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Hawkwind - Live Seventy Nine CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.82 | 65 ratings

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5 stars This album was my introduction to Hawkwind. All I knew of them previously was the repeated references in the Michael Moorcock books I devoured. Having since heard every album Hawkwind released before this one, and some of what came after (including their most recent releases), I can say that I don't think they ever sounded better than they did here.

Make no mistake, this isn't the Hawkwind of the legendary early '70s. Dave Brock and Simon King are the only survivors here of the Space Ritual era. Huw Lloyd-Langton returns, not having been seen since Hawkwind's debut album. Harvey Bainbridge continues on from the short-lived Hawklords, and Tim Blake fills the synth chair for the band for the first time.

The result is a glorious, raucous blast of energy, presented excellently by an intricate mixing job which does much to disguise the problems of Dave Brock's guitar performance and which adds interest to those moments when the churning would otherwise become monotonous.

The album opens with a Steve Swindells-penned number from the Hawklords rehearsals, Shot Down In The Night. (This album was the first time I heard of Steve Swindells, and it led me to discover his wonderful Fresh Blood album.) Tim Blake provides the bubbling synth swooshes and everything kicks solidly into gear. I can't listen to this one without bobbing my head.

The energy drops a little for the introduction to Motorway City, all slow-release synth chords and tinkling guitar before Dave Brock funks it up with a phased rhythm guitar riff which I think is my favourite of all the parts I've heard him play. A simple song but deadly effective.

Spirit Of The Age, which follows, is a variation on the version which Calvert intoned at previous Hawkwind concerts. I prefer this one, even if it does sound as though Dave Brock forgets the words halfway through and segues awkwardly into a different piece. The track follows the general pattern of side 1 (yes, I bought this album on vinyl): Tim Blake's synths introduce the song, then there's the song, then the jam, then the song ends.

Side 2 breaks that pattern in favour of opening with the full-frontal guitar attack of Brainstorm. As with Spirit of the Age, this is not the same as the Nik Turner original. Having since heard Nik Turner perform the original when he fronted Hawkwind, I prefer this version.

The energy drops down again for Tim Blake's synth intro to his own song, Lighthouse, from his album Blake's New Jerusalem. (This album was also my introduction to Tim Blake, whose work I fell in love with on Live Seventy Nine.) The version here is bolstered by a solid Hawkwind jam.

Then it's back to high-energy guitar with Master of the Universe. I suspect the highly-effective pre-echo on Dave Brock's vocal might have been added while mixing the album - it seems to me to be something which would have been difficult-to-impossible to pull off onstage in 1979. Either way, a good time is had by all.

My one disappointment when I first heard the album was Silver Machine. The song had achieved legendary status by the time I first heard it on this album, where it cuts off before the first chorus, reportedly due to Dave Brock having grown tired of performing the song. Disappointing - but then, how many other albums end in an explosion mid-song?

This album never fails to lift my spirits, and I believe that the imperfections of it are part of that charm. Hawkwind have never sounded this good to my ears, before or since; and what the album lacks in elaborate structures, it more than makes up for with its abundant energy, its solid musicianship (Dave Brock being the only one of the crew whose performance I could wish to improve), and one of the cleverer mixing jobs I've heard. My first taste of Hawkwind, and still my favourite. Alongside it, I find the rest of the Hawkwind oeuvre a disappointment.

Ajay | 5/5 |


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