CD Review: Huw Lloyd Langton’s LLG “Hard Graft”

Hard Graft is the latest release from one of the U.K.’s leading rock guitarists, Huw Lloyd Langton. Listening to this album gives me the impression that Huw had found that same crossroads which Robert Johnston had stumbled on many moons ago. Hard Graft is overflowing with deeply rich inventive guitar work and the Lloyd Langton Group provides a sumptuous back drop to this. The LLG band line-up for this album was the late Tim Rice Williams on keys with Richard Gillespie on bass and Volker Van Hoff on drums. Huw was obviously on guitars and vocals.

Just in case you are not aware, Huw has a rich and varied musical background. Huw joined Hawkwind as they were forming in the late 60s/early 70s and has been working with the band ever since. Hawkwind is in fact Huw’s ‘mothership.’ Other bands that Huw has worked with include Fox (later this name changed to The Whip). This was just before Huw met Dave Brock, when Hawkwind was forming. The next band that Huw helped to form was Amon Din and after this Huw joined a band called Magill. Shortly afterwards Huw joined a calypso rock band, Batti Mamselle, before joining Leo Sayers’ band for a while. After this Huw joined rock supergroup Widowmaker. Huw had also taught guitar at a comprehensive school and wrote the music for a cartoon narrated by Vivian Stanshall. He also worked with Michael Moorcock.

This was all before 1979 when Huw played on various albums and gigged with Kokomo, a band in the same stable as Hawkwind. Soon after this Huw rejoined Hawkwind and remained on board for the next decade. LLG was also formed during this time, in Hawkwind quiet spots. LLG released four albums, Outside The Law (1984), Night Air (1985), Like An Arrow (1987) and Time, Space and LLG (1988). There were also two singles, ‘Wind Of Change’ (1982) and ‘Dreams That Fade Away’ (1984). Huw then appeared on a couple of Nick Potters albums, Mountain Music and The Blue Zone, and played on Rob Calvert’s ‘Lord Of The Hornets’ single. Then in 1989 Huw left Hawkwind and toured with Pretty Things. LLG’s next album was Elegy (1991), followed by River Run (1994). In 1995 Huw toured Sweden with Ray Majors (ex Mott the Hoople) and secured a deal with a Swedish label. In 1999 LLG released Chain Reaction, their seventh album.

During September 2000 Huw rejoined Hawkwind for the Hawkestra reunion gig, featuring 21 previous band members including Lemmy. In 2001 Huw’s On The Move CD was released, this as originally recorded in Sweden in  1977. Huw also officially rejoined Hawkwind in 2001, the band then went on to undertake their first major U.K. tour since 1977. On this tour Huw contracted legionnaires disease and was hospitalized. Hawkwind toured again in 2002, but sadly Huw was unable to play the last two dates due to illness. Between 2002 – 2007, fragile though he was, he did do a series of acoustic concerts, solo charity gigs, a few LLG gigs with Kenny Wilson, John Clark and Gonzalo Carreras and countless open mic nights.

Huw had regained full health by the end of 2007 and started writing music again. In 2008 the album Hard Graft was completed. Two weeks after recording this album, the LLG keyboard player, Tim Rice Williams, suddenly died of cancer. Tim had been a close friend of Huw and his partner Marion for several decades, so this understandably has delayed the release of the CD. LLG is now helping the Killing Cancer charity campaign and has a song on the album specifically dedicated and written for this cause – ‘PDT – Photo Dynamic Therapy.’ A tremendous amount of remixing and reworking went into Hard Graft and then Huw was struck by illness once more, delaying the release further.

Hard Graft was finally released on August 27, 2010. ‘Huw’s Intro to Hard Graft (Part 1)’ opens the album gently and soon swings into action, showing the style that has been so finely honed and perfected. The classical and acoustic talents shine out during the intro into this piece of psychedelic guitar mastery. Huw’s vocals combine and flow with the music, providing ample impetus to this opening track. ‘Hello Friend’ is a single-length track, which punches along from the start filled with spine tingling guitar work. ‘A Dream’ lives up to its title, Tim’s keyboards are prevalent, creating a very illusory song. ‘PDT – Photo Dynamic Therapy’ is the song written for the Killing Cancer charity and it makes its mark and grooves its purpose home. ‘Hey Mama’ has a touch of melancholy in a thoughtful sea of light guitar and ‘My Eyes See Only the Sea’ flows gently and astutely with some great prevalent work from Tim. ‘So Long Too Long’ has a melancholic blending of guitar and keyboard harmonies, with some great rap-like vocal overtones. ‘Strange Flower’ starts with some great  crunchy guitar riffs and harmonic chords in a classic rock style. As the song progresses, subtle use of a little ‘rave whistle’ is thrown in to top the sound off. It works a treat! ‘Hard Graft (Part 2)’ is a fitting epilogue to this selection of LLG songs. There are three bonus tracks, ‘So Long Baby’, ‘Slow Train a Coming’ and ‘Cowboy Blues’ and these are short guitar instrumentals, which are so rich and bluesy and a wonderful tribute to Tim.

Rating: A justly deserved 9.5 / 10

To learn more about Huw Lloyd Langton, the LLG and to listen to excerpts from the new album visit: http://www.huwlloyd-langton.co.uk

Note: Over the next two years there will be a series of previously unreleased LLG material being put out as free digital downloads on Huw’s official website. Huw will also be appearing at record fairs around the U.K. during the next few months to sign albums.