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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Hawkwind Light Orchestra


Review by Gary Hill

I reviewed a previous set from Hawkwind Light Orchestra. I wondered at the time why that one wasn't released under the Hawkwind banner. The same question applies here. I mean, I get that it's a trio doing the album. That trio both times included Hawkwind founder and leader Dave Brock and long-time drummer Richard Chadwick. This time the third musician here is Magnus Martin, which is a change from last time. Perhaps the whole reason these were released under the other name is that it might be confusing since it's not the actual current lineup of Hawkwind itself.

Whatever the reason for the naming convention. the fact is, this (as the previous one) sounds like a Hawkwind album, plain and simple. This disc was recorded remotely as the musicians were in lockdown for the current pandemic. If you like Hawkwind, you should love this. It really sounds like a Hawkwind album, plain and simple, and quite a strong one at that.

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Track by Track Review
Expedition to Planet X
Effects based sounds begin this and grow upward with a very space-like vibe. Weird keyboard textures rise up around the halfway mark, and the cut grows with a space meets symphonic approach. This is essentially and extended instrumental introduction.
We're brought into some killer Hawkwind space rock here. This is a driving hot and distinctly Hawkwind in sound and style. The shifts, changes and overlayers of sound are trademark Hawkwind. The guitar work on this is classic, too.
Void of Wasteland
Coming out of the previous cut, this has a great percussion meets electronics vibe to it. There is an almost tribal groove with space keyboard textures over the top. It's another instrumental piece. Melodic guitar joins later along the road. Again this segues directly into the next piece.
Repel Attract
This has a real retro Hawkwind sound, think late 70s or 80s. It's a driving rocker that's particularly strong. It's catchy, meaty and a real standout tune.
Coming out of its predecessor, this has an intricate and mellower sound to it. It almost feels a bit like Tangerine Dream to me. This is a classy instrumental connecting piece.
Human Behaviour (No Sex Allowed)
This powers out into another driving rocker. This leans a bit toward the more metallic side of the Hawkwind sound, but it has enough quirky touches to make it interesting. Some of the guitar work really leans on older Hawkwind sounds (ala Choose Your Masque era).  The female backing vocals (samples, I think) seem a bit inappropriate for the song. Beyond that, this really works well, and even then those bits are only a minor issue.
Temple of Love
Another instrumental connecting piece, this has a real tuned percussion vibe. There are a lot of synthesizers over the top, too, but overall this feels like space meets tribal tuned percussion.
Square Peg into a Round Hole
Freaky keyboard elements and sound effects bring this into being. The cut moves out feeling a bit like something that might have come from Electric Teepee. This is a very strange piece. It combines a strange spoken thing with trippy musical textures, driving percussion and more. It's really more of an instrumental as that vocal seems to be more of a voice from an old recording.
Windy Day
Here we get a more guitar based tune that's a harder rocker with some great energy at the start. It works out to something very unusual from there. It has an almost jazzy vibe in some ways. Yet, it's recognizable as Hawkwind. The guitar work is trademark, but the song itself is a real twist.
Model Farm Blues
As you might gather from the title, this is a real blues. It's of the electric blues variety. It's also decidedly Hawkwind in terms of the spacey weirdness in play. This is a lot of fun. It, like the previous tune, is a fairly big change from the standard Hawkwind fare. There is some killer space brought into it later, though.
Whose Call Is It Anyway?
More of a traditional Hawkwind sound is on track here, but of the more spacey variety. That said, it has a lot of energy and a driving tempo. It drops to a mellow acoustic guitar exploration movement mid-track, taking it into serious psychedelic space zones along that detour. It's another instrumental.
Lockdown (Keep Calm)
This driving Hawkwind rocker might be the highlight of the set. This would make a great addition to a Hawkwind live set, really. The vocals  are spoken, distorted and echoey, calling to mind "Sonic Attack." I like this song much more than I like that one, though. There is a female recorded voice in the mix later. This is a new Hawk-classic as far as I'm concerned. It drives to more pure hard rocking sound further in the number, after the vocal recedes, but there are still plenty of space elements in play, too. The vocal comes back before the song starts building out to a powerhouse peak. From that crescendo, it drops to a mellower keyboard section that has tuned percussion type elements. That movement ends the piece.
The Virus
A dark and foreboding sound brings this into being in an electronic arrangement. This number is the epic of the set, weighing in at nearly ten-and-a-half minutes of music. Eventually this gives way to a driving Hawkwind jam. As you might guess, the lyrics are topical. After the four-minute mark it drops down to a mellower, keyboard based section. It eventually builds back out to the rocking zones to continue. Around the seven-and-a-half-minute mark it descends into spacey weirdness. That evolves into something that seems to merge an almost symphonic soundtrack like sound with a driving metallic guitar. Eventually that works through and the piece drops back a mellow interlude that is more restive and quite pretty. That section ends the piece, giving a feeling of hope.
Forgotten Memories
Piano and vocals make up the concept of this number as it starts. After the first vocal section they bring in a full space rock motif to drive it forward. This is a powerful cut that borrows from some older Hawkwind music while bringing new life to it. This gets quite hard rocking and powerful before it's done.
Higher Ground
As this comes in it is typical space rock. A horn sound (synths, I think) brings a bit of a jazz element. The tune goes outward from there with style and charm. It eventually makes its way to more soaring, hard rocking Hawk-music. It's not Earth shattering in terms of uniqueness, but it works well. The cut fades seemingly in the midst of the action.
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