Huw Lloyd-Langton: Rare & Unreleased Anthology 1971-2012 CD Review

An excellent tribute to an outstanding guitarist...
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Huw Lloyd-Langton (1951-2012) was probably best known for his stints with Hawkwind. As most Motorhead fans know, Lemmy Kilminster also started out with the space rock pioneers. Although the Hawkwind experience was a pretty good springboard for Lemmy, for Lloyd-Langton, it may not have worked completely in his favor. The band had a very intense Huw Lloyd-Langton: Rare & Unreleased Anthologyscience-fiction vibe, and the brilliant delicacy of his playing was sometimes swallowed up in the whole. Still, he did create some powerful music with them, so it was probably a positive experience in the end. Lloyd-Langton recorded a wealth of music outside of Hawkwind over the years though, some of which is collected on the new Rare & Unreleased Anthology 1971-2012.

The folks at Purple Pyramid have certainly given us our money’s worth with this Anthology. It is a two-CD set, with a total of 40 songs, and contains almost 160 minutes of music. Each CD comes in just a few seconds under 80 minutes, which is the maximum capacity of a compact disc.

The set is arranged chronologically, in four basic parts. The first 11 tracks are grouped as “Solo Acoustic Recordings (1971).” These songs seem to have been recorded at home, with Lloyd-Langton strumming his guitar and singing. They are not all strictly acoustic however, as he has overdubbed some tasty electric leads on many of them. Considering the fact that the recordings had been made over 40 years ago, I was surprised at how good they sound. Not only the sound quality, but of the songs themselves. I kind of expected some English hippie musings, but the tunes do not sound dated at all.

“The Morning Dove’s Song” makes great use of harmonics, and “Love You Wear a Pretty Face” is something of an acoustic tour de force, he even plays bongos on it. “Damn Shame” is presented here in a very stripped down version, but reappears later on in a very different arrangement. It is a song that Lloyd-Langton was obviously proud of, and with good reason. It is a very catchy piece.

The ten remaining tracks on the first CD are electric, and were recorded with various bands. The first of the groups were called Magill. According to the notes, Lloyd-Langton was joined in Magill by Pete Scott, John Clark, and Rob Rawlinson. There are five Magill songs included, all dating from 1973. I must say, this material is a bit of a let-down after the acoustic songs. Magill were an average-sounding early ‘70s hard rock group, and Lloyd-Langton does not get much of an opportunity to strut his stuff. It is unfortunate, because he was a great player, and should have been more prominently featured. But the songs never really take off. I guess the highlight would have to be their cover of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” made famous by The Animals.

In 1979, Lloyd-Langton hooked up with Simon King and Nic Potter for the power-trio Jawa. Four Jawa songs are included, included a bizarre second version of “Damn Shame.” The listener is excused for wondering if a copy of David Bowie’s Young Americans had somehow slipped into their CD player during “Damn Shame.” The song has been revamped, with Bowie’s “Fame” as the template. Hearing this is really weird, as it is almost identical, and there is no way that it could have been an accident. Interesting to say the least.

The final track of the first disc is from the Lloyd-Langton Group. “Hurry On Sundown” was recorded in 1999 for a Hawkwind tribute album, but has  remained unreleased until now. “Hurry On Sundown” was the first song on the first Hawkwind album, released in 1970. Lloyd-Langton played on that album, then left the fold for the rest of the decade, coming back to play with them from 1980-1988, then again in 2000-2002.

The second CD is subtitled “Instrumentals 1985-2012.” Lloyd-Langton’s playing definitely improved over the years. I was impressed with everything on this 19-song set. The first 13 were culled from six albums, released between 1985 and 2010. As indicated, they are all instrumental tracks, and his playing is outstanding.

The albums represented are Night Air (1985), Like an Arrow (Through the Heart) (1987), Elegy (1991), River Run (1994), Chain Reaction (1999), and Hard Graft (2010). Huw Lloyd-Langton really branched out stylistically at this point, and these songs make me want to check out the full albums. Some of the highlights include the jazz-rock “Elegy,” and the soaring “Dedications.” There are moments during “Dedications” where I could swear Lloyd-Langton was channeling “Maggot Brain” by Eddie Hazel. Not in a direct way, like the “Damn Shame”/”Fame” business, but just sort of the attitude. It is a tremendous example of how thoughtful a player he could be.

It is with the six closing “New Acoustic Tracks” that Lloyd-Langton really shows how much he continued to grow as a musician though. These songs are marvelously complex, and it is hard to believe that so much sound is being made by just one man and his guitar.

One of the most distinctive guitar players I have ever heard was John Fahey, and his style is almost impossible to describe. If you have heard it, you know what I am talking about. He was able to just make his guitar sing. On tracks such as “12 String Shuffle,” and “Into the Storm,” Lloyd-Langton has managed to come up with a similar sound. Again, he is not “stealing” here - it is Huw Lloyd-Langton’s own distinctive style to be sure, but it does have a bit in common with some of what Fahey had pioneered.

To be clear, comparing a guitar player to Eddie Hazel and John Fahey is intended as the highest compliment. Both were incredible, and Huw Lloyd-Langton definitely belongs in their company. Sadly, all are gone now. After a two-year battle with cancer, Huw Lloyd-Langton passed on December 6, 2012. The Rare & Unreleased Anthology was in the works long before his passing, by the way.

For those interested in seeing Huw Lloyd-Langton performing, there is a DVD out from Cleopatra titled Space Rock Invasion. It is two-DVD set, recorded on September 3, 2011 at the Key Club in Hollywood. Huw Lloyd-Langton opens the proceeding with a four-song acoustic set, with one of them being “Hurry Up Sundown.” The night also features full performances from Brainticket and Nektar. It is an excellent concert, and well-worth checking out for fans of all three acts.

This Anthology works as a marvelous sampler of the very prolific Huw Lloyd-Langton, and is highly recommended. In listening to it, I discovered one of the most underrated guitarists of the past 40 years. Although he was associated with Hawkwind off and on for years, there is nothing resembling “space” rock on this set. He was a fantastic player, and this is a marvelous tribute to him.