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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Hawkwind

Masters of the Universe

Review by Gary Hill

This compilation is really only so important. On the one hand, were it not for “It’s So Easy,” every track on the set would have been released on album previously. That would mean that, unless someone wanted a compact introduction to Hawkwind, or was a real completist collector, the CD would be redundant. However, when this was originally released, “It’s So Easy” was only available as the B-Side of the single “Psychedelic Warlords.” That made this collection worth having. Of course, since then a reissue of Hall of the Mountain Grill has found the track located within, so it’s an iffy equation at this point. With the exception of that one track, I’ve previously reviewed all this music on other CD reviews. So, the reviews for those tracks will be presented or adapted for use here, for the sake of consistency.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Master Of The Universe

This is one of early Hawkwind’s heaviest numbers and was also a trademark piece in many ways. Maybe the guys who did the He-Man cartoon were influenced by it? Probably not, but you never know. What a different show that would have been if they’d used this as the theme song. A whining sound, much like a weapon powering up to fire starts this off and keeps climbing towards overload. Eventually a guitar segment comes in and the whole band slowly rise to meet it. The vocal line is mostly spoken over this backdrop with a great echoey texture to it. Space rock squeals and squacks rise and fall during the course. They turn a corner after the verse, seeming to be ready to launch into a new movement. Instead, though, they seemingly end the piece, but it is reborn in the earlier modes from this false ending. This time they launch into an instrumental space rock journey on the themes. This gets quite powerful and waves of sound continue to sweep over the top of the mix. The same hint of a new journey about to unfold gives way to another false ending and the bass restarts the jam. Clipped echoey guitar, common throughout the disc, joins the fray and then the track is rejoined by the rest. The final verse of vocals come in here and take it to the closing changeover segment. After what we’ve heard to this point, when the thunder-type sounds in the background take it, you really expect the melody to rise up one more time.

Brainstorm

This is one of the hardest rocking (and most trademarked) of Hawkwind’s early repertoire. A pulsing crunch makes up the early segments here. Lemmy’s bass drives the cut as Nik Turner half sneers, half sings the number. Waves of keys wash over throughout. The track moves through a couple verses and choruses, then moves out into an expansive space rock jam that only Hawkwind could have done. This extended instrumental passage swirls and pulsates. Varying instruments weave their lines across the top in this nearly out of control journey. A tribal chant (Hawkwind loved these in the day) takes it around the four-minute mark with other lines of vocals and instrumentation accenting it across the top. Eventually the guitar takes control in a wah-fest motif. The group work their magic on this jam creating something that feels like it would have been quite at home on their Hall of the Mountain Grill album. Noise and beauty merge in a psychedelic, hypnotic powerhouse. One could possibly draw links from this cut to early Pink Floyd or even Deep Purple’s “Child In Time,” but while I like both of those a lot, I definitely prefer the Hawk’s take. Still, I should be honest and say that I’m biased as one of the biggest Hawkwind fans in the States (at least I’m pretty sure that title applies – tough to say without meeting the rest of the Hawkfanatics). Eventually this pounds back out into the song proper with Lemmy’s bass guitar once again propelling it. One more verse and chorus are issued before the band take this into a noisy outro – over which Turner lays a few more vocal lines. Keys take it after the crescendo, but then Lemmy delivers a feedback laden bass line (at least it sure sounds like it to me) for a time. The group seem to be about to rise back up on the fadeout.

Sonic Attack

More sci-fi theater than actual music, this cut is an effects laden speech that serves essentially as a public service of what to do "In case of sonic attack on your district." It is originally from Space Ritual.

Orgone Accumulator

Also from Space Ritual, this is hard rocking number is strong space rock with good hypnotic jamming.

It's So Easy

This was the one track that truly made this set worth having. It had only been available before as the B-side of the “Psychedelic Warlords” single. It’s a psychedelic Hawkwind stomper that seems to have been recorded at the same time as Hall of the Mountain Grill.

Lost Johnny
Bassist Lemmy Kilminster penned this number, and later reworked it with his post-Hawkwind band Motorhead. This one comes across as a fairly straight-ahead rocker and one of the high points of the disc.
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