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Hawkwind

Hawkwind

Review by Gary Hill

Hawkwind’s debut album is really much different from the rest of their catalog. For one thing it’s more psychedelic and much of it shares a lot of ground with Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd. Secondly the line up is different than any of the rest of the releases. That said, this is a great album and one that somehow manages to feel both dated and fresh at the same time. Don’t ask me how it pulls off that paradox, but it does. This reissue has four bonus tracks added to the mix. Note that I already reviewed a few of these tracks on my review of Epoch Eclipse so those reviews are included here for the sake of consistency.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Hurry On Sundown
This is a classic. Pretty, progish acoustic guitar starts this cut. The track becomes more rock oriented, but still progish, although a bit simplistic in structure. Certainly the lyrics to this one are quite prog oriented. "Look into your mind's eye, See what you can see." When the guitar solo comes in, the cut takes on very psychedelic tones, quite reminiscent of The Doors. This is strong space rock with early prog and psychedelic leanings. It even includes some wailing, Hendrixish guitar.
The Reason Is?
Dark and rather spooky, percussion opens this up and as it grows upward it reminds me a lot of early Pink Floyd. Other instrumentation joins and it starts to take on more melodic (albeit still dark) movements. It seems like this might be ready to take the song in new directions. Instead it drops away and the bass begins to rise up for a time. Still, nothing cohesive takes hold. Instead they keep creating waves of weird sounds and textures in this freaky jam. This segues straight into the next piece. 
Be Yourself
This pounds in with a killer hard rock jam that perhaps comes the closest to sounding like what Hawkwind would eventually be. There are still some definite Pink Floyd influences here, though. After a chorus this moves out to a bass driven jam that’s very much psychedelic in texture. Saxophone wails over the top after a while as this number grinds forward. We get a tasty guitar solo later in the number. Then it continues on its journey, building up with an organic psychedelic process until it is reborn again with a reprise of the opening segment. The vocal section returns and after a few times the whole cut is twisted and shifted out into space to segue into the next number. 
Paranoia (Part 1)
A climbing sort of progression continues the Pink Floyd stylings as the band start playing gradually faster and faster. Only a minute plus in length this ends with a slowing down, like the plug has just been pulled on the tape recorder. 
Paranoia (Part 2)
A darkly psychedelic tone begins this number, which has a very strong sci-fi texture and quirky progish riff. It speeds up and slows down and other than some odd chanting at the beginning is an instrumental.
Seeing It As You Really Are
This comes straight out of the last one and rises with a tone that almost feels like someone sleeping at first. As it grows up it feels more sinister perhaps – or at least more like a psychedelically chemically altered experience. Noise/voices and minor elements work around one another in a dream like pattern of sound. This one again calls to mind early Pink Floyd. After a time the bass brings in a bit of a melody. Then the track starts to coalesce into a real “song.” Still, there are weird voices and other effects wandering back and forth across the mix, but this starts to resemble a Haight Ashbury freak out more than Pink Floyd after a time. They bring up the tempo and the intensity and a guitar wails across the top. This becomes more hard rocking as they carry on but the chanting that has been heard here and there almost becomes a spirit moaning. They continue changing and altering the track until finally crescendoing to end. This one is very dynamic with tempos and sounds shifting and changing throughout. 
Mirror Of Illusion
Shakers start this up. Then we get a jam that reminds me of the music to “Hurry on Sundown.” In fact, I’d say that this is really a different version of the same song. This track was the one that closed off the original version of the album. There are spacey bits running around here and there. We gets some tasty guitar soloing as this carries on.
Bring It On Home
With this first bonus track we find some serious blues, harmonica and all. There’s not a lot of what you’d associate as real “Hawkwind” music on this. Instead it’s probably closer to Robert Johnson and Led Zeppelin. It’s a good tune, if a bit odd. The track was a Dave Brock solo number, so that probably explains it. 
Hurry On Sundown
What we have here is a slightly longer and considerably more jazzy take on the disc’s opening number. In some ways I think I prefer this version. In many ways the modes that make this up remind me more of The Doors than anything else. This track and the next two are from the time when the band was called “Hawkwind Zoo.”
Kiss Of The Velvet Whip
This sounds so much like Barrett era Pink Floyd it’s scary. Psychedelic and a bit strange, this is also quite cool. There’s also a hint of Cream on the vocals. 
Cymbaline
Here they actually cover an early Pink Floyd number. It’s a soaring song that seems a bit rough around the edges. Still, there’s a charm and energy to this that really make it endearing.
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