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Steve Hillage - L CD (album) cover

L

Steve Hillage

Canterbury Scene


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corbet
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Some background first: "L" is produced by Todd Rundgren, and the band behind Hillage is Todd's own prog group Utopia. So, from the beginning, the sound is dominated by Rundgren's trademark production aesthetic (love it or hate it) and the musicianship of the Utopia crew. For any Utopia fans, this disc is a natural choice, and you'll probably love it. Now besides all that: this album is awesome. Due to the nature of the beast (a few cover songs, and some "interesting choices") it took a while for the album as a whole to bring me to a high level of appreciation, so for new listeners who would like to see where I'm coming from I would recommend skipping straight to the main feature, "Lunar Musick Suite." This is one of my favorite pieces of music. Immediately the journey begins in an electrically-charged atmosphere filled with ominous guitar riffs and pulsing synthesizers, then the (loud) drums come booming in and everything takes off, with hardly a break in the action until the song's end. One high point is about halfway through: a totally sublime section where guest musician Don Cherry sputters trumpet improvisations onto a bed of synths and tumbling drum rolls, building into a menacing climax before bursting through into a slice of musical heaven. The song concludes with some echo-drenched guitar noodling fading into silence. As far as the rest of the album, for one we have "Om Nama Shivaya," which is an Indian religious hymn... yeah, but still, the ending is an amazing multiple-layered guitar solo which can't be argued with. Then we have covers such as "Hurdy Gurdy Man" and "It's All Too Much," both which feature, among other things... more great guitar solos! The drums are also really loud and weird sounding -- overall this album has an environment and feel that I've never heard elsewhere. For anyone interested in such things, or who want some excellent, unique music by an underrated artist in general, I would recommend this great album without hesitation.
Report this review (#25816)
Posted Tuesday, January 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Because of the fact that I've never been a great fan of Gong, I didn't expect much from this record, the first I ever heard by Steve Hillage. Big mistake: the stuff is really excellent. The cover of Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy" is a beauty, but also "Om nava shivaya" and "Lunar musick suite" are wondwrful tracks. Hillage's solos are stunning, but credit must be given also to the great Don Cherry. I wouldn't label this one as one of my favourite guitar album like mr. corbet (my fave remains Malmsteen Rising Force and McLaughlin's Extrapolation), but surely as a great effort by a great musician.
Report this review (#25818)
Posted Thursday, March 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is second album, some kind of prog space rock. There are very exotic patterns here: you can notice Arab and foreign moods by hearing tablas, tamboura, bells, shenai and vibes. There is even trumpet!! Steve HILLAGE plays some keyboards and his electric guitar sound goes well with the space floating keyboards. There are good drums and bass. The last song reminds me the BEATLES style. This is not his best album. "Fish Rising", his first one is absolutely more elaborated.
Report this review (#25819)
Posted Saturday, April 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
2 stars This is more of a Utopia record than Fish Rising was a GonG album , so that was bound for my relative dislike. The Hurdy work-outs are totally expandable and even Lunar Music is rather pale compared to its predecessor , which was a rather vibrant tribute to his former group. On this one , Steve is searching his way and Rundgren takes advantage of his producing skill to introduce his Utopia group members. Steve will find his way with the following one.
Report this review (#25820)
Posted Wednesday, April 28, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars I rate this album an overall masterpiece of guitar work, and the icing on it is the solo at the end of the Beatles cover, "It's All Too Much" This solo ranks, in my opinion, as one of most blistering and melodic of any guitar player and belies more than Hillage's technical mastery of the instrument, with his astoundingly unique style. The solo also reveals an incredible amount of heart and soul that resounds throughout. ( This is something Todd Rundgren - L's producer - has never quite been able to convey in his own, technically brilliant, guitar solos) In all of Hillage's work, this solo alone would instantiate Him as a "lead guitar player's guitar player" on par with all the guitar greats. Any aspiring guitarist should listen to this one.
Report this review (#25821)
Posted Wednesday, August 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars L is a good album there is no denying it but it definitely has the feel that he is not quite in control of the majority of the music composition as with his later albums. To me it was more of a metamorphosis for better things to come. Yes he was doing great things with Gong and Clearlight Symphony as well but it was on Motivation Radio, Green and Open where he really showed his true talent. A good album though, Lunar Musick Suite and Electrick Gypsies the better songs on offer.
Report this review (#25822)
Posted Wednesday, August 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Totally esoteric, in a special way! I am not Steve Hillage fan, but this record is masterpiece. Nice lunar energy and masters of many instruments are here in their best edition. Strange combination of jazz and hard rock groove.This is the record for my TOP 20 of progs!
Report this review (#50012)
Posted Tuesday, October 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Album of STEVE HILLAGE released in 1976 "L". It is the second solo work. The sound is Spacey that takes ethnical and the Europe traditional to a peculiar pop sense. It is psychedelically music, so to speak. The fifth tune is a masterpiece that unites the trip sense like GONG with grand jazz-rock. The final tune is George Harrison's masterpiece "It's All Too Much". The power of expression of the guitar of STEVE HILLAGE like the first tune is still wonderful.
Report this review (#55009)
Posted Monday, November 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is an excellent album. It was made in best traditions of Hillage's guitar works. It contains from very various guitar play and themes. There are influences of indian music with exotic instruments (but you won't sleep!) and some hypnotic music's elements, which can be named space style or new age. Also, his guitar solos are beautiful and this play is one of the best of all time. The more you listen, the better you undestand and like it. Sometimes music is inexpressive and monotonous. It applies to rhythm sections, but not Steve.
Report this review (#91044)
Posted Friday, September 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
clarke2001
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I like this one. Perhaps it's not sharing the same level of complexity like "Fish Rising", but it's more approachable and full of catchy melodies. Don't be fooled by the catchiness, "L" offers some excellent musicianship, and although it's not extremely complex, common song structure ( verse-verse-chorus-bridge-verse etc.) are working fine because of not so usual solutions. Guitar work here is at it's best, reminding us of best Hillage's moments in his KHAN and GONG careers. Everything is here: Steve's trademark seagull sounds, spacey echo solos, gorgeous and expressive melodies, a touch of guitar synth. That's what I call guitar player! Perhaps not the best possible guitarist around, but this is the essence of the space rock. Sorry Gilmour, but this guy got sense of humour.

The rest of the band is on the same level. Keyboards are quite straightforward (from the space rock's point of view), no 10-minute baroque solos, just lovely harmonies with wisely chosen spacey analog timbres, providing best possible atmospheres and carpets. Hurdy gurdy fits in that story just fine.

Speaking of songs themselves - each one of them is a good pebble in album's mosaic, with very few week points. You can flow on a beauty of "Hurdy Gurdy Man", and "Om Nama Shivaya" is spicing the album up with the scent of India, until the moment when BANG! Steve's doubled guitar solo enters the song, awesome. I love "Electrick Gypsies" it's so hippie and naive, you got to love it!

"Lunar Musick Suite" is a suite indeed, but despite the fact than 95% of material is very good, there are few moments that need better development, because rhythm-section of the band is repetitive a little bit more than needed. The song is 12 minutes long, and I don't think it shouldve been be shorter or more concise, just the tiny gaps should have been filled with some non-repetitive idea.

"It's All Too Much" in this version sounds too long and - that word again! - repetitive. Slightly punky overtones, and the weakest track on album. Maybe that was author's intention, it's simply too much.

Anyway: "L" (I can't figure it out why is that album's name) deserves four and a half stars easily, but I'm hesitating to round it to five because of this minor, almost cosmetic mistakes. I like it and I hope there is more music like this around.

Report this review (#100203)
Posted Friday, November 24, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars In this album we witness the guitar hero (or should I say zero) begin to create his own style. Steve begins to distance himself from GonG's sound with the help of producer Todd Rundgren (not a bad guitar player himself). Hillage's sound is spacier than his debut, and the production is much more... polished. Also, the use of Rundgren's Utopia brings an interesting taste to Hillage's sound.

First off, this album is loaded with covers. Out of the six songs on the album, Steve covers two songs (exluding the Indian chant), and he probably betters both original versions. The first cover and first song on the album, Hurdy Gurdy Man, captures Donovan's hippie vision while making Steve's own. As an added bonus, we get to experience Hillage's amazing solo on this song; it will make your jaw drop.

However, Hurdy Gurdy Man isn't the only song with extraordinary solos in it; all the songs have superb leads on them. Hillage's playing isn't flashy, though, and his humble yet melodic and fluid style creates a euphoric atmosphere on this record. His solos are in a blue-influenced style, but he also adds bebop and post-bop phrasing and standard jazz fluid playing into his leads.

Don't just get this album for Hillage's guitar playing; the songs he writes are what the album is worth buying for. Electric Gypsies is an almost prophetic vision of the future with bizarre motorcycle-like sounds wrought forth from Steve's guitar (similar the sounds in Free Form Guitar by Chicago's Terry Kath). Also, The Hurdy Gurdy Glissando is a great spacy psychedelic romp with a great vocal melody and interesting percussion. It becomes an intersting frenzy towards the end. Om Nava Shivaya adds an interesting vibe to the album, but it is a bit pointless.

None of the other songs compare to the epic Lunar Music Suite. The song has a great pulsing rhythim for the first several minutes, and the melody changes over time to keep the listener engaged. The song progresses into several mindblowing solos (including one from trumpet ace Don Cherrry). Finally, the song leads into vocals, and the vocals are just eerily beautiful. I can just see the full moon when he sings those lines (by the way, this song was recorded exclusively on two full moons).

Overall, this album is an essential representative of not only Steve Hillage, but an excellent prog album for every prog fan. It's an amazing album, one of my favorites, but it's not quite worth 5 stars.

4.5 stars

Report this review (#103557)
Posted Monday, December 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Here is my review of L...There are 2 cover songs..''Hurdy Gurdy Man''(Donovan)and ''It's All Too Much''(George Harrison),which both sound great.''Electric Gypsies''sounds on the GONG- side,with a pop edge.''Om Nama Shivaya''is a guitar rock song,with Indian music influences.The album highlights are ''Hurdy Gurdy Glissando''(8:54),which starts off with synthesizer sounds for the first 2.5 minutes,then turns into a guitar rock song,with jazz,Indian music,and keyboard influences,ending in a fast tempo during the last 1.5 minutes of the song.''Lunar Musik Suite'',which is 12 minutes long,starts out in a guitar rock way,with a somewhat fast tempo during the first 2 minutes and 40 seconds,then slows down to a steady tempo for the rest of the song,with swirling keyboards,and some jazz influences throughout the song.Overall,a great album.
Report this review (#111724)
Posted Monday, February 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#127632)
Posted Thursday, July 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
fuxi
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Apparently bereft of much of the energy that permeated his solo debut FISH RISING, Steve Hillage joined Todd Rundgren's Utopia and came up with something much glossier. I don't know what was going through Rundgren's mind at the time. He doesn't seem to have understood half of the artists he worked with (he completely emasculated Patti Smith for her fourth album, the dismal WAVE). Steve Hillage was also let down by his choice of material. Hillage has a rather whiny voice and is no great vocalist (a fact that was kept hidden by FISH RISING's frenetic soloing), so it was not a bright idea to include cover versions of not just one but TWO of psychedelic pop's more plaintive ditties: Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man" and George Harrison's "It's all too much". Hillage's own songwriting didn't prove much better. Right from the beginning (I bought L as soon as it came out) "Electric Gypsies" made me shiver with embarrasment. Where does a grown-up man get the idea to sing about something so childish? Fortunately, throughout the album Hillage's guitar playing remains remarkably eloquent. L's two extended instrumental pieces are superb. "Lunar Musick Suite" is one of Hillage's supreme achievements (the one track where Rundgren's production technique bears fruit), and in addition it's blessed with a wonderfully dreamy solo by jazz trumpeter Don Cherry, backed by lush, moonlike synthesizer washes.
Report this review (#131025)
Posted Wednesday, August 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Sophomore jinx. The play is excellent, but the musical conceptions are lacking. Hurdy Gurdy Man is a rocking cover of the Donovan hit. It's All Too Much is a redo of the George Harrison tune. Don Cherry, avant jazz trumpeter extraordinaire plays on this record but it is not particularly memorable. It suffers from a lack of inspiration in general although it is quite listenable. Follow up recordings by Hillage will be more thoroughly thought out and somewhat more adventurous. It rates 3 stars simply on the merit of the musicianship involved, but is not the place to start for those looking to understand Hillage's significant contributions to the progressive rock scene.
Report this review (#152102)
Posted Wednesday, November 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tom Ozric
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'L' by Space-Guitar Zero Steve Hillage is yet another collection of kozmik tunes which shreds and pulses with colourful synth sequences and supersonic guitar playing, even some mystical textures and Hippy idealism seem to play their part throughout the album. Produced, somewhat heavy-handedly, by Todd Rundgren and featuring his band UTOPIA (Kasim Sulton - Bass, Roger Powell - Synths/Keyboards and John 'Willie' Wilcox - Drums) and various guests, the album gets off to a wonderful start with a great rendition of Donovan's 'Hurdy Gurdy Man', done in true Space-Rock fashion, Hillage's solo a treat. It climaxes into 'Hurdy Gurdy Glissando', an amazing, lengthy track reminiscent of GONG, full of Gliss-Guitar, tablas, chanting, Hillage playing 'da blues' during the intro, a fantastic rhythm then kicks in with an excellent bass line, and Powell's Mini-Moog solo segueing into some searing guitar- work, the track is a masterpiece - it goes on with a dynamic synth sequence and Steve playing a bombastic melody to close. One of the genre's definitive compositions, though in all respect, not truly Canterbury, but Space-Rock. The accessible song 'Electrick Gypsies' finishes side 1 in an almost 'pop-ish' way, and is great relief after the incredible track before it - kind of 'bringing-us-back- down-to-Earth', if you know what I mean....

2nd Side opens with 'Om Nama Shivaya', where Middle-Eastern philosophies and instrumentation help to inspire a wonderful piece of music, from the chant and tambura (an instrument similar to a sitar) at the beginning, through to Wilcox's tricky drum patterns towards the end, the song is very pleasing. The second masterpiece off the album, 'Lunar Musick Suite' (recorded exclusively during the full moon phases of May and June, 1976) is nothing less than mind-blowing. It falls just a second under12 minutes, and is another ever-shifting composition, keeping listeners on their toes with intense guitar runs, trance-like synth patterns, a quite neanderthal drum rhythm which is absolutely crushing (somewhat akin to a caveman taking to tom-toms with a wooden club - and leaves me questioning why Rundgren was such a renowned producer, solo work and Utopia aside) but the driving tempo soon descends and slows down to allow for a bizarre, dark sounding riff (by now we may as well be lost in a distant galaxy) with weird time sigs and phrasing, which gives way to a serene section with some avant trumpet playing from jazz-man Don Cherry, very light and airy indeed. From here, it's back to the unique riff which preceded it and out of the 'murky' mess an incredibly bright key change is discovered, it sounds big and profound, and then drifts off as mysteriously as it came. What an escape - only Hillage is capable of this sort of Space-Travel. A cover-version of George Harrison's 'It's all Too Much' wraps things up quite nicely, but it's not a stand- out song here. In conclusion, a strong 4 star album, coz Steve bettered this before with 'Fish', and will better it again with 'Green' !!

Report this review (#154686)
Posted Saturday, December 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars A Hurdy Gurdy Man in space?

This second solo album by Steve Hillage is quite different from his first. In my opinion, this is by far the better one of these two. While Fish Rising lacked direction, L is a much more focused effort. The songs are much stronger and it also features very interesting and varied instrumentation.

After having seen the Blackmore's Night DVD Paris Moon, I now know what a hurdy gurdy looks like. The hurdy gurdy is a very old instrument associated with the renaissance period (I think). It is hardly an instrument associated with the Space Rock with which we associate Steve Hillage. Yet, we will hear the hurdy gurdy here on the introduction to the Donovan cover Hurdy Gurdy Man. Yes, Hillage covers Donovan here! I have never heard the original version of this song but I strongly suspect that this one is very different from the original, especially with the nine minute coda Hurdy Gurdy Glissando added. Much like Manfred Mann's Earth Band made covers of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen songs that were radically different and much more elaborated compared to their original versions.

The ethnic and Folk influences continues on the Indian influenced Om Nama Shivaya. Is this Indo- Prog/Raga Rock? There are several exotic instruments also featured on this album, some of which I have no idea what they look like and some, like the tabla - an Indian instrument - that I have seen in real life. These ethnic instruments create a warm and organic sound, absent on the rather cold Fish Rising. And put side by side with electric guitars and spacy synthesisers, this makes for an overall rich and varied sound. This is indeed what Folk music might sound like when made up in space! (It's just a matter of time before that happens).

Lunar Music(k) Suite is the track that remind the most of the style of Fish Rising and it is also the least good song here in my opinion. And it is certainly not as good as the Solar Music Suite, the unique great track on Fish Rising. The opening of the track really catches my interest, but it very soon drifts away and doesn't quite hold up for eleven minutes.

The album closes with another cover song, this time a George Harrison composition. The drum sound on this song is absolutely awful! It sounds like they're banging on garbage cans with baseball bats or something similar. Apart from that it is a really fun version with a short but effective keyboard solo that sounds like a plastic trumpet.

The fact that this album has two covers and a couple of grey areas where there is very little of interest going on, preclude this album from being great. Nonetheless it is quite enjoyable and not ordinary. Probably Steve Hillage's best solo album.

Report this review (#197080)
Posted Saturday, January 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Steve Hillage recorded some wonderful records in the 70's with "L" rising to the top for me. His space prog spin on Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man" is worth the price of the album alone ! Following in the footsteps of "Fish Rising" , Hillage built of the progressive prowess and created a more guitar driven space rock album that works on so many levels. Clearly an original through and through, Hillage collaborated with produceer Todd Rundgren and the members of Utopia to record this brilliant album. This is one of those albums that I find myself still playing over and over.
Report this review (#223931)
Posted Tuesday, June 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars For a long time (until I found a copy of Fish Rising) I thought this was Steve Hillage's best album. His work here with Todd Rundgren's Utopia (with Todd as producer) is fantastic. In fact, this is not so different from Todd's own albums from the same period.

Hillage's rocking version of Donovan's Hurdy Gurdy Man is great, and the follow up Hurdy Gurdy Glissando takes it into outer space. And don't miss Roger Powell's perfect keyboard solo. Electric Gypsies is a nice psychedelic ballad. Om Nama Shivaya an Indian inspired guitar extravaganza starts the best part of the album, and the amazing Lunar Musick Suite completes the eargasms.

I do have a problem with the cover of George Harrison's It's All Too Much. Here, Rundgren's tendency to over-produce drags the song into a mass of mushy sounds. Or was that the point? It's all too much.

I'd rate this a solid 4 stars.

Report this review (#265235)
Posted Wednesday, February 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Second Steve Hillage solo album is very different from his debut. Main reason is in fact all musicians there are just Todd Rundgren's Utopia band, with Hillage mostly as a guest musician (Todd Rundgren produced this album as well). And result is almost as you expect - overproduced melodic synth-based psychedelic pop-rock with Hillage guitar (often - out of place there).

Album's opener Donovan's cover is just ,,,, terrible. Later some songs are really not so bad, there are song with strong Indian raga influence, and more usual for Hillage guitar-led " Lunar musick suite". But in whole besides of some interesting moments, this album is real disappointment. By the way, I like 3 bonus tracks (coming on CD re-release) almost better that main album's material! They are obviously raw outtakes, but at least show Hillage at his best spacey guitar musicianship.

In all, album for fans of melodic, synth filled and overproduced, technically quite simple spacey pop-rock. My rating is 2,5, rounded to 3.

Report this review (#300855)
Posted Wednesday, September 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Steve Hillage's first post-Gong solo album (Fish Rising, remember, was produced whilst he was still a member of the band) sees him joining forces with Todd Rundgren, with Todd at the producer's console and Utopia backing Steve in the studio. This is a matchup which, to my ears at least, doesn't work as well as might have been hoped; Rundgren's muscular, forceful power pop production approach and Utopia's sonic attack don't entirely sit well with Steve's own style. Furthermore, the album suffers from a profound lack of decent material, with no less than three cover songs - Hurdy Gurdy Man is pretty decent, but It's All Too Much is a little too much.

Plus, if you thought Fish Rising had silly lyrics you'll find Electrick Gypsies completely hilarious. Very evidently this album's attempt at a hit single or a hippy anthem, it's horribly dated and is probably the nadir of the album.

That said, the extended instrumentals Hurdy Gurdy Glissando and Lunar Musick Suite rather save the album, and on repeated listens I find that Utopia are able to bring a bit more subtlety to the table in these extended workouts than I'd previously credited them for. It's overall a fun listen, but it's a major step down next to Fish Rising.

Report this review (#550409)
Posted Friday, October 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Steve Hillage - L

Those who are fans of the genre of progressive rock music will be familiar with the work of Steve Hillage. Hillage, who has worked with the likes of Gong and Egg, is a canterbury scene musician that has ventured into the realms of psychedelic rock, jazz fusion, and electronic trance music. L is a transitional release in Hillage's discography, since this is his first solo album that does not feature an extensive list of Gong's band members. The overall sound of the album is rather less spiritual and immersive that Hillage's previous album, Fish Rising, sporting a sound that is rather more riff driven and grounded than the bubbly new age sound of its predecessor. This is in no way a weakness, in fact one of the strengths of this album is its raw hippy tendencies which comes from the patchiness of the album as a whole.

The album begins with a cover of Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man", a rather less aggressive and softer version than the original. It is clear from the very opening of the song that this album does not feature the bubbly new age tendencies of Fish rising. The Hurdy Gurdy is used in this track, adding a nice flavour. "Hurdy Gurdy Glissando" is very different to the previous track, beginning with a mellow guitar solo that is backed with a swirly combination of guitars and bells. It is evident that Hillage chose to imitate the ancient "aum" mantra with his guitar sound, and this is an idea that he explores in his following releases, most notably the 1978 release "Green". The track soon progresses into a percussion driven vocal section, where the swirling guitars grow ever more intense, further highlighting the choice of the "aum" mantra sound. The track soon moves into a bass-driven jam. This track is reminiscent of some of Gong's earlier work, particularly in the ethereal guitar backing. "Electrick Gypsies" is a whimsical affair, placed rather insensitively alongside the more spiritual sounding "Hurdy Gurdy Glissando". This track is driven by silly lyrics and a standard rock riff that is rather uncharacteristic of Hillage's other work. This is the album's weakest point, but while this track does fail to reach the heights of Hillage's other work, this new sound is fun and a pleasant listen.

Side two opens with "Om Namah Shivaya", an incredible track that is unique among all of Hillage's songs. Origionally written by Kesar Singh Nariula and Uma Nanda, this song is one of the album's highlights, simply for its retro sound and unique indian flavour. This track is a blend of swirling sitars, brass, indian chants and some of Hillage's best guitar work. This track incorporates the sacred Hindu chant "om namah shivaya", a chant which translates to "adoration to Śiva". "Lunar Musick Suite" is another unique track, recorded exclusively under the full moon. Jazz trumpet player Don Cherry was taken on board to embellish this track with a spacy improvisatory solo, which paints an exquisite painting across the canvas of synths and swirling guitars. Hillage's guitar is used rather minimalistically here (with the exception of the manic synth driven opening and the final guitar solo), and once again, he uses his guitar sound to imitate the "aum" mantra, creating a superb musical soundscape that is delivered with both a strong sense of direction and a vague, ethereal subtleness. Hillage closes the track with his charming vocals, concluding the affair with lyrics somewhat reminiscent of those in his previous release. The album is brought to an upbeat and sentimental conclusion with a cover of The Beatles' "It's All Too Much", which would be compatible with the ethereal "Lunar Musick Suite" if the transition was not disrupted by a disconcertingly loud chord from the band. This is one of the weaker tracks on the album, but it's upbeat and joyous mood make it a fitting and worthy end to the album.

There is no denying the patchiness of this album as a whole, particularly in contrast to the previous release, Fish Rising, which stands as one of psychedelic rock's greatest albums. Many of the songs do not flow well into each other, which creates a feeling of hurriedness in the production. However, this album was obviously not intended as an exercise of coherence, and there are some incredible compositions to amend any damage done by the lack of unity that exists between some of the songs. L's highlights are the retro fusion classic "Om Namah Shivaya", and the ethereal gem "Lunar Musick Suite".

L is an excellent album and a worthy addition to any psychedelic music collection.

Report this review (#1086744)
Posted Saturday, December 7, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars I don´t care what other reviewers are saying. This is a fine example of a four stars CD: "Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection". Mine included, of course.

I know, I know, I have a soft spot for Hillage. Whenever I hear his guitar I am reminded of someone who is free, He is a gipsy after all, and I am very jealous of him.

The music here is infused in a Utopia enviroment (listen to the keyboards) but to hear Don Cherry on the trumpet against a layer of keyboard music is superb and the guitar playing, as I said, is just marvellous.

Sorry, this is just as good as the first one. Get It soon.

(marginal note) I really miss Didier Malherbe.

Report this review (#1332237)
Posted Wednesday, December 31, 2014 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars In 1975 Hillage along with girlfriend Miquette Giraudy participated for the last time in a Gong recording session.By the start of 76' he had already left the band and around the same time he came in touch with Todd Rundgren for a potentional future collaboration.The result was Rundgren to invite him to the USA and Hillage along with Giraudy made the transatlantic trip to New York.Backed by Utopia he recorded his second album ''L'' at the Secret Sound in Woodstock with Rundgren providing the production/sound engineering background.Famous American trumpetist Don Cherry was also among the performers.It was released in 10 countries the same year on the Virgin and Atlantic labels.

First thing to strike is that three out of six tracks are cover songs, namely ''Hurdy gurdy man'' by British singer Donovan, the ethnic-styled adaption of the mantra ''Om nama shivaya'' and George Harrison's ''It's all too much'', originallly released for the soundtrack of the ''Yellow submarine'' film.These versions along the Utopia stylistical pinches explain why this sounded a bit different than ''Fish rising''.But the result was pretty awesome, cause all Hillage-written tracks are great and the covers sound like perfect pieces on a missing puzzle, an album needing some tracks to be completed.Hillage's original material is again a beautiful amalgam of smooth guitar instrumental madness, spacey keyboard themes, psychedelic overtones and Canterbury flavors, now mostly popping up in the vocal deliveries, ''Lunar musick suite'' in particular is absolutely mindblowing with Hillage making a rare explosion of virtuosity with solos and developing guitar moves, Cherry putting the shoes of Malherbe and adding some great trumpet work over the cosmic keyboard lines and the final beats sounding a lot like UTOPIA in a lyrical, Art/Prog Rock style with seminal symphonic echoes and atmospheric endeavors.The covers are also pretty cool, but I will have to make a praise for the unusual entry of ''Om nama shivaya'', which Hillage adapted greatly in his own style and transforming it into somekind of Ethnic-Space Rock piece.

Belonging to the minority, I can see why the choice of covers have turned fans of Hillage down, but as a whole ''L'' sounds more convincing to my ears than ''Fish rising''.The light American influences and the production of Rundgren thrown in the typical Space/Canterbury sound of Hillage have made some miracles here.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

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Posted Saturday, April 4, 2015 | Review Permalink

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