Music from the Hawkwind family tree - Part 4

Many thanks to Graham who penned this piece - which is the fourth installment in the series...!
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This album faced the impossible task of living up to
the standards set by Captain Lockheed and,
unsurprisingly, it failed comprehensively. It is also
something of a stylistic mishmash and continually
strays away from the theme of the Vikings travelling
to America to deal with rather more contemporary
topics such as prohibition. It also has to be said that
Bob Calvert's rather colourless vocals don't suit some
of the material, too much of which is mere parody of
other people's styles. Despite this, there are some good
songs and there is a strong Hawk presence, with
Simon House (violin), Nik Turner (sax), Michael
Moorcock (banjo) and Paul Rudolph (bass, guitar) all
appearing.

"Ship Of Fools" is a reasonable and atmospheric
opening ballad, with Simon House's violin nicely
prominent towards the end - but there is a horrible
guitar solo from Paul Rudolph. "The Lay Of The  Surfers" is a very enjoyable Beach Boys parody ("Bar Bar
Barbarians" indeed) and even another duff guitar solo fails to dampen the buoyant mood. "Voyaging to
Vinland" starts out as an a-cappella sea shanty, has no guitar solo, and rounds off a fine opening trio of
songs.

This is where the (re-issued) album starts to lose the plot. On the original album, "The Making Of Midgard"
is an effective spoken word piece. For some reason the BGO re-issue (both CD and LP) features a radically
different - and virtually unlistenable - mix, with echoed vocals. The last song on side 1, "Brave New World",
is simply fluffy and rather flaccid. Side 2 kicks off with "Magical Potion", which owes a substantial stylistic
debt to "Willie and the Hand Jive" and, despite a witty lyric, never rises above average. "Moonshine in the
Mountains" is hillbilly country and was probably considerably more fun to record than it is to listen to!

"Storm Chant of the Skraelings" is a distinct improvement, with its lyric about thunder birds and fire
dragons, although it features another criminally hideous guitar solo. However, the following "Volstead O
Vodeo Do" is a feeble, prohibition era, drinking song, notable only because Nik Turner's sax is in evidence.
"Phase Locked Loop" consists entirely of some audio samples from US radio. Finally, "Ragna Rock" moves
firmly back into rock territory, with a suitably apocalyptic lyric about gods and giants, a solid rhythm,
decent vocal performance, a distinguishable tune and no guitar solos!

Something of a curate's egg then, with some good songs but too many lightweight parodies. The CD was
released on BGO (BGOCD2) in 1987 but it is worth tracking down the original 1975 LP on United Artists
(UAG 29852) to get the original mix of "The Making Of Midgard".
Worth A Listen: Robert Calvert - Lucky Leif and the Longships
This is an instrumental album that includes three "bonus" live tracks
on which Huw Lloyd Langton plays guitar. The album as a whole is
pleasant but unexciting; the three bonus tracks are entirely
unremarkable. The occasional guitar lick sounds like Huw but there
is nothing distinctive enough to warrant a second listen. For the
record, the tracks featuring HLL are "Flowing River/Jam" (basically
what it says on the tin), "Elsham Road" (live) and "A Whiter Shade
Of Blue". They were recorded live in London in 1991 while the
studio material dates back to 1980. The CD was issued by Zomart
Records (ZOMCD005) as a limited edition of 3000.
Worth A Listen: The Moor - Flux
According to a review on www.thewildplaces.com, this is a "cool CD
blending dark and powerful progressive w/ heavy gothic (Sisters of
Mercy meets Hawkwind) elements. Some real brilliance here!" I
wouldn't argue with this assesssment. The Hawkwind connection is
Nik Turner's participation, apparently as a full member of the band but
the record stands out on the strength of the songwriting,
arrangements, performances and the overall dark vision of this mainly
Swedish band. Nik adds some distinctive instrumental colour to the
mix in places but otherwise plays a very minor role.
The opening "Suck" quickly establishes an oppressive heavy atmosphere, with the mellotron-like
synthesised strings over a grinding riff that calls to mind early King Crimson. Nik plays some
Hawkwind-style sax part way through. The lyrics will not be (ahem) to everyone's taste but this is a strong
opening track. "Baby" lightens the mood and reminds me of The Feelies (circa. "Crazy Rhythms"), while
"Body" features a heavy sequenced rhythm that lends an almost disco feel.

"Bell" is something of a tour-de-force, with a Hawkwind-like electronic intro, atmospheric synth and a
tasteful sax solo from Nik. The "Sisters of Mercy meets Hawkwind" tag seems pretty appropriate here.
"Soon" heads off in all sorts of directions, with laid-back synths, a monstrous riff - and a spoken word
section on the meaning of civilisation!  The closing "Talk" alternates heavy instrumental passages with
gothic pop, sort of King Crimson meets B-movie.

Over 8 tracks and 47 minutes this CD is never less than interesting. Flux was released on Bishop Garden
Records (BGR 03.1996.01 RM) in 1996 and I got my copy from CD Services, who still have it listed as
available.
Approach With Caution: Nic Potter & Guy Evans - The Long Hello Volume 2
Another CD of instrumental music from ex-VDGG bass player Nic
Potter. Again, Huw Lloyd Langton guests, this time on two tracks.
The album is very low-key, consisting entirely of mid-paced,
keyboard-dominated tunes. HLL's guitar adds a little bit of character
to "Paradise Journey" but it is buried too deep in the mix to have
much impact. He apparently also plays on "Mountain Vision (short
version)" but you'd be hard pressed to tell. The CD is another
Zomart limited edition (ZOMCD006) and, as you might guess from
the title, is a compilation of two older albums (both from the 1980s)
"with some new sections and remixes" from 1993
Approach With Caution: Nic Potter - Mountain Music & Sketches in Sound
Worth A Listen: Magic Muscle - Laughs and Thrills
This is the band recorded live in 1972, supporting the mothership on
the Space Ritual tour, although Adrian Shaw on bass is the only bona
fide Hawkwind connection. This is a distinctly lo-fi recording and is of
more historical than musical interest. The songs range from the
unremarkable to the mildy offensive ("Schoolgirl Love") but it sounds
like a good time was had by all and when the band hit a groove, as
happens quite often, they are worth your attention. Their version of
"Waiting For The Man" isn't bad either.

The CD was released on World Wide Records (SPM-WWR-CD-0021)
in 1991. As with much Hawkwind-related stuff, this came from C&D
Compact Disc Services.
Worth A Listen: Magic Muscle - Gulp!
Gulp is Magic Muscle twenty years down the line, reconvening with an
"enhanced" line-up for what is essentially a set of studio jams. Simon
House and Adrian Shaw are both present, as is Nick Saloman (Bevis
Frond) and some of this works quite well.

The opening "Frank?" is a pretty much unlistenable collage and reminds
you of everything bad that was ever said about Hawkwind members'
solo records. The following "Hailer of Taxis" meanders aimlessly for a
good minute and a half before coalescing into something you could call
music, and only really hits a groove after about 4 minutes, but the
second half rocks.
"Spaced and Displaced" starts off slow and spacy, with splashes of violin all over the place and maintains
the same leisurely pace over its whole 13 minutes. "Pipecall" is slow and atmospheric without ever going
anywhere before "Umbrellamental" finally kicks the album back into life with a nice groove, especially as
things speed up during the last couple of minutes, which almost take us into Space Ritual territory.
"Psymonic" briefly slows things back down again with some nice violin work. The closing "Leaders" is
another lengthy workout, with an anti-war lyric, but only builds up any kind of momentum during the
instrumental breaks. It hits a blissful groove after 5 minutes and again after 8 minutes, maintaining the
energy level high throughout the closing 5 minutes.

The CD was released on Woronzow  (WOO 17 CD). I hadn't played it for years and almost switched off
after the first track. But if you persevere beyond the first ten minutes or so, after three or four plays, it
mostly starts to make sense!  And it's currently available on the
Woronzow website for three quid.


Slight intermission, here.  I (meaning Steve) like this album perhaps a little more than Graham does, mostly
on account of Simon House's violin work, which I think is simply awesome throughout.  Graham is
absolutely right about the opening cut "Frank?", though: to be, well, frank, it's six minutes of real garbage
made up of woozy sound effects and pointless samples.  "Hailer of Taxis" features a tense rhythm section
pattern of bass and hi-hat, overlaid with sheets of spacey violin and a ripping little guitar solo.  This picks
up pace and tautness as it moves along, being progressive in the true meaning of the word.

Spaced and Displaced sounds like a deliberately minimalistic rendition of the coda to Hawkwind's
"Treadmill", further enhanced by the majestic fiddling of Mr.House.  On this entire album his playing is as
good as anything he's done anywhere, but not even this can hide the fact that this number is too long at
12:48.  However, it does delay the onset of the horrible backwards-tape piece that starts off "Pipecall",
which then goes into a 2-chord keyboard riff (A->F) reminding me strongly of a 1981-ish live version of
Silver Machine that was on the Hawkwind Collection compilation album.  But where that exploded into
blanga, this just hovers in mid-air, serving as a platform for the violin, before it all goes uninterestingly
atonal for the last 30 seconds.

Umbrellamental is quite a bit rockier, and features a key change which clarifies that despite this CD being a
live studio recording done in a single day, the band had rehearsed.  The vocals, though, are execrable, and
for some reason were treated to sound like this - it's sub-Amon Duul II yelping.  What a contrast to
Psymonic, which is very brief but so good it reminds me of J.S.Bach.  It's all Simon House, of course,
with layer upon layer of stunningly good violin.  And then the last track tries, but really it's no more than
wannabe-Dr.John-isms, with a touch of Captain Beefheart (minus the startling originality).  But it does
wend its way along quite pleasantly, if you can ignore the banal lyrics, and showcases the dynamics of the
rhythm section and the talents of the two lead instrumentalists.

As Graham mentioned, this CD is going for next to nothing and I heartily recommend you buy it if only to
hear Simon House's violin, which is simply out of this world.
Worth A Listen: Lloyd Langton Group - Like An Arrow Through The Heart
This 1986 album was the follow-up to 1985's "Night Air" and replicates some of the
signature sounds from that album: the short acoustic solo guitar track (although "Can
You Feel" is not as good as "Für Kirsty"), some fluid lead guitar work (some lines from
the first track, "Strange Times" recall lines from the title track of "Night Air"), and a
predominance of riff-based, guitar-bass-drums, arrangements. Everything here is
well
-played but there's a shortage of melodies and the first 10 tracks are almost uniformly
mid-paced. Unless you concentrate, or at least listen through the whole album two or three times, the
tracks tend to blur into one another and it's hard to select standouts, harder still to remember any tunes.

Is it pub rock? Well, one thing it isn't is light entertainment. The lyrical themes are all downbeat: Big
Brother (as in George Orwell, not the reality show), child abuse, war, loneliness, rejection and loss.
Perhaps the best songs are "I Could Cry" (a chorus you can actually remember) and "Voices That Fade"
(some light and shade in the arrangement) - although both are seriously grim in terms of their subject
matter.

It is not a great album but many of the tracks sound good in isolation and there's no questioning the
sincerity of Huw and Marion's worldview. This was reissued on CD in 2001 (Allegro, LLG10CD)
Worth A Listen: Lloyd Langton Group - Time Space & LLG
Originally issued in 1988 on GWR (GWLP 27, i.e. next in line after the Xenon Codex),
this album sticks firmly with riff-based songs and starts off sounding like "Like An
Arrow" part 2. The basic three-piece band (with overdubbed lead guitar) handles almost
the entire album, with only some backing vocals on "I Can See The Day Break" and
synth on "City Of The Future" to vary the recipe. The drums are basic in the extreme,
the bas
s and rhythm guitar chug along remorselessly and the lead guitar fills in some of
the spaces while Huw sings about arms sales, cultural relativism, heartache and family values. The pace of
the songs is generally funereal, although "Spoonful Of Injustice" gets up a decent head of speed.

In fact, the sparseness of the arrangements lets the music breathe and makes this album rather easier on the
ears than "Like An Arrow". There is some nice lead guitar work, especially on the more laid-back tracks on
the second half of the album - and the closing track, "City Of The Future", sounds like it could (should)
have been offered to Hawkwind. Like all of Huw's albums, it may take two or three plays to get past the
limitations of the format and start to appreciate some of the detail.

This was also re-issued on Allegro in 2001 (LLG9CD).
Worth A Listen: Lloyd Langton Group - Elegy
By the time of "Elegy" (1991; Allegro, LLG 712), the original LLG was no
more. On Elegy, Huw is accompanied by John Harris on bass, plus
"Sharon and Tracy" on drums. The overall feel of the album is distinctly
mellower than on "Time and Space and LLG".  In fact, a harder edge and a
bit of aggression wouldn't have hurt, since this is very much a predictable
LLG effort: a few fast-ish songs, a faux-classical closing track with
trademark guitar harmonics, and half a dozen tasteful slow to mid-paced
rockers.

Although issued straight onto CD, the track listing is divided into 'Side 1'
and 'Side 2'. "Shine A Light" gets things off to a lively start and "The Night Is Young" isn't bad either.
"Nature Calls" slows things down but some expressive lead guitar and singing, plus a decent riff, help to
maintain interest. What sounds like a mandolin provides some variation to the basic format on "Damn
Shame", although whether it meshes well with the rhythm guitar riff is debatable. "Little Girl" is positively
funereal in pace but features some good lead guitar and a decent vocal performance.

Side 2 offers more of the same. "Bird Of Fantasy" and "Angel Of Ice And Steel" are two more
bog-standard mid-paced songs, separated by "Farewell" which is a mid-paced and un-exciting
instrumental. Just as it looks like the album has nothing else to offer, "Crazy Days" ups the pace and the
standards again before some harmonics on the guitar herald the start of "Elegy", a pleasant classical guitar
track. Another LLG album: never less than pleasant but rarely disengaging cruise control. As with all the
LLG albums it takes a few plays to get the most out of it .