Music from the Hawkwind family tree - Part 29

Thanks to Graham for these reviews - except where noted otherwise, of course
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Well worth a listen (**1/2): Hawklords - Robert Calvert Memorial Concert Kings Hall Herne Bay 28
                                        Sept 2008
[Note: I haven't yet found an image of the CD cover- what you see to the left is from the promotional`poster for the "Hawklords" (cough) event on 29/11/2009, at which Graham bought the CD, which he will now review for you.  Take it away, Dr.P...]

From the Hawklords merchandise stall

The merchandise stall at the HL gig was a veritable goldmine of goodies on CD and DVD – and, yes, I indulged in a few, although stopping short of buying some newly archive Nik Turner sets, mainly as I’d already spent all my cash. Others in the queue
obviously got their highs in different ways – someone behind me was apparently carrying around 15 different kinds of mind-altering substances (from skunk, acid and ketamine to several things I’ve never heard of) but refusing to sell any to the guy next to him, apparently on the grounds that he planned to take them all later. Meanwhile…

We’ve been here before obviously: Nik Turner gathers assorted friends and records a set of Hawkwind covers. The difference here, of course, aside from the fact that this was a memorial concert for the late, great, Bob Calvert, is that the assembled friends (or at least, allies assembled against a common enemy) are mostly Hawkwind alumni (Adrian Shaw, Ron Tree, Alan Davey, Jerry Richards) and three are genuine Hawklords from the 1978 band, namely Harvey Bainbridge, Steve Swindells and Martin Griffin. Jim Hawkman and Jack Griffin make up the numbers.

They blast through a set of Calvert songs (mainly Calvert/B***k compositions) with a good deal of enthusiasm and a fair approximation to the classic Hawkwind sound, with lashings of sax and occasional flute. The songs are given extended workouts – no medleys here – and divide between the Space Ritual era blanga of “Born to Go”, “Orgone Accumulator” and “Silver Machine”, and the Charisma period: “Damnation Alley”, “High Rise”, “Quark”, “Flying doctor”, “Psi power”, “Robot” and “Only the Dead Dreams of the Cold War Kid”. The song from Calvert’s solo career is “Ejection”.

Should you buy this? Well I doubt you’ll find it anywhere except at gigs by the Hawklords and it is pretty short on surprises of any kind (although I don’t recall hearing a live version of “Dead Dreams” since the real Hawklords did it on the 1978 tour). However, it is a zillion times superior to some past “Nik and Friends mangle your favourite Hawktunes” releases, and if you’re attending one of their gigs it’s probably a given that you’ll appreciate owning another authentic live rendition of these songs!
One Of The Best: Krankschaft - Flame Red Superstsar                             review by Groucho Merckx
After ICU split in 1985, Dead Fred, Steve Pond and Mick Stupp continued as The Maximum Effect. One single, several gigs and one departed drummer later, Fred and Steve were asked by Robert Calvert to be his band for his show at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. The songs were arranged by Fred and Steve (including a couple of newies), the evening was a huge success (check out the LP!) and it was decided that Bob and Maximum Effect (or Krankschaft, as they were often billed) should go on tour. Many successful gigs followed, before Bob, Fred and Steve went their separate ways... Bob toured subsequently with The Starfighters, but had written to Fred requesting that ME/Krankschaft
should record his next album with him, describing Fred as "a master musician of the rock genre".  Sadly this was not to be. Bob passed away, and so did the Bob/Krankschaft album. Until now.

Now, to make things clear, there is no "new" material here. But there are several very surprising (and often enlightening) moments, some far removed from the familiar Bob blueprint. There is also no Hawkwind material - all songs are taken from the latter part of Bob's solo career. A good thing, in my opinion - the HW/Lockheed stuff is all good, but yet more new versions would be pointless. And so to the CD...

...or maybe not. The packaging deserves a mention, to say the least. The CD comes on a nice digipak, with a very stylish design. There is also a glossy photo of Bob with Fred and Steve, and a double-sided A2 poster of a 20s/30s Russian-type design on one side and a spacier other side with notes about the songs. It's really rather excellent.

And now to the main event : the CD. First up is "Teen Ballad Of Deano" (or "Dino", as it is here). A beautiful quiet "false start" with Fred and his keyboards, then BANG! the song proper arrives. Much punchier than the original, some excellent harmonics from Steve, and a lovely fade-out into solo piano, leading into "Acid Rain". Close to the original, but a much higher quality recording. If only Bob's has sounded this good... "Ned Ludd" follows, and is WAY rockier than the original, Steve employing his guitar to maximum effect (!) on the main riff. "Test-Tube Conceived" is also given a much rockier treatment, but the arrangement is still close to Bob's original.

"All The Machines Are Quiet" is NOT close to the original. Taken at a much slower, almost languid tempo, much of the original has been discarded to be replaced by a marvellous, slowly-building new take... the middle verse has been dropped (for reasons of length, one would assume) but the guitar solo section is a more than worthy replacement. "Lord Of The Hornets" is much more familiar territory, but Fred's vocals and "almost but not quite wrong" keyboards save it from being "just another" version... "The Widow's Song" (from "HW, F&R Vol 3" as I remember) sees Steve rather bravely taking on a female vocal part. Oddly, it works, although I'd love to have heard Renate Knaup from Amon Duul II having a crack at it.

"The Luminous Green Glow..." is the longest track here, and doesn't depart too radically from the Bob version, but stretches out nicely. "Picket Line", though, has been given a thorough thrashing and is probably the hardest-rocking track here. There is, however, a lovely solo piano part midway to break up the frantic rocking, and it works very well. "Work Song" is based upon the familiar Bob live version, with acapella outro. It's such a good song that it's hard to imagine anyone making a mess of it, and Krankschaft haven't. "Evil Rock" veers off at several unexpected tangents, being a whole lot faster than the original (or the standard Krankschaft live version), a really rather strange middle part and a key change where you least expect it. I'll always prefer the Bob version, but it's a bold new arrangement which works well in its own right.

Now... "The Greenfly And The Rose". Bob's was a lovely little song, with a beautiful melody. But I'd hazard a guess that he would never have pictured it as a piano/vocal ballad! Anything less like Hawkwind is difficult to imagine. And guess what? It's a thing of beauty. Apparently a first take (there are enough imperfection in the vocal to bear this out), the piano playing is just tremendous and the overall feel of the piece bears out the decision to release as was. Liberties are taken with the melody, but never to the detriment of the song. If the album finished here, I'd have been quite happy. But...

The final track is "Flight 105". I never liked the Bob original particularly, and so was expecting the worst. What I got was the BEST. There is a new "film noir" keyboard part, a delightfully suspenseful delivery of the verses, and then... rock and roll!!! The whole thing takes a turn for the fast and the heavy, with a frankly superlative keyboard solo, until it ends (too bloody early in my opinion) on a recording of footsteps receding into the distance at a tube station...

I do have a couple of complaints. One, "Radio Egypt" isn't on it, which is rather odd given that Fred and Steve were responsible for the original arrangement. Two, "Test-Tube Conceived" has, to my mind, been rather overlooked. There are some songs there that could have worked very well indeed.

Doubtless some people will disregard this album as "Bob cover versions", but it really is much more than that. Fred and Steve have clearly put a lot of time and effort into this, and their new arrangements often breathe new life into Bob's songs, and in some cases are nothing short of revelatory. I recommend this album wholeheartedly to anyone, Hawkfan or not. It's certainly my favourite Hawk-related release of the last few years. And if the track "Ode To The Sun" on the previously-reviewed "Stars And Stripes" CD is anything to go by, the promised album of Krankschaft originals may well be something very special indeed.  Five stars. Essential listening.

-Groucho Merkx
Normal (?) service resumes with a review of the same album by host contributor Graham.  He rates it as Well worth a listen (**1/2):

Already reviewed on the Starfarer website I know, but here’s a brief addition.

Essentially a Calvert tribute album by two former bandmates, one of whom (Dead Fred) briefly graced the ranks of Hawkwind and both of whom were members of ICU.

Smoothing out the rough edges of some of Calvert’s latter works (notably “Acid Rain”) undoubtedly renders them more palatable, if a little staid and polite. In addition, some liberties have been taken with arrangements. Thus, the previously pedestrian “Picket Line” now rocks out, while “The Greenfly and the Rose” is a now a gentle piano-led ballad.

Best of all though is “Widow’s Song”, only previously known from one of the Friends and Relations compilations it now has added poignancy as some of the lyrics could equally apply to Bob.

A rather nice (and exceptionally well-packaged) album. On the downside some of the vocals are rather colourless and some of the musical settings rather mechanical. However, this CD is never less than listenable and is well worth tracking down (you can order it from the Krankschaft website).
Completists and fans of 70s pop only (* ½): Pilot – Two’s a crowd
What’s the connection between Bay City Rollers and Hawkwind? Two ex-Rollers (David Paton and the late Billy Lyall) formed pop band Pilot , had hits with “Magic” and “January”, then slimmed down to a duo, who were joined by session musicians on the “Two’s a crowd” album in 1977. Step forward Steve Swindells, who contributes keyboards and some vocals to this album (currently only available on CD as a Japanese import). Unfailingly polite seventies pop that only occasionally offers a memorable tune. Completists only!
Worth a listen: Spirits Burning and Bridget Wishart – Bloodlines
This is a concept album: according to Don Falcone in an online interview, they were “using kings and queens of history as our lyrical starting point”. The concept appears to have been broadened but, certainly, queens are strongly featured. However, don’t expect anything in like Rick Wakeman’s “Six Wives”. The music is generally understated and it took me several listens to get much out of this. As we should probably expect from Spirits Burning, there is no single musical style – the compositions range from acid folk, industrial noise and space pop to pastoral easy listening and chamber pop. The first five or six tracks are generally faster and more energetic while the latter part of the album subsides into pastoral easy listening, albeit with a strong sense of melancholy (even tragedy) running through most of the songs.
Bridget sings virtually all the lead vocals and is in good form throughout. Ian Abrahams reviewed this on “Spacerock reviews” and spots some re-cycled Hawkwind lyrics.

Although there’s little space rock in evidence, ex-Hawks turn out in force, with cameos on 9 of the 15 tracks: Harvey Bainbridge (synths on tracks 4, 6, 8), Alan Davey (synths on 3, 14), Simon House (violin on 7), Steve Swindells (Piano, synth and vocals on 5) and Steve Bemand (guitar on 12, 15).

The instant standout track, “Cleopatra” (track 2), has the sort of slightly clumsy sing-along chorus that Boney M (or at least Bananarama) would have been proud of. It also motors along nicely, with nifty flute and guitar breaks. “Rocket to the End of the Line” (track 5) is also worth a mention as (a) it is another of the most up-tempo tracks on the album and (b) it features a Steve Swindells lead vocal. Of the later, easy listening, selections, track 13 (“Lady Jane”) probably has the best tune, and tells the sad story of Lady Jane Grey, queen of England for 9 days in 1553. “Follow Me” (track 10) is another sweet tune. “Heaven’s Hide” features lyrics that Bridget originally performed with Hawkwind (as “Seventh Star”). 

“Czaritsa” (track 7) tells the thoroughly grim story of Alexandra of Russia to the accompaniment of a rather jaunty tune on which Simon House’s violin is prominent. “Mistress of the Age” (track 11) concerns Shahzadi (Imperial Princess) Jahanara Begum Sahib, who became first lady of India in 1631.

Elsewhere the album delves into Egyptian mythology (“Silene’s Light", track 15), African mysticism (“Chaminuka”, track 4, which appears to be about a Zimbabwean spirit, although since the lyrics are mainly in Xhosa and Ndebele that’s about all I can glean) and the mother of Dracula “(Mother of the Dragon”, track 12). 

This understated song cycle probably needs repeated listening (and frequent visits to Wikipedia) before it starts to make any sense, but it does repay perseverance.
Just about worth a listen (* ½): Imperial Pompadours – Ersatz
This was hard to find when released, near impossible now and expensive to purchase on the original vinyl, if you can find it. However, someone in the Hawklords universe has had this issued on CD. Previously we had to make do with four tracks on one of Judge Trev’s compilation CDs. Trev is to be heard on here, as is Dino Ferrari and, obviously, Nik Turner. Bob Calvert’s dulcet tones also turn up on the last track, as spotted by the reviewer on Julian Cope’s Head Heritage website.

Incidentally I’m only now appreciating the delicious irony of the Hawklords name being resurrected by Nik and crew. After all, DB and Bob Calvert originally used the name precisely to avoid legal complications with ownership of the HW name…
Sourced from vinyl (you can sometimes hear the crackles) this remains a profoundly strange record. Barney Bubbles’ credentials as a graphic artist/sleeve designer and ideas man are unimpeachable. Hi musical legacy less so.

The story of Barney’s working methods for this album is fairly well known but basically involved forcing the band to record barely familiar material with no rehearsals allowed. This may have been intended to result in exciting, spontaneous or “edgy” performances but also had the potential to produce a cack-handed mess. It is somewhere in between and I can’t help feeling that the band had more fun than the average listener will have. Mind you, ICU (in character as the Imperial Pompadours) did a creditable job of turning the album into a listenable live experience at the Barney tribute gig in November 2009.

The album kicks off with “The Crusher”, originally recorded by The Cramps and at best thoroughly misanthropic (sample lyrics: “first you take your fist and you put it on your waist, then you squeeze your partners head until she's blue in the face yeah do the crusher..”). Nevertheless, it has an agreeably loose feel, with the track being little more than a bassline, grunted lyrics and various additional sounds ranging from fairground organ to electric drill. ”See You Soon Baboon” is cut from similar cloth, with honking sax and comedy vocals over the basic rhythm track. “Fu Manchu” barely registers before “Brand new Cadillac” gets in your face.

Next up is a suitably deranged version of “I Want To Come Back From The World Of LSD”. “Little Black Egg” barely hangs together at all, simply a mumbled vocal with random sounds in the background. “Moo Goo Gai Pan” sounds like, well, “Fu Manchu” again. “Gemini Spacecraft” is a strange rap over the top of a version of “Riders On The Sky”. “Lightshow” and the following “Chicken” barely count as music at all, lacking anything resembling structure. At least “Fungus Among Us” is a genuine song, played relatively straight until about half-way through. “King B”, as I’ve commented before, is more sad and sinister than humorous, with its sleazy macho lyric intoned over painful feedback. Last of the music tracks is “Black Leather Trousers and Motorcycle Boots” and it sounds like a Walt Disney out-take. The moments of inspiration are outweighed by moments of self-indulgent silliness, but at least all the tracks so far are short.

“Insolence Across The Nation” is a 23-minute collage of spoken word (adapted from Mein Kampf), found sounds and incidental music, some by Nik and crew but rather more by Wagner - from records played in the background. Both the Hitler character and the track as a whole become increasingly deranged. By turns unlistenable, interesting, inspired and just plain creepy, it sounds like nothing else on earth.

Head Heritage concludes: “An utterly twisted album of variety and creativity.” Others might just say, a piece of utter crap. You choose.
Worth a listen : Rod Goodway and Adrian Shaw – Oxygen Thieves
When I first saw Hawkwind in 1976, their glory days (some would argue) were already in the distant past (4 years is a long time for a teenager!). That distant past included Lemmy, Stacia and tours with bands like Magic Muscle.

When the Magic Muscle LP “The Pipe, The Roar, The Grid” came along in the late 1980s (ordered from the long-vanished Other Record Shop in Aberdeen and clearly impressing the shop staff), the excellent presentation ultimately couldn’t hide the fact that, to these ears at least (and bearing in mind that many have said the same of Hawkwind), this was a band thriving on energy and enthusiasm more than any actual musical talent.
Since those days, Adrian Shaw has had his stint in Hawkwind and, until Nik Turner’s Hawklords revival, has latterly been most evident as Nick Saloman’s sidekick in The Bevis Frond and as author of a series of solo albums (all on the now defunct Woronzow label) that were rarely less than interesting but not likely to set the world alight either. Rod Goodway didn’t catch my attention again until the 2002 CD with Simon House, “House of Dreams” (Rob’s website indicates that the recordings actually originate from 1982), on which, despite his unlovely voice, his performance gelled with House’s musical settings to good effect.

Hence, I approached “Oxygen Thieves”, Rod and Ade’s recent collaboration, acquired from the merchandise stall at the Hawklords Barney Bubbles tribute gig, with some trepidation. However, several of the songs are really rather good. True, much like “House of Dreams”, at first I found the vocals a distraction – although Ade Shaw’s more than Rod Goodway’s. Again as on House of Dreams, some of the words tend to deal with mundane earthbound concerns: contrast Ade Shaw’s singing about fairies and elves on track 1 (“Coloured Rain”) with Rod singing about spam in his mailbox on track 2 (“Spammed Man”)! The songs tend to divide between what I guess are Adrian Shaw’s compositions, the ones he sings, which tend towards lumpen heaviness (for example “Coloured Rain” and “Stranger Things”) and the lighter and more melodic songs (such as “Spammed Man”, “Wait”, and “May You Never Be Thirsty”) sung by Rod. The title track is a rather tuneless heavy dirge, but sung by Rod. A few songs successfully combine heavy and melodic components, notably “Dog Fight” and “Angels”. The otherwise ponderous “When The Darkness Comes” is lifted by some deft instrumental colourings. These contrasting sounds and moods are a big part of the strength of the album. Not an instant classic but solid and well worth a listen.
Just about worth a listen (* ½) : Mother Gong – Fairy Tales
Nik Turner apparently plays “muzma and oboe” on this fairly obscure chapter in the Gong story, presently available on CD only as a Japanese import.

Whether you feel able to investigate further will depend on your tolerance of narrated fairy tales set to music (think Brian Wilson’s fairy tale music, issued alongside the Beach Boys’ Holland album back in the mid-70s). In any case, although the narration is pretty much the definitive example of terminal tweeness (and the sung/spoken dialogue by the story’s characters is infinitely worse), the music is pleasantly
listenable and, unsurprisingly, reminiscent of Gong. An instrumental version would be nice!