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Steve Hillage - Green CD (album) cover

GREEN

Steve Hillage

 

Canterbury Scene

4.00 | 127 ratings

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4 stars Mantric Tentacles

Steve Hillage is part of that rare breed; A guitarist with a unique sound and playing style.

It is far, far, easier to say that a particular guitarist sounds like Hillage than to identify the great man's influences - and yet the style is obviously blues-based, reverting to the safe comfort zone of the pentatonic scale time and time again - even when dressed up in modal flights of fantasy.

His career is prolific and amazingly constant over almost 4 decades - from Arzachel through Gong and his solo work to his more recent collaborations and explorations into electronic dance music with System 7, there is the single constant that can be readily extracted from everything he lays his hands on;

Sound.

Specifically, the OM or AUM sound which became fashionable with hippies everywhere in the 1970s, but it is crystal clear (sic) that Hillage took it completely to heart and has since made the strongest possible attempts to find this sound using his guitar, music synthesisers and empathetic musicians.

And that is what strikes you first about GREEN, the ethereal other-worldliness that Hillage was alreay fully competant in creating has been taken to the next level. While Pink Floyd also succeeded in creating an overall sound that was way ahead of their time on DSOTM, Hillage together with Nick Mason behind the desk, went beyond that sound. Hillage, sadly, spoiled it somewhat with sub-par songwriting skills and a predeliction for over-earnest but well-meaning Hippie nonsense in his lyrics.

This hippie "nonsense" is the next thing that strikes you about GREEN, and blame for this lies mainly in the huge amount of homage it pays to Hillage's Gong days - the "Glorious Om Riff" is the main riff of "Master Builder", as the single most obvious example. This single riff (in more fairness, this single album!) is also the foundation of a career for the Ozric Tentacles and many a mid 1980s "New Age" underground band since.

Ultimately, the highlights of this album are ALL of the instrumental sections, which are a frankly stunning confection of super-effected guitar and home-grown synth sounds (thanks to T.O.N.T.O. and the ambient synth wizardry of Miquette Giraudy).

The drumming from Joe Blocker manages to be machine-precise, yet hangs loose at the same time, mixing rock drive and jazz swing with simple grooves and complex details - percussion is a far more accurate word for what is happening here. Joe manages to express everything that is needed in a manner that is restrained but highly articulate.

The bass playing is precise but minimal - following rather than taking part, but you hardly notice this, and really, this is probably all that's required to make this music complete - although it's not the sort of stuff a novice could play.

To summarise; Absolutely astonishing sounds and music, even today, that makes the contemporary explorations of Frose and Schultze, etc., sound like kids playing with electronic toys.

I would award this album a complete Masterpiece rating, but sadly, the songs themselves let the album down heavily - Exhibit A: (vocoder) "Way down below the oceans, we'll be riding on our emotions..." (Sea Nature); Exhibit B: "Palm Trees" (say no more...)

But the MUSIC outside of the songwriting is Grade A stuff - top quality, well-polished jams with a modicum of composition that hangs it all together nicely. Widely regarded as Progressive Rock, I won't argue too much - although the overriding tendency is to explore in the realms of sound and jam with it rather than to explore all musical possibilites and compose.

A great album, and a most excellent addition to any collection - from the rock end of an ambient collection to the ambient end of a rock collection - but second to "Fish Rising" in terms of Prog Rock in a purists collection.

Certif1ed | 4/5 |

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