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Hawkwind - Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.45 | 176 ratings

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Symphonic Team
3 stars The followup to the 70s golden era of Hawkwind encompassed by 5 incomparable studio albums and one live masterpiece, signifies a new change in direction.

'Reefer Madness' features a similar chugging guitar riff and wild drumming but the vocals of Robert Calvert are harsher than the Brock's spacey octaves. The drug laced lyrics are actually more anti-substance abuse than glorifying the act; "Open your eyes, you'll get a surprise, evil is sweeping the nation, It's killing your sons and what merely stuns is Your daughters are out for sensation, When they turn on their morals are gone, They don't really know what they're doing, It's a teenage malaise, a dangerous craze, Leading their bodies to ruin." It was a punkier sound and more aggressive towards the subject matter; "Marijuana monster is stalking the streets, He knows what he's up to, he knows what he eats, He gobbles your body and spits out your mind, If you don't believe it then you must be blind".

The musicianship is as excellent as ever, especially on spacey excursions such as the wondrous mellotron saturated 'City of Lagoons'. This instrumental is Floydian with sparkling synths and galactic swirls. The album features some of Hawkwind's trippiest works including 'The Aubergine that Ate Rangoon' driven by Rudolph's bass heartbeat and percussive accents. The synths generate energetic psychedelic aggrandizements of mystical imagery. Simon House's electric violin and Turner's sax dictate the atmospherics.

It ends with the sounds of noisy traffic segueing into 'Kerb Crawler'. This one motorvates along with archetypical grungy guitar and driving beat; "Synchromesh gearbox, Overhead cams, Mohair motorised wolf, Lying round looking for lambs, Power-assisted steering, 8-track stereo, Leopard skin upholstery, FM radio." The rev head orientated lyrics are echoed by a loud lead break, shimmering organ, and a distorted guitar riff. The lyrics are always deliriously compelling and you won't find lyrics like this on many albums; "Adagio insect in the skyscraper shade, He's a night city mantis, In the neon parade."

'Steppenwolf' is a 9 minute rocker with a repeated riff reminiscent of Deep Purple or Steppenwolf, ironically enough. The song is a first person account of a half-man/ half-wolf creature on the prowl; "Like a wolf my wilful loafing, My languishing alone in my lair, Where you will never hear me laughing, I'm half in love with dark and despair, The Moon's a howling, mouth of mercury, Quicksilver quivering in the sky, It echoes like a cave of chromium, That'll vacuum up my soul when I die." House's violins are beautiful on the instrumental break, rising and descending on the wave of sound.

'Katmandu Flyer' has a squalling effect of a storm coming and some buzzsaw synths keeping a melody. The vocals are again very different to previous Hawkwind but with uplifting lyrics about a mystical flight; "Crawl the thermal up a mountain, Like the Pteradacyl's wings, Waves of lift and wing vibrations, Help me to invoke the sun, True me up in soaring fun, Rising like the phoenix, In full flight from the fire." The song lurches full tilt into an extended instrumental with soaring sax and violin screaming.

'Chronoglide Skyway' concludes the original album with a gong splash and some wind howling effects. The glacial soundscapes with synthesizer swathes and swirling sax tones create an ethereal atmosphere. The instrumentals of Hawkwind are always a sheer delight. The melody of this sounds partly like 'Autobahn' in some passages. The lead guitar is a sensational addition and elevates the music.

The extra tracks are good to listen to especially the rocking 'Back on the Streets' that became a single. The repetitive chorus is a bit draining but some cool verses are a highlight; "I took a ride in an elevator, I was heading for the 99th floor, In less than just a split-second later, I was standing right outside of her door, She looked kinda mean on her video screen, And she said "Come in and please take a seat", that's when I was back on the Streets." 'The Dream of Isis' instrumental features a palpitating bassline and some spacey sounds, more like "Warrior on the Edge of Time" in style.

This 1976 album captures the creative spirit of Hawkwind with some magical moments, though it is not as consistently excellent as previous albums. It was a new direction for the band, not as spacey, more proto-punk, no Moorcock poetry and Lemmy was history. Overall, "Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music" certainly delivers some engaging heavy rock and the packaging is very appealing, mimicking the "Astounding Stories" analogue magazines logo.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 3/5 |


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