Space Ritual Alive - 2007 Collector's Edition

20th July 2007
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There has been much speculation recently concerning a new issue of the Space Ritual Alive album on
2CD+1DVD.  Everyone, yours truly included of course, got overexcited when news of this first leaked out,
because it's long been rumoured that there is video footage of the 1972 Space Ritual tour lurking in
somebody's vaults - either EMI's or the BBC's.  Could the DVD portion of this release contain that footage?  
Now that it's out, the answer is...¦no!  But this is an interesting release and worth a deeper look so that the
differences between it and earlier and/or similar releases can be explored.

But first, the packaging and the terminology: the 2007 Collector's Edition comes in a double-width digipak
that is itself contained in a clear plastic sleeve.  The plastic sleeve carries a "Collectors Edition" banner on
the front and an inlay card on the back which is based upon Barney Bubbles' original artwork, listing the
contents.  (Although a big part of the reason for penning this page at all is to properly identify the contents,
which the packaging fails to do...¦)

The digipak opens up into four panels, with CD's 1 and 2 being seated in the two centre panels.  The
background illustration here replicates the inner sleeve design on the original UK vinyl release.  The leftmost
panel is slit across the middle and houses the DVD disc.  The rightmost panel carries the 'Master of the
Universe' red and green graphic, reminiscent of a truculent Aztec.  Within it is the CD booklet, which has all
the familiar artwork and text from every preceding release of Space Ritual Alive, but also some new sleeve
notes by Nik Turner.  And Barney Bubbles' staging design diagrams are also reproduced here, for the first
time ever.  I don't know that these were ever fully realized, but the intention was to stage the live shows in
accordance with the Pythagorean theory of the Music Of The Spheres.  This supposedly posited that each
planet of the solar system corresponds exactly to some fundamental harmonic value and colour, so that if
you positioned DikMik, dressed in a badger's costume, at a certain spot on stage in Dunstable Queensway
Hall, all the rest of the band would be magically transformed into horizontal Bulgarians.  Or something like
that.  It is *explained* (cough) in Nik's notes, which by the way, are also highly revisionist in the way they
focus on Bob Calvert & Barney Bubbles, to the exclusion of others such as D*ve Br*ck.  Though it is nice
to see Liquid Len and the Lensmen namechecked and given a bit more credit than they usually receive...¦

So that's what it the thing looks like, and the key term to look for in the packaging and/or description is â
€œCollector's Edition".   This distinguishes it from other releases that may still be knocking around, such as
the 1996 EMI remaster and the suspiciously similar-looking "Space Ritual Sundown V.2" which was a
reissued version of Space Ritual Volume 2, dating from Sept 2002.  And in fact the similarities between
these releases and the Collector's Edition are not limited to appearances.

The core of any album calling itself Space Ritual Alive has to be the tracklist that made up the original vinyl
release of the album: Side 1 - Earth Calling; Born To Go; Down Through The Night; The Awakening.  Side
2 - Lord Of Light; Black Corridor; Space Is Deep; Electronic No. 1.  Side 3 - Orgone Accumulator; Upside
Down; 10 Seconds Of Forever; Brainstorm.  Side 4 - 7 By 7; Sonic Attack; Time We Left This Today;
Master Of The Universe; Welcome To The Future.  All of course are present and correct on the Collector's
Edition, exactly as they were on the 1996 EMI remaster...¦but with these exceptions: first, they've been
"digitally remastered" for the 2007 Collector's Edition, which results in the greatest clarity yet and probably
some subtle alterations in the mix: I have not tried to do an A/B comparison between this and the 1996 EMI
remaster, but differences surely exist.

Second, among these core tracks, the Collector's Edition restores the full, uncut versions of Brainstorm and
Welcome To The Future.  Brainstorm on the 1996 EMI remaster was cut to 9:20 in length, and is here
restored to its full duration of 13:46.  I'm not sure where all of the extra four and a half minutes is to be
found, but the passage that lasts from roughly 7:00 to 9:30 seems new.  Welcome To Future is expanded
from 2:04 to 2:50, with the restored material appearing between 0:55 and 1:25 along with some extended
outro cheering.  I like the way that both these numbers have been updated as part of the core tracklist,
rather than the uncut versions having been provided as extras, with the original edit remaining in situ.  
Oddly, that is exactly what has been done with Time We Left This World Today.  The 1996 EMI remaster
incorporated an edit of this clocking in at 5:47, and it's here again in the core tracklist.  (Reported running
times encoded on the CD's differ slightly between the two releases - the Collector's Edition returns a time of
5:42, but it's the same.)  But then Time We Left This World Today appears again as a bonus track, this time
with a length of 13:24.  Everything from 5:42 (or 5:47) onward is new material, indicating that the core
version's edit consisted of a fade at that point.
Things start to get complicated when we look at the
bonus tracks and draw comparisons between the
2007 Collector's Edition and the 1996 EMI remaster.  
The latter had three bonus tracks, which were live
renditions of You Shouldn't Do That (first heard on
Roadhawks), Master Of The Universe (first heard on
the Greasy Truckers sampler LP) and Born To Go
(also from Greasy Truckers, and recorded at the
Roundhouse on 13/2/72).  The Collector's Edition also
has three bonus tracks, and one of them is the
Roadhawks version of You Shouldn't Do That.  But a
different version of You Shouldn't Do That, which
has never been released before, has been appended to
the core tracklist on the Collector's Edition.  At 10:47
it's much longer than the Roadhawks version (6:42)
and is plainly from a different performance, but
utilising the
same basic arrangement.  Interestingly,
Nik Turner can be heard wishing the crowd a Merry
Christmas, and so the new  10:47 version must be from the 22/12/72 gig at the Liverpool Empire, with the
shorter 6:42 version probably having been recorded at the Brixton Sundown on 30/12/72.  The new version
is a wonderful addition to have, affording greater prominence to Dave Brock's guitar, with enhanced
psychedelic qualities replacing some of the Simon King / Lemmy blanga that was such a plus point on the
previously known version.  But both have the extended 'Seeing It As You Really Are' coda, too.

The third bonus track on the Collector's Edition is Orgone Accumulator, and this is another curio in that it is
the 30/12/72 version previously heard on Space Ritual Volume 2 and all its plethora of reissued / renamed
clones.  If EMI is reasserting its copyright on that recording, one wonders why they didn't provide all of it,
perhaps on the audio portion of the accompanying DVD - which instead provides the core tracklist, plus the
10:47 version of You Shouldn't Do That, in a variety of sound formats.  These formats are PCM Stereo,
Dolby 5.1 and DTS 5.1, and are to be found under the "Audio Options" item in the DVD's main menu.  The
other options listed include Gallery, which reproduces the photos from the CD booklet, and Promo Films.
Perhaps I lied, slightly, when I said there was no
Space Ritual tour footage on the DVD.  There is
something along these lines, and it consists of the
video clips used to promote Silver Machine (1972) and
Urban Guerilla (1973) - as seen on the recent BBC4
documentary.  The former is of course a promotional
film shot by a BBC crew at Dunstable Queensway Hall
on 7th July 1972.  That is, the footage dates from then
- the soundtrack is the live recording from the
Roundhouse on 13th February of that year, and so
there are some apparent lip-synching issues in this
video.  It had not been seen for years until it got an
airing on Steve
Wright's TOTP2 some time in the late
90's, overlaid with computer-generated text commentary and with the ending lopped off.  This footage is the
original stuff, uncut and without any modern-day additions.  It's by now quite familiar, having been featured
in various TV documentaries over the last few years, but hasn't been easily available on DVD in its entirety at
all before this - so it's very welcome, and familiarity does not breed contempt in this case.

The Urban Guerilla footage is similar in that it surfaced a few years ago and has been featured in various TV
documentaries (starting with Channel 4's "Top Ten Of Progressive Rock" in March 2001, IIRC) - but this is
the first time the entire sequence has ever been made available.  There's not all that much more to say about
it, since the content (Bob Calvert wearing a woolly hat with long dangling sideburn warmers and Stacia
writhing around topless) is presumably familiar to anyone reading this.  One thing though is that this must
have languished unloved and undiscovered in metal film reel tins for many years, since there are obvious
gaps in the footage -due to deterioration of the original material?- that have been filled with still shots of the
gig or era.  These shots are repeated too, suggesting it was a struggle to get this reassembled at all.  But well
done to those who painstakingly restored this artifact - any footage of Hawkwind in their early 70's pomp is
as rare as hen's teeth and is very much appreciated by...well, me, at any rate.
And so, a last word on the desirability of the 2007
Collector's Edition and its cousins, the 1996 EMI
remaster digipak version of Space Ritual Alive, and the
dodgier Space Ritual Sundown V.2, in whatever
guise.  Taking the last and undoubtedly least of the
three, the only overlap between this release and the
Collector's Edition is the bonus version of Orgone
Accumulator on the Collector's Edition.  Space Ritual
Sundown V.2 is still worth having for its otherwise
unobtainable recordings from the Brixton Sundown on
30th December 1972...mostly they are not the equal of
the Space Ritual Alive versions, but still essential to
own.  And the version I've illustrated on this page
really pushes the boat out in terms of packaging, with
the original Space Ritual programme being reproduced
as a
foldout sheet, and a CD booklet and sleeve that
provides a number of Jorgen Angel photos of the band
and unique sleeve notes.

The 1996 EMI remaster of Space Ritual Alive is also lavishly packaged, with nicely illustrated inner panels on
the digipak sleeve, and uniquely illustrated CD discs.  But they're just icing on the cake, and there is a reason
why you need to retain this CD or acquire it if you don't already have it.  It's because of the two bonus
tracks from the Greasy Trucker's album - Born To Go and Master Of The Universe.  They're not easily
obtainable anywhere else on CD and most emphatically do not appear on the Collector's Edition!  Which is
without doubt the premier version of Space Ritual Alive, and worth the money just for the new version of
You Shouldn't Do That.  Add in the two promotional films and the unexpurgated versions of Brainstorm and
(to a lesser extent) Welcome To The Future, and you have a winner.  The sound quality on offer and the fact
that this is the band at the very height of their powers make this the best Hawkwind you will ever hear.