Thursday, September 28, 2006

REVIEW: Steve Hillage - L

In 1976 Steve Hillage would come out with his second solo LP “L”. L is fairly unique as a Hillage album, as it begins with a 6 minute Donovan cover and ends with a 6 minute Beatles cover. Gone is Gong as Steve's supporting band and say hello to Todd Rundgren's Utopia. Todd Rundgren does not actually play on the album but he is featured as the producer. The only returning member happens to be Miquette Giraudy, who probably kept her job due to her personal relationship with Hillage himself (the two are life long partners.)

I can imagine the difficulties involved in trying to follow the tough act of Fish Rising. To Hillage's credit he does an excellent job. L is the night to Fish Rising's day. Gone are the fishy tales and multiple epics and enter the East-Indian influence, spruced up folk songs and Utopia's hardcore Jazz Fusion. You are also guaranteed at least one excellent Hillage solo each track. One thing that remains static is the wild meandering of spacey glissando that Hillage provides.

As stated earlier the album commences with Steve's exceedingly agreeable cover of Donovan's Hurdy Gurdy Man. What Hillage does to Donovan's folk/rock song, is akin to what Jimi Hendrix did to Bob Dylan's All Along the Watchtower. Despite the fact that in no way does Hillage sound like Hendrix in this song (SH is more spacey.) Sonja Malkine is brought in to play the 15th century Hurdy Gurdy instrument, which is pretty much a mechanized violin.


Just when you can't take anymore hurdy gurdy you are presented with part two, which has nothing to do with Donovan Leich and all to do with glissando. Perhaps Steve could not help but have the Hurdy Gurdy played on more then one song. What starts out as a relaxing ambient piece of music, quickly transforms into Utopian jazz fusion and then into an exhilarating tablas sequence. The lyrics featured are mantras like, indicating heavy Hindu influences on Hillage's mind in that time period. Hinduism will be revisited again on this album in the form of Om Nama Shivaya.

Side one ends with Electric Gypsy which reminds me of Hillage songs to come on albums such as Motivation Radio and Green. Indian influences are not apparent on this track; all though I would like to know what influenced the lawn mower or perhaps an airplane's propeller sound that commences this track?(feel free to suggest what this sound actually is)

Om Nama Shivaya the opener to side two is a traditional Hindu mantras that has been progged up by Hillage. Miquette's vocals on this song really add a touch of authenticity as they sound quite fitting. Despite being a religious mantras it is not offensive to the non Hindu.

The mantras is quickly followed by my vote for song of the album in the Lunar Musick Suite. Perhaps the answer to the Solar Musick Suite, L.M.S is entertaining from beginning to end. Electrically charged from the first note there is not a pause in action.....Then out of nowhere the Don Cherry trumpet solo comes when you least expect the ex-hockey coach and controversial Canadian Broadcast Corporation hockey analyst to show up. It is as if they cut out a solo from Jazz's golden era and stuck it in a foreign country and it works amazingly (if you lost me I don't blame you.) In terms of complex space jams this Musick Suite competes neck and neck with its predecessor.

The album concludes with George Harrison's It's All Too Much which is another quality cover. L also it suffers from being released right after Fish Rising and constantly compared to an album that is really of a different Hillage era. The big criticism of this album is the lack of original material, besides that there is nothing to complain about and I really recommend you take a listen.

My Rating: 8/10
My favorite lyrical moment: Om Nama Shivaya

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