Hawkwind - "Yule Ritual: 12/29/00"
(VoicePrint Records 2002, issued in UK Only)
From Aural Innovations #21 (October 2002)
Readers who have read my reviews in the past know of (and many would identify with) my 33-year interest in HAWKWIND, and the various doings of past and current members of this pioneering UK SpaceRock unit. I was unable to attend any of their 30th anniversary shows held just a few years back in London, but low and behold VOICEPRINT RECORDS has released one of them on CD.
In the past 10 years or so, founder Dave Brock has taken Spacecraft Hawkwind on a long winding course in musical Space, producing quite a few recordings whose effectiveness ebbed and flowed with changes in the band. Some gems (like 1993's "The Business Trip") and some duds ("Alien"), but always created with an idea to relate to the Sci-Fi wellspring of interesting concepts that give inspiration to songwriter Brock.
On this recording Brock has assembled the most musically capable version of the band, and turned them loose on many of the old staples in the band's book! Here we have Brock (Vocals, Rhythm Guitars, Keyboards), Harvey Bainbridge (Keyboards, Synthesizer, Vocals), Ali Davey (Bass Guitar, Vocals), Keith Knivedon (EMS Synthesizers), Jerry Richards (Guitars), Simon House (Violins) and Richard Chadwick (Drums). A killer lineup, the newest addition being Synthesist Knivedon, who returns to the sound the rushing Synthesizer textures in the tradition of Del Dettmar. Davey and Drummer Chadwick are the most solid rhythm section that has played in this band since Harvey switched to Keyboards and Synthesizers, and Chadwick, though not a "hard Hitter", teases the rhythms, often doubling or displacing beats to add variations to the drum parts.
A few other guests show up, including master SF guru Michael Moorcock, whose tortured vocals fit "Sonic Attack", and his soliloquy "Warriors at the Edge of Time" is delivered with maniacal abandon. The only "new" tune in this collection is "SpaceBrock", which is constructed on a series of Riffs immediately identifiable to anyone who is familiar with Dave's songwriting. The only downs on this release are the absence of Nik Turner's saxophone work (his feud with Brock has become so heated that he was specifically "not invited"), his role being filled by one Jez Hugget, who is a dead ringer for Nik on Tenor, but displays some touches of originality on Soprano. The other is the attempt by Ron Tree to recreate the vocal role once admirably filled by Bob Calvert; to these ears, he fails to add any distinctiveness to the tunes on which he sings, but at least we do not suffer from having to hear his incompetent BassGuitar work!
The one real change here is the fact that this CD sounds great, as opposed to MANY VoicePrint releases (see my Soft Machine review this issue), with an almost lush sound quality, and the synthesizers are out front in the mix where they belong!
For many contemporary SpaceRock bands, Hawkwind is a template from which many directions can be taken, as they, Gong, the long-ago pre-"Darkside" Pink Floyd, Hendrix and early Softs left us with the idea of Rock music defining and taking it's place alongside Science Fiction, Nuclear Weapons, "Psychedelic/Psychoactive Drugs", the death of antiquated sexual/racial stereotypes and attitudes and Electronic Musical Instruments as part of a Post World War Two culture, existed in reaction to the horrors of a society driven by an out of control rapacious greedy Economic system which demands utmost conformity from it's citizens!
The reward for resistance is isolation and economic marginalization. Resistors like Hawkwind have survived by finding ways to keep in contact with like-minded groups and individuals; Bands like Ozric Tentacles, F/i, Alien Planetscapes, the various Pressurehed clans, and those who make up the "Strange Daze" family, even straights (musically) like Jell-O Biafra have become part of a tradition of resistance to inhumane systems that stretches back to Black Power Advocates, Anti-Fascists, Bolsheviks, Nazi Resisting Romany and Jews, Dadaists, right up to today's Digital Children, Anti-Religious Right Activists, Peaceniks, Ecological and Rainbow Warriors!
I look forward to the next 33 years of Hawkwind music, and have begun saving my pennies to attend the sixtieth year anniversary concert in 2030. In the meantime we have this excellent CD document of the 30th anniversary celebration to assimilate and conspire by!
Reviewed by Doug Walker