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Space Bandits

Review by Gary Hill

The only studio album to feature this lineup, this one leaves me wishing they had done more. It is difficult with the incredible amount of material this band have released to really pick out one or two best albums, but this one would definitely be in the running. Really all the songs but one are exceptional. This is one of their most progressive oriented albums ever, too - Simon House's return on violin certainly helped that out. While this one is often overlooked, it really shouldn't be, as it is one of the top echelon of Hawk-albums.

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Track by Track Review
This one comes in dramatically and has a quick crescendo, then the band launch into a fast paced jam. Bridget Wishart's vocals take the lead here. This is a very potent and classic sounding Hawksong, and an excellent album opener. A staccato jam takes it later, and then the cut drops to keys with effects overtop. Against this backdrop processed, mostly spoken, vocals come across. This eventually crescendos and sedate atmospheric keys carry it for a time until the original song section screams out with Dave Brock taking an awesome solo. Simon House takes a violin solo over top as they carry on later. The whole band pretty well goes nuts in the later minutes until a crescendo followed by effects gives way to another reprise of the central theme. This is truly one of the best constructed and powerful songs Hawkwind ever created.
Black Elk Speaks
Native American drumming with only slight instrumentation at first, then a growing intense rhythmic progression serves as the background of a Native American recitation by John G. Neihardt. After this Wishart eventually takes some vocals more as a poetry reading atop this same background. Narration in the form of a couple repetitive loops returns later. The drums are the last man standing here. This is a very effective number.
The sounds of birds start this and keys join in after a time in space waves of texture. Then the band joins in a bouncy rhythmic texture. The vocals come in with a slightly echoed dual, mostly spoken / partly sung performance by Alan Davey and Wishart. Sound effects come across at times. This doesn't wander far and fades very slowly out to end. The song foretells the end of birds due to pollution, and it's another very strong one on an exceptionally strong album.
Out of the Shadows
Beginning with the sounds of a race, the band also jump out of the gate running fast. This is a frantically paced Hawk rocker that really works well. A more melodic break later includes some stellar jamming and intriguing background sounds. They drop it back to a hypnotic Hawkwind drone type structure later to continue. As this carries on Alan Davey gets a bass solo, then the cut dissolves into weird sounds and processed vocals, laughter and applause. A weirdly processed vocal returns to the lyrics of the song after a time. Then atmospheric keys take the track, segueing it into the next one.
This weird sound effects dominated keyboard solo is basically all atmosphere. This drags on a bit too long and is the one weak point on the album. Percussion enters at the end to segue it into the next track.
Ship of Dreams
Percussion begun in "Realms" carries forward here with little accompaniment, then a recitation/chant start over the top and weird sound effects join. Eventually the band comes to the party in a classic Hawkwind rhythmic jam. This one really feels like it could have come from the Turner/Calvert era of the band. This is rather weird, very hypnotic and quite cool, most of the time the music just wanders in and out. The later vocals in the cut feel as if they are part of a dream. This dissolves to chanted hypnotic rhythmic weirdness later, and underwater sounds end it.
TV Suicide
Effects driven keys with the sounds of television show noise star this, and a droning begins. It carries on like this for quite a while, then the intensity builds, and a repetitive keyboard line plays back and forth across the top. A vocal line sort of echoes backwards in and begins a spoken recitation with chorus coming over to of keyboards. They build this up for a time until the sound of glass breaking heralds in a new pretty and sedate yet glowing keyboard section. This gradually builds and runs the song through to its end.
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