Steve Hillage — Searching for the Spark
(Madfish SMABX1045, 1991/2016, 22CD)
by Henry Schneider, Published 2016-10-21
On October 21, 2016 Snapper / Madfish released a mammoth career spanning boxed set of Steve Hillage’s music titled Searching for the Spark. This set highlights Steve’s solo work from his very first recording in 1969 at age 18 through to 1991’s self-titled debut album with System 7. The set includes Steve’s first album Arzachel, Khan’s Space Shanty, Fish Rising, L, Motivation Radio, Green, Open (and Studio Herald), Rainbow Dome Music, Open, For to Next (and its companion And or Not), System 7 (first album), Live in Deeply Dale (1978), two BBC performances from The Paris Theatre recorded in December 1976 and November 1979, eight CDs of previously unreleased music from Steve’s personal archive including four concerts (Brighton Dome November 1977, Munich April 1979, Hammersmith Odeon November 1979, and The Steve Hillage Band Live at the Gong Family Unconvention 2006). There is also a 188-page hardback book documenting Steve’s life, three reproduction promo posters, two lyric books, an enamel badge, a 60-page scrapbook with more photographs and cuttings, and a certificate of authenticity personally signed by Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy. Searching for the Spark is a limited edition of 2500 copies. Reviewers were provided with a 38 minute sampler containing seven tracks. So for me, rather than Searching for the Spark it is more like Searching for the Rest of the Music. Of course, a seven track sampler can't provide a true understanding of something this massive. All that I can reasonably do is quote from the press kit and comment on the seven tracks. Since the seven tracks are from the unreleased material, I have no idea of the quality of the studio albums. Were they remixed, enhanced, remastered, etc.? Who knows? If you already own the studio albums, should you invest your hard earned money in this boxed set? I cannot in all good conscience tell you yes or no.
The seven tracks on this abbreviated sampler are: “Aftaglid (Tambura Backing Track Mix)” from the Fish Rising sessions; “Beginning to See the Light” from the Green demo tapes; “Madman's Rap” a Khan Mk II rehearsal tape with Dave Stewart; “The Golden Vibe,” an a cappella echo guitar recording from 1973, a live recording of “The Fire Inside” at the Odeon Hammersmith November 1979, a live recording of “It's All Too Much” from Brighton November 1977, and a live recording of “New Age Synthesis (Unzipping the Zype)” from April 1979. “Aftaglid” has a cleaner sound than my vinyl copy of Fish Rising and the tambura provides more of a trance inducing sound, but overall not much different from the album track. “The Golden Vibe” is basically a sound sketch with echo guitar for “Aftaglid” recorded a year before Fish Rising. These practice tapes are lo fi recordings, so be prepared if you invest in the music. “It’s All Too Much” is an outstanding performance of this George Harrison tune and it far superior to the studio version on L, especially Steve’s dazzling guitar solo. 1979’s “The Fire Inside” documents the demise of 70s prog music and the move towards a more jazz-funk sound. And the final track “New Age Synthesis” hints at Steve’s movement to System 7. The track begins as mostly synthesizers, drum machines, and guitar. Towards the end we are treated to some great glissando and echo guitar riffs. With only being exposed to approximately less than 5% of the music in this set, I wish that I could provide more of an analysis. So buyer beware, it is a shot in the dark for buying this set, unless you are a Steve Hillage enthusiast.
First ProgStock Festival Set for October – October 2017 will see the inaugural edition of a festival called ProgStock in Rahway, New Jersey at the Union County Performing Arts Center. With a definite slant towards neo-progressive music, the event is sure to please many fans with the inclusion of such artists as Echolyn, Glass Hammer, and Aisles. The festival will take place October 13-15. » Read more
Clive Brooks RIP – Word reaches us today of another sad passing in the music world. Drummer Clive Brooks, best known as a member of such Canterbury bands as Egg, Uriel / Arzachel, and Groundhogs, has died at the age of 67. Details are sketchy at this point. The news was reported on Nick Mason's Facebook page — Brooks was Mason's drum tech. » Read more
Col. Bruce Hampton RIP – The phrase "He died doing what he loved" is almost a cliche, but in the case of Col. Bruce Hampton, it couldn't be more true. Hampton, who was born Gustav Berglund III, collapsed on stage at his own 70th birthday celebration and later passed away. The event took place at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. » Read more
ProgDay 2017 Announces First Bands – Flor de Loto, Sonar, and Infinien are the first three performers to be announced for the 2017 edition of the long-running ProgDay Festival. The 23rd ProgDay takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 2nd and 3rd, at Storybook Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. » Read more
Allan Holdsworth RIP – Surely in the list of artists who have contributed to the sound of modern music, there is a special spot for guitarist Allan Holdsworth. His name is known to virtually every student of the instrument in jazz and rock, and his style has been so widely emulated that it's hardly worth mentioning anymore — we can just assume that every guitarist has Holdsworth as an influence. » Read more
Steve Gorn, Tony Levin, Jerry Marotta - From the Caves of the Iron Mountain – Take a woodwind player and the early 80s rhythm section for Peter Gabriel (circa Security), put them together in a cave and you'd be surprised what they come up with! The second release from King... (1998) » Read more