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Spirits Burning & Bridget Wishart

Earth Born

Review by Gary Hill

Since this disc features performances from a number of people who have been involved with Hawkwind (most notably Wishart herself) comparisons to that band are obvious. A lot of the music lives up to that. In fact a good deal of this disc reminds me of a more pure progressive rock oriented Hawkwind with some serious jazz thrown into the mix. Whatever the combination you cite, I love this CD. It’s probably going to be close to the top of my list of top discs once this year ends. Since it’s still January as I write this, that’s quite a prediction. It’s a great CD that never fails to entertain. You might not like all the songs as well as the others, but if you are a fan of Hawkwind, or creative progressive rock with jazz leanings, you owe it to yourself to get this one. The other Hawkfolks who show up on at least one song are Alan Davey, Steve Swindells, Jerry Richards, Richard Chadwick and Simon House. Don Falcone is the main man behind Spirits Burning and the group also includes David Allen who is best known for his work in Gong. Check out Spirits Burning or Bridget Wishart’s myspace for more information.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
Earth Born
Acoustic guitar leads this off and the track begins to grow in a rather organic way, feeling a bit like some mysterious prog ballad. Wishart’s vocals come in short, punchy lines. It bursts out after a time in a faster paced jam. Other layers of vocals come in and the guitar throws down little melodic lines. It drops way back to the balladic modes and for some reason this time it calls to mind Pink Floyd a bit. When it comes out into the faster segment again it’s powered up even more, although it’s still based around acoustic guitar. They turn in a killer arrangement of the themes here and then drop it way back for an instrumental interlude tied to the sounds that made up the earlier sections. This even turns a little neo-classical at times with the lines of violin skirting around the melody. They take us on a couple more variations on the musical themes, turning in a great performance, before dropping it way down to end. This track features four current or former members of Hawkind in the form of Wishart, Davey, House and Chadwick.
One Way Trip
Space motifs, much like Hawkwind start this off. After this introduction a bouncing sort of melody enters with a more rocking tone. Wisharts vocals intone over this backdrop and other waves of sound are added as icing on the cake, bringing more Hawkwind-like sounds with them. Like a lot of Hawkwind music, and space rock in general, this doesn’t wander far in terms of song structure, but rather layers of sound are added to create variation. Former Hawkmen Steve Swindells and Jerry Richards are both present on this musical journey.  This gets a lot more hard rocking later with lines of crunch guitar thrown into the mix. It’s another strong piece of music.
This is a much mellower tune, feeling a bit like a Hawk-take on something from Bjork. While I wouldn’t say this is one of my favorite tunes here, it serves a good purpose in breaking up the disc and changing the general format out a bit. It’s a pleasant tune, there just isn’t a lot going on here. Still when the vocal arrangement gets fuller it does gain some charm. This almost feels like something you might hear on pop radio these days – or some europop dittie. Simon House’s violin does add some drama further down the road. The musical arrangement becomes more inspired beyond the point where House enters, too.
Sarah's Surprise
This comes in with almost jazzy tone and implementation. It has a mellow, bouncy arrangement. This one becomes just a bit dissonant and strange at times. It’s not one of my favorite tracks. The mellower, sparsely arranged segment at the end is kind of cool, though.
Hit The Moon
“Hit the Moon” is incredibly cool. It has an open sort of fusion meets King Crimson and Hawkwind arrangement. Most of the Hawkwind like elements come from Wishart’s vocals. The guitar at times reminds me of David Gilmour. Some hard-edged guitar leads to a different sort of vocal delivery from Wishart later that reminds me a bit of The Waitresses – and that is high praise because I thought that band was really cool. It’s kind of like The Waitresses are added to the mix from the first part of the track. This is definitely not a catchy pop-dittie, but it’s also quite interesting and entertaining. It drops way down to ambience and sound effects with loops for the final extended segment.

Two Friends
If the last cut had hints of jazz, Miles Davis is in the room on this one. In actuality, Richard Chadwick does return on this cut. This has a fairly sparse arrangement in terms of the fact that there is a lot of open air in its sonic structure. It still has a lot of percussive interest and melody mostly in terms of the flugel horn and drums. Wishart’s vocal performance here is exceptional, too, though. They throw in a great pure jazz segment mid-song. This comes in with a smooth instrumental interlude and then Wishart comes in over the top of this. It drops away to a short techno-like section and then continues onward with the earlier musical structure. Just before the four minute mark it turns a rather Floydian corner with a noisy, but cool guitar solo bringing in echoes of very early Pink Floyd. That element doesn’t stay around long, though, giving way to a reprise of the main song structure. We get another unusual section after the song proper ends and more of the guitar. This is without question one of my favorite pieces on the CD.
Behind The Veil
Here they come in with a more traditional balladic tone. Wishart’s voice comes across in a non-lyrical way and it feels like we’re about to launch down the road. It’s not a straight trip, though, as the track veers out into strange journeys for a time before settling back into the opening motif for the first real vocals of its length. This has a bit of an Eastern tone to it at times, but I also sense hints of Native American music. They turn it out into a rather expansive jam later in the track and this is twisted a bit at the edges here and there for good measure. In some ways this feels like Hawkwind meets Camper Van Beethoven. It sort of dissolves out into near chaos to end.

Crafted From Wood
Percussion with vocals serves for the musical motif here. Richard Chadwick is present on this number, providing “Apache drums.” Some minor instrumentation joins later in the piece, but this stripped down arrangement of vocals (male and female dueting) over drumming is both effective and a nice change of pace. The final portion of the track is completely a acapella.
Child Growing
Based in a mellow, almost ballad-like motif, this one really reminds me a lot of some of the music from Hawkwind’s Space Bandits disc. Since that’s on my short-list of favorite Hawk-discs, that says a lot. Still, this grows out into a lot more progressive rock oriented territory than was covered on …Bandits. Lines of violin and lush keyboards add a lot to the arrangement here. I even hear some Yes-like elements later in terms of the guitar textures that show up and the general arrangement. This is a purely beautiful musical journey and probably my favorite song on the CD.  At over seven minutes in length it’s also the longest one.
A bouncy jazzy tune, this one features male vocals (provided by Jerry Jeter) as the lead ones. Wishart is still here, though, contributing both clarinet and her voice. Alan Davey returns in a rather uncharacteristic, but impressive performance on double bass. This song is the least Hawkwind like number on show here, but also one of the highlights. Its dramatic jazz-oriented musical themes are powerful and provide variety to the set. It shifts out to more pure progressive rock as it nears its conclusion.
Storm Shelter
The musical backdrop on this reminds me a bit of something from Rickie Lee Jones. The overall arrangement has a jazz meets prog approach in a ballad, but I swear I hear a little of “Chuck E.’s In Love” on this song. This is an interesting change of pace and a cool piece of music, but it’s not one of my favorites. When the arrangement fills out (at first with keys and later with horns) it becomes a bit more interesting. I actually hear quite a bit of The Beatles on some of the latter half. Space keys finally end this.

Wispy and distant, Wishart’s voice begins this. Horns dominate the melody as the song proper rises upward. This is a very dramatic and pretty song that has both elements of jazz and leanings towards balladic progressive rock. It’s another intriguing change (albeit not the most abrupt one we’ve seen) of pace and another great piece of music. While I wouldn’t consider this one of my favorites, it’s definitely a great song.
Dancers at the End Of...
This is a gentle and playful cut that really feels a lot like one of Jon Anderson’s mellower contributions to Yes (think “Holy Lamb” and songs like that). This turns a bit jazzy before it ends. It’s probably not the best way to close the disc with a bang, but it’s also a very pretty piece of music that lends a satisfying conclusion.
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