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Steve Hillage - Live Herald CD (album) cover


Steve Hillage


Canterbury Scene

3.76 | 65 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Steve Hillage - Live Herald (live) (1978)

Steve Hillage 'Hippi from outer space' (ex- Arachel, Kahn & Gong) presents his first double live album, released during the height of the decline of progressive rock. Though Steve Hillage has played on the major Canterbury group Kahn, I think his solo work belongs in the symphonic prog genre. There are very little jazz influences to be found and his link to the Canterbury scene itself is a bit far-fetched if you ask me. Some well known prog-musicans join Hillage on stage, but the line-up differs from each recording. Noteworthy are Collin Bass (who later would become an important member of '90 and '00 Camel) and Clive Bunker (ex-Jethro Tull). Furthermore there's a nice choice of keyboardists who heavily use synthesizers and some female vocals that are more then just 'reminders' of Gong.

Actually, only the first three sides are taken from live recordings. The fourth side is a silly mini-studio album I'll discuss later.

Hillage & band produces a sound that strongly reminds us of 'You'-era Gong, though the music dwells even more in a coating of synth/space sounds. The music is thus moving towards later-days Hawkwind and electro-rock of the eighties. This wall of synths is almost never absent. The guitars of Hillage are strongly recognizable, but I'd wish he would have appeared as flexible as on Kahn's Space Shanty album. On this live set I can't help be bothered by 'knowing his tricks'. You know! - those echo loops and chorus-effect distortions and those string-bends on the end of every musical sentence. Having said this, the band is clearly good in what it does and does deliver a 'space-cadet glow' experience. The extended jams with spacey guitar solo's do get me excited and it's hard to find 'proper' space rock.

Most material is taken from Hillage's own albums, but Hurdy Gurdy Man is a cover from Donovan. Being a big fan of the psychedelic works of Donovan I'm left a bit bedazzled; why choose one of the least psychedelic songs he ever wrote for your space-rock concert? Heavy use of electronic equipment can't help to save Hillage and crew now, this version of the song is just silly. The ending track of side 2 'Electric Gypsy' also suffers from it's arrangements and drowsy vocals by Hillage.

On the fourth side we get to listen to some studio material, of which some is among the worst in my collection (if this record is to make it permanently). The slightly abstract electronic rock track 'Talking To The Sun' is an acceptable song, but a bit boring. The rest is utterly stupid and an acceptable reason to embark in buying punk records from now on.

Conclusion. If taken as a three-sided live album (which I'll do for my review) this is a good example of a strong adaption to the lack of audience for challenging progressive music in the late seventies. Fans of Gong, space rock and synth driven prog will find a well recorded live album with great electronic equipment and some impressing musicianship. My personal complaint is the lack of catchy/effective song-writing and lack of flexibility by both Hillage and his arrangements. Don't listen to side four and you'll be alright. Strong three stars.

friso | 3/5 |


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