Steve Hillage
L


4.0
excellent

Review

by TheMystical USER (9 Reviews)
December 8th, 2013 | 16 replies


Release Date: 1976 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The evolution of the electrick gypsy...

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.



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user ratings (12)
Chart.
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
December 7th 2013


4501 Comments


nice.

manosg
Staff Reviewer
December 8th 2013


10649 Comments


Good review, need to listen to this one.

I see that a lot of artists cover Donovan's songs but I still haven't listened to any original material by the dude.

Digging: Legendry - Dungeon Crawler

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
December 8th 2013


4501 Comments


^ You HAVE to listen to Donovan, he's right up your alley. Speaking as a big fan of his, I think he's one of the best folk artists to ever exist. Check out From a Flower to a Garden or Sunshine Superman, definitely his two finest works. I'm actually planning on reviewing his discography in the upcoming week.

manosg
Staff Reviewer
December 8th 2013


10649 Comments


Oh thanks man! I'll definitely give these albums a spin. I've listened to a few of his songs as covers such as Three King Fishers but never the originals. Looking forward to your reviews!

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
December 8th 2013


4501 Comments


Oh, thanks. and yeah, he's pretty popular. I'm surprised not a lot of people talk about him here. You and I have very similar tastes, so I'm fairly certain you would enjoy his stuff. He experimented with a lot of different genres, and the majority of his songs are pretty fun. I'd say everything from Fairytale to Barabajagal is worth listening. The '60s was his prime, after that he kind of went downhill in the '70s.

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
December 8th 2013


26820 Comments


Great album, major props for reviewing this. Love Hillage's solo stuff, this, Fish Rising and Green are all really good.

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
December 8th 2013


26820 Comments


Might jam this later. Surprised to see I have this 3.5'd and not 4'd.

KILL
December 8th 2013


80922 Comments


sweet

Digging: Morbid Angel - Kingdoms Disdained

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
December 8th 2013


26820 Comments


Dude did you check Fish Rising yet?

KILL
December 8th 2013


80922 Comments


no i gots it tho

also just walked in kitchen and sylvia is on radio 2 again omg!!

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
December 8th 2013


26820 Comments


I rarely have the radio on tbh. Radio 2 does occasionally play some good stuff though from what I've heard.

KILL
December 8th 2013


80922 Comments


my dad listens to it 24/7 so i always hear it but yea 99% of the time its queef

KILL
December 8th 2013


80922 Comments


review it

TheMystical
December 8th 2013


42 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I am going to review it tomorrow.

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
December 8th 2013


26820 Comments


Sweet. Fish Rising is up there with some of my favourite psych/prog albums.

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
December 8th 2013


26820 Comments


Listening to this on vinyl right now. I'm feeling like I might have to bump my rating to a 4.


EDIT: 4'd



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