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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Dr. Hasbeen

Signs

Review by Gary Hill

I have to admit, I’ve always wanted to be in Hawkwind – seriously. If I could play in any band out there, it would be Hawkwind. I even gave a roadie some tapes at one point to give to Dave Brock. My point here is that, I must not be the only one with that dream. These guys apparently decided that if they can’t be in Hawkwind, they will do their best to sound like Hawkwind – and they are quite good at what they do.

The double disc set is sort of a mixed bag. The first CD is a studio one and the first few tracks are simply incredible – right up there with just about anything Hawkwind themselves have done. It gets a bit inconsistent from there, though. A lot of that is due to recording techniques. Some of this is just not up to par in terms of sound quality or mixing. It hurts the consistency of the first CD.

The second disc consists of live performances and this is far more consistent. Only one track really fails in my book – and again, it’s mostly due to the sound quality. Whether these guys are covering Hawkwind songs or creating their own Hawk music, it’s obvious the spirit of the Hawks is alive and well in Dr. Hasbeen. Now, I guess I have two bands I’d like to play in – Hawkwind and Dr. Hasbeen. It would be a similar experience.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Signs
A narrator brings us up to date on the story so far, a doomsday scenario. Keyboards and sound effects wander about in the backdrop. A chugging, powerhouse Hawkwind like jam rises up from here is classic style. They move through in a pretty typical fashion and the song drops back to an ambient section over which we get another soundscape. This is simply amazing and every bit as good as just about anything Hawkwind themselves have ever done.
The Seers Song
This is based on more ambient keyboard textures with waves of sound and spoken sound bites swirling in slow patterns around one another. This never rises up too far, but these more ambient waves of sound serve as the backdrop for a distant, processed, half spoken, half shouted vocal line.
Time Watcher
Faster paced, this is another killer slab of space rock. It reminds me of something from Hawkwind’s Space Bandits album.

Why Syb
This is a solo version of this track, taken from an old CDr. It comes in with some pretty sound effect type elements. It rises up as an intricate acoustic based motif. The echoey vocals come across in definite Hawkwind-like ways, but the song only has so much in common with Hawkwind. This suffers a bit from a sloppy mix, probably due to limitations of the recording method. It’s cool, but I think it might have worked better as a bonus track rather than in the midst of things. It’s just not up to the quality of the tracks that preceded it in terms of sound and threatens the flow because of it.
Looking Glass / End of Days
This starts with a little ambient texture. Then a scream heralds the harder rocking, fast paced jam. It drops back after a while to a mellower, keyboard based jam. We get a cool voice over about Osama Bin Laden while a pretty, but rather melancholy musical texture works through.
Why Syb
In a band arrangement of the earlier track, space rock keyboards start this and begin to climb upward. The rock and roll meets space texture here reminds me a bit of something from Anubis Spire. While this isn’t one of my favorite cuts on show here, it’s definitely more effective than the original recording.
Psi Power
This is a cover of a Hawkwind song and frankly, you’d almost swear it really was Hawkwind. Mind you, it’s a rather rough recording, a bit tinny, but I’ve heard things from Brock and company that sound like that.
Heaven Awaits
Keys, percussion and wailing guitar (deep in the mix) make up this musical journey. It’s rather understated, but also cool. It’s a fairly noisy, but still understated, freak out. We get some more powerful keyboards in the closing segments that dominate and control.
Death Metal Head
Another sound bite starts this, joined by weird, bouncing kinds of sounds. From there the Hawk-textures climb in a powerhouse jam. It turns out to a percussive dominated, rhythmic sort of progression later with Dave Brock like vocals over the top. Guitar skims across this motif as they carry onward.
Lifers
Sound bites and weird sound effects start things here. As this rises up it turns rather heavy and a bit metal. This is dark and gloomy, a bit like Hawkwind doing Black Sabbath.

Waves of Aliens
Space keys serve as the backdrop on this piece. Effects and keys swirl around one another. A guitar grind enters and moves the track in new directions. This powers out with a pretty typical Hawkwind approach. It drops back to a more ethereal section with chirping keys and spoken vocals.
Never Forget
This is not extremely Hawkwind-like. It’s a pretty balladic piece. Don’t get me wrong, there are traces of Hawk-sounds here, but they are nowhere near as prevalent as on most of the rest of the disc. This is a great tune. It never really moves far, but when it’s in this cool of a place to start, who cares?
Axis of Evil
Sound bites start this off. The vocals on this one border on extreme metal. The musical motif is a bit rough, too. The overall effect is kind of like a cross between Motorhead and Hawkwind. Considering that they share a good deal of musical territory through Lemmy, that’s not a far stretch. We get a more typical Hawk-jam at the center of this. It’s a cool tune, but again, not really one of my favorites here.
Disc 2
Countdown / Final Fight
This starts with a swirling, sort of textural, theatrical introductory piece. If you are familiar with Hawkwind you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. It launches out into a tasty space jam that’s got a lot of warbly textures and whooshing keyboards. The guitar paints tasty sound pictures and the keys chirp along to the beat. They take it out into a killer space jam after a while. You would really swear you are listening to Hawkwind here. At over ten minutes in length this is an extensive and extremely powerful jam that should please fans of Hawkwind and space rock in general.
Golden Void
Always one of my favorite tracks by Hawkwind, these guys put in a solid rendition of it. It wouldn’t take a big stretch of the imagination to think that this is, in fact, some lost Hawkwind recording. Of course, part of that’s because there are so many different sounds to Hawkwind and you can find a million different textures to the live versions of their classics.
Silver Machine
Here they tackle what is arguably Hawkwind’s best known song. This rocker feels even more like it could be a lost Hawk-performance. It’s punchy and fun. At times they seem ready to morph this into a different Hawkwind tune, but it’s hard to get a grip on just which song it might be. Instead the recording is faded away.
World of Dreams
An original track, this comes up with keyboard waves and a female voice. The first portion of this is essentially a powered up poetry reading - one of the kind of things Hawkwind has always been known for doing. It moves out into a hard rocking tune which, while still having Hawkisms, is a bit less directly related to the music of Baron Brock and company. Still, we get a little “welcome to Utopia” to pull us firmly into the realm of the Church of Hawkwind. This doesn’t wander far from that neighborhood anyway. They power up into a killer rocking motif for a tasty guitar solo. A powerhouse, this is over eleven minutes and length. At that massive a size a lesser cut would drag. This doesn’t have that problem at all. It drops back towards more mellow approaches later as the vocals return.  They fire back out into the smoking space rock sounds from there as they continue onward.
Apollo 13
Dramatic keys, sound effects and echoey vocals combine for nearly creepy effect. Percussion threatens to rise up and then the whole group launch out into another hard edged jam. This is rather raw, but in a good way. There is no shortage of space rock keyboards or Hawkwind-like vocals, but this is an original composition of Dr. Hasbeen. The expansive jam that takes it later reminds me a lot of Doremi… era Hawkwind.
Return to the Afterlife
Swirling keys and sound effects begin this in classic space rock fashion. Other elements enter as this instrumental carries on, but we don’t move far from the track’s origins. It’s quite effective nonetheless and another great tune on a CD full of them.
Suicide Machine
This is a bit heavier and rawer than some of the other stuff here. It’s a cool tune, but a bit overly noisy. As the music on this live disc goes, I’d say this is the weak link.
Sonic Attack
We get another Hawkwind cover here in the form of the trippy, psychotic, science fiction based poetry reading “Sonic Attack.” They play it a little looser and with less of a heavy texture to it. This isn’t quite as weird as the versions which were familiar with from Hawkwind.
Hippy Trip
Starting with some Hawkwind sound clips, this launches into a rather stripped down, but still very Hawklike, rock and roll jam. For as little as this song has going for it, it drags well past its welcome here at about seven minutes in length.
Master of the Universe
They hit another all time Hawkwind classic here. When it's a killer tune like this how can you go wrong? The answer is, you can't. And once again, you might be convinced that this is actually some lost Hawkwind recording.
 
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