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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Hawkwind

Canterbury Fayre, 2001

Review by Bruce Stringer

Hawkwind are one of those bands that fans tend to gravitate (or levitate) toward a particular era or period. My own favourite being the Levitation-era (with Ginger Baker on drums) followed closely by any of the 1980's material graced by genius guitarist Huw Lloyd-Langton. Canterbury is a kind of mixing of eras: Huw's 1980's Hawkwind with Simon House's Space Bandits, which opens up some interesting paths for improvisation and sound. Space Bandits produced a great platform for improvisation and - by design or accident - has been overlooked and under-rated by many. The CD itself is raw, at times losing the mix but with energy enough to make up for it.

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Track by Track Review
Disc 1
5th Second of Forever
This is one of my all-time favourite pieces of music and a triumphant return to 'the fold' by guitarist Huw Lloyd-Langton. Richard's drumming brings a totally new 'feel' to this piece, and vocally Captain Brock is in fine form.
Levitation
Where is that wonderful little delay guitar bit that is prominent on the original version? Never mind. Another great song performed with the energy of a band inspired. Later we hear some synth-sequencing that also brings this song into the space age, and with Simon's violin work the mid-section of the track goes into Space Bandits territory! Clocking in at just over 9 minutes, the cut remains interesting at all times and is a very heavy, worthy inclusion to the set.
Spiral Galaxy
Another great instrumental piece penned by violin virtuoso Simon House, this version suffers slightly from a less-than-perfect mix, however the bass playing and general energy stand up well and make this a great inclusion on the album.
Solitary Mind Games
This great track from Choose Your Masques is one of my all-time favourites. I was recently lucky enough to have Huw play this song acoustically for me, highlighting the intricacies involved with 4-finger picking. Simon's violin work is reminiscent of some of the material from Nic Potter's Blue Zone album (on which Huw played). This version is a little light on guitar arpeggiation, relying a little more on a synth sequence during the verses. However Huw's vocals sound great, and it is a very nice modernization of a very thought-provoking track, especially during the heavier choruses where both Simon and Huw battle it out, building to a crescendo and falling back down again. Solitary Mind Games is, without a shadow of doubt, my personal favourite from the album.
Angels of Death
Angels is a great jam song, taking us into uncharted waters where Captain Brock and his crew navigate the ship and blaze a nuclear way through space in this heavy masterpiece! It's great to hear Richard open up a little during the instrumental break as he does play quite tight and doesn't seem to play as many tom fills as Danny Thompson used to. This is not a negative - it just outlines the differences in these 2 drummers. To quote Dave Brock: well there you go!
Spirit of the Age
At just over 7 and a half minutes, this version comes complete with an 80's pop/techno-style intro, which sits nicely - especially after the thumping, head damage received from Angels. Spirit is a song which always seems to work and always sounds as though it were a new track when played live. It's great to hear each of the soloists relax and explore as Richard Chadwick and newcomer Keith Kniveton (keyboards) hold a firm backing with Alan Davey on bass.
Magnu
It is very interesting to note that this song has been connected to Angels in the past, yet this time around we have it separated by Spirit of the Age. It's a very fine version with hints of Space Bandits coming through again which I believe has much to do with Dave Brock focussing on a more up-front mix of his guitar and also his interaction with mainstay Alan Davey. This segues into the next piece.
Dust Of Time (Excerpt)
This is another great piece of music from Levitation nicely placed at the end of Magnu. Here we are treated to the instrumental mid-section that Huw takes off from.
Motorway City
Fantastic song! I've yet to hear a version of this song live that compares with the studio version, yet this is very powerful! It has great sounds, and it's also great to hear Alan's vocals alongside Dave's. If you have every seen Hawkwind live in recent years you will notice the vocal interaction that Dave and Alan have. The only problem is- where is the guitar solo? Simon House's violin takes over allowing him to soar and slash through on his extended solo, but we don't get the familiar Lloyd-Langton licks making it sound a little held back and meandering in the second half.
Hurry On Sundown
A great track to burst into out of the ashes of Motorway City, this is a real change of pace, obviously highly enjoyed by the crowd and with some compositional changes making it a most relevant composition in light of recent events on the world stage. It's great to hear Simon's violin holding the rhythmic pattern throughout and the tremolo effect at the end.
Assassins Of Allah
In recent years this song about the Black September incident in Jordan (1970-71) has been hijacked by Alan Davey (or Ali as he has been known). He would be deserved of a crown position (King Hussein's?) for what he has done with it vocally and on bass making the cut aggressive, yet refined. Midway through the number we are taken on an Arabic-style vocal journey, weaving around peaks and valleys and really taking this track into places it has always hinted at but never revealed. It makes a powerful closing number for CD 1.
Disc 2
Silver Machine (featuring Arthur Brown)
What can I say? Where has Arthur Brown been in recent days? For me, this is the definitive version of Silver Machine with Arthur's brilliant vocals, excursions from Huw & Simon and Alan, Dave & Richard steaming through Hawkwind's most successful 'hit'. I spoke with Arthur after the show and he hinted that he and the mighty Hawks might be working on some material in the very near future. I certainly hope so!
Arthur's Poem
Prompted by a member of the audience, we are let in on a very funny spontaneous moment that sees Mr Brown recover well from a potentially embarrassing moment. It is great to hear and well worth the inclusion on the CD - I won't spoil it for you!
Assault and Battery
Lives of great men all remind us… of how this song really rocks out! With a quite light intro Alan really beefs up the bass end and we are blasted into familiar territory. Vocally, Dave and Alan really do have chemistry between each other. It is great to hear more of a heavy guitar mix, yet we are quickly led out and into the next cut.
Void of Golden Light
Pure Space Bandits, but with Huw occasionally soaring high as we are led down a corridor of flame. There are some nice, almost classical passages that Simon throws in for good measure. This track has remained pretty much the same over the years and this is indeed a very good version.
Ejection
Ejection is not quite your characteristic Hawkwind track, but is a great show closer none the less. Being more of a punky jam session, we are taken back into Space Bandits territory again through the second half of the song. It is always great to hear Hawkwind's quieter, more experimental work like that which we are treated to here for what seems like a blissful eternity in limbo. Then it's back into punky rawness and finally we land safely after being ejected from the spaceship Hawkwind.
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