|Music from the Hawkwind family tree - Part 22
Thanks to Graham for these reviews - except where noted otherwise, of course
One Of The Best : Mr Quimby's Beard with Harvey Bainbridge - Live at Strange Daze 2001
A strange one this, acquired some years ago from Compact
Disc Services and a CD that is still advertised on the
Strange Trips website. It appears to be the Mr Quimby's
Beard album "Shrouded in Mystery live", which is available
on the MQB website, with the same track listing and the
same recording date (27/10/01 at Strange Daze), but topped
and tailed with two Harvey Bainbridge performances.
The Mr Quimby's Beard set is excellent, give or take some
annoying spoken word interludes. I admit to getting a bit
jaded by listening to albums by Hawkwind wannabes and
no-hopers but Mr Quimby's Beard (along with Litmus)
really are as good as non-Hawkwind space rock gets,
especially on "Nebulae", "Chariots" and the majestic
"Beyond the Light", and this CD is (at the risk of being
sacrilegious) comfortably more inspiring than some of the lesser Hawkwind releases.
Harvey's first track, "Prologue" is not bad: classic sound effects, percussion work straight out of the
Alman Mulo Band and a synth sound straight from "Chronicle of the Black Sword" It's a short and
pleasant track, if nothing to write home about. Same with "Epilogue": piano chords, percussion and effects
are overlaid with synth, with the emphasis on melody rather than weirdness.
Great album then, but not necessarily in relation to its Hawkwind content.
Approach With Caution : Space Ritual - Live at Glastonbury and Guildford Festival 2002
This CDR (no catalogue number) was released on
Ozit Records and captures Space Ritual just after
they'd ceased to call themselves X-Hawkwind and
before Dave Anderson joined them. The nucleus of
Turner, Slattery, Crimble and Ollis is joined by Sam
Ollis, Jim Hawkman, Thomas Hewitt, and various
This is very much a CD of two halves, the first of
which is desperately awful and the second not too
bad. Perhaps in a deliberate attempt to establish their
own identity, the band plays mainly non-Hawkwind
material - but, at this stage the new material was
little more than formless jams so the set was
bolstered by recourse to jazz standards and the
ill-advised revival of a Sphynx track.
"Orion Sunrise" appears be a Turner sax solo cut
from a longer jam. "The Awakening" sees Calvert's words recited by Nik Turner over a backing track that
at one point visits the Psychedelic Warlords riff, and then moves on to some completely unrelated lyrics
and music, with what sounds like a tape of Turner's flute playing in the Great Pyramid playing in the
background. In fact this latter section seems to belong to the next track "Osiris". This mixes Nik's original
words from the Egyptian Book of the Dead with some new and eminently forgettable lyrics ("We don't
want no war, we're coming to get you, you can't kill the spirit, etc...¦"). "The Landing" is another
nondescript spoken-word lyric recited over spacey backing. Up to this point, the caption "Space Ritual
blast away badly" perfectly encapsulates the album - it is a horrible mess.
The second half though is considerably better. "Blue Train" is Nik's take on the Coltrane tune and at least is
a welcome relief from badly played space rock. The following "Space Grab" is a passable early
Hawkwind-styled jam, with Nik's sax playing prominent throughout, and the same could be said of "Warp
Out". Between these, Nik introduces the band and recites his "Thunder Rider Rap" over the tune of Silver
Machine. The set closes with a rather good 10-minute version of "D-Rider".
Right at the end, as an unfortunate reminder of a best forgotten period, Nik Turner apologises to anyone
who came along expecting to see "Hawkwind featuring Mr Dave Brock", refers to keeping the spirit of the
original band alive, and asks the audience for help in his court case against said Dave Brock.
Worth A Listen : Space Ritual - 2001 A Space Rock Odyssey
Two different versions of this 2-CD set appeared on
Ozit (OZIT CD55). The Turner-led band at this
point was being billed as "The Original Hawkwind
Reunion Band" or, more cheekily, as "Hawkwind
(Reunion)" and comprised Turner, Lloyd-Langton,
Ollis and Crimble, with Lloyd George, Jim
Hawkman and Thomas Hewitt. The core members
were apparently all with Hawkwind at the Isle of
Wight in 1970, hence the "reunion" tag.
CD 1 features "Sonic Attack", "You Shouldn't Do
That", "Odyssey Improvisation", "Dragon Rider",
"Waiting For Tomorrow", "Waiting For Tomorrow"
(yes, exactly the same recording, repeated twice)
and "Master of the Universe", all taken from a
concert in Wales in 2000. The sound quality is
poor, as you might expect from what sounds like an
audience recording. "Brainstorm" is listed but
doesn't appear and the CD carries a sticker apologising for the alleged uncredited appearance of
"Psychedelic Warlords" instead of "Brainstorm". Someone at Ozit clearly doesn't know what they are doing
but maybe it says something about the quality of the recording that they thought "Waiting For Tomorrow"
was "Psychedelic Warlords"!
The remastered version restores "Brainstorm" after "Dragon Rider" in place of the extra copy of "Waiting
For Tomorrow" and adds a rather strange but quite effective version of "Children Of The Sun" - Nik sings
falsetto and plays flute, mixing in what sounds like a rendition of the (traditional?) folk tune that appears as
"Wild Hunt" on ICU's New Anatomy.
CD2 kicks off with two tracks from the same concert, "Silver Machine" and "Spirit of the Age", the latter
being a particularly feeble version, and the one track here which involved none of the Space Odyssey band
when it was written and recorded. The remaining four tracks ("Sonic Attack", "Odyssey Improvisation",
"Brainstorm", "Ten Seconds Of Forever") come from the band's previous (and first ever) concert. The
sound quality is markedly better on these tracks. The lack of a keyboard player also makes for a generally
cleaner sound. Extended instrumental jams are the order of the day, with "Sonic Attack" stretched out over
15 minutes and "Ten Seconds Of Forever" becoming almost 13 minutes of forever.
When I first played these CDs I couldn't believe how awful they were but, after a few listens, the loose
jamming around familiar Hawkwind tunes starts to make sense, the band are clearly enjoying themselves
and it's worth a listen even if only for the historical interest. In fact, there are some moments, especially the
tracks on CD2 (from the first concert), that are quite good. However, a little more rehearsal - and
investment in professional sound recording - could have made it a much more worthwhile exercise.
Worth A Listen : Mr Quimby's Beard - The Definitive Unsolved Mysteries of...¦
Okay, these next releases are by Hawkwind friends rather than Hawkwind relations. Having praised the
Quimby's live album with Harvey Bainbridge, I thought I should try to listen to the studio albums and,
round about the same time, I came across Underground Zero's website, on which there was an advert for a
CD of remastered 1980s recordings. To put these two bands in some kind of perspective, Litmus (with their
totally excellent 2004 album "You Are Here") seem to have taken on the mantle of the next-best-thing in
space rock, combining something the inventiveness and festival-friendly approach of the Quimby's with the
power of, say, UZ0. -Graham
Passing rapidly over the question of the band's name
(6th form humour?), on first listen, this is
disappointing compared to the live album with
Harvey Bainbridge. Hearing a band live and /or
listening to a live album, you tend to make
allowances for unpolished sound, dodgy balance, out
of tune vocals etc. So, when you hear the studio
album and the sound is still rough, it's paced about
as well as a recent Hawkwind concert and the
vocals are rubbish - some reappraisal is needed. The
bottom line is, the band make all the right noises,
with plenty of space whispering and atmospheric
synth sounds but there's just not enough muscle.
After the second or third listen it starts to make
sense but it would be a better album if the short filler
tracks were removed and better too if they had
employed a competent producer or engineer! The
album opens with a sound collage, "From The
Sixty's" which you might find either atmospheric and unsettling or simply irritating depending on your
mood. "Mystery Part 1" starts promisingly but fairly quickly settles down into a mellow and aimlessly
meandering jam. Every so often a riff kicks in and threatens to add some cohesion before dropping back
out again. The vocals come in at the six minute mark and ninety seconds later it's all over. "The Calling Of
The Clan" is another atmosphere piece, featuring synth and some ethnic woodwind sounds. Next!
The album comes partially to life with "Nebulae" but it still whimpers where it should roar. The synth
carries the keening melody, the rhythm guitar chugs away in the background, the drummer achieves a
classic Ringo Starr slapping a tapioca pudding sound, the lead guitar kicks in for some minimalist soloing
and the bass occasionally bubbles into the foreground. It's really not a bad space rock song, from
somewhere in Damnation Alley/PXR5 territory, but the production is dreadful.
"The Frailty Of Man" comprises a minute and a half of synth, effects plus sampled spoken words from a
space shuttle launch. It might have worked as an interlude if the band had got some kind of momentum
"Mystery Part 2" kicks off on a decent riff; organ and vocals come in on the verse and again there's a good
song trying to get out from under the horribly lifeless production. Instead of taking off though, it moves
almost immediately into a weedy, self-referential and much too long spoken word section, backed by just
bass and drums. After an eternity, a sequenced rhythm kicks in and organ and choral vocals take up the
melody. After a brief reprise of the opening section, the track moves to a relaxed end, driven by some fluid
bass playing. "A Glimmer Of Hope" is another linking piece: spoken words, sound effects, a few guitar
shapes thrown in. Next!
"Beyond The Light" starts with an elegant synth theme, underpinned by urgent rhythm guitar, and moves
through various, well-executed, fast and slow instrumental passages over the course of 10 minutes. The
lead guitar lines are predictable but effective and there's some wordless singing (whoa oh oh oh etc)
towards the end. You just know that this is designed to be a classic live number, which makes it such a
shame that the production is again so feeble - and that they insert some pointless vocal samples along the
"Darkness" features sound effects, heavy percussion and Arabic-flavoured synth colourings, i.e. Alan
Davey solo album territory. However, the chanted vocals recall "Magnu" and, although it's all stretched a bit
thin over nearly 8 minutes, it ain't bad. "Deejam" is altogether harder-edged with a prominent bass-line, a
better drum sound, a grinding riff and some lively synth and lead guitar work over the top. Tight and to the
point, it segues neatly into "The Shading Suns", where synth, acoustic guitar, seagull sounds, and mournful
vocal and a lyric about the end of time raise the distinct suspicion that MQB have been trying to recreate
the mighty WOTEOT - the last three tracks being homages to (or pastiches of) Magnu, Opa Loka and The
On the other hand, the synthesized pipes on the closing "The Perplexity Of Infinity" suggest an unexpected
excursion into Peruvian folk music. Overall then, some good stuff mixed with the dross, but the whole is
still rather less than the sum of its parts. Released on their own Freaky Fungi imprint in 2000 as SPCD 014
and available from the MQB website.
Worth A Listen : Mr Quimby's Beard - Out There
This 1995 album, released on Demi-Monde (DMCD
1035) is a superior album when compared with
"Definitive...¦" with better production and generally
stronger songs but there's less originality and
virtually every track is Hawkwind-by-numbers.
They seem to particularly favour the part spoken,
part sung vocal style that Dave Brock adopts on
many Hawkwind tracks.
"Snake Dance" makes all the right moves and is
well-executed: the track builds gradually from a
repeated synth pattern to achieve the full
space-rock mix complete with obligatory grinding
guitar riff and spacey sound effects. The main riff
is dull though and the chanted vocals weak. Lesson
one: unless you've got a truly killer riff, you need to
have a tune. The mostly instrumental "Coming
Down" builds slowly and effectively, with some good synth work and plenty of crashing cymbals before
the main riff appears. "Reality" is totally predictable and rather tiresome filler: synth, sequences, effects
and treated spoken vocals ("What is reality?", etc). "Travelling", with its echoed, chanted, vocals and a
guitar grumbling along way down in the mix, is full of doom and portent and deathly dull.
"Wake Up" is a straightforward "Brainstorm" rip-off, although owing more to the punky version on ICU's
"Pass Out" than to the original. Unlike the rest of the album so far this is actually quite good fun! The
following "Out There" maintains the momentum nicely, even if the vocals are barely comprehensible.
"Another Visit" is a truly horrible filler track with a looped synthesized vocal repeating the title
continuously. "Try" is 'let's do Brainstorm' part 2. Finally we get the unpleasantly titled "Bringing Up Acid"
which is all rather elegant and tasteful until the end, where the band do indeed sing about regurgitation.
Essential Listening : Underground Zer0 - Powerplay
Lack of muscle is something of which Underground Zero
could never be accused. Their songs are rock solid, invariably
based around grinding riffs and pounding rhythms, bolstered
by strong and melodic synth and lead guitar lines. The vocals
are pitched somewhere between Bridget Wishart, Toyah and
Poly Styrene, which works just fine - at least after the second
or third play. If there's any weakness, it's that they are rather
one-paced - but nine out of ten tracks on this CD are
It draws on material originally issued in the 1980s: The album
"Never Reach The Stars" (Flicknife, Sharp 023, 1984)
featured six tracks, all repeated here: Seven Light Years,
Robot, Forlorn & Lethal, Between Worlds, The Elite and
Never Reach the Stars. The live/studio set "Through The
Looking Glass" (Flicknife, Blunt 038, 1986) contained the original versions of Genocide and Atomchild.
Rainbow Warrior first appeared on a 1986 compilation cassette but also turned up on Anagram's
Hawkwind Friends & Relations - The Rarities (CDMGRAM 91, 1995). Lastly, "Aimless Flight" appeared
on two compilations from 1986, Flicknife's "A Pretty Smart Way to Catch a Lobster" (Sharp 035) and
"Seven Light Years" is a strong opener, and "Robot" maintains the momentum, both featuring sci-fi themed
lyrics. "Forlorn And Lethal" is a (mostly) tasteful heavy ballad, although it rocks out with a vengeance at
the end - after a cringe-worthy spoken word interlude: "You really like this don't you? I mean, you actually
enjoy what you do! You really are a twisted little bitch!". No political correctness in the 1980s!
"Between Worlds" starts gently, with a simple synth pattern and gradually builds up into full-on space
rock. Even at nine-minutes long it doesn't outstay its welcome. "The Elite" also starts slowly, this time
with a repeated guitar figure and is spoiled by spoken vocals - but it still builds up to a pretty intense finale.
The amps are turned to 11 for "Never Reach The Stars", on which only the inevitable spoken word
interlude detracts from our enjoyment.
"Rainbow Warrior" is a stately instrumental, the final two and a half minutes of which feature a gorgeous
understated guitar part, the sound and atmosphere of which are not a million miles from some of King
Crimson's more reflective moments. "Aimless Flight" is a monster of a tune, with a repeated melodic hook
played in unison on synths and guitars. The track labelled "Atomhenge" (surely a Freudian slip as it think it
was originally titled "Atomchild") makes up for a weaker melody with some sterling instrumental work,
notably on keyboards (think Ray Manzarek or Dave Greenfield) and lead guitar. "Genocide" is suitably
strident and intense, with a great riff and terrific keyboards, maintaining the high energy level right to the
end of the album.
This rather fine CD can be ordered from the band's website. There's also a complete discography on the
website so you can see where various other tracks and live versions can be obtained.
Essential Listening : Underground Zer0 - Never Reach The Stars
Admittedly this album, released in 2005 on Black Rose
Records (BR 187), is basically the same album as
Powerplay, with the songs in original rather than remixed
versions, without "Aimless Flight" or "Rainbow Warrior"
and with the addition of "Canes Venatici" and the three live
tracks from "Through the Looking Glass". The band
website makes clear that they don't know anything about
this release but acknowledge that it's very well produced.
The sound is fairly similar but played back-to-back, these
versions seem to have less bottom end to the sound.
"Canes Venatici" should be familiar from the original
Hawkwind Friends & Relations Volume 3 LP or the Best of
friends and relations CD, and is pretty good. Live versions
of "Robot", "Between Worlds" and "The Elite" show that
the band's studio sound was fairly close to the live sound -
and that this material works well in a live setting.