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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Spirits Burning

Alien Injection

Review by Gary Hill

I reviewed the Spirits Burning and Bridget Wishart CD in the last issue of Music Street Journal. This CD is the album Spirits Burning record about the same time as that one. It’s a fine album that once again features a lot of musicians who have worked in other musical endeavors. Wishart herself shows up on two songs on this disc. Michael Moorcock also guests on this CD and wrote several of the tracks. Members of groups like Gong, Hawkwind (others besides Wishart), Mooch and Dark Sun are also featured. The music here is in many ways similar to the space rock produced by Hawkwind. It’s not limited by that label, though. Instead they wander into neo-classical, jazz, RIO and other sounds. I hear echoes of Patti Smith in at least one place, Pink Floyd (Barrett era) in a couple others and Anubis Spire here and there. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though. This disc should definitely be of interest to Hawkfans, but prog fans in general (assuming they have an adventurous spirit) would be well advised to check it out. It’s a good one!

Track by Track Review
Alien Injection
Driven by bass, this song has a major Hawkwind sound to it – but the so does most of the album. The lush waves of sound across the early portions of the track are pretty incredible. They move it out to a funky sort of progression after a while And then shift out to another Hawklike jam. This has a bit of a punky nature to the vocal delivery. It reminds me a bit of Robert Calvert or Nik Turner. More of those cool synths, at time feeling a bit like violin, return later.  We get a nice guitar solo section later backed by some extremely tasty bass sounds. This is a cool piece of space rock and a great way to start off the disc. It gets quite intense before it ends.
New Religion
Percussion leads off the party here. Keyboards rise up over this backdrop after a time. It still stays quite ambient in nature. A half spoken, half sung female vocal (provided by Karen Anderson) enters. This track builds up into a fairly noisy, punk meets space rock sort of approach. It’s alright, but doesn’t work nearly as well as the opening piece. There is a cool guitar line later. During the extended instrumental section it becomes more intense and involved and this does help. At times the vocals (and indeed the whole arrangement) remind me a bit of Patti Smith.
Alpha Harmony
We are back into more typical Hawkwind like territory here. This is sort of a vaguely bluesy jam with spoken echoey vocals and other instrumentation bringing in Hawkwind tendencies. It’s a bit more busy than Hawkwind arrangements typically are. It evolves into a definite blues grind later. At times this also reminds me a bit of Anubis Spire as it work through varying alterations on the musical themes. They shift this out to a spacey rather ambient, but definitely not restful, journey mid-track. When they power it up it’s with a Hawkish groove sort of sound. This is a spacey, yet almost catchy jam here. This turns into an earlier period Hawk jam later. That sound takes it to more pure space that eventually ends the track.
Every Gun Plays Its Own Tune
This dramatic piece somehow feels a bit like an old sea chantey. There is also a theatrical texture to it. It’s odd, but also very cool and an intriguing change on more familiar musical concepts. Science fiction author wrote the song and provides the vocals.
Logger’s Revenge (Brian Tawn Speaks!)
A weird piece of nearly ambient space, Brian Tawn provides the spoken word vocals in the end section – as if the title didn’t give that away. This evolves out into a cool space groove that’s pretty much purely instrumental. It doesn’t rise up overly far, but does intensify and flows quite nicely despite dissonance and weirdness throughout. At over nine minutes in length one would think that this track would drag, but it really doesn’t.
Augustus
This starts off much more melodic than the previous number with an acoustic guitar dominated balladic motif. Keyboards and other elements serve to bring in more typical space rock sounds. Saxophone, flute and strings bring in a bit of a jazz element to this instrumental piece. I hear a good bit of Hall Of The Mountain Grill era Hawkwind on this, but you might hear even more jazz oriented early King Crimson here. Mid song this turns to a more hard rocking jam, ala early Hawkwind. They shift out towards soundtrack type music with a decided classical bent later. This is one of the most dynamic compositions on show here. The jazzy Crimson-like sounds make a return appearance before this closes out.
Future Memories
This is far heavier and darker and feels a bit garagey. I mean that in the best possible way, though. This churns and wallows almost like stoner metal gone space rock.
The Entropy Tango
Another track written by and featuring Michael Moorcock, this comes in like light jazz. It’s bouncy and fun and much less space rock than pure playful progressive rock. You might hear echoes of Queen on this. It is a tango in a traditional sense.
Another World
Bridget Wishart not only co-wrote the song, but provides both the lyrics and the vocals on this one. It’s pretty, dramatic and strong. They keep this in more or less a balladic fashion for a time, and then a heavier motif leads to a false ending. It picks up from there with an arrangement that’s dripping with keys and power. This shifts again into a martial beat as it seems destined to climb upward. This feels less like space rock here and more like pure prog.

The Hawk
This cut starts off a bit more tentatively with spoken words. It shifts out towards early Hawkwind type music for a while. But then the introduction of strings heralds something more akin to classically oriented prog rock. You might hear hints of King Crimson on this one. It shifts towards more traditional space territory later. Ambient sounds of a child spotting a hawk end this.

Imported Serpents
The King Crimson elements are in spades here. This is like hard edged early Crimson married to Hawkwind. This instrumental is quite a cool one and odd as it seems is one of my favorites on show here. I hear Anubis Spire here a bit, too, mostly in terms of the swirling guitar patterns.
Ingleborough
This track, another of Moorcock’s is a bit too strange for me. It’s far closer to classically oriented prog oddity than anything else here. It has a sort of pseudo operatic vocals. That’s one thing against it in my book as I really can’t stand opera. This shifts out to more typical space rock, albeit still twisted in a bit of a RIO fashion later.
Upturned Dolphin
Here we get another that’s rather odd. Sort of based upon a ballad motif this has a space rock twist to it, but it’s also just rather perverse in some way. Mind you, I’m not talking about the lyrics, but just the delivery leaves you feeling like you’ve had a touch with insanity. I suppose in some ways you could compare this to early Pink Floyd. It improves when they shift out to more pure space. Then they go into a trademark Hawk-like poetry recitation. Noises and dangerous sounds emerge whilst this runs through.
Salome
Bridget Wishart is back on this track. It has a rather bouncy texture and a great, artistic bent to it. I hear echoes of the Space Bandits album by Hawkwind, perhaps a bit like “Wings.” This is powerful and pretty at the same time. Still both of those things are accomplished without sacrificing the space rock edge. It runs through a number of variants on its musical themes and seems to touch different periods of space rock in the process. This is a great adventure and probably my favorite number on show here.

Montfallcon
This song does nothing for me. If there’s a misstep in my book, it’s this one. It’s neo-classical, and just plain strange. As much as I respect and admire Michael Moorcock, he’s lost me here.  Yes, this is another of his tunes and it’s quite a RIO sort of piece. The more balladic sections in the latter parts of the track are somewhat effective, but I just can’t take this one.
Heaven (is One Quality Tree For the Road)
The closing number is pretty and a bit melancholy. It’s twisted by space sounds, but otherwise feels a bit like some hippie traveling music. This has a lot in common with Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd.
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