Having recorded his first solo album Fish Rising while still a member of Gong, Steve Hillage wasted little time in recording a follow up after his departure from the band in 1976.  Decamping with partner Miquette Giraudy to Todd Rundgren’s studio near Woodstock in New York State, the resulting album, L, was something of a masterpiece, showcasing Hillage’s soaring, melodic guitar with sympathetic backing from Rundgren’s band Utopia and a cameo from jazz trumpeter Don Cherry. Hillage then formed a touring band comprising former Jethro Tull drummer Clive Bunker, aptly-named bassist, Colin Bass, Phil Hodge and Miquette on keyboards, Basil Brooks on additional keyboards and flute,and Christian Boule on rhythm and glissando guitars.

“This was a great performance from another fine period of my band in the late ’70s” said Hillage. “This was my first tour of the US – Gong never played there while I was in the band in the seventies. Madison Square Garden in New York is an iconic major venue, so it was a fantastic honour to play there! We were playing to audiences who mostly didn’t know our music too well, so we just let rip and went for it. The band was really firing!!!”steve8hillqge8;qddison8live

The performances have been sourced from a soundboard recording. Sound quality isn’t quite top notch, cymbals are hazy and vocals occasionally slightly muddy, but this is made up for by a sparkling performance from the band.  Salmon Song and Meditation Of The Snake from Hillage’s Fish Rising solo debut are joined by 4 tracks from L: Hurdy Gurdy Glissando, Hurdy Gurdy Man, Lunar Musik Suite and It’s All Too Much.  The album is rounded off by 2 slightly puzzling bonus tracks: Are We To Believe?, a collaboration with Rick Wakeman and a version of the title track from William Shatner’s Rocket Man album. Interesting as these are, they do not really fit with the rest of the album.

Madison Square Garden 1977 may not be an essential purchase but if you are a Hillage fan like me, you are going to want to buy it anyway.

John Scott

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