|Music from the Hawkwind family tree - Part 13
This first piece was written by...me...again...and then Graham resumes thereafter
I'm uncovering Adrian Shaw's solo career piecemeal,
having not too long ago acquired his albums
Displaced Person (1997) and Look Out (1999), and
enjoyed them both greatly. Now I've got my hot
little hands on Tea for The Hydra (1996). Which is
Son of Sam - a muted opening of atmospheric synth
sounds suggestive of deep space, interrupted by a
nerve-jangling atonal crash and then wittering synth
voices - this is quite Hawkwindish in design if not
execution (seeing as the synth voices that Ade's
selected are quite different). Then the song uncoils
quickly from this disconnection, to weave an
envelope-shifted cloak of dark, twisted melancholia.
As with much of Ade's other solo material this
sounds somewhat sludgy at first, but I am sure it's
intentional. The next track, Heart of Stone, maintains
the unusual voicings and the darkened mood but in a psyched-out blues format. Again the predominance
of the lower register is notable, but this isn't because there's no top-end: a barely-sane guitar solo just after
the three minute mark provides treble a-plenty. I'm not a particular fan of this kind of overall sound, and
along with Ade's treated vocals, it makes me think that his production skills were still developing. Heart of
Stone wanders on for another four or five minutes, which is really far too long. But then, Falling starts
with a melodic piano chord progression and some airy, spacey keyboards to accompany the laidback
vocals. This is almost Beatles-ish, with a definite touch of 'Dear Prudence' but nonetheless still
psychedelic. Again, it perhaps goes on too long but it's a sound move in terms of the album's dynamics,
lifting the atmosphere after the two downbeat opening tracks.
I'm Glad I'm Me strikes off at right angles, with one of those slowed-down rave grooves carved out by a
floppy, flabby snare drum and a neurotic violin riff. The vocals are almost queasy, and a faux-cheerful
piano part does nothing to quell the unsettling mood of this song. A great little piece of songwriting,
arrangement and production.
Teeth of the Hydra is almost the title track I suppose and to begin with, the most conventional, featuring
phased guitar and reverb'd vocals. This develops into a tuneful chorus with more Beatlesisms ('While My
Guitar Gently Weeps') and the verses thereafter progress in a more fully-voiced arrangement. The pace is
a little too dirge-like, but this could be the arrangement that's at fault...¦it would be good to hear this with a
counterpoint of bright, jangling acoustic guitar to see if that made any difference.
Roger's in a Home - at last, some blazing psychedelic guitars blow away the dank, muffled feeling that's
been pervading this album. The intro and chorus are where they burn brightest, with the verses dominated
by a crisp, pulsing bass and Ade's downbeat vocals. There's also a very good midsection of interplaying
keyboard voices and tape samples describing a theme that makes me think of pyramids and pharaohs (old
Ade shows off his Cheops here) and the song finally bows out at six minutes with a fine guitar solo.
Machine Music - characteristic Shaw, with a twisted psychedelic vocal line interwoven around and
through a slow-paced and yet off-kilter chord progression, voiced by drums, guitars, bass and keyboards.
The vocals are phase shifted, and there are plenty of other 60's references here, such as the organ sounds,
but the gestalt is nothing like that - not so much timeless as outside all considerations of era. One of the
shortest tracks on the album, unfortunately!
Red and Grey boasts an almost bestial chord progression, which is dark but not sombre - the word which
I've just realised sums up the dominant mood of this album. Anyway, this gnarled little riff sits oddly with
the dreamy verses. They are held together by the multitracked vocals, low in the mix, which as ever with
this artist, don't follow anything like the obvious melody line. Nothing in this song does, in fact, it just
threads its way through a series of weird angles and unexpected twists of melody before going into a
surprisingly jaunty, jazzy keyboard-dominated coda. I've compared Adrian Shaw's work to the more
psych end of the Stranglers before, and I hear this here - not to say that the Men In Black were an
influence on him, as Ade predates them! More a case of parallel development...
Iron Curtain returns to the use of atonal bubbling analog synths (you can hear the knobs being twiddled)
and this is what synthesizers were invented for - not to add twinkly bits to conventional three minute
songs, but to open new musical horizons. This is an uncomforting sonic experiment, unclouded by any
incorporation of the synths with other instruments. It reminds me quite strongly of the first (Space)
Mirrors album, Neutron Star, on account of the chill of interstellar space that it conjures up.
Trillib is more guitar-dominated than most numbers here, but the guitar in question is fuzzed-out and
squalls angrily within an enclosed boxlike space. It contends with a sampled soprano voice which is made
to turn somersaults and is finally turned inside-out before the song embarks on a closeout passage of
honking guitar solo that haltingly breaks down into seeming indecision. For my money, the weakest track
on the album.
Live For The Day - another unconventional arrangement transports what could have been a "normal" song
into Shaw's warped universe, where spacetime curves back on itself randomly. There are a couple of
minor chords in the verses which would probably have prevented this from ever getting onto Capital Gold,
and if you then wrap this structure in flanged guitars, reversed percussion and ethereal keyboard voices,
you have a real MÃ¶bius Strip of a song. Weird and wonderful.
So there it is, unmistakably an Adrian Shaw album, and one that charts his musical development towards
his later (and IMHO more accomplished) solo works. I do like his talent for dark, warped psychedelia but
there also things that I think don't work so well, such as the sometimes swampy, muffled arrangements.
Head Cleaner next, if I can find a copy - or, seeing as he gets better and better, maybe I should just go for
his newest album, 'String Theory'...¦
Worth A Listen: Adrian Shaw - Tea For The Hydra
Another live release that trades on the Pinkwind
name by virtue of Nik Turner and Twink both
appearing. Also present are Judge Trev, "Captain
Rick" (presumably Rick Welsh, trumpeter from the
Fantastic Allstars), Jim Hawkman (sometime Space
Ritual member) and sundry others.
There are 8 track names listed but only 7 tracks on
the CD: the last title "Stormbringer" is simply not in
evidence, which probably makes it the best track on
the CD! This is a concert (this seems like the word
to use but the Trade Descriptions Act might
justifiably be invoked) recorded in 1995 at "The
Purple Haze Club, Peterborough".
The set kicks off with "Master of the Universe" and,
although Nick Turner sounds like he's singing from
the wrong end of the U-bend and the mix is rubbish,
the sax and trumpet playing move this along rather nicely. However, from here on, it's downhill all the
way. "Space rock 1999" is a rather, er, spacey instrumental jam with prominent sax playing, probably the
sort of thing that sounds all right as the sun rises over Stonehenge.
Next, oh-no-not-again, it's Egyptian Book of the Dead time and a stunningly pointless 12-minute version of
"Thoth". It's actually sort of okay except when Nik is "singing". "Brainstorm" is up next and the mix is
muddy beyond all possible redemption with only the trumpet and sax standing out. A truly horrible sonic
experience but not as bad as the hideous mauling inflicted on "Foxy Lady". Think of the Goodies' take on
the Troggs' "Wild Thing". It's that good - and at least the Goodies were trying to do comedy! The only
plus point is that it fairly soon develops into an unrecognisable jam and Rick Welsh's trumpet takes centre
stage, so that you can forget this is supposed to be a Hendrix song. Then the torment starts again as they
proceed to desecrate "Purple Haze".
After Jimi Hendrix has finished spinning wildly in his grave for 16 minutes, the band prove conclusively
that they can wreck the Hawkwind catalogue with equal proficiency. "D-rider" is slowed down to a
funereal pace as no-one seems to quite know where it's going. Nowhere is the answer.
Buying this CD is a good way to teach yourself the lesson that it is really not worth owning everything a
Hawkperson ever played on! The cover art is rubbish as well. For masochists and completists only, this
was released on Twink Records (TWK CD5) in 1996.
|TRULY HORRIBLE AND EXPLOITATIVE
|Pinkwind / Hawkfairies - Purple Haze
I've given Graham the rest of the day off, so here once again is your humble webmaster with this...
This 1995 album by Captain Rizz first saw the light
of day on the EBS imprint, and then got a subsequent
release on Griffin in the USA. The Hawkwind
connection extends to a production credit being
given to Alan Davey and Paul Cobbold (who's
engineered, rather than produced, many Hawkwind
Voodoo Rizz opens with a wah'd guitar playing the
Hendrix riff from Voodoo Chile, and overlays this
with characteristic Rizz vocals, although the
production is surprisingly soft and
middle-of-the-road. Female backing vocals and
bland keyboard / bass parts remind me more of a
Sandie Shaw album I used to have than anything
else. The song uses the chord structure from Hey
Joe for the chorus, and some emasculated lead guitar
can be heard - it's cocooned in reverb and set back
into the middle of
Worth A Listen: Captain Rizz - Manifesto
the mix. What on earth is going on here? Although Hawkwind In Your Area is not my favourite album,
Rizz showed off his capabilities on the title track with his "Let the stars burn" spouting. A combination of
*that* and some Hendrix-inspired guitar riffing would have been brilliant. This isn't.
Rizz's Radio Song does at least have a punchy snare drum and some rawer guitar to offset the cocktail bar
keyboards with which this number opens. Once the vocals get going it picks up nicely, but Rizz's talent
for whiplash toasting is at odds with the polished jazz-rock fusion of the music behind it. If you've heard
Todd Rundgren's "No World Order" album of approximately the same vintage, this is not a million miles
away from it. I was expecting something with scads of rapped vocals over a pacey musical backing, but
that is just not on offer here: nonetheless this is the strongest track on the album.
Rizz Anthem has a distinctly more tribal opening but once again goes AOR on the verses, and has a chorus
that doesn't really work at all. The songwriting, while not particularly strong, doesn't seem to be the
problem so much as the production, which comes across as an attempt to dress up something rootsy and
vital in Top 40 colours. It doesn't work (these things never seem to anyway).
City of Angels - at last a song without Rizz in the title. This has more of an Alan Davey feel to it with
dominant sweeping keyboard chords and a certain amount of bounce to proceedings. The verse is almost
sung but the chorus goes into a 1980's four track arrangement which is horrible. It's only when Rizz goes
into a rapped middle section that this song manages to assemble any kind of bite. After that the track
meanders and Rizz experiments with different vocal styles, doing a more reggae-influenced piece here and
a funkier bit there. The next track, St. Cecilia, is more or less a continuation of this vibe, and starts off
with a Shadows-esque guitar figure, allied with an unconvincing keyboard bassline and a touch of "Fiddler
On The Roof" vocals intoning "Sinsemilla!" in place of "St. Cecilia." The song itself consists of little other
than these motifs and could have been covered in one minute instead of six.
Rizz's Radio Song (instrumental) and Voodoo Rizz (instrumental) round out the album. They actually
work quite well as pieces of music, especially the former, which sounds not so bland shorn of the vocals.
The last track, though, isn't instrumental at all, but instead removes the sub-Hendrix guitar, reorienting this
number as a smoothed-out piece of anodyne funk with toasting vocals in the foreground. It's back in Todd
Rundgren territory, although I doubt this would ever make it past the outtakes of any of his albums.
Well, a real surprise, this album. It's much more musical than expected and if I was Captain Rizz I'd be
quite annoyed with the end results which I think have been spoilt by the production of Messrs. Davey and
Cobbold. I actually like some of this quite a bit, but you have to think how much better it would have been
as an EP instead of an album - there's a paucity of ideas in the songwriting which can't sustain the longer
format. And it would be better still if Rizz had worked with people who understood that his rap / reggae
talents needed a harder musical backing than the mostly limp funk that is the end result.
This lo-fi CDR compilation is available from Steve Litchfield and collects the
known output of the band (and one song that may or may not be them, more
of which later) along with some informative sleeve notes - which are the
source of most of the information quoted here. . For further details, see
The Hawkwind interest is the presence of Simon King on drums and (briefly,
and probably not on any of the recordings) of Lemmy on guitar.
Worth A Listen: Opal Butterfly - Complete
Graham is back on the beat with the next two pieces...
The CD kicks off with two slightly wobbly demo recordings, which pre-date the band's signing to CBS: "I
Had Too Much To Dream Last Night" (the Electric Prunes song) and "Wind Up Toys". These are very
much of their time (late 1960s); fey, whimsical, psychedelically-tinged pop songs.
The next six tracks collect the band's three singles. Production values are of course rather superior to
those on the demos although there are crackles indicting where material has been taken from the original
vinyl 45s. Tracks 3 and 4 are the A- and B-sides of the first single, "Beautiful Beige" / "Speak Up"; both
pretty much in the same vein as the demos. Next up, a Who cover, "Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand".
Its B-side "My Gration Or?" is considerably more interesting, as the band go progressive over seven and a
half minutes, with long instrumental sections, complete with duelling guitar and organ, ethereal harmonies,
a drum solo, and a couple of false endings.
By the third single, only Simon King and guitarist turned bass player Tommy Docherty remained from the
original band - and Lemmy had been and gone. A copy of this single recently fetched over £40 on E-Bay.
"Gigging Song", the B-side, is a jaunty tale of life on the road, with a sparse arrangement dominated by the
bass with some nice guitar colourings. Similarly sparse instrumentation propels "Groupie Girl". It's catchy
enough to have worked as a single despite the dodgy theme of its lyrics.
We then get a (shorter) remastered version of "My Gration Or?" and a demo of "Mary Anne..." and the
CD ends with the song "Groupie Girl" from the film of the same name (in which Simon King apparently
appears) - but it is not the same song, nor is it clear who performed it. There is incidentally a soundtrack
album from the film (released 1970), which features three tracks by Opal Butterfly, including two songs
with the title "Groupie Girl".
Anyway, not much to do with Hawkwind in terms of sound but a very nice historical memento
nonetheless. Contact Steve Litchfield to get a copy.
Big Mick adds the following: "From what I remember reading in "Keeping the British End Up: Four
Decades of Saucy Cinema", King and the rest of Opal Butterfly do appear (they're credited as individuals
in the cast list but I think that the band might be called something else), but what this appearance consists
of isn't - as far as I can recall - made clear."
Worth A Listen: The Rockin' Vickers - The Complete: It's Alright
An album of mid 1960s pop, generally a bit more muscular and more rock'nâ
€™roll than, say, Opal Butterfly. Lemmy plays guitar on all but the first single.
The back cover blurb absurdly compares the Rockin' Vickers to the Beatles and
the Stones, arguing that they were as popular in Scotland and the north of England
as their otherwise more famous contemporaries. Right, in Liverpool too, no doubt! Well, my copy is a
US import! The fact is the recorded legacy consists of four singles, along with the half dozen previously
unreleased tracks, mostly cover versions. The rest of the sleeve notes provide a good potted history.
I'd always assumed the name "Rockin' Vicars" had something to do with Lemmy's parentage but it turns
out that the band started life as "Rev Black and the Rockin' Vicars" and adopted the less contentious
"Rockin' Vickers" moniker before Lemmy joined.
For my money, the best tracks - and certainly the most energetic - are the third single A-side, "It's
Alright" (a forerunner of "The Kids Are Alright"), which is a pretty decent early Who facsimile, and the
previously unreleased takes on "Say Mama" and "Shake, Rattle and Roll". The first two singles aren't bad
either. It's not Hawkwind but, if you like mid-60s garage rock, its all good fun.
My copy is on the Cleopatra label (CLP 0870-2), released in 2000, but there is also a UK edition on RPM.