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Hawkwind - Distant Horizons CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.26 | 60 ratings

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4 stars The year is 1997 and Hawkwind is still releasing albums. Two years after their last studio album 'Alien 4', the band, now reduced to a quartet, put out their 21st album 'Distant Horizons'. Of course, Dave Brock is there on electric guitar, keyboards and vocals. Jerry Richards started touring with the band in 1996 and became a core member and furnishes some of his own electric guitar on the album. He would remain a regular member until 2002. Ron Tree also joined the band in 1996 and makes his album debut providing vocals and also bass, taking the place of Alan Davey, who was the bands bassist since 1985 and who left the band because he didn't like the direction the band was heading at the time. Davey would come back in 2002 and would reciprocate by replace Ron Tree. Last of all, Richard Chadwick would be there on drums. Chadwick has been with the band consistently since 1988 and still is still a current member.

So, in summary, we have two long-time members and two fairly new members in the band for this album. During the touring for this album, two more members would join the band that are not present on 'Distant Horizons': Rastafarian Captain Rizz and keyboardist Julian 'Crum' Crimmins. (It would be this 6 person line-up that would participate in the studio/live album 'In Your Area' that would be released a year later.) So the big question for this album is, how would the band fare without Davey and with two fairly new members contributing?

Brock would write and sing most of the tracks on the album, but there would also be contributions with Chadwick, though his writing credits are always shared; 2 with Brock and 2 with Richards, and with 2 tracks credited solely to Tree. The album starts off with the title track and it reflects the trance-like sound that the band was chasing at the time. This sound was the main reason why Davey decided to leave the band. However, Hawkwind even during this stage of their career, still hung onto the overall space rock sound they pioneered, and Brock and Richards still make sure there are plenty of spacey guitar solos that join in to the trance beat that play underneath everything. The sound of vocal recordings are all there too, giving the long- time fans the sound they were familiar with.

'Phetamine Street' follows with a more organic sound, and it is surprisingly one of the Tree-penned tracks. The guitar hook combined with the catchy drum and percussion effects turn this into a very intriguing and infectious sound. It is almost as if Brock's 'Waimea Canyon Drive' can't hold any steam or really much interest as it moves back to a trance style, and just sort of meanders about aimlessly. This is even made more evident as the powerful guitars of 'Alchemy', credited to Richards and Chadwick, come blaring out of your speakers with a rousing guitar solo. However, Brock's 'Clouded Vision' sounds much better and has more focus, even though it is a more pensive track. The vocals are also more up front which also helps. Tree then follows up with his answer to the previous track with a powerful and lively 'Reptoid Vision' that has a much darker and heavier sense to it. It is also one of the longer tracks on the album and it goes into a great exploratorial and progressive instrumental break that brings back memories of the older Hawkwind. Really, the only weak track on this first half of the album is 'Waimea''. The rest of the album to this point is really turning out to be one of the bands best efforts in quite a while.

There are a few more longer tracks that follow now, and they are really the strength of this album. 'Population Overload', credited to Brock and Chadwick, is a decent track, but seems to be a bit direction-less. A lot of the time is spent in a more ambient, meandering style even though the rhythm is fairly constant. 'Wheels' is credited to Richards and Chadwick, and the differences are almost obvious as, strangely enough, the tracks that are more Hawkwind-like are the ones that are not credited to Brock. This one has a more driving, space rock style to it and some great guitar licks later on. The last two tracks are both credited to Brock. 'Kauai / Taxi for Max' is a nice, atmospheric synth piece in the beginning that later turns into a sound collage of effects. 'Love in Space' finishes things off with a soft keyboard heavy track that goes down rather smoothly, but doesn't necessarily give you the punch you might want to end an album off with.

This album is one of the band's better efforts during this long spell of mediocre attempts. There is a lot of different styles and textures here that actually sounds like a decent attempt to make the band relevant again, even though the weakest tracks on the albums are Brock's. It sounds like there could have been some hope for the band with this line up. Unfortunately, the follow up album 'In Your Area' wouldn't give the level of satisfaction that this album would, and after that, Brock released an album (Spacebrock) under the Hawkwind name that many end up considering a Brock solo album more than a Hawkwind album. This would be the beginning of a long dry spell, and we wouldn't hear from the band again until 2005 with the awful comeback album 'Take Me to Your Leader'.

TCat | 4/5 |


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