Love in Space (Atomhenge ATOMCD2013)
The label with the most eclectic taste in the industry, Cherry Red, has added veteran hippie space-rockers Hawkwind to their reissue roster, with this 2-CD long live concert from 1995. Originally released as ‘Emergency Broadcasting System’, it sounds as fresh today as when the songs, some of which date back to the early 1970’s, first saw moonlight.
Pared down to just four musicians, Dave Brock, Alan Davey, Ron Tree and Richard Chadwick, ably supported by dancers, fire eaters, their dedicated crew and, most likely, an audience of aliens listening in on their long wave radios, Hawkwind pulled off the seemingly impossible task of sounding like a cast of thousands on this tour.
The inevitable rising surge opens the concert, in ‘Abducted’, a standard hard, driving rocker that sets the scene perfectly. The swirling and skittering rhythm of ‘Death Trap’ is an exciter, popping sounds and dead halts at the end of each bar take it to a choppy guitar riff with jaws harp behind, then seamlessly into the ‘calm sea’ atmospheric of ‘Wastelands’. A languorous track, with ‘lapping water’ sounds from the keyboard, but later, transmuted into the sinister riff of ‘Are You Losing Your Mind?’
The Gregorian Chant-like ‘Photo Encounter’ poses voices over a synth wash, its pedestrian riff a little like looking over a vast cloudscape from a still, silent, flying ship. ‘Blue Skin’ brings out the high tech weaponry, as it zaps its way over a thundering riff, a stentorian vocal, and back to the most basic hard rock workout. Basically the most Hawkwind track possible, if that’s possible.
The ‘sunrise’ start of ‘Sputnik Stan’, backed by a thumping, driving riff, guitars that sound like foghorns and a return trip to the horror movie archive for the rhythm is a good, long, standout track, and was doubtlessly accompanied by the best lights show in the galaxy.
An unnerving fanfare sets up the tense feel to a tale of self-consciousness and angst in ‘Robot’, spiralling ever upward into madness and malfunction. ‘Alien (I Am)’s soaring riff evokes the subjects’ longing for his far distant home, and rounds off the first CD well.
The doomy, drum laden riff of ‘Xenomorph’ drives off in pursuit of said mercurial creature on this first track of CD2, leading into a blissful piano run, in ‘Vega’, a slow, shimmering, beautiful synth wash with a peaceful tune and heavenly vocals. Those of you who recall the U.S. car of the same name might have difficulty marrying up the song with the 70’s gas-guzzler.
The strolling, rather jazzy feel to ‘Love in Space’ is another standout, with perfectly played, striated guitar licks, eventually getting into a marching rhythm that doesn’t quite work, before reverting to the late night jazz riff.
‘Kapal’ gives us what we came for, the sound of the spaceship’s ascent, strange whistling amid froggy croaking and bird calls, leading to gentle organ steps and muted drumbeats and a beautiful, Arabic-sounding synth riff. Vocally, a near-relative to the soliloquy from ‘Hamlet’, with innumerable sound effects, zapguns, ululating sounds and robotic voices thrown in for good measure, building well until coming to a halt, and a pleasing electric hum.
‘Elfin’s starlight sounds and doomy keyboards morph into their bona fide top ten hit, ‘Silver Machine’, delivered in all its primitive glory, vocals full-throated and with more than a hint of punk rock about it.
A peace descends on us for ‘Welcome to the Future’, a low, slow synth wash in the tradition of ‘Wish You Were Here’, and then into the hardest, deepest, engine-like riff in this solar system, crashing on toward the end like the juggernaut they surely had in mind when it was written. A barrage of cheers lets us know we’re close to the end, as ‘Assassins’ kicks in, sounding like drops of water on a lake and a sitar droning as the Eastern riff spirals ever onward.
The surprisingly night-club style take on ‘Love in Space’ from a studio session, ‘Lord of Light’ from a live concert, with psyche-swirls and taut guitars, and the live finale, the crazy, survivalist headlines from Armageddon, ‘This is Hawkwind Sonic Attack’ make up the bonus tracks, all well worth the listen. BUY HERE!