Hawkwind - "In Your Area"
Hawkwind - "Hawkwind '97"
Hawkwind - "Golden Void 1969-1979"
From Aural Innovations #6 (April 1999)
Hawkwind - "In Your Area"
(Griffin Music 1998, GCD 740-2)
Well, the best thing about "In Your Area" is that it marks the return of Rob Godwin's Griffin label back into the spacerock universe after a two- or three-year absence. Griffin has always showed great attention to detail in the packaging (something other labels - that I won't mention by name - fail to achieve), and the booklet art presented here is really very well done. Another thing is that this is the first ever North America-exclusive Hawkwind release I believe, and that makes my European Hawkfriends particularly jealous. Ha! They deserve it for a change.
As they've often done in the past, Hawkwind have mixed together live recordings with new studio tracks, and so it's only really fair to compare In Your Area with others of this variety (e.g., Zones, Palace Springs, PXR5) rather than true original studio efforts. And in that sense, this one rates above average. But compared to the HW'97 disc (which shares many of the same tracks), the sound on In Your Area is more subdued and takes a lot of the energy out of the tunes. In some instances, this smoother mix might have been preferable, but considering this Richards/Tree line-up, I prefer the rawer and punchier sound on HW'97. The In Your Area version of "Love in Space" is edited down though, which made me happy since I'm getting tired of this song already. And Ron Tree's bass playing (something I still have not witnessed in person) was actually quite impressive, particularly during "Brainstorm."
Some Hawkfans will complain about the recycling of lyrics again in "First Landing on Medusa" (originally Robert Calvert's "The Awakening"), but it's well done by Brock so I won't be one of them. A number of these new songs are pretty forgettable, but not "Hippy." This is one of the coolest tunes Hawkwind has done in years, perhaps since "Treadmill." Written by Richards/Tree/Chadwick, we get a different kind of riffing style than from Baron Brock and I like that originality, and Ron Tree's vocals sound great also. The pretty ambient piece, "Prairie," continues the strong showing by the *other* HW songwriters, and shows off a delay guitar technique that reminds me of Adrian Belew - really different. And most amazingly of all, Brock's "Diana Park" reminded me of the Scorpions ballad style, despite it being almost pure electronica. In the end, though, the album depends heavily on the current exclusiveness of "Hippy" alone, and since HW'97 is the better full archive of this particular tour, I'd recommend that one first (if you can get it).
Reviewed by Keith Henderson
Hawkwind - "Hawkwind '97" (Ltd. release 1998, (UK) HAWKVP999)
Available only to Hawkwind Earth Visitor Passport holders (you know who you are), this exclusive CD (not CD-R) was a very nice gesture by the band to all its fans, and if it helps defeat the efforts of bootleggers out for a quick buck, well then that's great also. Taken from seven different gigs on the 1997 UK tour, Brock and Company have selected particularly strong versions of most of the tunes performed. The lineup includes the four regulars Dave Brock, Jerry Richards, Ron Tree, and Richard Chadwick, plus guests Capt. Rizz+ on vocals/jump-ups, Crum on keys, and Mr. Dibs (of Spacehead) on bass during "Ejection."
As you might expect, we get yet one more version of "Brainstorm," "Love in Space," "Sonic Attack," "Ejection," and "Reptoid Vision." All credible versions of course, and I'd say this version of "Ejection" is the best in quite awhile. Alan Davey sang it for years, and I never thought his voice was right for this song. Whoever sings it here (Ron Tree?) sounds more appropriate, and there's even a bit of "Over the Top-style" ranting (á la Calvert) that adds a nice touch. But the best reasons for tracking down a copy of HW'97 are tracks like "Phetamine St.," an odd, disjointed punkish number that just didn't come out right on "Distant Horizons." I've heard that the Leeds show was the only performance of this song (it being Ron Tree's home crowd), and that's too bad as I love hearing Chadwick get a chance to loosen up and let her rip on the skins. "Wheels" and "Alchemy" set the stage for Richards to crank out some of his own unique riffs. For serious blanga fans, "Blue Skin" blasts through with a twin-guitar attack, almost too much sound as Brock's glissando guitar bits are nearly buried. But my very favorite moment on HW'97 is the finale, Part II of Calvert's "The Gremlin." Wonderfully crazed psychedelia and excellent guitar work by Richards - too bad it's so short, but what a great finish!
Well, with Hawkwind fandom, there are those who have everything and those looking for just the items that are absolutely necessary. That's a real hard task, given the enormous volume of stuff available from which to choose. And as this item requires a bit of effort to acquire, you might not be bothered to go out of your way to get one, especially if you've already got "In Your Area." That I think, would be a mistake. This is a great live album, and the roughness around the edges gives it a truer feeling. And don't take that to mean it's bootleg quality... it has really excellent sound.
For more information visit the Hawkwind Control Center.
Reviewed by Keith Henderson
Hawkwind - "In Your Area" (Griffin Music 1998, GCD 740-2)
Hawkwind - "Hawkwind '97" ((Ltd. release 1998, (UK) HAWKVP999)
The latest two releases from the Hawkwind camp are very similar in many respects, both containing live material recorded during 1997 tours, and both marking notable events in this band's long and productive history. The first release marks the comeback of Griffin Music, an event which should make Hawkwind fans happy indeed. Having emerged from their legal woes of the past few years, it is good to see this label which has done so much for the band (and others) back on track. The second release is the first of various goodies which fans holding "Hawkwind Passports" can get hold of directly from the band. I hope this scheme works for them!
So which release to buy (if not both)? A difficult question indeed. Hawkwind '97 is entirely live, recorded over a number of gigs in the UK in October and December 1997. The recording quality is quite good, but has not been overly re-worked in the studio (unlike the last few live releases), so overall a good raw live sound is presented. The track list is a good cross section of material, including material from the previous studio album Distant Horizons, some new material, and one or two classics - fairly typical for a Hawkwind live release. The tracks taken from Distant Horizon all show (as expected?) a level of 'completion' which wasn't evident in the studio versions. In particular, Reptoid Vision has been transformed from it's almost annoying beginnings into a great live track, especially with the segue in and out of the central spoken Keeper of the Reptoid section. This reminds me VERY much of some of the craziness of which Harvey subjected us to so well in the late 80's ... absolutely marvelous stuff! The others (Wheels, Phetamine Street, Alchemy, & Love in Space) are all pretty much the same as before, but definitely work a lot better on stage than in the studio.
The older tracks, are pretty much standard fare, however I must say that Aerospaceage Inferno absolutely rocks. When Ron Tree first joined Hawkwind I really wasn't too sure about his attempts to take on the Calvert role - it just didn't work for me at all. Now that he's settled in (and taken on the Bass) I think he tries a little less to mimic, and somehow through this he succeeds quit well! Ejection, Sonic Attack & Blue Skin are all great as well, but we have heard them all before. Gremlin Pt II is at least as good a way to end a gig as Welcome to the Future. 'Nuff said. The final 'classic' is Brainstorm, which as it stands is fine, but the segue in and out of the "new" track, In Your Area, does nothing for me I'm sorry to say. There's nothing wrong with the addition of Capt. Rizz to add a new element to Hawkwind's sound, but this whole cheery reggae-inspired thing just isn't SpaceRock (despite the cosmic sounds in the background). And how many times can this music be transformed? It started out in 1981 as Living on Knife Edge, then morphed into The Camera that could Lie in 93. What will the fourth generation of it be like in a few years time?
One of the other new tracks, Fantasy, is not too bad at all, but in my opinion is tarnished by silly lyrics. In the 80's, Night of the Hawks worked well without sounding self-centered. In the 90's neither Fantasy nor In Your Area do. "The Hawklord's are flying through your galaxy" may well be true, but let's drop it from the lyrics ok? Having sounded more critical than I intended, I have to say that this is still a fine recording. It won't be in the player as much as some others, but rates way above Distant Horizons and is about equal to the Love In Space tour CD. It flows well, has that "full" Hawkwind sound which fans love, and both Tree and Richards are definitely showing their worth (as is Crum on keyboards, and despite my criticisms, Rizz as well).
The track list on In Your Area is slightly different, being a combination of live tracks and new studio pieces (unfortunately with messed up track indexing - so you'll just have to listen to the CD as a whole :-). The opening Brainstorm/In Your Area/Brainstorm is a little different to that on HW 97, as is the Love in Space/Rat Race/Love in Space segue. Neither disk is better than the other on this score. The same could be said for Alchemy and Aerospaceage Inferno (though I lean towards the HW'97 version of the later). If you need a reason to choose HW'97 over In Your Area based on the live tracks, then I am the Reptoid is it. For some reason they have included only the central section (Keeper on HW'97) on this disc! While it works really well as part of the "complete" track, it's little more than filler here. Sigh. The final live track on In Your Area is First Landing on Medusa which is a fine reworking of The Awakening from Space Ritual (which was originally Calvert penned text in the Hawkwind Log which came with X - In Search of Space in 72).
The similarities between the disks concludes with the studio track Your Fantasy. For some reason I much prefer this to its live counterpart on HW'97. Go figure! Of the 6 studio tracks on this release, 4 are instrumental, reminiscent of instrumentals on the last few albums - a little disappointing. The surprisingly brief The Nazca is an interesting enough combination of noises with a female dialog, but the following piece, Hippy, is what does it for me on this album. A slow yet powerful track, it reminds me so much of early PIL you could be excused for thinking you had the wrong disc in the player! There's sufficient background whooshes and swirls to stamp it as Hawkwind, yet both the vocals and bass line could have come straight off any one of Lydon's better creations. (Hawkwind PunkCast anyone?). I'm surprised by how much I like this, and I think you will be too. Prairie is a 'nice' enough instrumental with a middle ages feel, but sadly Luxotica and Diana Park come across as near meaningless electronic filler. Not the strongest way to end the album.
In summary, I guess mileage will vary. You need at least one of these albums, and if you've read this far you are a Hawkwind fan and will probably buy both. Go on and do it - I did. You'll only be disappointed if you're expectations are too high - both albums show signs of a strengthening Hawkwind, which can only be a good thing. I look forward to whatever comes next with the usual anticipation!
Reviewed by Paul Ward
Hawkwind - "In Your Area"
(Griffin Music 1998, GCD 740-2)
Hawkwind - "Golden Void 1969-1979" (Purple Pyramid 1998, CLP 0471-2)
The new Hawkwind release (and the return of Griffin Music) is a half live, half new studio tracks affair from Brock, Chadwick, Tree, Richards, Rizz, and assistance from Crum on keyboards. The live tracks are from a Belgian concert and opens with a fiery "Brainstorm", which also contains the Reggae inflected "Hawkwind In Your Area" in it's mid-section. Brainstorm, in my opinion, never gets old though the band was wise not to clutter up the disc with old classics we've heard a million times before.
The Jerry Richards penned "Alchemy" is a short, but hard driving metallic space rockin' instrumental. This is heavy spacerock at it's finest and I would have loved to see this tune extended and developed more. Instead, it moves too quickly into "Love In Space". Now the song "Love In Space" has never really grabbed me, but it's more ballsy here as they incorporate the song "Rat Race" into it. Rizz sings "You're the rat race, You're the human race" to pounding music and some nice guitar work. The band return to Love In Space for just a moment before launching into the kick ass rockin' "Aerospace Age Inferno".
The studio tracks begin with "First Landing On Medusa", an old Calvert/Brock penned tune that apparently has only been on compilations and a special release tape series. The song is less than two minutes and leads into the screeching, freaked out "I Am The Reptoid". One of my favorite tunes on the disc is "Hippy", which is as spacerock as Hawkwind can get, and has bits of trippy chanting and Middle Eastern guitar. Hey, it's called Hippy right! The band maintains this theme with the laid back "Prairie", which has simple but enjoyable duel guitar melodies to the beat of tablas. The band is really into the tasteful and cool sounding guitar work as we're treated to even more on "Luxotica" and the closing number, "Diana Park".
Hawkwind's history is too long and their catalog too extensive to say whether new releases are their best or worst ever. Rather, I think it's more useful to determine whether Hawkwind is still relevant and whether as a band they've "still got it". I can confidently say that the creative spirit is alive and well on In Your Area, and it's a solid release by a tight band that still rocks straight into the cosmos.
The other new Hawkwind release is yet another compilation, this time a 2-CD set from the folks at Purple Pyramid. Hardcore Hawkfans will probably have heard most of this stuff. But I suppose one of the values of this disc is that Cleopatra/Purple Pyramid CD's are relatively easy to find in stores in the U.S. so fans who aren't accustomed to mail order can hear a few rarer tracks and a 30-minute Dave Brock interview that was originally a bonus disc in The Official Picture Log Book box set from 1987.
The set includes the early Hawkwind Zoo demo tunes, "Hurry On Sundown" and "Sweet Mistress Of Pain", several Hawkwind tunes including "Kings Of Speed", "Motorhead", and "Spirit Of The Age", four Sonic Assassins tracks, "Valium Ten" and "Time Of..." from the Hawklords, the 4-song Earth Ritual Preview EP from Hawkwind, and the Brock interview. Several of these tracks are live.
"We Do It" is classic early Hawkwind with it's ten minutes of driving jams. The beat is constant and relentless accompanied by Nik's sax and Dik Mik's wandering synths. "Earth Calling" is a total space freakout that combined with "We Do It" puts to rest any doubts as to where the term SpaceRock came from. I mention these in particular because in the interview Dave mentions how they were big Can and Neu fans and that the extended Hawkwind jams fell firmly into the same [Krautrock] mold as those bands. The rest of the tracks travel through Hawk history and does a fair job a reflecting the different styles Hawkwind's various incarnations have explored over the years.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz