Spirits Burning & Bridget Wishart - "Earth Born" (Voiceprint 2008, VP431, CD)
Spirits Burning - "Alien Injection" (Black Widow Records 2008, BWR103-2, CD/2-LP)
From Aural Innovations #39 (May 2008)
Don Falcone's "gathering in space" continues, the newest edition being titled Earth Born and credited to Spirits Burning & Bridget Wishart. For many years Bridget Wishart was known to me simply as the sole female singer in Hawkwind's history, and her tenure was a relatively brief one. But she has been a visible presence on the space rock scene in the past couple years contributing vocals to various albums. And on Earth Born we really get a taste for Bridget's talents as both a singer, writer and musician.
The title track was originally a Star Nation song. This rewrite that opens the album is a dreamy flowing acoustic driven tune with lots of spacey keyboards and embellishments. A strong opener. "One Way Trip" and "Hit the Moon" are space-funk tunes, both propelled by Jaspar Pattison's "thumping bass", and are among my favorites on the album. "One Way Trip" also includes crunchy fuzz and spaced out guitar from Jerry Richards and ultra cosmic "sci-fi synths" from Don. And "Hit the Moon" is heavier and more energetic, with acidic guitar licks from Steve Bemand, lots of effects, and Bridget getting into a spoken word/rap combo styled vocal delivery that works great with the funky grooves, wild effects and cosmic atmospherics.
"Sarah's Surprise" is another groove tune that I enjoyed. It's melodic, dreamy and spacey, with interesting rhythms and light but effective gliss guitar contributions from Daevid Allen. I like the piano and flugelhorn combination on "Two Friends", and how it contrasts with the high energy drumming and singing guitar licks from Daevid. "Behind the Veil" features Cyndee Lee Rule's Viper Violin and a primordial stew of contrasting rhythms. "Crafted From Wood" consists of a Bridget and Daevid vocal duo backed by tribal percussion and bouzouki. Child Growing" is another one of my favorites, a Space-Prog track that is simultaneously heavy and dreamy. It rocks, but has a powerful ambient-soundscape presence. The song also includes violin from Craig Fry, who had been a member of the 80s band Cartoon (who may be known to hardcore RIO/avant-prog fans). For "Candles", Bridget turns the lead vocal duties over the guitarist Jerry Jeter, who will be recognized by those who have kept up with the Spirits Burning and Spaceship Eyes albums. But Bridget is still a strong presence, contributing backing vocals and clarinet.
"Always", "Evening" and "Dancers At The End Of…" are all ambient space-pop songs. I love the thudding drum 'n bass type low end on "Always", as well as the melodic violin lines from Simon House, and of course Don adding healthy doses of electronic freakiness. "Evening" includes melodic saxophone lines from Bridget and gliss guitar from Daevid. And "Dancers At The End Of…" sounds like it would be at home on the first couple Sting solo albums. "Storm Shelter" is the only song on the album I didn't much care for. It falls into the pop realm too. But instead of the sense of adventure that the other three songs mixed in, this one was just a little too fluffy jazzy pop for my tastes.
In summary, a big BRAVO to Don Falcone for yet another exciting album. The spirit of Spirits Burning is the bringing together of multiple talents, and, it would seem, bringing out the best in them. Kudos also to Don for spotlighting Bridget and facilitating a showcase for her talents. I highly recommend visiting the official Earth Born web site (link below), especially when you have the CD. There's detailed information on all the contributors, and every song has its own page with detailed credits and commentary by both Bridget and Don.
But wait… there is yet another new Spirits Burning album available. Well, its newly released, but has been in the can for a few years now. I reviewed a pre-release of Alien Injection nearly two years ago when Don thought its release by Black Widow Records was imminent. Its been a while but the album if finally out, in both CD and 2-LP vinyl editions. Among the participants is Captain Black (Hawkwind, Spacehead), DarkSanttu, Michael Camaro and Yur Zappa from Dark Sun, Kev Ellis (Dr. Brown, Bubbledubble, Magick Cat), Michael Moorcock, members of San Francisco band Mushroom, Steve Palmer (Mooch, Blue Lily Commission), Peter Pavli (High Tide, Michael Moorcock's Deep Fix, Robert Calvert's "Hype"), Adrian Shaw (Hawkwind, Bevis Frond, Magic Muscle), Brian Tawn, Thom The World Poet, Paul Williams (Quarkspace, Church of Hed), Daevid Allen, Bridget Wishart, and of course Don Falcone.
Alien Injection is a bit different from Earth Born, being much heavier and having a more classic space rock sound. Things begin on a hard driving space rock note with the title track, with Kev Ellis on vocals and backed by a powerful backing band including deep grooving bass from DarkSanttu, appropriate alien synths and classic prog mellotron from Don. What a great opening number! "New Religion" is next and is another strong track, with more powerful bottom end from Ade Shaw's bass, excellent vocals from Karen Anderson (whose congas also add a nice tribal groove to the song), gliss guitar embellishment from Daevid, and freaky electronics from Don. "Alpha Harmony" is a completely cosmic jamming space rocker with a nice bluesy edge and spoken word vocals from Thom The World Poet.
Damn… nearly every track is a winner on this one and I'm tempted to go on at length on all of them, but I'll control myself and just describe a few of the other standouts so you'll get the idea. "Augustus" starts off as a jazzy-proggy cosmic instrumental with a great electric/acoustic guitar combo from Doug Erickson and Dave Figoli, more tron from Don, and sax leads from Purjah (Quiet Celebration) that go beautifully with the mellotron lines. It flows along for a bit but then took me by surprise by launching into a killer space rock and prog jam. "Another World" and "Salome" are the tracks with Bridget on vocals and I think they turned out really good. "Another World" is deep in 70's styled progressive rock territory, with gorgeous tasteful guitar soloing from Steve Palmer and classic prog keyboard sounds from Don. And "Salome" is a tribal hippie psych song with an Amon Düül II flavor. "The Hawk" is another standout space rock and prog tune. It rocks hard in space and Jerry Jeter's guitar sounds like something off an album from the early 70's. This sucker ROCKS! Ditto for "Imported Serpents", on which Purjah switches to guitar and cranks out some of the most fiery licks on the album. "Upturned Dolphin" is an otherworldly piece, with Daevid on spoken word vocals, Graham Clark on violin and dual guitars from Jay Radford (electric) and Michael Moorcock (acoustic). We've also got a few tunes ("Every Gun Plays Its Own Tune", "The Entropy Tango", "Ingleborough") from Michael Moorcock's Deep Fix days, but with additional new material that makes for some interesting tracks. Overall this album really blew me away and is among my favorite Spirits Burning albums. I highly recommend checking out both these new Spirits Burning albums. They're both very different but go together nicely. And hearing them back to back really emphasizes the breadth of space rock & progressive contributions Don has received and worked with.
For more information you can visit the Spirits Burning web site at: http://www.spiritsburning.com.
Visit the official Earth Born web site with lots of great information on all the participants at: http://www.earthborn.org.uk.
Visit the Black Widow Records web site at: http://www.blackwidow.it.
Visit the Voiceprint web site at: http://www.voiceprint.co.uk/web/Release/VP431CD.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz