Take Me To Your Future CD / DVD review

6th September 2006
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Well, we had to wait a little while for this, due to some teething problems with production of the dual-disc
(silver CD on one side, gold DVD on the other), but it’s here now and hopefully has been worth the
wait.  Taking a slightly longer view, this title saw release less than a year after Take Me To Your Leader,
which is pretty decent going in terms of album release frequency.  Although I wonder if this *is* an album
per se, given the unusual format and the brief tracklisting – just 5 numbers on the audio segment, which
are:

Uncle Sam’s On Mars
Small Boy
The Reality Of Poverty
Ode To A Timeflower
Silver Machine

Altogether this stuff clocks in at 31:44 which these days is EP length, but then there’s the video material
too:

Images
Utopia
Assassins of Allah
The Golden Void
Steppenwolf
Don’t be Donkish
Paradox

So there’s enough here to file it with the other 35 or so core Hawkwind albums – despite this being
almost a compilation given the patchwork nature of the track roster.  Of which more anon.

The booklet hasn’t much text content, apart from reprinting most of the lyrics (always welcome) - but
is visually lavish.  The design and layout is by Jon Price at Kadu Ink (the same kind gent who also brought
us
Jon’s Attic) and is nicely documented here.  The main peculiarity of it is the inner tray design, on
top of which the disc sits when in the case.  It looks to me like a massive Brussels Sprout hovering over the
tree tops – which would be a truly horrifying sight.  Perhaps this is a visual tip of the hat to a series of
monster vegetable titles, as in the Eggplant That Ate Chicago, The Aubergine That Ate Rangoon and now
The Brussels Sprout That Ate Forest Hill.

The front cover, though, is styled after Georgia O’Keefe’s 1927 painting “
The Radiator
Buildingâ€� but given a few Hawkwind touches.  And then there’s the typeface in which the band
name and album title are displayed across the top of the image :-)  It’s good to see something different
being tried after the 1970’s psychedelic art of the last few album covers, and I think I like this one the
best of any of the album covers since 2000’s Spacebrock, for what that’s worth.

Onto the music then, and opener
Uncle Sam’s On Mars is a pleasant enough remake of what was an
unspectacular inclusion in many a late 70’s set – an almost monochordal song that was itself decended
from the mantraic “Opa-Lokaâ€�.  I’m missing the point as to why it has been revisited, but in
common with the 2005 re-recording of “Paradox� (featured on the DVD), this has been smoothed out
considerably from the more angular renditions of yore.  Though some classic Brock synth bursts anchor it
to the Hawkwind tradition, yeah.  It just goes to show that the streamlined direction of  Hawkwind 2005/06
is not entirely due to the influence of Jason Stuart, or any of the other contributors to last year’s Take
Me To Your Leader – it’s coming from within the core trio as much as from the jazzier elements with
which they’ve been associated of late.

Small Boy is a preview of the forthcoming Calvert Project, wherein Bob’s readings of his own work are
set to music composed by Dave Brock.  On this particular track, the poem was originally called “The
Swingâ€� and I believe that it first appeared in "Centigrade 232" (the 1978 Quasar Books collection of Bobâ
€™s poetry), and then again on audio cassette in 1988, published under Bob’s own imprint, Harbour
Publications.  Presumably the Calvert vocal track here is lifted from that cassette, though his voice has been
treated to add atmospherics.  And it seems to me that it is on this question of atmospherics that a venture
like this must stand or fall, since the conjunction of music with the *spoken word* needs to be more than
the sum of its’ parts in order to be called a success.  This does succeed, not least through the evocative
reverberations applied to Calvert’s vocal tones, which are offset by some sophisticated “tinkling
ivoriesâ€� piano – here the external jazz influences are more marked.  Though it’s a good thing the
lyrics are reprinted, since they’re pretty hard to make out on the track itself, being quite low in the mix.

The Reality Of Poverty is a track that was to have made it onto Take Me To Your Leader, but got taken
off, and makes a welcome first appearance here instead.  It must date from 2002 or 2003 since it features
both Arthur Brown, doing a spoken voiceover and Simon House’s cosmic swirls of violin.  It’s a
long piece, clocking in at about nine minutes, with several distinct sections.  The opening vocal passage is
initially something of a disappointment, coming after Bob Calvert’s spoken word piece on the preceding
track – the ear is longing to hear some *singing* at this point, and Arthur’s 5-octave vocal range is
just too good to be wasted on having him *talk*. But it passes, with the song moving into a verse sung by
the Captain, whose folky baritone is so different to Arthur’s stentorian tones – far more musical,
here.  The music pounds along nicely in classic contemporary Hawkwind style; not much in the way of
chordal variation but lots of pacey bass runs and synthy texture.  Subsequent spoken / sung passages from
Arthur and Dave respectively are supplanted by sepulchral, pulsing drumbeats before a final minute or so of
delicate synth outro.

Ode To A Time Flower first got a live outing at the 1975 Reading Festival and then, like Small Boy, featured
in Centigrade 232 and on Bob’s subsequent 1988 audio readings on the Harbour Publications cassette.  
It’s also been featured in Hawkwind’s live sets in recent years, notably on the 2004 Spring and
Autumn tours, sometimes under the title “Tripâ€�.  Once again Bob’s vocals are treated, over a
backing that this time is more techno-ish than that accorded to ‘Small Boy’.  It sounds dated by
comparison, and as with Reality Of Poverty, there’s a contrast between the drum’n’bass
voicings that Hawkwind were exploring when this was first put together (3 years ago), and the sleeker
music that they’ve since pursued.

Incidentally, the printed lyrics are prefaced with a passage from J.G. Ballard’s short story of the same
name, which is a beautiful piece, quite atypical and very rarely anthologised.  Seeing this here confirms that
it was indeed the inspiration for Bob’s poem; though the only connection between the two works is
really the motif of the time flower itself, a crystalline object which Calvert explores in greater detail, rather
than following the narrative of the short story.

I’ve previously burbled about this particular version of
Silver Machine, the final audio track on the CD,
which got played on the radio some months ago as part of the tribute to the recently deceased Tommy
Vance.  It’s a remarkably cleaned-up rendition, missing practically all the muggy ambience of the
original, though some audio generator whooshes can still be heard in the middle of the mix, between
Lemmy’s ungravelly warblings and Dave’s 21st century crashing guitar chords – much harder-
edged than what the available technology could yield in 1972.  Again, I can’t actually see a *reason*
why this should have been revisited, but it’s enjoyable enough and incidentally shows off the talents of
the rhythm section well.  There’s also a completely new coda which features a dobro or similar over
another drum’n’bass type percussive arrangement.  An interesting pairing that works surprisingly
well.

Is there any reason to pause at this point?  Not really, and so it’s on with the DVD side of the dual-disc.  
The main menu doesn’t offer a “play all� selection, so one has to individually select the specific
titles, making a nonsense of the sequence that I listed at the top of this review, but no matter.  We may as
well take it as read, and start with
Images, which the subtitle tells us is from the forthcoming DVD â
€œSpace Banditsâ€�.  It’s not new, however, and has been seen before on the Promo Collection VHS
video, which was one of several I reviewed at interminable length on the
Pre-DVD: Video’s Of The
90’s page.  As I mentioned there, it’s actually the audio recording from the Space Bandits album,
overlaid with contemporary live video footage, featuring Bridgett Wishart quite prominently.  It will be
interesting to see if the “Space Bandits� DVD is going to be just a reissue of the Promo Collection in
the newer format, or if it’s going to be something different…

By contrast,
Utopia (“from the forthcoming DVD releases, AUSTRALIA 2000�) is new viewing
unless you happened to see the Australian TV broadcast of Hawkwind’s appearance on “Studio 22â
€� in March 2000.  In terms of quality it’s far and away the best offering of the video segments on this
release, both for sound and for vision.  The band themselves are on top form too, despite the scratch line-up
for this particular Antipodean tour – as well as Brock, Chadwick and House, Harvey Bainbridge covered
the keyboards and Steve Taylor deputised for Hawkwind’s then bass player, Ron Tree, who was unable
to tour.  They make a splendid fist of Utopia, with Harvey providing some improvised spoken word parts,
amid a pacey, balanced arrangement that would not be at all out of place on the 2001 Canterbury Sound
Festival album – though Jerry Richards’ lead guitar is quite unlike Huw’s; but Simon House’s
violin steals the show anyway.

The sequence covering
Assassins of Allah is subtitled as being from the forthcoming DVD “Winter
Solstice 2005â€� and was filmed, I would guess, at the London Astoria on 21st December 2005.  I think I
recognize the combination of predominantly green / blue stage lighting, the lightshow backdrop and the fairy
dancers.

As with a couple of the video segments on the free DVD that accompanied Take Me To Your Leader, it is a
cut above audience filming but this footage is not part of a professional shoot.  It was filmed from the back
of the hall with no alterations in focus, no close-ups, no panning - but with hands steady as a rock, so
kudos to the cameraman for that.  Unfortunately the sound quality is the other thing that shouts â
€œcamcorder!â€�, with almost nothing of the bass register making it onto the soundtrack.  Now this could
well be because we are seeing raw, pre-production footage, and so it would be unwise to prejudge the
Winter Solstice 2005 DVD on this evidence.  But Jez Huggett’s soprano saxophone, to take one
example, is reduced to tinny burbling – I wonder why it is that Voiceprint allowed this particular segment
to be released as is, when everything else that comes out on DVD seems to have benefited from proper
production…

A different kind of problem besets the footage of
The Golden Void – which, again, is from a forthcoming
DVD release, but this time one that’s intended for Hawkwind Passport Holders only, and it is to be a
reissue of the 1989 Treworgey Fayre video.  Again, this is something that I’ve previously reviewed on
the
Pre-DVD: Video’s Of The 90’s page.  It was one of those videos that started off OK and
steadily degenerated, but this isn’t too bad as Golden Void came from the middle section of the set.  The
main problem is lack of ambient lighting on the stage – not too bad when viewing the footage from the left
camera angle, which shows Alan Davey up fairly clearly.  But the right hand side of the stage where Dave
Brock is located is much darker.  It’s also possible to pick out Harvey Bainbridge and Simon House
fairly well.  Musically this is excellent, as the 1989 incarnation of the band could hold their own with the
Hawkwind of any era in the live stakes.

Next is another hitherto unseen segment – 1996 rehearsal footage of
Steppenwolf, from the farm.  Being
exclusive to this title, you are unlikely to see it on any other future DVD release and therefore need to put
your hand in your pocket and buy this one, of course.  The music features the “Alien 4â€� period line-
up with Ron Tree on vocals, and the version of this song that they crank out is superb, with Alan’s bass
playing being particularly splendid, as the visual footage concentrates on three female dancers rehearsing in
the sunshine: they go through their paces in the farm’s yard while the band are cranking it out in an
adjacent barn.  The dancers are watched by an older couple who remain immobile in deckchairs, off to one
shaded side of the yard.  I enjoyed their stoic spectatorship quite as much as anything else in this number.

Finally, there is an option called ‘Hawkwind Passports’ which leads to a further submenu with these
choices: Hawkfest, Launch Party, and Hawkwind Passport Details.  The first of these,
Hawkfest, consists
of a montage of video and still shots from both Hawkfests (2002 and 2003), shot by Val and Rik
Richardson, over a new synthy instrumental called Don’t Be Donkish.  This has a touch of the old
British Tribal Music / Douglas In The Jungle motif about it, and would not be out of place on a Brock solo
album.  The visuals will be familiar from the Hawkfest photo galleries on
Mission Control and include the
disturbing sight of yours truly if you know where to look.

The next sequence,
Launch Party, is a similar exercise in that it presents a montage of still shots over the
musical backing of Paradox 2005.  This was put together by Martin Treanor, using many of the photos that
appear on my
Spirit Of The Age Launch Party page.  (Some additional photos -professional quality!-
were supplied by Rik Richardson.)

Lastly, the Hawkwind Passport Details is just a page of static information on where, how and why you
should get one if you haven’t already.  Given everything that is in the pipeline at the moment, this is
strongly advised!  And in fact, that’s really what this entire album is all about, setting aside for the
moment the fact that it’s split across two different formats with the CD and DVD portions.  Some of
this material is a tidying up of the last couple of years, closing out the transition from ‘Destruction of The
Death Generator’ to ‘Take Me To Your Leader’.  The remainder is a look at what the band are
working on for the future, notably with various DVD projects being in hand.  This may be a core album, but
it nonetheless almost comes across as a compilation – and perhaps should be judged against different /
less exacting criteria than was the case for Take me To Your Leader, for example.  So, it’s a stopgap â
€“ a must-have for the committed fan, and not recommended for, or aimed at the casual buyer.  Sounds like
a 7/10.