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Steve Hillage - Fish Rising CD (album) cover


Steve Hillage


Canterbury Scene

4.12 | 452 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Superb Outing from THE Canterbury Guitar Master

FISH RISING, the first solo album by Steve Hillage, has been dubbed "Space Shanty 2" or "Radio Gnome Invisible, pt 4" by various fans. While it is much closer to the former than the latter, this album is best conceived as simply one of the many recombinations of the Canterbury crowd. Combining the RGI lineup of Gong (without bandleader Daevid Allen) and adding organist extraordinaire Dave Stewart, all playing Hillage's evolving compositions, FISH RISING is a kind of in-between album in many ways. But instead of being a directionless project with lots of growing pains (which it easily could have been), it has the best of many worlds all in one place. It is an excellent album, one of the best of the space jam style of Canterbury that I prefer.

The craziness and psychedelia of Gong have obviously had a significant effect on Hillage since the Khan project (incidentally my single favorite Canterbury album). The sound of FISH RISING is more open, a little less focused, but also packs more surprises. There are exchanges between Hillage and Stewart that would have fit perfectly on Space Shanty but there are also much longer and free form space jams. These jams are superb, by the way. My taste for long effects-laden improvisation is variable, but on this album I never get bored (as I do listening to many Krautrock albums). Certainly, there are repeated melodic themes, but the amount of variation in instrumentation and rhythm keeps my attention quite well.

The strength of this album is composition. On previous works, Hillage had shown his ability to construct very prog multi-sectioned songs with odd time, interleaved instrumentation, and non-standard melodies. All of these exist here, but with a wider variety of tonal colors available. Non-western tonalities, solo guitar loops, and rapid stop changes are used with great taste. There is a LOT of music packed into these songs. At the same time, the music has a certain groove and atmosphere that could still appeal to non- musicians. (Which cannot be said for some of my other Canterbury favorites)

I would argue that few guitarists in all of rock have as wide a palette as Hillage. There are certainly artists that experiment with effects, and great soloists, and studio junkies, but I think of none who quite have the complete package that Hillage does at this stage in his career. His soloing certainly holds its own with some of the cream of the blues-rock crop, but his use of effects and overlapping melodic lines is simply unmatched. Head to head to Latimer, Gilmour, Howe, Hackett, Blackmore, and frankly even Hendrix, Steve Hillage's playing is among the best ever.

Hillage does not have the strongest voice, but he uses it well in the musical scene he's created. On repeated listens it becomes part of the music, and indeed he sometimes weaves his voice in with the instruments in twisting melodic exchanges. Dave Stewart's parts are very typical for those familiar with his work. Dextrous distorted organ and piano create a sense of aggression in just the right places. It is clear on this project, however, that he's playing on Hillage's solo album. In comparison, Stewart actually seems to be a co- bandleader on the Khan album despite the circumstances of his being added to both albums being quite similar. And if FISH RISING suffers from anything, it's that Hillage doesn't have the true foil to push him as he did on Space Shanty.

I have the 2006 remaster and frankly it sounds great. None of the muddiness that I see discussed about the original seems to be here. There are two bonus tracks, and the first "Pentagrammaspin" is a great addition. Though it's loosely based on Hillage's often referenced "Om Riff," the song is among the most intense on the album, and contains some great work by Stewart. The second, a base track for the epic "Aftaglid" is a strange and mostly pointless novelty. It's especially annoying in that it occurs as track 7 just after track 5 was the original song. Repeating a 15 minute track with a weaker version 2 songs later leads me to just fast forward.

For me, this is a 4+ album, but really doesn't reach masterpiece status. If you liked Space Shanty, this is the next one to get. If you like Gong, this is a great addition to the collection. If you like Steve Hillage, well you already know.

Negoba | 4/5 |


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