PXR5 Atomhenge reissue CD review
Hot on the heels of the Quark Strangeness & Charm 2CD reissue comes this: the misshapen thing that was
PXR5, a contract-fulfilling stylistic ragbag of an album.  It was never a classic and does not quite get the
full-on Atomhenge treatment that made their reissues of Quark and Hawklords: 25 Years On such tours de
force.  But worth buying again?  Let's see.

The first difference to the aforementioned is that this is a single CD, though it does have extra tracks
featuring unreleased material.  There's no cardboard sleeve for the CD jewel case, but Cherry Red (from
whose website I ordered this only a week ago, meaning it was sent out immediately) posted (mailed) it so
securely packed that the CD reached me completely intact - a feat not yet achieved by Voiceprint or CD
Services.  In fact Cherry Red / Atomhenge strike me as providing a service quite the equal of the fantastic
product they've been putting out over the last few months.  As regards this particular item thereof, I will
mention that in keeping with the slightly more minimalistic package, the colour booklet is 16 pages in length
rather than 24, and Mark Powell's sleeve notes are in large chunks duplicates of what he already penned for
Hawklords: 25 Years On and Quark, Strangeness & Charm.  It seems he has a core text which is tweaked
as appropriate for each individual CD reissue.  The booklet is rounded off with some period photographs, a
reproduction of Pete Frame's 1979 Hawkwind Family Tree (which came as an insert with the original vinyl
album), credits and acknowledgements.

And so to the audio - is it just that I've got the idea in my head that this a less lavish exercise than Quark
etc., or is it true that the sound is not as enhanced as on previous reissues?  Not that there's anything
*wrong* with it, but the original album tracks sound no different to me than on the 1989 Virgin PXR5 CD
(give or take High Rise...¦of which more anon).  Hopefully everyone is familiar with all that, so we can
proceed to the bonus tracks, the first of which is a live studio version of Jack Of Shadows.  This is pretty
tasty, being a heavier, less polished rendition - a degree of hoarseness in Bob Calvert's vocals that lends an
impassioned edge, and the Captain's guitar lays down muscular chording slabs of Brock tone.  According to
the booklet this was intended as a guide track to be entirely overdubbed, and if so it’s amazing that it
survived and was found for this reissue.

We Like To Be Frightened is a rarity among rarities - not only previously unreleased, but it's an entirely new
song (not a jam).  
[But thanks to Marcus Deininger who reminds me that "the song is already available for
around 25 years on Robert Calverts Album 'Hype' in a nearly identical arrangement"]
.  Actually it's pretty
lightweight for Hawkwind, but not in a bad way: the arrangement is piano-led, with backing vocals and
handclaps that usher this in the direction of pop music.  The sleeve notes aver that this was intended to be
released as a single, in the style of their previous 7", Quark Strangeness & Charm (which was "Fiercely
recommended" by the Melody Maker when it came out).  Whether this would have been is a moot point but
I suspect that had it remained in the repertoire, We Like To Be Frightened would have been beefed up
considerably.  How about putting it back into the live set for the 40th anniversary gig at the Porchester Hall?!

Another live studio version, this time of High Rise sounds to me to have a similar provenance to Jack of
Shadows, two tracks ago - despite having been recorded a month later, this has that same rough-round-the-
edges-but-we-don't-care quality.  In fact there is a surfeit of High Rises here, because as well as this and the
original [vinyl] album version, the "alternate vocal mix" that featured on the PXR5 CD is also included.  But
that's later on - another remarkable rarity follows: a studio version -*the* studio version- of Robot.  It is
very similar to the already familiar live versions out there, in fact the arrangement is barely any different to
the live recording that was part of the original PXR5 album muster.  And that really emphasises what a
formidable live outfit Hawkwind were and are - to take a song that's so long, has that degree of dependence
on complex sound effects, and undergoes a concluding acceleration of tempo to culminate in a timed
crescendo...¦and to execute it as faultlessly live as in the studio.  Not to be sneezed at.

Then we get another version of Jack Of Shadows with Adrian Shaw's vocals.  The arrangement behind this
is different too, with lots of poppy keyboard chording and vamping on the verses, and some tasteful
flourishes on the choruses.  The middle eight is spacier than before, so it's an interesting version, but to be
honest, Adrian's vocals aren't a patch on Bob's!  Some more less-than-optimal vocals come along with the
High Rise alternate mix and then there's something called the "alternate intro mix" of PXR5.  This is OK -
unremarkable, but if Hawkwind fans had known it existed there would have been clamouring for its'
release.  So Atomhenge have made the right move to put it in here, yet again.  Thus far I can't think of
anything they (Mark & Vicky Powell) have done that hasn't been spot on.

The CD closes out with a live recording of Quark Strangeness & Charm, from the March 1978 US tour,
which nobody has yet called the Tour of Hell, and in fact Adrian Shaw says it was great fun.  But it
famously spelled out the end of Hawkwind (line up # 13 in Pete Frame's family tree) and here is the audible
evidence - but it doesn't sound like a band falling apart, though this is far from the strongest portrayal of
QS&C.  And in fact it's already familiar, having been out previously on many budget / dodgy compilations
such as Acid Daze and the Hawkwind Anthology (...¦version 2L in the Codex).  It's a slightly odd thing to
have included as a bonus track, being already released many times, and really connecting to a slightly earlier
stage of the band's development - though it is broadly contemporaneous with the studio recordings
elsewhere on this CD.

So, does this scale the heights of the best other reissues that Atomhenge have put out?  Not quite, but it
certainly improves on the ones I didn't buy, that have no previously unreleased bonus tracks.  And you have
to remember that PXR5 was not a coherent, cohesive album in the first place, so Atomhenge have done
really well to turn up the rarities that are here, to round this out and make it more of a complete, thematic
album than it ever managed before.  I do think the last track is something of an odd man out, and this CD
would be none the worse for its' removal, but no harm done.  This reissue is yet another triumph for
Atomhenge
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