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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Hawkwind

Space Ritual Collectors Edition CD / DVD

Review by Bruce Stringer

EMI has released a series of special edition CDs for collectors, which include many rare recordings and some with video material. This edition of Hawkwind’s live psychedelic freak-out, Space Ritual, comes with the complete show of full-length versions of tracks (as some were previously issued in edited form to fit the vinyl format). Bonus alternate performances of 3 songs are included along with a previously unreleased version of “You Shouldn’t Do That” in a package which also contains a DVD featuring the original album track listing (-no bonus tracks) with spaced out visual effects. The additional video clips for “Silver Machine” and “Urban Guerilla” will be sure to leave any Hawk fan salivating. The artwork and packaging alone make for a compelling addition to the Hawkwind collection, however it is the mixture of formats that sets it aside from other releases.

The included DVD contains the amazing clarity one would expect from an EMI collectors edition (DTS 96 / 24 and Dolby surround sound up-mixed from the original stereo tapes) and runs for 104 minutes, which means that all of the CD tracks are utilized except for the final 3 bonus tracks. Some spacey visuals with strobe effects flash across the screen for anybody wanting to experience something psychedelic whilst armchairing it back to 1973.  The most interesting inclusions on the DVD are the promo clips for “Silver Machine” and “Urban Guerilla.” Most Hawkwind fans would have already seen “Silver Machine” (played in recent years on BBC’s “Top Of The Pops” in the UK) but the sheer quality of the clean print and audio make this a Hawkfan necessity. These clips are supplied in PCM stereo. “Urban Guerilla,” although banned upon its original release, thanks to an IRA bombing campaign within the UK, saw copies of the 7” single removed from the shelves and radio stations refusing to play it. Although I have no idea as to whether this music video clip was ever played on TV, it would appear that it might have been relegated to late night consumption thanks to the clips of Stacia with much of her clothing removed. The clip is great fun and features Bob Calvert with long hair and some interesting out-of-synch edits. The band members look suitably sweaty in their musical angst.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

 

In summary, Space Ritual has been given a new life – and deservedly so. It would be interesting to see what EMI has in store for the future with this type of collector’s series. Hawkwind sound better than ever and there are enough bonus items to make this a necessary inclusion in any space rock collection. Besides, rocking out like they’re teetering on the edge of time, given that it was the early 70’s, Hawkwind were at their prime and, maybe, time did stand still for just a little while.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Earth Calling
Based on the World War II radio call, “London Calling,” poet Bob Calvert has taken his love of the era and projected the concept into a cosmic setting. It creeps up through your speakers and gently damages your headspace as the weird sound effects takeoff. It could best be summarized as an introduction to the follow-up track as it lifts off into uncharted territory.

Born To Go
An early Calvert-Brock co-write, “Born To Go” is heavy – real heavy, and less space rock. Lemmy’s bass bombards the listener and borders on sheer signal distortion in much the same way that Jack Bruce’s bass figured in the Cream sound. Dik Mik’s wacky electronic effects (thanks to an EMS VCS-3 synthesizer) are all over the mix allowing the listener something to cling onto whilst the starship Hawkwind enters the stratosphere. Much of the improvisational parts are pinned together thanks to Lemmy’s chordal bass work. Nik Turner’s flute work – another notable signature of the early Hawks sound – is both compelling and haunting. The song slows to an eventual stop but the effects go on…
Down Through The Night
Focussing on the band sound (as opposed to the lighter, acoustic studio version on Doremi Fasol Latido) the simplicity of the composition gives the guys an outlet to stretch themselves in a more intimate surrounding. The effects are leaner and there is a smoother, less thrashy platform for Turner’s delayed flute improvisation. Dave Brock’s voice contains the maturity and presence that make this song an outstanding inclusion in the live set and a critical lynchpin for setting up the required atmosphere for what is to come.
The Awakening
Seagull sounds abound as our man Calvert takes us on a trip into outer space upon an awakening. Heavy words, man!

Lord of Light
This classic, also from Doremi Fasol Latido, is given the heavy Lemmy treatment, once again, but with a less in your face guitar sound compared to “Born To Go.”There is a consistency between this and the original version that proves this must have been recorded in a live setting for the studio release. Turner’s sax work peeps through every now and then between the pumping Simon King drumming and omnipresent playing from the ‘bass-strangler’ Lemmy. At 7:17 the song does seem to go on a little but is good fun all the same.
Black Corridor
Michael Moorcock’s “Black Corridor” is next, poetry for the damned. With shifted realities dawning alongside that of the Age of Aquarius, the new age translations of impossibly grand concepts like space seem apt to the slowly fading peace and love movement. The questions just seem to get bigger… Including lyrics from “Space Is Deep” (the nxst track) and a Taoist’s view of the big, black voidy nothingness “Black Corridor” is a great introduction and works better than “The Awakening.”
Space Is Deep
Classic space rock with tremoloed guitar effects and a nice pivotal chord pattern in D major, this has been a fan favourite since the dawn of time. The mix is clean and dynamic and the backing vocals work nicely alongside Brock’s own. With much of the lighter solo section dealing with reference to another Hawkwind classic and some slightly out of tune bass playing, this seems to be a workable way to set-up the weirdness to come.

Electronic No. 1
Acting as an intermission to mess with the senses, this track gives Del Detmar a 2:32 free-for-all with his synth and audio effects. There is what sounds like guitar effects at intervals and the effects seem to be generated by the VCS-3. Due to the fact that I wasn’t even born when this was recorded, I have often found this type of “song” hard to digest in the context of an album. It lacks much of what might be suggestive of what music is all about, however it does fit in well here. In some ways it is possible that Space Ritual would be a lesser entity without additions like this and the swirling effects that accompany much of the more accessible music.
Orgone Accumulator
This bluesy number has forever been a fan favourite, thanks to this version. The lyrics describe what is, in essence, a machine not unlike the Silver Machine, this time with the ability to restore orgones, or replenish Qi, prana, mana, etc rather than space travel. At just under 10-minutes there’s all sorts of experimentation going on that requires multiple listens to even scratch the surface. Thanks to this re-master (and especially the Abbey Road DVD surround sound version) there seems to be more substance to take in. Calvert’s vocals are excellent – cool and confident – and the cleaned up mastering has all the nuances of his microphone technique covered as if he were just in front of you singing it as if it was 1973. There are a few sloppy bass changes but much of the sound is held together by the bass, therefore with that much pressure and the fact that much of it is finger-bleeding bass chords it is more than understandable. There are a few points where the song tends to drag but is pulled back into place with one riff or another.
Upside Down
Back to a more heavy metal style riff, there is pure evil lurking just inside your speakers. The vocals sound reminiscent of Syd Barret-era Pink Floyd but the music is unsettling and soundtrack to at least one person’s bad trip. This is the type of piece that one might put on in a state of aggression or drunken calamity… Something for the neighbors to complain to!
10 Seconds Of Forever
Another Calvert poem with descriptive imagery over sound effects, this is a personal favourite and one of the better spoken word sections on the album. From this recording it sets up “Brainstorm” and is, in many ways, inseparable.
Brainstorm
This version is the previously unreleased complete version, clocking in at a lengthy 13:46. Listening back to the vinyl version there does seem to be a certain amount of continuity lost that is now restored thanks to the uncut version here. Hawkwind fans would be well used to some of the edits that have made for interesting listening (- most notably the segue between the first two tracks on Warrior On The Edge Of Time), that would under any other circumstances deduct from the enjoyment. Penned by Nik Turner, this out-and-out space rock assault on the senses is fat and nasty. The riff, again, might well have stood up against the heavier metal bands of the early 70’s, like Black Sabbath, and might seem out of place against a backdrop of peace and love, swirling audio generator effects, flashing lights and shared psychedelic experiences. But it is this sequencing of experimental sounds, poetry and songs about space travel that work so well within the dynamics of the live Hawkwind experience. I still prefer the energy of the original studio version but this is one excellent tune to hear live.
Disc 2
7 x 7
B-side to Silver Machine and a variable of heavy and light, dark and night, the Sabbath style held back nature of the piece only highlights the spoken Calvert poetry sections. This is one track that has been severely underrated and is as outstanding in its arrangement as it is dynamic in its use of the whole bag of tricks. Each member seems to get their 15 seconds of attention and the turns and twists keep the song moving about in an interesting journey of head nodding compliance.
Sonic Attack
Another Michael Moorcock composition within a bubbling cauldron of weird effects and audio magic, “Sonic Attack” is, at times, threatening and scary, futuristic and alien, but always discomforting and heavy on the subconscious. My first memories of “Sonic Attack” are of wanting to hurl at the sound of it and I still find it disturbing. My nightmares have now gone 24 bit!

Time We Left This World Today
Here is another great arrangement with full use of backing vocals, sax melodies and head pounding bass and drums. The riff is ever repetitive and seems to build and build until the track diverts and takes on a more rhythmic foundation of chunky wah effects and staccato bass notes. This seems to be much shorter than anticipated (at a mere 5:42) but it could have been shortened to accommodate the vinyl cut or worked out as a slim take to make up for any spare time on the LP. The lengthier bonus version is a great comparison to draw upon. Over all it’s not bad, but leaves one yearning for more.
Masters of the Universe
This live classic, which has been played throughout much of the Hawk’s live career, is loud and loose. Nik Turner’s vocals are great and he excels on sax as he competes with the stop-start rhythm unit and defies key and convention by throwing in some jazz phrasing. One can even imagine the backwards reverb from the original studio version on his live voice – impossible yet suggestive nonetheless. The track dies off in time to bid welcome…
Welcome to the Future
Here is yet another spoken word piece this time with some nice clean guitar backing. The effects take over and the words subside to a layering of effects and then a thunderous crash of band noise and thrash, signaling the end.
You Shouldn't Do That
This previously unreleased bonus track finally gives the fans what they want after 35 years of an encore too far away. This 10-minute number goes on and on with the mantra and tight drumming and builds and dies and riffs out time and again. There are even moments that sound like an early incantation of “Spirit Of The Age” before picking up the pace and finally hitting the skids. This is an nteresting inclusion and might have been more suited to the Space Ritual sound than other tracks.

Orgone Accumulator
The second helping of “Orgone Accumulator,” recorded at an alternate night’s performance begins with an almost hesitant feel. The mix is tidier than the original album with bass much cleaner sounding and the drums more balanced in the mix. The track bounces along at a pumping pace and develops its stage mantra with Turner’s sax work an all time constant. Brock’s guitar is harsh and overdriven and the sound, over all, is edgier and brighter than the released concert material. Sadly, the song drifts away into a fade out. My preference would be for the shorter album version but it’s great to hear what happened on a different night as comparison.
Time We Left This World Today
This next alternate version runs at 13:22, which is considerably lengthier than the take used on the original release. A slap-back delay effect smothers the introduction prior to the riffy build up and the version is not dissimilar to the original in its moodiness and atmosphere. There are some great wah guitar highlights by Brock who plays some of his best solo work that I have ever heard. The improvisation thereafter is an experimental workout that borders on the maniacal. A novel repetitive vocal device is employed in the same way as “You Shouldn’t Do That” and there is an homage to the first album that carries through to the realm of spacey psychedelia.
You Shouldn't Do That
Albeit shorter than the original released version, this performance begins with some crowd interaction and a great launch of phase-wah guitar that lifts the band off to new heights. Simon’s drumming is tight and constant and forces a dynamic overhaul on the sound with each movement. Lemmy lets loose (again) and the track diverts into a more percussive bass and drum pattern. The song speeds up and slows down and disappears in an explosive fade out before one can recover from the sonic battering.

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