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Hawkwind - Hall of the Mountain Grill CD (album) cover

HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN GRILL

Hawkwind

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.98 | 306 ratings

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5 stars Disappear in Smoke

It's dead easy to write Hawkwind off as one-hit wonders... or even one chord wonders, but this is a perfect space rock album, with not a note out of place.

The thing with Hawkwind, well, the thing with Hawkwind is that you either get it or you don't - and if you don't, it's probably a mystery why they have such a devoted hardcore of fans.

See, Hawkwind isn't about the notes.

Well, they kind of are - the insistent, driving space punk riffs that underpin the delicately shifting cosmic rays of the electronic washes that create Hawkwinds oft-imitated but never bettered atmospheres of outer space and beyond, and the strong, almost monotone melodies are coloured far more by dynamic and improvisation than composition.

It's like looking at one of those 3-dimension pictures you see in pop art galleries - some people see it first time, while you stand there crossing your eyes until the tears leak down your cheeks - but that picture remains elusive.

But on the surface, all those 3d pictures just look like a never ending repeating pattern of very simple, psychedelically decorated ideas.

And that is exactly what Hawkwind's music is like.

Hall of the Mountain Grill is an astonishing album in every sense - the dynamic is stronger here than on any other, the players entering that rare mind-reading realm where every sound counts. Apprently, the name of the album came from a cafe in Ladbroke Grove - so let's open the menu and check out the tasty treats that await.

I suppose this is more the greasy spoon of Prog than a cordon bleu restaurant - but who wants haut cuisine all the time? If you like your egg and chips in large portions, with plenty of grease and ketchup, and a free refill on your cup of tea, then this is the album for you.

Psychedelic Warlords appears on almost as many albums as versions of Brainstorm, but this is without question the best version, twisting and turning through many more than the usual 4 dimensions, adn literally exploding into the bleak soundscape of Wind of Change, the Hammond heralding something like a darker version of A Saucerful of Secrets (the vocal section), beautifully built up, Lemmy's bass providing a huge amount of drive, and aching chords sweeping across the multiverse from Simon House's plaintive Mellotron. Space is deep, and this track proves it.

The trip continues with D-Rider - a slightly dodgy drop-in, but nonetheless, the music feels like a continuation of a whole, rather than a haphazardly arranged collection of random songs. The heavily-phased, swirling vocals evoke the psychedelic era, while the crashing, thunderous chords suggest much later heavy metal, the fizzing drums and rich accompaniment boldly going where no band has ever gone before, into the inner dimensions of your mind, yet somehow linking that to the external universe, Nik Turner's ethereal sax and Brock's sharp rhythm attacks brightly piercing through the dense noise fields, all the while, Lemmy's bass lines twisting and winding streams of consciousness through the ethers of the ever-chirping and shrieking tone generators. Astonishing song.

The mood is lifted with a little gospel-style piano, and thick vocal harmonies by the Web Weavers - all the while, Hawkwind's famous electronic soundscapes taking an otherwise fairly simple song to cosmic proportions.

You'd Better Believe It begins with some synth work that sounds almost avante-garde, but ultimately rests in open 5th and octave fanfares to introduce the song, Simon Kings masterly drumming providing rhythmic confusion until the vocals start. The vocals are provided here by Dave Brock and Lemmy in harmony, and the quasi-Eastern melodies evoke parts of Brainstorm. There's a strange optimism shining through the dark soundscapes and disturbing, owping synth voices, as the rhythms speed up and slow down proving that unsettled feel familiar to all Hawkwind songs, Lemmy and King working perfectly in tandem beneath Brock's power chords providing the ultimate in drive. A violin soars above this texture, giving an odd Country and Western flavour that you'd think couldn't possibly work - but EVERYTHING works in Hawkwind's sonic world.

The sumptuous textures of the title track are a kind of lush, Satie-esque introduction to Lost Johnny, a bleak and spine-chilling tale recited by the Lemmster (and later intensified by him on Motorhead's first album(s)), and is allegedly about a character that hung out in the Ladbroke Grove. The constant drug references make this a particularly harrowing account of the darker side of this famous late 1960s underground scene in London.

Continuing with this theme - one track serving as the intro to the next, Goat Willow is a haunting short instrumental with a sumptuous echoed flute duet that feeds straight into what is probably the best track on the album.

Paradox starts out with what you might call a typical Hawkwind riff, Lemmy snaking one of his famous bass lines around Brock's hammered guitar rhythms. Then come the harmonised vocals and string sythns, the drums making their presence barely felt until nearly a minute and a half, at which the song explodes into space-punk fury, mellowing out for the hypnotic lines Down, down, round and round you go - and, relaxing into the music allows you to feel this ever-sinking, whirling, spinning feeling, available from virtually no other band in the history of rock music.

There is no band that takes you to the places that Hawkwind does - and if they don't on first listen, then you ain't listening right, or maybe you just don't want to go.

Too scared, maybe. Or in need of relaxation... ;0)

There's no doubt that Hawkwind's space is a very dark and scary place indeed - but this album is such a cosmic trip (and no, I'm not going to say MAAAAAAAAAAN!) that I recommend it to all, no matter what your taste in Prog.

This album clearly shows why, when documentaries of Prog are made, Hawkwind always get mentioned. It clearly shows why people say of a band; Oh, they sound a bit like Hawkwind - but you never hear of people saying that Hawkwind sound like someone else. Pink Floyd fit this oft- misunderstood category too - if they ever made the moulds for these bands, then they broke them straight afterwards.

Hawkwind were unique, and this is the album to own, if you only ever buy one. Although Space Ritual is a p[retty good choice too.

Certif1ed | 5/5 |

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