|Music from the Hawkwind family tree - Part 17
Thanks to Graham for these reviews - except where noted otherwise, of course
Another CD featuring Nik Turner. These days I buy them
with some trepidation: will it be another "Maximum
Effect" (fat chance) or another "Purple Haze" (mercifully
rare) or, as usual, something in between? It's pretty
obvious that, this far down the line, Nik is never going to
be a prolific songwriter, it's just nice if he plays on a set
that doesn't consist entirely of recycled Hawkwind, ICU
or solo material. I will also confess to prejudices about
American space-rock: all brittle sound, drum machines
and no bass. Obviously the Brock-Lemmy-King rhythm
axis will never be bettered but our American cousins
could sometimes try a bit harder. That all said, this CD
turns out to be a pleasant surprise.
Track 1,"Mojo", starts promisingly enough: a grinding
guitar riff with a sleazy sax over the top. The sound is a
bit thin at the bottom end but not bad. It is let down though by the comedy vocal style. The overall sound
is somewhere between the grungier end of ICU (The Presidents Tapes) and the Grenas/Del Rio/Creed
school of American space-rock.
"Neptune of the Left" is a brief instrumental filler: wind sounds and spiralling synth patterns, not outstaying
its welcome. "The Future" has a decent crunching riff, a stronger rhythm track and some good sax fills
from Nik. Lest we forget, he can play the sax pretty well these days - no more atonal freak-outs. The
vocals are okay on this one too. With some spacey effects going on too, this is a fairly respectable
facsimile of the HW sound.
"Night Landings" is another short instrumental. More wind sounds and synth with some meandering sax.
"The Heat Worshipping Space Zombies" comes across as more cartoon metal than space rock. The best
bit is Nik's sax solo, which comes in around the 3-minute mark.
"Midnight Loch" is another short instrumental, going nowhere in particular and leading into nine-minute
would-be epic instrumental "Nessie". This starts with, er, a flute solo before the band come crashing in
with a juggernaut riff. At the three minute mark the band gets bored and goes off for a tea break, leaving a
morass of effects, synth and sequences that burbles away irritatingly for another three minutes. At last the
band plugs in again and some tasteful guitar plucking leads us back into more heavy riffing. Without the
formless middle section, it would actually be rather a good track.
The two-minute title track features a cyclical riff, heavily phased, and that's about it. "Zombies Return" has
a rather spare, reggae-ish arrangement with prominent bass, shards of metallic guitar and echoed vocals.
The closing sax solo takes the track off into early UB40 territory, which is intended as a compliment by
"Pictographs" is another short instrumental featuring Nik's sax over a drone of synthetic strings. The CD
closes out with the spoken word "Alchemy". Nik intones Loren Eisley's words (from the poem "Notes
From The Alchemist", it says) over an atmospheric and jazzy base of bass, brushed drums, percussion
and sax, with synth and keyboard colourings. Towards the end, the vocals drop out and the sax playing
gets a bit more adventurous. I don't know if the track should be taken too seriously but it sounds just fine
and the lyrics are not from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, for which we can be truly thankful.
Some of the short instrumental tracks feel rather like filler but all in all it's quite a good and varied album
and Nik Turner's contributions are excellent. Available from Spaceseed's website or from CD Services
Well Worth A Listen (2½ stars): Spaceseed - Future Cities Of The Past Pt 1
Worth A Listen: Hawkwind - Lord Of Light (Review by Steve)
What is the fool doing now, you may wonder, in
putting a review of a Hawkwind CD on a page
dedicated to the work of Friends and Relations?
Well, M'Lud, the case for the defence goes like this:
Cleopatra Records of the USA issued this
compilation CD back in 1993 in the USA, and
despite crediting the album to Hawkwind, it contains
four tracks by the band proper, plus three solo
tracks by one-time members. So in that sense it is
very much "music from the Hawkwind family
tree". And to be honest, it doesn't rate an entire
page to itself!
I bought this as one of those "1-cent CD's" on
E-Bay and ended up paying maybe $5 / £3 for this,
which is about right, and an indication of this title's
place in the scheme of things these days: a cheapie
compilation which you may or may not feel is worth
buying. (Somebody amongst those of you reading this may make a decision one way or the other based
upon my deluded ramblings, which is another reason why I review these marginal releases so often..)
The first factor to take into account is that this album is very short, comprising 7 tracks and a total running
time of 35 minutes. Second, the CD packaging is minimal: the 'booklet' provides some information about
the writing and performance credits for each title on the CD, but you'd have to look elsewhere for sleeve
notes or photos.
The opening track is a surprise, being the live version of Lord Of Light from the Space Ritual album - very
rarely anthologised, and still splendid after all these years. (Well, it is my favourite Hawkwind song...) I
am pleased to note that Cleopatra present it in its' entirety, without unseemly edits, cuts or fades. It is
followed by the original studio version of Seven By Seven (from the B-side of the Silver Machine single),
which is not so hard to find nowadays (it's on the reissued In Search Of Space CD, the Epoch-Eclipse
30-Year Anthology, and the Sonic Boom Killers / Singles A's and B's compilation) but this would have been
a prized rarity back in 1993. As would the single mixes / edits of Paradox and You'd Better Believe It that
round out the contribution of Hawkwind proper to this compilation. Four immensely strong tracks that
underline the prowess of the band during their creative peak period of 1972-74 (though I'd extend this to
1975 by adding in Magnu or something similar...)
Cleopatra stick with this period by adding in two Robert Calvert tracks: The Right Stuff and Ejection,
from the Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters album (though Ejection at least is claimed to be a single mix
rather than the album version).. Here the information in the CD booklet is interestingly wrong in that it
gives Dave Brock a production credit on both tracks, but says the guitars are played by Bob Calvert, Paul
Rudolph and Lemmy. The Right Stuff definitely has some unmistakable Dave Brock lead guitar on it
(interwoven with Nik Turner's first sax solo), plus also I would guess some 6-string contributions from
Rudolph (constant wailing lead guitar) and Calvert (very basic rhythm strumming). Ejection is almost
totally Brock on the guitar, and incidentally, sounds no different to the version on the Captain Lockheed
album, even down to the biting sound of the 1970's production on Dave Brock's guitar solo, which puts me
in mind of Alice Cooper's "School's Out"!
Last up is the Nik Turner track Weighing Of The Heart and Negative Confession, which I vaguely
imagined to be some sort of otherwise unavailable Hawkwind track before acquiring this CD. It isn't. The
CD credits note that "a different version appears on the Nik Turner album entitled 'Sphynx' (CLEO2135)"
and that gives the game away: it's another of Nik's mid-90's excursions with Messrs. Creed, Grenas, Del
Rio et al. Musically it's OK, featuring Nik's atmospheric vocals (his voice is *unique*) intoning some
Egyptian-sounding gibberish or other over a competent if distant and monotonal backing: sprightly
drumbeat / bass / keyboards and distorted ambient lead guitar. If you know the Sphynx album, this is more
of the same.
Overall then it might seem unfair that I've only rated this album as 'Worth A Listen' when it plainly trounces
many other solo efforts reviewed in this long-running series. But the really good material consists of
already available Hawkwind tracks, plus the Bob Calvert stuff, and then there's the dubious half-truth of
appending an alternative version of a very minor Nik Turner track and passing that off as 'Hawkwind'.
Time has not been kind to this compilation, although it would have been a different matter back in 1993
when this was first released, given the rarity of the material *back then*. But as it is, the best I can feel
about this CD is lukewarm and the rating reflects that.
One Of The Best: Krel - Out Of Space (Review by Andy Garibaldi)
Think of Hawkwind's "Space Ritual". No matter how
many reviews of that you may have read, none can truly
convey the awesome entirety that is that album. This
review will be the same.
Now, and I'm not making a direct musical comparison
here so don't get the wrong idea, imagine that album
distilled into one CD - a CD where the absolute top notch
songs are present, where there are no fillers, where the
link instrumentals become tracks in their own right yet
also link the songs, where nearly an hour seems to pass
so quickly as you are wrapped up in a world of
jaw-dropping magnitude and where the performances,
arrangements, quality of production and clarity of sound
are just about as perfect as it gets - this, my friends, is
"Out Of Space".
The second CD from Krel mixes two worlds seamlessly. First we have a set of previously unreleased
tracks from the Krel archives, performed by the band who did the Hawkwind support slot on the early
nineties UK tour, tracks propelled by the dual musical and writing leadership of Martin M on synths, electric
guitars and vocals, plus Mr Dibs (now of Spacehead) on bass and vocals, complete with Mike Hartley on
drums, Floyd on keyboards/synth and backing vocals, and Radar Dave on electric guitar. Also we have a set
of new instrumental compositions entirely from the hands of Martin M. performed on synths, bass, guitars
The result is five songs that are all absolutely the finest space-rock songs this side of Hawkwind, albeit not
as overtly 'heavy', that will be buzzing around your head for hours afterwards and all exhibiting supreme
dynamics, control and performed to perfection. Songs that are simply flawless. Then you have the six new
instrumental tracks that are varied yet absolutely in keeping with the style, so that where a lesser mortal
might just try and produce aimless synth noodling, Martin M has produced one synth track, one based
around bass, drums, fx and distant synth backdrop, one featuring synths, guitars, bass and drums, and all
shining like a diamond. In here you'll find echoes of Hillage, Pink Floyd, Hawkwind & "Richochet"-era
The mix of power, clarity, atmosphere, subtlety, space and dynamics has rarely been achieved to such a
superior level. Everything is kept tight and to the point - there's not a wasted second on the entire album -
yet it flows effortlessly from one track to the next. Not only that, but it really is an album that you will feel
compelled to play again and again, yet is also that rarest of things - an album you will WANT to hear from
start to finish, every time you play it. Even the Starfield album about which we raved, and all of you loved,
cannot compare to this. For this is more than 'just space-rock' or 'sci-fi rock' - this is in a class of its own.
But, as I alluded to earlier, not even one of MY reviews can begin to sum up the splendours of this album,
one you just have to hear to believe. For Hawkwind fans, space fans, rock fans, space-rock fans and
anyone into quality songs and instrumental work, and all points along the way, this is sheer quality, one of
the best albums you'll hear this year and I defy anyone not to take this album into their collection and keep it
as a regularly playing CD - it really is THAT good an album.
Worth A Listen: Space Ritual - Sonic Savages EP (Review by Graham)
A must for Hawkfans, obviously, but is it any good? Reviews from
Compact Disc Services and on Julian Cope's Head Heritage website are
Sonic Savages isn't perfect - the sound is rather lightweight and the
arrangement is space rock by numbers ("dramatic" opening riff,
swishing and burbling "space" sounds, primitive guitar "solo", "cosmic"
lyrics borrowing from classical sources). It reminded me of
"Stonehenge Who Knows?" from ICU's "The President's Tapes". The
song moves along at a snail's pace and the sound could do with some
bottom end but Turner is in fine vocal form and can write a decent
lyric. Nevertheless, a promising start. Both the other tracks are basically instrumental jams with added
(spoken) words. The playing is relaxed and Turner in good voice but they do sound like filler. "Ritual Of
The Ravaged Earth" recycles some of Moorcock's "Warrior" era lyrics (although probably with new
additions from Mr Turner) over a light and breezy instrumental track. "Jazzy Jam" is much better than its
title suggests - all credit to them for not coming up with a pretentious title - but two spoken word tracks
out of three?
Thoroughly enjoyable and they sound like Hawkwind (circa Warrior On The Edge Of Time or even Church
of Hawkwind) but I fear we have an EP instead of an album because they struggled to write any new
songs. Released on their own Space Ritual records and available from CD Services.
Approach With Caution: Various Artists - The World's Greatest Pink Floyd Tribute (Review by Graham)
Trust me, it isn't the world's greatest Pink Floyd tribute! I bought this
because (a) it was fairly cheap, (b) I like the Floyd and (c) Nik Turner
is on it. Surprise, surprise, most of the performances add absolutely
nothing to the originals and, like most tribute albums, the whole
exercise is utterly pointless. Nik Turner appears on "Careful With That
Axe, Eugene", probably the one performance on this compilation that
dares to do anything different with the source material. The first half is
a gentle ambient snooze with (presumably) Nik's flute meandering over
the top. Electronic rhythms start up mid-way through and the
remainder of the track moves into Dr Who theme tune territory, with
more flute and a little sax. Not exactly essential, but head and shoulders
above the rest of the dross on the album. Of course, Floyd fans may
prefer the more faithful renditions of their favourites! This album was released on Anagram / Cherry Red
(CDM GRAM 180) in 2004, although it appears to be a compilation of previously available material.
Worth a listen : Steve Took's Horns - The All New
At first sight, this CD looks distinctly exploitative: the core
of the music is three demo tracks recorded by Steve
Took's Horns in 1977 but these have been stretched out to
12 tracks by virtue of an alternative take, some dodgy
remixes, two new recordings of Steve Took songs, and a
"tribute" song. The text on the back cover of the CD
manages to mention Hawkwind no less than five times (in
bold type too) and implies that Mr Took worked with
Hawkwind musicians, apparently on the strength of the
fact that two of the Horns (step forward Judge Trev and
Dino Ferrari, for it is they) later formed part of ICU with
Nik Turner. In fact, as detailed elsewhere, Steve Took
worked with both Robert Calvert and Nik Turner, appearing on the former's original "Cricket Star"
(unreleased until it appeard on Lucky Leif) and writing its b-side ("Howzat").
The CD booklet looks pretty good actually, with a cartoon strip design allegedly inspired by Mick Farren,
but it appears to have been written by friends or family of the Judge, since it misses no opportunity to
praise his prowess on the guitar. The genuine Hawkwind connection is the appearance of Ron Tree (bass
and vox) on the two new recordings, although he arrived in the studio 25 years too late to actually meet
Steve Took. The booklet describes Mr Tree as "in many ways a latter day Took", a bit of a barbed tribute
given Steve Took's troubled and early demise in 1980.
However it isn't a bad listen. The three vintage tracks (four, counting the alternate take of "Average Man")
are pleasantly raucous. The CD booklet suggests that we are in the presence of something akin to the
Faces and that is probably a fair indication of the spirit, if not necessarily the execution, of these
performances. The two Tree/Judge/Dino performances (from 2002) of previously unrecorded Took songs
aren't bad at all, maintaining some of the loose pub rock feel of the older material. Track 7, "Mountain
Range" is lifted straight from the latterday ICU (i.e. post-Turner) album Now You Know The Score - and
is a decent heavy rock tune from the Judge. This leaves five listenable but inessential remakes of Took's
songs, which feature parts of the original tracks (including samples of Took's vocals) overlaid with
additional instrumentation: Rick Welsh's trumpet is added to three tracks and the Judge contributes new
guitar parts in several places.
This CD appeared on Cherry Red in 2004 (CDM RED 255). If you can get past the questionable ethics of
the way the material is presented, it is worth a listen. If you want to hear another side of the Judge, check
out the new Live in Portsmouth CDR available from Real Festival Music. This has much the same relation
to ICU as Blackmore's Night has to Deep Purple. Anyway, no Hawk guest appearances this time out but a
run through some of his solo folk-doom tunes and some standards.