30 March 2010

Steve Hillage - 1978 - Green

Quality: 4.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.5 out of 5

Golly! I started with these Steve Hillage reviews more than two years ago and never really got back to them. Well, here's Green to continue the tale. As you may or may not be aware, Steve Hillage was one of the more notable guitarists to spend time with the freaky psych-prog band Gong and I would count him (along with Manuel Gottsching probably) as the premier space rock guitarist of the 70's. This album includes some extra space rock royalty as Nick Mason of Pink Floyd served as this album's producer. His presence and the 1978 date on this album do push the sound into the territory of Animals or Wish You Were Here. Hillage's endearing new age Jesus vibe helps to distinguish the affair, and with top rate instrumentalists backing him up (especially his 'life partner' Miquette Giraudy handling the electronics), I'll go ahead and say that I prefer this to the sounds of 70's Floyd.

The songs on Green don't really slap you with an aura of instant awesomeness, but they definitely grow on you. A few songs like "Sea Nature" and "Unidentified (Flying Being)" have an entertaining slight funk edge. The P-funk style bass in the latter probably takes it a step further. "Ether Ships" and "Leylines to Glassdom" focus on the tranced out electronics and guitars that Hillage and Giraudy would focus on more and more over the years (the two are still active and producing fine electronic albums under the monkier System 7). "Crystal Ships" shares an affinity with the music that Bowie and Eno were releasing around this same time period. The proper album closes with "The Glorious Om Riff," which was originally recorded as "Maser Builder" on Gong's You. I'm hesitant to say this one is better, especially with the bias of considering You as one of my favorite albums, but I will say that this track is at least as good as the original.

The reissue of Green also features four bonus tracks. Three of these are contemporaneous live tracks (the studio version of "Not Fade Away" is on Motivation Radio). Hillage has a fine live album with Live Herald, but you can make a pretty fine live set by compiling the tracks from these reissues. There's also an alternate mix of "Meditation of the Snake," which is a little odd since that track is from Fish Rising, but whatever.

This doesn't bug me too much, but it's probably worth noting that Hillage doesn't have much of a singing voice. Space rock bands don't seem to put a lot of stock into vocals (Gong's Daevid Allen doesn't have much of a voice either), and I would describe Hillage's golden throat as a slightly more unhinged Roger Waters. Perhaps Hillage figured this out, and that's why he doesn't sing on the System 7 recordings.

My first impression of this was not the best, but after some time I feel that this is a competitor with L for the title of Hillage's best rock album. It's got a bit of a sci-fi nuance to the sound which always gets my attention. This is also the happy point where Hillage's album artwork switches from 'embarassing' to 'awesome.' Green should go straight to the top of your space rock heap.

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Steve Hillage - 1978 - Green


Anonymous said...


ElementaryPenguin said...

Bought this the other day and really love it. It's not Pink Floyd because it's way too optimistic. Hillage was high on his new age Jesus vibes, and it really works for me. All of the delays and bells and weird riffs take me floating.

I love when he says "I'm walking on the land, but my mind is under the sea" in the first track. Whatever is going on musically there just blows my mind. Then the end of U.F.O Over Paris where one of the synths just gets higher and higher... Really great stuff.

It's not that great as an album though. If it was more spacey like Rainbow Dome Musick or more song based like the earlier records the album would work a lot better. As it is there are a lot of trippy ideas (sounding more like Allan Parsons Project than the Floyd) in an excellently produced landscape. I have the 2007 remaster (so I don't know what the original sounds like). Maybe it lacks in concept? Either way there are some great sounds in here that are totally worth listening to.

Paul Baines said...

Love this one, I used to own it as a teen (many years ago), scratched the record to death with overplaying it, a student nicked it at college. Happy daze...

Martin said...

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