Steve Hillage | Madison Square Garden 1977 – CD Review

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Besides his association with Gong, Khan and System 7, guitarist Steve Hillage has released quite a few critically acclaimed solo flights of guitar mastery. On Madison Square Garden 1977, we are treated to an unreleased vintage concert recording from 1977 of Hillage and his amazing band at the top of their game. Taken from a rather pristine sounding soundboard recording, we get eight tunes — six from the Garden Show and two bonus studio tracks of Hillage with Rick Wakeman and William Shatner(!).

“The Salmon Song” opens with its open volume pedal noodling into a straight ahead rock beat allowing for Hillage’s runs and storm-on-the-horizon drumming from original Jethro Tull drummer Clive Bunker under the main riff. It’s a kinetic opening showcasing the full brunt of the band. “Hurdy Gurdy Glissando” and Hillage’s cover of “Hurdy Gurdy Man” follow (both from 1976’s L album, produced by Todd Rundgren ). While the first tune rolls through spacey runs with chime accents and a funky workout featuring future Camel bassist Colin Bass, the second tune is a much more recognizable as a decidedly “spacier” send-up of the Donovan classic. Hillage gets plenty of room for his high flying soloing at the end as the band modulates during a frenetic jam.

The echo guitar effects of “Meditation Of The Dragon” flows right into a positively heavy cover of George Harrison’s “It’s All Too Much,” which truly gets the Garden crowd jumping and ends the live portion of this CD. “Are We To Believe,” features Wakeman pulling off synth runs, some wailing bass from Colin Moulding, and Hillage plucking away. A cover of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” (originally from William Shatner’s 2001 Seeking Major Tom album) has our brave Captain of the USS Enterprise halting in a dramatic rap over simple and fast bends from Hillage. It’s a rare treat to get a live CD from this long ago sounding this good. You can call him over the hill, but Steve Hillage’s Madison Square Garden 1977 is a timeless gem that sounds like it could have been recorded 40 years later.

~ Ralph Greco


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