STEVE HILLAGE Remasters EMI (2007)
The second bout of Hillage reissues, and it's the later stuff that came out on Virgin between 1978 and 1982.
From the opener of 1978's Green (CDVMR2098), 'Sea Nature', you'll gather that lyrically things haven't moved on a tad since the previous offering. We're still in trippy-dippy-cloud cuckoo-land, and unless you can reach the higher vibe with Hillage's ramblings you may find this somewhat dated.
Musically, Hillage continued in jazz-funk-prog vein with lots of synth flutters and ambient textures (Check out 'Activation Meditation'), sometimes redolent of his spiritual antecedents, Hawkwind and Gong, sometimes evoking a less excessive Mahavishnu Orchestra or the late lamented Nova (a seventies Italian band that also fused jazz rock and funk).
Guitar-hero tag notwithstanding, Hillage sounds like a spaced-out Prince on the intro to 'Palm Trees(Love Guitar)' but this would have been better as a torch instrumental rather than with the characteristic Hillage vocal. Trainspotters will note that Nick Mason of Pink Floyd produced the album and plays drums on 'Leylines to Glassdom'
The bonus tracks will be more interesting to fans, with two live tracks from Glastonbury (1979) (Unidentifiend Flying Being', 'Octave Doctors') and one live tracks from the Rainbow Theatre in 1977, 'Not Fade Away (Glide Forever). There's also an alternative mix of 'Meditation Of The Snake'. ***½
I confess to owning a vinyl copy of the following year's Open (V2135), which I think I originally bought on the strength of 'Day After Day'.
Hearing this album again I can now understand why it's still resting among the cobwebs in my store cupboard of forgotten plastic. There are flashes of excellence throughout, never more so on the heavy funk introduction to 'New Age Synthesis' but when Hillage's lightweight hippie vocals and trite lyrics come in you either like it or loathe it.
Bonus tracks include a backing track for 'Don't Dither Do It' and an alternative mix of 'Four Ever Rainbow'. ***
Live Herald (CDVMR3502) also came out in 1979. It was understandable that there would be a live document of Hillage's work because he was a darling of the festival circuit in the late seventies. No doubt those insistent guitar riffs and rhythms worked well with a groundheet and a bong.
Herald scoops up tarcaks from his first three albums. Those who may also want to check out the Live At The BBC disc from this period.
Originally a double album, this now rests happily on one-CD with a bonus track from the Rainbow 1977, 'Solar Musick Suite'. As with all these remasters the sound quality is wonderful.
If space rock is your bag, Steve Hillage has a rightful place as one of its best exponents. 2003's compilation is probably the best bet for new space cadets, but if you must, 'Live Herald' is a worthwhile pan-album summary.
Review by David Randall
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