Music from the Hawkwind family tree - Part 25

Thanks to Graham for these reviews - except where noted otherwise, of course
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Approach With Caution : Meads of Asphodel  - The Mill Hill Sessions
When Alan Davey left the Hawks for the second time
in June 2007, one of the bands he stayed with was
The Meads. They have a Myspace page (where they
describe themselves as "black metal / experimental /
folk") as well as good
band website (which I
presently can't access after upgrading to Windows
Vista!)

On this 2003 album, Alan Davey contributes bass to
three tracks:  "Guts For Sale", "Sons of Ahak Rise",
and a rather lumpen cover of "(Arrival in) Utopia".  
There is added Hawkwind interest as Huw Lloyd
Langton plays guitar on the latter two.

Across the album, the music ranges from ferocious
death metal through gentle acoustic passages to
electronic muzak (the last two, mainly
keyboard-based pieces) and is generally varied
enough to
maintain interest. Metatron's gargled vocals are presumably death metal standard issue but I can't say they
do very much for me; nor does the band fetish for dressing up as crusaders. Those of sensitive or (in
particular) religious disposition should note that the lyrics are profoundly and angrily anti-religious. While
Lemmy treated similar topics with some sensitivity (see "God Was Never On Your Side" on the last
Motorhead album), the Meads go for the jugular and never let go. First prize for lyrical directness goes to
the charmingly titled 10th track, "On Graven Images I Glide Beyond The Monstrous Gates Of
Pandemonium To Face The Baptised Warriors Of Yahweh In The Skull-Littered Plain Of Esdraelon", which
provides a Sonic Attack-like soundtrack to Armageddon ("if your loved ones are disembowelled, do not
panic", etc), complete with realistic sound effects, the take-home message of which is basically "God is
f****ing with you". This is one of two band-composed tracks for which the lyrics don't appear in the CD
booklet, probably a wise move.

The first track with Alan Davey's bass on it is "Guts For Sale" which, aside from the growled vocal and
apocalyptic lyrics, is restrained and tuneful rock, built up from strummed guitar, synth and bass - and not a
million miles away from some of Alan's own instrumental pieces. Next up is the cover of "Utopia". Here the
snarled vocal detracts from a faithful if rather plodding rendition of this Hawkwind standard. Huw
contributes lead but his playing is rather lost in the mix. Both ex-Hawks also appear on the much heavier
"Sons of Anak Arise". Occasional acoustic interludes do little to sweeten the track which, lyrically, appears
to mourn the loss of the fallen giants of the family of Anak, who driven out by the Israelites from the
biblical land of milk and honey. See The Book of Numbers for further details or, alternatively, do what I did
and look it up in the Wikipedia!

Undoubtedly an interesting album but not one you'll play much at parties, except possibly when you want
everyone else to leave. Available on Amazon (Supernal, Ferly010CD) - I've not so far seen the Meads' CDs
in any record shops.
This 2005 offering from the Meads consists mainly of session
versions of previously released tracks.  It features Alan Davey
on all tracks and Huw Lloyd Langton on the twenty-three-
minutes-long seventh track.  The first six tracks, from 2003,
lack the polish and light-and-shade evident on the studio set,
not least because the regular keyboard players were absent.  
All are basically uncompromising thrash.

The final track, "My Beautiful Genocide", is described as a
work-in-progress in the sleeve notes but it is the best track by
some distance.  It's a more varied and structured piece, on
which Huw can be heard improvising some fine lead lines as
well as contributing acoustic guitar.  This too is available from
Amazon (Edgy, FAFF04CD).
Worth a listen: The Meads of Asphodel - Exhuming the Grave of Yeshua
One Of The Best : Pre-Med - The Truth About Us
Alan Davey has stepped up his productivity an order
of magnitude now free of the Hawks. In Pre-Med he
plays second fiddle (all right, bass) to Danny
Faulkner, neither writing nor singing any of the
material on this album. No matter however, because
Danny Faulkner more than pulls his weight in the
songwriting and vocal departments and Alan provides
solid backing. This is an excellent album.

Proceedings kick off with the aggressive, driving,
space rock of "Cerebral Escape", a good opener ,
followed by the similarly excellent "Wallpaper
Warriors" and the melody-free riff-fest that is "The
Crowning of the Acid King", my least favourite track
on the album. "SHTP" provides some welcome
instrumental light relief and "Death Of A Star" is a
very fine space ballad.
The title track opens with a slightly woozy synth line (which reminded me of the intro to Camel's "Lunar
Sea") while song itself is pitched, both rhythmically and melodically, somewhere between "PXR5" and its
ancestor "Where Are They Now", and is only slightly spoiled by a spoken section in the middle.

No marks for originality but 10 out of 10 for good taste, next up is an excellent cover of "The Demented
Man". About time the Mothership revived this one I think! "Has The World Gone Insane" is the sort of
driving minor key space ballad that the Hawks used to have trademarked. Despite its title "Debouch" is a
tasteful ballad and rounds off the album nicely.

In case there was any doubt about the demographic for this album, Voiceprint have released it on their
Hawk imprint (HAWKVP43CD). Go and buy it if you didn'´t already!
Approach With Caution : Bluehorses - Ten Leagues Beyond The Wild World's End
A guest appearance that is mentioned in the
Wikipedia entry for Mr Turner. On an album of
rocked up folk, Turner contributes so-so sax breaks
to two tunes, one optimistically described as space
rock in the sleeve notes. It's not a bad album as
such, but not a major entry in the canon of guest
appearances. You can buy it from the band website  
(
http://www.nativespirit.co.uk ), where more
recent video footage suggests the band have now
morphed into the folk rock Motorhead -jigs and
reels mixed with black leather and crunching heavy
metal.

[Graham, you forgot to mention their Irish/Welsh
Gothess, Lizzie Prendergast!]
Approach With Caution : Green Ritual - Nik Turner (DVD)
Available from the Planet Gong website (see this
page at the Kazbah) this DVD captures a low-key
appearance by Nik backed by several of the usual
suspects at the 2003 Green Gathering. Nik has
regained a lot of credibility through the truly
exceptional Space Ritual album "Otherworld" but,
although he is clearly enjoying himself, this wasn't
one of his better sets.

The rather irritating visual effects have apparently
been added in an attempt to cover up a thoroughly
limp performance of an utterly predictable early
Hawkwind-based set (Ejection, Brainstorm, Sonic
Attack, Orgone Accumulator, Children Of The
Sun, D Rider and Master Of The Universe). Ron
Tree on bass and Trev Thoms on guitar fail to set
things alight, not helped by the absence of a
drummer.

Jackie Windmill contributes percussion and
unwelcome backing vocals, spoiling an otherwise
promising reading of "Children Of The Sun". Angie
as ever offers eye candy for the heterosexual males
in the audience and Alice Rhubarb presumabl
y
appeals to those whose tastes run to bricklayers in
mini-dresses. Only on "Master Of The Universe"
does the band really gel.
Worth a listen: Alan Davey - Four Track Mind Volume 1 and 2
Alan Davey's departure from Hawkwind seems to just the
release he needed, with numerous current and forthcoming
collaborations and a new solo album all in the works. He's also
taken time to dust off various home recordings that had never
before seen the light of day, four CD's worth of which are
due to be issued through his website. Volume 1 feature tracks
from 1986-88. Most are assembled from simple melodic or
rhythmic ideas; fragments waiting for a song to call home. Of
course, as a compositional method this can be used to great
effect, such as when Brian Wilson assembled various "feels"
into tracks like "Good Vibrations". Rest assured though that
this is not in the same league! The problem is that, rather than
being woven into a coherent whole, most of these fragments
are simply repeate
d and spun out over 3 to 6 minutes:
inspiration tends to be stretched a bit thin.

Generally the sound is good and there are plenty of nice touches in the electronic soup. Certain artists
(Jean-Michel Jarre comes to mind) have made successful careers out of this kind of stuff but we've
learned to expect rather more from Mr Davey. "Spiritual Modulator" features a repetitive guitar figure and
plenty of spacey effects over electronic percussion and could easily have fitted onto single b-side around
the time of "Black Sword".  "REM Time" is a dreamy synth-based instrumental, perfect for a sci-film track.
"Chinese Whispers" alternates between a ghostly synth figure and a bass and guitar driven rocker.
"Transient" is a straightforward bass-driven riff fest. A gentle (synthetic?) acoustic guitar line and synth
melody keep "Slumber Head" just this side of totally dull. And so on. Interesting to hear once, possibly not
all in the same sitting, but that's about it.
Volume 2 also kicks off with a version of "Spiritual
Modulator", a good opportunity to measure progress achieved
over 2 years.  While the original version has a good riff,
compared to the updated version it sounds stilted and
mechanical. Two years on and AD has definitely learned
some arrangement and production tricks. Thus the new
"Spiritual Modulator" has been speeded up and edited to
sound much slicker.  The set is bolstered by several familiar
tunes. "Chasing the Dragon" and "Wings" are pretty much
fully formed, complete with vocals, "The Call" is just lacking
Ron Tree's vocals, and "Back In The Box" is a very familiar
riff. Not essential but considerably more enjoyable than
Volume 1.
Approach With Caution : Spirits Burning & Bridgett Wishart - Earth Born
This album features the talents of no less than six
Hawk family members: Bridgett Wishart, Simon
House, Richard Chadwick, Alan Davey, Steve
Swindells and Jerry Richards. Also present are Steve
Bemand (sometime Hawkwind guest), Daevid Allen
and Don Falcone, among others. The 13 tracks all
seem to have been written by committee, with one
group of writers credited with each original song and
another with rewriting it, which possibly accounts
for the lack of focus in some of the material. Overall
it is very much a game of two halves: we kick off
with what could be characterised as a series of mildly
spacey folk jams, which vary from slight but pleasant
to totally vacuous and rather irritating. If you can get
past this (and the ghastly nursery rhyme song
"Crafted From Wood"), the second half offers mor
e
traditional songwriting fare, with strings and brass
dominating more measured and stately arrangements
and Bridgett singing more focused lyrics on simple themes such as love and loss. You will by now have
correctly concluded that this is as far away from Hawkwind as you could possibly get but if you have
broad musical tastes you may find it is worth your attention.

The first track, "Earth Born" is a promising start: originally a Bemand / Chadwick / Davey / Wishart
composition, with Simon House's keening violin evident low down in the mix and Bridget singing about
earth, trees, sand and sky. The melody is slight but pleasant and the overall feel relaxed and dreamy.
Several more light and fluffy confections ("One Way Trip", "Always", Sarah's Surprise", "Hit The Moon")
waft past, lovingly garnished with understated instrumentation and only the barest hint of hummable
melodies. Bridgett's lyrics are at best opaque and she half speaks, half chants, with about as much
engagement as if she was reading her shopping list.

Track 6, "Two Friends" is a relative highlight with some nice piano and flugelhorn, Daevid Allen on guitars,
Richard Chadwick on "storm drums" and Bridgett offering both intelligible lyrics and a more engaging
performance. The following "Behind The Veil" doesn't quite maintain the momentum and "Crafted From
Wood" represents the nadir, a nursery rhyme take on the theme of where we all come from...but from here
on in the album starts to come alive, albeit as rather more conventional chamber pop with little of the "hello
flowers, hello trees" hippy space-folk that's gone before.

"Child Growing" is built on melancholy synth and violin lines (not from Mr House this time), a simple
rhythmic pulse and Bridgett again fully engaged. "Candles" is a simple and elegant devotional song featuring
Bridgett on clarinet and co-lead vocals (with Don Falcone) and Alan Davey contributing double-bass.  
"Storm Shelter" swings sedately, with synthesised brass and real trombone, while Bridgett gushes through
some truly syrupy lyrics. "Evening" is another pleasant song, of loss rather than love, with Bridgett
contributing tasteful sax as well as vocals.   "Dancers At The End Of..." completes the album with an
elegant and measured meditation on the joy of dancing. Like I said, definitely not Hawkwind!

The album was released in 2008 on Voiceprint (VP431), who presumably are hoping that Hawkwind fans
will pick up on it.
This "tribute album" from 2003 (Godreah Records)
features a variety of acts covering Hawkwind songs,
among them various Hawk friends and relations,
some tracks being previously released elsewhere. My
copy is on CD but there is also a vinyl album with
some different tracks on it. There are already several
reviews of this out there (including two on the
Starfarer site) but my excuse for adding mine now is
that I have only just listened to the CD. There is of
course a fundamental problem with tribute albums:
the artists either stick close to the original blueprint,
in which case, the exercise is pointless, or they try to
do something different, and nine times out of ten you
wish they hadnt!

Tim Blakes version of "Spirit Of The Age" preserves
the melody and spacey synths of the
original but is
also wishy-washy and anodyne, although he adds some improvised vocals at the end. Dibs and"Spacehead"
are largely beyond reproach and, although not subtle, they put enough welly and whooshing noises into
their rendition of "The Right Stuff" to make it work. The Meads of Asphodel bludgeon (Arrival In) "Utopia"
lovingly to death, with Alan Davey and Huw Lloyd Langton providing some authentic Hawk input. Bedouin
(recorded live) attack Alan Davey's own "Sword Of The East" with considerable relish, although Alan's
rasped vocal is a bit painful. Spirits Burning sometimes feature various ex-Hawks. Their recreation of "High
Rise" is pretty faithful, complete with melodramatic vocals. I'm not sure if Simon House plays on it but the
violin sound is authentic and the closing guitar solo also excellent. The Lloyd Langton Band play a sadly
lacklustre version of Huw's own "Moonglum". Harvey Bainbridge performs his own "Acid House Of
Dreams" (otherwise known as "Dreamworker"), a track which I've always hated and which I am not about
to change my mind about, even if this is a perfectly adequate rendition.

Of the non-Hawks, some do better than others. Amorphis offer a lively and energetic take on "Levitation".
Silver Machine do "Silver Machine" with glam influenced vocals. Murkin deliver a nicely understated "Psi
Power". Over Mars tackle the mighty "Magnu" and, while their singer is no Dave Brock, at least this
version doesn't end with 5 minutes of dalek impressions (as per the original)! Alpha and Omega deliver
"Reefer Madness" as rowdy Australian pub (space) rock. Brainstorm arrange "Master Of The Universe" as
if it was "Children Of The Sun", with heavy strummed guitars and flute, plus some nice lead guitar lines.
DarXstar add a sinuous violin track to a tasteful rendition of "The Watcher".

I can't tell you about Sigh's "Psychedelic Warlords" because my CD player refused to play it. The rest of
the album's tracks though are pointless or worse. Litmus recreate "Paradox" fairly faithfully but sound
stilted and add nothing to the original. The Enchanted provide a hilariously hideous gargled death metal
version of "Song Of The Swords", which is almost but not quite the worst thing on here. Quarkspace
deliver "Quark, Strangeness & Charm" much as you imagine Chas and Dave might do. ST37 do turn
"Orgone Accumulator" into a grungy soup, with vocals apparently phoned in from the bathroom. History of
Guns offer another version of "Magnu" (titled "Magnu Reprise"), with semi-spoken vocals and a horribly
brittle computerised sound. At least it is short. Farflung do a passable version of "Robot" but, much like
some recent Hawkwind versions, it just grates. Marshan take "Hurry On Sundown" down to the local folk
club and deliver a singalong version. Circle's instrumental version of (allegedly) "Don't Understand" is
directionless, basically unlistenable and has no discernible relationship with the original Hawkwind track.
Acid King play "Motorhead" at one quarter speed and turn it into a monotonous stoner anthem. Beggars
Farm present a measured acoustic version of "We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago" which just isn't
interesting. Sloterdijk dare to defile the sacred "Golden Void" and, despite some decent guitar work in the
middle, this version should have been put down at birth. Acid Mothers Temple offer a seriously deranged,
grotesque and unlistenable take on "You Know You're Only Dreaming" to bring the collection to a sorry end.

Overall this could have been a strong(ish) single album but as a double album it contains far too much that
is filler or worse. There is nothing here that will turn a non-fan onto Hawkwind and very little that doesn't
make you wish you were listening to the original versions.
Approach With Caution : Various Artists - Daze Of The Underground