|Music from the Hawkwind family tree - Part 21
Thanks to Graham for these reviews - except where noted otherwise, of course
[I know Steve's covered this one but having finally
bought a copy here's my take on it].
Although Harvey Bainbridge plays on this album, any
Hawkwind influence is kept firmly in the
background. Indeed, if it didn't have Harvey's name
printed on the back cover I wouldn't have
recognised his work. Some of the tracks are built on
grinding riffs that would sit comfortably within a
classic Hawkwind song but the arrangements are
mainstream heavy metal with screeching lead guitar
breaks, pompous keyboard colourings and earnest
vocal delivery. The lyrics are certainly a cut above
the average and the spoken interludes between songs
are interesting enough, helping to maintain a dark
atmosphere throughout. The cover art is pure goth.
The band basically has three types of songs: a lot of
slow and tuneless stoner rock, some rather more sprightly and tuneful heavy boogie, and several earnest
folky ballads. With 17 songs and a running time of almost 80 minutes, the album feels long and is difficult
to take in at a single sitting. It's worth persevering with though.
"Crown Of Thorns", enters on a monstrous riff and is the first of the slower and heavier songs. It is a
powerful opener but too many of the other songs repeat the formula to lesser effect. "Dead Man",
"Looking At The Sun", "Lessons", "See What You've Done To My Life", "Shot Down In Flames",
"Witness To The Truth" And "Human Wasteland" all fall into this category. Track 3, "Fallen Angel" is the
first of the more melodic tracks, with vocal harmonies and wistful synth straight out of the Ken Hensley
(Uriah Heep) songbook. "I Want To Live" and â€œLambs To The Slaughter" thunder along like Iron
Maiden crossed with Peter Gabriel. "The Alienation" does the Pixies/Nirvana light and shade trick most
effectively. "Man On A Roof" is the first of the dark folk songs: lyrics that could be Simon and Garfunkel
and a tune not unlike Al Stewart's "Bedsitter Images". "Fortunes Of War" is an authentic folk lament on
which the Peter Gabriel impression is uncanny. "Voices Of The Past" combines relaxed textures on the
verses with a rather less attractive bludgeoning chorus. The album ends with a final doomy folk tune,
"Dead Man Walking".
This privately produced CD is available through Compact Disk Services.
Well Worth A Listen (2½ stars): Ego Prime - Ego Prime
This CDR was originally available through the presently defunct Bedouin website.
It compiles some of Alan's work with cousin and fellow Gunslinger member Nigel
Potter in the early 1980s. It's strictly home recording fare: enthusiastically played
and solid enough heavy rock, sounding more like Rush than Hawkwind, but let
down by weak and poorly recorded vocals. The cover art plays on the idea of
Egyptian Gods as aliens. Certainly of historical interest but probably not something
you'll play more than once or twice.
Approach With Caution : Alan Davey and Nigel Potter - Alien Heart
Approach With Caution : Robert Calvert - Manchester 1986: In Vitro Breed / Cardiff 1988: Ejection
The two-CD Manchester set from 1986 is the best of the series so far, although the competition hasn't
been exactly strong. The sound throughout is muffled and heavy on the bass but the performances are
spirited. There are some previously unreleased titles: the slight instrumental "Fanfare For The Perfect Race"
and the hideously awful "Gadaffi Rap". The set is fairly well balanced, with not too much Test Tube
Conceived material. We get "Over My Head" from Hype, a perfunctory take on "Sonic Attack", an outing
for "Days Of The Underground" and, best of all, the track labelled â€œParanoia" turns out to be "Psi
Oh dear. The Cardiff '88 album is apparently one of his last performances. It is sub-titled, without apparent
irony, as "Ejection". The sound is bloody awful: boomy, distorted and metallic. Every song is thrashed
within an inch of its life. Absolutely awful stuff. Fast-forward to where Silver Machine Blues ends in a
squall of feedback and contemplate what might have been. These two titles are available on Voiceprint.
This amateur DVD is available from Real Festival Music and captures the
2001 version of the Hawkestra. The cameraman spent most of the gig off
stage left, which may have been okay for him but is pretty hopeless
visually - we get to see plenty of the back of Nik's head - and the sound is
everything you could expect from a cheap camcorder. This could be
forgiven if the performances were up to scratch.
Whatever the individual Hawks think about the 2000 Hawkestra, it was
well-organised, reasonably rehearsed, and moved smoothly between all the
different line-ups. Oh, and it sounded really good. Here though, everyone,
plus dancers, is squeezed simultaneously onto the Astoria stage with a
minimal lightshow and a certain amount of blind enthusiasm.
The only team rotation seems to be on the drums with Martin Griffin plus
Terry Ollis swapping place every so often with Jon Moss of Culture Club.
Hence there is the absurdity of Adrian Shaw, Dave Anderson, Thom
Crimble and Ron Tree all playing bass simultaneously. Jerry Richards and
Mick Slattery handle guitars, although it's Jerry's metallic squall that seems
Approach With Caution : The Naked Truth 2: The Hawkestra Greasy Truckers Party 2001
to dominate. Steve Swindells is on keyboards along with latter-day ICU man Jim Hawkman. Del Dettmar
is on electric wood-axe. Sam Ollis plays percussion and Rick Welsh guests on trumpet. What most of the
group contribute to the overall sound is anyone's guess, as they blast their way through the obvious basic
Maybe the spirit of Hawkwind was there (although, given the recent schism within Space Ritual, not all
present are necessarily idealistic hippies) but if this concert proves nothing else it's that a little discipline and
rehearsal is needed to turn in a professional performance, something Dave Brock has always understood.
The remainder of the DVD comprises a pub gig by Trev Thom's (post-Nik Turner) ICU (with Captain
Sensible on bass) and some promo videos of ICU and Trev's previous band Atom Gods. We learn from
this that Trev can gurn with the best of them, but not much else.
This sordid little film,
released in the US as "I am
a groupie", spawned a
Groupie Girl by Opal
Butterfly). There are also
several scenes featuring
Simon King, who "plays" a
member of a rock band
and even gets to mumble a
few words. He doesn't,
however, get off with any
of the groupies. The plot is
basically a dubious morality
tale, with a distinct nod to
"Girl on a Motorcycle" but
without any of the attendant
Approach With Caution (rated 18!) : Groupie Girl
glamour. The action, such as it is, moves from gig to crash pad to transit van to country mansion, as the
protagonist is (quite literally) passed from one band to another. The key scene, which involves two transit
vans, has to be seen to be believed (and, no, it's not a sex scene!)
This film was released on VHS and is probably still obtainable second hand. My copy is a distinctly
unofficial CDR, bought on E-bay from someone who now seems to have ceased trading.
Well Worth A Listen (2Â½ stars): Pre-Med - Medication Time
Approach With Caution : Nic Potter - The Blue Zone
This is superior mood muzak, the kind of thing that
you'd get from the late Peter Bardens, Snowy White
or Justin Hayward. Tasteful, melancholy...¦ perfect
music for indulging in a bit of serious brooding. Huw
Lloyd Langton is one of four guest guitarists. Huw
adds some rather lacklustre colourings to two
tracks, "Blue Zone One" and "Hard As Irony", while
Peter Hammill adds some incongruous metallic
squalling to the fade out of the first track "Ocean
Blue". Top marks though go to Snowy White who
does his trademark Gilmour-lite thing to perfection
on "A Whiter Shade of Blue".
This was released by Date Records (DACD 9.00891
O) in 1989.
This very spirited space rock album features Alan
Davey on bass alongside Danny Faulkner and Lewis
Turner. Danny Thompson plays drums on two
tracks. It's released on Voiceprint's Hawk label
(HAWKVP39CD) we can assume that it's approved
product! However, no writing credits for Mr Davey
and Danny Faulkner sings lead vocals.
The spoken word track "Detox Train" gets things off
to a slow start. I guess you either like this kind of
sub-Moorcock space poetry or you find it
embarrassingly silly. Actually, like most of the lyrics
here, and unsurprisingly given the album title, the
words seem to be more or less drug-related. "Up All
Night" ups the pace; an energetic rocker which
would fit well on the Litmus album. "No Smoking"
dissipates the atmosphere again though, being a
pretty minimalist instrumental. "Invisible Spies" takes
two minutes to get going and doesn't quite scale the heights of "Up All Night" - not enough going on above
the rhythm and effects, although the guitar soloing near the end rescues it from tedium. . "Man Eggs From
Mars" is a lively instrumental, setting things up nicely for the, er, rush, of "Higher" (sample lyrics: "life
absorbed through bank note filters / eager veins await the flood"), which followed by my favourite track,
the space ballad "Inner Doors". "What's Your Name" is superior instrumental filler, leading to the last song,
another space ballad "Once Upon A Line". "Medication Time", the title track, closes the album, another
solid instrumental. There's some filler here and some of the tracks are a bit formulaic but on the whole it's
more engaging than, say, "Take Me To Your Future".
Essential viewing : Nik Turner - Space Ritual 1994 DVD
This DVD (Cherry Red, CRDVD136) divides neatly in two: a concert
sequence and an audio diary. The concert sequence sounds brilliant
but visually it frequently had me cringing. Michael Moorcock once
described Hawkwind as barbarians with electronics. The problem
with Nik's 1994 band is that they look like they're slumming it. The
stage presentation, when you can see it through the distracting visual
effects added by Cherry Red, is more Rocky Horror Show than
Hawkwind; more cheap cabaret than authentic space rock. (To be
fair to them, the whole tour was apparently done on a shoestring,
more of which later.) The absolute nadir is Genesis P Orridge's
reading of "Armor For Everyday". Sporting black dreadlocks and a
very scary smile he comes across like Bride of Chucky hijacking
some unfortunate school's Christmas pantomime.
The rest of the time, Nik is of course the visual focus and the set
revolves around Turner (D-Rider, Master of the Universe, Shouldn't
Do That) and Calvert (Ejection, The Right Stuff, The Awakening)
compositions. In fact, it struck me watching this that Nik has successfully absorbed Calvert's stage
persona and mannerisms. The other ever present Hawkwind man is Del Dettmar, who appears to have
morphed into Blakey from On The Buses and plays his single stringed wood-axe synth throughout. I've still
no idea what he contributes to the sound but he looks the part. Alan Powell is in there somewhere on
percussion, although I missed him. Nik's US crew contribute the forgettable "Nirbasion Annasion" to the
set list and they turn Turner's Egyptian Book of the Dead-fest "Thoth" into a surprisingly effective all-out
rocker. The band is well-rehearsed and tight and, especially on "Shouldn't Do That", can really lock down
a groove. The credits run as Nik does his intro rap on "Silver Machine". So far then, a great audio record
(although we already have that on CD) but much too short and somewhat let down by the visuals.
The audio diary is grainy and gritty and is a real bonus. Early on we see Nik with a full head of hair,
suggesting to his mates that the band goes on stage as the Addams Family with him as Fester. Then he
appears with a shaved head - so now we know who inspired his haircut! The band rehearse "Master Of
The Universe". We see the band backstage in some pretty funky dressing rooms, making clear that this
was a tour of toilets, seedy clubs and dance halls. Nik meets the fans ("I can tell my grandchildren I kissed
Nik Turner"!) - and, despite the tiny venues, there's no mistaking that, for the assembled masses, Nik is
some kind of messiah figure. They love this man. We see a clip of "Watching The Grass Grow". Nik
explains that the tour was planned to promote the Cleopatra release of "Prophets Of Time" which, as he
freely admits, is re-cycled songs from his last band, Inner City Unit. However, the material is just too
obscure so, gradually, the idea of bringing in Calvert songs and the whole Hawkwind retro set evolved. Del
identifies people in the photos on the back of the inner sleeve of "Hall of the Mountain Grill" and autographs
a copy of "Space Ritual". Clips of the band playing what might be "Wildhunt", from ICU's New Anatomy,
and "Brainstorm". Nik busking alone on stage. Nick uses a CD as a mirror to put his make-up on. Nik
plays "In The Mood". Cut to the band locked into "Shouldn't Do That", then a bit of "Orgone
Accumulator". These 45 minutes of cinema verite provide a wonderful contrast to the stilted
professionalism of the main feature and, again, it's over far too quickly.
Worth A Listen : Various Artists: Giving Is Good - Live in Lyminge
This privately pressed charity CD (500 copies, all
proceeds to the Meningitis Trust) was recently
announced through Nik Turner's website. It is a
live recording from August 2006 and the Hawkwind
interest is the inclusion of six tracks from the
Galaktikos. The other music on the CD is from
Kangaroo Moon and there is also a sound collage
/"wacky" spoken introduction phoned in by Gong's
The Galaktikos continue the jazz-oriented direction of
the Fantastic Allstars, with a bit more emphasis on
jazz-funk. The band are identified on the CD insert
only by their nicknames: Slapper, DW and Psycho
Bates; DW is presumably drummer DW Griffiths
from the Fantastic Allstars. Anyway the band is a
basic four-piece with Nik accompanied by guitar,
bass and drums. The lively interplay between Nik's sax and Rick Walsh's trumpet that characterised
"Kubanno Kickasso" is (obviously) missing and the arrangements are constrained by the four-piece format.
Ultimately though, they acquit themselves well.
The Galaktikos kick off the music with the solid but dull jazz-funk of The Meters' "Jungle Man". Nik then
reminds the crowd that his youth was mis-spent on the nearby Margate seafront. Their take on "Bossa", a
tune from 1960s jazz guitarist Grant Green, is more successful. Both Nik (on flute and sax) and the
guitarist get to show off their skills. Next, they demonstrate their versatility with an energetic version of
"Watching The Grass Grow". There's some good guitar and sax interplay too on all three remaining tunes:
"Better Half" (from the pen of Maceo Parker, a saxophonist who played with James Brown), The Meters'
"Here Comes The Meter Man" and "Chicken", written by another former James Brown sax player, Pee Wee
Ellis. [The CD lists the writing credits so I was able to check out who all these people were; if nothing else,
it's interesting finding out where Nik gets his inspiration from!]
Kangaroo Moon were new to me; an Australian hippy / festival band who've been going for more than a
decade. Of their three contributions, "Summer Jam at Lyminge" is probably the most interesting. The
reflective introductory section features acoustic guitar, sound effects, flute and percussion and would not
be out of place on a Shadowfax album. Later sections feature electric piano with guitar, didgeridoo with
percussion, and synth - and so it goes on, for 21 minutes. "Love Is" features an excruciating "rap" which
appears to be mainly about lost car keys, and to go on for ever. "Market Place No. 1" is better by virtue of
being entirely instrumental. They sound like a good band for, say, Hawkfest, as long as they leave their
vocalist at home!
Overall then, if you're looking for the Hawkwind sound, look elsewhere. If you like Nik Turner's
excursions into jazz though, you won't be disappointed and, in any case, it's all for a good cause.
One Of The Best : Alan Davey - Captured Rotation
Originally released on EBS (EBSCD122) in Digipak
format in 1996, this is now out again on Voiceprint
- and has just received a very positive review in the
February 2007 edition of Record Collector. Alan
Davey plays all instruments and Ron Tree
co-writes and sings on three tracks; the remaining
nine tracks are all Davey solo instrumental
compositions. This is a cracking album. Whereas
some of his other solo albums have sounded a bit
formulaic, this one is full of melody and invention.
Admittedly there are too few high octane songs
and at least one too many instrumentals but it's
well worth checking out.
"The Call" is muscular and energetic, with a fine
vocal from Ron Tree and excellent bass work. It
would have made a really strong Hawkwind track and indeed is more Hawkwind-like than most of
"Distant Horizons" which the band released after Alan's departure. This is followed by two mid-paced
instrumental pieces, "Never Comedown" and "Higher Than Before". Both are pleasingly melodic, the first
being built up around guitar and bass while the latter is sequencer-based but with some nice guitar fills.
The second Ron Tree collaboration, "Ancient Light", cranks up the energy level again, again achieving a
near classic Hawkwind sound, complete with the dreamy and melodic instrumental break in the middle,
building back up to full throttle with some superb melodic bass playing and more than competent guitar. If
I have any criticism, it's that Ron Tree's words are pretty much impenetrable gibberish: "Fireball celestial
light blitzkrieg cartwheel of fire. Viking of the sun spot steel ever changing subatomic shield" and so on.
There again, this kind of things works for Jon Anderson of Yes...¦
Then it's back to instrumentals, six in a row this time. All are relatively short and there's sufficient variety
in pace and instrumentation to keep the listener's attention -most of the time- and some good tunes. "Space
Bass" is built around a brief repeated five-note motif on synth which goes nowhere in particular but is
suitably atmospheric. In contrast, "Hawkestrel" is a heavy riff overlaid with synth-drums and effects.
"Nebula" is the trademarked Alan Davey dreamy synth piece, although with some unsettling sound effects
superimposed. "Thunderbird" is a slow tune picked out on the bass but again discordant effects create a
distinctly unsettling atmosphere and there are some treated vocals deep in the mix. "Nova Drive" ups the
pace again, driven along on sequenced rhythm and wailing synths with some riffing over the top. "Spacial
Wave" is a sparse, dreamy, synth piece. Lastly, â€œQuirk" is a rather directionless instrumental morass
with a sequenced rhythm track plus various effects and instrumental tracks.
Just when it's needed though, along comes the last song, "Pre-med". Again the sound is excellent. Ron's
lyrics are a bit obscure but seem to involve a (presumably drug induced) dream state in which he contacts
some alien insect intelligence, or something. With such a full sound, it's easy to forget that the backing is
just Alan on all instruments. Having said that, it would be interesting to hear Hawkwind try out these
songs, preferably with the author of the lyrics on vocals.
Worth A Listen : Bedouin - Extremely Live 2003
This recent Voiceprint release (HAWKVP37CD)
does what it says on the tin. This is a no-frills
recording of Bedouin in full flight. Alan Davey
(pummelling bass runs, extremely hoarse vocals) is
support by Glenn Povey (guitar) and Danny
Thompson (drums). Individually the songs
performed are mostly fine but the relentless
bludgeoning riffs and tonsil shredding vocals do get
a bit wearing.
The band tear furiously into "Demons In Denial"
and "Elric The Enchanter Part 2" before "One
Moon Circles" provides some light relief. I have to
admit preferring the Davey/Tree studio take on
"Ancient Light" to the live version on offer here but
what it lacks in subtlety it gains in energy: again
this is a truly ferocious performance. Next up for a
thrashing is "Sword Of The East" and it survives
reasonably well. "Rock Palace" though is just tedious and nine minutes of "Wings", even if it provides a
welcome break from the heavy stuff, is way too much. Bedouin don't do quiet or subtle terribly
successfully. The amps are back up to 11 for "Chasing The Dragon" and "As Above So Below", although
the latter diverges from the formula by featuring a short drum solo. "Vision Quest" is unrelenting thrash
again and the CD closes with a very creditable version of "LSD", probably the most successful of the
Hawkwind adaptations (maybe because it was written for a three-piece band).
If you're looking for subtlety you need to look elsewhere but mostly this is well-played, high energy