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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Steve Hillage

Madison Square Garden 1977

Review by Gary Hill

I really love this album. The mix of psychedelia, progressive rock and more is quite effective. It’s a solid live recording. Beyond that, we get treated to a couple of cool bonus tracks. One of those features Rick Wakeman and the other includes William Shatner. I’m a big fan of both of those guys, so those tracks are the icing on a great cake here.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2015  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Salmon Song

Fast paced fusion oriented prog opens this. It drops to mellower, atmospheric space music from there. Then the rhythm section seems destined to bring it into rocking. The song resists for a time before powering out into fast paced, psychedelically tinged prog rock from there. This works through a number of changes. It’s built on some playful theatrics at times. It’s a bit weird, but also fun, leaning towards Frank Zappa like music at times. There is some pretty intense jamming later in the track.

Hurdy Gurdy Glissando
Spacey music punctuated by a chiming bell is the concept as this starts and moves forward. Guitar starts soloing over the top of this. Eventually this evolves into a cool psychedelic rock jam with a driving beat. As the male and female vocals dance around one another, I’m really reminded of Hillage’s band Gong. It evolves into some killer jamming from there with some real space rock meets jazz kinds of vibes. As the jamming intensifies, it really starts to shift and soar. There are some odd bits here and there. This whole thing is so effective, though. It changes a lot and includes a lot of variety throughout. This thing is twelve minutes long, giving it a lot time to stretch out and alternate. It does so quite well.
Hurdy Gurdy Man
This old chestnut gets a killer space rock prog treatment here. I love the guitar soloing mid-track on this thing. The piece really works extremely well. I love the faster paced jam later, too. They aren’t content with the first speeding up process, though. They just keep pumping more and more speed into this beast.
Lunar Musick Suite
Quite a diverse musical ride, this works through from world music to more crazed hard rocking sounds. It even gets worked out towards metal. I can hear things here that sound a lot like Rush. Around the five and a half minute mark it drops to a spacey jazz kind of treatment for the next jamming. It powers back into intense rocking territory after a while. The vocals enter around the eight and a half minute mark over a melodic space rock type of arrangement. The piece isn’t done changing, though. It works to a more theatrical kind of movement. This segues directly into the next number.
Meditation of the Dragon
Coming out of the last one, some cool guitar jamming brings this in with a psychedelic rock vibe. It grows out with echoey lines of guitar dancing around. This is really trippy stuff and develops into some cool instrumental work. This is really a guitar showcase, but not in the classic guitar hero kind of way. It’s all about the echoey psychedelic sounds. This links directly to the next piece.
It’s All Too Much
Coming out of the previous cut, this includes a scorching hot ending jam that gives way to atmospheric space. We’re taken into more of a mainstream rocking arrangement. This really reminds me a lot of Hawkwind with the Beatles in the mix. The guitar soloing and jam that houses that soloing later really rocks.
Bonus Tracks
                  
Are We To Believe? with Rick Wakeman (Exclusive Version)

As one might expect, this jam features both great guitar work and cool keyboard music. There are some jazzy elements, too. It’s mostly a fast paced jam, but drifts into slower stuff, too. It’s an effective instrumental for sure.

Rocket Man with William Shatner (Exclusive Version)
I love the trippy electronic turned psychedelic arrangement of this. There are some great organic bits of instrumentation, too. Shatner’s reading (which I think might be a reused one from an earlier version) works quite well here. At times it’s further up in the arrangement. At other points, it’s sunk well to the backdrop. I love the guitar soloing later on this.
 
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