|Empire Pool Wembley 1973 CD review
|This item slipped under the radar until the Hawkeye website mentioned it among the 2006 releases. The title
suggests it is re-hash number 23 (or whatever it is now) of "Bring Me The Head Of Yuri Gagarin". The
track list offers the even less inspiring prospect that it could just be Yuri Gagarin and Space Ritual 2 bodged
together. However, the fine print says: "the complete 78 minute show".
Thus we get the Yuri Gagarin show allegedly from a "raw, unprocessed recording which surfaced in 2005
and which has been carefully remastered. The phrase "polishing a turd" comes to mind and the sound is
indeed sometimes what you might expect to hear of the show from inside one of the cubicles in the gents.
However, it isn't that bad either and playing it back to back with Yuri Gagarin, it is apparent that the sound
is much clearer.
The track listing is (with "new" additions in italics): Intro, In The Egg, Born To Go, Down Through The
Night, Wage War, Urban Guerrilla, Space Is Deep, The Black Corridor, Orgone Accumulator, Upside
Down, Brainstorm, Seven By Seven, Master of the Universe, Welcome, Sonic Attack, Silver Machine.
The new tracks are all suitably muscular performances. Only "Seven By Seven" really disappoints, being
effectively the single version rather than the extended workout that appeared on Space Ritual 2. Of the more
familiar performances, it is noticeable that "Orgone Accumulator" has gained an extra 30 seconds at the end,
with a completely unexpected coda of Bob Calvert intoning whispered lyrics over some spacey effects.
"Master of the Universe", "Welcome" and "Sonic Attack" are each around 10 seconds shorter, without any
bits obviously missing, rather suggesting that these versions have been speeded up slightly.
The CD booklet uses the artwork from the Space Ritual programme (had to look that one up!) and reprints
a couple of reviews of the concert (from Sounds and Melody Maker) as well as a Calvert short story (or
how Hawkwind met Lemmy, Bob Calvert and Simon King). It appears on "At Discs" (whoever they are,
catalogue number AT73527CD) and is available through Amazon. Probably a must have [even] if the sound
|Two reviews, here. Mine will appear once I've actually got a copy of the CD. But
Graham is first up with his take on proceedings...
Well I've got my copy now (thanks Andy G & all at CD Services!) and my questions about this release have
been the same as everyone else's: is it just another in the long line of Yuri Gagarin reissues? Does it sound
Graham's already provided the tracklist in his review, and the presence of several songs never before
included in the Yuri Gagarin rehashes by itself proves that this is something different. Claimed to be from a â
€œraw unprocessed recording", the interesting thing is that each track sounds different from every other
track. Perhaps this is an accurate reflection of some very diligent onstage mixing, since (going by memory)
the same was true on Yuri Gagarin. For example, the somewhat muffled quality of Andy Dunkley's spoken
intro contrasts with the crystal-clear Bob Calvert poems In The Egg and Wage War. Bob delivers a
marvelous performance on these two interludes, his voice full of venom and spite - a highly articulate rage.
On the more musical numbers though, the aural characteristics don't really live up to the sleeve notesâ€™
claim of "superior sound quality" - unless they mean superior to Yuri Gagarin, which I can accept is the
case. Although...I haven't owned a copy of that recording (or listened to it) since 2001, and have to go by
memory on such comparisons. The first of the "new" tracks, Born to Go, sounds as though Hawkwind had
set up their gear in the centre of an empty aircraft hangar, with the proceedings being recorded on a single
microphone just inside the doors. The overall sonic signature is extremely boomy with an incredibly flabby
bass sound so lacking in definition as to make Lemmy's basslines almost impossible to pick out. This has
the effect of relegating the guitar to a distant grind, buried layers deep in the mix, and the drums to a flat
cipher. The vocals suffer the least, riding well above the bass's frequencies, but probably never were too
well-defined as, on Born To Go they were always performed ensemble anyway, and in unison rather than
Down Through The Night is a little better in that the guitar reasserts itself and provides greater width to the
sound, just by being a little higher in the mix: without the bass elbowing everything else aside, the drums are
able to breathe, and this one has a single voice (Dave's) which helps restore some clarity too. In fact, there
does seem to be a general improvement in sound quality as the album progresses: Urban Guerilla sounds
better than Down Through The Night, though something I had forgotten about this was how execrably Bob
Calvert gets the phrasing wrong, completely failing to slot the vocal lines into the right places within Brock's
guitar riffing. But soundwise the whole song is helped by the more distorted guitar sound, and it's
interesting to note that this is one of those numbers that isn't new to this album; it sounds far better than the
muddy mess I recall.
Not that I would call this "good" in terms of the sound. It's still bootleggy, and there's an irritating pervasive
wavering sibilance throughout, but unlike the earlier truncated versions of this concert, it is just about
listenable. If Yuri... had sound quality rated at 1/10 and TMTYL was 10/10, this would rate about 3/10 or
4/10 for the better tracks.
Space Is Deep does another 90-degree turn compared to the preceding numbers in that it seems really quietâ
€¦in fact it's almost drumless (until the D... A... section), but even that does not fully account for the
seemingly low volume level when compared with the other tracks here. The arrangement is pretty familiar
from the Space Ritual Alive rendition, and the dominant feature here is the sound quality. It's the same story
with The Black Corridor, which is also "new" on the Empire Pool Wembley 1973. Bob's vocal delivery and
the background electronic noises are about the same as on the more illustrious album, though some
vituperative background vocals from Lemmy on this number aren't anything we've heard before. They do
recall somewhat the classic version of Sonic Attack in their waspish tones of exasperation!
Orgone Accumulator, by contrast, is *not* new to this title, and was probably the pick of the bunch
looking back to Yuri Gagarin and its' numerous derivatives. Again the guitar is higher in the mix and this has
the effect of preventing the bass from booming out, though the vocals and drums retain that echoey quality
that caused me to mention aircraft hangars. And as with all the other numbers here, the band's performance
was spot on, and the improvement in clarity emphasizes this. For tightness and musical thrills this version
trashes the one on Space Ritual Alive, for example - if only we could hear it properly!
This is followed by a run of numbers that we're hearing for the first time on this album: Upside Down,
Brainstorm and Seven By Seven. Upside Down has the most muscular arrangement of any version of this
song (the other two versions are from Space Ritual Alive and Space Ritual 2) but the first refrain (where the
chords go Bm... D#... Gm...) is completely messed up by Lemmy who sticks with E... C... A... Bb... as
heard on the verses. Brainstorm is arranged pretty much identically to the amphetamine rush rendition of
Space Ritual Alive, and although the sound has that bootleggy surging quality -before going slightly muffled
in the middle section- like all the cuts here, it stays comfortably ahead of the 'Complete 79' album (another
one I've just remembered as having utterly shite sound quality) in terms of listenability.
There's an edit straight from the end of Brainstorm into the plaintive chords that herald Seven By Seven. It's
a pity that Brock's wonderful transitional chord sequence has been edited out, but here I disagree with
Graham's review for the first time, in thinking that the new version of Seven By Seven is a real winner, for
the vigour with which the band play it. It is too short, with the ending chords being crossfaded into the
rushing wind noises that kick off Master Of The Universe. This, along with the remaining tracks (Welcome
To The Future, Sonic Attack and Silver Machine, in that order) was present on earlier incarnations, and
there's little more to add that hasn't already been said. One indicator of the deficient sound quality is the way
that the lead guitar passage in MotU immediately reduces the whole song to a thumping, boomy cacophony -
it's only the rhythm guitar that's holding the whole thing together, after all. But things are not so bad as to
obscure the crunching power of the performance, for example on the last cut Silver Machine - the guitar
just rips its way through this, a fact that was hard to discern on the soupier recording served up on past
releases from this gig.
The packaging has already been mentioned by Graham as being fairly extensive. The booklet and CD cover
have been well put together, with contemporary photos being sourced and sometime collaged attractively, to
illustrate the 2 reviews of the original gig (quoted from the music press of the day) and new sleeve notes.
There are also scans of flyers and tickets for the original gig, and it's obvious that a real effort has been
made to give the buyer value for money and historical accuracy to boot. I didn't see anything there that
wasn't already familiar, but full marks for selection of appropriate content and the care taken to present it
As to where this album sits in the overall scheme of things - definitely for the committed fan only. The
claims of superior sound quality need to be taken with a pinch of salt, as the improvement is relative rather
than absolute, but the more complete tracklist and enhanced packaging make this a Yuri-killer. 5/10.
Here's another review with an interesting comparison of the Empire Pool CD with Yuri Gagarin...thanks to
Mark P for this:
Having acquired, in recent months, both Bring Me the Head of Yuri Gagarin and Empire Pool Wembley 1973
(YG and EPW for short hereafter), and being intrigued by the dialogue and debates they have engendered, I
thought I'd add my 2-cents-worth.
Let me start with YG. My immediate impression of this infamous record is: slightly better-than-average
sound for a bootleg of that era...not nearly as awful as it is made out to be. I have heard some HORRIBLE
boots in my time, and this is a cut above. Of course, if you buy the thing expecting something on a par with
Space Ritual Alive - forget it! Many people, it seems, have been misled that this is an "official" release
featuring normal "commercial" sound quality. No surprise, then, that they would raise a hue & cry and
demand their money back. But I went in thinking, simply: "It's a bootleg," and was thus prepared to
experience it for what it is - a gap-filling document of some significance, nestled as it is between Space
Ritual Alive (recorded Dec 72) and The 1999 Party (recorded March 74); fascinating, really, given the
quality of the performance itself, distinct from the recording. By the way - and this might mean more to a
Brit than to a Yank like me, but I just read in Ian Abrahams' Sonic Assassins book that it was â€œ"
Hawkwind's most prestigious gig to date," so that adds to the historical value of the recording.
Throughout YG there are quick fades, abrupt startups, and an overall feeling of disjointedness. For instance,
the appearance of Orgone Accumulator so early in the set seems odd (remember it opened disc 2 of the
original SR). Likewise odd is the absence of certain Hawkwind standards (Brainstorm, Born To Go).
Nonetheless, I relished the disc from the first listen. I thought the spoken word pieces fared best; In The
Egg & Wage War were very easy to listen to. As noted in the earlier review, the vocal in Gaga was a bit
muffled, but I'd chalk that up to Andy Dunkley, probably on a different microphone, not being so
accustomed to projecting or speaking "on mic" as Calvert or other band members. Then again, Calvert
himself goes "off mic" annoyingly at times, and we lose bits of the poetry/lyrics.
As for the content of these spoken word pieces... Gaga I consider to be nothing more than a glorified band
introduction. The obligatory Sonic Attack and Welcome To The Future sound OK, are performed with
reasonable gusto, and are otherwise unremarkable. For me, a single recording of each (i.e., the classic SR
versions) will really suffice for this lifetime.
But In the Egg and Wage War are another story altogether. Never recorded in the studio, and apparently
never captured on any other even quasi-official live recording, these two pieces alone make YG or one of its
many variations a must-have for Hawkwind aficionados. Calvert is in his best histrionic mode here. The
first number, with its "waiting to be hatched" scenario makes a perfect set-opener (or scene-setter), and also
serves as a variation on the central SR theme: spacenauts in the capsule anticipating emergence into a new
world. Wage War is perhaps even better, as Bob takes us into his confidence by sharing his violent but
simplistic plans for a little Anarchy In The UK. In that sense it makes an ideal intro to Urban Guerilla. If
you are a Calvertophile, you've GOT to hear In The Egg & Wage War.
One reason I especially like this disc is that the 4 songs (as opposed to poems) that appear here show us
Hawkwind at their rip-roaring rocking best. Orgone Accumulator is a powerful, albeit muddy, blast; Calvert,
not sounding as polished as on SR's version, brings an edgy rawness to it - listen to his delivery of â€œan
orgone accumulator is a SUPERMAN CREATOR!" Nice guitar and bass solos, too! Master of the Universe
is also intense - Nik gets the words out properly, and as long as that happens, you really canâ€™t go wrong
with this song. Then you have the two great singles, Urban Guerilla and Silver Machine. Neither figured on
the Space Ritual album, so it's cool to have them both in live versions here.
The former is a mess due to Calvert's vocals - he seems to have forgotten half the lyrics. To be fair, it may
be that he simply has not had time to memorize them all. The Empire Pool concert was May 27, 1973; the
single was not recorded in the studio until sometime in June. In the 2nd verse, he repeats the line â
€œpeople's debt collector" over & over instead of singing the rest of the verse, and he twice stuffs up the
end of the 1st verse when he hits the "rising sign is Cancer" line. Still, it's mad & driving, like Orgone
Accumulator, and it's the only live version available by the classic lineup. We are fortunate that, by this time,
Lemmy has taken ownership of Silver Machine, so there's no chance of a similar vocal catastrophe in the
final track of the album. Excepting the pre-SR radio concert released as BBC Radio One, I do believe this is
the only "legitimate" live version of SM featuring Lemmy lead singing.
So, in sum, the uniqueness & power of the four songs plus the uniqueness & decent fidelity of the four
spoken word pieces make YG an album worth hearing, despite the overall sub-par sound.
Which brings me now to EPW. The earlier review has already noted that the boast of "superior sound
quality" has to be taken in relative terms. Yes, the 9 tracks that first appeared on YG do sound better on this
disc... but that's no great feat - nor is it because they come from a better raw source... but I'll get to that
EPW undoubtedly puts YG to shame in one department: it appears to contain the ENTIRE May '73 concert -
16 numbers as opposed to just 9. I'm tempted to ask, however: Is this truly an advantage? To a completist,
sure. And to those who seek as many copies as possible of every classic Hawkwind tune. For myself, as
hinted earlier, I'm often quite satisfied with a single good version of a particular song. Maybe one studio &
one live version. Certain songs are exceptions - I think I have eight different recordings of You Shouldn't
Do That, and I'll listen to each frequently. But Brainstorm -as great as it is- doesn't cry out to me to be
collected ad infinitum. The Doremi version, the SR version, the 1999 Party version...that's plenty for me.
Having another boot quality version here is not a selling point. Same goes for Born To Go, Space is Deep,
Black Corridor... Been there, done that.
Besides the "overcollected" factor, there is another problem with this group of new numbers, and on this
point, I do dissent from the Starfarer reviewers: I do not like the sound on these new EPW tracks at all. To
my ears, they are soaked with tape hiss and sound very distant. To quote the earlier review, they sound â
€œas though Hawkwind had set up their gear in the centre of an empty aircraft hangar, with the proceedings
being recorded on a single microphone just inside the doors." In addition, there are frequent surges of an
annoying distortion - I don't know the technical name for it, [clipping] but it is that "crackling" sound you get
when something is recorded improperly, with levels too high - or, in this case, probably, from trying to
crank up a poor source recording to a listenable volume. (I've done it myself on home recordings. I always
regret it later.) Play this CD and you cannot fail to notice the difference in sonic footprint as you change
from an original YG track to a new track (e.g., from In the Egg to Born to Go). In fact, you don't even
have to make a track change. Listen to Orgone Accumulator on EPW. The YG version of this song ends
with a quick fade as Calvert repeats "it's orgone..." Here, there is no fade, rather an additional 40 seconds or
so of Calvert whispering and the band noodling, before Upside Down starts. There is a distinct change
where the song switches over to the "2nd source" recording. It's like you've zoomed from the 10th row to
the 100th. Hiss and distance.
The unique version of Upside Down deserves mention. In that it's another rarity, another song never
recorded in the studio, its appearance here piques our interest. But, disappointingly, the vocals are missing!
(If they ever were there, you can't hear them now!) Too bad, because this quirky little song is one of
Hawkwind's unsung gems (pardon the pun!)
A minor technical note: in Down Throuugh the Night, toward the end of Dave's guitar solo, something
happens with the tape - the sound suddenly fluctuates and goes muffled, like the tape was being eaten by the
machine, or like the taper moved the mic, stuffed it in his pocket or something. It's quite noticeable but
doesn't ruin the song by any means (- not by this point, when you're used to the sonic imperfections!)
Aside from some of Calvert's vocal missteps, one can't complain about the band's performance; it was top
flight. They were obviously at a stage of great confidence, still riding their high from the Space Ritual tour.
The music here is gripping. If only - to quote the apt observation from the previous review â€“ "if only we
could hear it properly!"
Now, so as not to leave readers with the impression that their time has been wasted by a largely redundant
rehash of prior musings on the sad remains of Hawkwind's Empire Pool concert, I will try to make a unique
assertion or two.
First, on this matter of what I call the "2nd source." One of the leading points about this in the earlier
Starfarer review was "the interesting thing is that each track sounds different from every other track.â€�
This was expanded upon by the comment, "Perhaps this is an accurate reflection of some very diligent
onstage mixing, since (going by memory) the same was true on Yuri Gagarin."
Memory can play tricks. In this case, I think it did, though I can hardly blame the reviewer for opting not to
go back to the actual YG recording to refresh said memory. I think he made it clear he thought it was pretty
bad, and in fact, no longer even owned a copy of it. I noted earlier the difference in the Andy Dunkley intro
compared to Calvert's pieces immediately following, but this is fairly insignificant. Outside of the slight
superior clarity of the spoken word pieces (vs. the songs) - owing, I suppose, to the simple fact that there is
less noise there to clutter things up - I believe that careful auditory inspection will demonstrate that YG
sounds about the same throughout. The most substantial differences were probably between vocals - but
remember, there were likely 5 or 6 mics onstage for the use of various band members, and perfect balance
amongst all would have been nigh impossible even at the gig itself, never mind on an audience tape. Urban
Guerilla, Orgone Accumulator, Master of the Universe - they all wound up as a kind of muddy roar, some
bits sticking out a little more prominently than others, but I hear no evidence of a concerted effort at the
That's my take on YG. But how about EPW? Are there notable track-to-track differences? To my ears, not
many to speak of. Space is Deep does start out a little quieter, but then, it's supposed to - I'm sure the rest
of the lads took a step back volume-wise so as not to quash Dave's opening guitar work. And there is that
fluctuation in the midst of Down Through the Night, but that seems to have been a taper miscue. The
glaring difference on EPW is between the recurring YG tracks and the new (unique to EPW) tracks. I find it
hard to believe they come from a single source.
Rather, it sounds almost as if there were two incomplete audience tapings - one from a source very similar
to the old YG tracks. My guess as to what happened goes something like this: the 2nd tape from which the
EPW tracks are sourced surfaces some thirty years after the actual gig, probably via audience taping &
trading which were under official interdiction at the time. So the fans had two incomplete recordings and
simply wanted to hear the whole thing (in the right order). However, the listenability of the 2nd source was
actually INFERIOR to the first. The taper of EPW must certainly have been farther from the stage than the
taper of the first audience recording. The resultant boominess and tape hiss would be acceptable for the
hitherto unavailable numbers, but why put out the old numbers, already released on YG, in versions of even
lower quality? So the tracks from the first audience tape were simply remixed, given some oomph and then
spliced into the tracks from the 2nd tape source, producing, finally, the sonically schizoid audio source,
which at least has the full setlist, in correct order. After which, some other third party got hold of it, beefed
up the sound, applied hiss reduction and put it out commercially as the EPW CD.
Personally, and this must be evident already - I actually prefer the old YG tracks - especially in their
improved EPW form. They may not be studio quality, but none of them have the hiss, the distorted
crackling, and the distance of the new EPW tracks. In fact, obsessionist that I am, I burned my own CD
version, keeping all the enhanced EPW versions of the original YG tracks, omitting most of the perennial
staples like Born to Go and Brainstorm, keeping the rare Upside Down and personal faves Down through the
Night & Seven by Seven, and - important - using my own graphic equalizer to cut back the trebly hiss as
much as possible on the "new" EPW songs. This makes for a fuller and really listenable product, one which
I think can hold its own against other historical artifacts such as Text of Festival (ah - thereâ€™s a topic for
A couple of final, minor notes:
I forget where it was.... maybe on the Hawkwind.com forum... that I recently read a fan lauding EPW and
remarking he was glad about "no more handclaps" over Silver Machine. Got news for you, friend - they are
still there. As far as I can tell, all the voices, handclaps, etc, that appear in the EPW versions were ALSO
there in the original YG album If they weren't, I would doubt my own conclusions about YG vs. EPW, but
go back and listen: the handclaps are there...because Silver Machine is from a very similar tape source!
Lastly, it strikes me that the bizarre title of the original YG album must have derived from the likewise bizarre
title of the initial track. From Gaga to Gagarin...perhaps just a word-association thing that popped into
somebody's head when they were packaging this? But why "Bring me the head of..." ? Gagarin was a real-
life Russian folk-hero. Who would put a price on his head? At any rate, it's an odd nod to a fellow space
In the end, the differences between YG and EPW may not be all that important. But I do believe that, in
either of its guises - once one gets beyond the sound on the surface -a real Hawkwind fan may discern
something of real worth. For this is a damaged, but not entirely ruined, relic of bygone glory: a prestigious
show capturing the classic version of the band, near its peak, just coming off the high, heady success of the
Space Ritual extravaganza and firing rockets to herald the next stage.
Last word on the subject goes to Andy K:
These are the first signs of Yuri Gagarin:
You will notice your speaker cones oscillating.
You will hear a distant hissing in your ears.
You will feel frustrated.
You will feel the need to turn down the treble.
There will be an ache in the aural region.
You may be subject to fits of hysterically wishing you could hear this stellar performance properly.
Your only protection is to have been there in 1973.
If you are less than ten years old you should NOT be listening to this band.
And remember: digital remastering can accomplish nothing else