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Hawkwind - Space Bandits  CD (album) cover

SPACE BANDITS

Hawkwind

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

2.89 | 68 ratings

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FunkyM
4 stars Hawkwind's 1990 album Space Bandits, also known as "the one with the woman singer", is quite good. I would even go so far as to say it's an underrated album.

The biggest thing that stands out about Space Bandits is, of course, that it has Bridgett Wishart on lead vocals - at least on a couple of tracks. I think her vocals are a great fit for the music on this album, which very much sounds like one might expect Hawkwind to sound in the late 80s/early 90s. It's too bad she didn't record any more studio albums with the band, because she does quite well here.

The album starts off with the mini-epic "Images", an energetic nine-and-a-half minute opener of awesome space rock and it is hands down the best track on the album.

"Black Elk Speaks" begins with a sampled spoken word narration before Wishart's vocals take over in a trance-like manner as a heavy drumbeat plays over ambient music. This track may be an acquired taste, but as far as giving the listener a sense of some sort of ancient mysticism, it works.

"Wings" sees Wishart joined by mainstay Dave Brock on vocals to pretty good effect. The song has an overt environmental theme. It is also quite repetitive at times, but for some reason I still dig it. The track has a very deliberate pace with a lot of ambient sounds and noises that help to keep it from being monotonous.

"Out of the Shadows" picks things up again though by putting the rock back into space rock. This one has Brock on lead vocals and is noticeably more aggressive than the previous two tracks. This makes it easily the second best track on the album.

Now a lot of people have criticized the rest of the second side of Space Bandits as being a letdown after the very solid first half and to an extent that's true, but I don't think I'd go so far as to say that it's a disappointment.

"Realms" is an almost three-and-a-half minute ambient piece that is nothing special, but it's a good breather after the excitement of "Out of the Shadows". In terms of the overall pacing of the album I think it works, but I can see why it could be called "filler".

This segues directly into "Ship of Dreams", which again has Brock on vocals. I like "Ship of Dreams". It's a good experimental track with an interesting violin bit behind the all of the effects and noises (and Brock's chanting).

Finally, the album proper ends with "TV Suicide" with keyboardist Harvey Bainbridge on lead vocals interspersed between some multi-tracked vocals. This song starts heavy on keys and synth during the vocal section, but then it changes into another ambient track as the album fades out at the end. It's a decent track, but a bit of a weak way to end the album.

I also happen to have the remastered edition with three bonus tracks on it: Live studio versions of "Out of the Shadows" and "Snake Dance" and the single version of "Images".

The live version of "Out of the Shadows" sounds better than the album version in my opinion. You can hear the violin and keys a lot more clearly. "Snake Dance" is a really cool track. It begins with a key/synth sequence before guitars kick in to give the track some bite. This instrumental is highly recommended. The single version of "Images" is just that. The album version is better.

Overall,Space Bandits is a very good album with a few obvious flaws. The addition of Bridgett Wishart on vocals works much better than I would have ever expected before hearing the album - although, admittedly the second half of the album is not quite a good as the first. If you're a fan of Hawkwind or space rock in general, I say give this one a try. It may surprise you.

I would give Space Bandits a 3.5 out of 5 stars, rounded up to 4.

Highlights: "Images", "Black Elk Speaks", "Out of the Shadows", "Ship of Dreams"

FunkyM | 4/5 |

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