Okay so I’m cheating again, sort of, because I’ve only owned this beastie for 9 months or so, but we need to talk about heaven; ‘Cos that’s exactly what ‘Palm Trees (Love Guitar)’ sounds like to me. No, really. There’s something so perfect and (searches mentally for synonym for ‘perfect’), umm, perfect-y about that acoustic guitar intro, before the synth/guitar synth/glissando guitar* takes us upwards. I defy you to listen to it and not think about beautiful blue skies, safety and warmth. The lyrics are pretty superfluous as the music has already told you everything they aspire to convey. I just can’t get enough of this track, if this is the new age the song speaks of, then bring it on.
Welcome to Steve Hillage Green, a musical highlight in a year, 1978, full of them. This is a great album full of tracks seguing effortlessly together, taking us on a groovy glissando-fuelled ride through crystal caverns of the mind … or something. Hillage plays with perfect poise throughout, all the right notes and just the right number of them too. Green was co-produced by Nick Mason, who I think may have been the drummer in some minor English prog band at the time.
But first, a criticism. I find I can take or leave some of Hillage’s work, possibly as a very minor bit of rebellion against my parents and also because when all is said and done, I’m not much of a progster, which is why I don’t go a great bundle on the opening track of Green, ‘Sea Nature’. It’s all a bit stop/start, it is has definite segments** and I’m not a fan of segments, he’s got a bit of a funny, weedy English voice … it’s got beautiful lyrical passages of music, it has some stunningly prescient electronic sections that could easily have been taken from every Orb LP I’ve ever loved, it runs perfectly into the second track (based on Alpha brain wave rhythms) … Okay, okay, I admit it I love it, damn you! Yes, I will wear a ‘I Love Prog Rock’ T-shirt to work tomorrow! I hear ladies love that sort of thing.
So, I’m a hypocrite, so jail me. But, I have to say that I don’t like the disco prog funk of ‘Unidentified (Flying Being)’ for some of the reasons above, also because it sounds a bit jazz-fusion-y to me and that’s not a good thing. I do however really rather like the way it segues into the soaring ‘U.F.O (Over Paris)’, another ahead-of-its’-time electro ambient workout that rather puts me in mind of all manner of exciting electronic dudes like Trentemøller; I could say identical things about ‘Ether Ships’ too.
Needless to say, with a title like ‘Leylines To Glassdom’ we’re soaring up, up and away again borne on the wings of the Roland GR500. There is a definite touch of 70’s Pink Floyd in these particular grooves and not too coincidentally, Mason plays some echoing drums on this one. ‘Crystal City’ feels and sounds like a bright primary-coloured version of Hawkwind circa-Levitation and that’s a great thing; there’s something really rather fab about the vocals on this track. Now strap yourselves in if you’re feeling too wigged out by this point because we’re off, in a silver rocket ship, for a big finale.
It’s only a snippet of a track at 1:03 but ‘Activation Mediation’ with its ‘Baba O’ Riley’ keys really steps the album up a gear and eases us into ‘The Glorious Om Riff’, which is a real pinnacle, not just of Green, but for Hillage in general. The appropriately Eastern flavoured melody lines are underpinned by some meaty bass sounds and some wonderful guitar work from the man himself, he really cuts loose in a great solo about half way through the track which I could quite happily have enjoyed for another 10 minutes. There is a purer, wilder sense of purpose about this track that definitely sets it apart from the rest of the LP, before it winds back down into a short coda that recalls ‘Activation Meditation’. It is quite brilliant and not like anything else I own.
But I am being a bit remiss here in not crediting Steve Hillage’s partner and co-pilot Miquette Giraudy with, not only composition, but some great synth work throughout the album, it really was at least 20 years ahead of its time.
One day I’ll stumble across an original copy of the album on translucent green vinyl and ‘The Glorious Om Riff’ will propel me greenly into the glorious trans-dimensional everlasting party at the heart of the universe. The sleeve boldly proclaims Green is:
I can hear that. I also suspect that mood-altering substances may have been consumed by our ancient ancestors when they listened to this album in days of yore; it did the trick for me on two strong cups of coffee and some toast and jam^. I end, as I always do, by spinning ‘Palm Trees (Love Guitar)’ again and I’m back in paradise.
*it’s a moot point which if any/all they are at any point on this album, the Roland GR500 guitar synth really muddies the waters (and leaves me howlin’ like a wolf) here.
**like a great big prog fruit.
^not to be tried without suitable adult supervision, readers. The unfettered hedonistic lifestyle I enjoy isn’t for everyone and if emulated by an inexperienced cosmic groover could lead to an unsightly jam stain on your lap of their favourite crushed velvet pantaloons. I could do without that on my conscience.