In the mid-seventies I became rather interested in the music of the British musician Steve Hillage. He mixed styles as Canterbury scene, progressive and space rock into a very tasteful combination. This you could hear on amazing albums like L (1976), Motivation Radio (1977), Green (1978) and Open (1979). On these albums he made clear why he was generally considered to be a guitar music innovator. On the live album Live Herald (1978) you could easily notice that he and his band members were masters as far as improvisations are concerned. This can also be noticed on the worldwide released CD/DVD set Live In England 1979! This set contains a concert filmed and recorded at the Kent University where Hillage also studied. A part of that show was broadcasted for the TV show Rock Goes To College.
Steve Hillage has pleasant memories of those recordings. He stated: 'this was a great performance from another fine period of my band in the late seventies with John McKenzie on bass and the late Andy Anderson on drums.' Beside this rhythm-section Steve's band consisted of his wife Miquette Giraudy (synthesizer, vocals) and Dave Stewart (guitar). This is the same line-up that recorded some of the live tracks and the studio side of Live Herald. In my opinion Steve was right about this concert being a great performance at the time.
On the CD, that lasts almost an hour, you'll find the 45 minutes of audio recordings of the Rock Goes To College show. You may also enjoy great live versions of Salmon Song, Unzipping The Zype, the cover Hurdy Gurdy Man (Donovan), the punk tune 1988 Aktivator, Unidentified (Flying Being), and It's All Too Much a cover from The Beatles written by George Harrison. To make this release a bit more interesting they added two fine bonus tracks: the live versions of Hurdy Gurdy Glissando and Electrick Gypsies both taken from a live performance in 1977 with the line-up of the L-tour. Well, it's just a treat to the ears to listen to these live recordings. You can almost feel the energy of the musicians on stage.
The energy they radiate can also be felt on the footage of the original Rock Goes To College TV show that is included on the bonus DVD. This must have caught on by the audience in front of the stage. They go completely mad at the start of all performed songs. They sing along with most of the tracks and cheer after a composition has finished. It's nice to see how Steve tells them to be quiet in order to give the TV host the opportunity to introduce the musicians. It's also kind of funny that he introduces Hurdy Gurdy Man as Hurdy Gurdy Person to please the ladies in the audience. Furthermore you may enjoy a short drum solo which was part of Unidentified (Flying Being).
The bonus material on the DVD includes two short promo videos made for Radio and Light In The Sky. These tracks both appeared on the Motivation Radio album and were filmed on stage for the well-known British TV show The Old Grey Whistle Test. However, these songs have not been performed live but feature the studio sound of the original album. Finally this DVD contains a 35-minute in-depth interview with Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy recorded at their studio in London in January 2007. They discuss the Steve Hillage Band in general, but also the recordings of their albums.
This CD/ DVD set is above all a must have for all fans of Steve Hillage, even if you already possess the bootleg versions. Especially the bonus material on this release will make it easy for them to buy this fine release. Although the recordings don't meet the high standards of state-of-the-art technology, I had a great time listening and watching Live In England 1979!
*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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