Artists | Issues | CD Reviews | Interviews | Concert Reviews | DVD/Video Reviews | Book Reviews | Who We Are | Staff | Home
 

Hawkwind

The Charisma Years 1976-1979

Review by Gary Hill
This brand new set includes remastered versions of four Hawkwind albums. Well, technically one of them was released under the "Hawklords" moniker, but it really was a Hawkwind album except in name. This is a great set, really. There are no bonus tracks on the discs, but in a way that's cool. It's a way to return them to the original form while making the sound even better. I'm glad this has been released, and I'm glad to see "25 Years On" included, bringing it officially under the Hawkwind umbrella.

 

I've done my review of this set a little differently than a lot of others. First, each album gets an overall review before the tracks for that album. Then all the tracks get their individual reviews. I should mention that I previously reviewed two of these albums and some of the songs from the other two discs. For the sake of consistency the reviews of those items have been copied or adapted for use here.

 

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc One

                 
Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music
This is a unique album. In many ways it doesn’t really feel like a Hawkwind album. Indeed it is quite different from much of the rest of the band’s output. In some ways it is more purely progressive rock oriented than most of their catalog. Yet, there is also a punky sort of weirdness to a lot of the disc. It’s no wonder why a lot of Hawkind fans don’t think highly of the album yet there are others who consider it the group’s best. This is the kind of release that will polarize your fans. Think what you like of it (I like it a lot) but you can’t easily ignore it.
Reefer Madness
Starting with sound effects, we are given a punky sort of Hawkwind treatment from there. There is a bouncy little bit of pop rock weirdness in this later. A cool keyboard solo later takes us out into a great space jam. As they carry on this turns quite jazzy with a saxophone wail competing with keyboards for domination. As it drops down they bring it into textural sounds with a processed poetry reading of how the speaker’s 11th finger fell off and stole his stash. They bring it back out into the main musical journey from there with the person continuing on with “stole my stash” over again. Then they move back out into the bouncy little jam – and for some reason now it feels to me like early Genesis.
Steppenwolf
Starting in a mode a bit like Hawkwind does Santana (and those Santana elements exist off and on throughout the cut), this werewolf-oriented number is very strong. The lyrics detail the state of being a werewolf and the dual nature of the beast. "I am a wolfman, The man in me would kill the wolf, I am a man wolf, The wolf in me would eat the man." The track features a haunting violin dominated segment that is very progish. It is an awesome number that features many prog rock oriented instrumental moments.
City of Lagoons
This begins in a very stripped down, almost jazzy motif. As the bluesy guitar joins it brings with it some changes that make me think of Pink Floyd. There are some sections as they carry forward that seem to echo The Grateful Dead’s Terrapin Station album. There is a definite funk edge to some of this, but in other ways it’s one of the most purely jazzy and progressive rock oriented showings Hawkwind have ever done. This instrumental is very tasty.
Aubergine That Ate Rangoon
Another instrumental, this is a bit stranger, but no less proggy. Weird rhythmic elements move around as saxophone and backwards tracked bits come and go.
Kerb Crawler
Raw edged, this is an odd sounding but entertaining cut. It features R & B oriented backing vocals on the chorus. The arrangement gets a bit soulful at the end.
Kadu Flyer
In some ways, particularly the keyboard arrangement, this is extremely progressive rock oriented. At the same time, though, there’s a punky texture to the vocals. We also get some guitar that’s crunchy almost to the point of noise. The psychedelically tinged jam later in the track, though, is much more pure progressive rock. It is also one of the more impressive segments of music on show here.
Chronoglide Skyway
A gong starts things off here. From there we drift into space for a time. Retro sounding keyboards rise up and we move out into a soaring, slow moving jam that’s part Hawkwind and part Genesis. It gets quite jazzy at times. This extended instrumental is another that has definite progressive rock leanings.
Disc Two
                     

Quark Strangeness and Charm
The production on this is a bit unusual. There are also some punky elements. Both of those things contribute to the late 70s Hawkwind sound. All that said, this has some exceptional music on it. There are a number of songs that really have become Hawkwind classics, and the whole thing just works so well. It's one of my favorite Hawkwind albums, really. And, that says a lot.
Spirit of the Age
Beginning with white noise oriented sound effects that lead into other sound effects; it is nearly two minutes into the cut before actual music emerges. As it does, the sound is almost Smithsish at first (although this predates that band's appearance). The volume gradually rises on the music and the effects start to fall away. The cut becomes a nice rock oriented mid tempo number. Some of the lyrics are sort of a space age/sci-fi love lost ode. The entire song is essentially a commentary on some of the problems of modern society. It just so happens that it is set in a time well beyond our current time. "I would have liked you to have been deep frozen, too, And waiting still as fresh in your flesh for my return, but your father refused to sign the forms to freeze you, Let's see you'd be about 60 now, and long dead by the time I return to Earth, But my time held dreams were full of you as you were when I left, still underage." Other topics covered include android replicas and cloning issues, but all in that entertaining, somewhat humorous vein. Put all this within a proggy, sci-fi oriented midtempo ballad musical format, and you wind up with a stand out cut.
Damnation Alley
More of a high energy fast paced jam, this is classy stuff. It's catchy and much more mainstream than the opener was. I love the spacey proggy jamming on the tune. I dig the groove space section mid-track, too. When it comes out of the extended proggy jam that is a renewed and evolved rocking jam from there. 
Fable of a Failed Race
This comes in mellower and slow moving. It builds upward from there. As the vocals join it makes me think of early Pink Floyd in a lot of ways. The closing movement is melodic and very classy.
Quark Strangeness and Charm
The title track, this one is bouncy, fun and classic Hawkwind.
Hassan I Shaba
Starting on violion, this so cool. Dripping with Eastern leanings, this is a hard rocking number that is a Hawkclassic.
The Forge of Vulcan
Cool electronic keyboards begin this and move it forward. This instrumental has some percussion and great space sounds built into it. It's a bit like Hawkwind meets Tangerine Dream.
The Days of the Underground
Tastefully quirky, this is cool stuff. It's psychedelic rock in a lot of ways. I love some of the trippy layers of sound that dance around this thing.
The Iron Dream
Coming right out of the previous number, this is fast paced, driving kind of space rocker.
Disc Three
                          

Hawklords: 25 Years On
This album was released under the moniker of "Hawklords." Apparently there were some legal issues tying up the Hawkwind name, so the change was made. The album is musically all Hawkwind, though. Yes, it gets a bit punky at times. In a lot of ways, it's not that far removed from the sound of Quark Strangeness and Charm, though.
Psi Power
Another with a sci-fi theme, this one is a dynamic and powerful `70s progish rocker. It chronicles the adventures of someone with psychic abilities. "I can read your mind like a magazine." The chorus is quite catchy. This one features a great prog oriented instrumental break. We find that this power that the narrator has have a dark side. "It's like a radio you can't switch off, There's no way to get piece of mind, I'd like to live in a lead lined room, And leave all the Psi Power behind." "Circle, square, triangle, waves, It's a gift that seems to have gone sour, Why don't they let me get some rest, It's too much to understand, to digest."
Freefall
More in the mellow vein, this is electronic space music that's very classy stuff. From there, though, it works to more rocking stuff as the guitar sound takes the forefront. This is such a classy song. As it works back out to more electronic territory later, I really dig the bass work.
Automoton
This reminds me of "Adjust Me" because it starts with a slow electronic sound and that gradually gets sped up as it keeps working forward. It's basically an introduction to the next tune.
25 Years
This is a punky and fun hard rocking number. It makes me think of "Silver Machine" in a lot of ways.
Flying Doctor
Punky and hard-rocking, this is cool stuff. It has an almost NWOBHM vibe to it. This is definitely a different kind of thing.
The Only Ones
This is a great melodic rock song that's part hard rocker, part prog and all cool. It's one of the better tracks here.
(Only) The Dead Dreams of the Cold War Kid
A classy and rather melodic mellower tune, this is great stuff.
The Age of the Micro Man
This cut really does seem to do a good job or tying everything together and wrapping it with a great bow. It has a great space rock sound and includes some name checks to the title track.
Disc Four
                     

PXR5
This Hawkwind disc has a bit of a different sound than some of their other albums had. There’s almost a punk rock edge to a lot of it. For my money, that doesn’t work completely well for the group. Still, when it’s Hawkwind even if there’s a bit of something that’s not all that effective, it’s still a great disc.
Death Trap

This cut has a gritty rock and roll texture that is embellished with space rock elements that top the arrangement off.

Jack Of Shadows
There are some of the elements heard in the opener here, but this has more of a cheery psychedelic texture to it. There’s a keyboard dominated segment here that actually makes me think of Rick Wakeman.
Uncle Sam's On Mars
This is a space age, tongue in cheek space rock number in classic Hawkmodes.
Infinity
A mellower tune, this seems a bit like something from In Search of Space. That said, some of the keyboard elements again feel like Rick Wakeman a bit. An instrumental segment late in the piece reminds one of “You Know You’re Only Dreaming.”
Life Form
This short cut is very much a keyboard and effects dominated number. There are some processed spoken vocals that call to mind the Daleks from “Dr. Who.”

Robot
A much harder rocking tune, this has a killer groove and some definite Eastern musical elements built into it. There’s a jam mid-section that calls to mind Hall of the Mountain Grill a bit. I particularly like the little spoken section featuring the robot. I also like the fact that the three laws of robotics are mentioned in the lyrics. A noisy blast that calls to mind early Pink Floyd ends this.
High Rise

This is a progish, fairly hard-edged song that is dramatic and powerful.

 
P.X.R 5
This track really seems to combine a lot of the sounds heard previously on the disc. It’s got great space science fiction lyrics. There are several twists and turns musically and this is arguably the best song on the set.

 

 

You'll find concert pics of this artist in the Music Street Journal members area.
You'll find an audio interview of this artist in the Music Street Journal members area.
 
Return to the
Hawkwind Artist Page
Return to the
Robert Calvert Artist Page
Artists Directory
 
Google

   Creative Commons License
   This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

    © 2019 Music Street Journal                                                                           Site design and programming by Studio Fyra, Inc./Beetcafe.com