Steve Hillage is one of the most idiosyncratic and instantly recognisable guitarists in the world. Born in London in 1951 he has worked in experimental domains since the late 1960s. Besides his solo recordings he has been a member of Gong, Khan and System 7.
Whilst still at school, he joined his first band, a blues rock band called Uriel, with Dave Stewart (the keyboardist), Mont Campbell and Clive Brooks. The band split up in 1968 with the other members going on to form Egg, but they briefly re-united under assumed names to record the album Arzachel in 1969. Hillage also guested on Egg's 1974 album The Civil Surface.
In 1969, Hillage began studies at the University of Kent in Canterbury, befriending local bands Caravan and Spirogyra and occasionally jamming with them. Meanwhile he wrote songs and, by late 1970, had accumulated enough material for an album. Caravan put him in touch with their manager Terry King, who got Hillage signed with Deram on the basis of a demo of his material recorded with the help of Dave Stewart of Egg. In early 1971, Hillage formed Khan with bassist/vocalist Nick Greenwood, formerly of Crazy World Of Arthur Brown. Although future Gong and Hatfield and the North drummer Pip Pyle was involved in the early stages, the line-up finally settled with the inclusion of organist Dick Heninghem and drummer Eric Peachey, both of whom had recently collaborated on Greenwood's solo project Cold Cuts, recorded in California in 1970 but belatedly released in 1972.
Following a series of concerts throughout 1971, several of them supporting labelmates Caravan, Khan began recording their debut album in November, by which time Heninghem had left, forcing Hillage to bring in his former bandmate Dave Stewart to play the keyboard parts. By the time Space Shanty came out in May 1972, Canadian Val Stevens (formerly of Toronto's popular soul-rock band Grant Smith & The Power) had filled the vacancy, making his debut on a short European tour (including a televised appearance at the Montreux Festival) and continuing with a UK tour supporting Caravan in June.
By then, musical disagreements between Hillage and Greenwood culminated with the latter's departure. Hillage decided to form a new line-up with a slightly different direction, retaining the services of Peachey and asking Stewart back, and adding Nigel Griggs (later of Split Enz) on bass. New compositions by Hillage and Stewart were added to the repertoire, including "I Love Its Holy Mystery", which would form the basis of Hillage's later Solar Musick Suite. Hillage broke up the band in October 1972.
Hillage promptly joined Kevin Ayers' new live band Decadence, participating in Ayers' 1973 album Bananamour (Harvest, May 1973) and touring the UK and France for two months. Having in the meantime become a fan of Gong, Hillage stayed in France after the tour to join the band. In January 1973 he took part in the sessions for Flying Teapot, the first instalment of the "Radio Gnome" trilogy, and soon after graduated to full-time membership. The 'classic' line-up of Gong was now in place, with Daevid Allen, Gilli Smyth, Didier Malherbe, Tim Blake, Mike Howlett and Pierre Moerlen, and recorded two further albums, Angels Egg and You, before disintegrating in 1975.
In November 1973, Hillage participated in a live-in-the-studio performance of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells for the BBC.
When Allen, Gong's founder and mastermind, left in April 1975, Hillage took over leadership but found this position increasingly uncomfortable, and by the year's end had jumped ship to launch his solo career, his motivation to do so fuelled by the success of his solo album Fish Rising, recorded while still in Gong and featuring most of his bandmates. His next effort L album was recorded in the United States using musicians from Todd Rundgren's Utopia, and on its release Hillage formed a touring band which toured in late 1976. During the latter half of the 1970s, Hillage made a name for himself as a guitarist and prog-rock/fusion composer and performer.
This album shows Hillage at the top of his game, playing a classic show at the Rainbow in 1977. It contains glorious, life affirming music, which is as gloriously spiritual and uplifting now as it was when it was recorded nearly 40 years ago.