|Independent Days Vols 1 & 2 CD review
Flicknife Records have the gall to call this CD a "Best Of..." It's a reissue of the two Independent Days
albums that they released on vinyl back in the mid-80's, when Hawkwind were performing far from their
best work IMHO. To be precise, this does not comprise all the cuts that were on the 2 albums: Assault and
Battery and Sleep Of 1000 Tears are not here, because they got moved over to the Live Chronicles CD
reissue, where, as the sleeve notes to this album point out, they rightly belong. Which still leaves enough
here to make a decent length single CD....whether the contents are decent or not is another question.
Night Of The Hawks is the first track here. It's from the Earth Ritual Preview EP and hails from 1984.
The track itself is or should be familiar to most Hawkwind fans - it's always struck me as being a one-off
quite apart from the fact that it wasn't on any studio album. The production is dull, almost as muddy
sounding as the Xenon Codex album, and stylistically it seems to be casting around for a direction, again like
the Xenon Codex stuff. But this did come along after the wretched Zones album, and so represents some
sort of upswing for the band. The only person who really does well on this track is Huw: everyone else,
Brock included, sounds tired and the drums are particularly ignoble...
Motorway City is next, and this *is* from the Zones album, where it was quite the best thing on offer (and
was already old, having been recorded live at the Lewisham Theatre, London, on 18th December 1980).
The arrangement is similar to that on the studio version but this is played faster and has a somewhat fuzzy
sound to it. The worst part is that the song is faded out halfway through Huw's guitar solo (my personal
favourite single thing that Huw ever did).
Motorhead follows Motorway City, and this is still gripping - the stripped-down Brock / Powell / Lemmy
version. But, three tracks into this album, and there has been nothing yet that was new or previously
unavailable even at the time the vinyl was first released. This particular track had been released as the
A-side of a single by Flicknife in 1982, and actually got into the lower reaches of the charts (Top 75, they
reckon). It even topped the Indie charts that used to get published in papers like the NME and led to
Sounds running the headline "Hawkwind - Alternative Chartbusters!" in Fred Dellar's column one week. No
such accolade greeted Angels of Death, the next track on this album, when it was released as a single back
in 1981. The version featured here is from the Sonic Attack album. Even in this company it doesn't sound
So, the CD reaches even further back at this point, offering up the Hawklords version of "Who's Gonna
Win The War". According to the sleeve notes this was released as a single in June 1982, but of course
would have been recorded three years earlier - the writing credits (Brock / Bainbridge / Swindells / King)
definitely suggest a 1979 incarnation of the band. This had of course surfaced on other albums before the
Independent Days titles came out, notably on 1982's "Hawkwind Friends & Relations, Vol. 1" Sonically it is
another "in between" kind of track, sounding neither like the Hawklords, nor like the much better studio
recording of this song that appeared on 1980's Levitation album. The arrangement is not exactly spare, and
not exactly ramshackle, though it does sound loose enough to possibly collapse at any given moment.
Without the power that characterised the 1980 version, this one consists of vocals, guitar, bass, drums and
keyboards clanking along in unison like a funfair ride that has seen better days. Stylistically, Steve Swindells
definitely played keyboards and not synth, and so this is one of the least spacey of all Hawkwind tracks...
Watching the Grass Grow - another already available track, and one of the worst things ever to have been
done under the name of Hawkwind. This is why I don't like the Hawkwind that had Nik Turner back in the
band as frontman, back in 1982-84. The material was poor and the delivery worse. And this is being billed
as a "Best Of..", don't forget. Any casual buyer would probably pray they never get to hear the worst of.
Over The Top does something to bring this album back on course, but by now I am wearying of this parade
of B-grade material. Something that always annoys me about seeing this particular track anthologised is that
it's twice the song when accompanied by other of the Sonic Assassins tracks - like Free Fall and Death
Trap, on the original Sonic Assassins E.P.. Here, it comes across as basically just a rant plus gypsy music,
to paraphrase Calvert's improvised lyrics - which if course, still impress. But like everything else on this CD
so far, I've heard it before and in fact had already done so when I first got hold of this album in 1985 or
whenever it was.
Hurry On Sundown (the Hawkwind Zoo version, that is) hoves into view at this point. And actually it
works quite well with the running order of this CD - instead of another slab of dodgy sub-blanga hard rock,
this eastern-sounding / folky acoustic piece, which was Hawkwind's first ever recording, adds some depth
and colour to this collection. Maybe this Hawkwind lot aren't a one-trick pony! True, it does sound a bit
dated, but it's positively contemporary compared to the next track, Kiss Of The Velvet Whip (a.k.a. Sweet
Mistress Of Pain). Like Hurry On Sundown, this was on the Hawkwind Zoo e.p. that Flicknife had
previously issued,and it too hailed from Hawkwind's first ever demo tape. If Hurry On Sundown sounded a
bit dated, this is geriatric, sounding completely 60's. But as with the preceding track, it's really pretty hot
considering it's from a demo tape. The playing is surprisingly strong, with Mick Slattery's lead guitar and
Nik's sax being particularly good - Nik almost achieves his goal of playing free jazz in a rock band when he
hits his solo just after the second bridge. And then Mick whacks out a decent psychedelic guitar solo with
lots of string bending and a touch of wah... The bridge sections are probably the most psychedelic thing in
the song though, invoking the early Floyd perhaps...and there are too many of them. This would have been
a stronger song if it was cut to two-thirds of it's 5 minutes 27 seconds duration. But these were early
Kings of Speed is the next track, and this is an odd one - sounding just like the version on the Warrior On
The Edge Of Time album but without any vocals. There is a smattering of additional keyboard, and the
extra space opened up by the absence of a vocal track lets you hear Nik's sax much better and also Brock's
rhythm guitar track which is terrific - a real wolf in sheep's clothing as it's not so very high in the mix but
has a really savage sound. Of course, with everything else here, it had already been made available
elsewhere when this album first came out, as an extra track on the Hawkwind Zoo e.p..
Dave Brock's solo single A-side Social Alliance is next. As I mentioned in the review of the Earthed To The
Ground / Agents Of Chaos CD, this works much better as a Brock solo track than the live abomination
under this name that appeared on the Zones album. There's really nothing else to add here, so on to the next
two tracks, which are also the last two tracks: Dream Dancer and Dragons & Fables, both of which
accompanied Night Of The Hawks, the opening track of this CD, on the Earth Ritual Preview e.p.. Dream
Dancer is a short electronic piece based around a kind of heavy breathing rhythm, and is quite effective.
Dragons & Fables is one of Huw's numbers, and has all the merits of his best songwriting efforts: it's
musically simple, very catchy and pretty pacey. This one really ought to take its place in Huw's solo set
material, alongside Waiting For Tomorrow, Solitary Mind Games and Moonglum & Elric....but I've not
heard it played live for a long time. Here, the arrangement is somewhat on the ropey side as far as the
rhythm section are concerned....laboured single bass- and drum- beats rather spoil the good guitar work
Huw does, including some rare layered / multitracked harmony parts. There is some sympathetic synth too,
so it could have been worked up into a really good Hawkwind number had things worked out differently
than they did.
Well, I've acquired a lot of these minor Hawkwind releases to review on this site, and most of them have
been at least semi-worthwhile. This one isn't. It never rises far above the mediocre, and not a single thing
here is unavailable elsewhere and never was, either. Considered as a suite of music (boy, "suite" is really
pushing it with material of this calibre) it sort of hangs together OK, but the material is just too leaden to
make that a factor. Spend the money on a ticket to a live Hawkwind gig instead.