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Hawkwind

This Is Hawkwind, Do Not Panic

Review by Bruce Stringer

One step on from the classic, yet volatile, Levitation line-up this release is a collection of tracks highlighting their performance of 1981's Stonehenge festival, re-sequenced and sounding at their most energetic since the days of Lemmy. Ginger Baker, who was to leave shortly after this, added an element of jazz fusion to the chemistry in stark contrast to Simon King's staccato straight-four drumming and it's as if the set list was constructed to feature the mastery of British guitar legend Huw Lloyd-Langton. Keyboard whiz, Tim Blake, had been dropped, his place filled by the mysterious Keith Hayle and, as always, Dave Brock is there with the trusty bass playing of Harvey Bainbridge (who I always thought should have stayed on bass and never switched to keys).

The 1981 tracks make this one of my all time favourite Hawkwind albums, second only to Levitation, however it would have been a much fairer release to give the fans the full set. From my understanding some of the missing tracks appear on the Zones album (Dangerous Visions and Motorway City) so it does give credence to Zones in that respect. The artwork is not it's strongest point and the photos seem to be from the 1984 release adding further to confusion. Huw's role in the band seemed to diminish over the years after this although, it is his playing and Harvey's migration to keyboards that makes albums like this and Levitation such amazing musical endeavours - magical moments in space and prog rock.

So, without further ado…
"This is your captain speaking.. Your captain is dead, dead, dead…"

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Psy Power (aka Psi Power)
A track from the Hawklords album, here given a heavier, more bullsy treatment fitting in nicely with the era's sound. Actually featured much later in the set, it has here been used as the track to begin this album in it's much rawer vein. The decision behind the change, or edit, of the running order would be an interesting point to bring up with Messrs Brock and Co, however as it stands the album is very strong in this order. Harvey's fine bass playing stands out and we are treated to a great live mix, something which puts the later Stonehenge material (Stonehenge Decoded and Watching the Grass Grow from 1984) to shame. Keith Hayle's keyboard sound works well in a less-spacey manner. Included is great soloing from Mr Lloyd-Langton and some pretty cool little percussive things from Mr Baker.
Levitation
A great tune, this is the title track from the album of which this show would have been in support of. Ginger's percussive drumming melds well with Harvey's bass and there is a definition in the instrumental mix that takes the studio version one step further. The vocals are strong and the performance overall on this track is quite amazing. Again, the synth sounds work well and the vocals are very confident (- is that an overdub of Mr Brock we are hearing there?). The instrumental mid-section is tasteful and serves well from the soundboard mix.
Circles
Although un-credited, this includes the Psychosis intro and the 5th Second of Forever instrumental pieces before finally bursting into Circles. Huw's 5th Second.. part is stunning and gives the show a dynamic sensibility that most heavier acts would have surely omitted. Circles is a 2-chord rocker, almost simplistic, yet never with a dull moment from guitar-slinger Huwey. Dipping and diving before Ginger's drums finally bring a more tribal element to the edge before returning to the 5th Second outro and into "Space Chase"
Space Chase
This is a brilliant instrumental space rock piece that highlights the interplay between Huw Lloyd-Langton and the rest of 'Spaceship Hawkwind'. Keith's soloing sits nicely in the mix, also as the rest of the band 'riff out'. Probably the most progressive rock of the Hawkwind back catalogue, it is a pity that within the space of only a few short albums much of this type of interplay and soloing in a more technical vein was phased out. This may have, of course, been due to Baker's departure, but it's recordings like this that survive to show what might have been.
Death Trap
Another Calvert-Brock composition from the end of Hawkwind's 70's era, this is also given the heavy treatment and sounding more lively than the original. It features vocals by Harvey (also beating it out on his Fender bass) and is sustained with the quick-fire, railroad percussion that takes it away from a simplistic straight rocker. There is great soloing and interesting lyrical content. With bass chords to boot and a really tight sound, the crowd obviously appreciate this little belter.
Angels of Death
A relaxed version of the classic Hawk mainstay and soon-to-be single, it's the subtle sound effects that add an interesting atmosphere once again creating a more dynamic sense. One can even hear the whispered vocals of certain passages. The solo section includes an off time feel by Ginger allowing Huw to make some of his magic come to life. Huw really is on fire throughout this whole release, as is the whole band in general, and it's sad to think that no video / film footage has ever been released from this period (if any actually exists, apart from the Levitation promos). The spaced out ending takes this up to the 6:30 mark, and is in it's original order book ended by "Death Trap" and "Shot Down In The Night".
Shot Down in the Night
This is the single issued from the Live '79 album (featuring Simon King and Tim Blake) which charted well and brought the new, revitalised Hawkwind back into the fold of heavy space oriented rock. Penned by Steve Swindells and more a mainstream piece, this version is tight and has some great little bass bits. More great soloing lengthens the piece out and herein ends the 1981 set, minus about 13 songs!
Stonehenge Decoded (aka Dawn)
Recorded with Danny Thompson on drums and Alan Davey on vocals, this is an electronic freak out that allows Huw and Nik Turner to solo towards the end of the 1984 Stonehenge Free Festival. With some interesting bits here and there, it does suffer from a lack of direction, however maybe this is just another one of those 'you just had to be there' moments. It's interesting to include this instead of the lost tracks from the above set, though.
Watching the Grass Grow
Nik Turner's Inner City Unit track is played here in a punky, slightly messy arrangement, suffering from a soft mix lacking in guitars. Again, out of place and actually about 10 songs before the above track (1984), it's most redeeming feature being a cool guitar solo by Lloyd-Langton. This was apparently the first ever gig with Thompson on drums and Davey on bass so any mishaps in that area could be forgiven. It has a cut ending, but on the whole not too bad.
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