the 'Famous Charisma Label' records would break up a lot in the high-end, distorting the ending sections of the epics. Perhaps I will buy a reprint these days. An album with both great moments and some 'misses' for me, hence the three star rating.
Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is the first real Van Der Graaf Generator album and the results are still somewhat uneven due to the fact that the band haven't yet come into their own. Having said that I really can't understand how they managed to improve so significantly on their next release that was released only within a mere time span of 10 month!

Refugees is a definite stand out track and I consider it to be on the same level as some of the band's later ballads like House With No Door from H To He, Who Am The Only One and Still Life from Still Life. The rest of the compositions have some minor flaws here and there but I honestly found it quite amusing to hear these unpolished works of art since they show exactly how Van Der Graaf Generator managed to develop these ideas later on. To put it in other terms, all the instruments are here, the only problem is that they don't yet manage to produce those sweet tones that we are so accustomed to.

After The Flood is the band's first stab at a lengthier composition and despite it being clumsy and underdeveloped the main idea is brilliant and I applaud them for such an uncompromising over-the-top approach to the material. Just listen to that crazy instrumental jam in the middle of the track and you'll see exactly what I mean!

If you're new to Van Der Graaf Generator then I would recommend listening to H To He, Who Am The Only One or Godbluff before approaching this release. Fans of the band's later albums will most definitely find this material to be an unpolished treat so my final grade should be somewhere in between the two!

***** star songs: Refugees (6:22)

**** star songs: Darkness (11/11) (7:27) Whatever Would Robert Have Said? (6:17) After The Flood (11:28)

*** star songs: White Hammer (8:15) Out Of My Book (4:07)

Review by TheGazzardian
3 stars This is arguably the first real van deer graaf album. By this time, Charisma had been formed and Van deer Graaf had signed to them. (in fact, Tony-Stratton Smith formed the label for vdgg).

The sound that the band would later become famous for is clear here, and this is no surprise, for what would become the classic line up is all present at this point, including bassist Nic Potter. The bands sound is typified by the aggressive saxophone attacks of David Jackson, the atmospheric organs of Hugh Banton, and the energetic drumming of Guy Evans. And while each of these players is an integral part of the band, Peter Hammil cannot be ignored, already the creative leader of the band, credited with the song writing of all tracks (sharing credit with David Jackson on Out Of My Book). He also brings his unique voice to the band, the voice which has been known to be either loved or hated. I, personally, love it, but would also state that on this album, the moments that I think are likely to cause a hate are less present.

In fact, compared to future albums, the band seems somewhat restrained - as if in this one, they have not yet quite found their limits, and it was in finding their limits that the band created some of their best moments. In this album, Guy's drumming is not yet quite so manic; Peters vocals not quite so extreme (thus why I think they are less likely to be hated here than on future albums), David's sax playing somewhat less intense.

There are no bad songs on the album. Darkness (11/11) is almost as cool as it's title; Refugees makes me think of what Rod Stewart would have sounded like with Van Der Graaf Generator as a backing band; Whatever Would Robert Have Said? is a very pleasing track with many interesting shifts and nice lyrics; and the best on the album, the one that hints at the heights the band would reach in this incarnation, After the Flood, is replete with contrast, energy, and aggression.

There are a few low points; Out of My Book, while nice, does not appeal to me in the way that most van deer graaf songs do, so I tend to forget about it, and while White Hammer is fine, it tends to drag after some time.

Ultimately, this album is enjoyable, but I rarely listen to it over Van deer Graafs masterworks, their next four albums, each of which reaches further, is more consistent, and stays strong after more listens.

Review by b_olariu
4 stars VDGG is one of the most important bands ever in progressive rock, they are so unique that not even today a band manage to create the turbulent atmosphere of their music. The second release of the band from 1970 named The least we can do is wave to each other is a fairly better album then their debut a year prior. The famous Charisma label was born in that year 1970 and the band sign with them, make them famous over the years, maybe not as strong as another giant of progressive rock music - Genesis. So , with this album VDGG took the music to another level, both musicaly and lyricaly. The music is very odd, in parts dark , but yet very complex for that times, progressive all the way with some fantastic lyrics made by one of the best musicians ever - Peter Hammill. The highlight is for me, as for many the turbulent Refugees, absolute fantastic and beyond words can discribe what this piece offer to the listner - magic. Another track that defines the bands atmosphere and musical adventures for the next 6 years is the opening track Darkness. So, overall an excellent second album, but yet so underrated in comparation with other legenday albums. Among their best, maybe not as good as the next ones, but still an excellent addition to anyones collection. 4 stars easy from here the journey begun for them, showing that they were and are among the best in this bussines.
Review by Tom Ozric
5 stars I've deliberately held off reviewing those LP's from my collection where the music has somehow burrowed its way into my sub-conscience, affecting my very psyche, influenced the way I live, how I saw things, what I dreamt and how I thought (well, maybe not that extreme, but the Hammer struck hard.....) for fear of offering a maligned rating. Van Der Graaf Generator's sophomore album 'The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other' is one such album. Absolutely amazing compositions - Hammill's overly dramatic vocal delivery (albeit at an early 'younger' stage here,) Hugh Banton's monstrously gothic Farfisa organ work, David Jackson's grating multiple Sax inventions and a deeply heavy rhythm section consisting of Guy Evans (drums) and then-teenager Nic Potter (bass) provided exactly what I was looking for with my music (as INXS, Kylie, Aussie Crawl etc. just didn't deliver.) First impressions last. Twenty-odd years on I still enjoy this album immensely, adding credibility to its longevity and relevance within Progressive music. Only was it years later I discovered that the album I bought for a measly 4 bucks at the time has a different version of 'Refugees' and a different mix of 'White Hammer' - and they're quite superior to my ears. Hammill's lyrics are mind- blowing - I mean, who, in 1969, sings of the Malleus Maleficarum (Heinrich Kramer's treatise on witches, issued in 1486) ?? This was heavy stuff to my ears. And the music - well, it's probably not everyone's cup of tea, but I strongly suggest to the inquisitive here to grab a copy of this album and open your mind, coz it's simply amazing, so much quality here to praise I can't say it's less than a masterpiece.
Review by Warthur
5 stars The first true VdGG album is an incredible performance from the band, which if there were any justice would have propelled them to the front rank of the nascent prog scene just as King Crimson's debut did them. If I had to pick out three albums to represent the end of the 1969s and illustrate the cultural shift from the optimistic and (arguably) naive views of the hippy generation to the darker and more foreboding tones of the 1970s, I'd pick out Let It Bleed by the Rolling Stones, the first Black Sabbath album, and this one.

I defy anyone to listen to the opening track, Darkness 11/11, and not have the hairs stand up on the back of their neck as the song begins. Guy Evans and Nic Potter establish a foreboding, marching rhythm, Hugh Banton's keys whisper of supernatural forces gathering, and Hammill's vocals begin as whispering rumours and rise to bellowed prophecies of utter destruction. David Jackson's blaring saxophones sound like the last trump and band gets into full swing. Hammill's lyrical subject matter over the rest of the album ranges from refugees escaping the end of their former life to benevolent magic standing tall against evil forces until we get to After the Flood and the gradual lowering of the floodwaters unleashed at the start of the album. In each case the band as a whole devote themselves entirely to realising Hammill's visions in musical form; Refugees in particular has an eerie beauty to it which places it in the front rank of the band's output. A truly remarkable debut, particularly considering the rapid growth evident in Hammill's songwriting, and genuinely sounding like nothing that preceded it. If this doesn't deserve five stars, nothing does.

Review by Wicket
4 stars "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other" will go down in history as, not only a progressive rock album with a very interesting title, but as the record that jump started a British leviathan that would take the prog world by storm, even if they were hiding in the shadows the whole time.

"Darkness (11/11)" would definitely start that trend. Even though there were many albums in the future where Peter Hammill sounded like crap, his vocal performances on this album, and particularly on the aforementioned "Darkness (11/11)" and ballad "Refugees" would send him to stratospheric heights in comparing him to the likes of David Gilmore and Jon Anderson as some of the most iconic voices in prog rock history. Wheras the former was a showcase of musical talent, as well as David Jackson's flaming saxophones, the latter was a cool breeze in the autumn air, a ballad that showcased everything beautiful in life. Quite a contrast in the first two tracks, but a unique quality that made the is band famous.

"White Hammer" would switch back to the guitar chugging shield that would back Hammill's heart-piercing spear of a voice. It develops into an almost free-flowing jam with Jackson once again taking the lead with his saxophone until it dissolves into Nic Potter's lone fuzzy bass before a dark, ominous beat takes center stage, once again fronted by Jackson's mutated saxophone (easily similar to the sax playing evident in The Mars Volta's music).

"Whatever Would Robert Have Said?" is an interesting change of pace from the long spaced out jams of "Darkness" and "White Hammer". After a great intro by Hugh Banton, it sort of falls into a sort of "Jethro Tull-esque" jam, with acoustic guitar and wonderful overlaying harmonies by Jackson and Banton. It's a very nice song and Potter shows off some good licks. Great melody, great harmony, very exciting track.

Speaking of "Jethro Tull-esque", "Out Of My Book" is straight from that book. Hammill and Jackson pair acoustic guitar and flute to wondrous amazement. This is where Hammill really starts to shine vocally. A nice ballad with folk elements that reveals the softer, less hectic side of this British outfit, and another quality element that would increase their popularity in the years to come.

Finally, the record concludes with "After The Flood" which, once again, starts off in that brash intro with Hammill crooning in spears mouths and Branton once again with a great intro. It's a wonderful epic and a fantastic finish to a fantastic album. There's no loss of excitement here as each beat comes with it a uniqueness completely original to VDGG, which is why this is one of the most critical prog albums of the decade.

The '70's heralded the emergence of prog rock, and Yes, Pink Floyd and Kansas answered the call in the name of symphonics and elaborate passages. Van Der Graff Generator, however, took the low road to focus on more than just symphonics and high pitched vocals. This album, along with King Crimson's "In The Court Of The Crimson King" would spark the emergence of eclectic prog. Essential for any follower of this outfit and this genre.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars I never had this album on LP. In fact, I didn't hear it until just a few years ago when I found a used copy of the CD. I have a feeling that I wouldn't have appreciated it as much back in the seventies. Now, I rather like it.

The album is the first of the classic VDGG releases. It shows the band just getting into the style they have become known for.

The first two tracks, Darkness (11/11) and Refugees are good prog pieces , but neither shows much of the brashness of Peter Hammill and the group. It's on White Hammer and Whatever Would Robert Have Said?, where they begin to experiment with some explosive sections and wild solos.

Out Of My Book, the only track not solely written by Hammill (it was co-written by David Jackson), is so pastoral, it almost seems out of place.

After The Flood is the gem of the album. It almost sounds heavy enough to be on the next album, the great "H To He".

I'd give this one 3.5 stars, rounded up.

Review by Prog Sothoth
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I dig how the opening ambience actually sounds like an aural representation of the album cover. I'm not sure what exactly is going on, but it's cool, spacey and it's a bit dark. Created in late 69 and released in early 70, "Least..." is the sound of some psychedelic rockers awakening from some far-out celestial voyage at some crumbling ruined city, and lost amidst all the rubble are wondering "Where are we and what the hell happened?" The 60's are over, Peace and Love is a done deal, uncertainty and fear remain.

One of the best musical representations of the year 1970, even if created just a bit earlier and wasn't exactly a representative concerning Billboard charts & such, this album captures a sense of desperation, sorrow, fear and tenseness that few others could at the time. There's still some psychedelic rock flavor here, which is probably why I find this album to be my favorite of theirs so far, and the first I really really enjoyed (Still Life and even Pawn Hearts haven't quite clicked). There's also a ton of experimental prog with some gloomy and downright bleak passages that are occasionally offset by some lighter pastoral sections, which is always a good way to strike a sort of vividness to the heavier portions of a musical piece.

All of the songs range from excellent to astounding (yes, there's a difference...I think), with "After The Flood" in particular being not just an incredible and harrowing tune, but a convincing death knell to the "summers of love", with everything being flushed away to prepare for a new dawn, so to speak. "White Hammer" is another corker, with it's wild lyrics depicting the Inquisition alongside some odd verses.

"White Hammer no more is beaten"

Every once in a while my sick mind interprets things in a genuinely wrong fashion. Interpreting the last couple of minutes of "White Hammer" though is quite easy. It's as dark as any dungeon-like early Goth music and utterly foreboding without the need of distorted guitar wails. The sax can be quite an effective instrument for sure.

There's a lot to enjoy within this, in my opinion, masterstroke of art, from the heartfelt delivery of "Refugees" to the acid guitar freakouts in "Whatever Would Robert Have Said?" and plenty of little moments here and there throughout the album as a whole. The dated production doesn't really detract from the musical experience for me, and the variation, song lengths, and overall package make this a no brainer as an important document in the growth of progressive rock and the boundaries it can encompass. The musicianship is fantastic and excessively creative in the songwriting department without going overboard in the 'freakout' department, and the vocals are theatrical and suit the music well without ever striking "annoying" territory. This is pretty much my kind of jam.

Review by stefro
5 stars The group's first album proper - 1969's 'The Aerosol Grey Machine' was in actual fact a Peter Hammill solo effort released under the VDGG name due to various complex contractual reasons - 'The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other'(so named after a quote from British artist John Milton) began an extraordinary run of studio albums that not even the group's premature demise and eventual re-forming mid-way through the 1970s could halt. Issued on Tony Stratton-Smith's 'progressive' charisma imprint, Van Der Graaf Generator's darkly- poetic musical vision began here, the 'classic'-era line-up of Peter Hammill(guitar, vocals), Hugh Banton(organ), David Jackson(sax) and Guy Evans(drums) augmented by original bassist Nic Potter on an album brimming with Hammill's laconic lyrical themes, bravura instrumental interplay and a musical vision quite unlike anything heard before. Even within a burgeoning genre that, at the time, was considered new and radical, Van Der Graaf Generator were an outfit considered even more so, making their distinguished peers - the likes of Genesis, King Crimson and ELP - seem tame in comparison. The pulsating brew of squawking saxophones, semi-screeched vocals, throbbing bass-lines and doom-laden organ-shaped atmospherics makes for an, at times, astonishing listen from a group half-dipped in the art-rock canon; however, this is also an outfit that knows just when to rock out, and rock out they do. Opening gambit 'Darkness' captures the bleak Van Der Graaf Generator ambience almost perfectly, building up across its seven carefully-layered minutes from simple acoustic origins into a sonic maelstrom of un-blinking power-prog. However, it is the glorious epic 'After The Flood' that truly captures the group at their creative apex. Starting out - again - as a strummed and stripped- down medley, 'After The Flood' grows spectacularly through myriad sections of glowering cacophonies, taking in mad-jazz histrionics, blazing guitar squalls, gruesomely-distorted vocal screams and pulsating bass-and- organ-fried blasts before settling down(or should I say up?) into a beautifully upbeat denouement as Hammill growls majestically over a killer guitar solo. A truly epic track, 'After The Flood' may be Van Der Graaf Generator at their most daring, yet conversely it finds them also at their most brilliant. 'The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other' would begin a series of revelatory albums, followed on by 'H To He Who Am The Only One', 'Pawn Hearts' and after a much-needed hiatus, 'Still Life' and 'Godbluff'. These five albums showcase the very best of one of progressive rock's most distinct outfits, the journey beginning on this convention-shattering glimpse into the darker realms of the genre. In a word then: extraordinary.
Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The Least We Can Do is Wave to Each Other is an album that I somehow associate with In the Court of the Crimson King. It brings together peacefulness, melancholy, and derangement all under one roof. Underappreciated Nic Potter is the star of this album.

"Darkness (11/11)" Boasting one of the grooviest bass lines in progressive rock music, "Darkness (11/11) is my favorite Van der Graaf Generator tune following "House with No Door." The marching snare and brass provide appropriate variety. As is his wont, Peter Hammill wavers between a soft falsetto and an angst-ridden rasp. The instrumental passage contains one of the most intriguing tones I've ever heard.

"Refugees" Childlike with trickling keyboard and light vocals, "Refugees" slowly adopts a memorable and anthem-like quality.

"White Hammer" Similar to "Darkness (11/11)," "White Hammer" has a prominent bass role, although the organ features more. And again, the vocal delivery is dynamic and remarkable.

"Whatever Would Robert Have Said?" This is one of the more uneven tracks, less coherent than the others. Each component of the song is eccentric.

"Out of My Book" Gentle with flute and engaging vocals, "Out of My Book" still has that vigorous bass. The acoustic guitar adds a refreshing flavor.

"After the Flood" A quirky Gentle Giant-like main theme opens the final track, maintaining the acoustic guitar. "After the Flood" contains just the right mixture of zaniness and catchy songwriting. The instrumental section in the middle screams "madness."

Review by siLLy puPPy
5 stars Coming to this album after hearing all the classics that followed first I didn't have high expectations but I have to say that this album is one of the best surprises in a long time. VDGG wasted no time on this first true album of theirs rocketing from proto-prog psychedlia to a full blown progressive monster.

This album showcases the musical talents of each member showing no problem taking on a fully developed darkened atmosphere replete with Gothic organs, dual saxes, full on jazz-fusion with layered symphonic effects and extremely pleasant melodic developments with frenzied freak-outs appearing in the mix. Add all the interesting strange time signatures and diminished doses of psychedelia incorporated with the rest and it is in effect the most experimental album I can think of for 1970.

In addition, Peter Hammill really goes to town in both the lyric and vocal departments. I am absolutely astounded by how well this album comes together and flows seemlessly from beginning to end despite the healthy number of influences on board. Highly recommended as THE first stop on the Van Der Graaf express.

Review by ALotOfBottle
4 stars "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other" is the first album that really made Van Der Graaf Generator stand out. Still not as complex and dark as their following works, but this one created basis for masterpieces like "Pawn Hearts" or "H To He Who Am The Only One". It shows a strong progress from their already steady and extrordinary, but rather comic debut, which followed many trends of psychedelic movement. A virtuoso saxophonist David Jackson joined the band giving it a rather jazzy and unique feel, somewhat inspired by John Coltrane and even Ornette Coleman. Again, Peter Hammill is the mastermind behind this work. A superb poet, musical genius and an outstanding, creative composer. Every instrument works like a Swiss watch. The music on "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other" incorporates elements of passing psychedelic rock, folk, jazz with romantic-era classical music sensibilities. Still not what we would call full-blown progressive rock, it encourages many qualities of so called "proto-prog". "Darkness (11/11)", a theatrical and relatively eccentric piece is in my opinion the highlight of the album and a spark of what would be to come. Recommended! Should be found in every prog nut's collection!
Review by Matti
4 stars As the second album and the first proper [or progressive] work by an extraordinary band on the way of finding its real outstanding essence, this is to VDGG's discography what Trespass is to Genesis, VDGG's labelmates in the newly found Charisma. I have given the latter a full rate here (which I maybe shouldn't have done, on second thought), but to me personally The Least We Can Do doesn't quite have the same aura of a classic criminally overshadowed by the albums that followed it. Nor is the artistic progress from the debut quite as impressive as in the case of Genesis, even if Aerosol Grey Machine was originally intended to be Peter Hammill's solo album. Further similarities with Trespass: both contain six tracks (3+3) and are produced by John Anthony. The Least... was recorded in December 1969 and was released in February 1970, whereas Trespass was recorded in the following summer and released in October.

The long title is adapted from the words "We're all awash in a sea of blood, and the least we can do is wave to each other" by John Minton, a British painter. The apocalyptic theme -- captured also in the cover art -- refers mostly to the final track 'After the Flood', in which Hammill cites Albert Einstein, who was worried about the arms race of Americans and Russians. Quietly starting 'Darkness (11/11)' opens the album effectively. I've always wondered about the '11/11'; Wikipedia says it comes from being written on 11 November 1968. 'Refugees' stands out in the VDGG output as a romantic ballad that Hammill wrote for his ex-flatmates Mike and Susie. It's very accessible also for the vocals, and its slightly sentimental passion is impressive. The mysterious 'White Hammer' was inspired by Medieval witchcraft; genuine VDGG all the way! The whole A side is excellent, but the B side is more uneven.

The title 'Whatever Would Robert Have Said?' refers to Robert J. Van de Graaff, the inventor of the Van de Graaff generator that the group took their name from. This is the least succesful track on this album, I think. 'Out of My Book' is even more tender and "pretty" song than 'Refugees', perhaps a bit lame but beautiful nevertheless, especially for the flute of David Jackson. 'After the Flood' is doubtlessly the most progressive and strongest composition of the six. However, it's not among my favourite epics from VDGG. All in all, what was to follow is SO much more impressive that this deserves "only" four stars.

Review by VianaProghead
4 stars Review Nš 147

'The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other' is the second studio album of one of the most original British progressive rock bands of the 70's, Van Der Graaf Generator, and was released in 1970. Although it can be considered the second official studio album of the band, it's, in a certain way, the first proper album of the group. This happened because their previous debut studio album, 'The Aerosol Grey Machine' should have been released as a solo album of Peter Hammill, but due to a deal with the record company. It was released under the name of Van Der Graaf Generator.

'The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other' was recorded at Trident studios in London in December of 1969 and all songs were written by Hammill with the exception of 'Out Of My Book' which was written by Hammill and David Jackson, and Hugh Banton wrote the cello parts on 'Refugees'.

The line up of the album is Peter Hammill (vocals, acoustic guitar and piano on 'Refugees'), Hugh Banton (backing vocals, piano and organ), Nick Potter (bass guitar and electric guitar), Guy Evans (drums and percussion) and David Jackson (backing vocals and flute, tenor and alto saxophones).

The title of the album was based on a phrase taken from John Minton who was a British painter and an illustrator of landscapes, portraits, and figures, as well a theatrical designer: 'We're all awash in a sea of blood, and the least we can do is wave to each other'.

With this album, the band established their style and it sounds more impressive than the first one, probably caused by Jackson, who joined in 1969. The songs have more progressive influences and the overall sound is excellent. Drum section is very good and Banton organ is also awesome. Guitar parts are almost simple but this doesn't matter because piano, organ and sax replace it. Very strange and fantastic are sax parts. The way Jackson plays the instrument is innovative. Like in all other albums, the lyrics are wonderful. Despite Hammill has a very peculiar and strange voice, he can use it in an awesome way. The changes of tone from loud to silent, from high to low makes his vocals intensive.

'The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other' has six tracks. The first track 'Darkness (11/11)' is a great opener for the album and is also one of the best songs. This is a song dominated by the continued presence of the keyboards of Banton and by a very good and strong bass line. It's the song where we can hear, for the first time, the incredible and unique sound of the saxophones of Jackson. This is a great track. The second track 'Refugees' is the most sentimental moment on the album. This is a very beautiful song, very melodic and peaceful with nice flute by Jackson. It's a song that reminds me very much 'Running Back', the third track of their debut album 'The Aerosol Grey Machine'. This is one of the most beautiful songs written by Hammill. The third track 'White Hammer' is an intense dark song about the torture and the crimes of the Inquisition in the fifteenth century. It's a song dominated by powerful saxophone and great keyboard works with good dark lyrics. The music in the end is very aggressive, dissonant and disturbing, providing us a dramatic final. The fourth track 'Whatever Would Robert Have Said?' is a good song with several different musical passages and with different rhythms throughout the song. We can consider it one of the most progressive songs of the album. However, it isn't one of my favourite songs on the album and isn't as good as all the previous songs. The fifth track 'Out Of My Book' is the smallest song on the album. It's a very different song, a light, melodic and beautiful ballad, which we even can say that it's unusually melodic for Van Der Graaf Generator. This song reminds me, in some moments, the second studio album of Genesis, 'Trespass'. Like the previous song I think it isn't as good as the other songs of the album. The sixth track 'After The Flood' is the longest song of the album. It's the epic song on the album and I think it's also its highlight point. This is a song progressively and gradually very well developed with different musical passages, some more aggressive and some more melodic. This is a perfect end for this amazing album.

Conclusion: 'The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other' is without any doubt the first great studio album of Van Der Graaf Generator. It has everything what made of this band be so great. It has the complex, dark and beautiful lyrics of Hammill and also his beautiful, original and unique voice, the fantastic keyboard sound of Banton, the incredible sound of the saxophones and flute of Jackson, the original drumming of Evans and the strong bass line of Potter. Like 'Trespass' from Genesis, 'The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other' is an album almost perfect. Comparing these two albums, we may say that both are near of the perfection and both show the type of music that both bands wanted to do in the future. For me, there's only a slight difference between both albums. The music on 'Trespass' is more simple, pure and na've, while the music on 'The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other' is more complex, mature and adult.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Review by jamesbaldwin
5 stars After the shy but beautiful debut album, psychedelic and acoustic, Van Der Graaf with Nic Potter on bass and Dave Jackson on sax and flute, they churn out a second album light years away from the first, and representing in my opinion one of the greatest rock albums (not only of progressive-rock) of all time. Everything on this album is exceptional: the beauty of the melodies, the complexity and quality of the musical score, the arrangement, the performance of the musicians and the singer, the lyrics, the variety and quantity of the musical material offered in only six songs.

The first, "Darkness", which opens with the roumors of the wind, is emblematic of a sound, a mood, an atmosphere: it is the emblem of Van Der Graaf's music: powerful, epic, threatening, gloomy, frightening, distressing, existential. There is no space here for the sounds and phony lyrics of King Crimson, Genesis, Yes contemporary albums. Van Der Graaf, namely Hammill, confronts the solitary and alienated existential condition of modern man. And so we hear a desperate voice hovering above the din of a distressing music where the bass infuses terror with its cadence, where the sound of the sax is excruciating, it is a scream that invokes hope. Hammill stages an expressionist theatrical music that reaches, with the synergy of musical instruments, voice and text, heights of pathos very high and unmistakable and unforgettable. Absolute masterpiece. Rating 9.5.

"Refugees" begins with a church organ that brushes a delicious, wonderful, hypnotic melody of those that enter your head and heart and leave you astonished, infleve into you enveloping you, imposing yourself, possessing you, to lead you to the heights of poignant, melancholy, elegiac beauty. Banton is the decisive element: in this song he uses three different keyboards (and Hammill plays the piano), creators of the melody, but fantastic is the orchestral arrangement with cello (Mike Hurwitz) equally important, and then the flute, bass and drums. Hammill's voice is sweet as it will hardly be yet in the future, but the piece also contains melodic and rhythmic changes that have the merit of not being pedantic and not dispersing the hypnosis of melody, which leads you to ever deeper melancholic emotions. Absolute masterpiece. Rating 9.5. I don't know if I know another album with the first two songs of such high quality, and of so complementary mood and pathos.

The third song, "White Hammer" brings the album back to normal: it is a great piece, which for many other artists would be the masterpiece but that here, in the presence of two songs worthy of entering the rock olympus, is just a small masterpiece. The song has a menacing incest as the first, but the arrangement is less condensed, leaving more space for keyboards and bass, which paint large spaces; in particular, it is the cornet (Gerry Salisbury) that give a martial sound to the song. But when Hammill's vocals come in and Guy Evans' drums, which has so far remained "quiet" (but they will become more and more overflowing in upcoming albums), explode, there is an excellent rhythmic progression, relentless, enthralling. Then there is the final tail, a stroke of genius, which makes the first side finish in a grandiose way, with a frightening sound. Rating 8.5.

What a first side! Listening to such a beauty raises the fear that the second part is not up to scratch.

The first song of the side B begins with a solo on Evans' drums, accompanied by Jackson's sax, which then leaves space for the vocals and guitar, first acoustic (Hammill) and then electric (very acidic, played by Potter). It returns to the climate of terror of the first facade but not so obsessive; in addition, here you can hear pieces played by the electric guitar and sung by choirs that seem to evoke a psychedelic atmosphere. Hammill continues to show off a very high-level expressionist singing, which makes him one of the greatest singers in the history of rock (again: not only of progressive rock). The instrumental moment sees acid guitar, Jackson and Evans do virtuosity, orgasm sound from terror, then end with Hammill, tender voice and acoustic guitar... and again ending with terror atmosphere with acidic sounds. We're at the fourth masterpiece on four songs. Rating 8.5/9.

The fifth song (Out of my Book") is prog-folk, dominated by organ and flute, with almost no drums (it doesn't beat on the snare), bucolic folk melody, vaguely acidic-folk. It serves to catch your breath from the terrifying and claustrophobic atmospheres heard so far: this song is sunny, airy, almost pastoral, evokes wide spaces, or perhaps gardens among the meadows, but always with a fundamental restlessness: the song is well riteed and the bass of Potter is always looming. It is the shortest track and, like the second of the first side, has the function of attenuating the terrifying mood of the songs alternating with a lighter and melodious one. These last two songs contain psychedelic reminiscences of the psychedelic reminiscences of the first album. This piece is good but not a masterpiece. Rating 7.5/8.

The last song, "After the Flood", opened and concluded with "This is the ending of the beginning", alternated with acoustic guitar and organ, has an unfolding verse-chorus, in which are interspersed pieces of instrumental jam that make it the first real mini-suite by VdGG and the more experimental song on the album, more progressive, in a certain sense... what sense? In the sense that it is the most elaborate, the longest, the one with the most instrumental variations on the theme, with changes of time and musical arrangement. But is that good? For a group capable of producing beautiful melodies and touching a huge pathos, arousing emotions, like VdGG, isn'nt always good, because it means hitting the listener more to the head than to the heart, with the risk of distracting him from fully enjoying the pathos that music can create. This song is the summa of VdGG's music, their manifesto, because it includes all the elements of their sound, of Hammill weltanschauung. Rating 9. In terms of music quality, there is just a slight drop in the second side.

Van Der Graaf with this record have already given all the best of their repertoire: lyrics and existentialist music, epic and terrifying atmosphere, flashes of beautiful melancholy melodies, arrangements that reach a cacophonous paroxysm, with saxophone excruciating and mighty bass, overflowing drums and organ to contain all this, theatrical singing, expressionist by Hammill. How can we do more? In the next two albums, Van Der Graaf, to do more, will focus on producing longer, more elaborate, more distressing songs, but what they will gain in cerebral and paroxysm, will lose in melody and immediacy. The pathos and theatrics will always remain very high, but more facing gloomy nightmare atmospheres.

Rating album: 10/10. Absolute masterpiece of rock music. Five Stars (If I could, I'd give six stars).

Review by Hector Enrique
4 stars The beginning of the successful saga of the British would not start with the psychedelic and rudimentary "The Aerosol Grey Machine" (which took the name of the band more for contractual than musical reasons), but thanks to their second release, "The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other", an album that made its way in the dawn of the progressive scene of the early 70's.

The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other" contrasts dark landscapes like the demanding "Darkness (11/11)" and David Jackson's incisive saxophones almost on the verge of asphyxiation, and the spell of "White Hammer" and its disconcerting ending, with sublime moments of luminous fragility like the beautiful and unmissable "Refugees", where an emotive Peter Hammill, without falling into the mellow, caresses the verses instead of singing them. But it is not until the last track of the album where the full-fledged progressive traces of VDGG arrive, the extensive and intricate "After the Flood". Hugh Banton's keyboards and David Jackson's saxophone engage in an intense overlap for the spotlight, while Hammill accompanies them with acoustic guitar and his particular vocal stamp. All in all, an ideal closer for the album.

"The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other" is, besides a very good album, the basis for the consolidation of the band's future sound. From that moment on, VDGG would privilege the development of extensive songs impregnated with jazzy elements, unhinged improvisations and sublime melodies, all wrapped up by Hammill's enveloping personality.

4 stars

Latest members reviews

4 stars In late 1969, VdGG's manager formed Charisma Records and signed the band as the label's first act. They immediately set about recording their second album, The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other.  The Least We Can Do solidified Van der Graaf Generator's signature sound, and the album cover its ... (read more)

Report this review (#2938667) | Posted by TheEliteExtremophile | Tuesday, July 11, 2023 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Not the best VdGG album, no. But their first great one? I'd say. I'm conflicted about VdGG's catalogue, but this album I very much like. It's got all the elements that would make up the remainder of their career: cryptic and varied lyrics, a sinister atmosphere, and an organ heavy sound with few ... (read more)

Report this review (#2134608) | Posted by KarnEvil2000 | Wednesday, February 6, 2019 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Like all great progressive rock records released on the formidable heavy, post-psychedelic scene that is 1970, it fulfils its purpose in transcending you to another dimension. Van Der Graaf Generator's first worthy offering "The Least We Can Do" certainly achieves this, by attaining an incredibly de ... (read more)

Report this review (#987954) | Posted by Xonty | Friday, June 28, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Van der Graaf Generator has always been an interesting band and is something of an acquired taste. While they are nominally considered a progressive rock band (specifically eclectic prog) they typically eschewed the symphonic flourishes of contemporaries such as the Moody Blues, Yes and Genesis ... (read more)

Report this review (#946120) | Posted by Fenrispuppy | Thursday, April 18, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The second album labeled as a VdGG effort, though this is really where the band began if you ask me. "The Aerosol Grey Machine" was more of a PH solo effort, and frankly the difference is quite substantial even though Hammill remains the main songwriter also in VdGG. This album features a quinte ... (read more)

Report this review (#913318) | Posted by Josef_K | Wednesday, February 13, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other is basically VDGG's first album. Here they are still taking shape musically and structurally. In doing so they created a remarkable record. There are some ideas on this record that were abandoned shortly after. Such as some of the ethereal flute dominate ... (read more)

Report this review (#871427) | Posted by ster | Tuesday, December 4, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Van Der Graaf has truly developed their sound at this point. Dark, powerful stuff. And in this case, while never being too fast paced. Almost a haunting, eerie calm. The guitar is an interesting addition (as they'll get rid of that piece very soon) but still the keyboard, drums, and horns have th ... (read more)

Report this review (#811040) | Posted by Raccoon | Monday, August 27, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I bought this album from itunes about a month ago, my first Van der Graaf purchase. I didn't really know what I was letting myself in for, what with all the conflicting views I'd heard about the band in general. I'd also read that Peter Hammill's voice wasn't for everyone. But let me tell you, ... (read more)

Report this review (#411081) | Posted by Tull Freak 94 | Friday, March 4, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The Least is the Best. How can this absolute masterpiece of progressive rock have a rating less than four stars? Today on the site I see an unbelievable scores of 3.92 and still can not believe it. "The Least" is part of a triptych of unforgettable masterpieces, together with the following " ... (read more)

Report this review (#401176) | Posted by Dark Nazgul | Tuesday, February 15, 2011 | Review Permanlink

2 stars The pieces for a very good album are all here, but there's a lack of cohesion between instruments, theme and vocals that hurts the album. Peter Hammill is a good songwriter-what he lacks in subtlety he makes up for with captivating imagery- and an interesting singer with a definitively unique ... (read more)

Report this review (#339483) | Posted by 40footwolf | Tuesday, November 30, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This album receives the same rating as Aerosol Gray Machine but for different reasons. Frankly, I think the songs on Aerosol have better melodies and more diverse arrangements. I also think that the lyrics in Aerosol are better. Oh, the lyrics here are more complex and about heavier subjects but ... (read more)

Report this review (#299951) | Posted by SonicDeath10 | Tuesday, September 21, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other" starts VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR's classic period. Their debut was a somewhat flawed, psychedelic rock influenced album. Here we see the band finding their sound. Overall it's one of my favorite VdGG albums. Peter Hammill's vocals and David Jackson's s ... (read more)

Report this review (#279335) | Posted by Utukku | Sunday, April 25, 2010 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Most people would probably say that VDGG's truly classic period started with H to He, but I would strongly argue that this album marks the beginning of that period. I think this one tends to get a bit of bad rap, due to some poorer production. The original CD release is indeed of a very thin so ... (read more)

Report this review (#199254) | Posted by Eapo_q42 | Thursday, January 15, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars --- 3,5 stars really The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other sees the entering of David Jackson to the band, and his Sax and flute melody's greatly contributed to the sound of VDGG, together with Hugh Banton's organ works the foundation for the VDGG sound was layed. Nic Potter adds some ver ... (read more)

Report this review (#164012) | Posted by tuxon | Saturday, March 15, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Most people consider The least we can do is wave to each other to be the first Van Der Graaf Generator album, and while it has that characteristic VDGG sound, i tend to see it as a prelude to what was to come. What to expect from this album if you, like me, aproach it with prior knowledge of th ... (read more)

Report this review (#162268) | Posted by Evans | Wednesday, February 20, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars If you exclude "The Aerosol Grey Machine", which was really a Peter Hammill solo album released under the VDGG name for contractual reasons, then "The Least We Can Do.." was the band's first album release. It is one of three that I will occasionally cite as "my favourite VDGG album", the other ... (read more)

Report this review (#157130) | Posted by alextorres2 | Sunday, December 30, 2007 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Van Der Graaf Generator. the epitome of darkness in progressive rock, how suiting that the first song on their first notable album be called Darkness. With the lineup of this band in a transitional stage, the material is slightly inconsistent. There are a few strong tracks, like Darkness and White ... (read more)

Report this review (#154602) | Posted by The Ace Face | Friday, December 7, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars While not as experimental or bizarre as the albums following it, The Least We Can Do is still a great VDGG album. The first song builds and builds with a fantastic Hammill vocal and some great organ work from Banton. Jackson is a bit more restrained on this album than he would later be, but a f ... (read more)

Report this review (#125664) | Posted by infandous | Wednesday, June 13, 2007 | Review Permanlink

2 stars I'll keep short as I've reviewed 4 other VDGG albums, all with mostly the same conclusion. Same sounding (to my ears) organ playing from one album to the next, with little noticeable variation. I won't comment on the lyrics, as I believe that without good music, the lyrics don't make the differen ... (read more)

Report this review (#115124) | Posted by | Wednesday, March 14, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars It would seem that the remastering process came just a little to late to save the single version of refugees which sounds a little worse for wear (time) Otherwise the sound is very good at least on a par with the original Pink Label release and superior to all later pressings. This is an awe ... (read more)

Report this review (#95318) | Posted by burgersoft777 | Saturday, October 21, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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