#Musicaparaelencierro. Y seguimos a puro y diro VDGG en el blog cabezón, en una semana donde gracias a José Ramón nos dedicamos a repasar algunas de sus más emblemáticas obras. Y para no ser menos, cerramos la semana con "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other", una obra emblemática que fue seminal para muchos estilos, desde el punk hasta la música de protesta, y definiendo un estilo diferente dentro de lo que luego se conocería como "rock progresivo". En muchos aspectos el segundo disco de Hammill, Jackson y compañía es un hito dentro del rock, cuyo legado es difícil de definir e incluso donde muchos lo olvidan como fuente de inspiración de tantos artistas "consagrados". Aquí tienen, un grito seminal del mejor rock, de mano de unos tipos que se dieron a conocer con el pomposo nombre de Van der Graaf Generator, sacando un disco con título aún más pomposo, pero que bien vale tenerlos en el espacio de grandes discos del blog cabezón.
Artista: Van der Graaf Generator
Artista: Van der Graaf Generator
Álbum: The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other
Género: Progresivo ecléctico
Género: Progresivo ecléctico
Vamos con el segundo álbum de los VDGG. Muchas boludeces se hablan en todos los terrenos, en todos los campos, en todos lo ámbitos, y en la música en particular y lo cultural en general no es el caso contrario. Tenemos, como lo hemos comentado anteriormente, la falsa dicotomía entre música "buena" (docta, culta) y música popular (básica, boba), mientras que para nosotros existe música buena o mala, o vanguardista y que rompe con esquemas, porque vemos muchos casos de música popular de la gran puta, sin ir muy lejos tenemos a los brazucas de Gismonti y el álbino mágico de Hermeto Pascoal que basan mucha de su música y composiciones en variaciones de la música popular para crear de la mejor música "culta" que se pueda escuchar. Y podemos sumar y sumar.
Punk and prog don’t mix? Think again, and think hard. And if so, then how come Mark Smith auditioned for Henry Cow, and was still so hurt by their rejection that he called them anti-New Wave snobs in a 1978 letter to me? And how come Howard Devoto and John Rotten ripped Peter Hammill vocal inflections off note-for-note not just in Magazine and PIL but even in the early Buzzcocks and Pistols days? Prog wasn’t all Genesis and Gentle Giant, baby. Ever heard ‘Close to the Edge’ in isolation? Without the wide-eyed George Formby-isms of ‘And you and I’, it’s a massive (though horrible) stun attack clawing and yammering its barbarian way to some kind of enlightenment. It’s Magma’s fascinatingly bad 2nd LP 1001 DEGREES CENTIGRADE mercifully de-loused of all the Blood, Sweat & Tears jazz. Chris Squire never lost his psychedelic roots even if Bill Bruford never gained them, and there’s plenny more out there without having to resort to the kind of Canterbury cup-of-tea Gong/Caravan/Hatfield tosspottery beloved of so many.Julian Cope
Otra es, y también ya lo hablamos anteriormente, la tonta y solo aparente competencia entre el punk y el prog, como si el punk no pudiese tener dosis de musicalidad (si no lo tiene es porque no lo quieren o porque el estilo se rindió al sistema, pero ese es otro tema) y como si el prog no puede ser rebelde y rabioso.
En el año 1975 Peter Hammill manifiesta ideas sumamente críticas sobre lo que él denominaba el "Rock Glamoroso" de la época, volcando las mismas en su álbum Nadir’s Big Chance, cuyo sarcástico contenido fue considerado de gran influencia para el movimiento Punk. De hecho, el músico Johnny Rotten líder de la conocida banda punk Sex Pistols ha mencionado a esta obra como una de sus más importantes influencias.Wikipedia
Se da la circunstancia de que el disco "Nadir's Big Chance" fue una de las influencias de los Sex Pistols, aunque parezca mentira, y aunque no por eso podriamos decir que Peter Hammill fue una de las piezas que ayudaron a crear el punk, pero al menos dió el puntapié para que varios punkys escucharan y gustaran de la agrietud de Hammill. La historia la cuentan así: resulta que en plena eclosion punk, Johnny Rotten, lider de los Pistols, acudió a un programa de radio con algunos de sus discos favoritos, entre los cuales se encontraba un disco solista de Hammill, y ante la mirada estupefacta del locutor de turno, que le preguntó que hacia un disco de Peter Hammill entre los que habia traído, a lo que Rotten respondió que simplemente era uno de sus favoritos.
Los Van der Graaf Generator eran una especie de punks pero con estilo prog-rock. Con un oscuro líder visionario que escribía innumerables canciones desgarradoras y desesperadas que son portentosos psico-dramas profundos e íntimos. Quizás su música no tiene puntos en común con el punk, más si tomamos en cuenta que este álbum de sus primeros tiempos es más psicodélico que lo próximos que serían más eclécticos, pero con una actitud muy cercana a irreverente y desesperanzada rebeldía del punk.
Keith Ellis abandona el grupo y es substituido por Nic Potter, y al mismo tiempo tambien entra el saxofonista David Jackson, un hombre esencial para el sonido de la banda.Ferran Lizana
En este album ya podemos saborear el sonido de la banda casi en su plenitud, Hammill ya inunda todo el disco con su rebosante personalidad, y demuestra a partir de este disco, que es uno de los cantantes mas personales, imaginativos, expresivos y en definitiva, uno de los mas grandes que ha dado el rock, para mi es el numero uno junto a Peter Gabriel, y para mi tambien uno de los mayores genios musicales del siglo 20. Pero Hammill, a pesar de ser el compositor de practicamente todo el material de todos los discos del grupo, el indiscutible lider, cerebro y pieza clave de VDGG, no es el unico miembro importante, el resto de miembros son esenciales para la construccion del sonido de la banda, sobretodo Banton y Jackson, que con sus organo y saxo respectivamente, dotan la musica de Hammill de un sonido unico.
Tenemos temas tipicos donde contrastan los bellos pasajes con otros oscuros, tormentosos y dolorosos como Darkness (11/11), White Hammer con un final casi caotico, intenso y misterioso, y el sensacional After the Flood, tambien entre tetrico, caotico y melodico y el tema mas largo y representativo del album, que enlaza con sus siguientes obras. Piezas agresivas y furiosas como Whatever Would Robert Have Said?. Tambien preciosos temas melodicos y tristes como Refugees o Out of my Book, de gran belleza. En definitiva, el primer album esencial del grupo.
Y vamos con varios comentarios en inglés... y esto no termina acá. Hagan lugar en sus discos duros...
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.Sean Trane
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 ».
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.
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.César Inca
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.
"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.Ben Miler
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.Carl
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.Eetu Pellonpää
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!!!Sead S. Fetahagic
"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.NetsNJFan
(I am tempted to give it five stars simply for "Refugees", but that is not quite fair).
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...
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).Martin Vengadesan
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!
This review is about the remastered version of "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other". It is the first of a series of remasters of all main Van der Graaf albums to appear in 2005.Peter Eisenburger
"The Least We Can Do" was the first "real" Van der Graaf album as Peter Hammill states. The sound of this remastered version is thrilling. You will hear this record as if you would hear it for the first time.
If you want to hear what VDGG _really_ played at the time, if you want to hear all the instruments seperated and clear, and if you want to know how great VDGG really were: purchase the remasters.
I especially enjoyed Peter Hammill's sweet bitter voice in the beginning and the end of "Refugees". It seems as if he stands right beside you in the same room. Delightful also to be able to clearly recognize the experiments and distortions with instruments and voices that have been done in the studio under the supervision of John Anthony.
I am happy that no emphasizing of special instruments and no fitting to "modern taste" has been done with these remasters.
As the music itself the CD album too has been edited with much love and care. The extensive booklet - containing a long introducing text, formerly unpublished photos, images of all the historic sleeves and labels, and the lyrics - hijacks you to the world around 1970, when "The Least We Can Do" was recorded. It was the first record the Charisma label published.
Thank you all the people who were involved in the remastering project, especially Mark Powell und Peter Hammill himself. They did a great job. I only hope the whole PH repertoire until the end of the 80s gets republished again also. A must for VDGG and Peter Hammill fans, an interesting addition to any collection of "progressive rock music".
Very good album here...José Antonio García-Ramos
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.
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.Marc Baum
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)
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.
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive music
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.Björnar Lunde
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).
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.thellama73
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.
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).Daniel
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.
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.John Davie
"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.
This is classic.
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''apps79
...an 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!
"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.Thomas Szirmay
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".
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.Patricia O'Bee
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.
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.Scott Tuffnell
'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.
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.Henk van der Hoff
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.
Van der Graaf released two full studioalbums in this important year for progressive rock, Wave being the first of the two. It is a lonely album in their impressive discography for quite a number of reasons. It's naive, it's recorded very direct and it has some of Graaf's best songs. Just songs. It's less progressive then followup H to He and far from the level of progressiveness of Pawn Hearts. Recently, even my progbuddy progrules got into this album, he used to dislike Van der Gaaf very much.Friso
Though it's less progressive, this one of most likable albums of their career. Peter Hammil's voice is maybe best recorded on this album and he sings better then on Godbluff. The organs of Hugh Banton sound very warm, this gives this album a sort of cultfeel. It was recorded in 1969 and the best sounds of the late sixties are combined with the total new way of playing progressive music in the seventies. This overlap might be a keyelement, for me and for those who like the early progressive period (1969).
Opening track Darkness is indead angry and dark, the saxes are furious and Peter is honestly mad (as it seems..). Everytime the song starts I get blown away by the amazing warm sound of this album. Refugees might be THE gentle track of the Generator. An amazingly nice wind intro, gentle chord progressions and lovely vocals of mister Hammil. In the middle section the organs sound is again very good. A great track recorded masterfull. White Hammer has a hard rock-influenced sound and it soots VdGG very well. The wind section is great in the refreins and the refrein has a sort of plot in it's melody that makes it very interesting. The dark ending section is a bit too extreme and psychedelic, but the sounds are againg very interesting.
On side two Whatever Would Robert Have Said? and Out Of My Book are some more great songs with nice solosections. The melodies are fine and inspired, the vocals are great. After the Flood is the most epical song on the album. Mosts parts of it are very good, some are less good. The epical compositions and form of the song isn't that evolved, but the lyrical context is inspiring. The song could be seen as a good prediction of what's to come on their later albums.
Conclusion. This is a VdGG that just works very well. Great songs, great sound. I somehow got very attached to this particulair album.
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.Bogdan Olariu
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.Tom Ozric
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.W. Arthur
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.
"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.Dave Wicket
"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.
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.Dave
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.
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.Stefan Turner
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.Robert W. Brown, Jr.
"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."
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.wooF
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.
Otra vez, podría poner muchos más comentarios, pero no tiene sentido. Para mí, este disco no llega a la genialidad de los oros discos que presentamos hasta ahora, pero no deja de ser un disco buenísimo. Ahora sí, vamos a ir de "Godbluff" hacia adelante...
Disfrutenlo. Y el festival de VDGG continúa en el blog cabezón...
Lista de Temas:
1. Darkness (11/11)
3. White Hammer
4. Whatever Would Robert Have Said?
5. Out Of My Book
6. After The Flood
7. Boat of millions of years (Bonus track)
8. Refugees (single version) (Bonus track)
1. Darkness (11/11)
3. White Hammer
4. Whatever Would Robert Have Said?
5. Out Of My Book
6. After The Flood
7. Boat of millions of years (Bonus track)
8. Refugees (single version) (Bonus track)
- Peter Hammill / lead vocals, acoustic guitar
- Hugh Banton / organ, piano, backing vocals
- Nic Potter / bass, electric guitar
- Guy Evans / drums and percussion
- David Jackson / saxes, flute, backing vocals
Gerry Salisbury / cornet "White Hammer"
Mike Hurwitz / cellos "Refugees"