Live 1990 CD review

18th April 2004
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To complete the review of live albums dating from 1989-90, I sat down and listened to the Live 1990 album -
which actually consists of two sets, spread across 2 CD's.  The first CD contains an unidentified set from
the Autumn 1990 UK tour
[**see update at bottom of page**], which on the basis of the set lists must be
from one of these gigs: Redcar Coat & Bowl (Fri 19/10/90), Edinburgh Playhouse (Sat 20/10/90),
Manchester Apollo (Mon 22/10/90), Cambridge Corn Exchange (Sun 28/10/90), Hemel Hempstead Pavillon
(Wed 31/10/90), Hanley Victoria Hall (Fri 02/11/90), or Exeter St.Georges Hall (Thu 08/11/90).  However all
the UK dates where the setlists are known included 'Paranoia' between Back In The Box and Assassins of
Allah and this doesn't - so it could be from the December 1990 U.S. tour...although there again, there has
clearly been some editing, so who knows.

The second set is from Central TV studios in Nottingham, on 25th January 1990, and comprises the
soundtrack to Hawkwind's appearance on the Bedrock TV show, subsequently released as the Classic Rock
DVD / video, and as a VHS release called "Live Legends".  As well being on this Live 1990 2CD album, it has
also been released on its' own as Live In Nottingham, with the same artwork as was used on the Classic
Rock DVD.

CD 1 opens with a decent electronic piece called
Karnac Intro which segues pleasantly into a good version
of
Angels of Death, with Dave's distinctive brash guitar tones dominating what is pretty much another
rendition of the definitive arrangement of this song, in the first half of it anway, with dual vocals from Dave
and Alan.  The second half is a long and rather aimless jam with lots of staccato guitar/bass riffs and ambient
keyboard noises from Harvey.  Instead of the thumping "all of your days" outro that this number sometimes
gets, here it fades out in a whisper.

Void Of Golden Light being the alternate name for the Golden Void, here it pops up with an arrangement
similar to the one on Palace Springs - another guitar and keyboard dominated exercise, with Harvey definitely
filling the gap left by the non-appearance of Simon House's violin.  Brock's guitar is as well to the fore here
as on any other Hawkwind album - but again, as on Angels of Death, there is a long drawn-out coda where
the song fades out, almost turning into ambient music along the way.

Ejection opens with Bridgett Wishart's spoken piece which has occasionally been dignified with the name of
'Check Control'.  It is pointless to keep ragging on the lady and I've said it all before, so moving swiftly on,
Ejection features Alan Davey's slightly hoarse vocals and provide Richard Chadwick with an opportunity to
really go to town on the drums with lots of fast but light fills and rolls (sounds like the lunch tray at a bakery)
before the band *again* goes into a noodly mid-section jam.  This is Hawkwind Lite.  Dave throws in some
lead guitar (not for the first time) of a melodic nature, which briefly goes interestingly atonal before the
wallpaper music cuts in again.  This is an odd thing, because when the band are playing the recognised
arrangements of these numbers, the sound is pretty strong - not the heaviest, by any means, but rather like a
top class middleweight boxer: light on its' feet but still packing a punch - whereas they have sometimes been
more like a heavyweight, possessed of a fearsome wallop but somewhat lumbering with it.   Ejection does at
least come back with a full-on chorus. And like eveything else thus far on this album it's really Dave Brock
who's holding it all together.  When he goes off the boil, so does the rest of the band.

Wings is up next, and, well, it's not a great song, and this is not a good version of it.  Harvey's synths come
off best, imparting an early Pink Floyd feeling (in fact this almost starts and ends like 'On The Run' from
Dark Side Of The Moon).  Everything else about it, though, sounds like it came straight off a Hawkwind
Friends and Relations album, the Hawkwind Family Tree CD or similar.  And the Floyd motif continues with
a 'Time'-like sound-effect intro to
Out Of The Shadows which is dispelled as Brock's guitar begins to slash
and burn, ably assisted by Mr.Davey.  The vocals are heavily echo'd  (another hallmark of 1990 Hawkwind)
and this is not too different from the better-known versions.  It does provide a platform for Alan Davey's
bass work to really shine, and at last you feel that someone else is up there with the Captain, turning this into
more of a band effort and less of a "Dave Brock and the Others" type of exercise.

The jam section is edited out of Out Of The Shadows with a clearly audible cut straight into
Snake Dance, a
slow instrumental piece that served merely to provide a bridge between O.O.T.S. and Night Of the Hawks
(watch the Classic Rock DVD).  It's a decent enough piece of music and does a good job of providing the
linkage.  Here I think the editing cut out the first bit of it too, as it doesn't last long before
Night Of The
Hawks
kicks in.  On the plus side this doesn't have the muddiness of the original studio version, but it's in
keeping with the rest of this set - lacking ballast, with the exception of the Boy Brock, who does an excellent
melodic guitar solo reminiscent of some of his early-to-mid 70's efforts.  This immediately precedes another
burst of Bridgett, and after she's done her thing (and my ears in), the Captain comes back with some more
lead guitar, picking up Bridgett's vocal line and then branching out, at first almost into guitar hero territory,
and then into a terrific soundscape of simple but beautiful form.  Finally the whole band comes back in and
Richard Chadwick shows some flashes of brilliance with a roll or two around the kit - until there is another
fade-out, once again featuring some clock-like sound effects to complete the Pink Floyd allusions.

TV Suicide gives Harvey a chance to show off his talent for subverting the listener with an initially catchy
motif which flips into an unsettling slice of paranoia.  Again, Bridgett does backing vocals which work well,
although I think Alan Davey may be accompanying her here, but another piece of editing shuts the track off
before it's fully developed.  A shame, really, but this was quite a long set, which covers more than just the
one CD, and TV Suicide is the last track on CD1....it probably had to be cut too soon for that reason.

CD2 starts out with
Back In The Box, and a surprisingly good intro consisting of Harvey's synths doing a
celestial choir kind of thing for a minute or so before the song proper gets going.  All the usual criticisms
apply, and I think one problem here is that this song is pitched just a little too low for Bridgett's voice.  We
hit a new and different kind of low, however, in the downbeat middle section, with some new lyrics from
Bridgett about a red dagger, and Harvey aiding and abetting her most ignobly... I know this was meant to be
a piece of performance art which probably needs to be seen as much as heard, but it's crap.  The music
accompanying this middle section is minimal Hawkwind-by-numbers, with a spare beat to keep things ticking
along and stray funny noises from synths and guitars.  For once Harvey takes the biscuit as being far and
away the worst person present, droning on and on about feeding our brains and gawd knows what.  The "is
education the golden rule?" piece is missing in its' entirety as the band move straight into an indifferent
version of
Assassins of Allah, a.k.a. Hassan-i-Sahba.  It's one of Alan Davey's less polished vocal
performances and even Dave Brock comes in below par with a weird chord change or two on the bridge,
and some uninspiring interim moves leading into the "It is written" refrain.  Which he redeems with some
solid guitar playing and vocals, though Alan takes the lead singing parts; with his voice being less clear than
Dave's it still sounds as though Brock is the lead vocalist despite singing nothing but repeated takes on "It is
written"...

This set finishes with
Images, more guitar-dominated than on the Space Bandits album, and accordingly not
as good, since I see this song as really a vehicle for Alan Davey's bass.  Bridgett's vocals are particularly
execrable, and the band as a whole rather mess up the staccato bridge by playing it far too fast, robbing it of
its' impact.  The free-form middle section is present and incorrect, as usual, with Alan Davey stooping so
low as to help Bridgett out with "the fee-uh and the ang-uh".  But delivery appears in the form of a new riff
which doesn't last long enough, and brings us back to the main motif of this number, with a brief bit of
not-so-great lead guitar from Dave.  A couple of choruses come along and Alan is again doing a dual vocals
thing with Bridgett - they sound pretty appalling together, and it's not all Bridgett's fault.  Brock rounds things
out with another bit of brief lead guitar, but it starts up again with the intro riff, and more singing (oh, put me
out of my misery...)  One last go-round with the staccato bridge finally puts an end to this remarkably
unsuccessful rendition of what could have been an excellent number.  And that completes the Autumn 1990
set.

All told, this *sounds* none too dissimilar from some of the other live material from around this time, with a
guitar / keyboard dominated mix, and most of the melodic content coming from those 2 instruments to
compensate for the lack of other lead instrumentation.  Brock turns in another excellent performance with
both the singing and the guitar playing, and at times everyone else in the band shows some quality too.  But
overall, this is a bit lacklustre.  I suspect the mix is partly responsible since it -for once- probably pushes the
guitar too far out front and diminishes the other instruments, particularly the bass.  But compared with the
other 89-90 live sets, this one is perhaps the weakest.

CD2 continues with the 25/1/90 performance, again featuring Brock, Bainbridge, Davey, Wishart and
Chadwick, but with the very welcome addition of Simon House on violin.  The material is pretty much the
same, with Lives of Great Men (a.k.a. Assault and Battery), Void Of Golden Light, Out Of the Shadows,
Snake Dance, Night Of The Hawks, The Seventh Star, Back In The Box, Utopia, Ejection, and Damnation
Alley.  On this hearing you have to wonder why they subsequently dropped
Assault & Battery from the set
as this is an excellent version, optimised for the medium-size roster of instruments, and speeded up
somewhat from the original arrangement.  Chadwick helps keep things pumping with some triple bass drum
beats, and having the sublimely melodious Simon House present does wonders for both this track and
The
Golden Void
, to give it its' proper title.  Which is also pitched better for Bridgett's voice (she takes the lead
vocals on the first verse or so).  Despite being shown first on the Bedrock / Live Legends / Classic Rock
visuals, these two tracks were actually the encore and you can hear that the band were firing on all
cylinders.  On Assault & Battery there are more dual lead vocals from Alan and Dave, sung in harmonised
unison rather than alternated, which are better balanced than on the recording of Autumn 1990 set.

As the band move into
Out Of The Shadows, you know that this is the one to beat.  The guitar sound is
noticeably thrashier than on CD1, but given the violin taking over as lead instrument, that works, and the
bass is more audible too, with Alan Davey turning in the definitive version here.  If any one instrument
suffers, it's Harvey's synths.  This is not the most keyboard-intensive number anyway, but he almost
disappears. On CD1, the ending of Out Of The Shadows was edited out but not so here, providing us with
the first appearance of Dave's "Hades Deep" riff providing the coda to this number.  Definitive.

Snake Dance and Night Of The Hawks are perhaps not quite as convincing in the 25/1/90 set as are the
versions on CD1.  The former track features some none too special lead guitar from Dave, who seems to
have relaxed a bit with Simon House being on board, but this is offset by Simon's contribution and the return
to prominence of Harvey's keyboards.  As before, though, it's just a transitional piece before the 2/2
pounding heralds the onset of
Night Of The Hawks.  This version has the ballast I thought was missing
from the Autumn set's rendition, but unfortunately packs that leaden quality along with it, and Dave's guitar
solo doesn't cut the mustard in the same way either...having said all that it's probably a truer portrayal of the
original studio version, but IMHO not so hot in a general, rather than comparative sense.  It segues into
Seventh Star and Bridgett raised her game a bit on this one, turning in a good melody line which her voice
isn't good enough to properly support.  For my money that's the story of Bridgett's entire tenure with
Hawkwind - that she was being asked or was attempting to do things which were beyond the capabilities of
her vocal equipment - but I digress... Seventh Star does return to the Night Of The Hawks theme, which
hangs together better than the track proper, particularly as Mr.House delivers some superb flurries of violin
towards the end.

Back In The Box works a good deal better on CD2.  The more bass-heavy mix imparts the sense of menace
which was missing later in the year, and Simon House manages to turn the violin into a rhythm instrument
with some supportive single-note vamping before launching into more scintillating flights of melody.  Even
the middle section is better, with Harvey and Bridgett's performance art sounding semi-convincing thanks to
some spooky effects on Harvey's voice and the judicious use of some well-placed screams by Bridgett.  
(This is one, though, that is better on CD than DVD :-)  Unfortunately Harvey's rant continues all the way to
the end (no Brock coda here either) but it does bring us to the single best track on this entire CD:
Utopia
(actually, Arrival In Utopia).  This is a stunning live rendition of what was a great studio track, with Dave
and Alan laying down a carpet of blanga while Simon solos away above them.  My only complaint is that it's
far too short, being limited to the first verse and chorus only, before going into the Paranoia riff as a brief
coda.

A frenetic
Ejection follows with Simon blazing away in the intro before Alan's vocals kick in.  Fast and
punchy, this again shows what a good idea it was to move Dave's guitar sound away from the middley
raunch to this thrashier tone to accommodate Simon's violin.  Again, Harvey's keyboards are low in the mix,
but mid-song he does throw some good synthy noises in to heighten the general sense of dementia that this
track generates.  Not even Bridgett's extempore rap manages to spoil matters, although she comes close
when bellowing obscurely about the wheel of fate.  Richard Chadwick again stars with some excellent
pedalling of the bass drum and comprehensive runs around the kit right before the song ends.  The audience
applause provides a reminder that this is a much more 'live' sounding recording than the Autumn set.

Damnation Alley closes proceedings, and this ought to be worth hearing as it's one that Simon House had a
hand in writing.  Alan handles the vocals, which are OK although I would rather hear Dave do them.  
Actually Dave's guitar seems strangely muted on this track, which is really divided into three: the initial
section, labelled as Damnation Alley, Pt. 1; the reggae middle section, here called Your Secret's Safe With
Me; and the finale (Damnation Alley, Pt. 2)  Bridgett sings on Your Secret's Safe With Me and maybe it's the
more laid back arrangement, but she seems not to be straining too hard: it's almost good, and definitely
Hawkwind's best ever attempt at reggae.  It then goes into the original middle eight from Damnation Alley,
with initially a very light-handed arrangement for one bar, before going all blanga (which heralds Part 2).  A
final verse and chorus are then pumped out as energetically as never before, and that's it.

Well, what's good about this pairing of two sets from 1990 is hearing how different the Hawkwind of that
year were with and without Simon House.  The Autumn 1990 set has its' moments but is probably the least
accomplished of all the live recordings from around this time.  The 25/1/90 Nottingham set is considerably
better, but is of course also available as the soundtrack to the Classic Rock DVD.  That fact makes this a
non-essential purchase, where I would recommend that the buy / don't buy decision should be made on the
basis of what else is out there that you need to spend your money on.

1st January 2009: Supersleuth Bernhard Pospiech advises that the first set on this CD is almost certainly
(99% sure) a recording from the Manchester Apollo gig on Monday 22nd October 1990.  It is thanks almost
entirely to Bernhard that there are any records of at all of Hawkwind's set lists over the years, since these
details have been preserved by him in a database that has been provided first to Frank Weil, and then to me,
plus other Hawkwind fans along the way.  Thanks Bernhard.  You're a star!