|Complete 79 CD review
Another one that's been out for a while...
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|This double CD was released as Volume 1 of the Voiceprint Collector's Series back in 2000. It consists of a retrospectively legitimised bootleg recording of an entire gig on the Winter 79 tour - a tour which had already been documented on the Live 79 album, which was a single album, featuring highlights only of the St.Albans gig on 8/12/79. So this album immediately looks surplus to requirements for anyone who already has the Live 79 album (kollectors and kompletists aside). Complete 79 features the same St.Albans version of Shot Down In The Night, plus the entire gig from the Hammersmith Odeon on 1st December 1979.
Shot Down In The Night
This is the most bootleggy sounding track, very poor sound quality - cloudy and indistinct. As it's from the same gig as the Live 79 album, its' inclusion here in vastly inferior form is an irritation at best. Who on earth thought this was fit to release?
Starts off with an extended keyboard / guitar two-chord intro, but the most noticeable thing is that the sound quality improves by 100%, although the bootlegger's trademark squishy high frequencies remind us that this was probably recorded on a portable cassette recorder designed to operate at much lower volumes. The keyboards are high in the mix, the drums on the quiet side, and until Huw's solo in the middle [A... F...] section we are straining to hear the lead guitar. The bass and rhythm guitar aren't immediately apparent but can be picked out of the general soup. As for the band's performance, it's not a very different version to the one on Live 79.
Spirit of the Age
I've always thought the Live 79 version of this great song to be far and away the worst conceivable arrangement Hawkwind could have inflicted on us. It's the same here, but played noticeably faster, which does actually improve it. Once the drums kick in though, the bass abruptly disappears, reducing this to a tinny travesty. A shame as there is some great rhythm guitar just before the 2nd verse, at about 3:20. And Dave was plainly in great voice on the night in question. But this is just awful in terms of the sound. The only good thing about its better-recorded counterpart was the fade-out with duelling synth lines underpinned by double bass-drum beats. We don't get that here, instead the aimless wailing lead guitar is knocked aside by an outro of funny synth noises, which themselves terminate fairly rapidly.
This cuts in suddenly and is the same or very similar to the thrashy extended version which provided the B-side to the minor hit that Hawkwind had with the Shot Down In the Night single. it is distinguished by the poppy keyboard chords and the newly introduced "gotta stay cool" scat in the middle of the song. Huw Lloyd Langton plays copious amounts of lead guitar on this, much of it sounding as though he was playing slide - or as if a cat was dying painfully somewhere nearby. Not one of the band's finer moments.
Who's Gonna Win The War
Audio generator type swooshy wind sounds open the way for some melodic keyboard chords and jangling lead guitar, before the familiar bassline - this sounds quite good. And then with the worst bit of editing you've ever heard, the first verse is spliced in with a blast of swishy trebly noise. Or was the recording equipment overwhelmed by the sudden jump in volume? Either way it sounds dire. There was another live version of this track on the Castle Communications compilation entitled 'The Hawkwind Collection' and while that too had its problems (most of the bass frequencies missing in action) - this sounds as though the band were doing a very similar rendition to that, which would be quite faithful to the studio version on the Levitation album if you could get past the nasty sound.
World of Tiers
World of Tears, more like it. The volume levels are all over the place and at first it sounds as if the entire band are out of tune, though this comes right within a few bars. Kudos to Simon King who lays down a steady and spacious 4/4 beat which is the only thing that lifts this track at all. His interpretation is quite different to the busier style that Ginger Baker adopted on the Levitation album. There is another horrible leap in volume when the track goes into the quiet middle section - and coming out of it, the sound is almost as muddy as on Shot Down In The Night. Yet another horrible track.
New Jerusalem and Lighthouse
Out of tune opening keyboards suggest either an injudicious use of vibrato by Tim Blake or that the tape used to make the original recording was in poor shape. This unwanted effect runs throughout the track but doesn't entirely spoil what is one of Tim's best solo songs and best vocals too. This is the only officially released Hawkwind album featuring this track, so to hear it as it was meant to be heard you'd have to track down Tim's "New Jerusalem" album. The next track, Lighthouse, was of course also on the Live 79 album and this is just an inferior rendering of the same again - sound quality again being the culprit. There is an irritating high-pitched hiss panning from left to right all the way through, which was probably a phase-shifted synth loop before it got mangled by the cassette recorder. Most of Tim's keyboard voices did get through unscathed, though, so this particular track is not as poor as many others here. Tim sings better here than we've heard previously, and the final section which has the whole band playing is probably better performed than on Live 79 - but there's not enough difference between the two to justify the Complete 79 version's existence.
In terms of the arrangement, very similar to the Live 79 version, though Huw forgets he's supposed to be playing a guitar solo after the first verse and has to jump in a couple of seconds late. On this track Brock's guitar is at least audible, though fairly low in the mix. He can be heard playing some fast vamped rhythm just before the six minute mark, and this whole middle section is a little more manic than the Live 79 equivalent. Harvey also stays on the pace better here. It's a pity Simon King used so much cymbal on this as it just sounds miserable, transmuted into instant tinnitus...
What? An otherwise unobtainable Hawkwind track? No. It's just The Phenomenon of Luminosity from the Church of Hawkwind album (though that was 3 years in the future at this point), and it must have been played here on a backing tape as it's exactly the same as version which goes under the better-known title.
Tim Blake's poppy keyboards do not suit this track and once again the bass has disappeared off the first chorus, to come thudding back in on the succeeding bridge / verse. Huw plays a decent solo starting at around 2:30, which is difficult to hear as the sound is so muddy, but then another horrible bit of splicing or volume leap brings it in in a much more trebly mode. The sound quality here is as bad as elsewhere on this album. Then we go into the middle section, which here is merely the coda to the song, which then goes straight into...
Master Of The Universe
The same Live 79 arrangement, better performed by the band but incomparably more poorly recorded. This one is shorter too, halting after the first verse-plus-instrumental section.
Very familiar, despite not being cut off with an explosion after the first verse - but where's Huw? It takes a minute and a half for him to become audible and as he generally showed no restraint at this point in the band's career, it's difficult to believe he actually kept quiet for that long. He starts some good improvised soloing during a jamming section about three minutes into the song, even if the vibe here is a bit reminiscent of a thousand pub blues bands...
Pretty much a live rendition of the track as it appeared on the 1980 album of the same name. Brock's vocal melody on the choruses is disappointing, just a flat repetition of the F - G - A chord progression. The middle section is not as well developed as it subsequently became, but does give Huw a platform for more extended solo improvisation, which is pretty nicely done, and the sound here is about as good as it gets on this album - all the instruments audible but muddy, apart from the descant hiss of the cymbals.
Well, that's it and this album was plainly put out only for financial reasons. I'm sure I would have gone home happy had I attended the gig that night as it comes across in places that the band played really well - it was probably a better performance than at St.Albans a week later on the tour. But as a live album, this is a hopeless mess because of the crap bootleg sound quality. Save your pennies..