|Music from the Hawkwind family tree - Part 15
Written by your humble webmaster (the long-winded reviews) and Graham (concise)
Worth A Listen: Adrian Shaw - Head Cleaner
Worth A Listen: Acid Jam 2
Basically the Bevis Frond plus friends - among whom
are numbered Rod Goodway, Pete Pavli and Simon
House, so there's the Hawkwind connection, along
with Adrian Shaw's involvement, of course. Opening
with a Hendrix-style Reformation Blues, this 2-CD set
meanders through various psychedelic forms - not
surprising with ten writers involved, although a number
of these pieces seem to be so credited as having arisen
from studio jams. Funeral Ballet Music, for example,
is a doom-laden post-punk workout which surprisingly
acquires some edgy but beautiful organ chords halfway
through. Long Velvet Sigh is almost in Suzanne Vega
territory, thanks to Debbie Saloman's wonderful
vocals; and then the mood changes again with High, a
guitar-dominated freakout largely of Tony Hill's
This too has Hendrix overtones, but in terms of the material rather than the guitar stylings. It's classic
power-trio acid rock.
Ice Plug features the violin of Simon House and is more of a communal effort with five musicians / writers
present - House, Shaw, Nick Saloman, Goodway and Steve Broughton. This is an essentially simple jam,
contrasted nicely by the songwriterly qualities of Nick Saloman's Change In The Weather, one of several
Frondesque contributions from him. And it's totally unlike the heavy neo-classical barrage of keyboards
that heralds Negative Blooty by Rich Murphy and assorted partners in crime. Which eases smoothly into
organ-dominated psych warfare, underpinned by a quality bass groove. However the organ then recedes
as this moves into bass-solo-with-a-bit-of-drums and then naked drum solo territory. Good fun, but quite
CD2 sets out its stall with Deep Space Divers, a Saloman/Shaw effort that is closer to Litmus than anything
else, with a basic, driving riff embellished with plentiful synth oscillations and sweeps. A shame about the
vocals, which are too high in the mix and very dry-sounding. Adrian Shaw's Tanz Mekannik follows this
and it's another excellent, edgy little number where Ade plays keyboards and strangely has Pete Pavli
covering the bass - which he does very, very well. The tension builds throughout this track which
includes a fine tortured guitar solo by N.Saloman.
A hard act to follow, but Tony Hill pops up again with Tide (High...¦Tide...¦geddit?). This being a mellow
piece based around some shimmering flanged guitar overlaid with blues/rock soloing guitar in the broader
Beck/Page tradition. The mood cannot last of course, and the following track, Deef, is a squalling mess of
guitars, feedback, drums and yelped vocals which last for seven and half minutes and appears to be the
responsibility of one Pete Simmons, backed by the usual Frondsome suspects.
Nick Saloman follows this with Just A Point, which is another Frond number, basically: a retrogressive
urban guitar-based blues fronted by Nick's distinctively mournful vocals. It's left to Rod Goodway and
Adrian Shaw to take things in a darker direction with Desert Sands, which is just a bit reminiscent of the
1977 Hawkwind jam called Hash Cake - same bassline, but this hovers in the region called foreboding, as it
never acquires any drum parts - just bass, vocals (which are middlingly horrible) and atmospheric
intermittent reverb-heavy guitar. Could do with being shorter.
The final number here is Star Map, with Bari Watts playing more excellent guitar over Nick Saloman's
tinkling ivories, Adran Shaw's metronomic bass parts and Ric Gunther's backwards-tape drums. The song
is little more than an ascending three chord sequence but needs no more complexity than this with all that
going on. It's also fairly brief, unlike many of the songs here, and if anything fades out too soon.
I never said this at the beginning, but the sleeve notes portray this album in a way consistent with the title -
as basically a jam session between a number of psychedelic musicians. Listening to the album, it doesn't
come across like that at all. Instead, it's more like a compilation album given the number of different
people involved and discrete line-ups on the various tracks. Despite the inevitable patchy quality that
results, this is a fairly strong album which is going to get played a lot on the way to and from work...¦
Hard to get hold of nowadays, this is from 1998 or 99 and
would have been Adrian's third or fourth solo album, and it
shows: more brightly produced than some of his other stuff,
but also less quirky. Although it's not what you would call
Symbiosis features a slow-to-mid-paced pleasant verse,
coloured by some mellow keyboards and organic sounding
violin. This is quite a contrast to the bump'n'grind of the
chorus which is a vehicle for a robotic voice to repeat "It's in
my orifice" or something like that! Simon House's violin parts
are as brilliant as ever, and more Hawkwindesque than much
of what he's done elsewhere outside of the Mothership.
Mobius Trip has more of an island feel with acoustic guitar and hand percussion backing a dark, soulful
vocal. A quirky keyboard part punctuates each phrase to remind us that this is an Adrian Shaw album,
where nothing quite sits where it should. The ensemble vocals on the chorus are very good - a touch of
70's American rock, there.
What Else starts with a fey little melody picked out on something windy sounding, and progresses into
being a fairly straight-ahead mid-paced ballad, with a late 60's influence, almost Floydish, becoming
apparent on the vamped acoustic guitar / piano combination which rides out each of the choruses.
Staring At The Sun is rowdier, with wah lead guitar and an opening phrase of heavily effected lead. The
song as a whole has a rather squished psychedelic feel to it.
Round and Round features guitar and synth from Nick Saloman and I don't know if he had an influence
on the songwriting, which departs from the Shaw template. Dominated by a sequenced synth, this
motors along nicely a little like Deep Purple's "Speed King" except it's weirder than that of course.
Tattered Butterfly is a slower, more traditional rock workout infused with the dirgeyness which is one of
Shaw's trademarks. Production-wise it's interesting, with a subdued semi-distorted guitar dominating
despite being fairly low in the mix. More excellent vocal harmonies elevate the dreamlike chorus and
prevent this number from dragging.
All in the Mind does one of those "Dear Prudence" kind of melodies and the muted brass voice rounds
out the Beatles influence too. But the chorus, with its unusual chord progression / vocal line, is where
Ade stamps his distinctive ethos onto this. A shame about the layer of fuzz in which this track seems to
be shrouded; it seems to be a heavily distorted rhythm guitar low in the mix, which only detracts from
proceedings. This one goes on too long, too.
Same Old Game pulls a very different sound out of the hat, brighter and more immediate - which is a
good match for the rootsy American-sounding song that this is. I can almost imagine the Allman Brothers
covering it, complete with Bari Watts' tasty guitar solo in the middle eight.
Drowning continues in the vein of Americana with bluesy twanging guitars heralding vocals swimming in
reverb...¦but then the whole thing turns into heavy swamp rock. More good guitar here, albeit in a more
traditional rock vein than hitherto heard.
Things I Learnt - bright brass keyboard voices are underpinned by a jaunty little tune, and phase-shifted
guitars on the chorus. Probably the most upbeat song on the album, and the brass arrangements can't
help but remind me of The Saints, despite the song being nothing like anything they would have done.
You and Me closes out the album with some wonderful sonorous keyboards which gives way to an
almost Hebrew sounding chord progression. Simon House throws in some tastefully blending violin.
Mittel-Europa folk music with a psychedelic twist.
I quite enjoyed this album but wouldn't put it in with Ade's best work. It's much more accomplished than
Tea For The Hydra, probably edges Look Out, but isn't as good as Displaced Person. Definitely a keeper,
A mini-LP or maxi-single, originally released as a single in 1978 and re-released on CD
with three extra tracks by Voiceprint in 1995 (BP181CD).
The title track, credited to Harry Williamson (son of Henry Williamson of "Tarka The
Otter" fame, apparently) should be familiar from the first ICU album, and [re-titled as
"Strontium 90"] from Prophets of Time, by which time it had mutated into a Nik
Turner composition. The line-up on the original single was Sting (lead vocals), Steve Hillage (guitar), Nik
Turner (sax and backing vox), Steve Broughton (drums), Mike Howlett (bass) and Harry Williamson
(guitar and backing vox). The Gong pair (Hillage and Howlett) had previously played with Turner on
This the original version is an incongruous mix of punk-reggae music, Nik Turner's equally punky backing
vocals and a Sting lead vocal. Musically it's probably better than the ICU and Turner remakes but takes
some getting used to if you're already familiar with ICU's 100 mph charge through the song or the rather
sterile electronic reading on Prophets of Time. The second track and original B-side is the sort of "tasteful"
instrumental workout you might except to grace, say, a Sad Cafe single; Turner contributes sax.
The first two extra tracks have nothing to do with the original single, featuring Harry Williamson, Liz Van
Dort (vocals) and Javier Fredes (congas) and move into world music territory. Finally there's a remix of
the title track, which stretches the song out over another 30 seconds. Total duration of the CD: almost 17
minutes. An interesting curio.
Approach With Caution: Sting and the Radioactors - Nuclear Waste
(Review by Graham)
An album that features bass playing by Adrian Shaw on six tracks and Pete Pavli on
on the other three. This is a semi-instrumental, psychedelic guitar-dominated acid
rock freakout. The most striking thing about it is Tony Hill's guitar playing - he goes
in for rambling passages of hyperactive lead guitar, in the vein of the Bevis Frond's
less structured moments. This album is not as song-orientated as the Frond's
material and the guitar is notably more distorted, with a sound that's becoming quite
familiar from having listened to a lot of this sort of stuff recently. It's fairly trebly
and very sustained / overdriven, kind of a 90's update of late-70's crunch. There are
Worth A Listen: Tony Hill - Inexactness
lots of little fills and trills at the ends of the riffs, and a fair bit of wah'd lead guitar here and there, too.
Perhaps as a counterpoint to this, Matt Kelly's violin, for example on the opening track "Right Now
Forever", is very organic-sounding: there's no trace of the effects-laden spacey sound that Simon House
(say) would normally go for. In fact this is not a spacey album. "Acid rock" suitably describes the overall
feel of the music, and there aren't too many obvious musical references along the way. The world-weary
vocals on the title track remind me slightly of the Monochrome Set, although without the knowing humour,
and preceding this, on "But There Again", the frenzied lead guitar recalls Roogalator, who were very much
at the classier end of pub rock. That's not meant as a criticism, more of a comparison of the sound and the
high level of musical ability. The way that this album is just awash with lead guitar conjures up Dinosaur
Jr. and Mr.Hill even ascends to the dizzy heights (now and then) of invoking memories of Richard Quine,
the fantastically inventive lead guitarist in 1977 NYC punkers Richard Hell and the Voidoids.
Throughout the album there's little variation in the tone of the instruments, and most of the numbers here
are mid-paced workouts with a bit of verse / chorus tucked in between longer instrumental passages. It's
very listenable and occasionally a good original riff, tune or chord progression raises its head, for example
the lovely descending major / minor violin phrases on "Of Foundries, Ships and Steeples". This track then
goes off into a protracted instrumental jam, where the lead guitar aided by the violin is reminiscent of
"Marquee Moon" era Television, although this album hasn't the glassy clarity that that suggests: minimalistic
it is not.
The final track, "Six Million Years" doesn't quite last that long, or even seem to, but it's a long, slow
workout in a minor key, which starts off being fairly restrained and tasteful, but finally bows to the
inevitable and sails off into the sunset on an ebb tide of squalling lead guitar. Yes, it is self-indulgent, but
you can't really hold that against Tony Hill (- had I the musical ability to make an album like this, I would!).
If you like bucketfulls of lead guitar sloshing all over the place, within a framework of jamming,
psychedelic rock, you'll enjoy this despite the rather undifferentiated feel of the album as a whole.
This progressive / jazz rock obscurity is tenuously connected with
Hawkwind through the participation of one Thomas Crimble on bass,
mellotron and vocals. The closest reference point I can think of is
Colosseum. The music has a rich, warm, texture with most of the
melodies provided by Bob James on alto sax and flute, underpinned by
the organ tones of Krzystof-Henryk Juskiewicz and driven along by
the rhythm section of Thomas Crimble (bass) and Alvin Pope
(drums). There are vocals on some tracks, shared between James,
Crimble and Juskiewicz. There are no composer credits on the CD
and the nine tracks range in length from 29 seconds (the solo
harpsichord piece "Concerto Grosso") to almost 8½ minutes ("All
Alone"). This record originally appeared in 1969 and has been reissued
by See For Miles, among others. My copy is on Audio Archives
On the second album, the core trio of James, Crimble and Juskiewicz
are joined by Giles Pope on drums. Thomas Crimble apparently left the
band part-way through recording and is present on only four of the six
tracks. The similarity of the sound to Colosseum is emphasised by the
cover version of Graham Bond's "Walking In The Park" (a track on
which Crimble doesn't play). Most of the other material is written by
guitarist / flautist / saxophonist Bob James. Thomas Crimble wrote the
last track "Easy To Lie". The emphasis is on longer tracks: none of the
tracks is less than five minutes long. On the whole, I prefer the first
album, but this isn't bad. It was originally released in 1970 and, again,
my copy was issued on Audio Archives (AACD022, 1997).
Worth A Listen: Skin Alley - Skin Alley
Worth A Listen: Skin Alley - To Pagham and Beyond
(Review by Graham)
(Review by Graham)
At first sight, a reissue of any album in alternative
or demo form smacks of exploitation. There again,
some sets of songs actually work better in their
most basic form (e.g. Springsteen's Nebraska).
This is neither exploitative nor another Nebraska
but, if you can put aside any expectations, it's
rather a fine album. In its stripped down form, this
version of New World's Fair loses the sub-Jim
Steinman narration, the irritating backing vocals
and various instrumental overdubs - and
presumably, as a consequence, it loses some of the
guest list of Hawkwind alumni. What's left is the
raw, unadorned, songs by Moorcock, Charnock
The opening Candy Floss Cowboy and Fair Dealer
are both plaintive ballads, almost torch songs,
tending towards the camp and the melodramatic;
nothing to do with conventional rock and roll. Michael Moorcock's strange, stagey, voice stands out in
sharp relief. Indeed, it's not hard to imagine Barbra Streisand or even Mark Almond covering these songs
to good effect. I'm not sure what Moorcock had in mind, other than noting that New Worlds was the
science fiction series he edited, but this album ought to be the soundtrack to a cult musical set in a spooky
fairground and peopled by the characters from the [Jerry] Cornelius chronicles.
Octopus and Sixteen Year Old Doom, in contrast, rock - and the latter in particular sounds a good deal
more palatable in its slimline form. You're A Hero and Song For Marlene slow things down again; neither
is written by Moorcock and his band mates get to sing lead vocals. You're A Hero gets almost funky.
Moorcock returns on vocals and the tempo speeds up for Dodgem Dude, again powerful in its simplified
form. The folky Come To The Fair is propelled by banjo rather than strings and sounds pleasantly
understated. Starcruiser is one of the few tracks that sounds inferior to the previously released version.
This early take lacks the energy of the full version and Moorcock's high camp delivery is just slightly
overdone; nice fade-out though.
In The Name Of Rock'n'roll is mid-paced with prominent strings. It's okay but a bit limp and the rhythm
guitar track coming though the left speaker somehow doesn't gel with everything else. Again a nice
fade-out. Ferris Wheel is a dreamy, atmospheric, psychedelic ballad. On Last Merry Go Round Moorcock
again takes lead vocals, and some odd instrumental colourings/effects can be heard behind the basic
rocking backing track. The album proper ends with Rolling In The Ruins (aka Dude's Dream): in camp
ballad territory again, with prominent fiddle and trippy apocalyptic lyrics. Absolutely barking and
The CD closes with three demos. On a very rough Candy Floss Cowboy, Moorcock really puts his heart
and soul into the vocal. Starcruiser appears as a rough backing track. Finally, there is an acoustic Dude's
Dream with a slightly different lyric.
Released on Voiceprint (VP351CD, 2004) this "re-imagining" of NWF also has a much better booklet,
outlining the history of the album and providing commentary on each song.
One of the best: Michael Moorcock & The Deep Fix - Roller Coaster Holiday
(Review by Graham)