Hawkwind - "Weird Tapes" (102-105) (Voiceprint, CD's)
From Aural Innovations #14 (January 2001)
Volumes 2, 3 and 5 of this long-awaited reissue series go far to rectify the lack of legitimately-available live recordings from 1977, the 'Quark, Strangeness & Charm' / 'P.X.R.5' lineup - possibly Hawkwind's best-ever. Adrian Shaw's bass playing was spirited - always taking the song somewhere interesting... it flowed across Simon King's trademark unrelentless rhythm, and interacted perfectly with the textures of Simon House's violin & keyboard melodies. Dave Brock was tops with flanged rhythm guitar and plenty of analog synth sequencing/noises, and Robert Calvert was at his peak at being... Robert Calvert. Volume 5 may be the place to start, with excellent, raging versions of "Brainstorm" (with a Calvert lead vocal), "Hassan I Sahba", and "Steppenwolf" (as well as "Back on the Streets" from '76), but "Robot", "Damnation Alley" and "Uncle Sam's On Mars" make Volume 3 ('Free Festivals') a serious rival (especially when the jamming Watchfield Festival recording from '75 is also considered in the package). Volume 2 may not be as essential if you already have the released live versions of "Quark, Strangeness & Charm" and "Spirit of the Age" (it is, however, very nice to hear the latter dissolve into "Sonic Attack"), which are indicative of the overall sound quality of these discs - by no means bad, but not the freshly-mixed, re-mastered sound of 'the 1999 Party'. Weird 104 ('Hawklords '78') is worth mentioning, too, since the band's move in the punk/new wave direction was carried out with full abandon for this tour, Calvert obviously enthusiastic about that orientation. The 'lords versions of "Urban Guerilla", "Spirit of the Age", "Steppenwolf" and "Uncle Sam's On Mars" represent some of Bob's most manic deliveries, with the infamous "machine-gun" exchange clearly audible near the end of the first. All four of these discs (and the others in the series) are as good as most of the material in Hawkwind's extensive catalog, with these being particularly notable since there won't be any more recordings made with Calvert. If only they could've dug up "I'm Waiting For My Man".
Reviewed by Doug Pearson