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Hillman - Riding The Storm
Review No: 274
Linda Hillman: Flute and Cover Paintings
Steve Hillman had released two critically acclaimed albums, Matrix (1994) and Convergence (1999), on the highly independent Progressive/Rock label Cyclops run by Malcolm Parker (when I say highly independent I mean with Cyclops it is Malcolm Parker’s way or no way; if you do not like Progressive/Rock, have any idea what a mellotrone is, or like your songs to come in little three minute selections then you are probably not going to like anything on the Cyclops label. If, on the other hand, your like your eardrums to be wrapped around music that bristles with intelligence, versatility, dexterity, musical bravado, and great imagination, with no fear of letting musical ideas flow in whichever mood the author takes it to its natural conclusion, whether that be two minutes or twenty-two, then so be it, then this could just be your musical cup of tea so to speak). It was decided in-between albums to look back into the musical scrapbook of Steve Hillman’s career, and put together a compilation of the best bits. The outcome of this was this marvellous album going under the banner of Riding The Storm.
The music for this album has been culled from eight previous Hillman releases over a period of twelve years spanning from Altair on the 1983 album From Distant Shores, to some new material: Link recorded in 1995 for this album’s release.
But upon first listening it is hard to believe that the songs were not written to flow together. Naturally Steve Hillman had the time to select which pieces he wanted to compile onto this collection, digitally re-mastering all the music from the original tapes, so it’s perhaps not so surprising that it all flows along so beautifully.
All of the music presented here are instrumentals, with Steve Hillman playing all the instruments himself, except for the haunting flute work played by his wife Linda, which gives many of the songs fine embellishments.
Many have compared Steve Hillman’s work to Tangerine
Dream, but this reviewer finds that Steve Hillman’s work has far
more body and soul than The Dream. Each piece standing on its own merits
with no fear to the listener of repetition.
As the music slips into your subconscious, Steve Hillman takes out his musical skills, switching from hypnotic synthesiser to massed ranks of keyboards, to scintillating guitar work that leaves most of his contemporaries in his wake.
Riding The Storm starts off as any journey should with Departure, (and then finishes with Journey Back over an hour later), an inspired choice as it cleverly shows off all of Steve Hillman’s musical prowess as he layers melodies one on top of another over a rugged backbeat that builds to an early climax before leading us off again in search of musical education and general amusement.
The central piece of this album is the title track Riding The Storm from the 1990 album Labyrinth, which for our musical enjoyment has been broken up into two slabs so as not to dominate the flow of the music too much. The first part comes in as the fourth track, clocking in at eleven minutes and nine seconds, whist part two is held back till the penultimate track number fourteen. Riding the Storm is Steve Hillman giving a monumental display of classic melodious lead guitar, the notes literally bleed out from the neck of the guitar, something to really get the blood racing through those veins.
Contrastingly there is also Point Of Contact from the album Arrival (1993) with its surreal keyboard sounds that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, as the music gives you the impression of being buried deep in some underground cave.
Earthpulse from World’s Beyond (1988) could actually
be a lesson to the previously mentioned Tangerine Dream in how to liven
up their sometimes monosyllable synthesizer work, whilst Pillars of Sand
and Chamber Of The Moon from Ashtar (1985) are left alone with minimal
musical backdrop for Linda Hillman to shine forth on her flute, drifting
you away to a desert lunar setting. Linda Hillman’s artwork on the
covers of her husband’s albums are worth the price themselves.
To give yourself some musical variation to your music collection, there is no better way than adding a Steve Hillman album or two. But How? I hear you ask, as it must be said that it is highly unlikely that your local record shop will be able to supply you with a selection of Cyclops albums let alone Steve Hillman, especially here in Thailand. Well the answer is remarkably simple, log into www.amazon.com or the Cyclops homepage itself www.gft-cyclops.com and there you are able to browse to your heart’s content, and select music at your leisure, even being able to sample sound bites for free before making your selection. I have found that Amazon gets your package through to you anywhere in the world within five working days of them posting it to you, and they are very good at letting you know where your purchases are, too. Well lets face it, they have been doing it for a long time now so should know what they are doing by now.