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Hawkwind - Zones CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

2.31 | 35 ratings

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2 stars This is a very strange beast! Released in October 1983 on Flicknife it somehow reached the top 50 of the UK album charts at a time when the band were in one of their periodic lulls but were gearing up for a major new project [the Earth Ritual tour of early 1984] involving theatre and circus. It is a hotch-potch of old recordings disliked by many Hawkwind fans due to its low quotient of Hawkwindness and general lack of musicality - out of 10 tracks there are only 2 typically Hawkwind space rock songs, but no less than 4 spoken word ones!

Tracks 1 to 3 were recorded in Battle Studios, Hastings (UK) in December 1980. The opener, Zones, is a mercifully short ambient synth and sound effects piece. Dangerous Vision, written and presumably sung by Keith Hale, is a pleasant (ie bland) soft-rock AOR song! Quite what it is doing as the first proper song on a Hawkwind album is anybody's guess, but at least it has a passable descending-chord keyboard pattern and a half-decent guitar solo from Lloyd-Langton. Then comes Running Through The Back Brain from Michael Moorcock - now this is more like it! With a weird late 60s psych groove, a rhythmic one-note bass riff and a three-note ascending organ riff, Moorcock recites a hypnotic piece about paranoia with extended noodling from various instruments and a repeated phrase ("messages") which eats away at the brain like Pink Floyd's worms.

Tracks 4 & 5 were apparently recorded at Lewisham Odeon, London also in December 1980, though there is no indication that any audience was present. The Island sounds like Genesis to begin with - their phased organ sound from the early 70s - but it soon turns into an up-tempo guitar instrumental which then just fades out. Motorway City is the first of the 2 quintessential Hawkwind rockers, and it is nice to hear it, but this is not the best version - it is spoilt by an over-soft production which robs the throbbing pounding rhythm section of any attack. The instrumental coda is a worthy bash though with some good guitar and swirling keyboards.

The remainder of the album was recorded in the Colston Hall, Bristol on 30 October 1982, definitely in front of an audience. Utopia 84 is a forgettable spoken piece by Nik Turner over keyboard ambient noodles. This turns into the punk thrash of Social Alliance on which Brock (probably) sings distorted vocals sounding like John Lydon! It is a delightful chaos with Lloyd-Langton and Turner improvising like crazy on guitar and sax. Sonic Attack is Turner and Brock pretending to be Calvert and Lemmy over a new contemporary full band arrangement first aired on the Sonic Attack album. What was an ambient piece is transformed with a pulsating bass and drum pattern and is rather good but it is followed immediately with yet another spoken word piece, Dream Worker from the Choose Your Masques album, an unmemorable track recited by Nik Turner. The old warhorse Brainstorm ends the album, starting and finishing with an ear-shattering whistle for some reason. As with Motorway City the effect is spoilt by a muddy production but the whole thing is a little uninspired somehow.

So, an album very below par in space rock terms, and unloved even by the band but which contrarily could appeal to open-minded Proggies, especially lovers of more experimental music. There really isn't enough on here to justify the term "good" so it has to be 2 stars.

Joolz | 2/5 |


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