Music from the Hawkwind family tree - Part 11

This piece was written by Graham - to whom my grateful thanks
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This was the first album to come out in Simon
House's own name and appeared on EBS in 1994
(EBSSCD 115). It is really rather good.

The title track is a monster, with squalls of angry,
demented violin over a backdrop of synths. A strong
opening then. The following "Orion" starts out
comparatively laid back, becoming gradually more
unsettling as minor key melodies and sound effects
add dark undertones. Mid-way through the violin
comes to the fore and the mood shifts to wistful and
eight minutes passes by all too rapidly.  On the
following "Northlands", an atmospheric build-up of
synth effects initially gives way to a disappointingly
anodyne melody on violin. However, the track
quickly recovers a sense of direction and manages to
sustain interest over the whole 15 minutes.
Improbably, "Omledor Rides Again" maintains the
high standard and another 7 minutes goes effortlessly past.  "Laithwaite Star Drive" is another more
aggressive track, with prominent synthetic drums. Just when it starts getting a bit oppressive, the tension
is released and the track plays out in pleasantly reflective mood. "Neuroscape" opens with some threatening
synth effects and is dominated by repetitive sequences. Again there is a welcome change of pace at the
mid-point and some excellent violin work at the close.

"Sherwood" brings us right back from outer (and inner) space and evokes a suitably pastoral mood.
Gorgeous melody too. If the offers of soundtrack work didn't come pouring in, they should have done.
"Oldayze" continues the pastoral mood, although the sound is slightly too saccharine for my tastes - but
work in TV themes should have been assured.

Overall an impressive and accomplished album - melodic, atmospheric, superb violin playing, interesting
arrangements, and a great sound. Did I mention that I like this album?
Some of the best: Simon House - Yassassim
Worth a listen:   Simon House - Spiral Galaxy Revisited
Simon House was undoubtedly a major asset to Hawkwind
during the various periods he played with them, in particular for
his violin playing, providing melody and quiet passages amid the
blanga. Sometimes though, his contributions were lost in the mix
(probably as frustrating to him as to the audience) - and we
should not forget the blue wig he wore at Hawkfest 2002!

This set from 2001 (Black Widow Records, BWR047C) reflects
the content of his solo sets from the same period, at least half
being reheated Hawkwind tracks. On stage the synths and
sequences were pre-programmed and the violin added live. Nice
as it is to hear these tunes again, there is something unsatisfying

about them. The arrangements are sterile, almost perfunctory,
complete with horrible synthetic rhythm tracks, and there is nobottom end to the sound. Also, the
sameness of the sound on every track gets a bit wearing over a whole album.

"Spiral Galaxy 28948" originally appeared on the Warrior album, sandwiched between two of the
Moorcock-penned spoken pieces. Coming after the heavy grind of "Magnu" and the lunatic space poetry
of "Standing On The Edge", it was a welcome break before further crazed Moorcock ranting on
"Warriors". Here it is sadly just muzak and totally fails to recapture the majesty of the Warrior period.
With the possible exception of "The Forge of Vulcan", all the Hawkwind tracks sounded better in their
original form.

The non-Hawkwind material is not particularly inspiring either, "Lunar Sea" being the pick of the bunch
and "Gothyk" at least sounds suspiciously like the instrumental break from "Damnation Alley". However,
"Ozone" is just vapid and the longest track, "Glencoe", merely meanders aimlessly for 19 minutes.

Overall then, rather disappointing, especially when compared to his quite superb 1994 set "Yassassim".
On this album, Simon House played the music and Rod
Goodway (guitarist and vocalist from Magic Muscle)
wrote lyrics and sang. Since Rod Goodway apparently
doesn't play on the album, Simon House presumably
composed all the music as well.

The first thing to say about the album is that Mr
Goodway's voice is not a thing of beauty. Here it is high
in the mix and, indeed, often sounds like it was phoned
in from another studio (possibly another planet). His
lyrics tend to dwell on everyday themes - no space rock
fantasies here. Although I've no idea what Simon
House's singing voice is like, at times I did wonder if he
couldn't have provided vocals and lyrics more in tune
with his own musical style. Nevertheless, the discipline
of working within the context of 3 - 5 minute songs
seems to have been a good thing: the tunes and playing
Some of the best: Simon House & Rod Goodway - House of Dreams
are excellent throughout.

There are ten songs. "Curtain Call" opens proceedings in relaxed fashion, although Rod Goodway's voice
prevents it being easy listening. Next up, "Country Charm" is altogether darker and more intense. Simon
House's music is the essence of space rock and soars off into the unknown before Mr Goodway brings
things back to earth with a bump by singing about a country girl he fancies. "Speaking The Truth" is a
nice laid-back tune, on keyboards and violin, over which Rod Goodway sings about getting into debt,
thinking about retiring and being an old hippy. It is really not (quite) as bad as it sounds.

"For Heaven's Sake" is a beautiful reflective ballad but perhaps the best track is "Shadow Land", one of the
more urgent and engaging tunes and featuring a lyric about belonging to the shadows, which at least
sounds more mystical than prosaic.

I've listened to this CD a dozen times now and the quality of the music definitely repays the effort - even it
also took that long to get used to Rod Goodway's voice. However, having persevered, I look forward to
their next collaboration. House of Dreams was released by Black Widow (BWRCD 060-2) in 2003.
Worth a listen:   High Tide - Sea Shanties
In 1969 and 1970, and occasionally since then,
Simon House has recorded with Tony Hill and others
under the banner of High Tide. The first album, "Sea
Shanties" was issued in 1969, a contemporary of
early Zeppelin and King Crimson.

There's a great review of this album at
http://starling.rinet.ru/music/hightide.htm,
where it is described as the heaviest album of 1969
and the music is likened to Black Sabbath, Tony
Hill's guitar skills compared to Jimi Hendrix and his
vocal talents optimistically compared to those of Jim
Morrison.

The first track ("Futilist's Lament") is described thus:
"A smashing, mastodontic,
grunge-and-everything-else-predicting riff almost
rips out of your left speaker, and as you screaming
run for cover
into the shelter of the right speaker,
another, an even heavier
and poisonous riff rips out of it too, throwing you back to the wall where your family will be gathered to
scrape you off with a toothbrush". Certainly, Tony Hill's brutal guitar lines dominate proceedings - he
plays rhythm and lead and, once you throw in the drums Roger Hadden, who also plays keyboards) and
bass (Pete Pavli), plus Tony Hill's shouty vocals, the violin tends to get a bit lost in the mix.

The second track, the instrumental "Death Warmed Up" is even heavier but you can occasionally hear the
violin gamely battling the squalling guitars. It goes on a bit though (over 9 minutes).

"Pushed, But Not Forgotten" slows things down, finally giving space to Simon House's violin, at least for
about 75 seconds, after which the amps get turned back up to 11. And then it goes all quiet again and then
they rock out again, and so on. Forget the Pixies, forget Nirvana: it was High Tide who patented the
alternating quiet - loud song structure.

"Walking Down Their Outlook" does the same thing - gentle psychedelia interspersed with metallic grunge,
finally winding down with a sort of folk-rock hoedown of guitar and violin. "Missing Out" is a lengthy (9
½ minutes) and heavy dirge with pained (and painful) vocals, grinding guitar and whining violin and,
frankly, has already started to get a bit tiresome after 3 minutes, when the guitar and violin start trading
solos and carry on battling it out for another 6 minutes. The final track, “Nowhere", starts out at a brisk
pace, guitar and violin still duelling but this time with a suggestion of melody. It slows down to a turgid
dirge during the vocal section, before taking off again for the closing instrumental section.

The relentless heaviness of this album is a bit too oppressive to be enjoyable. My copy of this is on a 2-on-
1 Liberty CD (7243 8 29711 2 2) released in 1994.
Worth a listen:   High Tide - High Tide
The second High Tide album, originally released in 1970,
features just three tracks. The first, "Blankman Cries Again",
is also the shortest, clocking in at a mere 8½ minutes long.
It at least suggests a certain reigning in of the proto-metal
tendencies of the first album. The violin gets much more
space in the mix and melody triumphs over riffs. It could
just be the contrast with the first album but this track is
really pretty nifty. "The Joke" is a bit less palatable -
basically a lengthy jam (9½ minutes) that occasionally
coalesces into something interesting, and mutates after
around 6 minutes into a jaunty folk instrumental.

Finally "Saneonymous" kicks off with some fierce riffing
bu
t settles down after 4½ minutes into a decent little
psychedelic folk song, the melody carried by the violin and
not even spoiled by Tony Hill's vocals. Various instrumental breaks stretch the whole thing out to 14½
minutes but on the whole it works.

Much less heavy than the first album, definitely more pleasant to listen to. As for "Sea Shanties", my
copy of this is on a 2-on-1 Liberty CD (7243 8 29711 2 2) released in 1994.
Worth a listen:   Tim Blake - Caldea Music
This trips along very pleasantly as background music but
never really engages the listener.  The tracks have suitably
profound-sounding titles such as "Floating", "Om Beach"
and "The Great Pool" and, er, "Jacuzzi Surfing".  All
power to the man, he has a sense of humour!  Actually,
possibly not.  You see, "Caldea" is Europe's largest
recreational spa, located in the mountains of Andorra.  So,
all the titles are sadly probably meant very literally and the
music is presumably designed to enhance the overall
sensory experience of, well, having a long bath.  This
appeared on Synergy Records (SRCD 55303) in 2003.