|Music from the Hawkwind family tree - Part 24
Thanks to Graham for these reviews - except where noted otherwise, of course
Approach With Caution : Robert Calvert - Newcastle 1986: Ship of Fools
Lulled into a false sense of security by the recent
Hawkwind article in Record Collector - in which Rob
Ayling of Voiceprint refers to releasing Calvert live material
recorded straight off the mixing desk, enthused by the
Calvert-friendly Hawkfest (a flyer for a Calvert book was
circulated, Dave Brock talked about Voiceprint releasing the
Brock-Calvert project, and the Hawkwind set was
dominated by Calvert-penned material) and finally persuaded
by the fact that this album is available relatively cheaply on
Amazon, I set aside my misgivings about the slew of 1980s
live Calvert material issued by Voiceprint and purchased
"Ship Of Fools" (VP389CD). Contrary to the main title, the
back cover indicates (presumably wrongly) that this
double-CD set was recorded on 2 November 1987, and, sad
to report, it is another rough-sounding audience recording.
The set kicks off with a spirited "Orgone Accumulator" and the sound is, predictably, rubbish. Thereafter,
the usual suspects are all present and correct, with a reasonable balance between older material, the more
recent Freq and Test Tube Conceived albums and (then) unreleased new songs. Aside from "Orgone", there
are three tracks from "Quark, Strangeness and Charm": the title track, "Days of the Underground" and
"Damnation Alley". While the first two are unharmed by the rough, "Damnation Alley" loses much of its
power. The set closes with a welcome outing for "Robot" - on which Bob shows how this song should be
The full set listing is: Orgone Accumulator / Evil Rock / Lord of the Hornets / Teen Ballad of Dino (or "The
Ballad of Dennis" as Voiceprint would have it) / Catch a Falling Starfighter / The Song of the Gremlin / The
Aerospaceage Inferno / Quark, Strangeness and Charm / Radio Egypt / Working Down a Diamond Mine /
Days of the Underground / Ned Ludd / Acid Rain / Work Song / On Line / Ship of Fools / Damnation Alley
/ All The Machines Are Quiet / Telekinesis / Standing on the Picket Line / Robot.
One Of The Best : Robert Calvert & The Maximum Effect Live at the Carlisle Stars & Stripes
November 3 1986
This brings me to the Carlisle gig recorded on 3rd November
1986. Available as free mp3 downloads from
http://www.doremi.co.uk/icu/calvert.html, this is virtually the
same set (albeit without the Lockheed tracks), only properly
recorded! Calvert and his band are shown in a much better light.
Keyboards and backing vocals are clearly audible and Calvert is
evidently in good form. The Hawkwind tracks sound really good
and even the Test Tube Conceived material is listenable. Quite
how Voiceprint ended up releasing low grade audience
recordings while the real thing slipped out as free downloads is
On the webpage, Steve Pond points out that "there is one
problem with the sound, every time the front of house engineer pans things from side to side they fade up &
down in the recording...you probably won`t notice it, but it mauls my guitar solo in Acid Rain something
rotten!" I really didn't notice it - this is a fine memento of Calvert's work. Please can we get a proper release
for this some time soon!
The full set listing is: Orgone Accumulator / Lord of the Hornets / Teen Ballad of Dino / Quark, Strangeness
and charm / Radio Egypt / Working Down a Diamond Mine / Days of the Underground / Ned Ludd / Acid
Rain / Work Song / On Line / Ship of Fools / Damnation Alley / All The Machines Are Quiet / Telekinesis /
Standing on the Picket Line / Robot / Test Tube Conceived.
Approach With Caution : Dumpy's Rusty Nuts - Get Out On The Road
It's hard to equate the avuncular grandfather figure
who does "Spacenutz" with the obnoxious, loud and
politically incorrect rocker who gleefully blasted out
biker anthems such as (ahem), if memory serves me
correctly, one which Dumpy introduced as "Hots for
Bronski" when supporting the Hawks in 1985. Yet
this album shows he may not have changed all that
much. It is a mixture of lean pub rock and various
oddities. "Out of Time" is the Stones' song. "Angel" is
the obligatory ballad and the second track "Shnibob",
is Spacenutz (possibly literally so as it actually
sounds quite similar) without the whooshing noises:
Dumpy playing along to a drum track. The other
realisation on listening to this is that Spacenutz is
basically psyched-up surf music, with Dumpy as
Then there's the track of real interest, "Hawkwind",
which is a piss-take (or, if you prefer, homage) featuring bits of Hawkwind lyrics and song titles in the
lyrics and overkill on the whooshing noises. Mr Brock gamely guests (on synths I think) and probably
wishes he hadn't. The album closes with another joke track, "The Harry Lime Theme" (as in The Third
My copy of this appears to be a private pressing CD and was on sale at the recent Hawkfest. The original
album appeared in 1987 on METAL MASTERS (METALP 118).
There is also a live double album from this period, Firkin Well Live, released in 1988 on Razor Records
RAZD39. Most of the GOOTR songs appear and the set closes with "Silver Machine". Of perhaps greater
interest is that the bass player is Alan Davey and the drummer, Mick Kirton, later joined Hawkwind briefly.
The rear sleeve features two pictures of Alan on stage with Dumpy and a dedication to the late Bob Calvert.
Approach With Caution : Alan Davey - Al Chemical's Lysergic Orchestra
Originally released in 2001 and available from the
Bedouin website this is presently available (as a CDR)
from Alan Davey's website with the notional
catalogue number "AD-ACLO". Very much an album
of two halves, it appears to be a mixture of material
recoded over a long period of time.
The first four tracks of the album come across like
an early prototype of "It Is The Business...¦" and are
presumably the oldest tracks on this collection. The
sonic palette is primitive by current standards but the
basic idea is clearly set out: repetitive, semi-formed
tunes on keyboards, sequencers and synths. "Coming
Up (Eyes Open)" is basically a repeated
eastern-tinged minor key motif on keyboards backed
by a synthesised ethereal chorus, plus rhythm and
effects. Relatively concise at just over 4 minutes
long, it is
reminiscent of "Space Is Their Palestine". "Loopy Loop" is slightly faster and with a stronger rhythmic
component. The melody line is carried by the ethereal chorus. Nothing much else happens but it is easy on
the ears and lasts only 5 minutes. "The Unseen" follows a similar pattern, but with more prominent
percussion and effects. Here the ethereal chorus appears only intermittently and assumes the slightly
unsettling mood of the first track. This one is seven minutes long. "Hubbub" is an irritating 1-minute plus
interlude of looped effects and marks the end of the weaker first half of the album.
"Blue-cedelic" is a straightforward chugging guitar and bass-based instrumental that sounds as though it
comes from the Black Sword era. This is the first track to inject a bit of real energy into proceedings. The
next two tracks are synth and sequence-based but are markedly stronger and more modern sounding than
the opening tracks. "Hipnotic" has a greater emphasis on spacey effects and an unexpected flute interlude.
"Synthia" is both the longest track on the album (at 8 minutes long) and the most interesting. The driving
rhythm track is overlaid by some of the most Hawkwind-like melodic touches and effects on the album.
"Free To Live At Last" features real bass and guitar again. It sounds quite good, not unlike "Death Trap" in
feel, but (almost inevitably) doesn't really go anywhere.
Compared to some of his official releases (especially "Human On The Outside" and "Captured Rotation")
this is hardly an essential purchase - but it is at least of historical interest and provides hints of Alan's
No stars at all : Astralasia - The Hawkwind Remixes (VP361CD)
Left: Not quite the
new cover (my copy
REMIXES" in small
letters underneath the
Right: The original
This CD collects the four remixes of "Spirit Of The Age" (two of which contain virtually nothing of the
original HW track) and three of "Uncle Sam's On Mars" (one unreleased). The remaining tracks are labelled
"Assassins (Of Allah)" and "A Cluster Of Waves". If you think the original remixes have any merit and don't
already own them, the CD has some value, although it's doubtful whether you could listen to the whole
thing in one go.
The CD is flawed from beginning to end. Take the "Assassins" track, which is of course the section of
"Space Is Their Palestine" that is used in live performances of "Assassins". Okay, the track was similarly
misleadingly titled when first issued in 1993 on the "Decide Your Future" EP, but why not correct that now
- and how on Earth can Voiceprint state "publishing unknown" under the title? On IITBOTFTBD, it is
credited as a Brock composition. Is that now disputed?
The only completely new track is "A Cluster Of Waves", which is basically Astralasia tuning their
instruments on stage (accompanied by Simon House) at Hawkfest 2002 and not a musical composition in
any meaningful sense. Voiceprint have the cheek to say that the track "possibly" features Tim Blake "but not
sure if he was turned up". The unreleased version of "Uncle Sam", called "I'm Uncle Sam", uses only a
fraction of the original track and is utterly pointless. The last version of "Uncle Sam" is from the 2002
Hawkfest, indeed is presumably the same performance that appears on the Hawkfest double CD. It appears
to be Astralasia doing a live remix of the original HW track, with new live guitar and featuring Simon House
on live violin. To be fair, it isn't bad.
Just in case you have any doubts about the merit of the CD, remember that Voiceprint first advertised it as a
forthcoming Hawkwind CD and it briefly appeared as "Hawkwind v Astralasia" before disappearing without
trace. Apparently it is now a rarity, since it was recently being sold for £30 on Amazon. Could it be that
someone objected to it being passed off as a new Hawkwind album? Anyway, now it has re-emerged as an
Astralasia CD under the new title (although the CD label on my copy still bears the original title, suggesting
that the original pressing may not be as rare as supposed! While Voiceprint deserve great credit for keeping
the Hawkwind flag flying, especially with TMTYL and the various archive live albums, this really is for
completists only, although no doubt a collector's item if it has the original cover.
Worth a listen: Spiral Realms - A Trip To G9 & The Crystal Jungles Of Eos
When these reissues appeared in 2004, the story was apparently that Simon House didn't like what Len del
Rio had done to his tunes and wanted to present them as originally conceived. On both these double albums
the additional versions are labelled as "remixes" and (hardly surprising, given that these are Voiceprint
releases) the minimalistic sleeve notes don't provide any explanation. The cover pictures are quite different
(I'd say inferior) to the originals, replacing some fine planet-scapes with a distorted face and (taking things
a bit literally) a picture of a jungle respectively.
The first CD in the 2-CD version of A Trip to G9 is simply the original version of the album. On the second
disk of "remixes", the order of tracks has been changed around, there are some differences in the length of
the tracks, and the short "Elements II" is gone. Although all the remaining tracks retain the same basic
shape, the sound is less busy (presumably some Len Del Rio parts have been removed), and the melodies
are consequently a bit more prominent.
The revised sequence of tracks on the remix album is an improvement, kicking off with "1000 Years Under
Solar Sails", the title track following. The unnecessary commentary has gone from the latter, leaving a
gentler and more melodic sound, and there is an extended fade-out. However, while all the tracks work well
individually, especially the title track itself, the album as a whole has a very homogeneous sound, all
merging into a symphonic soup of syrupy synths and keening violin. Perhaps Len Del Rio's additions were
a good thing after all.
Listening to the original version of Crystal Jungles of Eos (credited to Simon House with Spiral Realms on
this re-issue), the opening "Cysergy" really doesn't need the Apollo commentary and it was undoubtedly a
mistake to sequence all the strongest tracks so early in the set. Again, the tempo and the sonic palette
hardly vary. Having said that, after a couple of listens the tracks start to reveal their individual identities, and
virtually every track has its moments. In my original review I used the phrase "supermarket musak" but, to
be fair, so long as you don't expect rock music, it's really pretty good. It also suggests that Simon House
could make a decent living writing film scores.
The second CD of "remixes" benefits from both the removal of extraneous additional noise (such as the
Apollo commentary) and from some judicious re-sequencing. Being raised on rock, I still prefer tracks
which have structure and preferably a solid rhythmic core. "Cysergy" (now track 3 instead of track 1) and
"View From Ganymede" (now track 7 instead of track 3) score highest from this point of view, even if the
rhythm tracks are keyboard-based. The latter track also features the most memorable melody - and a synth
sound reminiscent of Tim Blake's work. "Rush Hour Betelgeuse 5" is strong enough to work as an opener
(previously it was track 2) and "Ice Crystals Of Charon" (track 8 here and 9 on the original) has an
undercurrent of menace and a melodic motif that recalls the soundtrack of the recent Lord of the Rings
films. Only "Solar Wind" really drags and has now been mercifully moved to the end of the album.
Somewhat bizarrely, right at the end of the CD, the intro of a 10th track is abruptly cut off. Possibly this is
simply the start of "Parsecs", which followed "Solar Wind" on the original album.
Worth a listen (but not for everyone!): Judy Dyble - Spindle & The Whorl
lesser tracks (one on each album). However, this is neither folk rock nor space rock and should probably be
filed under "New Age Music". The project is directed by -and most of the music is written by- Astralasia's
Mark Swordfish. Other players include Robert Fripp and Peter Pracownik. An article in Record Collector
(September 2007) alerted me to the existence of these CDs and is as good a place as any to find out about
Probably only the rather good remake of Pink Floyd's "See Emily Play" on "Spindle" is going to get the blood
moving. The other, rather less exciting, remake is King Crimson's "I Talk To The Wind" (on "The Whorl"),
which Judy originally recorded with Giles, Giles and Fripp before they became King Crimson, and is closer
in spirit and feel to most of the other tracks here. However, at worst this is superior chill-out music: gentle
arrangements adorned by Judy Dyble's breathy vocals and whimsical lyrics ("we watch the same sunset,
and we breathe the same air") - although the words do sometimes veer towards the twee ("so all you
maidens listen here, to what I say to you, just keep your vest and wellies on, when roaming in the dew").
Simon House contributes stately and tasteful violin accompaniment throughout these CDs, and only the only
glimmer of space rock in his work is on "See Emily Play".
Both CDs appeared on Talking Elephant in 2006 (TECD084 and TECD094). Judy Dyble has a myspace site
where you can hear excerpts from four of the songs and another one (her home page) where you can be
instantly put off by the picture of a fairy in the home page header! These CDs are about as far away from
Hawkwind as anything I've reviewed so far but I'd be interested in hearing Judy sing Hawkwind material!
These two CDs,
essentially two parts of
the same project, are as
Convention family tree as
the lyrics and vocals are
by Judy Dyble (lead
singer on the first
Fairport album), while
Simon House provides
violins, keyboards and
string arrangements, and
co-writes a couple of the
Well Worth A Listen (2Â½ stars): The Brock-Calvert Project
It's good to see that this is finally out, even if it isn't a
mainstream Hawkwind release, more a clearing of the
decks. (On the new product front it looks as though
Nik Turner's Space Ritual may, against all the odds,
prove that the creative force is with them, at least if
"Otherworld" appears as promised).
Because it is based around the spoken word, the
music is necessarily low key. To state the obvious,
poetry works if the words succeed in evoking the
right images and if the music distracts from or
overpowers the voice, then the purpose is lost.
Overall, as long as you don't expect Hawkwind per
se, this is a pleasure to listen to, the musical
accompaniment generally enhancing rather than
detracting from Calvert's voice and imagery. You do
have to listen though, it's no good as background
music. This being a joint Hawkwind-Voiceprint
venture, there are of course minor irritations - there are 12 titles but only 11 tracks on the CD, and not much
in the way of sleeve notes. What is there, "a little explanation" from Dave Brock, indicates that this is,
literally, half the album it could have been due to problems with the computer on which the material was
stored. The CD also includes a refugee from the TMTYL sessions, "Long Time Friend", which is
presumably why the whole band is credited with appearing.
The first half of the CD comprises musical settings of readings of some of Bob Calvert's science
fiction/fantasy themed poems. It starts in very familiar territory, namely "First Landing On Medusa", a title
which also appeared (albeit with Brock doing the vocals) on both Weird 7 and Spacebrock, and the first part
of which is of course better known as "The Awakening" from the Space Ritual album. Here, Bob recites the
complete lyric against an understated backdrop of spacey effects and, despite the familiarity of the material,
Bob's voice successfully conveys the drama, indeed the implied tragedy, of a classic science fiction story.
Piano, synth, percussion and guest vocals from Trixie Smith form a wistful and tasteful backdrop to "The
Siren", another success. The familiar "Ode To A Timeflower" is underpinned by dense percussion and
synths and just about survives. "Small Boy (The Swing)"is the first track on which the guitar is prominent
(although of course still understated). A repeated piano riff, backed by percussion and guitar, ups the tempo
slightly for "Centrigrade 232" (aka the lyrics of the verses for "Fahrenheit 451" on "Choose Your Masques").
Some jaunty synths and vocal interludes from Trixie Smith create a not entirely welcome disco vibe but
there are also some genuine Hawkwind moments when Brock drives the track forward with trademark
rhythm guitar. Despite all that's going on, the words have room to breathe and the track really works.
The second half of the CD is generally less familiar and, while it starts and ends well, definitely sags in the
middle. An insistent percussion track drives the cocktail jazz of "Dance Steps". The music threatens to
overwhelm the voice on "The Naked And Transparent Man Gives Thanks". "The Cupboard" is an
unaccompanied Calvert rant, rather than a poem, in which he imagines himself locked in a cupboard, railing
ineffectually against his imagined captors; quite amusing first time around but much less palatable on
repeated listening. "Long Time Friend" is a Stuart/Brock composition, musically a thin confection, with an
unmemorable tune and sung by Brock. The lyrics, which I suppose could be about Calvert, lack the
elegance of the Calvert poems.
The penultimate track is presumably both a "Letter Of Complaint To The Council" and "Locked In". The
latter part, which I'm guessing is "Locked In", has Calvert mixed so low as to be barely audible, even over
the minimalist cocktail jazz accompaniment. Music and voice are though turned up for the closing "Some
Sketches Of A Hand".
Like the forthcoming CD reissue of "Centigrade 232" this is a must if you like Calvert's work and all credit
to Dave Brock for seeing the project through to completion.
Addendum by Steve: I've really very little to add to Graham's review as I think he has absolutely hit the bull's
eye in terms of the overall quality of the album and in his characterisations of the individual tracks. But there
are a couple of things apparent on first listening, and these are to do with the sound of the work as a whole.
We had already had a preview of the album with Small Boy (The Swing) having featured on Take Me To
Your Future, and that really typifies the template from which this album has been drawn. Bob's voice is
somewhat distanced by the slight loss of sound quality caused by the medium from which his recitations
were lifted (see the sleeve notes below). This actually enhances the feel of the album with subliminal
notions of Bob's disembodied voice being returned to us on radio waves held captive for years in the gravity
well of a dense near-singularity. And the complementary music with which the Captain has chosen to
accompany Bob's voice also has a singular thematic quality to it. In his review, Graham mentioned the
dancey, jazzy stylings, and this stuff really slots in neatly alongside Hawkwind's recent ventures in that
direction, but more appositely, reflects the long-term development of Dave Brock's solo recordings. In
terms of production quality and compositional achievement this is light years advanced from, say, Earthed
To The Ground, but you can see a clear progression from that album through the Weird 7 demo recordings,
to the Agents of Chaos album, and then on to Spacebrock and Memos and Demos, as stops along the way
to these highly accomplished, even sophisticated, instrumental soundscapes.
Well, they would be instrumental except for Bob's recitations of course, and some fairly cursory sleeve
notes explain how that came about: "I had a cassette tape of Bob's poems for many years, of which I passed
on to Trevor Hughes, who gave it to Jill Calvert, who gave it to Rob Ayling, who gave it back to me and
asked me to put some music to them. This I did. Then the computer on which I had recorded everything had
been tampered with and half the mixes were lost (we will eventually retrieve them!) These are the ones that
survived. And for those who do not know - Bob died...1988. I had many years of pleasure playing in
Hawkwind with him. (Dave Brock - June 6th 2006)"
I would take issue with one thing in Graham's review, where he reckons Nik Turner's Space Ritual are set
to outdo Hawkwind in terms of creativity, as they have a CD called "Otherworld" about to be released.
While that's to be applauded, the tracklisting I've seen contains a number of 'new' songs (cough) such as
Sonic Savages which actually date from the early 80's at the latest. And I know I'm being petty now, but
while Nik et al have been gestating this forthcoming studio album, Hawkwind have arguably pushed three
studio titles out into the marketplace with Take Me To Your Leader, Take Me To Your Future and the Brock
/ Calvert Project. Oh well all right then, two-and-a-half, or two, or even one-and-a-half if you insist. (Who's
being petty now? :-).
On a lighter note, the last point I wish to make is to query Graham's description of track 8 'The Cupboard'
as "an unaccompanied Calvert rant." My theory is that this is a live recording of Sheffield City Council's
Health & Safety inspector on the 20th of November 1979. He'd gone to the City Hall to check on the lasers
that were being used as part of the stage show on the Winter '79 UK tour. When he announced that the
band wouldn't be allowed to use the lasers, Dave Brock locked him in a cupboard and didn't let him out until
the show was over! If you don't believe me, it's all here...thank goodness the occasion was preserved for
posterity in this way :-)