Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Steve Hillage - L

After leaving Gong, Steve Hillage undertook what became a very successful solo career. After the critical and relative commercial success of "Fish Rising", which was recorded while still a member of Gong, it was clear by all concerned that Hillage was a man of huge talent. Putting Hillage together with producer Todd Rundgren was a masterstroke. Using Rundgren's own band at the time, Utopia for the recording sessions the combination of Hillages stratospheric guitar playing and new age bravura and Rundgren's commercially richly textured production techniques was a hit. The resulting album "L" was sharp and focussed, mixing original material and covers of songs by Donovan and George Harrison, which Hillage made his own.

Though many may argue this stuff was very much of it's time (remember how it was featured in "The Young Ones"!), but today listening to "It's All Too Much" can still put a beatific smile on your face. There is still something special about this music, maybe made more so when placed within today's much more cynical world.

The standout track is clearly the lengthy and mainly instrumental "Lunar Musick Suite". Purportedly recorded at full moon, Hillage's synth guitar playing is ecstatically searing and the trumpet solo by Don Cherry is soulfully sublime as it leads up to the hugely satisfying climax!


1. Hurdy Gurdy Man
2. Hurdy Gurdy Glissando
3. Electrick Gypsies
4. Om Nama Shivaya
5. Lunar Musick Suite
6. It's All Too Much
Total Time: 43:48


- Steve Hillage / electric guitar, guitar synthesizer, vocals, synthesizers, shenai
+ Don cherry / trumpets, bells, voice, tamboura
- Miquette Giraudy / voice, vibes
- Larry Karush / tabla
- Sonja Malkine / 15th century hurdy gurdy
- Roger Powell / piano, synthesizers
- Kasim Sulton / bass
- John Wilcox / drums
L is the second studio album by British progressive rock musician Steve Hillage.

It was recorded primarily in New York, at the Secret Sound, Woodstock, N.Y., and was produced and engineered by Todd Rundgren, using musicians from Todd Rundgren's band Utopia and others.

According to liner notes supplied with the US pressing, Rundgren had only just become aware of Hillage, and following a letter from Hillage to Rundgren, and a reply from Rundgren, Hillage travelled to New York to meet, and the agreement to work together flowed from that.

The cover features a clean shaven Hillage (most of the publicity shots of Hillage during the 1970's show him with a full beard) holding his guitar, brightly backlit.

Unusually for Hillage, half the songs on this album are covers. "Hurdy Gurdy Man" was written by Donovan P. Leitch, "Om Nama Shivaya" was written by Kesar Singh Nariula and Uma Nanda, and "It's All Too Much" was written by George Harrison, and appeared originally on the album Yellow Submarine in 1969 by The Beatles.

The original Virgin catalogue number for this album on vinyl was V2066. An American pressing was issued on Atlantic Records, catalogue number SD 18205.

The album entered the UK charts on 16 October 1976, where it stayed for 12 weeks, hitting a peak of number 10[1]. This was the most successful of Steve Hillage's solo career albums, the next most successful being Motivation Radio and Green, which reached numbers 28 and 30 respectively.


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