|Music from the Hawkwind family tree - Part 20
Thanks to Graham for these reviews - except where noted otherwise, of course
This album was released on Dave Anderson's Demi
Monde label and was the follow up to the infinitely
superior "Die Losung". As on that and a couple of
other albums, the presence of Anderson and guitarist
John Weinzerl justified appropriation of the Amon
"Who who" is an unpromising start: what sounds like
the banging and clattering of kitchen utensils and the
guitarist running his fingers up and down the strings
gives way to spoken vocals interspersed with chants
of "too-wit-too-woo". Track 2, "The Tribe" is a
decent enough instrumental that chugs along nicely
on the back of a glam rock rhythm guitar track, the
interest being maintained by some tasteful lead
guitar. Track 3, "Tik Tok" is built on a rhythm track
comprised of rapid, brittle, clicks and ticks, enough
to set your teeth on edge. Later on the lead guitarist
throws some glacial and bombastic shapes, but it be
better without the mechanical insects in the background. Track 5, "Hymn for the Hardcore" comprises
little more than some faux-oriental strumming and percussion, the sort of thing that sounded
groundbreaking when the Beatles did it forty years ago.
This leaves the longest track, "Haupmotor", which begins as a field recording of someone walking through
the countryside into a farmyard (complete with birdsong and mooing) and arriving at a building - where
security guards apparently let him/her into a party. He/she then moves out into traffic until, at just past the
six-minute mark, the main riff kicks in, shortly followed by a vocal track sung in German - by someone
who sounds remarkably like an uncredited Bob Calvert, as several commentators have previously noted.
Assuming that this is correct, this song (aside from the tedious intro) pretty much justifies the purchase of
what is otherwise an inessential album.
"Fool Moon" was originally released (on Demi Monde) in 1989. My CD copy (Magnum CDTL 011) is
dated 1990. Anyone who owns the LP will immediately notice that the tracks listed on this CD (and on the
inlay and inside the slipcase booklet, where they are accompanied by equally spurious credits and photos)
have nothing to do with the album. A little research confirms that information about another Demi Monde
release, "Beyond the gates of Ull" (1986) by Ozrics offshoot The Ullulators has been substituted! For the
record then, Amon Düül UK didn't record tracks called "Don't Thump The Hamster" or "Mustaffa Vole".
Approach With Caution : Amon Düül (UK) - Fool Moon
This album is the brainchild of one Don Falcone, although no less
than 12 collaborators are listed, including Harvey Bainbridge on
track 7, "The Great Yew Hedge". Rarely though have so many
people collaborated to produce so meagre an artefact...
The album actually starts promisingly, with a soft bed of
synthesised strings leading us into the opening track, "Mind The
Alien". A few seconds later though the true intent of the album is
revealed: the rest of the track, and indeed the majority of the
tracks here, comprises little more than dense electronic
percussion, sometimes underpinned with minimal bass, sound
effects, vocal samples, or the briefest flashes of synth melody.
On "The Great Yew Hedge", Harvey is credited with samples and
Approach With Caution : Spaceship Eyes - Truth In The Eyes Of A Spaceship
synth so I guess the repeated minimalistic melody line must be his. However, like all the tracks, the
percussion dominates and it is thoroughly and resolutely dull. Categorised by Amazon as electronica,
possibly the album counts as drums 'n' bass or hard trance or some such dance genre but this is not music
as I know it and I found it totally unlistenable. If you like this kind of thing, it was released on Cleopatra's
Hypnotic imprint (CLP 0248-2) in 1998.
With several ex-Hawks aboard, this Jerry
Richards-led enterprise should be an essential item.
Jerry Richards writes or co-writes everything and
plays guitars and synths. Simon House contributes
violin on two tracks, Ron Tree provides vocals on
three (and co-writes one), and Steve Swindells sings
and co-writes four tracks and plays keyboards on
one. Steve Taylor plays bass on one track. Other
contributors are Alf Hardy (synth, harp), Chris
Aldridge (flute, sax), Barry Jones (bass), Robin Hill
(drums, synth), Winston Blissett (bass) and Jon
Divided into five sections (Earth, Air, Fire, Water,
Quintessence), the album embraces a diversity of
styles, although generally eschewing conventional
song structure, and ultimately lacks cohesion. One
problem is that not much of the album is space rock
Worth A Listen : Earth Lab - Element
but another is quality control. Too many of the songs sound like studio jams and Steve Swindells'
contributions are particularly disappointing, certainly if compared with his second solo album "Fresh
Blood" (the one with "Shot Down In The Night On It", and backing by Huw Lloyd Langton, Simon King
and Nic Potter). This man can sing with passion and he can write excellent songs but he shows little
evidence of either talent here. Having said that, Jerry Richards, Ron Tree and Simon House all make
Section 1, "Earth" kicks off with "Separation By Skin", built around a heavy tribal beat with Simon House's
violin providing an eastern flavour and Ron Tree's chanted vocals prominent. This is a case of more is less
and the dense mix of instrumentation, effects and vocals ends up being something of a mess. "Eight and
One" is more laid back, less dense and consequently slightly more successful. Ron again takes vocal duties
and the track is mainly propelled by a cyclical rhythm guitar figure underpinned by bass and drums, with
some flute colourings and Jerry also contributing a solo.
Both of the "Air" compositions are sung and co-written by Steve Swindells. "Back Seat Angel" has Steve
Swindells doing his best John Martyn impression over a slow, percussion-heavy backing track. A brief
a-cappella section near the end provides welcome relief. "Thin Air" features a more conventional
arrangement and a nice underlying melody, although the drums are too prominent, but Steve Swindells
rather spoils things with a positively tortured vocal performance.
The "Fire" section rocks. On the pure rock'n'roll of "Digital Age", Ron Tree and Jerry Richards do a fair
impression of the Undertones. "Wheels Part 2 / We Took The Car" (as the title suggests) revisits the
thrashy Hawkwind style of Distant Horizons, although at times recalling the classic Hawkwind sound of
Doremi or Mountain Grill. Steve Swindells again contributes "tortured" vocals and we get to hear too much
of him and not enough of the basic track.
The "Water" section comprises a field recording/sound collage "designed" by Jerry Richards ("Discovery:
the Quest Begins") ahead of the final song on the album, "Liquid Crystal Clear". The latter is a Richards /
Swindells number, a heavy ballad and, although Swindells again delivers a fairly extreme vocal
performance, this time it fits reasonably well. Simon House adds violin and this track also veers close to a
Hawkwind sound in places.
The album closes out with the instrumental "New Light", making up the fifth and final "Quintessence"
section. Here Jerry goes all new age on us (at least until the guitar comes in) for a relaxed ending to an
otherwise edgy and somewhat difficult album. The album is available on the band's own Earth Lab
Records (ELR 12) and can be acquired from Compact Disc Services.
An early drum'n'bass album? Certainly there's not
much going on above Norman Alman's percussion
on the first few tracks, suggesting a paucity of
ideas and inspiration. However, persistence is
rewarded as Harvey remembers to write some tunes
and the best tracks achieve a Tangerine Dream-like
"Intro" comprises a basic acoustic percussion track,
birds squawk and Harvey mumbles in Spanish.
"Cinshe Bane" is equally inconsequential: again built
on a percussion groove and Harvey mumbling away
in the background, a few effects here and there and
some bass courtesy of Phil Deacon. "It's Up To
You" actually has a tune, carried by Harvey singing
over the basic percussion, bass and effects. "It
Could Be Day" starts off as a simple percussion
track with Harvey half singing, half chanting before
some synth fills and effects join the percussion and things meander aimlessly on for several minutes.
On "Water", the most developed composition so far, synth and percussion set up a Tangerine Dream-like
groove and Harvey does his half-sung, half-chanted thing, something about an instant trip from the
mountains to the sea. "What's In It For Me" has two guest vocalists, Richie Winearls and Grant Oatley, the
former also co-credited with composition. It is basically a rap track, although laid back and playful rather
than in your face, with the synth providing the melody, and the it doesn't outstay its welcome. "All At Sea",
the longest track at just over 8½ minutes, features synthesised seagulls, water and wave effects and
dreamy synths. After a while the percussion joins in and the synth settles into an insistent sequence: very
Tangerine Dream, very effective indeed and the best track so far. "Peaches Are Free" has sampled vocals,
up-front percussion, synth, Harvey singing and sound effects but no sense of direction. Another mis-step.
"Warriors Of Ancient Times" gets things back on track: a proper song with a reggae groove, more dreamy
synth, and Harvey singing well back in the mix. On "Say Goodbye", the sound effects, synth and Haryey's
singing set up an unsettling and mournful atmosphere, somewhat at odds with the jaunty percussion.
Finally, "No Hay Calabaja" (a nonsense title, although "No Hay Calabaza" would be the marginally more
sensible "there are no pumpkins") has Harvey chanting in Spanish over a lively synth and percussion track.
Not an essential album by any means, and one that would be improved by deleting the first four tracks
(thereby creating a good 40-minute album instead of an hour long dog's dinner), but worth a listen. The
front cover, with heads (or possibly pumpkins) on sticks amid a psychedelic swirl is quite striking too!
The CD was released in 1993 as Taste 41.
Worth A Listen : The Alman Mulo Band -Afrodiziac (Dream Time)
Worth A Listen : Alan Davey - The Final Call
The third and, to date, last of Alan Davey's solo albums, this appeared in 2001
(Centaur Discs, CENCD 029). The only guest appearance is that of Richard
Chadwick on the opening track.
The album kicks off much as you'd expect: a hard-edged eastern flavoured rocker
("Shahadah"), which builds up gradually from a synth-based intro, with the drums
and main riff kicking in around the three-minute mark, followed by two dreamy
synth pieces ("Sawm" and "Cloud Watching"). These are pretty much definitive
dreamy synth pieces, in fact, I'd go so far as to say that Alan Davey has cornered the market! On "Bird
Nebula", the dreamy synths are backed with some distant riffing (i.e. the guitar is mixed so low that the
guitarist is apparently in another room). "Salah" is a slow and repetitive track built around percussion and
effects: it is basically filler and goes on far too long.
Next up is the familiar riffing of "Stan's Orbital Salvage", the only track on which Alan sings. While this
moves along briskly enough it's hard to avoid comparing it unfavourably with the full band version. There
is however an interesting and effective change of pace after 4 minutes, with a long, slow, coda on which
Alan picks out the melody on guitar.
"Zakah" is back to the dreamy synths, but this time with something of a sinister edge. "Black Light"
maintains the sinister mood without ever moving out of first gear. With the album now desperately needing
another rocker, we get another unsettling, effects laden, filler piece ("Many Voices") and then another one
And that's it. A core of excellent tracks (Shahadah, Sawm, Cloud Watching, Stan's Orbital Salvage,
Zakah) padded out with filler. The boost in quality produced by Richard Chadwick's contribution of real
drums to "Shahadah" emphasises that Alan's best work has been done with a band.
Worth A Listen : Tim Blake - Magick
Whether you like this at all will probably depend on your
tolerance of Tim Blake's new age leanings, his singing and, in
particular, his lyrics. Also, being "live in the studio", with Tim on
sequencers, synth and voice, the arrangements all tend to be
sparse and simple. I really like it but I can well imagine others
finding it wholly objectionable. It appeared on Voiceprint (VP105
CD) in 2000.
"A Magick Circle" sets the tone: a light, relaxed and melancholic
instrumental. The first of three songs, "Tonight" showcases
Tim's fragile vocals, over a sparse synth and sequencer backing.
The lyrics are simple and deeply personal, which you will either
find sensitive and moving or, possibly, slightly nauseating ("this
lonesome boy who needs your love ce soir", etc). "The Strange Secret Of Ohm - Gliding" is a slow and
slight mainly instrumental piece, with synth colourings over sequenced bass and percussion. About half
way through Tim starts intoning some mystical nonsense about the secret power of Ohm gliding. Before
you dismiss this out of hand, remember that the Hawks have covered similar lyrical territory, albeit with
rather more robust musical settings, on "D-rider" and "Levitation". "A Return To The Clouds" picks up the
pace slightly, but is fairly inconsequential.
The album's centrepiece, "Waiting For Nati" is a very personal love song, on which Tim sings and plays
his heart out. Eight and a half minutes of blissful soul-baring or toe-curlingly twee, depending on your
mood. "A Dream" is a short and inconsequential instrumental and "More Magick" is more of the same,
only longer. Saving the album from drifting into terminal torpor, "With You", another very personal love
song, closes proceedings.
Worth A Listen : Cyrille Verdeaux - Clearlight Symphony
The "Hawkwind" interest on this 1973 album (released on CD in
2001, Spalax Music, SPALAX CD 14592) is the appearance of
Tim Blake on the second track (along with fellow Gong
members Steve Hillage and Didier Malherbe).
The album is divided into two 20-minute long instrumental
"movements", both composed and arranged by Cyrille
Verdeaux. The style is a hybrid of classical, jazz and
symphonic/progressive rock, dominated by Verdeaux's piano,
organ, mellotron and synth playing. Although such
genre-straddling records don't always work (thus it was said of
Renaissance back in the 1970s that their songs combined
classical and rock music without the melodic sophistication of
the former or the excitement of the latter) this was a pleasure to
listen to. The closest "rock" reference point I can think of in terms of the overall sound and mood is
Caravan, although the sleeve notes namedrop Debussy and the tracks are sufficiently varied and inventive
to maintain interest throughout. Admittedly the guitar work on the 1st movement (by Christian Boule) is
lacklustre and there's a rather horrible "prog" moment when the band appear to collectively drop their
instruments on the studio floor before resuming the piece. Finally, it has to be said that while this is a fine
record, well worth tracking down, Tim Blake plays no more than a bit part.