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Alan Davey

Human on the Outside

Review by Gary Hill
Alan Davey’s latest solo disc shows a lot of Hawkwind-like sounds. That’s natural as Davey played bass, provided keys and some vocals along with writing a lot of the music for Hawkwind for a good many years. While there is a lot of Hawkind in the musical mix, that’s definitely not the only arrow in Davey’s quiver. You’ll likely hear a lot of other sounds in the mix. You’ll note that I said, “you’ll likely hear…” That’s because I can’t imagine that if you are a Hawkwind fan or a fan of great space rock in general that you won’t pick this disc up. It’s a great one and one of the better releases of the year.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Atmosphere
This one gets some points for truth in advertising, not that it needs them. The opening instrumental, dramatic keyboard lines swirl and rotate with an ebb and flow, creating the atmosphere that the title addresses. It segues into the next cut.
Years Ago Miles Away
Starting with keyboards carried from the last piece, percussive sounds join and these elements hold the introduction. The song proper pounds in with a hard edged space rock texture. This is sort of like vintage Hawkwind meets Motorhead and some blues rock band from the 1970’s. It just plain stomps and includes a killer instrumental section. It also resolves out into a different motif later that has sort of a soaring approach. This gives way to a movement that feels like it could have come from one of the early Hawkwind albums. It drops to just keyboards and bass for some atmospheric sounds mid track. When it climbs back up from there it reminds me of something akin to the music from “Secret Agent Man” merged with Hawkwind and some sort of sci-fi film soundtrack music. Mind you, this is tempered with more killer hard rocking sounds. This instrumental section has some definite psychedelia to it. A crescendo gives way to a false ending. When the track rises back up from there I’m reminded of Rush quite a bit. Davey takes us back through a reprise of some of the earlier sections of the track as he moves it towards its completion. Keys finally finish it off. What a ride!
Eyes Closed
Waves of keys with science fiction film audio bites lead this affair off. A bouncing sort of techno rhythm section joins and these elements hold the track for a while. Then it moves out into a sort of groove oriented jam that has a bit more of that “Secret Agent Man” feel to it in a way. I guess I kind of hear The Ventures meet Hawkwind on this one. This instrumental is very different, but also oh so cool. It’s one of my favorite pieces on the disc.
Drum Head
This one rocks out hard from the get go. I can definitely hear the Rush thing on this one, too. We still have some Hawkwind in the mix and other elements. Pounding, but also quite strange, this one takes a bit of getting used to. The main riff is a killer but the odd vocal arrangement brings a space texture that’s a bit alienating. A few listenings get you into the mode of it, though. Then the track works really well. It drops to keys to end.
Marine Snow
This rises up from the last number with keyboards driving its birth. This is essentially one of those little ambient keyboard interludes that fans of Hawkwind should know quite well by now.
Nothing Is Weird
Starting with keys and vocals, this thing pounds out from there in a punky, space rock sort of fury that’s pretty awesome. It drops mid song to near silence and then rises in sort of classical music turned middle Eastern texture that is pretty and mysterious. From here we rise up into a desert caravan. This is definitely quite classical in nature, but also very dramatic. While there are aspects that might make you think of soundtrack music, there is far more to this than that. It also has a bit of an old school jazz feel to it. It drops back down to a false ending and then seems about to rise back up to the caravan sounds before it kicks back out into the opening riff driven segment to take the song to another short false ending and its final iteration.
World of Fear
As odd as this sounds, when it opens up I could swear that I hear a bit of the melody to Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing.” It doesn’t stay around long and instead this pounding riff based jam is very much in the mode of Davey’s work in Hawkwind. I hear touches of Motorhead and Led Zeppelin in here, too. It’s another strong number on a disc that doesn’t suffer for a lack of them at all. It doesn’t pack a lot of surprises, but it never fails to deliver the quality either.
Ethnic Mosaic Part 1
This starts with just percussion and that mode holds it for a time. This grows in minor ways with waves of keys coming over the top of this drumming extravaganza. Rhythms wander here and there taking the track through in a very interesting way. It shifts out to pure keyboards later in the number. As they power it back out I get a bit of a Tony Levin vibe for some reason. This turns later to a more sparse arrangement created by odd sounds over a return to dominance by the drums. The more rocking motif manages to return again before this closes.
Ethnic Mosaic Part 2
Keys begin this show and gradually rise up. The percussion presence from the last track returns as this gains drama and a sense of foreboding. It turns towards less dark territory as lines of percussion and other elements wander across the soundscape. It evolves into more sedate and rather organic world music type sounds after a time. It moves out to more of a jazz percussion groove as the space continues to expand and contract.
The Unseen
Pretty, yet a bit creepy, this is another keyboard based ambient interlude. It includes an echoey recitation, much like some of the poetry readings Michael Moorcock used to provide in Hawkwind. It evolves into some pretty keyboard melodic sections for a time, but then works out into more spacey weirdness. Keys take it the rest of the way through.
Delusions of Ganja
What a title this one has! The track is a grinding hard edged number that again feels quite a bit like Hawkwind. It wanders off into a more freeform sort of jam later, but doesn’t wander far from its origins. This turns into a killer, almost jazzy jam to serve as the closing section of the number.
Dog Star
Spacey ambient keys weave their celestial tale here.
Glass Wolves
Another killer hard edged Hawkwind-like grind serves as the closing cut. This is another where I also hear bits of Motorhead in some ways. It has some extremely tasty guitar work and a downright classic riff. The turbocharged variant mid-song is incredible. Keyboards take it after a while, drawing it to its conclusion. Right at the finish they seem ready to rise up, but alas the track closes instead. I can’t imagine a better way to end the disc.
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