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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Steve Hillage

Live at the Rainbow 1977

Review by Gary Hill

I have to say that I like pretty much everything from Steve Hillage. That said, this is one of his best live shows I’ve heard. The music here is more along the lines of space rock, but with some fusion thrown into the mix. Most of the vocals are male, but there are some female ones at times. This is really a great show and the sound quality is excellent, too.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Octave Doctors

There is a real bouncy fusion meets reggae vibe to some of this. The echoey kind of musical element we hear on this great. It’s just a nice, proggy introduction to what’s about to ensue. Mind you, I say introduction, mostly because it’s instrumental, not because of the length, as it’s over four minutes long.

It's All Too Much
The vocals on this make me think of Hawkwind. At times the music resembles that a bit, too. Overall, though, it’s closer to the opening cut musically. This is a potent tune that really rocks. The jam near the end does bring a bit of Hawkwind-like space music to the table.
Light in the Sky
This rocker has a somewhat Rush-like riff driving it. Still, the Hawkwind and fusion elements are at play, too. The male vocals are joined at times by a female voice playing a character. The jam later in the piece is really quite a soaring one.
Radio
The first four and a half minutes of this is sans vocals. It wanders through some great prog and fusion territory in the course of it. When the vocals join it becomes quite Hawkwind-like. It’s another strong piece that brings yet another flavor to things.        
Electrick Gypsies
Although this still has plenty of prog and space rock built into it, it’s a lot more of a straight rocker. The extended jam later in the piece does take into more pure space rock sounds, though. The powerhouse guitar soloing section (just a little Zappa-like at times) segues into the next piece.
The Salmon Song
As the jamming from the previous cut ends, a melodic, mellower movement rises upward. By around the minute and a half mark a killer hard-edged jam takes it. Eventually vocals join over this movement. A short “I’m swimming with the salmon” line from a female voice ends this.
Solar Music Suite Part Two
The bass dominates the early parts of this. It has a very definite fusion sound, but some space rock elements are also on display. This early segment is extensive and is almost an accompanied bass solo. Later, though, they take it out into a jam that makes me think of a cross between Rush, Zappa and Hawkwind with some Middle Eastern music thrown in for good measure. It modulates to a more fusion like movement after a while. The vocals don’t come into being until almost five and a half minutes into the piece.
Motivation
A very riff driven jam, the guitar solos like crazy over this. It’s very much a fusion styled piece with some funk in the mix. As the main riff forms the vocals, though, it makes me think of Max Webster quite a bit. This is high energy and very cool. The instrumental section that takes it out is a real powerhouse.
Saucer Surfing
There’s an echoey guitar sound that starts this. It has guitar lines paired with the repeat of the previous ones. That holds the piece for the first couple minutes. Then a high energy jam with a lot of space rock built into it takes over. There is still some fusion in the mix, too, though. More of the repeating echoed guitar emerges on this new jam. Then the Hawkwind-like vocals emerge. Some space keyboards add to that Hawk comparison. By around the six minute mark this has evolved into a mellower space rock jam. Some processed female vocals are heard over the top. It builds up after a while and then gives way to the next number.
Searching for the Spark
Coming out of the previous piece, this has very ambient keyboard elements as the opening section. Around the one minute mark the rhythm section joins and they carry on from there. This keeps building instrumentally until after the three minute mark when the vocals join. After the vocals they take it back out into a killer jam that just keeps evolving. There is a drum solo late in the piece that gets some noisy sounds over the top after a time.
Hurdy Gurdy Man
Here we get a space rock cover of the Donovan song. I love the original tune and prefer that, but this is quite good. It’s definitely got a lot of variation from the source material and some killer guitar soloing. This might not be Donovan, but it’s great.
 
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