Before embarking on his solo career in 1975, UK guitarist Steve Hillage was a member of Gong at the peak of that psychedelic rock bandÕs sonic endeavors (specifically GongÕs "Radio Gnome Invisible" trilogy). In 1991, Hillage and life-partner Miquette Giraudy launched their career as System 7, a duo that endures even today, producing some of the tastiest techno music around. In November of 2006, Hillage and Giraudy attended a much-anticipated reunion at the Gong Family Unconvention in Amsterdam, performing once again with the members of GongÕs heyday roster. As part of that event, Hillage and Giraudy (and others) did a set as the Steve Hillage Band, performing a selection of tunes from their olden solo days.
That latter performance has been documented on CD and DVD.
THE STEVE HILLAGE BAND Live (CD on A-Wave)
This CD from 2012 features 73 minutes of cosmic psychedelic rock music.
The majority of this music was recorded live at the Gong Family Unconvention at the Melkweg in Amsterdam in November 2006 (the first live performance by the Steve Hillage Band since December 1979). But there are bonuses (tracks not included on the DVD): from the Sonesta Koepelkerk in Amsterdam on December 14, 1979, and live with Gong from the Hammersmith Palais in London on October 6, 1974.
The Melkweg lineup is: Steve Hillage (on guitar and vocals), Miquette Giraudy (on synthesizers and vocals), Mike Howlett (on bass), Chris Taylor (on drums), and Basil Brooks (on additional synthesizer). The Sonesta Koepelkerk is: Steve Hillage (on guitar and vocals), Miquette Giraudy (on synthesizers and vocals), Paul Francis (on bass), Andy Anderson (on drums), and Dave Stewart (on rhythm guitar). The Hammersmith Palais lineup is: Steve Hillage (on guitar and vocals), Didier Malherbe (on saxophone), Daevid Allen (on vocals), Mike Howlett (on bass), Lawrie Allen (on drums), and Tim Blake (on synthesizers).
Vibrant synthesizer bubbles throughout the music, establishing an astral enthusiasm with their distinctly psychedelic resonance.
The drums are solid and dynamic, generating compelling locomotion with crisp rhythms. The beats can slide from luxurious tempos to agile outbursts, following the temperament set by the tune.
The bass rumbles sneakily hidden within the embrace of the tunes, lending a sultry undercurrent.
HillageÕs vocals are tingly with joviality, a sentiment enhanced by GiraudyÕs sweet auxiliary crooning.
Ah, but the guitar is the real star here. Whether belting out searing riffs that tremble with a luster to rival the sun...or whether engaged in looping structures of shimmering fireÑthe guitar grabs the listenersÕ attention and refuses to let go. Chords surf across the surface of the mind, etching tasty patterns that eventually seep deep into the psyche. Not only is Hillage one of rock musicÕs most eminent guitarists, he applies his masterful touch to crafting tremendously enticing threads of blazing glamour, the type of glorious riffs that convey euphoric thrills with each snarling chord.
While the songs are selected from his range of old solo albums, the emphasis is on material from his debut release (Fish Rising). These pieces reflect a starry-eyed mysticism that is enhanced beyond ecstasy by the ascending cosmic guitar riffs.
The material from the 1979 concert offers 14 minutes of more dreamily rock oriented songs.
The 1974 performance offers an 8 minute early version of "Solar Musick Suite" with the prime Gong band providing back-up instrumentation. Saxophone contributes a whimsical jazzy touch to the generally spacey tune.
The DVD offers the listener a visual glimpse of the performers in action. One is allowed to intimately witness the musiciansÕ ebullience as they generate this wondrous tuneage.
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