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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Hawkwind

California Brainstorm

Review by Gary Hill

Due to the packaging and recording quality, I always thought this was a bootleg. I’ve now found out that it’s not. I guess I should say that, when I talk about the recording quality, it’s not that it’s bad, but rather that it’s a little flat. So, all that said, when you look at the music that’s here and the fact that this includes Bridget Wishart and Harvey Bainbridge in the lineup – a grouping that didn’t do that much live work as Hawkwind, this is well worth having. It’s got some incredibly cool medleys of Hawk music that seamlessly move from one thing to another and it’s perhaps one of the most blatantly prog rock oriented versions of the band.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Void's End

Coming in gradually, this builds out into quite a powerful space rock jam. This instrumental ebbs and flows as it drifts through various shifts and changes. It has a pretty constant melodic element, but increases and decreases in intensity.

Ejection
The intro to “Ejection” here is cool. Waves of keyboards and sound effects swirl around as Bridget Wishart runs through the checklist for “Ejection”. The band launch out into a raucous rendition of this killer track from there. We get some killer music on this as they carry on. It works through some great space music segments.
Brainstorm
This Hawk-classic is given a frantic hard rocking treatment here. It’s a bit raw, but also quite energized. They take us through a series of changes and alterations, seemingly weaving other songs into the tapestry of this one as they continue. It eventually makes its way back out into the main song. 
Out of the Shadows/Eons/Night of the Hawks
As the title suggests, this eighteen plus minute epic works through a number of Hawkwind tracks. There’s some space rock here along with some harder rocking music. It really does work quite well as a cohesive piece of music, rather than a lot of unrelated songs. The resolution into the “Night of the Hawks” segment is quite effective. They drop it way down to end. 
T.V. Suicide/Back in the Box/Assassins of Allah
Coming up from the void left behind by the previous number, all kinds of sound effects make us feel like we’ve arrived in Toon Town. They take us through the craziness of “T.V. Suicide” and then drop way down for ambience as they continue. From there they fire back out into “Back in the Box”. This is another hard rocking jam. This continues to modulate around, though – not remaining hard. This is very much theater and has a lot of interesting stuff built into it. I’d almost call it performance art in a way. Though it’s not credited we get a little bit of “Paranoia” from the first Hawkwind album in the midst of this extended jam – right before they lead out into “Assassins…” It’s a scorching rendition of the track – and closes off this twenty minute plus suite.
Propaganda
This is just a short bit of stage banter.
Reefer Madness
Another classic Hawkwind piece, this is performed in a very modern way. It really benefits from Bridget Wishart’s vocals here. It’s a good way to close things off.
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