on 29 November 2010
This review concerns the remastered Atomhenge album with the bonus CD.
I'll start with the original album. After the disappointing Sonic Attack, Choose Your Masques was a significant return to form. It has one main blip and one pointless filler but besides that it borders on classic status. The title track grinds away with a metallic (not heavy metallic) edge. Based around a demo from the Weird 7 album it's a great opener. The drum machine is prominent with Martin Griffin adding in fills to good effect. Not exactly what Griffin wanted to do and he left the band soon after but very effective. This is used throughout the album. Then a classic slice of Hawkwind synth music with Dreamworker. Rounding off a classic start we get Arrival in Utopia - Hawkwind heavy rock at it's best.
Next up is the pointless Utopia. Some ambient synth and bell like sounds and then a repeated spoken line to finish with. Then it's blip time. For some unknown reason the band recorded Silver Machine in the studio for the first time. The original was OK but this plods along and does the album no favours. Without it we might be in five star territory.
Back on track next as Hawkwind enter techno land in 1982. Void City is simple and effective early techno. Then we get Huw Lloyd Langtons Solitary Mind Games driven by a repeating guitar line and atmospheric keyboards and Martin Griffin's splendid fills. Then it back a few years to a splendid Calvert/Brock simple rocker with Fahrenheit 451. Scan is a typical brief filler and we finish with another Lloyd Langton Track Waiting for Tommorrow. All in nearly all it's a great album as long as you skip Silver Machine.
On this release CD1 has the B side re-recording of Disappear in Smoke (aka Psychedelic Warlords). It's better than Silver Machine but not a patch on the original. Then it's more Silver Machine - a longer version of the single of the re-recording. Longer is not a good adjective to use with this track.
Onto CD2 and a slew of bonuses. A few new tracks and alternative versions of tracks on the main album. Most of this is only really of interest to the hardcore fans. The alternative versions are not vastly different but there are a couple of very worthwhile additions. These are Candle Burning, a Lloyd Langton track and rather good and Recent Reports another decent bonus especially once it gets going. The song bit is not so good as the middle instrumental bit. Radio Telepath is also new. A simple two chord riff sounding like a Brock solo track - not too bad although a bit of an unfinished idea.
For the others 5/4 starts with The Scan followed by some rock music in 5/4 time and then some reversed Scan. It was previously available on the Out and Intake bits and pieces album. Lato is actually another shorter largely Void City version without the drum machine as Bainbridge and Brock work out the idea. Oscillations has been heard before, on Dave Brock's solo album Earthed to the Ground for instance, and here it is cut with the intro of Void City. Lato Percussive Electro (Earth to the Ground) in which we can recognise Earthed to the Ground but it doesn't stand comparison with the Dave Brock version. Nik Turners playing sax on it. To finish with you can listen to the single version Silver Machine. No don't, just turn it off. One version is bad enough but three is a nightmare.
I'm not sure we need the very similar alternative versions. But then they are bonuses, and they are bonuses to a mainly splendid album which would get 4.5 stars if we could award such marks.
on 16 December 2010
Listening to this reissue, it is probably a good 25 years since I last playd this album all through. Basically, my views haven't changed - a couple of classic HW style tracks - 'Choose Your Masks' and 'Arrival in Utopia', a couple of class Huwey tracks, 'Dreamworker' is okay, and the rest are best left alone. I always thought 'Farhenheit 451' sounded like a patchy demo and it still does - where are the sumptuous keyboards that Masks and Utopia have?
The extra tracks offer a glimpse into what the original album could have been, Recent Reports seems a particularly good track to have left off. It would have been a lot better with some of these tracks rather than 'Silver Machine'. Also, 'Social Alliance' could have been utilised as it was on the tour and 'Turner Point' is strangely missing from here, perhaps due to its writing credits (you can find it on 'Out & Intake' though).
The sound on this re-issue is superb and the extras of great interest to the fan. The booklet is a tad disappointing though, I wanted to hear about all the various drummer issues and why Nik Turner was not more involved. The back of the booklet has a picture of a very interesting, short lived line-up from reheasals for the tour (I think), including as it does Simon King and Nik.
on 18 February 2011
Lots of people think Hawkwind lost their way a bit in the early eighties, but this isn't exactly the case. This excellent reissue has plenty going for it, and although the production sounds dated in places, there is plenty of good music. It's easy to forget that the band have had some great musicians in their ranks, but listen to Solitary Mind Games and Waiting For Tomorrow to hear Huw Lloyd-Langtons amazing guitar work. The rest of the line up aren't bad either, and the super-spooky Dreamworker is just brilliant,loads of electronics & effects creating a track that has to be heard through headphones to really get that claustrophobic, paranoid vibe.
This Atomhenge edition comes with a second disc of alternate versions and un-released songs. These are great for charting how the finished album was built up, and make this package excellent value. Add in the charming and informative notes from Brian Tawn & some tasty (but small!) photo's and you have a four star package!
on 18 February 2010
Hawkwind albums were at silly prices a few years ago and I'm sure other fans in the over 40s age group are just as pleased as me to see the prices come down so we can revisit our teen years once again. I put this album on and become 15 years old again wearing a self embroidered denim jack that smells of patchouli oil, I can almost hear my mum banging on the bedroom door to ''turn that racket down''.
This album along with Warrior On The Edge Of Time, Space Ritual and Masters Of The Universe were often on my Fidelity record player, usually with headphones first thing in the morning before I got up for school.
Nostalgia aside, Hawkwind remain one of the all time classic UK rock bands with songs for every mood especially if your mood is assisted by Psilocybe semilanceata. A great album for a chilled evening watching the pretty patterns move in the carpet while laughing your arse off :D
Grab Hawkwind albums while they are at these prices, you never know if they are going to go up to £50+ again.
on 7 September 2004
Having actually seen Hawkwind performing this live in 1981 (at the then Hammersmith Odeon), my mind was altered very pleasantly indeed. The actual gig was visually spectacular the music from Hawkwinds forthcoming "Choose Your Masque".
Right from the first track (the same as the title) is a power driven sonic attack (pun intended).
Huw Lloyd Langton's superb and underrated guitaring shines through like cut crystal. Of course all of the Hawkwind team (one of many incarnations), really do make this album unlike any other Hawkwind LP.
In fact the best description I can give it's fusion between heavy metal and ambient.
I have the original vinyl LP and want to buy the CD, but its out of stock, damn!!!
All in all an excellent LP from an excellent band
Hawkwind's final major label album is also their last truly essential album. Yes, they delivered some fine material after 1983, and some superb gigs, but for anyone who loves the early material, this is the disembarkation point.
The problem with the band by this stage was that all of the truly charismatic stylists who made Hawkwind a front-rank, highly original world-class band of pioneering, sui-genris stature have left by this time - save founder Dave Brock, the undisputed genius of Hawkwind. Huw Lloyd-Langton is still on very good form indeed here, however, Harvey Bainbridge more than acceptable and drummer Martin Giffin is OK, but electronics dominate this version of Hawkwind and acoustic instruments are sadly missing and noticeably absent - save for a tiny amount of nearly inaudible sax from Nik Turner at the end of 'Void City'. Interestingly, at least two biographers of the band clearly didn't listen to this record, as they claim Turner does not perform on the album.
There's nothing wrong with electronics in themselves - synthesizers were always a vital part of Hawkwind - but although synth technology was getting more versatile and easy to handle by 1983, it wasn't anywhere near as exciting as that of the mid-seventies (listen to the band's 'Warrior on the Edge of Time' for confirmation of this). Early eighties synth sounds could sometimes feel too unreal and generic, rather than vital and organic. Hawkwind make the best of the new technology here, but neglecting to include acoustic guitars, violin etc etc ensure that the record lacks the broad timbral palette the group used up until (and including 'Levitation', which does feature some acoustic guitar.
That said, this is a big improvement on previous album 'Sonic Attack', which is a fairly dull synth-metal album with some trite quasi-political lyrics by Brock, who was not firiing on all cylinders as a wordsmith by this time.
The strengths of the album lie in the mix of excellent songwriting and ambient experimentation. Michael Moorock contributed the words of 'Choose Your Masks' and 'Arrival In Utopia', which have wonderfully literary lyrics of high quality that all serious fans of SF/Fantasy writing can enjoy. The former is almost certainly inspired by Moorcock's own books 'The Black Corridor' and the Hawkmoon series, which both features future British societies (or the same one at different stages) where right-wing politics have the strange side affect of the populace wearing masks in public. the song clearly references Moorcock's Eternal Champion cycle in its mentioning of Chaos and Law, and the music is performed in a suitably techno-battery style. 'Arrival in Utopia' is simply a well crafted, dynamic SF song, with some exciting synth effects and vertiginous playing. Hawkwind really fly on this track and it's easily a highpoint of the album - brilliant!
Other strong, eloquent and thoughtful lyrics come in the well-structured, melodic and supringsingly commercial Lloyd-Langton numbers 'Solitary Mind Games' (a beautifully sombre cut bookended in restrained guitar harmonics) and the apocalyptic, brooding 'Waiting for Tomorrow', whose nuclear winter imagery reminds me of nothing less than Christopher Priests' seminal new wave SF story 'The Run' (from 'Real Time World', folks). Huw was a great songwriter and player when he showed restraint and aided by his wife Marion, but too often went off the chain live, grandstanding with over-long, dull solos. His bad in-concert habit (a la Lou Reed) of changing the melodies of his own songs to negative effect also tended to ruin them during gigs. Here, he is doing a fantastic job.
The lyrical strength of the album is completed by Calvert's 'Fahrenheit 451', after the Bradbury novel of course, but it suffers from Calvert's absence as vocalist - Brock cannot being out the nuances of the words in the way Bob could have, but Brock's folksy nasal twang is nonetheless a joy, juxtaposing an olde english feel with dystopian imagery, always a key factor in Hawkwind's artistic successes.
So Brock's lyrics are largely absent from the album. A pointless retread of 'Silver Machine' is best glossed over, while the synthy instrumentals like 'The Scan', 'Void City' (featuring an 'Outer Limits' sample) and the superb 'Dream Worker' (with its threatening Bainbridge recitation) are the high point of the polyphonic electronica peppering this album. Mind you, Nik Turner always rendered this track in a far more exciting manner live, adding sax, drama and nuance that Bainbridge is, quite frankly, incapable of compared to Nik.
Deeply unwelcome are some of the 'bonus tracks' - an extended mix of the refried 'Silver Machine' and a latter day version of 'Psychedelic Warlords' that is very dull indeed compared to the 'Hall of the Mountain Grill'. Conmpletists will want 'em, of course, but they are not worth listening to compared to the original versions. It's a shame the album has never been issued without bonus tracks, as they add very little to the package.
So, what lay ahead for Hwkwind? 'Green Finned Demon' and 'Dragons and Fables' on the Earth Ritual EP, a last great tour with Turner and Dead Fred before Alan Davey (the man who would be but never will be Lemmy) joined, catalysing Hawkwind's descent into formula synth-rock.
on 5 May 2012
As a fan of Hawkwind's music from 1970 to 1980 the next logical step was to buy their releases from 1981 and onwards. I bought this on the basis of the reviews here on amazon, majority of reviewers stating that this is one of their better releases.
However, I found myself disappointed with this album, and the extra disc doesn't really redeem the package. The only stand out track for me is Fahrenheit 451, whilst the rest of it is average at best plus a really pointless rehash of Silver Machine.
A real let down after the Levitation album .