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50 Live

Review by Gary Hill

This new live disc from Hawkwind was recorded on their 50th Anniversary tour. Having seen Hawkwind live several times, I can tell you that I don't think there is ever a disappointing Hawkwind show. The performance captured here definitely lives up to that. They play most of the stuff fairly true to the studio versions, but you can tell these are live recordings. The set list includes some nice surprise like "Hurry On Sundown" and "Born to Go" along with more recent tunes and numbers that you expect like "Silver Machine." All in all, I'd chalk this up as one of the better Hawkwind live albums.

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Track by Track Review
Disc One
Motorway City

Swirling keyboards bring us in. The band come in from there, launching into the driving opening tune. This is a solid live performance of the cut. Some of the instrumental movements are particularly potent.

Flesh Fondue

A driving space rock powerhouse, this ups the ante from the opener. The keyboards bring classic space rock angles as the band screams forward. The spacier jam mid-track has some killer bass and keyboard work. A rather melodic proggy keyboard solo movement that makes me think of Rick Wakeman a bit takes over after a time. That segment pulls it back toward the song proper after a time. This is one of the highlights of the set.

Last Man On Earth
A more melodic piece, this is more of a folk rocker brought into Hawkwind space rock zones. It has some powerful instrumental work as part of the mix as it continues.
Space Is Dark
Space keyboards bring this in from the ending of the previous track. The vocals on this are spoken. The music weaves lines of somewhat mellower space around as the poetry is read. It is a classy tune as presented here.
Born To Go
We head back to the early era of Hawkwind on this number. A real rocker, I love the wall of sound concept of this number. They do a good job of recreating that in this live telling. They take this through some killer shifts and changes. This might be my favorite live version of this tune that I've heard, really. Either way it's another standout here. This thing just rocks out so well. It's worth the price of admission by itself.
65 Million Years Ago
A less intense number, this is a melodic space piece that gains intensity as it works forward. While not a highlight, it's still effective. It gets into some pretty potent zones as they power it up and keep driving it upward later.
In The Beginning
This is a relatively short and quite pretty keyboard solo.
Spirit Of The Age
It's hard for me to pick a favorite Hawkwind song, but this one would definitely make the short list. As you can imagine I love getting a new version of the tune. They put in an energetic and classy performance here. There aren't any real surprises, but just a strong live take.
The Fantasy Of Faladum
What starts as sort of a psychedelic folk number eventually works out to more standard space rock zones. It drifts into some cool space music that's nearly ambient for a time before powering out into driving, killer space jamming. The number does cover quite a bit of territory. It is another that's not really a highlight, but still works well.
Disc Two
The Watcher

Given that this Lemmy-penned song was also done by Motörhead, it seems appropriate that they bring Phil Campbell out on stage with them for this performance. They put in a high energy rendition here. No one would ever mistake this for Motörhead, though. It's all Hawkwind space rock.

Silver Machine
This is probably the classic Hawkwind tune. That's not to say it's one of my favorites, but it's their best known tune. They put in a solid, energized, rocking rendition.
Assault And Battery
Another cut that lands somewhere in my life of favorites from Hawkwind, this live version is pretty interesting. It's largely faithful, but does bring some fresh ideas to bear in some of the sounds.
Golden Void
Here we have another of my favorites. This version is perhaps even more typical than the previous cut was. it's also powerful.
The Right To Decide
Keyboards bring this from the previous number. Eventually it works out to the driving rock of the song proper from there.
This is an extended bit of stage banter and some ambient music added to it.
Hurry On Sundown
They go all the way back to the beginning for this number. It has some pretty and intricate space music as it begins. That holds the piece for a while before they fire out into the song proper. This is pretty faithful to the original sound, but yet still feels fresh. I think that's a testament to how timeless this track is at its core. This is just such a fun number and a great way to bring it all back to the beginning.
Master Of The Universe / Welcome To The Future
These two cuts share one track on the CD. They pound in with a pretty standard rendition of the classic old-school Hawkwind stomper in the earlier sections. It shifts into some different modes and textures as they turn it into a killer jam further down the musical road. They pull in the "Welcome to the Future" part right at the end to close it all out with a ton of energy and fire.
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