Hawkwind – Spacehawks by Lee Carter

Rating: 3/5
Distributor/label: Eastworld/Four Worlds Media
Distributor/label URL: http://www.fourworldsmedia.com/
Released: 2013
Buy Album: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Spacehawks-Hawkwind/dp/B00EUAOZBG
Band Website: http://www.hawkwind.com/
Hawkwind - Spacehawks

Band line-up:

Dave Brock – Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Tim Blake – Keyboards, Theremin
Richard Chadwick – Drums, Vocals
Mr Dibs – Vocals, Cello, Bass
Niall Hone – Bass, Guitar, Vocals, Keyboards
Dead Fred – Keyboards, Violin, Vocals.

Track Listing:

1. Seasons
2. Assault & Battery
3. Golden Void
4. Where Are They Now?
5. Sonic Attack
6. Demented Man
7. We Two Are One
8. We Took The Wrong Step
9. Master Of The Universe
10. Sacrosanct
11. The Sentinel
12. Its All Lies
13. Touch
14. The Chumps Are Jumping
15. Lonely Moon
16. Sunship

Review:

HAWKWIND, everyone’s favourite astronomically-minded veterans return with another foray into the furthest reaches of the cosmos with their release “Spacehawks” on Eastworld. Following on from last year’s “Stellar Variations” (under the name of HAWKWIND LIGHT ORCHESTRA; essentially a HAWKWIND-lite version of the band consisting of Dave Brock, Richard Chadwick and Niall Hone), this sees the band put forward a compilation effort. Mixing old tracks renewed, hidden gems and new cuts, “Spacehawks” comes across initially as an odd best-of collection with particular focus towards newer releases and 1975’s “Warrior On The Edge Of Time”. With well-over forty years in music, if this were a best-of then there is an awful lot of material that has been overlooked in favour of the choices here. So if this isn’t a best-of, then what is it?

With half the album consisting of remixes/re-records that are interspersed with newer compositions, one could be forgiven for thinking that this would be a rather inconsistent affair. Not so. Each track segues seamlessly into the next for a beautiful, well-rounded sound that allows for tempo flow and colour shifts – as an arrangement, this shows that there was careful consideration for the order or each track and the person behind this deserves plaudits. This could easily pass for a concept album if there was an overarching theme behind the selection here. But whilst the album flows exceptionally well, what of the remixes and new songs themselves?

Generally-speaking, the remixes are good. They chiefly add an extra “spacey” flavour to their older versions which sounds great – swirling, whirly synthesisers and synthetic tine-like bleeps, rising tones and ominous bass rumbles bring a modernity to the fold. “Masters Of The Universe” sounds both fuller and more vast, whilst the stripped-back and relaxed version of “Sunship” adds a greater sense of journeying across the celestial seas we frequent with these London-natives. The duo “Assault & Battery” and “Golden Void” are reborn with a “livelier” or brighter sound, as opposed to the hazier incarnation of 1975, which both sounds like a sad departure from the melancholic psychedelia of yesteryear and a welcome embrace to the digital future.

But it’s album opener “Seasons” and “We Took The Wrong Step” that will warrant returning to their earlier versions. “Seasons” appears to have fallen victim to drum replacement and it sounds so jarring. There is something inhuman and plastic about it which cheapens the track. Compared to the rest of the album, these drums sound awful. Fortunately “We Took The Wrong Step” doesn’t suffer from a production issue, but rather just sounds too different to the 1975 original. The original’s beautiful and melancholic despair at society was wonderful, yet this spin on Dave Brock’s own version from his solo album “Looking For Love In The Lost Land Of Dreams” sounds too… Happy. That or high. Either way it just doesn’t sound as good as the original.

The originals by-and-large are excellent and the crown jewel of them is “Sacrosanct”; a pulsing, dark electro-ambient piece with every HAWKWIND hallmark thrown in – synths swirling and beeping, rumbling bass, strong pulse-beat and distant chanted vocals. Sublime. “Touch” and “Lonely Moon” wouldn’t feel out of place within a sci-fi film whilst “Sonic Attack” has a driving narrative weaving through it detailing a doomed space mission supplemented by pulsing electronics – it proves to be quite a fun listen. Based on these offerings, the future of Hawkwind is looking (and sounding) great which sets them up well for their US tour.

So whilst this album is a decent enough compilation, it does beg the question: what was the need? Reportedly it has been released to coincide with the aforementioned US tour but surely a bigger and more varied collection that considered music from across the band’s four-decade existence would be a better way to go if you are promoting the band? Yes, everyone will know your major hits but assuming this is being used to attract new fans or to allow new fans to quickly get to know the group, then the song choice (at least as far as back catalogue goes) is exceptionally narrow. Nevertheless, it is as described and is a reasonably decent affair. Fans of the band will likely dig the new stuff on offer and be intrigued to hear the new versions of old favourites, whilst new fans will be able to experience a snapshot of the band both moving forward and feeling nostalgic. Despite some odd production and changes to some golden tracks, this cohesive album is not bad at all.

Review by Lee Carter
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