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Steve Hillage - L CD (album) cover


Steve Hillage


Canterbury Scene

3.65 | 216 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars One L of an album

This was, in 1977, my induction into the world of Steve Hillage. I have to confess, I was at the time completely oblivious to his past, which was in some ways an advantage as I came to the album devoid of preconceptions. Although I was already an admirer of the great Todd Rundgren, I was also ignorant of his significant involvement in this project, along with the other three members of his band Utopia. The reality is though that Rundgren produces and engineers the album, and the three other members of Utopia (although interestingly not Todd, presumably to avoid any guitar conflicts) form the backing band throughout.

The sound and style of the album is therefore very much that of Utopia, "L" being released just before Utopia's "Ra". The music however is drawn from a diverse range of sources. Perhaps strangely, the album opens with a cover of Donovan's "Hurdy gurdy man". Bizarre as this may seem, Hillage (and Rundgren) stamps his identity on the song, the results working remarkably well. The hippy origins of the song are largely suppressed, as the band develop the track as an exciting rock number. The following "Hurdy gurdy glissando" is a controlled improvisation on the main song. Both these tracks actually sound better on the "Live herald" album, but the versions here are nevertheless worthy. The closing track on side one, "Electrick Gypsies" is a more conventional space/hippy song, but fun nonetheless.

Kicking off side two, we move into full flower power mode, with an Indian chant sung by Hillage and Miquette Giraudy (Steve's girlfriend); Hillage adds some fine guitar to this short piece. Then it is straight into the album's centrepiece, the "Lunar musick suite". This 12 minute epic sets off in blistering fashion, the drums driving Hillage's guitar to ever faster speeds. As this is brought under control, the sounds are pure Utopia ("Ra"), Hillage being but a cog in Rundgren's machinery. The intervention of the late Don Cherry on trumpet is as unexpected as it is welcome, the suite then going through a succession of ever changing moods. The album closes with another cover, this time of George Harrison's "It's all too much". Once again for me, Hillage interprets the song wonderfully bringing out many aspects which were not apparent on the original, and even managing to slip in a trumpet voluntary (on synth I believe). The song is fully developed and utterly compulsive, wonderful stuff.

We can speculate on the reason for the album's rather strange title which, it seems, has never been explained. What matters though is that on this his second solo album, Steve (and Todd) came up with a real gem which sounds as energetic and fresh today as it did 30+ years ago.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


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