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Hawkwind

Onward

Review by Gary Hill

The latest Hawkwind release is a double disc set. Like their last album, it’s not one that grabs you on the first spin. However, with each repeated time through, it seems to sink in more. The trademark Hawkwind sound is present, but they also stretch into some new territory at times. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite Hawkwind disc (but the catalog is so deep and diverse that it’s a hard thing to pick one out, anyway), but it’s definitely a great one that’s well worth acquiring. Old time Hawkwind fans will find plenty to like here. It might earn them some new fans, too.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Seasons

Sound effects start this off and hold it for a while. Then around the thirty second mark it powers out into a hard rocking Hawkwind sound. This is classic Hawkwind in so many ways. Around the three minute mark they take into a slightly weird, but quite cool segment that’s more pure progressive rock than space rock. There’s some noisy guitar heard over the top as that section continues. Eventually it works back out to the song proper from there. Still, it seems to have more energy and crunch when it gets back to the main core of the piece. It eventually fades down to end.

The Hills Have Ears
A short bit of textural sonic weirdness opens this. Then they fire out into a powerhouse jam that’s very much trademark Hawkwind. The guitar soloing over the top makes me think of the Levitation era. Then it drops way down for a keyboard based section. Some melodic guitar solos over the top. Eventually, though, they fire back out into the harder rocking portion. That section takes thing to the conclusion.
Mind Cut
This is a different sound for Hawkwind. While there are some more typical Hawksounds over the top, this is really based on an alternative rock, acoustic based balladic sound. The vocals, though, bring a real Hawkwind vibe. There are some other standard Hawk-features as the number continues, but this really is kind of a novel approach for the group.
System Check
Here were are back into distinctly Hawkwind like territory. The cut is very space oriented with sound effects and science fiction words. It’s not that different from a number of similar pieces from Hawkwind, but it’s short and works well.
Death Trap
They give us a modern take on this classic Hawkwind tune. It seems very electronic in a lot of ways, but yet the guitar sound is still raw and energized. I don’t particularly like the stripped down sections, though. Still, it’s good and kind of calls to mind some of the Nik Turner and Robert Calvert elements from the vintage Hawkwind era. The guitar solo is a real screamer.
Southern Cross
While the rather busy percussion sound on this piece isn’t typical Hawkwind, some of the layers of keyboards that float over the top are very much the kind of thing one expects from this band. Still, as this builds out and a melodic guitar solos over the top, this becomes another track that has familiar Hawkwind elements, but a musical texture that seems new at the same time. This one is an instrumental and a great piece of music.
The Prophecy
While this is perhaps more classic Hawkwind sound based, somehow it feels a little off to me. I can’t really place what it is, perhaps the mix. Still, that’s only a minor issue and from the vocal arrangement to the washes of keyboards, this is unquestionably Hawkwind. I really like the little bit of music box sound later and the guitar elements that come after that and extend into the next piece.
Electric Tears
With guitars that I think might be (at least in part) backwards tracked, this is a short (less than a minute) little instrumental that continues the music that ended the previous number.
The Drive By
This instrumental stretches out from the previous cut. It’s actually quite effective and Hawkwind-like, at least for the first couple minutes or so. I really like the rhythm section. That said, it seems to work out into an almost club mix kind of sound for a while. That just seems a little contrived to me. There are enough Hawkwind elements over the top to keep it interesting, though.
Disc 2
Computer Cowards
Classic hard-edged Hawkwind sounds are paired with some echoey vocals in a jam that’s quite cool and a little off-kilter. This seems like it could have come from the same time period as Xenon Codex. The lyrics are angry, and it’s safe to say most of us who work via the internet (or just spend a lot of time there) have come across one or two computer cowards at one time or another. Some seemingly disconnected sound effects end the piece.
Howling Moon
Now, this is a huge change. Parts of this are reminiscent of the space type music Hawkwind frequently plays. Yet there are also some jazzy sections. I can’t remember ever hearing Hawkwind working in a sound that’s in jazz territory before, but it’s cool. Sure, it seems a little random and jam band like, but it’s a great change.
Right To Decide
This is listed as a bonus track and it’s an older Hawkwind song. This is energetic and tasty. I’ve always liked this number as it’s very catchy and it works quite well here. While in a lot of ways this doesn’t seem that far removed from the original version, it does seem to take us on a few new avenues during the exploration.
Aero Space Age
Another bonus track, this finds Hawkwind doing the song from the Robert Calvert album Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters. This definitely has a much different flavor than that version. For one thing, that felt almost organic in some ways, this is more electronic. This feels like modern Hawkwind. The keyboards are quite prominent in the mix here. While I really prefer the original (come on, that album is purely classic) this rendition certainly has a lot of charm. I particularly like the guitar solo section later. The jam that follows, too, is extremely interesting. It feels quite a bit like the Space Bandits era to me.
The Flowering of the Rose
The final bonus track, it feels like we came in mid-jam here. This just sort of rises up and works out with a real Hawkwind turned jam band element. There are sections of this instrumental that again seem to touch on jazz a bit. I’d have to say, though, that overall this is more jam music than space rock or progressive rock, but it is Hawkwind so some space is on board. There are a couple points where recognizable Hawkwind melodies emerge.
Trans Air Trucking
This starts off with some weird sound effects and bits. Then it launches out to a killer Hawkwind jam. This instrumental isn’t extremely long and it doesn’t go far, but it is tasty.
Deep Vents
Less than a minute in length, this is just a bit of weird space sound.
Green Finned Demon
Here we get another tune that’s a new version of a song previously recorded by Hawkwind. This is great.  Of course, I’ve always liked this number and this version isn’t a huge change, just an effective treatment.
The Mystery Track
This piece isn’t listed on the album booklet, but the CD text contained within the directory information of the CD lists it as “The Mystery Track.” It’s hard edged and very much classic Hawkwind. This is one of the better tracks on the whole set, although it’s also one that doesn’t do a lot to stretch or expand the Hawkwind sound. It’s just Hawkwind being Hawkwind. That’s generally a good thing. They take this through a series of changes, but it still remains a pretty straightforward journey. That said, it dissolves into some serious space later. Sound effects eventually end it.
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