|"Hawklords: 25 Years On" CD Review
At last, I have a legitimate CD copy of the Hawklords CD, thanks to those excellent people at Atomhengeâ
€¦from whom I bought this direct, at a totally reasonable price of ten quid and they sent it out within one
business day of me ordering it.
Packaging first - there are two CD's contained in a full-size jewel case, which is itself in one of those
cardboard jackets. These are always very nice but none too practical as they prevent the CD from fitting in
the storage racks I use. But anyway. This being the Expanded Deluxe Edition, the 24-page booklet contains
extensive sleeve notes written by Mark Powell (one half of Atomhenge records, I understand) and a
reproduction of the Hawklords concert programme as seen on their 1978 UK tour. There are even a couple
of photos I don't recognize towards the end, though they look to be totally in keeping with the, erm,
conceptual qualities of the enterprise.
CD1 is the original album, plus a clutch of bonus tracks. Assuming familiarity with this, I won't belabour
the New Wave-inflected character of the album. But the remastering job needs to be mentioned â€“ it's
excellent: the sound coming out of the speakers is fulsome and beefy, as befits a 70's classic such as this.
The single versions of Psi Power, Death Trap and 25 Years comprise the bonus tracks on this disc, and
these bald descriptions are perhaps slightly misleading. This single version of Psi Power sounds like an edit
of the album track, fading out during Steve Swindells' keyboard solo. Death Trap is claimed to be an
alternate mix for single release, but sounds no different from that on the PXR5 album, and 25 Years is, to
my ears, a completely different version than that which appeared as part of the original album. Each of
these three tracks has been released previously, and they are distinct from the rarities that featured on the
Spirit Of The Age Anthology 1976-84 album that Atomhenge put out a month or so ago. The Hawkwind
Codex is the place to sort all that out, and I will!
CD2 opens with the Sonic Assassins tracks recorded live at Barnstaple Queen's Hall on 23rd December 1977
- Over The Top, the medley of Magnu and Angels Of Death, Free Fall and Death Trap. The Golden Void is
omitted, as is usually the case whenever these tracks appear on a reissue, but at least it was on the 1976-84
Anthology. The sound quality here is no different from what Voiceprint put out on the Weird Tapes Vol. 1
CD, with all the same fades and edits etc., so these are probably the most humdrum inclusions on this
particular release. But they are followed by new stuff not heard before, starting with a demo of The Only
Ones. The song is in what would prove to be its final, finished, format but is rendered with just one
acoustic guitar and a reverbless vocal from Bob Calvert. The booklet does an excellent job of describing
exactly what / where / how these new tracks came to be, and (Only) The Dead Dreams Of The Cold War
Kid is a drummerless demo performed by Calvert / Brock / Bainbridge. Once again it is only the raw
arrangement that differentiates this demo from the polished version that appeared on the album (give or take
a slightly altered riff providing a coda of sorts).
From a rehearsal comes a spiky sounding Flying Doctor, with some minor lyrical differences to what would
become familiar, and rather more in the way of keyboard textures. 25 Years and the clutch of tracks
following it would appear to be alternate takes from the album recording sessions, and 25 Years is sonically
very different, with the keyboards higher in the mix and the vocal tracks sounding layered with effects. In
fact the overall sound "wanders" a bit, seeming to get louder and quieter as if being blown about by the wind
at a festival. It's also considerably longer than what ended up on the album, and this would plainly have
needed to be faded out had it been used.
Some People Never Die, they say. Or Dave Brock said it anyway on the Church Of Hawkwind album.
Here is an early version of the track under its alternative title of Assassination, and featuring a different,
more mellow musical backing behind the familiar vocal samples. In fact, it's too mellow for the fraught
subject matter of the overlaying narratives, so you can see why the track evolved on from this. But to hear
an embryonic version is very welcome. Also decidedly embryonic, in a completely different way, is take
two of Free Fall, with a stark bassline contrasted against lusher keyboards, before a narrow, pinched-
sounding Calvert vocal weighs in. Thus far these alternate Hawklords takes seem to reveal Steve Swindells
as a more dominant voice in the band's overall sound than the finished album portrayed. Of course this
doesn't apply to the guitar dominated Only The Dead Dreams Of The Cold War Kid, which, like the
succeeding track The Age Of The Micro Man, is not all that different from the takes used on the album.
Automaton is described as being the "full extended version" and sounds like a lengthy opening passage that
was later cut from the finished version. But it isn't, because just when I expected the pitch and tempo to be
raised, as on the album, it ends. So the final version must have been derived from this by some studio
trickery, with the tape being progressively sped up to generate the excellent dynamics that make it work.
And which aren't here, on this version :-)
Last up is Digger Jam, which is a bit of a shambles to be honest. The band amble about aimlessly with
some languid lead guitar from Dave Brock counterpointing Calvert's ad-libbed Australianisms. They haven't
the deft humour of his Flying Doctor lyrics, nor the extempore poetic quality of his Over The Top
narrative. But as a throwaway bonus track, this beats Slap It On Der Table hands down, so I wonâ€™t
Indeed there is no reason to have any single complaint about this reissue because once again it's been
thoughtfully conceived and faultlessly executed. The end result is a fantastic quality product and it's
impossible to identify any way in which it could have been improved. All this for a tenner and delivered with
impeccable service. I take my hat off to you, Atomhenge.