|Take Me To Your Leader
The new studio album will be out in March 2005 (we are told...) Here's the cover (thx Phil!)
and the tracklist
Hawkwind last released a studio album in 1999, if you count the half-live 'In Your Area', and in 1997 if you
look back to the prematurely-released Distant Horizons. The consensus is that neither is a particularly
strong effort, and you have to go back to 1995, to the intriguing Alien 4, to find a really decent Hawkwind
studio album. Before that, it was Electric Tepee in 1992. Three and a half albums in twelve years is not
exactly a prodigious output!
So this new album ("Take Me To Your Leader") has been keenly anticipated for a long time, and it is finally
going to get a release in March 2005, with the cover artwork shown above, by Pete Pracownik. A single
will also be released at around the same time (23/8/04, apparently): a new version of Spirit Of The Age b/w
Angela Android, with vocals by Matthew Wright and Richard Chadwick respectively. In addition to
Matthew Wright, other guests appearing on the album are Arthur Brown, Lene Lovich and Lemmy.
The tracklist for the new album (updated 11/09/05) is:
Spirit Of The Age
Out Here We Are
To Love A Machine
Take Me To Your Leader
A Letter To Robert
And I will put a review of it here, of course, but this is a long way off yet!
11th September 2005
Well, the release of the new album is now imminent, and what a wait it's been. Depending on whether you
count 1997's "Distant Horizons" or 1998's half-live "In Your Area" as the last Hawkwind studio album, it's
been 7 or 8 years since the last time we had a new Hawkwind album that wasn't a live recording. During
that time the album has gone through a total re-recording: according to Dave Brock, the band had to spend 3
years "learning how to use the computer" on account of being â€œbarbarians" when it comes to technology!
There has also been a name change for the album as a whole (from 'Destruction Of The Death Generatorâ
€™ to 'Take Me To Your Leader') and some alterations in the tracklist too: the listing shown above is the
actual / final track listing, but back in 2003, Angela Android was intended to appear on the Spirit Of The Age
single only, and not on the album. Other titles that had been bandied around at this time were Technoland
(used instead on the Christmas 2002 free CD single), Land Of Dreams, Sparkles & Slide, Population
Overload (this got renamed to "The Reality Of Poverty"), The Molecular Family, Asylum Island, One World
Future and Trip (a tape of Bob Calvert's vocals, set to the musical elements of Ode To A Timeflower; this
featured on the set lists of the Spring 2004 tour dates). All these in fact came from a story that appeared in
the May 2003 issue of Classic Rock magazine, which also erroneously asserted that Hawkwind were about
to sign to SPV Records: so their non-appearance should perhaps come as no surprise.
Even so, as recently as Spring 2004 (in the tour programme dating from then) the album's track listing was
1. Spirit Of The Age
2. Take Me To Your Leader
3. Digital Nation
4. Out Here We Are
6. String Theory
7. The Reality Of Poverty
8. Cyber Space
9. Letter To Robert
10. Silver Machine
The lyrics to "The Reality Of Poverty" were even extensively featured in the tour programme, but this track
has since vanished from view. Others in this listing that have not been heard of since are String Theory and
Cyber Space. In fact, by early October 2004, the tracklist, as defined by the samples that were made
available on Mission Control, had changed again to be close to the final version:
1. Angela Android
2. Digital Nation
3. Greenback Massacre
4. Letter To Robert
5. Out Here We Are
6. Reality of Poverty
7. Spirit of the Age
9. Take Me To Your Leader
10. To Love A Machine
Angela Android was back in, while String Theory, Cyber Space and Silver Machine had vanished, the
former two seemingly for good. But the same can't be said for Silver Machine, which, despite seeming to
have dropped off the album, made an unexpected appearance on TotalRock radio on 11th March 2005 as
part of a tribute to veteran hard rock DJ Tommy Vance, who'd died five days earlier. Lasting 7 minutes, the
new version was topped and tailed by a dedication from Dave Brock, and came across as a very faithful
rendition of the original, but sounding cleaned-up and benefitting from more modern instrument voicings:
Lemmy's vocals sounded very musical (quite unlike his latterday growl), the guitar sound was hard and
bright, but followed much of the original version's lead stylings, and the synth background had far more
clarity than the whooshing roar of Dik'n'Del 72, but still generated that feeling of excitement. The song also
featured an ambient mid-section and an unusual coda, featuring a dancey drum pattern and a Dobro-
sounding guitar. Overall, the best version of Silver Machine I've heard, packed with urgency and power.
But not on the album...¦
This might have been the last word in terms of
previews of the album, except that Hawkwind
Passport holders and other avid fans were treated
to a free promotional CD in August 2005, offering
brief samples of the album as finally mixed, and a
lengthy radio-style interview with Dave Brock.
Although the interview yielded little in the way of
new information, one thing that was immediately
apparent was how much better the final mixes of
the album samples sounded than the versions that
had been posted on Mission Control some 10
months previously: unless I am hearing the
difference between music played on a computer
and music played on dedicated audio equipment.
Either way, the promo CD whetted my appetite for
the new album in a way that the downloadable
samples had not, and now that the release is
imminent I am practically hopping from foot to
foot with anticipation!
Some people, though, were lucky enough to get advance copies of the album (at the Spirit Of The Age
launch party) and you can already read a couple of reviews written by Dave Law over at Metal UK and
also at Dave's own site, the Hawkwind Museum. Seeing as Dave has masterminded the Chart Trek
campaign which has greatly raised the band's profile just ahead of the album release, he well and truly
deserved his advance copy, and it's worth noting that the Museum's review was a world exclusiveâ€¦
(bugger!) You'll have to wait another 10 days or so for me to follow suit, as my copy is coming from
amazon.co.uk like everybody else's. Still, this ought to mean that I get one of the first 2,000 copies,
which come with a free DVD, and I'll include that in my review, which is more than Dave managed :-)
22/09/2005 - The Review!
Well this has now been out in the wider world for ten days, and while I'd like to tell you that I am a special
person who got an advance copy several weeks ago, this would not be at all true. I ordered from Amazon,
just like everybody else, and I suspect I might be one of the *last* people in the world to have had it
delivered to them, so special am I!
So it is already generally known that there is a blotch on the front cover (the illustration on this page is from
an earlier proof and doesn't have the blotch) and that the CD comes with a nice booklet, 16 pages in colour,
which includes a few song lyrics, detailed credits, some illustrations and a number of photos taken by
various people. There have also been a number of reviews posted to the Yahoo! Group and the
BOC-L/Hawkwind email lists which I have tried not to allow to colour my reactions to the album, but
anyway, here we go...¦
The album opens with a full-length version of what was just released in 'Radio Edit' form as one version of
the Spirit Of The Age single. That sounds a terribly convoluted way in which to describe it, and well, it is
a bit convoluted. Fading in the familiar 2-chord riff, this observes the contemporary update of the original
cut's sound and arrangement (-see my review of the Radio Edit on the CD singles page) and opens with a
brief guitar solo before Matthew Wright intones the lyrics to the first verse only. He does it excellently,
invoking Calvert's vocal style every bit as successfully as Ron Tree did before him. Then there's a chorus
and some more lead guitar.
Starting with "I am a clone, I am not alone", Dave Brock then takes over the lead vocals, and sings rather
than speaks them, chasing this with another chorus and scads more lead guitar. There are some excellent
keyboard noises in the outro, some of which are traditional Hawkwind synth tones, and some figures that I
take to be organ. These must surely be the work of James Clemas who is so credited in the accompanying
CD booklet - they are superb little musical touches which really enhance the overall vibe and I wish were
afforded greater prominence in the body of the song...
Out Here We Are is a song of three movements, with the opening passage being a slow, majestic affair of
celestial keyboards and earth-shifting bass pedals, the epitome of the best elements of post-1990 Hawkwind
(think 'Blue Shift'). After two minutes this moves into a lighter passage of open-sounding arpeggios that
might possibly be played on the upper strings of Alan Davey's bass, overlaid with cool jazz sax / trumpet /
flute from Jez Huggett: completely atypical. The final two minutes are a return to the opening piece, and
pull the song back into familiar Hawkwind territory. A mellow triumph!
Greenback Massacre - this one is an Alan Davey number and, as others have pointed out, could function
very well as a Bedouin song. The main riff is quite awkward, seeming to have one bass note too many (I
think this is in 9/8 time!) and it is the bass which totally drives this song. Alan's raspy vocals of course
take the lead, and for my money it's on the chorus where they and his pummelling bass work really make
this powerhouse of a song a contender for standout track on the album. The guitar, while subdued on this
arrangement, does a lot of Eastern-scale lead, subtly reinforcing the Bedouinness of it all - hard rock with
Arabic influences. Does what it says on the tin.
On every Hawkwind album there has to be at least one classic Brock track, and even the weakest in the
canon do not disappoint: Distant Horizons had 'Waimea Canyon Drive', and this album has To Love A
Machine, a much stronger song. Lyrically this is the flipside to Angela Android, exploring the interaction of
a human woman with a male android, and taking a bleaker view. Musically there is some very good
acoustic guitar topping and tailing the vocal section of the song, which has another cool jazzy outro, this
time featuring the cocktail lounge piano heroics of Jason Stuart!
Take Me To Your Leader is Hawkwind in trance mode, and for once they do the e-throb kind of thing in a
way that stands up to any scrutiny. Pulsing bass notes, busy skittering beats, twinkling synths and a dirty,
surging guitar combine to set up a brilliant instrumental opening lasting a couple of minutes. After that the
song moves into a vocal section, with a Brock spoken interlude and sung vocals by Richard Chadwick.
Who continues with the lead voice on Digital Nation: which is another departure for Hawkwind in
songwriting terms, being a tightly-arranged ballad (written by Richard) that maintains the brilliant
production work of the album as a whole. The only thing I can think of that it resembles is some of the
stuff Richard did with Jerry Richards on the Star Nation album in 2002.
Arthur Brown pops up for the first time here with Sunray, touted by several people as a better choice than
Spirit of The Age for a new single, and it has some of the same melodic thrust as 'Right To Decide',
without sacrificing the underlying muscular swagger that is an essential part of Hawkwind. Arthur's vocals
are characteristically excellent - although the musical material is nothing like this, he actually has a great
voice for what used to be called Blue-eyed Soul. For example his 'yeah!'s in the sexy little coda, that kicks
in at around the three minute mark, intertwine surperbly with the revving organ chords - before a distorted
guitar with varispeed tremolo ushers this one out the door, too soon if anything.
Sighs may be the least familiar track name on the album, and it is in fact just a brief synthy piece that
includes the spoken lyric from 'Technoland'. It leads straight into Angela Android, which is different from
the live version that was recorded on 25/5/2003 and released on the SotA single: this is a studio recording.
In the accompanying DVD (of which more in a moment) and also in a recent interview with Scott Heller
that appeared in Aural Innovations, Richard Chadwick gave a very cogent explanation of the subject matter
which I thought was at odds with the slightly smutty lyrical content - and in fact the lyrics are fairly
pathetic compared with the interesting concept that Richard enunciates as being the theme. Lene Lovich,
who supplies vocals, plainly doesn't mind, and conveys the essential lightheartedness of the track with some
trademark squeals and trills. Musically it's a number that has improved since its first appearance in the
2003 Spring Tour set lists, although is still very monotonal with not much in the way of chordal variation at
all. Simon House is credited with keyboards here (and violin on Sunray) but I must admit I would not have
noticed had this not been mentioned in the CD booklet.
Finally, the album finishes with A Letter To Robert, which consists of an improvised spoken delivery by
Arthur Brown, narrating an imaginary conversation with Robert Calvert, over a backing of seemingly
formless thumps, whirrs and bleeps. These however make more actual sense than Arthur's stream of
consciousness, which runs the gamut from nepotism to alien spaceships landing on golf courses, via
paranoia, misogyny, adulterated food, environmental destruction, EastEnders, etc.. I suppose someone
somewhere may like this, but for me it's a waste of time and a weak way to close the album out. Very
disappointing, especially when you know that other tracks were bumped off the album to make room for
So, where does this stand in the overall scale of Hawkwind's work? I must admit I wasn't expecting much,
and Take Me To Your Leader more than delivers: the sound of the album is amazing, being full and
powerful, but retaining absolute clarity. It is without doubt the best-produced album they have ever made.
And the material is (with the exception of A Letter To Robert) also much better than expected - not that the
new stuff ranks with the numbers to be found on Hall Of The Mountain Grill, but still...¦ Perhaps the main
disappointment in this regard is the presence of a twenty-eight year old song - but at least the album, unlike
the single(s) does not rely on a preponderance of resurrected elderly numbers to maintain Hawkwind's
presence into the 21st century.
The most I had hoped for as far as the new album was concerned was that it would be better than stuff like
Distant Horizons and In Your Area and would ideally stand up alongside the stronger albums that Hawkwind
have recorded in the latter part of their career, like Electric Tepee and Alien 4. There is no doubt that this
has been achieved, and in certain respects maybe TMTYL surpasses those albums: it cetainly has a greater
consistency of material, whereas Alien 4 and Electric Tepee featured a handful of great tracks alongside
some filler. Time will tell exactly where TMTYL stands, but for right now it's a definite thumbs up...¦.hope
we don't have to wait 8 years for the follow-up!
The first 2,000 copies of this album are accompanied by a free DVD which features interviews with Dave
Brock, Alan Davey and Richard Chadwick, and a disparate clutch of music tracks. The interviews are
none too challenging, lasting about ten minutes each and being made up of fairly soft deliveries from the
interviewer (a young woman called Sam Boyero) - this is, after all, more of a promotional tool than a piece
of investigative journalism. Dave refuses to play along, though, by declining to characterise the new album
in terms of enthusiastic hyperbole - the best he can bring himself to say about it is "it's all right". (Trust
me, it's better than all right!) Richard, when asked the same question, gives a rather more thoughtful
answer by replying that it takes him about a year after release to be able to decide objectively how much he
likes a particular Hawkwind song or album. And these two answers pretty much sum up the differing
responses of these two interviewees.
Alan is another kettle of fish. He comes across as a more emotive person and touchingly confesses that he
struggles with reading (dyslexia, one assumes) and hence with writing lyrics, not that this has stopped
him. Of the trio, he is I would guess the most committed to and obsessed by the music of Hawkwind, and
is certainly the most driven character in the band. His interview segment closes out with his comment that
not everyone who's been in the band has been easy to get along with...ironic, really, as the paperback
edition of Carol Clerk's 'The Saga Of Hawkwind' is expected to reveal when published in January 2006!
The music tracks are (in this order) the Spirit Of The Age promotional video; the July 2004 Rusirock
festival performance of Silver Machine with Lemmy and Phil Caivano guesting; a 1992 concert clip from
the Brixton Academy, with the studio recording of 'Right To Decide' overlaying it (I recognise this one
from when I was reviewing VHS videos for the Pre-DVD: Hawkwind Video's of the 90's page); and 2
camcorder takes from dates on the 2004 UK tour, showing Spirit Of The Age and Psychedelic Warlords
respectively. The two lattermost of these tracks have a text banner apologising for the inferior sound
quality reproduction superimposed on the footage, though not *too* obtrusively. That's not really
necessary, but what a shame that the camera angle and zoom never alter throughout these two clips,
making it seem as though the camcorder wielder just stood at the back of the hall, pressed the record
button and then took care to remain utterly immobile for the next 90 minutes. A missed opportunity, there.
The Ruisrock footage is pretty decent, and portrays the band plus their illustrious guests pummelling and
blasting their way through their one and only true hit, to the evident enjoyment of the crowd. It's quite a
contrast to the Spirit Of The Age promotional video, which prominently features Matthew Wright along
with a reasonable dash of fairly low-budget video effects of vials, flagons, pipettes, atoms, galaxies, stars,
etc. overlaying incongruous close-ups of the band and their favourite minor TV personality. But it's all
good clean fun, and given the price of admission, it's very nice to have!