"I went out and bought all of the EMI remastered albums and they are simply superb. The sound quality of H to He Who am the Only One has been vastly improved upon and the liner notes are wonderfully detailed and include various photos of the band scattered throughout. In addition to the original tracks, the electrifying and thunderous 15'24" Squid1/Squid 2/Octopus was added on along with the first version of The Emperor in his War Room. I should note that EMI did not use copy-control technology on the remastered albums so playback problems should not plague listeners.
This is the bleakest, most gothic prog rock I have ever heard. Instrumentation is sparse, with great drumming from Guy Evans (I can really hear the subtleties of his playing on the cleaned up recording), solid bass playing from Nic Potter, twisted Hammond organ work from keyboardist Hugh Banton, angular and aggressive sax playing from David Jackson (he would play two saxes at the same time - in fact Jackson, not to mention Colosseum sax player Dick Heckstall-Smith borrowed this technique from jazzer Rahsaan Roland Kirk) and a tiny bit of aggressive guitar work from guest Robert Fripp on "The Emperor in his War Room". Although synthesizers are largely absent, Hugh Banton is in fact credited with using an oscillator - which is a crude synthesizer (wave form generator actually). The most distinctive aspects of the music are Peter Hammill's anguished lyrics and his vocal delivery, which ranges from a tortured, heavy metal rasp to a smooth, high-pitched falsetto. While some folks find his vocals overwrought and excessively dramatic (this reaches a peak on "Lost"), it really makes this music work. Pieces are in the 6'00-12'25 range, with the heaviest track being the introductory "Killer". Although describing the music in terms of tortured, harsh, and anguished must conjure up sounds of a bandsaw ripping through galvanized steel, the music is not entirely abrasive. "House with No Door" is a very quiet and sad piece, and "The Emperor in his War Room", "Lost", and "Pioneers over c" all feature haunting and reflective sections in amongst the chaos. Though "H to He: Who am the Only One" is a good starting point, other excellent recordings by Van der Graaf Generator include "The Least we can do is Wave to Each Other (1970); Pawn Hearts (1971); Godbluff (1975) and Still Life (1976). Of these recordings, Pawn Hearts is their acclaimed best yet makes for extremely difficult listening. "
The most original progressive rock band EVER.
DLE | St. Louis | 04/06/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If there is a band who can express "Being and Nothingness" by Jean Paul Satre or "Being and Time" by Heidegger, THIS IS THE BAND! This band explores the deep dark abyssmal recesses of being with SOUND. Does this "sound" like something you want to experience sonically? You may be saying a big NO! But if you consider yourself a progressive music fan in the very least, then IT IS YOUR DUTY TO LISTEN TO THIS MASTERPIECE! It is one of the most hauntingly disturbing prog masterpieces I have ever encountered. Desert Island record for any progressive rock fan."
We are the ones they're going to build a statue for ten cent
emperor nobody | california, USA | 01/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This was the 1st VDGG remaster I picked up and oh, my! did it live up to what I hoped it would be. Someone earlier said that these Charisma bands suffered from a kitchen-sink-induced murkiness in the production, largely because they were trying to stretch the then-new 16-track technology to its absolute limits... that's what makes these remasters (and in particular our friend Hydrogen to Helium here) so great and so long overdue. Comparing the new CDs to the old ones (and, God forbid, the "First Generation" compilation from the 1980s) is like looking at a high-resolution struck print of a photograph versus a Xerox made on a faulty machine, there is no comparison, really.
Anyway this is a classic album made all-the-more towering by the inclusion of the ridiculous live-in-the-studio bonus take of the heretofore mythical "Squid/Octopus" opus. Progressive Rock was (at its best, like here) a truly creative enterprise before it collapsed under the weight of its own self-image around the time PG quit Genesis and Fripp (who tears up a nice sustain-y Les Paul excursion on "The Emperor In His War Room" here) broke up Crimson the first time... and this late-1970 record proves it with the inimitable VDGG triumverate of loopy stop/start/dissolve/jumpcut cinematic arrangements, magnificent drums/double sax interplay from Guy Evans and D-Jax, and the manically panicked vocal stylings of Hammill. Hugh Banton, who built his instruments from the ground up, contributes his usual quota of terrifying organissimo as well... he is kind of the bridge between Hammill and the unusual rhythm section.
Standouts include the Prog staple "Killer" (a real whale of a song, indeed), the sci-fi mindf*ck "Pioneers Over C" and the aforementioned antiwar anthem "The Emperor In His War Room," which could be about Josef Stalin or even "Dandy Don" Rumsfeld. Yes and did I mention the bonus track of "Squid/Octopus" makes EL&P sound like the 1910 Fruitgum Company?
Again, if you don't have these VDGG remasters, you really aren't fully alive. Grab them and see where Johnny Rotten learned to scream-sing.
"Killer" Van Der Graaf
William Scalzo | Niagara Falls, NY | 10/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Several years ago on this site, I wrote a review of another album by this band and titled it "Band in need of a reissue series!" 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.
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" 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.
I am now salivating over getting some more of the VDGG reissues in this series, but for now it is one outstanding addition to my prog collection and I highly recommend it to progheads."
A real "Killer"!
Barry P. Saranchuk | Moosic, PA United States | 06/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the first of these re-issues I have bought....just for that elusive "Squid/Octopus" bonus track!
The sound is pretty good ,still some hiss in the tapes, but the bass is very nice and punchy!
But the real Killer is "Squid / Octopus"! This is one deranged(in a great ,"mad" way)track. It's full of wild ,on the edge,dissonance,and imagery in the lyric which is way out in the "acid" zone(Acid Prog?)! It's been a long time for me to finally hear this fabled track,....It is worth all the pennies! The producers let the tape run out after the session so you can hear someone just go wild at the end in the studio about this mad ,hot take! This COOKS!!!