More Great 2016 Reissues and Finds: David Fricke's Picks

Expanded classics, unearthed obscurities and other historical gems

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Steve Hillage, 'Searching for the Spark 1969-1991'
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Steve Hillage, 'Searching for the Spark 1969-1991'

This English guitarist, best known for his mid-Seventies tenure in the galactic-rock troupe Gong, may seem an unlikely subject for a box of such weight and documentary scope. But Hillage has more than enough of his own lineage, canon and success in British progressive rock to fill and justify these 22 CDs, starting with the first two: a 1969 psychedelic one-off Arzachel, by Hillage's first serious band Uriel, and 1972's Space Shanty, a highly regarded prog curio by his next group Khan. After Gong, over eight solo albums for Virgin Records, the guitarist extended that band's spaced-case aesthetic into a surprisingly commercial blend of acid-rock jamming, jazz-funk fusion and early electronica, notably in effective throwback covers (the Beatles' "It's All Too Much," Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away"). Rarities inevitably abound in a set of this dimension, but Hillage dug deep, with a sharp ear, through his archives. And the two accompanying books make you feel as if you've fallen into a long-locked closet of old Melody Maker and NME cuttings.

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