When I heard the first two tracks from Give And Take I thought that I was listening to an album of unreleased Steve Hillage-songs, but that wasn't the case. I was listening to Here & Now, a British band that was unknown to me until now. At the time when Steve Hillage released awesome albums as Motivation Radio (1977), Green (1978) and Open (1979) this band recorded the same kind of space rock music. But Here & Now never got as big as Mr. Hillage and their music wasn't picked up either by the same kind of people who loved the aforementioned albums. Here & Now toured with acts as Hawkwind, Daevid Allen's Gong and Traffic. Their energetic Gong-like riffing combined with a punk attitude and a sharp delivery made them a popular act in the live circuit. In 1978 they released their debut album Give And Take which was followed by a three-track EP. Their heavy touring resulted in the live album All Over The Show (1979). Next the band had several line-up changes, but the core consisting of guitarist Steffy Sharpstrings, bassist Keith Da Missile and keyboarder Gavin Da Blitz remained intact.
All of the band's records are now again available on CD. The band's first album Give And Take now contains the three tracks from the EP as bonus tracks. The album starts very strong with What You See Is What You Are and Nearer You. These two tracks contain all the elements that a great Steve Hillage-tune used to have in the seventies: great guitar solos with a lot of sound effects, fine atmospheric string synthesizer parts, breathtaking MiniMoog-solos and great sequencer patterns. Unfortunately after these two pieces the voices of the two female backing singers downgrade the music to a much lower level. Suze Da Blooz and Annie Wombat are mentioned as the 'Choir Of Angels', but in my opinion they certainly don't sing like angels. They sound a bit like the howling of cats and by doing so they just ruin the music. The musical style also changes from progressive rock to a more punk rock attitude. At the beginning of 70s Youth the sound of Steve Hillage returns, which is a great relief. This also applies for the next song Improvisation. It seems as if Steve's wife and musical partner Miquette Giraudy contributes on this piece due to the sound of the sequencers. But alas, the two female singers show up on this track again. This time they sound like Yoko Ono on one of her solo albums. The first bonus track Dog In Hell is a kind of blend of punk and reggae influences. This time the catlike singing ladies make the sound of barking dogs... The second bonus piece Floating Anarchy Radio is dominated by punk music as well. What else can you expect with such a title? Thank goodness they return to the Hillage-influences on the last bonus track and therefore Addicted is a rather enjoyable piece. The minor punk ingredients - mainly screaming vocals - didn't disturb me that much this time.
The live album All Over The Show was recorded in Liverpool, Norwich and London during the August '79 free tour. They recorded the music on a sixteen-track mobile recording studio. Steve Hillage gave some advices and maybe therefore the recordings sound rather strong. For the live shows the band added guitarist Bernie Elliot to the line-up. It's easy to hear that the musicians wanted to improvise because 70s Youth from their first album sounds livelier and with a different arrangement. Also during Jam they gave a loose to improvising. I liked it very much because it captures the real live feel with a very strong groove. Just like on Give And Take we hear a fine mixture of punk, space rock, progressive rock, underground and hippy music. Fortunately the so-called Choir Of Angels is absent on this release. They 'belonged' to the drummer on Give And Take, s o when he left the band they went along with him. This live release also contains two bonus tracks. Choke A Koala and End Of The Beginning were released in 1979 as one single. Unfortunately, we hear again some traces of the two female backing 'singers'. This time they don't ruin the Steve Hillage-orientated songs that much. The best songs on this release are without doubt the progressive rock influenced Surgeon's Knife with a lot of great MiniMoog-parts, and the ballad Only Way.
If Here & Now had made less use of the two female singers on the studio album, I would have given this release a much higher score. On the other hand the compositions on the live album are not that strong as the ones on the studio album. Therefore it's hard for me to judge the music of Here & Now for both discs. It can go either way. The songs move from average to rather good and that's why I found it rather difficult to count the stars for both releases.
***- / ***- Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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