Hace ya mucho tiempo hicimos un show VDGG en el blog cabezón, una banda que ha sacado algunos de los mejores discos de rock de todos los tiempos... pero que no tiene ni un solo coro pegajoso, con melodías tremendas pero ni un solo hit a lo largo de su historia. Alguien el Face cabezón preguntó que hubiese pasado si habrían metido un par de canciones entradoras y hubiesen pegado en la radio, pero ya entraremos en el terreno de las suposiciones. Lo que sí es verdad es que fue una banda que ha inspirado al punk y al gotic, además de a numerosas bandas prog de todos lados y todo momento, pero sin embargo a veces uno se olvida de nombrarlos cuando hace un recuento de las agrupaciones indispensables. La contribución musical de esta gente es mayúscula, y es por eso que nuestro amigo cabezón José Ramón nos trea nuevamente este disco a la palestra. Todo un indispensable!
Artista: Van der Graaf Generator
Artista: Van der Graaf Generator
Álbum: H To He Who Am The Only One
Género: Progresivo ecléctico
Género: Progresivo ecléctico
Y como, si bien son conocidos, no son tan reconocidos como se merecen, en el blog siempre reivindicamos a quienes consideramos que se lo merecen, y éstos tipos tienen motivos de sobra para dejarles un sitial de honor en este humilde espacio.
Ahora vamos con otro de los discazos de esta genial banda tan particular.
Editado en diciembre de 1970, este disco es una experiencia sonora única que te revuelve la mente y todos los sentidos. De movida nomás, hay que decir que su singular titulo se debe al proceso en el que “el hidrógeno se funde con el helio para producir la principal reacción exotérmica, generadora de energía del universo” (según versa en el sobre interno del disco) nada menos; en otra frase científica categórica que da cuenta del paso de Peter Hammill por las aulas de la Universidad de Manchester, cuna desde donde surgiría la propia VDGG.Emiliano Acevedo
En sí, en este tercer disco de Van Der Graff Generator queda solidificado de forma completa el “sonido VDGG”, y todo lo bueno que había insinuado el grupo en su soberbia producción anterior (The Least We Can Do is Wave to Each Other, 1970). De esta manera, en H to He…tenemos varios de los elementos que forman parte del imaginario musical permanente de este genial grupo del rock progresivo, incluyendo al furioso y envolvente sonido del Órgano Hammond -que hizo del sonido de la banda de Peter Hammill una de los más originales y dark de toda la historia del rock internacional-. No por nada, no es casualidad que varios grupos posteriores (de estilo cuasi gótico) como Joy Division o Suxie and the Banshees hayan tomado a Van Der Graaf Generator como uno de sus grupos de cabecera. En lo que respecta a este H to He Who Am the Only One, para ese entonces el grupo estaba conformado por el inmenso Peter Hammill (en voces, guitarra, piano y teclados), Nic Potter (bajo) –luego reemplazado, en mitad de la grabación, por Hugh Banton (órgano, bajo con pedaleras, guitarra, piano, teclados, Órganos Hammond y Farfisa, y voces)-, Guy Evans (percusiones y batería) y David Jackson (flauta, teclado y saxos alto, barítono y tenor). Un dream team que se complementaba con la participación de Robert Fripp en la guitarra, un verdadero invitado de lujo, que usualmente gustaba de acompañar los emprendimientos musicales de su amigo Hammill (como también lo haría luego en el primer brillante opus solista de éste: Fools Mate, de 1971). Pero basta ya de palabrería y aprestémonos a recorrer esta soberbia producción que hoy nos compete. H to He arrancaba con el cuasi súper clásico de VDGG “Killer”, un soberbio tema de ocho minutos que contenía un carácter musical “siniestro”, tanto en lo que respecta a su contenido instrumental como lírico, para conformar una pieza poderosa en la que la banda se mantenía todo el tiempo sonando a pleno, en una perfomance que incluía una increíble mixtura formada por el sonido violento de los saxos de Jackson y la soberbia voz de Hammill (no por nada, reconocido casi en forma unánime como el “Jimi Hendrix de la voz…”).
Lo seguía “House With no Door”, un bellísimo tema con una encantadora melodía calmada y sutil, producida por la conjunción de piano e instrumentos de vientos (en especial flautas). Por su parte, es muy interesante también el trabajo de Guy Evans en percusión, y en especial por como éste utiliza el tympani en canciones como "The Emperor in His War-Room" (compleja canción tipo suite dividida en dos partes) o "Lost", dos piezas que conforman un complejo tapiz sonoro confeccionado a partir de texturas impresionantes y furiosas, plagadas de cambios e intricados arreglos musicales, que no decaen en ningún momento. Además, el efectivo uso de los saxos de David Jackson da a la música incluida en esta producción un inolvidable carácter vivaz y sobrecogedor. Otro de los temas destacados de este disco es “Pioneers Over C”, una pieza compleja que se destaca tanto por sus cambios rítmicos como su lírica intricada que habla de una sociedad futura en donde unos astronautas abandonan nuestro planeta para nunca más volver, como cuestionando la caída de los valores de toda la humanidad.
Por todo esto no podemos más que agregar que este es otro álbum que (junto a Pawn Hearts, de 1971) retrata a Van Der Graaf Generator en su mejor momento y es, sin duda, un soberbio ejemplo de como el rock progresivo (o también llamado “sinfónico”) podía volverse oscuro y sobrecogedor. Una verdadera obra de arte de la música popular. Muy recomendable.
Y aquí, tocado en vivo varios años después que saliera este disco, el tremendo temazo "Killer" con que empieza este disco:
No voy a dejar muchos comentarios, el disco es tremendo, uno de los grandes discos de VDGG. Una muestra de musicalidad y originalidad sin límites.
Hay un hecho incuestionable que no todos conocen, bien porque no se han atrevido a descubrirlo o bien porque no han tenido el conocimiento para hacerlo. Peter Hammill tiene una de las mejores voces del Rock. Sé que ahora mismo tenéis en la cabeza imágenes de bohemios bigotudos o quizás de hombres de largas melenas vestidos de negro. Estoy de acuerdo, siempre y cuando esté el cantante de Manchester en una posición preferente. Hubo un tiempo en que creía que Peter Gabriel no tuvo rival en el Rock Progresivo. Su voz, llena de matices, emotiva y cándida, me parecía difícil de superar. Más aún si la competencia era Jon Anderson, que se hace irritante con facilidad. Entonces llegó Hammill a mi vida, y hasta ese puesto, que creía fijado para los restos, se tambaleó. La voz de Hammill no es tan envolvente, cierto, pero, aunque parezca mentira, es más teatral que la de Peter Gabriel. Y si hay algo que me gusta son aquellos cantantes que utilizan su instrumento de una forma creativa e imaginativa (y si tienen un registro y una potencia tan buenos, mejor que mejor) ¿Sabíais que se le ha llamado “el Hendrix de la voz” por el amplio repertorio de trucos y sofisticaciones que empleaba? No soy yo el único loco.Eufonia eléctrica
Esto me lleva a hablar del tema que abre el disco, Killer, un tema que muy posiblemente conozcáis aun si no habéis escuchado este disco cuyo nombre no voy a reproducir mucho de lo largo que es. Tiene una de las melodías vocales más genuinamente adictivas que conozco, ese melisma de “and you kill all that comes near YOUUUUUUU” tremendamente influenciado por la ópera (supongo yo). No son pocas veces que lo he intentado cantar torpemente en la intimidad. Potente y dramático como debe ser un buen tema de Rock Progresivo (o quizás no tiene por qué serlo, pero este tipo de cosas hacen al género interesante). Oh, y, antes de que se me olvide, la banda da un auténtico recital en este disco, comenzando por el mismo Killer y sus tremendos riffs de saxofón de Dave Jackson, ya que no tenían guitarrista (y no es la primera vez en una banda de Rock, ¿u os tengo que recordar esto?), aunque de vez en cuando ayudaba el mismísimo fundador de King Crimson, Robert Fripp… ahí es nada. Y es que hasta que escuché este disco siempre me dio la sensación de que los músicos de Van Der Graaf Generator intentaban ir más allá de sus posibilidades y se quedaban en el intento. Pues, o mejoraron mucho, o he cambiado mi percepción sobre ellos, o realmente aquí están en su cénit creativo.
House With No Door demuestra ampliamente dos cosas: que Hammill era ALTAMENTE teatral y que David Bowie se copió de su estilo tanto que acojona. Hablo del estilo, claro, porque difícilmente se puede escuchar a Bowie cantando como en ese último “I don’t know you, you say you know me” con tanta emoción (fingida o no, eso no lo sé) y tanta potencia. Quizás se lleve el premio a la balada del álbum (¿acaso hay otra? ¡JA!). Ahora en serio, sólo por el tratamiento vocal de Hammill ya merece atención. De hecho, el resto no tiene nada de especial, sólo unas flautas interseccionadas por ahí que, a decir verdad, suenan mucho mejor en el siguiente tema, The Emperor In His War-Room. En realidad este tema está dividido en dos partes, pero la transición es relativamente suave, con una primera mitad algo misteriosilla que desemboca en un tema marcial para luego retomar el tema principal de la canción, una composición bastante inquietante toda ella. Luego está Lost (no, la serie no), que tiene así como un interludio de saxofón que no hace sino recordar al King Crimson de 21st Century Schizoid Man y unos momentos estelares de Hammill que no sé como no han sido comentados más veces (imposibles enumerarlos todos, baste decir que esos “I love you” finales son de lo mejorcito que he escuchado en materia de “I love you”, junto con Nights In White Satin, que ya fue comentado en su momento).
Para rematar el álbum, un tema “espacial” con la estructura más variada de todo el disco. Pioneers Over C tiene toques paródicos (esos pseudo-toques de corneta con saxo son geniales), toques paranoicos (la melodía descendente de piano acompañada de una flauta distorsionada alrededor del minuto 9 me da un poco de angustia) y toques patéticos (el tema principal de la canción “somebody help me, I’m missing” es realmente efectista). Sin embargo, por ser el tema más largo de la canción, por tener las letras menos interesantes (ciencia ficción un poco manida) y por estar un poco deshilachado en ese aspecto que he comentado, lo cual hace que pierda frecuentemente la atención, se me hace el tema menos interesante del disco. Y es curioso, porque suele ser uno de los favoritos de los amigos de Van Der Graaf Generator, aunque admito que tiene partes que me encantan.
Y eso es todo. Cinco temas como cinco soles. Número que probablemente se buscó intencionadamente para emular al debut de King Crimson, sí, pero… ¿sabíais que el debut de Van Der Graaf Generator tuvo lugar ANTES? Y fue un buen debut, por cierto, aunque en el fondo VDGG jamás pudo competir con los grandes del Prog. Me encanta Hammill, pero estaban lejos de alcanzar la calidad técnica de los más grandes (léase Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, Pink Floyd e incluso otros como Renaissance o Gentle Giant). Sin embargo, un par de veces durante toda su carrera, con todos sus sentidos puestos en la música y una buena dosis de inspiración divina, fueron capaces de sacar discos tan geniales como éste. Ya toca que repita el largo título que le da nombre: “H To He Who Am The Only One” es una joya del Progresivo.
PD: Un vídeo reciente para ver que Hammill sigue en buena forma.
En este album ya no esta Nic Potter en la formacion de VDGG, aunque todavia participa en tres temas, en los otros dos se encarga Hugh Banton de tocar el bajo. Lo que nos queda es la formacion clasica del grupo, Hammill cantante y guitarras, Banton organo, piano y bajo, Jackson saxos alto, tenor y baritono y flauta, y Evans bateria, la que grabaria sin duda los mejores albumes del grupo. Colabora Robert Fripp aportando guitarra electrica en The Emperor in his War-room.Ferran Lizana
Este disco es todavia mejor que el anterior, una autentica genialidad y la primera obra maestra del grupo. Killer es un tema violento aunque tambien con algunos pasajes mas calmados, donde Jackson se explaya a gusto con su saxo agresivo, un tema muy directo. House with no Door es el tema mas melancolico y triste del album, de una gran belleza, con pianos y flautas estremecedores. The Emperor in his War-room es un continuo contraste entre belleza y agresividad y tormento, una avalancha sonora, incluido un solo de Fripp, que produce miles de sensaciones, con un sensacional Hammill. Para el final los dos temas mas largos, sobrepasando los 11 minutos. Lost es uno de los mejores temas del grupo, con un Hammill demostrando su poderio vocal, con suaves melodias de organo de fondo, y Jackson sembrando el caos con su saxo, indescriptible. Y Pioneers Over C es otra maravilla, basicamente suave y depresivo, interrumpido por cambios constantes de ritmo y agresividad. Un disco imprescindible.
Y vamos con algunos comentarios en inglés y al disco, mientras preparamos con que otro disco seguimos en este festividal vandergraftiano. Por si tienen dudas de llevarse el disco, lean lo que dice toda esta gente.
With this strangely titled album, VDGG take you one step further into their sombre and lugubrious world. As potter exits throughout the album, Hugh Banton will handle that duty as well as most of the keyboards. However, as remastering job clearly reveals ( much better dynamics gives new life to bass lines) , it is obvious Banton is not as good as Potter was, but this is rather tenuous.Sean Trane
With the concert favourite ( but not mine) Killer to start up side 1 with its rather silly (IMHO) lyrics lamenting shark's loneliness at sea, one can see/hear the difference the remastering does but this is even more obvious in the next House With No Door that gains a new life especially with the good Banton bass lines. However the track gaining most is The Emperor: this track used to bore me stiff but this is simply not true anymore with Monsieur Fripp making a superb appearance again much bolstered by the re-mastering job.
The second side is a mixed bag as it contains my fave track, but also a very flawed second track. Lost is rather like the pinnacle of the album with the song meandering between the many moods and Hammill's voice together with Jackson's sax sends shivers down my spine still some twenty years after. Pioneers Over C has many orgasmic moments but also a few flaws, of which the weak Help Me chorus that is so obvious it becomes weak, the other being the semi Free jazz sax solo that gets simply ... lost! (Have they got their track titles mixed-up?) Not as bad as I make it to be , but here although the re-mastering job still does marvels , a good song-rewriting (correcting more an just the two flaws I mentioned) would help even more.
The first bonus track is a real gift, being a live-in-the-studio track holding many improvs that can only give us a hint of what was VDGG in concert at that time. It holds some magic moments and some lengths, but it is an outstanding track. The second bonus track (The Emperor) is less interesting as it can be considered as an alternate take, although there are some notable differences. If it had the Fripp intervention on this version , I might even like it better than the album version.
Again, this album is also available in mini-Lp sleeve and if you are to buy the remastered version, you might want to make the little extra financial effort to acquire the superb Paul Whitehead-signed gatefold sleeve.
The foreboding crawl of the Hammond organ is what made Van Der Graaf Generator one of the darkest and most engrossing of all the early progressive bands. On H to He Who Am the Only One, the brooding tones of synthesizer and oscillator along with Peter Hammil's distinct and overly ominous voice make it one of this British band's best efforts. Kicking off with the prog classic "Killer," an eight minute synthesized feast of menacing tones and threatening lyrics, the album slowly becomes shadowed with Van Der Graaf's sinister instrumental moodiness. With superb percussion work via Guy Evans, who utilizes the tympani drum to its full extent, tracks like "The Emperor in His War-Room" and "Lost" are embraced with a blackened texture that never fades. The effective use of saxophone (both alto and tenor) and baritone from David Jackson gives the somberness some life without taking away any of the instrumental petulance. H to He is carpeted with a science fiction theme, bolstered by the bleak but extremely compelling use of heavy tones and the absence of rhythms and flighty pulsations. This album, which represents Van Der Graaf in their most illustrious stage, is a pristine example of how dark progressive rock should sound.Mike DeGagne
1970 was a watershed year for progressive rock. That year saw the newly-born musical form -- in the shape of bands like Genesis, Yes, Jethro Tull, and Gentle Giant -- gain strength and conviction, consciously exploring and exploding the "limits" of rock, with a spirit of pure unfettered experimentation. Two pioneering bands who had been key progressive rock players from the genre's emergence each recorded their third albums late that year: King Crimson's eclectic LIZARD added overt jazz flavours to the mix, and Van Der Graaf Generator's oddly-titled H TO HE, WHO AM THE ONLY ONE (the first part of the title refers to the thermonuclear fusion of hydrogen to helium in the sun) further expanded the boundaries of progressive in the form of an oftimes dark, and sometimes disturbing masterpiece.Peter
The two albums have more than a passing resemblance: Like LIZARD, "H TO HE" has strong jazz influences, largely expressed through the dynamic sax of David Jackson. In addition, Crimson's Robert Fripp puts in a guest appearance on the Van Der Graaf album, adding his trademark electric guitar to "The Emperor in His War Room." Furthermore, both LIZARD and "H TO HE" are prime examples of "difficult" albums that can be initially challenging, but ultimately very rewarding auditory experiences. I was a latecomer to the music of Van Der Graaf Generator, and I admit that it took several listens before this disc really began to "sink its hooks" into me. Yet I soon found that I was no longer playing the disc out of a sense of duty for reviewing purposes, but as a source of musical pleasure. I use the word "pleasure" guardedly, however, because founder and lead singer Peter Hammill's introspective lyrics are often illustrative of the axiom that "some of the best art arises from pain."
On the disquieting, almost menacing opener "Killer," Hammill sings of a monster fish born "on a black day, in a black month, at the black bottom of the sea" that, though "very lonely," kills all that draw near, then muses that "I'm really rather like you, for I've killed all the love I ever had." Death, loneliness, and the need for love are recurring themes on this brooding work. "House With no Door," aided by Hugh Banton's melancholy piano and Jackson's flute, offers an effective, sadly beautiful portrait of the artist as a tortured man, imprisoned in the cavern of his skull, whose self-made "walls" have shut out the love that he so desperately needs and craves. The aforementioned "Emperor in His War Room" deals, through gruesome imagery, with the wages of a misspent life: "Begging for your life, as the impartial knife sinks in your screaming flesh.... You must pay the price of hate, and that price is your soul." The next song, "Lost," is perhaps the album's strongest (with the final track, it also contains many of the disc's more up-tempo, heavier moments), and finds Hammill, with a voice that favourably compares to that of Gabriel in its embittered and impassioned delivery, addressing the spectre of a lost love.
Throughout the disc, Hammill's singing is very strong. Sometimes he almost whispers, sometime he nearly screams and spits out his lines, while at other moments he affects a falsetto that may well have helped shape the later vocal acrobatics of Gentle Giant. Peter Hammill is certainly no boring or undistinguished vocalist! At several junctures, his singing reminds me of Bowie's during his MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD era, and the final track, the bizarre, science-fictional "Pioneers Over C" has a theme which is reminiscent of Bowie's "Space Oddity" -- that of a lost and lonely spaceman.
As with LIZARD, I wouldn't want to listen to this CD too much; hearing Hammill's searing depictions of inner pain, self-loathing and regret can be cathartic (he's likely worse off than you!), but also disturbing. Still, H TO HE, WHO AM THE ONLY ONE, is a classic recording that is a must for Van der Graaf fans, and essential listening for all who would discover just how wildly experimental, powerful and moving progressive rock could be in its infancy!
Another winner, a bit inferior than "Pawn Hearts", even though in a number of songs it's also more influential than "Pawn Hearts", sometimes with a major impact on the common listener. It depends on our tastes naturally: think of "Killer", but also "Emperor in His War-Room (Part 1: The Emperor, Part 2: The Room) ", which is absolutely original and creative too, despite of being less influential for example than the mythical suite "Plague of Lighthouse", from "Pawn Hearts". It never minds, to me this album is recommended anyway!!Lorenzo
It's amazing how much this band improved in the span of three albums. Just listen to the AEROSOL GREY MACHINE and you'll find a band more or less sticking in the psychedelic realm, with some folk overtones. The Least We Can Do is Wave to Each Other is the band finally finding their trademark sound, thanks to the inclusion of David Jackson. But you can tell, just by listening to that album that even better things were to come, and that would be their next two albums. Of course, I'm focusing on "H to He Who Am the Only One". I own the American LP version on ABC/Dunhill which features the same basic artwork, but with different background, and the lyrics included in the gatefold, rather than the back cover.Ben Miler
The album opens up with "Killer", dominated by David Jackson's sax. A little known prog band that recorded for RCA/Neon called Raw Material recorded a song called "Ice Queen" for their 1971 album Time Is, which bears more than a passing resemblance to "Killer". "House with No Door" is a piano-oriented ballad, while "Emperor In His War Room" features some killer spacy organ from Hugh Banton, Robert FRIPP even makes a guest here! The music gets lengthier with "Lost" and one of my all-time favorite VdGG compositions, "Pioneers Over C", in which the artwork in the gatefold represents this song. The lyrics obviously have strong sci-fi overtones, with a spacy sound. Might not be their most aggressive album, but a must have for all Peter HAMMILL/VdGG fans.
A little bit of a let down after the 2nd album because there is only one mood for the most part and there are no real big changes of pace like the 2nd album (from calm to, literally, impending doom). Still, this is a classic in its own right and is worth the money you pay for it because the musicians are passionate about the music they play and very talented.Carl
This album introduced me to the music of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR, which took some time for me to digest. There are some elements in their style that I don't like even today, but the good things really please me. A-side of the LP with three first tracks is awesome, but the seconds side is too cacophonic for me. Aggressive changes in and the moods created didn't please me very much. Still even so, the first side makes this as a worthwhile album. The lyrics are wonderful, and at least once the globe in the album cover doesn't show America in it.Eetu Pellonpää
I might have overrated "Least We Can Do..." out of personal and emotional reasons, but "H to He" is a bit stronger album for sure. Nic Potter is still present, while Fripp as guest in "Emperor in His War Room" gives a Crimsonesque sound to this track. The whole side 1 is amazing with "Killer" and "House with No Door", impeccable musicianship with confident Hammill vocals. "Lost" and "Pioneers" on the flip side (of a vinyl) are more requiring efforts, not very captivationg on the first listen, but very rewarding when finally you learn how to appreciate it! Overall masterpiece with dark gothic feeling, space philosophy and jazzy/avantgarde improvisations.Sead S. Fetahagic
Though their next album, "Pawn Hearts", is my favorite VdGG album, this one is the one that I return most often too. With one of the greatest songs opening the album the music slips deeper into claustrophobic darkness as the album progresses, builiding on one main conceptual theme - isolation. The contrast between haunting beauty and madness is really remarkable here and creates a very unique mood to it all. The bleak and haunting mood of the music really relates to Peter Hammill's lyrics, making for an intense and subtly unnerving listening experience that is hugely rewarding in the end, something that the band continued doing (for an even more frightening effect) on their next album. This is done superbly on tracks like "Emperor in his War-Room" and the closing epic "Pioneers Over C." especially. This is definitely one of my favorite albums both musically and conceptually and should be listened to on headphones, alone in the middle of the night for best effect.Björnar Lunde
Highlights: The whole thing.
This is VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR's first mature album, with all musicians more or less established by now. The exception is Nic POTTER, who plays bass on some tracks before he had decided to leave and have Hugh BANTON cover on organ pedals. Otherwise, the lineup is as usual: the ever-strange Peter HAMMILL and his unique vocals, David JACKSON's haunting, and sometimes frentic sax, Hugh BANTON's ghastly organ textures, and Guy EVAN's virtuosic masterful drumming.Dex F.
VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR is perhaps the most underrated and unrecognized band of all the 70s prog groups. They lie on the fringe of fame, and are perhaps the best band never to break the American market (although they were wildly popular in Italy). Their brand of dark symphonic rock and existentialist ponderings are simply magnificent, and it's really a shame they didn't do better than they did.
All of the songs on "H to He" (which refers to "the transformation of Hydrogen to Helium, creating vast amounts of energy with power our universe") center around the universal theme of lonliness, aloneness, and recluse. The first song is "Killer," a catchy, dark song about a fish who kills everything it loves, and is thus lonely. The lyrics are somewhat awkward and sophomoric, but the message still reaches through. There is a strange dark psychadelic jam somewhere in the middle, featuring a cavernous organ and freaky sax honks. Also noteable is the acoustic guitar which appears in the background, one of the few times HAMMILL actually plays.
"House with No Door" is a piano ballad, with the main focus being the lyrics. There is also a bass somewhere in the track, which BANTON plays, that sounds excellent, and some flute courtesy of JACKSON that sounds wonderful. The song deals with the theme of being trapped in a house, a metaphor for yourself and the fact that we are all trapped within ourselves, essentially alone.
War, and the decay and death which it causes and is created by is the theme of "The Emperor and His War-Room." The main focus is a general, an emperor of war who knows nothing but how to kill. He is essentially a victim of his circumstances, doing what he does because it is all he knows. This is the literal interpretation of the fish in "Killer," the real-life example that that song explained metaphorically. The first half, "The Emperor", is a pondering montage of shadowy imagery and ghostly flute and organ backdrops. Halfway through the song is a bridge over which Robert FRIPP lays down the only electric guitar on the album, which leads into "The Room." This section is much more catchy, with lyrics that sum up the Emperor's situation and creates a final climax.
"Lost" is the traditional theme of post-breakup loneliness and hopelessness, drawn out to great epic lengths by HAMMILL. The music seems to float in and out, tons of themes segueing together in random fashion. This doesn't make it bad by any stretch of imagination, just harder to describe.
The final song, "Pioneers over C" is musically in a similar fashion as "Lost", with many themes strung together. This song is more epic and spacey than the last, the sci-fi theme of space pioneers travelling at the speed of light (C, as in E=MC2) and becoming trapped in a bodiless, empty world of eternal nothingness. The sax goes really insane towards the end, and a theme in 14/8 appears towards the end, looping on and on endlessly as it slowly fades into a spacey, atmospheric section.
Overall, the album, is not quite as mature as "Pawn Hearts", but still every bit as good musically and lyrically. However, the structure is not quite as organized as the next album, giving the album a more drifting, haunting feel. Highly recommended to people who are in the mood for something different, something dark, or something good.
One of my favourite prog albums of all time, H To He is a compelling document of Peter Hammill and VDGG's dark vision. While other albums contain great songs such as Refugees, After The Flood, A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers and Scorched Earth, none have hit me as consistently as this one.Martin Vengadesan
Every piece bristles with intensity. The opener Killer, about a mean-ass fish that craves companionship, is perhaps the ultimate example of VDGG's ability to rock without guitars. The sax of Jackson and organ of Banton (one of the deadliest and least acknowledged combinations in rock) hit the spot time and time again as the rhythm section of Nic Potter (who left halfway during the recording of this album, which led Banton to fill in on bass for House With No Door and Pioneers Over C) and the efferverscent drummer Guy Evans breeze through moods and time signatures effortlessly.
And then there's the incredibly gloomy House With No Door (frequently cited as one of the bleakest songs in all of prog) which is another example of Hammill's extraordinary power to break your heart with just a few words. His uncertain screamed falsetto as his "body rejects the cure" is nothing less than a lethal weapon and aided and abetted by some glorious flute playing from Jackson and a double keyboard outro (Hammill on piano and Banton on organ) it ensures that House With No Door is yet another unforgettable VDGG song.
The Emperor In His War Room is probably the closest VDGG comes to "conventional" symphonic prog as practised by the likes of Genesis. With Banton building up an enormous wall of organ sounds before a fusion-inspired solo exchange between Jackson and King Crimson's Robert Fripp guesting on guitar, this piece is a thing of beauty.
The desolation that informs much of VDGG's music charts new territory on the totally intriguing sci-fi piece Lost, "I know we'll never dance like we used to " could easily sound lame in the hands of numerous other singers, but Hammill is nothing if not an artist. The strange interchanges between beautiful symphonic melodies and harsh, occasionally discordant jazzy passages are damn impressive and I also really like the space that the band find in the mid-section when they deconstruct and then recalibrate this 11-minute epic with a monstrous ending sequence.
This wouldn't be a classic prog album without one whopper of a closing track and while Pioneers Over C probably has my least favourite vocal melody of the five brill tunes here, it is perhaps the most ambitious cut of the lot. At times barely audible, often ethereal and on occasion downright ferocious (and yet hardly containing a solo of note!) this is yet another VDGG tour-de-force that emphasises that the band's music is not for the faint-hearted.
Overall, this album is a virtually flawless exhibition of inspiring, challenging, emotionally-draining progressive rock music, and it really must be heard by everyone.
This is a review of the remastered version of "H to He, Who Am the Only One".Peter Eisenburger
The album was first released in December 1970 and is a kind of link between "The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other" (February 1970) and "Pawn Hearts" (October 1971) . More accessible as the latter one but still the first full-fledged typical VDGG fusion music merging elements of rock, jazz, classic, the European romantic song - and maybe pre-punk.
The remastering process has led to a great transparency and clearness of all the instruments and voices and revealed fascinating details you couldn't hear before. The sound is so brilliant that you can even hear clearly David Jackson's blowing technique in a breath-taking sax solo in "Pioneers Over C".
The only short-coming of this exquisite edition is the handling of Peter Hammill's voice in some parts. It experiences de-emphasizing in volume in heavy instrumented sections - an effect I generally don't like in remastered material. And though the lead singer's voice is unique and impressing (I think Peter Hammill is the best singer in rock music) some unevennesses get shown now. He is a rock and not an opera singer but the former analogue and as well the modern digital recording techniques tend to smooth the lead vocals.
On the other hand all this contributes to the live atmosphere of the studio productions in these days. The remastered album demonstrates what great musicians the VDGG members are. As if you were in the studio yourself you can study their playing as a band on all takes but best in the ever-touching "A House With No Door".
Two songs which I formerly didn't like that much have profited most from the remastering process:
At first "Pioneers Over C" which is about one of Peter Hammill's favourite topics: scientific alienation and which goes into describing the fate of astronauts lost in time and space. Several science fiction movies like "A Space Odyssey"or "Event Horizon" were on to this topic - years and decades later!
The other song is "The Emporer in his War-Room". In the middle-section you can enjoy Robert Fripp's stunning overdubbed guitar(s) played similar to "21st Century Schizoid Man".
The bonus tracks bring two previously unreleased songs:
- At first the extensive and wild improvisation-like "Squid 1 / Squid 2 / Octopus", a part of VDGG's live shows then. Originally this tune was planned to become a part of the intended double-album "Pawn Hearts", which was released only as one LP as Charisma decided. Three other recorded but not published songs now emerge on the remastered "Pawn Hearts" CD.
- Secondly the first version of "The Emperor" which I like better than the released one though lacking "The Fripp".
Both bonus tracks have the same great sound quality since they are taken from the original tapes like all the remastered material of the VDGG catalogue.
Overall this gorgeous edition and the extensive beautiful booklet have been compiled with much love and care. This is the album of choice for the entrance of "A Young Person's Guide to VDGG".
H To He Who Am The Only One was my first exposure to VdGG, it was a hard album to understand on first listen, but after a few listens its true beauty is realized. The exclusion of electric guitar in most songs may seem odd to some but VdGG create music like noone else. Hugh Banton (Organ) and David Jackson (Sax) create a swelling, swirling texture that is VdGG's alone. All complimented brilliantly by Guy Evans fantastic and original drumming style. But VdGG could not be mentioned without naming the seemingly insane but ultimately brilliant front man Peter Hammill. His vocal style is all his own, and his versatile delivery is unmistakable.Travis
The album opens with one of my favorite songs of all time, "Killer" a song about a killer fish living in the ocean who longs for love and companionship but is essentially doomed to be alone due to his killer instincts. Sounds quite silly but Hammill makes it work. The music is the real treat in this song, peter Hammill's slight acoustic contribution mixes great with Hugh's sinister organ, and David Jackson gives one of the most insane solo's of his career, squealing and unpredictable, this is a heart attack put to music.
"A House With No Door" is a rather depressing track lyrically, but one of the most beautiful VdGG compositions as well. Mournful piano and beautiful flute, delicate and dark, all a perfect backdrop to one of my favorite Hammill performances. "The Emperor in His War Room" is again a very dark song about the consequences of living a life of war and death. The song describes the torture and eventual killing of the emperor without mercy, Hammill's delivery is very vivid and powerful. The song also features the guitar of King Crimson front man Robert Fripp, adding some much needed magnitude to the track.
The last two songs are the high point of the album, two 10+ minute masterpieces. "Lost" is a song about lost love and the madness, fear and confusion that ensues. Quite frantic at times, but musically brilliant. David's eccentric sax is the highpoint of this song and remains one of Jackson's crowning moments IMO. The final song "Pioneers Over c." is a brilliant closer to this album, a long spacey song about a space mission gone wrong, where upon reaching the speed of light the crew is sucked into an alternate universe, and all on the ship become lost in a place unknown, "dimly aware of existence" and doomed to float in a living death for all eternity. Quite the trip. Near the end of the track all structure seems lost when Dave's sax is the only instrument playing only to explode into a psychedelic and atmospheric freak out, an immense but eerily beautiful passage. The song regains structure and the song ends with only Hammill's voice: "I am the one who crossed through space, or stayed where I was, or didn't exist in the first place" classic Hammill, and a very fitting ending to this trip of an album!
A masterpiece of progressive rock, and an essential addition to any prog fans collection!
Van Der Graaf Generator - H To He, Who Am The Only One Review of Remastered Edition by EMI/Virgin 2005Marc Baum
Years before, I listened to my original copy of "H To He, Who Am The Only One" and focused that it needs something like a new issued version. Well, EMI/Virgin must have been listening because my prayers have been answered. H to He is the first one I've picked up and based on the excellent quality I will absolutely be getting more. Peter Hammill himself handled the spiffy remaster, in consultation with his former bandmates, all of whom were involved in the production of this series. There is a 16-page book with lyrics, photos, credits and liner notes, and best of all two bonus tracks, a studio run-through of "The Emperor in his War Room" recorded 6 months before the album version, and the legendary "Squid/Octopus" recorded live in the studio.
VDGG were a progressive rock group of the highest order, featuring keyboardist Hugh Banton, drummer Guy Evans, woodwind virtuoso David Jackson and the inimitable Hammill on vocals, guitar and piano. Outgoing bassist Nic Potter appears on about half of the record, with Banton filling in on bass pedals for the rest. "H to He Who Am The Only One" was their second proper record and remains a great album to this day. As much as I love "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other", I think this one is the superior record and marked the peak of creativity out of the first band period.
The opening track, "Killer", is the all-time prog classic here and sounds amazing in remastered form. VDGG were one of a number of early prog groups on the Chrysalis label, along with bands like Lindisfarne and Genesis, that suffered from murky production that sounds dated to modern ears. The detailed, cleaned-up sound here is revelatory and a real godsend for fans. The melodic piano ballad "House With No Door" is also here, featuring Jackson's wonderful flute work. Sometime VDGG collaborator Robert Fripp turns up to lend some electric guitar bite to "The Emperor in His War Room". "Lost" (one of the most sad and depressing pieces I've ever heard, with brilliant lyrics by master Peter Hammill) and "Pioneers Over C" are two excellent prog epics, with the latter going completely over the top a la "After The Flood" on the previous record.
But I'm saving the best for last! "Squid/Octopus" is a 15 minute jam filled to bursting with everything a prog fanatic could dream of and more. This is the only surviving track from an aborted live in the studio album intended to be part of "Pawn Hearts" before Chrysalis torpedoed the double-album idea. This is an absolutely killer prog epic of the highest order, unbelievably brought to light after all these years. Words really fail me except to say that it is reason enough to buy this CD. There you'll get also an early outtake of "Pioneers Over C", which sounds great and finishes this wonderful remastered cd nicely.
This is one outstanding addition to my prog collection and I highly recommend it to progheads. "H To He" was favourite VDGG album beside "Pawn Hearts and "Godbluff", now with the bonus material and the remastered mix with excellent bass sound, it stands alone. Pure prog excellence during 7 songs and about 71 minutes - what should a proghead ask for more?
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive music
Van der Graaf Generator's third studio album is the beginning of what their fans consider to be their best era. Peter Hammill, David Jackson, Hugh Banton, and Guy Evans along with guest musicians Nic Potter and Robert Fripp create lush and dissonant songs with introspective lyrics that are highly metaphorical and have a singer that can belt out emotions in airy falsettos and jagged bass registers. Throughout the five pieces on this album, the listener is taken through many different themes, such as suicide or utter depression and the feeling of being lost, but the music is well conceived and well played on the parts of all musicians on the album. What's for certain, though, is that this album began a long string of excellent albums from this group and for the next five years they never made an album that was less than excellent.Robert Peña
Killer has a nice piano/organ/sax motif that is really creative and catchy at the same time. Hammill's vocals are jagged and he recites the lyrical material quite well, although the music is a bit too overpowering during the vocal parts. A nice distorted organ comes in around the fourth minute giving a more uneasy feeling to the piece and Evans does some spectacular drumming during these sections, giving frenetic and precision fills every chance he gets. There is some nice acoustic guitar towards the seventh minute, Hammill's precise arpeggios add a more complete and wholesome feel to the piece as it comes to a close. House With No Door is one of the most depressing songs I've ever heard. It begins with a solemn piano motif and some heartfelt and sincere vocals from Hammill (who really shows his vocal skills on this piece. A nice organ/flute interlude adds a more triumphant and joyous feel to the piece, but then it slips once again into that manically depressed feel when Hammill's vocals return to the foray again. The piece then endures a long instrumental ending in which the main piano theme is reiterated and given a couple of runs at a solo (which is quite nice and it actually ends it well).
The Emperor in his War Room is the only song on the album to feature guitar maestro Robert Fripp, and he really comes out of it swinging. Beginning gently with acoustic guitars and light flute and organ melodies, the piece quickly picks up in pace at the will of Hammill's searing vocal performance. Towards the middle a nice bass line lays the foundation for the ascending flute/organ unison riffing with a great snare pattern from Evans and some precision fills. The second half of the song is where things really get going, with some great breakdowns and some majestic vocals before the ending section which feels more like a jam, with some solid rhytmic underwork while Fripp belts out a superb guitar solo (that is double tracked with two different solos on top of each other) that is really fitting with the piece. It actually brings about the mellow ending section which ends the song off similarly to as it began. Lost starts off with frantic organ/flute melodies with a hectic drum pattern underneath. The song then goes through many complex instrumental and vocal passages before becoming an all out freak out musically. Add in some cool 7/8 breakdowns followed by a dissonant 6/4 riff and therein lies the latter portions of the song prior to the bombastic and grandiose ending with every instrument reaching a peak before hitting a final note and ending with a dissonant display of power in a fadeout. Pioneers Over C is the final piece of the album and begins with a moody organ riff and some great drumming and percussion from Evans. It ends the album with a very majestic yet uneasy feel, with some nice unison sax/bass/organ riffing and some calming Hammill vocals before the acoustic interludes. It tends to drag a bit towards the end with meandering riffs and a sax interlude that is really just varying noises from it, but on the whole I like the piece and it ends the album well.
Overall, while not a masterpiece, H to He, Who Am the Only One is a spectacular album that began a long string of great albums from Van Der Graaf Generator (and yielded two masterpieces in Pawn Hearts and Still Life). There are many excellent moments, but the main problem lies in some dragged on bits in Pioneers Over C, but even that isn't that bad. It's a near masterpiece in my opinion and you can't go wrong with a purchase of this album (especially since now it's remastered with some killer bonus tracks from what I've heard, although I don't own a remastered copy). Highly recommended.
I very recently had a dream in which I was listening to a Van Der Graaf Generator album, I don't know which one but it was good. I remember listening to a guitar solo and thinking "woh, Peter Hammill is an amazing guitarist, I've never heard this solo before." I then remember thinking "nah, that can't be Peter Hammill it must be Robert Fripp because he plays on some Van Der Graaf Generator albums." I woke up the next morning and reflected on this strange dream. For the rest of the morning I listened to some Van Der Graaf Generator albums searching for the album guitar solo I heard in my dream. If that dream tells me anything, its that I listen and think about prog too much.Matt
I here lots of talk about Pawn Hearts being the darkest Van Der Graaf Generator album, I however disagree and I think that "H to He Who am the Only One" is. Just take one listen to the album and you will see what I mean, the references to death and torture are very obvious. Even look at the song titles,"Killer", "The Emperor in his war Room" and so on. Also lines like "Live by sword and you shall die so" and "bodies torn by vultures" cement the idea into my mind. You're probably thinking "so what?" Well I'm just saying that "H to He Who am the Only One" is the darkest Van Der Graaf Generator album.
Though I don't like very dark and depressing albums, I have to say that even though "H to He Who am the Only One" has many unpleasant references, it is in no way a bad album. When you compare the death vocals in stuff like Opeth to the stunning voice of Peter Hammill you may think Opeth is the more haunting of the two. You know what's funny? "H to He" is more haunting because unlike Opeth, Van Der Graaf Generator is able haunt you with eerie sounds, vocals and atmospheres, while Opeth relies on insanely loud music and death vocals. I'm not sure if Opeth is trying to scare anyone but I have to compare VDGG to something.
The Saxophone and Peter Hammill's chilling vocals have always been the defining factor to the uniqueness of Van Der Graaf Generator's music, and this album is no different. From the Opening seconds of the first song "Kille"r, you'll get the feeling that H to He is going to have a lot of sax. And when the first lyrics come sounding like this "So you live in the bottom of the sea, and you kill all come near you" there is an immediate chilling atmosphere. This atmosphere spans the entire album but it is strongest in "Kille"r and "The Emperor in his war Room".
The first song on "H to He" "Killer", sets the mood of the entire album as well as I've ever heard, as I've said earlier even from the opening seconds one can deduce a chilling album is immanent. The Saxophone is the standout here along with Peter Hammill's vocals. For once you are able to here the guitar on this song; it's not half bad either. Killer is perhaps the best song on "H to He" and for me it is on my most played tracks list. Following "Killer" is an equally good song called "House with No Door" which has an overall more pleasant melody and a more inviting feel, while not as prominent as "Killer" it is still a worthy song. Next on the board is the menacing "The Emperor In His War-Room", this song is genuinely disturbing and it is very effective at painting images of torn corpses and dead people. This may not appeal to everyone but I just have to say that it isn't as bad I make it out to be. "The Emperor In His War-Room" is another high point on "H to HE" and it shows true progressiveness and some flute for once! Lost, the next song starts off with a very lively tune which inevitably changes and becomes darker. Lost passes through several time changes and in the end has a crashing finish. The last song on "H to He" is another very chilling song which is proficient at creating.images. There is a long mostly instrumental section which starts around the sixth minute and leads to the almost unfinished end of the piece, and album.
Excellent addition to any prog music collection
So far its been all praise from me, and you are probably think why I only rated "H to He" four stars, well that's because it's difficult to enjoy. I'll let you find out what I mean. The remaster of "H to He" comes with two bonus tracks called "Squid 1-Squid 2- Octopus", a interesting 15 minute epic and the first version of "The Emperor In His War- Room." I'd recommend this album to who ever.
The most accessible album in the VdGG catalog (relatively speaking!), this album shows a young band with prodigious talents that would develop into the monsters of "Still Life" and "Godbluff". Peter Hammill in particular had not quite developed the "stentorian" roar that he would become famed for, but his style is already dramatic and full of abrupt quiet/loud dynamics. Jackson and Banton are already exploring the sonic limits of their traditional instruments, and Guy Evans is definitely already a fully-developed beast on the drums. This is very much a late 60s album, with lots of psychedelic touches that would later be absent from the band's more avant-garde work. The compositions are varied. "Killer" veers between King Crimson bombast and almost a proto-hard rock sound, a dramatic song that doesn't contain Hammill's best set of lyrics, but is entertaining nonetheless. "House With No Door" is a brooding ballad of loneliness and mental illness of a kind that Hammill would come to specialize in- its sparse arrangment and gentle vocals are very effective. "The Emperor in his War Room" is perhaps the least successful piece, being a little scattered and overwrought, but does feature some good work by Robert Fripp on electric guitar, and is an evocative story based on Marquez's "The Autumn of the Patriarch" (I think), with lots of disturbing imagery. "Lost" is another long piece that is also good, but like "The Emporer in his War Room" suffers a bit from a lack of focus. "Pioneers Over c", the most experimental piece on the record, is also possibly the most successful, utilizing bizarre melodies and unusual arrangements to portray space explorers crossing into a different space/time continuum and suffering the effects. VdGG was definitely never afraid to take chances, a policy that would pay off on the highly unusual "Pawn Hearts" and most of the albums thereafter. This is a great album for the frightened VdGG newbie to sample, but is also a wonderful listening experience on its own. Even if they'd never made another album, it would be a classic.Allister Thompson
The theme of this record is isolation or loneliness.This third release from the band is more complex and darker than thier previous two albums.John Davie
Things get started with "Killers" a dark song that is a fan favourite. I love Peter's vocals on this one, especially the way he carries a note. There is some crazy sax playing that is not melodic at all (haha). "House With No Door" is a mellow tune with gentle vocals, piano, drums and flute.The focus is on the lyrics on this one. "The Emperor In His War Room" is my favourite track, opening with flute. I guess it's kind of redundant to say the vocals are theatrical ...yeah I thought so. I really do enjoy Mr.Fripp's guitar solo more than half way through the song.
"Lost" is a melancholic song about lost love, some great organ play on this one. "Pioneers Over C" is about getting lost in space, and is filled with many tempo and mood shifts. It just seems like a good melody is happening when it stops, this happens a lot in this song. I really like this record, I was reminded of KING CRIMSON at times and enjoyed the flute and sax melodies and of course Mr.Hammill's vocals.
Great album ! Right there with "Pawn Hearts" as my fav VDGG albums.
Definitly a very good album, and a great place to start with VDGG...I didn´t start here and hated their music for almoust a year...had I first listened to this album it might not had happen that way, who knows?...back to the albumMatias Boettner
VDGG has finally found the winning formula in compositions which gives us an album with 5 strong songs that go from the more rocker Killer to the sad and beautiful House with no door to the more spacy Pionner over C with a good flow in between, making the album as a whole a very satisfing expirience. Hammill shines (as always) in vocals and lyrics, specially in House with no door, which supported by a piano and gentle drums shows VDGG softer side while being deep and never, not for one minute, cheesy. Same thing happens with Lost, one of the two suits along with The emperor in his war room for having different movements which (of course) have tittles of themself, this song, which is a song of lost love does not get cheesy at any moment, which makes the over emotional vocal delivery of mr Hammill so much satisfing. Still, my favorite song is The emperor at his war room, arguably the strongest of them all, with great work from all four of them, specially Evans, a drummer which I truly love, yet never seems to get enough press as the rest of the members. I love the chorus of this song, with Evans fast drumming while Hammill delivers one (of many ) incredible moments from his lyrics, sung as always, down right perfect. The only song I dont like that much, but still think is pretty good, is Killer, a live favorite of the fans. Therefor, I can´t call it weak, just...not something I like that much.
Overall this is an excellent album, some weak moments here and there but the good ones make you forget them completly. Highly recommended to any prog fan, and, as I said before, great place to start with this awesome band!
I can't add anything crucial, but for change I want to praise a Truly Outstanding Prog Masterpiece, and along with Pawn Hearts I have no difficulty to say so about this one as well. It's not a perfect album, but to me captivating enough to give full rating.Matti P.
'Killer' is built on a heavy sax riff and the lyrics are brilliantly strong and very metaphorical. 'House With No Door' has even more depressing lyrics - a painful plea for contact - but the piano dominating music is tender, beautifully matched with Hammill's emotional vocals. 'The Emperor in His War-Room' has some moments of pure magic. Moving seamlessly between calm and loud, it's one of my favourite VdGG tracks. Generally angst and violent contents in music is not my cup of tea, but VdGG has some extraordinary exceptions to the rule.
The B side has two epics. 'Lost' is yet another painful longing for lost love by Hammill. It may not be among their strongest compositions as a whole, but again it has moments of hair- raising emotional strength. 'Pioneers Over C' seems to be the inspiration for the space- themed cover art. A classic, and in its improvisation-like quieter parts reminding of 'Plague of the Light-house Keeper'. Well, Pawn Hearts has three fantastic long tracks and here are five tracks, none of them individually in the level of Pawn Hearts, but still I love this album as much. Both would be on my Top20 of all time Prog albums. One hears its age easily, but it's the part of the magic.
Take a prog band, now replace the guitar with a sax and organ... and make the frontman evil. Now it's Van Der Graff Generator!Patricia O'Bee
This band plagued with bad luck is always able to make such exceptional releases, and "H to He" is one of those. Starting with the choatic KILLER the album refuses to let up until the end. HOUSE WITH NO DOOR is a very well done slow song, one of the standouts of the album, LOST is equilly grand, if longer, faster and much more chilling. The two best tracks, however, come in the form of EMPEROR IN THIS WAR ROOM and the dark, scary, PIONEERS OVER C. The former would make a very nice song to play at a certain president in this the year 2007, with it's political lyrics, while the latter may seem a bit dated being that the story is focused on a space voyage that takes place in the far off year of 1983. PIONEERS... is still a great track, twisting and turning off the road that is typical music, coming to an end with the typical VDGG maelstrom of sonic fury, my personal favorite part of the album.
When it comes right down to it VDGG has always been a band capable of many scary things; scary, haunting, and terrifying... did I say scary? This album is no exception, with many of the tracks capable of making you afraid of the dark. Maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point. 4 stars goes to the scary people with the scary music.
VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR was ahead of the curve in late 1970, at least compared to other Proggers emerging at the same time. In 1970 GENESIS was only beginning to find its voice on the band's second album, "Trespass"; YES was busy treading the backwaters of bourgeois orchestration on "Time and a Word"; KING CRIMSON was still in creative disarray after losing two of its original members; and the debut albums of both ELP and Gentle Giant were just then hitting the shops.Michael Neumann
Even so, the original 1970 vinyl edition of the second proper VDGG album "H to HE" probably shouldn't merit anything more than a respectable 4-stars, marking as it did a significant step forward in scope and sophistication, but for a band still with its best years ahead of it.
Today, more than thirty-five years later, this 2005 CD reissue easily earns that coveted (and, in this forum, all-too generously awarded) fifth star of distinction. Not only has the re-mastered sound been polished to a surprisingly bright and vital sheen, but the addition of two long bonus tracks (extending the album by another twenty-four minutes) makes it an essential purchase, for students of Golden Age Prog in general and fans of Van Der Graaf Generator in particular.
The first of these is the awkwardly titled "Squid 1/Squid 2/Octopus", an astonishing live-in-the-studio enlargement of two tracks from the early "Aerosol Grey Machine" era, recorded during the "Pawn Hearts" sessions and intended for the proposed but aborted second disc of that classic 1971 album. I'm amazed the song lay dormant in the vaults for so long: this is Van Der Graaf Generator at its untethered best, with more than fifteen minutes of tightly controlled psychedelic mayhem showing what a formidable unit this group must have been on stage.
It begins with Peter Hammill singing a plaintive ballad over a solo acoustic guitar, but don't let your guard down too soon: within seconds the full band is firing on all cylinders and Hammill is screeching his lungs out as if possessed. The performances of all four musicians are electrifying (and near telepathic: notice the pinpoint accuracy of their stop/start unison runs), with highlights divided equally between the gothic majesty of Hugh Banton's organ, the aggressive jazziness (not an oxymoron) of drummer Guy Evans, and perhaps best of all the signature snarl of David Jackson on saxophone.
Jackson was unique among horn players of the period, with a more experimental style owing nothing, repeat: nothing to any popular Jazz or Blues tradition. The band didn't employ a dedicated electric guitarist (enlisting the aid of Crimson King and kindred spirit ROBERT FRIPP on this and other albums), but Jackson easily filled that gap with sounds no mere guitar could match: check out his celebrated solo on the album opener, "Killer", sounding as if he's attempting to throttle a struggling alley cat. And his creative use of a wah-wah pedal on the extended "Squid/Octopus" medley anticipates the similar sound developed by the great MILES DAVIS during his primal "Dark Magus" years, shortly afterward.
The second bonus track is a likewise live-in-the-studio rehearsal of "The Emperor in His War Room", almost identical in form to the final album version appearing earlier on the disc, but with the lack of any overdubbing (including the distinctive sustain of Fripp's guest guitar solo) giving the song a more appealing immediacy.
The original album itself has already been thoroughly chewed and digested elsewhere in these pages, so I won't dwell on it long except to note how remarkably fresh the music sounds after all these years, despite (or maybe because of) the sometimes overwrought poetry of Peter Hammills's lyrics. Hammill was always one of the more literate songwriters of the era, and deserves high marks for youthful ambition even when his narratives shaded toward the melodramatic (as in the brilliantly tortured exposition of the 11+ minute "Lost").
The album closer "Pioneers Over C" is a fascinating case in point. The C of the title is presumably Einstein's constant: the speed of light, proximity to which can do funny things to the fabric of space and time, as suggested by the enigmatic album title and equally obscure Paul Whitehead cover art (what exactly is that contraption floating in low earth orbit?).
Science fiction themes were not uncommon in early Prog (think of the Space Rock of PINK FLOYD at the time), but this was Psy-Fi out of a J.G. Ballard nightmare: a pessimistic look at the inner terrors of outer space, with an uncanny lyrical sense of temporal dislocation ("We are the ones they are going to build a statue for," says Hammill's astral traveler, his voice jumping unpredictably between octaves, "ten centuries ago...or were going to, fifteen forward.") The song offers an interesting perspective of the Final Frontier, especially after the mind-blowing evolutionary optimism of Stanley Kubrick's 1968 cinematic head-rush "2001: A Space Odyssey", and indicates how the 22-year old Hammill was, like his astronaut protagonist, a man sometimes uncomfortably ahead of his time.
Well, so much for brevity. Add a dozen-page CD booklet filled with historical background, band photos, and song lyrics, and this already excellent album emerges in the 21st century as a belated masterpiece of truly progressive music.
This album, along with Still Life is my favourite after what I see as VdGG's magnum opus, Pawn Hearts. The oddly titled H to He, Who am the Only One is the direct predecessor to Pawn Hearts and it's here that you can see them really developing their signature dark, avant garde, jazzy prog. It all starts off with the fan favourite Killer, one of my favourites as well. Hammill's dark lyrics describe a fish that lives in the depths of the sea and kills everything. The music is befitting to these lyrics, and is alternately a simple catchy melody and some really twisted free-jazz type music with dissonant sax and organ parts contributing to the tension of the song. That tension is relieved by the next track, the ballad House With No Door, which though lyrically dark is a very mellow song with a dark mood that is rather haunting. The next track makes this worth buying for King Crimson fans, as Robert Fripp guests on The Emperor in his War Room with some of his signature guitar parts that you can tell are him immediately, as nobody else can sound like Fripp. Lost is one of my favourites on this album, as is the track that follows it, Pioneers Over C. Both are mini epics that are among the best tracks that the band has written. The former deals with themes of an unrequited passion and is alternately frantic and beautiful. The latter is about a group of people that become lost in space, confused about their very existence and is quite wonderful musically as well, with a memorable sax melody, a catchy bass line, and some frantic instrumentals. In my view, H to He isn't quite the masterpiece Pawn Hearts is but I am not hesitant to call it a masterpiece nonetheless, as I do enjoy every minute of this album and it is among the band's most intense, dark material.Sean
This one absolutely stunned me. I had listened to Killer on this site, and couldn't get enough of it. I had no idea what was coming. H to He is, despite having references to physics in the title and some of the songs (I'm not a science person at all, but for those of you who are, the nerd element should make this album even cooler), a very slick package.Spence
Killer, as I mentioned above, stuck with me very seriously. Powerful brass work from David Jackson backs Peter Hammill's arching voice just beautifully. It's aggressive and menacing while still being flat out fun to listen to. Uptempo and filled with something of a rock sound, this song is a very good way to wean yourself or a loved one onto this band, as sometimes they can be a lot to swallow.
House with No Door is my least favorite track on here, though many fans consider it one of the best Van der Graaf Generator songs of all time. It's mellow and pretty, but lacks the same impossible hooks that the other four tracks have. That's not to say that I don't really like it. I just don't love it, is all.
The Emperor in His War Room is straight up awesome (I use that word at risk of sounding twelve, but I think it is merited here). The flutes are gorgeous. The melodies get stuck in my head for weeks at a time, sometimes. Robert Fripp plays a mean guitar throughout, and I think that the occasional addition of this instrument adds power to the times when it actually is around. Well, that, or the fact that it's Fripp himself playing it that adds the power. Sometimes it's hard to know for sure.
Lost is long and beautiful. It builds and builds throughout its length, to culminate in Hammill's chilling I love you line being repeated. Very well done.
Pioneers over C is probably my second favorite here, to The Emperor. I just love the way the song stops occasionally and drops into a nice little bass business, which is then each time promptly joined by the saxophone. The vocals are some of the most convincing of the entire album, I think, even when they are leaping around and sounding mildly like just randomly chosen notes. What a way to close an album. What a way.
All in all, if you are going to start in on VdGG, do what I did, and start here. It's a great way to get a feel for them, while still saving their bigger releases for later when you are a bigger fan of the band. Or, at least, that's how I feel.
H to He Who Am the Only One is an excellent album from Van der Graaf Generator, definitely one of their best alongside Pawn Hearts (their best), the much celebrated Godbluff and the incredible The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other. The album begins with the dynamic 'Killer' which is easily the best track on the album and a concert favourite. It focuses on a narrative perspective from a killer shark who wants to be loved but has an impulse to kill outside of its control: "You crave companionship... because the whole of your life you've been living alone". Interesting enough, the real highlight beyond the lyrics is the way Hammill delivers with absolute conviction and the way that the instruments compliment the keyboards with saxophones and percussion that is off beat at times but never out of time. Perfectly in synch, all the instruments blend to create a soundscape of doom and majesty and it captures the imagination unlike anything the early 70s had to offer. At 8 minutes the track flows beautifully from one segment to another, and features an erratic instrumental break that almost transports you under the sea witnessing a shark attack, the shrill saxophone bursts could be a fish screaming in pain, and the deep rumbles could be the shark swimming to its next meal. 'Killer' is an instant classic and a must for anyone interested in this genre of music.Scott Tuffnell
'House With No Door' is one of the contemplative existentialist pensive tracks where Hammill contemplates life and the purpose for his existence.
'Emperor in his War Room' gets back to the greatness of VDGG, a torrid saga of an Emperor who "cradling his gun, after choosing the ones you think should die... crawling over the windowsill into your living room." The bodies that are "torn by vultures" are left to die by the "saviour of the fallen, protector of the weak". Once again terrific lyrics overladen by mellotron, atmospheric drums and saxophone, and the relentless bass.
"Lost" is another brilliant track that begins with a swirling dervish of keyboards and wrong chords that are used to maximum effect. It's as good as it gets and moves all over the place, with time signatures that are difficult to emulate. This is one of the more complex tracks from the band, and features an excellent saxophone and keyboard solo that drives the song forward to the final section The Dance in the Forest. One part pulses with a driving bass while a thin saxophone contains a strong esoteric melody. The echo of the saxophone adds to the sense of alienation and bleakness. It all ends on an off kilter series of notes that speed up into a frenzy that finally fades out.
'Pioneers Over C' is one of the best VDGG tracks and begins with a high pitched atmospheric note, then a low rumbling Hammond keeps the jagged rhythm in tact somehow, while the percussion kicks in. It's a great sound and prepares the way for Hammill's spaced out lyrics. "Somebody help me I am falling down" he cries. I just love the riff of the bass and sax in this track that stops and starts and even features quite a beautiful acoustic arrangement and spars saxophone. "The universe is on fire exploding without flame" - fair enough if the universe is going to go foom it may as well be to the melodies of VDGG. Heavy stuff throughout it never becomes overbearing thanks to the excellent structures of each track that range from tranquility to an out of control maelstrom.
The bonus tracks are surprisingly good and worth the effort. "Squid/Octopus" is a fantastic lengthy 15 minute epic that works well on a number of levels. From the estranged vocals, "I wish that you would set me free forever, but these rings on my arms are too deep...", down to the way it blasts and spews waves of noise using instruments from acoustic guitar to mellotron. I love the way it loses control halfway through almost improvisational in places and then somehow finds its way again, nobody could jam like these guys. The end is stuffed up with an added cymbal hit and the band members curse and laugh. But who would care after the way this track spiralled all over the place, but I guess these guys were perfectionests.
The early take of 'Emperor in His war Room' is more or less a curio and is a rare look at the makings of a classic track. It does sound different without the overdubs and atmospherics but is no the less the better for it.
Overall, H to He... is absolutely quintessential VDGG and my CD collection would be the poorer without it. Along with Pawn Hearts and Godbluff, I can't recommend this more highly.
The hardest-hitting, perhaps the greatest, prog albums have an essence of their own, a certain SellingEnglandbythepoundness or Brainsaladsurgeryness (Plato can do it, so can I ;) ), rather than being a collection of song ideas with or without an underlying theme, by the same artist, in the same year. Htohewhoamtheonlyoneness is an oddity. Despite the fluent theme of loneliness, the songs are thoroughly different, with fiery dissonance and calm beauty coexisting within the album, and initially, the album, and indeed some of the songs. Nevertheless, regardless of the range, the elusive feel of the album is there, and impacts more powerfully every time. For me, such an album is without doubt a masterpiece.Rob
That waffle aside, H To He Who Am The Only One is a superior effort to its perfectly good predecessor in several ways. First, the lyrics have really fallen into place, and have moved on from simply interesting and well-constructed to incredible emotional journeys with enigmas and clever wordplay incorporated in them. This album in particular is lyrically one of the two or three strongest that I own. Second, Hammill's vocals, which were previously exquisite and superb, have begun to flex themselves inquisitively, trying out new ideas constantly rather than going for a sound/tone and sticking to it for a song. Finally, the songs are slightly more distinctive to my ears, which is merely a personal preference issue.
Where we get to the really interesting features of the album, though, are the production and the album's basic 'features'. The production is clear and appropriate, with a very clear drum and bass sound leaving no mess or unhelpful material in the background to interfere with Bantom's crystalline organ chords, yet no feeling that there should be something else there when the organ or piano drops out. There's the space for the two leads to intertwine over the top of the organ and bass, while Hammill can display his incredible range, and the under-appreciated Guy Evans can use his classic rolling percussion sound with intense fills to full effect. And while all this goes on, there's no feeling of crowding, and nonetheless the feeling of loneliness, loss, rage, rejection and, finally, escape goes straight from the speakers to the soul. Van Der Graaf Generator at one of their many finest moments, and an incredible experience if you can really immerse yourself in it.
Killer opens the album with style, moodiness and a thick organ-sax-piano riff that manages to, with supple variations, hold up the piece perfectly. The parable of the fish (coincidentally, this makes the album lyrically presenting loneliness in sea-break-land-break-space progression), representing men isolating themselves through alienating those around them, is delivered with a dark, almost watery, vocal, and the entire presentation gives a unique dark-sea feel (as opposed to the sweeping majesty of Echoes or Firth Of Frith). Hugh Bantom's organ-work is viciously choppy, using swelling jabs and swipes to full effect as a counterpart to the smoother (at least, outside of the solo) sax, while the first really Van Der Graaf Generator piano makes its appearance (as do brief, but brilliant acoustic swirls that appear and then are gone with no grating whatsoever), directing the mood intensifying without melodrama, and substantiating the background for some of the zany soloist parts on occasion. Guy Evans gives a phenomenally strong performance, keeping up a consistently interesting and mobile background percussion performance with his characteristic second-long intrusions on the lead. However, no description of the song would be complete without an acknowledgement of the three mindblowing solos, a swirling, aggressive, grinding noise, probably from Bantom's general direction, Jackson's chaotic sax whirlwind and his later gorgeous, smoother solo. Of interest, too, is the ending. Where it appears to be scaling up to the classic bluesy crescendo, the band have the restraint and taste to conclude it quite decisively without bowing to that convention. This leaves a smooth segue to...
The beautiful and harrowing A House With No Door. Very much softer than its predecessor, but no less moving. Beautiful piano melodies take the lead, substantiated and backed by a more prominent and directional bass, and Evans' drumming and percussion taking an equally impressive and prominent role in a soft song (another reason I consider the man so overlooked. There aren't many percussionists who can really do that for a soft song). Hammill, however, remains the main focus, with his mournful, steadily unsteady, almost self-deprecating (in feel) vocal and perfect lyrics ('There's a house with no light/All the windows are sealed/Overtaxed and strained, now nothing is revealed...inside'). His voice manages to include majesty and, in the final verse, this incredible switching between his fairly high male voice and a (perhaps falsetto is the right word, but I doubt it) near-female, equally high, yet distinctly different sound flawlessly. An unforgettable vocal and lyrical performance, which is only made sweeter by the quality of the rest of the piece's components. Jaxon contributes a lush flute melody, with the unusual backing of an odd organ setting as well as the piece's basic components, and then heightening the feel with the addition of saxes (I think it could be the two-saxophones-at-once trick). Soft organ adds a touch of tasteful depth to the piece's conclusion, which is reached by a lush piano-bass duet. So different from the opener, but equally perfect.
The Emperor In His War Room is a third style again, with a more earthly vocal from Hammill, emphasising the sharp edges of the imagery-thick, cleverly constructed and menacing lyrics about the fall and isolation of a dictator. Musically, the piece is very much augmented by the presence of the far-famed Robert Fripp, first on delightfully vicious acoustics, and then in a bizarre, winding solo running parallel to the solid work of the band. Another chief feature is the presence of the flute (complete with a couple of effects) as a lead instrument, and some very solid bass and organ-lines contrasting with its airy, escapist feel. Menace and tension ooze from the piece, but also a genuine pity for the subject. Evans extensive militaristic percussion provides another burst of intensity. Here lie both the tense atmospheres that would make A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers and the more conventional features of H To He. The use of contrast is very strongly and subtly done, and the piece slows and thins very carefully to alter the listener's emotions.
Lost is a very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very special piece to me. In addition to being one of at most five musical pieces that have reduced me to tears, it is so utterly, perfectly romantic. Hammill takes one of the most conventional, generic topics of rock and writes about it poetically, intelligently and with feeling. The delivery matches, stretching with desperation, almost-weeping with loss, and moving to majesty, anger, sadness and longing with a natural flow. The music, though at first I was somewhat taken aback by the frantic nature of the opening sax/organ line, is to match. The opening theme is often reprised much more slowly in the later parts of the song, softly echoing and remembering the perceived frantic passion of the old relationship. The playing is perfect throughout, with Jaxon's brief, emotive spins and warm, but mournful, hums making full use of the human breath resemblance of the sax. Piano and organ are both handled in much the same style, smoothly, but with a constant feeling of utter and crushing loss. Evans again contributes fantastically, never breaking the feel with his style, though even including a very subtle and low-key use of something quite like the eighties drum thwack. The bass-work is smooth, clear, and independent, giving emphasis wherever necessary. Individually, all of these components are superb, but together the scale and beauty leaves me stunned every time. The interplay between sax and organ leads, coinciding with the most exemplary of the shining organ chords earlier referenced, simply has to be heard. I wish I could describe it better, but Lost goes so far beyond words that these are insufficient. This song alone would justify an album.
Pioneers over C (both a brilliant pun, and potentially a double-scientific reference, C being Carbon and c being the speed of light) begins with a soft, restrained rhythm and a crackling swirl, feeling distant (especially in the drum part, which sounds like a bongo to me). This initial distance is then varied throughout the song for force and effect, sometimes glaring with stark bass parts and at others slipping away with soft background organ and acoustic leads. Hammill again gives an absolutely stellar (pun not intended) performance, slipping away from our consciousness and roaring back into it, proclaiming exuberantly 'We are the lost ones', before slipping back around his own vocals. Harmonies are used with attention to detail, and the brilliantly stark lyrics are furthered by the stunning delivery. Aside from a slightly wider percussion set, and a much more prominent use of acoustic rhythms than previously, Pioneers Over C also features a greater role for the bass in providing active direction. Jaxon again manages to steal the show with sax bursts, including a particularly avant-garde breathless wandering. Pianos wander from ear to ear, and the organ provides both subtle and overt additions, as well as a rocking riff towards the end. The dark-space atmosphere (like the previous dark-water and dark-earth ones) is sustained flawlessly throughout, and the band clearly has a conviction in what they are doing that overrides any resistance. I have actually ended up on one occasion staring out of my window holding up my arms to the stars, so carried away by the atmosphere.
So, in conclusion to the rather long preceding passage, Htohewhoamtheonlyoneness not only exists, but it is also utterly incredible, beautiful and tragic. In fact, it is almost unique in its effect on me. So, with it being my second favourite album of all time, I can only give it my most exaggerated score. Go forth, Htohewhoamtheonlyoneness, and prosper!
Favourite Track: Lost, though all are incredible.
This moment had to come. I had to review this album, for it has a history for me. When I was 15 years old and I started listening to my first prog (Arena, wich I downloaded by accedent), I started to look for more of this new kind. I downloaded classics with completely no knowledge about what to expect. I had The Court of the Crimson King and this strange Who am the Only one. The first I started to like after some time, the latter I thought what awfull. I wasn't read yet I guess. Somehow I had always remembered the lyric "There's a House with no Door...". It felt so totally strange back then. Five years later I've gathered this vinyl collection of 120 progrecords, most of them from the seventies it was time again to give this Van der Graaf Genetor a new trie. And... succes!Friso
I have all there important recordings (The Least to World Record) and I realy think this one is their absolute masterpiece! The lyrical concept of the album is about desolation, confusion and loneliness and what time is when you're completely isolated. The latter I fiend very interesting from an philosophical point of view. It made me think a lot about the subject. Because the Van der Graaf Generator sound is very known to a lot of people I will mostly talk about the lyrical content of the songs.
In the first song Killers we are told about a fish that eats all other fish around him, so he's very lonely. In the end of the song the link to a emotional live of someone who's a killer in social relations. Stange thought, but it works very well! Good opener, not to extreme.
House with no Door grew on me a lot. I now can even play it on the piano! What is left of one if he live totally isolated. "Now nothing is revealed but time", sings Hammil. Again a sort of link to an social/emotinal perspective. Great ballad!
The Emperer in his War-room. The main theme of this song was also something I could remember very well from five years ago... this theme touches my very soul. As the title suggest it's again a song about some lonely figur who makes discisions for his own to protect his people. This is one of the best epics written by Van der Graaf Generator. It has a lot of themes, but they sound a bit apart. Like songs within the songs. It took me some time, but I realy enjoy this!
Lost is another great song, but it feels not as special as the other, so I won't talk about it too much.
And then my alltime favourite, the hardest song on the album, the most philosophical progsong I know. THE PIONEERS OVER C. I have no good words to discribe this song. Musically it's good, but the power lies in the perfect balance and cooperation between words and notes. The song is about someone who goes into space to explore with the knowlegde that he well never come back. During the song this person begins to feel more lonely and enstranged from his human nature, replace be an unsure dark being that has no control over his reality anymore. "No-one knows where we are, they can't feel us precisely..." sings Hammel. After this a great sax solo comes in wich you will here the confusion and the strangness of the one so isolated from al living. "There is no fear here, how could such a thing exist in a place where living and knowing and being have never been heard of? After this we hear some more interesting lyrics on the main themes and then the final sentence sung in desperation by Hammil: "I am the one who crossed to space, or stayed where I was, or didn't exist in the first place". This sentence has been very important for me. What are with no other around us? What are we in total isolation, who are we without touch? What will become of are awareness? All philosophical questions arising from this one epic. A true masterpiece. I trie to inspire a lot of people around me with this great song.
Well... one of my favourite records of all time. The music's good, the lyrics perfect. The philosophical feel perfect, the atmospheres devine. I could never have unsterstood this record when I was 15 years old.... but now.. Solid five stars!
He's colourless, odourless, tasteless and non-toxic, but still a gasIain
Of all the genre heavyweights, it is perhaps VDGG who are paradoxically the worst fit for these emperors second-hand clothes as they usually inhabit a world far removed from the cramped cosmos of progdom. Are there any bands equally revered by such strange bedfellows as John Lydon, Siouxsie Sioux and Julian Cope? (Answers on a metal postcard please)
There exist on this site numerous entreaties to caution with regards paddling in the shark infested waters of Hamill & Co as if the phenomenon were something of an acquired taste for the tyro prog connoisseur. As well intentioned as such dire warnings are, they do unfortunately completely miss the mark as haplessly as that of a lifeguard who mistakes a floaty for a man-eater i.e. VDGG are NOT a progressive rock band at all and but we do stubbornly persist in measuring high performance motor vehicles in terms of horse power?.
To wit, the ensemble's output has been wedged with acquisitive ceremony into a crown that resembles a rather figure hugging piece of headgear. I am sure that Peter Hammill would be flattered to be considered in the same breathless reverence as that of Yes, ELP, Genesis, Gentle Giant et al while silently recoiling from the latent threat of 'guilt by association' manifest by the worst excesses of his peer group(s) L.A.M.F.
However, H to He Who Am the Only One represents at least two landmarks for prog i.e probably the wankiest album title EVER in a field brimming with stiff and eager competition together with the most overtly 'proggy' and accessible album the combo ever released and maybe the only one that wears such credentials without any hint of self consciousness on its gatefold sleeve.
The 'oblivion express with connecting flights to outer obscurity' as represented by the sublimely bizarre Pawn Hearts is only tenuously prefaced here, as VDGG had good cause to dilute the 'beta' version toxicity of the latter and instead, exploit more traditional structure, harmony and form. That is not to say they have sold out Man, or compromised their artistic vision, after all the poison bottle can't hurt you, it's the contents that do the dirty work.
Killer has one of those enduring riffs that hoist the song up to the rarefied heights of a 21st Century Schizoid Man or Roundabout but there the resemblance ends, as Hammill runs a much tighter ship than Fripp or Anderson and routinely punishes conformist curs with a swift walk along the gangplank. Perhaps it's the gentlemen of the 'pressgang' who are most guilty of recruiting such unwilling conscripts?. Prog Rock and VDGG part company the moment Hammill opens his mouth:
- So you live at the bottom of the sea and you kill all who come near you but you are very lonely, because all the other fish fear you .....And you crave companionship and someone to call your own; because for the whole of your life you've been living alone. -
Peter embodies a vocal personality and range that is utterly unique and were it nor for his admirable discipline and restraint, just might threaten to overpower most of the musical works to which he contributes (see Arrow). He is also an unswerving adherent to the rule of 'only write about what you know' in this case, himself and is all too aware of the charges of self-indulgence that such a path will invariably attract from unwittingly ironic critics. As deeply unpleasant and repellent as the creature is that inhabits Killer, I suspect it is really addressed to a dark and malevolent self burrowed very deep within the Hammill critter himself. Bury your treasure deep, and your refuse, deeper. BTW There is a short chordal passage that appears a couple of times before the end that naggingly recalls a Stranglers song (Something Better Change?)
A similar unpalatable depiction of the author is explored in A House with No Door, where Hammill embellishes the building analogy with the merciless eye of a self absorbed and neglectful caretaker:
- There's a house with no bell, but then nobody calls. I sometimes find it hard to tell if any are alive at all outside. There's a house with no sound; yes, it's quiet there ...there's not much point in words if there's no-one to share in time There's a house with no door and there's no living there, one day it became a wall ... well I didn't really care at the time. There's a house with no light, all the windows are sealed, overtaxed and strained now nothing is revealed but time I don't know you, you say you know me, that may be so, there's so much that I am unsure of ... You call my name, but it sounds unreal, I forget how I feel, my body's rejecting the cure .....Won't somebody help me ......? -
There can't be many better expressions of a terrifying isolation and loneliness in the entire spectrum of rock. The music here is a piano fuelled ballad both wistfully light and poignantly dark that somehow never once strays into the sentimental snare lying patiently in wait for those considerably less sure footed than Hammill and his collaborators. I also detect the calling card of some of the existentialist thinkers here e.g. Camus and Sartre who share Hammill's disavowal of any spiritual consolations for we humanoids.
If VDGG were ever invited to appear on a King Crimson tribute album they could, in a gesture which bespokes more sincerity than their hosts, offer up an original i.e. The Emperor in His War Room, which acknowledges a large debt to the spirit of early Fripp & Co with its hippy gothic facade and melodramatic lyrics that must have brought a pang of envy to Pete Sinfield. Yes, it's a tad cheesy and juvenile in places but music this stirring and dynamic wedded to Hammill's inimitable tonsilry makes it probably my favourite VDGG track ever. Blimey Guvnor !, are the darting black liquorice tongued guitar phrases towards the end those of the grounded Red Baron Fripp himself? (They are)
Despite my unease about some of the martial lyrical conceits, the following just blows Sinfield out of the paddling pool:
- Ghosts betray you, ghosts betray you, in the night they steal your eye from its socket ...and the ball hangs fallen on your cheek -
This (unnamed) tyrant/despot is haunted and ultimately suffers from the guilt that goes hand in hand with biting same.
If lovesongs are ten a penny in popular music you ain't gonna get much change out of Lost. At just over eleven minutes we have here one of the very few songs of any genre which does justice to the ineffable vagaries of the human heart. During its convoluted and tangential pathways, Hammill vocalises both the exaltation of the lover and its harrowing corollary, the unrequited adoration of the beloved. There is, like so much of Peter's art, a confrontational and implacable sense of frustration imbued in this music that leaves its indelible mark on the receptive listener, so beware serial love rats, this is not a track you will ever get laid to:
- It was far too late to contemplate the meaning of it all, You know that I need you, but somehow I don't think you see my love at all Looking out through the tears that bind me my heart bleeds that you may find me .. or at least that I can forget and be numb, but I can't stop, the words still come, I love you -
Should you think the foregoing twee and even (cough) 'soppy', and remain unmoved by the emotion in Hammill's voice on those last three time-worn words, you are without any shadow of doubt, merely a fridge magnet blessed only with sight and hearing organs.
Judging by the (dreadful) artwork and (ditto) title that adorns this album with its 'failed zero gravity satellite TV installation by scantily dressed astronaut' motif, I suspect that Hammill may have had a keen interest in contemporary science, or at least some of the more credible science fiction from authors like Poaul Anderson, Isaac Asimov et al, as there are hints of such references in Pioneers Over c (With the deliberate lower case 'c' denoting the speed of light?) Such weighty and speculative topics are way over my furry head readers, so I'm afraid I can't even begin to guess what Peter is on about on this track. Despite that, I can at least recommend some yet more spiffy and memorable music which brings this wonderful record to a satisfying conclusion.
I fear however that for some nay-sayers, something could be deemed absent. There is not a trace of humour or irony anywhere on this document. Does this matter? I mean you can admittedly have too much of a bad thang y'all so just don't go expecting this to be some sort of 'chuckle avalanche' as Peter & the Boys do at the very least, acknowledge a very hard won, misshapen and fragile joy of life.
I purchased this album in its original vinyl incarnation a long time ago and although I enjoyed it, have to admit that I was probably too immature to appreciate the depth and sophistication that is contained therein. It certainly has stood the test of time, and will reward closer scrutiny by ANYONE discerning enough to dispense with looking up a zipcode for 'No Fixed Abode'.
Y podría seguir incluyendo innumerables y casi infinitas loas y halagos a este disco, pero no tiene sentido, creánme que mucha gente ha disfrutado con estas genialidades que ahora compartimos en este espacio.
Otro disco fundamental para una colección decente de buena música. Discazo ultra recontra recomendado.
Lista de Temas:
2. House With No Door
3. The Emperor In His War-Room
- a) The Emperor
- b) The Room
- a) The Dance In Sand And Sea
- b) The Dance In The Frost
5. Pioneers Over C.
2. House With No Door
3. The Emperor In His War-Room
- a) The Emperor
- b) The Room
- a) The Dance In Sand And Sea
- b) The Dance In The Frost
5. Pioneers Over C.
- Peter Hammill / lead vocals, acoustic guitar, piano (3)
- Hugh Banton / organs, oscillator, piano, bass (2,5), vocals
- Guy Evans / drums, tympani, percussion
- David Jackson / saxes, flute, vocals
Nic Potter / bass (1,3,4)
Robert Fripp / electric guitar (3)