|Music from the Hawkwind family tree - Part 26
Thanks to Graham for these reviews - except where noted otherwise, of course
Worth A Listen: Space Ritual - Naked
There is a novel by Terry Pratchett that is billed as
having been co-authored by the young Pratchett
(aged 17) and his mature self (aged 43). This is a
similar concept, a latter day updating of the musical
adventures of the young Alan Davey, friends and
The album kicks off with "Night Song", which pretty
much sets the tone for the album: Bomber-era
Motorhead with a melodic pop sheen and dodgy
lyrics. Much of what follows is variations on this
basic theme, ranging from slightly poppy Motorhead
("Blitzkrieg Baby") to straight-down-the-line
more-Motorhead-than-Motorhead ("Don't Need You",
"Gunslinger"). Personal favourites are "Cyanide", a
slower and more downbeat number, the storming
"Shellshocked" and the epic "Warhorse", all of which
would fit nicely on a Hawkwind album. Possibly the
lyrics are deliberately dumb or were penned by the 17-year old songwriter. Some choice selections are:
"You slept with my best friend...¦" (Savage Love), "I really like the suspenders, they turn me on" (Blitzkrieg
Baby), and "You call me bad names" (Don't Need You). It isn't all teenage hormones though and after a few
plays the sheer musical power and unrelenting energy of the performances overwhelms any such concerns.
This thoroughly entertaining CD is an essential purchase for any Hawkwind aficionado.
Oh no, not another live set of dodgy Hawkwind
covers by Nik, Trev and chums! Actually though,
this one really isn't bad. Obviously, this is not the
modern day Space Ritual, nor the fine 1994 touring
band. I'm also not sure either that it is, as Nik
describes it (while introducing the band), "the spirit
of Hawkwind". As the back cover blurb makes clear,
this is the remnants of the 1994 touring band (Fox
and Greñas of Pressurehed) augmented by Trev
Thoms, Rick Welsh, Jim Hawkman and Joe Blake.
The brief sleeve notes, incidentally, are very much
from the Real Festival Music school of blatantly
Nik is in good form on sax and flute and Rick
Welsh's trumpet provides an added dimension to the
sound as well as someone for Nik to play off. The
One Of The Best: Gunslinger - Earthquake in E Minor
juxtaposition of splashes of trumpet and crazed sax over heavy rock rhythms probably shouldn't work but
it does. Nik's vocals are a bit hit-and-miss, with his performance at the start of "Orgone Accumulator"
particularly wayward. Nevertheless, the band is together, the sound quality is good, and this is a million
miles from, say, the pitiful "Pinkwind" and "Hawkfairies" sets.
So, we get the obligatory Calvert cover ("Ejection") and the inevitable "Watching The Grass Grow" from
ICU. "Dance Of The Fairies" is rocked up folk, familiar from various previous recordings, and gives Nik
the chance to play flute, as does the less familiar and more sedate "Serenade To A Cuckoo". Even the
dreaded Sphynx track "Thoth" is listenable as played here. The rest of the set is of course made up of early
Hawkwind staples: Brainstorm, Master of the Universe, Sonic Attack, Orgone Accumulator and an
extended jam around Silver Machine. Marks are docked for including a truncated version of "Brainstorm" -
the beginning was lost due to changing tapes!
Although this is very much a budget release, with only the name of the band and album printed on the CD,
no label name or catalogue number, and a simple plastic sleeve with printed insert, at least it is a CD and
not a CDR.
(Probably) Worth a listen: Alan Davey - Four Track Mind Volume 3
This starts out very differently to the first two volumes. "Lost
In The Smoke" is a grungy riff-based sketch with little more
than rhythm guitar, drum machine and vocals. The lyrics
though refer to a "Spiritual modulator", hence some continuity
with volumes 1 and 2. The demo version of "Snake Dance"
sounds fairly similar - a basic track with few frills, although
the lead guitar work makes it clear that Mr Brock added little
to this when it was recorded. Anyway, a promising start. The
third track, "Up And Up" is another riff-based affair. Although
the arrangement is fuller this time, with plenty of synth
effects, the repetitiveness becomes irritating - although it does
have a atmospheric synth break.
A series of synth-based instrumentals follows. "The Animal"
mixes a Tubeway Army-style backing with slowed-down
spoken vocals. After that though we get a slew of trademark smooth, tasteful, atmospheric space
instrumentals: "From The Deep", "Blue Shift", "OSC Squared", "Stan's Middle 8", "Astron Belt", "Special
Place". Taken all together in one sitting they are frankly boring. "Received" is pure effects and no melody.
Finally, just when you think it's time for a game of CD Frisbee, "Fear At Night" raises the game again and
an instrumental version of "Xenomorph" is excellent. "Wave Upon Wave" takes us back to dreamy
instrumental land. The closing "Space To Go" takes the "Space is there" Calvert vocal sample and bodges it
over a basic percussion track and what sounds like a sample of "Born To Go". Proof that sound collages
really don't always work.
Hence, after a good start, this ends up being the least interesting of the three volumes so far. Probably
worth a listen, and resequencing the track list could have made it much more palatable, but far from
Worth A Listen: The Stranglers and friends- Live in Concert
Nik Turner has contributed to an extraordinary number of albums over the
years and will play guest sax on just about anything. On this workmanlike
live album recorded in 1981 he adds appropriate sax squeals and honks to
"Nice'n'Sleazy" and is especially prominent in the extended middle section
(and for my money the Stranglers do reggae rather more effectively than
Hawkwind). The track is not bad but on my copy (an inferior re-issue on
Hallmark that sheds four of the original 17 tracks) it is immediately followed
by Toyah Wilcox singing "Duchess", which like many of the tracks isn't a
patch on the original.
Approach With Caution: Alan Davey - Four Track Mind Volume 4
The immediate problem here is not quality but
over-familiarity, with no less than five tracks that
have already featured on either The Final Call and
Chaos Delight (I am not sure how different these
versions are since I didn't go back to the originals),
and one demo of a Hawkwind track. Aside from that,
much like volume 3, this CD suffers from a surfeit
of spacey instrumentals. Most of these pieces have
some individual merit but putting them all
back-to-back creates a musical experience that is
frequently dull and occasionally teeth-grindingly bad,
with too few interesting stops along the way.
The opening "Greenback Massacre" is an
instrumental version of the HW track and seriously
rocks. Unfortunately it is downhill from here on in.
"Shahadah" is not a high point of The Final Call and
the three-and-a-half minute sound collage / call to prayer, with which the track starts, is really dull although
the last two minutes of muscular riffing are fine. Then we get the oppressive atmospherics of "Many
Voices" and fluffy cloudscapes of "Bird Nebula", both Final Call tracks. The unpromisingly titled "Creamy"
is actually rather good, a lush synth-driven piece that would not disgrace a Tim Blake album.
"Holosuite Programme" by contrast is irritatingly repetitive (I wish he would switch off that bloody
cowbell!) and already familiar from Chaos Delight. From the same album comes the following
"Assimilation", a clodhopping riff liberally sprinkled with synths and effects that comes alive when the bass
drops in mid-way through. After this we remain with unfamiliar titles, if not in unfamiliar territory. "Alien
Fingers" and "The Wind" are of course spacey synth instrumentals, although both are concise. "Be Still" is
another of the trademark lush and dreamy pieces...¦ you get the picture.
"Magic B" sounds like it is building up to something good, with an insistent bassline and some nice guitar
shapes, but then just fizzles out: an intro in need of a song! The first half of "LGM" is possibly the last
word in minimalist repetition. File under "really b****y irritating". However the flute and synth-choir on the
second half just about rescue it. "In The Game" is another of those unsettling pieces (see "Many Voices")
waiting to become part of a horror movie soundtrack. Please make it stop!! Last up is "Reality Foil
(Anthony Bernstein 2007)" on which our hero is providing the musical backing to a speech about planets
My advice to the uncommitted would be to stick with the thoroughly excellent current releases Human on
the Outside and Earthquake in D Minor. For those who can't let it lie, there is material here of both
historical interest and some musical merit but the pleasures are hard earned and if you play it over the
speakers you will undoubtedly get that uncomfortable 'what the hell is that?' reaction from any normal
friends or flatmates you still have.
Approach With Caution: Autumn - Oceanworld
When this CD mini-album first appeared in 1999, some sellers highlighted the
alleged Hawkwind connection, namely the appearance of the late Rob Heaton,
better known as drummer with New Model Army, but briefly occupying the
mothership drumstool in 1983. However, it is basically the work of ex-Enid
keyboardist and sometime Steve Hackett (ex-Genesis) collaborator Nick Magnus.
[Though it's worth noting that Nick Magnus was in The Enid only very briefly -
probably for as long as Rob Heaton was in Hawkwind.] The content is
symphonic instrumental prog mainly in the Camel / Genesis mode, although the opening and closing
sections of "Some Like It Crunchy" sound like a cross between Be-Bop Deluxe and Manfred Mann's
Earthband. Very pleasant and not in the least bit Hawkwind-like.
Melodic Energy Commission - Moon Phase Compendium
Or, what Del Dettmar did after he migrated to Canada.
I would love to be able to report that this is a little heard
psychedelic gem but frankly most of it, and especially the
first half, makes "One Change" and "Goat Willow" sound
like Mozart symphonies by comparison. This is basically
two albums in one package, kicking off with "Migration of
the Snails" (the second album, from 1980). This is
characterised by lazy electronic beats, sub-operatic female
vocals and crazed spoken word ramblings about migrating
snails and the like, weaving in and out of a seemingly
random collage of instrumentation, some hinting at
melody, other parts hinting at strangled cats. Like the audio
doodlings of Daevid Allen and Harvey Bainbridge's
lovechild. On bad drugs. Del Dettmar co-wrote several of
these tracks. Remarkably enough, the compilation is a
game of two halves. After eight tracks of unlistenable molluscan dreck, some of the "Stranger in Mystery"
tracks (the first album, from 1979) are an improvement. Silver Spider", compared to what went before, is
a minor triumph: initially understated and solemn, with wordless singing underpinned by subtle synths, it
changes midway into electronic fluff (Del's on this one). Don't get me wrong, the album is not actually any
good, it just isn't all painful to listen to. Mind you, the title track, "Stranger in Mystery" is fairly trying, with
its faux-Chinese plinking and violin scrapings, and "Day on Gate Street" features sampled dog barks. Del
plays synth on "Song of the Dellatron" and this is not a high point of the album. Its 7¾ minutes feel like an
Overall, this is the kind of CD that makes me think kindly about
Nik Turner's serial butchery of the Hawkwind back-catalog, hum
the choruses from "Interstellar Chaos" and put "Music from
MacBeth" on the iPod. (OK, the bit about Music from MacBeth
was a lie.)
If this has whetted your appetite, MEC released a new CD in 2005
("Time is a Slippery Concept"), an excerpt from which is on the
CD Services compilation "Psytrax 1" [pictured right]. I don't
know if Del is on it but it is at the less offensive end of Melodic
Energy Commisson's sonic palette.
over 10 minutes, serving to obliterate the unpleasant memories of the preceding four tracks. After "The
Ghost of Death" (you've guessed it, spooky instrumental), "Airlock 1" also has some not unpleasant heavy
repetitive riffing buried under the aural sludge, although it appears to be exactly the same as the track of
the same name on "Empire of the Night". " Delphi (live)" is a fairly effective bludgeoning space rock
instrumental, and also previously appeared on "Empire of the Night" as a studio track. "The Future" is an
actual song which moves along nicely and has an almost conventional chorus (not tuneful or anything like
that, obviously, but still...¦). "The Last" is another sound collage with spoken female vocal. Think
"Abducted" ("the faces in the mirror, they are scaring me"...¦) - it isn't bad actually. So, all in all not a
hugely satisfactory album but it has its moments. It was released in 2008 on the Zeta Reticuli label.
Available from C&D Compact Disk Services.
Approach With Caution: Spaceseed - Assault Transmission (official bootleg)
I have news for Spaceseed. Making whooshing noises and spooky
sound effects, and occasionally speaking over the top of them, doesn't
make a good space rock album, or a good album of any kind. It
should be no surprise then that the ex-Hawk guesting here is Harvey .
The first half of the album is basically horrible. "Chronovision" does
spooky and spacey in spades but goes nowhere. "Assault
Transmission" is the same but with (yawn) spoken vocals. "Heat
Worshipping Space Zombies" is a song but still rubbish and "It Came
from Beyond" is back to rejected Dr Who soundtrack material. There
is some relief, finally, five tracks in, in the form of "Egatoid", which
settles into the simplest of riffs (think "Valium 10" ) and grinds it out
Worth A Listen: Sam Gopal - Escalator
This dark and unsettling late sixties album features a
fledgling Lemmy on vocals, singing generally
unpleasant lyrics about the Dark Lord and suchlike.
Lemmy is also one of two featured guitarists on the
album (the other being Roger D'Elia) - both are
credited with lead and rhythm guitar, so it is unclear
who provided the screaming psychedelic lead guitar
that colours much of the album. According to Alan
Burridge's website, Lemmy wrote all but two of the
songs, in a single night. As the Wikipedia helpfully
tells us, the band is named after its founder, Sam
Gopal, born in Malaysia, who, from the age of
seven, played tabla, a northern Indian percussion
instrument that replaced drums in the band that
bears his name. The band went through several
incarnations and this lineup recorded one album and,
apparently, a non-album single ("Horse" / "Back
Door Man") - although Alan Burridge indicates that
this made it only as far as two acetates (with different versions of the songs).
The first two tracks ("Cold Embrace" and "Dark Lord") set the tone, not a million miles away from Uncle
Dave's "Sweet Mistress of Pain", with Lemmy sounding as menacing as he ever has in Motorhead. The
following "The Sky is Burning" settles back into tabla-driven hippy whimsy (or, if you prefer, "raga rock",
although others have produced far superior music under this banner) and the singer doesn't sound like
Lemmy. However, normal service is resumed with "You're Alone Now" (the chorus lyrics prefiguring "The
Watcher"). "Grass" has a more understated menace as Lemmy intones sing-song lyrics dripping with
veiled threat, while "It's Only Love" is almost poppy. The title track is strong on edginess and (as in several
places on the album) occasionally a chord or vocal refrain recalls "Lost Johnny" but it lacks hook or
melody. "Angry Faces" is a somewhat dissipated ballad. "Midsummer Night's Dream" is more of a bad trip,
but at least with some energy and Lemmy's vocal delivery again recalls his work on "Lost Johnny".
"Season of the Witch" (the Donovan song) features chopped guitar chords and chick backing vocals,
which I guess is as close as Sam Gopal get to soul music. The album fizzles out with the whimsical and
tabla-led raga rock of "Yesterlove".
Never in danger of being a good album (to these ears a proper drummer would have helped immensely),
this is still interesting in places - and suggests that if Lemmy ever was a nice boy, he was long past that
phase by the time he joined Sam Gopal. The CD of this 1968 release is still available from Amazon. My
copy was released on Edsel records (EDCD 627) in 2000 and, unlike the version being sold on Amazon,
doesn't feature the two tracks from the single (or acetate). Slightly improbably, Sam Gopal himself is still
making music and has his own website at http://www.samgopal.com