|Hawklords Live '78 Atomhenge reissue CD review
Original Time Reissue Time
1. Automaton 1:37
1. 25 Years 7.24 2. 25 Years 6:38
2. High Rise 5:00 3. High Rise 5:00
3. Death Trap 8:46 4. Death Trap 5:37
5. The Age Of The Micro Man 3:51
4. Spirit Of The Age 6:48 6. Spirit Of The Age 9:20
7. Urban Guerilla 6:12
5. Sonic Attack 6:23 8. Sonic Attack 7:09
6. Over The Top 7:51
9. Psi Power 6:08
This is the latest in the series of Atomhenge reissues, and you know it contains previously unreleased tracks
as I'm reviewing it. As usual, a word for the superb service offered by Cherry Red, who got this to me
within one week of ordering it from their website. It comes as a single jewel-case CD with a 12-page
booklet, about half of which is taken up with Mark Powell's sleeve notes. So, not the most grandiose of
reissues, and in fact it's another slight step down from the packaging of the last tranche's "PXR5â€� reissue
- which Hawklords Live / '78 most nearly resembles in terms of stature. As an album it was always
something of an oddity, being first put out in the USA and Canada by Griffin Records in 1993. (This review
is going to be going back and forth between that original release and the new reissue, for comparisonâ€¦)
And it is really pretty different to everything else in Hawkwind's repertoire, but does an excellent job of
highlighting the new wave connection that kept the band relevant at a crucial moment of their existence...
Starting off, a few seconds of Automaton featured on the original Hawklords Live version of opening track
25 Years, the whole thing clocking in at 7:24. Here on the Live '78 reissue these two titles are broken out
into separate tracks of 1:37 and 6:38 duration respectively. This means there is perhaps an additional 30
seconds of Automaton on the reissue and it certainly hangs together better given the slightly greater length.
In fact the slow opening pace is reminiscent of the original studio recording that just recently surfaced on
the Hawklords studio album (25 Years On) reissued by Atomhenge: the slowed tempo does finally ratchet up
into the (title) track 25 Years which is speedy in every sense, from Calvert's hopped-up vocals on the verses
to the shouty ensemble choruses in between.
High Rise exhibits a rare Harvey Bainbridge rendition of Adrian Shaw's excellent bass line. Harvey's more
quotidian delivery is nonetheless effective, underpinning Bob Calvert's megaphone antics, on this version
which maintains the raucous, punky edge that is characteristic of the album as a whole. There's no
discernable difference between what is on the Live '78 reissue as compared with the original Hawklords Live
release, and in fact both versions of the album give this an identical track time of 5:00.
This emphatically does not apply to the next track, Death Trap, which is some three minutes shorter on the
Atomhenge version. This is because, as mentioned in the sleeve notes, the original gig was plagued by
power outages and one such occurred at 2:18 of the original, causing the band to start all over again... That
entire faux pas is omitted by the Atomhenge reissue, but realistically it is no loss, since the Hawklords'
resumption of the song was almost indistinguishable from the aborted first attempt. Sonically it continues the
amphetamine rush of the New Wave-flavoured performance that was noticeable on 25 Years . A wigged
out stream-of-consciousness guitar solo about two and a half minutes into the resumption is atypical for
Brock, as it just meanders along for almost a minute and a half.
Here we reach the first previously unreleased cut, with The Age Of The Micro Man. This is a fairly accurate
reproduction of the closing number from the Hawklords studio album but has a little more thrust to it, being
live, without quite managing the lush 'wall of sound' of massed keyboard parts. In fact you can hear some
cowbell happening quite clearly in the quieter mid-passages of the song, which is in itself slightly disturbing.
Spirit Of The Age, by contrast, was most un-Hawklords sounding on the original Hawklords Live release,
being a completely faithful live rendition of the track as it was styled on the Quark Strangeness & Charm
studio album. Surely this wasn't Hawklords, but actually 1977 vintage Hawkwind, replete with Adrianâ€™s
Shaw's fluid bass runs , which (sorry Harvey) beat everyone else who's attempted to play this material into a
cocked hat. The exclusive existence of this track on the original Hawklords Live means it remains a must-
have CD, and is not wholly supplanted by the Atomhenge reissue...where we are served an entirely different
version - spikier and more jagged than its' predecessor, the stripped-down arrangement is dominated by a
chugging rhythm guitar part from Dave Brock juxtaposed with Steve Swindell's swooping, poppy
keyboards, over another workmanlike backing.
The Live '78 reissue again goes into uncharted territory with Urban Guerilla. There is a vaguely
contemporary live 1979 version of this song, which is loose to the point of being ragged, and the good news
is that the Hawklords turn in a superior version, maintaining the punky ethos in the cohesive New Wave
musical packaging that was their trademark. This strikes the perfect balance between the ponderous Quo-
isms of the original 1973 single and the out-at-the-arse dynamics of the 1979 version that was the B-side to
the "Shot Down In The Night"single. This could be the best Urban Guerilla out there yet...
Sonic Attack...well what can you say. There are two main variations when it comes to live renditions of
this track. The earlier such standard appeared in its most basic form on the Space Ritual Alive album, and it
is the same here, with a relatively straightforward Calvert spoken delivery being given over some
unremarkable instrumental noodlings and rumblings. Later, more comedic versions utilized the vocal, er,
talents of (variously) Nik Turner, Dave Brock or Harvey Bainbridge over a more frenzied musical backing.
About four minutes into the Live '78 take on proceedings, the vocal drops away and a mildly pacey jam
brews up, once again featuring an uncharacteristically longwinded Brock guitar solo. The additional forty +
seconds of the Atomhenge reissue presumably comes about as a result of a more generous fade to this
The original Hawklords Live closed out with Over The Top, which of course never was a Hawklords piece
at all and only got tacked on to extend the running time of the CD to a decent album's worth. The Live '78
reissue far more generously reinstates two missing tracks from the live recording of the gig (which took
place on 24th November 1978 at Uxbridge Brunel University, for what it's worth). Psi Power and
Brainstorm are both of a piece with the other newly-heard Hawklords live recordings here - simple
arrangements, played at pace and characterized by the offset of forceful, driving guitar with slightly (but not
much more) ornate keyboards. Psi Power works better this way than Brainstorm does, because of the
greater scope for keyboard flourishes built into it....Mr. Swindells sounds distinctly constrained to rhythmic
vamping on Brainstorm, although some good textural stylings are heard in the instrumental passage between
two and four minutes into the song.
Other Atomhenge releases caught my attention for the immediate boost in sound quality, and there is a
definite clarity to this reissue that is an enhancement over the original release. But the improvement is one of
degree and proved less compelling for me than the enhanced tracklist. That is what makes the Atomhenge
Live '78 another excellent addition to the canon. The reissue is twice the album that the original Hawklords
Live was, by dint of its concentration on the original live concert recording, in preference to vaguely
contemporaneous archive oddments, which manage to sound quite different to the sound of, well,
Hawklords live. The end result is an album that stands up on its' own merits and could even be
recommended to non-cognoscenti. (If they like that sort of thing. But it's not for everyone, is it?)