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5 stars A unique album, the top of the Calvert/Brock collaboration. I'm a big Lemmy fan, but Shaw's bassplaying is outstanding. House's synthsounds of that era are still faves of mine. Diverse songwriting, yet an album that flows perfectly.
Report this review (#25487)
Posted Monday, February 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is a break from the norm for the hawks. The production has an almost 'poppy' edge to it, combined with Robert Calvert's whitty space-age lyrics makes this probably Hawkwinds most accessable album. You could even play it to your mother!!
Report this review (#25489)
Posted Saturday, February 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars By the numbers

"Quark, Strangeness and charm" is not Hawkwind's finest hour by any means.

Only the manic "Damnation Alley" is really worthy of note, and there are plenty of alternative Hawkwind albums which include it (Such as the excellent "Palace Springs") rendering this album superfluous.

The other tracks range from the Hawkwind by numbers songs such as "Iron dream" and "Spirit of the age" to the poor, punk inspired "Days of the underground".

There are many better offerings from the band than this.

Report this review (#25490)
Posted Friday, April 30, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars It is a great shame that this isn't currently available on CD. I don't think I've ever handed out five stars (maybe I have), but Hawkwind has released countless albums, and this is the best, so I can do it here without reservation. Sure, Space Ritual and Do Re Mi are bracing stuff, but this album is where Dave Brock, with the invaluable aid of visionary Bob Calvert, streamlined and rationalized the band's sound and intent, creating an experience akin to reading a great classic sci-fi novel. I can't overstate the positive influence that Calvert's lyrical gift brought. And the tunes are great too.

Despite Simon House's lyrical violin, which is all over the record, a wee new wave influence crept in, which only helped to emphasize the cold, futuristic vibe of the record. Highlights: Fable of a Failed Race is an ethereal ballad full of wonderfully layered guitars and vocals. Just beautiful. Spirit of the Age: A geniune classic and a story of sci-fi love in the distant future. Catchy too. Days of the Underground: In which Calvert turns a critical eye on the remains of the counterculture that Hawkwind had been immersed in only a few years before. Chilling. Unfortunately, Calvert departed shortly after and the band began its decline into heavy metal wannabes, then into hippie self-parody shortly thereafter. They've done some good stuff since (Electric Teepee, Space Bandits), but this is the pinnacle of their career and the timeless crystallization of their usually unfocussed vision, so get this one and Space Ritual, if you get nothing else by the band. Bob Calvert RIP.

Report this review (#43827)
Posted Monday, August 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is a rejuvinated Hawkwind, kicking of with Spirit of the Age the tone of the album is set, Calverts lyrics of cloning still cast a shadow over todays world.

Damnation Alley follows and is a lenghty Hawkwind blast with thanks to Dr Strangelove and post atomic blast it is a song all about the nuclear menace which was prevailant when the album was released.

Fable of a Failed Race harks back to the acoustic sounds from Xin Search of Space, whereupon a witty pop song Quark Strangeness and Charm follows hich debates the reletive merits of famous scientists and there romntic quests.

Hassan I Sahba follows and still features in the live set today, renamed Assassins of Allah it features on the B-side of the NEW SINGLE .

The Forge of Vulcan is a wonderful Simon House instrumental, his last contribution to the band before being poached by David Bowie (booo hisss)!!

Days of the Underground follows a tale of when a young Hawkwind were darlings of the underground music scene.

The last track is the short instrumental The Iron Dream.

A great album that showed Hawkwind were not afraid to develop and embrace the minimalistic punk sound that was around at the time!!!

This is a classic Hawkwind album that should be top of your list to buy (along with all the others!!!)

Report this review (#44658)
Posted Monday, August 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ironic really. Pre-Calvert, Hawkwind's albums were all intensely embedded in their era, albeit slightly behind the times once you get to Warrior on the Edge but even so, that was pretty post-hippy (Everyone was impressed with the fold-out sleeve: even Floyd fans.) Then, after the brief interlude of compilations and astounding sounds, comes Quark S & C. And with Spirit of the Age, it manages to achieve a timelessness that Brock, Turner et al could never have managed without Calvert.

Spirit of the Age, for example, is mostly about the anonymity and clinical inhumanity of cloning and generally mucking about with natural processes. You'd think of that as a 90s theme, at the very least. Meanwhile Hassan I sabha isn't just some doped out hippy's musing on an Arab Theme, Calvert had contacts among radical Muslims who were predicting a holy war with the West and Anglo-American Imperialism. Yes, that's right, he'd picked up on that theme in the late 70's, twenty odd years before it would shake the world. Calvert was, of course, off his tiny little rocker most of the time. He picked up on the more outlandish, extreme notions of his time. Life on Earth was seeded from outer space. Life would soon be cloned. Assassins of Allah would be fighting over petro-dollars.

Where did he get these ideas? Well he stole them for the most part. But he brought them to the surface and the vehicle of Hawkwind was perfect for doing so.

There are still some who adhere to the notion that this album was somehow influenced by Punk. Strange then, that everyone of us buying it at the time were buying it precisely because it was NOT punk (nor anything like it). It had depth, musical ability, and a level of sophistication and intelligence.

QSC is a unique album. The result of a sophisticated musical heritage (coming out of 60's trance) and a deeply flawed but genuinely original genius. It is not to everyone's taste, but the dark, stark view of the world that was penned by Robert Calvert was very effectively animated by the musical abilities of Brock, House, King and Shaw. It achieves genius status because the music so perfectly has the edgy, off-key, slightly scaring tone that are demanded by the lyrics.

By the way, d'you know the names of any other sub-atomic particles?

Report this review (#46646)
Posted Wednesday, September 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Oh, yes... "QS&C" is the missing leg of a Hawkwind table where the dish is ready to be eaten - and what a dish! Tasteful and amusing and... doping? Now Calvert seems totally integrated and also dominating in the Hawkwind scene, his voice sounds loud and high, a kind of message to be comprehended for all. And also to notice the year (1977), when our planet was invaded by rotten eggs and strange flying discos we could rely on a fresh breeze of good rock spiced by the outdated spirit of the 60s. This is a great Hawkwind album in terms of production and musicianship - I think that the band should never been like in "QS&C".

But songs are what really imports, then:
'Spirit of age', another great opener, a specialty of Hawkwind; a flock of odd sounds and quaint noises provide the introduction while the listener is getting more and more inside the tunes, all done to combine with a great peak, an anxiously expected moment - if one are plunged in the spirit of the band and the song, that's the culminating point!
'Damnation Alley' composes a good pair with opening track, there's a apparent initial calmness changed by a really old-style rock song - bass, guitar and drums work splendidly.
'Fabled of a failed race' is that in Hawkwind's lexicon is known by a soft rock, the result is fair.
The title-song is probably the weakest of the album, but not dispensable, mainly if you seek for a Hollies-kind sound of mid-60s.
'Hassan I Sahba' (or whatever other name it has) is one great moment, what a great bass-line! And vocals also... it's interesting to notice that the Arab tunes fashion only would appear 20 years later - Hawkwind certainly made a time travel.
'The forge of Vulcan' is another weak point, dull and repetitive; with irritating anvil sound and meaningless keyboards - luck it is a short track.
'Days of underground' brings back the more typical Hawkwind sound, but it's marginally tolerable although lyrics are fair.
'The iron dream' is a nice ending, resembling much more iron than dream, a song that could be more lenghty.

This album together with previous "Hall of Mountain Grill", "Warrior on the Edge of Time" and "Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music" forms the tetralogy of Hawkwind 70's Show, maybe of the entire band career, hence it's an obligatory piece in all prog music collection. Total: 4.

Report this review (#64632)
Posted Friday, January 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
The Wizard
4 stars Dang, this is certainly a criminally underrated classic. Many Hawkfans loyal to the sludgier side rejected this album, calling the mighty Hawkwind pop sellouts. They were wrong, while Hawkwind have cleaned up there sound and adapted melody, they still had the Hawkiwnd spirit and now were embracing the sounds of glam and new wave, but in a very progressive way.

Robert Calvert is very much in the center of this album. His singing is similar to that of David Bowie or Marc Bolan. His space age lyrics are full of humor and wit. He also banned drugs in the studio, which helped for a more focused and clean sound. Melody is not abused in this record either, you'll often find your yourself humming along with 'Quark, Strangeness, and Charm' or 'Days of the Underground'.

Hawkwind are also at a peak in songwriting here. As I said before there are tons of of great melodies, but even more great lyrics. 'Spirit of the Age' has some of my favorite lyrics ever about space travel, android lovers, and really being a clone:

'I am a clone, I am not alone Every fibre of my flesh and bone is identical to the others Everything I say is in the same tone as my test tube brother's voice And there's no choice between us, if you'd ever seen us you would rejoice in your uniqueness'

'Damnation Alley' is about speeding through a city during a nuclear war and the music also aids to the lyrics by actually taking on the same trip of a Captain Calvert, with soaring electronics and a powerful drive provided by a punkish guitar riff. 'Quark, Strangeness, and Charm' is about Albert Einstein...and his lack of luck with the ladies. It's hilarious and the comparisons of relationships to Quantum Chromodynamics really fits Calvert's space age themes. Hassan I Sabha actually predicts war in the Middle East over oil, which happens to the subject of today's news. 'Days of the Underground' recalls the days when Hawkiwnd were the soundtrack to the post-hippy counterculture.

Some might complain that the playing here isn't flashy enough, not enough fancy soloing and complexity. What matters in this case is the songs are great and all the musicians play for the song. Little pretense and pomposity to be found here, just great music.

The electronics are somewhat subdued in this record. While they still play an important part in the space trip that is Hawkwind, they're not as up front. Powerful guitar leads the band through the jams and compositions, while Calvert proves to be a great vocalist and frontman. The downside is that all the riffs seems to be similar, and that could annoy some listeners.

Some po-faced proggers who hate glam rock or new wave need not apply, because there is much of that to be found here. This is certainly an album to corresponds with 'The Spirit of the Age', pun intended. Otherwise if your open minded and can accept band growing in influences, this album is a must have. It's actually one of my favorite albums, but it's not really a masterpiece. It just sounds really great to me and it's very entertaining and mind expanding at the same time. Certainly an excellent addition to the collection of an open minded progger.

Report this review (#84644)
Posted Sunday, July 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars You know what? This is a pretty good set of songs. Of course Hawkwind had already been around for a number of years as counter culture heroes the darlings of the free festival and free music movements. However their output at least in the studio (always a fine live band) had been if not exactly on the slide well more not particularly inspiring. However the inclusion of the mighty Bob Calvert and the move to Charisma has put something that they have lacked back in the band, namely direction. The direction is a familiar one to Hawkwind fans but Calvert brings it into focus and that is of course sci-fi. Hawkwind remained Hippies but they had found a way of surviving that didn't require that they become punk rockers. Another plus is that Nic Turner is not around to spoil things with his piss poor sax playing and general annoying presence. I love Nic but he belongs firmly in bands like inner city unit where his ego is a bonus not a minus. The best cut on this record is the classic spirt of the age despite being composed of only two chords it still manages to sound proggy and interesting. The rest of the record is composed of pretty decent tunes with not a sign of a turkey to be found hideing in them. Only In search of space and levitation are more essential. It is a great shame that Calvert lasted such a short time in Hawkwind and in general because despite being a loony and a plagiarist the man was a genius and a pleasure to watch live. This record is a must for serious collectors of Progressive rock and acid space rock as well as heavy rock and although it is not worthy of 5 stars it earns 4 with comfort.
Report this review (#146606)
Posted Tuesday, October 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars I can understand that some early "Hawkwind" fans (which I wasn't) have some difficulties to cope with such an album.

But there is no wonder. This album was released in 77and is fully new wave oriented. The closer relationship I can think of is "Ultravox!". Especially the vocal part during the excellent opener "Spirit Of The Age" is so close to the one of John's one (Foxx). The use of some violin only adds to the comparison. A highlight.

And this atmosphere is going on with the ultra energetic "Damnation Alley". Unlike most reviewers might feel, this period (77-79) was quite interesting in my musical life, and concerts were such a lot of fun. So, yes : "Damnation" is a damn good track. If ever I should say something bad about it, it, the only thing I could think of would be that it is a bit longish, but that's all.

This album is pretty much similar to their previous one ("Astounding Sounds"). The good old rock "Quark." has the same great mood as "Kerb Crawler". Rock'n'roll, man! Quark, Strangeness And Charm. (or The Wild, The Beautiful & The Damned...).

Heavy "Oriental" rock with "Hassan I Sahba", is somewhat lost in this work but again, the energy felt in here is very much welcome. Not a great track (too repetitive), but so unexpected and original! But three minutes of it, would have been enough (instead of over five).

"The Forge Of Vulcan" is the only spacey moment of this record, just a confirmation that the band was changing from orientation (but this is not really new). "Days Of The Underground" brings us back again in the "Ultravox!" territories. On the contrary of some other tracks, I would have liked the band to develop it a bit more, but since the instrumental closing number starts as "Days" ends, it can be seen as a (short) continuation.

As "Astounding Sounds", this album certainly deserves three stars but probably not four. Seven out of ten.

Report this review (#165872)
Posted Sunday, April 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The muse of Hawkwind moves in mysterious ways.

After the space crash that was called Astounding Sounds and Amazing Music, Hawkwind found their inspiration back and everything that didn't work on the preceding album turns out for the good here. Calvert is in fine form and the band sounds clean and crunchy.

What we get on our plate is a completely revamped Hawkwind. They still maintained that typical guitar strumming, the rhythmic pace, the eastern melodies and their excellent song writing, but the style and sound are completely updated: the style is something that comes close to arty punk pop and the sound is fresh and new, closer to the art-rock of David Bowie or Roxy Music than to their original space drone.

The sound has lost most of its space feel: out are the swirling saxophones, guitar effects, mellotrons and moogs. They are replaced by a battery of the then modern keyboards that many new wave groups like Japan, Magazine and countless others would start using just a year later.

By consequence they fit in wonderfully with the punk/new wave movement that was about to take off. In fact I would dare to say QSAC starts a 3 year period where Hawkwind became something of a punk-pop-prog band, that strangest of combinations :-) As such, they proved to be one of those few early 70's bands that were able to blend in with the new times successfully.

Hawkfans be warned, this is something completely different.

Report this review (#244456)
Posted Tuesday, October 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars By 1977, Hawkwind made a huge transformation. Nic Turner was gone and the line up from the previous album was changing. Dave Brocks and Robert Calverts cooperation was according to thesourses given never easy and Calvert had left the Hawkship on several occations. But it seams like they tried to focus on a new direction for the band. And a new direction it was. All from the begining (Spririt of the age) you feel this "pulse", a direction that had not been there before. Robert Calverts previous role was (at least not on "Space Ritual") ,not prominent. He sort of gave the group a extra flavour. By now, he was in command together with Captain Brock. Together they transformed Hawkwind into something very up to date, by 1977 standards.

The band was a strong unit. Simon House on keyboard and viola, Adrian Shaw on wonderful bass and Simon King providing the classic Hawkwind beat. I am one of these people that admire the "Warriors on the edge on time" album. But a change was needed and this album made clear that the band had so much more to offer. And ineed they had!

Report this review (#250346)
Posted Friday, November 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Quark strangness and charm starts with spirit of the age and one of the best robert calvert vocal tracks with a nice drumming sound and background electronics and the lyrics are interesting here to and calvert in great form here to with background vocals singing sprit of the age which to me gets in side ya head to great effect,every member of the band here in fine form this must be heard,quite calming track to a great start.Damnation alley starts with alarm sound like a nuclear bomb coming then the guitar plays and takes over and then the drums and calvert come in and everything here sounds great,this track is faster than the first with calvert singing about radiation wasteland,it does calm for abit and sounds great and a keyboard solo like and a violin comes in which sounds great a really great sound in hawkwind and a nice bit of guitar comes in after a bit,and then the main singing comes back and then the track ends and another great track everything here sounds great.fable of a failed race startsreally nice and quiet uch a really calm sound and relaxing calvert here singing really good here and the background vocals really nice to and the drumming fitting really well to the track nice bas here calm to and the guitar fx great such a really nice track really addictive and should of been much longer another great track.quark strangeness and charm a song [about einstein] and a track with everything here sounding great with good drumming and a riff that gets stuck in ya head you,ll be humming it for hours and a great bit of guitar playing here another great track,hassan i sahba starts with violin playing and this is good stuff when the song gets going after about 20 seconds the violin really being the main thing here and great to and the bass here is good and calvert on fine form singing hashish,the guitar playing along to great effect here and the drumming great to,i love this,playthis loud it sounds great,the guitar and violin and bass and vocals all just sound great a bit eastern soundoing track i think here another great track.the forge of vulgan starts with synth playing great like a warning sound a sound like a cow bell going[sounds great] with keyboards like organ sound really addictive sound i love it play it loud the last 30 seconds is the best part of this songs as it like explodes like and then ends,days of the underground starts like a sound that the music is bouncing to me,and calverts vocals having fx in them like a robot like[good sound for his voice] this track i dont think is the best track on this album but its still a good track,i like the background ghostly sound to it,and the keyboards sounding more piano abit here like,and then it ends.the iron dream starts with the whole band going for it pity its only like for two minutes like as this is addictive stuff and heavy like and it fades out and the album ends,i thought this is a really short hakwind album which is a shame cause every band member here is on fine form though more keyboard sounding and drums here but guirtar to not so guitar as oth hawkwind but a great album,this is a must hear album.4 stars.
Report this review (#262340)
Posted Sunday, January 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
2 stars Quirky and strange maybe, but hardly particularly charming!

Hawkwind is not a band I like very much and I often find their music sloppy, noisy and repetitive. While Warrior On The Edge Of Time had some good moments, the rest of the band's output up to this point had been utterly dispensable from my point of view. The present album is also not really my cup of tea but I must emphasise right from the start that this album is very different from what Hawkwind had been doing before and in many respects better. First of all this album is better produced. It is also much more melodic and the playing is also less sloppy than it used to be. All this is very good news since the earlier albums were clearly lacking in these essential (for great music) respects. On the downside, the lyrics here are often extremely silly. A song about Albert Einstein?

The musical influences goes beyond Space Rock here and encompass New Wave, Punk and electronic music. The addition of electric violin is very nice and it is the leading instrument in the without doubt best song here; Hassan I Sahba. Days Of The Underground is not too bad either. Most of the other songs do very little for me, but they are not torture like some stuff from the band's first couple of albums.

A bonus is that this album is very short!

Levitation was for me the first really good Hawkwind album

Report this review (#263511)
Posted Saturday, January 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars The four studio albums and one live album that HAWKWIND put out between 1971 and 1975 made me a big fan of this band. After 1975 there's only one album that I would say can sit with those five in terms of quality and that's 1980's "Levitation". "Quark, Strangeness And Charm" is a good album that many of HAWKWIND's fans hold in high esteem.

My complaint is that the uptempo and catchy tunes just don't hold up after many listens. I just get tired of them. Too bad because the songs that they slow down like "Hassan I Sabah" with that Middle Eastern flavour shows what kind of album this could have been. Also "Fable Of A Failed Race" with the spirit of "In Search Of Space" all over it is just so good. I just like that kind of mood. Another highlight is "Damnation Alley" the longest tune with a great instrumental section after 4 minutes. Also "The Forge Of Vulcan" is kind of cool with waves of synths and that electronic sounding beat. It builds to a powerful sound late. Perhaps the greatest strength of this album though is Robert Calvert's song writing. So witty and very well done. Impressive. The popular tracks like "Spirit Of The Age", "Quark, Strangeness And Charm" and "The Days Of The Underground" are fun but too commercial sounding.

3.5 stars and well worth checking out.

Report this review (#277951)
Posted Wednesday, April 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Quark, Strangeness and Charm (1977) has two main strengths, namely the interesting subject matter of the lyrics and the tightly focused sound. Robert Calvert is the main driving force on this Hawkwind album with his sci-fi inspired lyrics and New Wave style of vocals. Sonically the album is an intoxicating amalgamation of Punk and Space-Rock, and it was the first Hawkwind release not to feature Nik Turner following his recent sacking. Simon House fills the void left by the absence of Turner's flute and saxophone with lush keyboards and some especially refined violin playing. No wonder that David Bowie recruited him for his 1978 world tour. Paul Rudolph was also sacked during rehearsals for this album, but replacement Ade Shaw's bass overdubs are excellent.

Calvert really is at the top of his form here. DAMNATION ALLEY is based on a Roger Zelany sci-fi novel and describes a trans-American rescue mission set in a post-apocalyptic police state. The main part of the song consists of catchy Punk-pop, but there's a lengthy middle section that is the complete contrary. Simon House is included in this song's writing credits, and I assume he contributed this middle section due to its beautiful violin and keyboard arrangement. He also came up with THE FORGE OF VULCAN, which is an interesting instrumental featuring multi-layered keyboard textures that is unfortunately spoiled by repetitive blows on an actual anvil. It may have seemed like an interesting idea to do this but it's really just an annoyance.

Another instrumental track is the brief Simon King composition IRON DREAM, which takes a Norman Spinrad alternate history novel as its inspiration. However the album isn't all sci- fi and metafiction as the Middle Eastern-sounding HASSAN I SAHBA contains themes of oil and Black September terrorism. This song takes its name from a Persian missionary of The Middle Ages whose followers were called the Hashshashin, and the lyrics contain an obvious reference to drugs. This is the most powerful song here with more of House's superb fiddling. The title track precedes this on the album and the contrast between the two songs demonstrates Calvert's versatility as a lyricist. QUARK is a humorous take on the love lives of famous scientists and sounds a bit like Velvet Underground on speed.

The track list is completed by the contemplative FABLE OF A FAILED RACE, the surging sci- fi love song SPIRIT OF THE AGE that was adapted from a Calvert poem, and DAYS OF THE UNDERGROUND that was written in tribute to the band's early days. This is one of my favourite Hawkwind albums, although it tails off a bit towards the end so it misses out on that elusive fifth star.

Report this review (#283691)
Posted Thursday, May 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Quark, Strangeness and Charm" is the 7th full-length studio album by UK psychadelic/space rock act Hawkwind. The album was released through Charisma Records (Europe)/Sire Records (US) in June 1977. Following the tour for "Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music (1976)" Nik Turner (Saxophone, Flute) and Alan Powell (drums) left the group and shortly into the recording sessions for "Quark, Strangeness and Charm" bassist Paul Rudolph was asked to leave and new bassist Adrian Shaw was brought in to replace him.

The music on the album is psychadelic/space rock in the trademark repetitive and driving Hawkwind style. Their rock´n´roll influences shine through on tracks like "Damnation Alley" (which even hints at punk) and the title track while a track like "Hassan I Sahba" incorporates some additional middle eastern influences. "Days of the underground" sounds like a psychadelic Gong track to my ears. The quality of the tracks is relatively high but compared to the band´s best output the tracks on "Quark, Strangeness and Charm" are generally a bit sub par.

The sound production is warm and organic, but not as powerful and raw as on earlier releases. Upon conclusion "Quark, Strangeness and Charm" is a good quality album by Hawkwind although not exactly reaching the heights of the earlier releases by the band and a 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is warranted.

Report this review (#289473)
Posted Wednesday, July 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars After the preceding transitional album, Hawkwind had settled in to having Rob Calvert back in the saddle as their lead singer and adapted to the loss of the sludgy bass sound brought to the table by Lemmy, with the result that Quark Strangeness and Charm is significantly more consistent than its predecessor.

Rob Calvert's lyrics are, of course, as sharp as ever, and as usual tend to revolve around SF concepts, though there are a couple of exceptions. Rob succumbs to the last album's "reefer madness" and indulges in full-on weed worship on Hassan i Sabbah - which would evolve to become a long-running live staple of the band's set, often under the alternate title of Assassins or Assassins of Allah; the song's non-weed themes intertwine Middle East terrorism and the oil industry in a way which was rather obvious even at the time, but which still seems to exert a hold on world affairs even to this day - perhaps explaining the song's longevity.

Meanwhile, Days of the Underground pays tribute to the psychedelic underground scene from which Hawkwind emerged (and might also be a respectful tip of the hat to the underground punk scene which was making waves at the time - it's notable that the punks embraced Hawkwind even as they rejected other psych-prog groups).

Musically speaking, the production sounds a tad sharper than on the preceding album, Dave Brock's synthesiser work has now fully adapted to the more bass-light sound the band had to adopt in the absence of Lemmy, and Simon House's keyboard interventions continue to prove that he was Hawkwind's unstoppable secret weapon at the time. A fine example of a band evolving its style in the face of tempestuous personnel changes, Quark Strangeness and Charm proves there's more to Hawkwind than Michael Moorcock and Lemmy's angry bass.

At the same time, the slick production and smoother sound of the band means that it feels like the band have lost their edge and risk repeating themselves, much like the clone narrator of Spirit of the Age is going through the motions set by his previous incarnations himself; in fact, it seems a bit lightweight until Hassan i Sabbah thankfully brings a bit of heaviness back, though one feels that it's still a little sanitised compared to the Lemmy era. The album is saved by the involvement of Simon House, whose violin contributions add a new flavour to Hawkwind's cornucopia at just the right time.

Report this review (#553328)
Posted Thursday, October 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Quark, Strangeness and Charm" is the first time I heard a Hawkwind album and recoiled from the vocals. Bob Calvert took over for most of the album and added an annoying punk vibe to the music. He is a cross between Johnny Rotten and Bowie but not as good as either. Having said that the album is still the better one that features Calvert. This is due to the strong compositions and musicianship throughout. In fact the album features some of the best Hawkwind songs that feature on many live performances.

It begins with live favourite 'Spirit of the Age' that has a rocking riff with typical Hawkwind style. It has the same type of effects that feature on Hawkwind's extensive catalogue, voice overs, sound bytes, and strange electronics sounding like Morse code. The drums on this are a feature and especially the serrated razor guitar sounds. This version is far superior to the live versions due to the mixing and overall production. The lyrics are amusing, "Your android replica is playing up again" and "I am a clone I am not alone, everything is in the same tone as my test tube brother's voice, and there's no choice between us"; no wonder it suits Calvert's vocals. But do we need to hear Calvert sing "that's's the spirit of the age" over and over and over?

'Damnation Alley' follows with an ominous opening effect, drones and creepy atmospheres as rain falls, and it reminds me of a cyber punk dystopia. Calvert is okay on this and it has a heavy riff, with some terrific synth lines. I like the line "thankyou Dr Strangelove, going down to Damnation Alley well good luck to you." The ending instrumental break with cathedral synths is wonderful. Once again this is a great Hawkwind tracks and thus far the album is living up to the hype of some of the glowing reviews.

'Fable Of A Failed Race' is a terrific song woith Brock in fine form, his vocals are so welcome, and the song is like a space ballad with some melancholy atmospheres. 'Quark Strangeness And Charm' is the first song I heard by Calvert on a compilation and I hated it instantly. Over the years it has grown on me especially the lyrics that dwell on the failure of Einstein's way with the laides. It's a quirky piece that grows on you over time. It is as glam rock as Marc Bolan who were friends of the group at the time. I still don't like the vocal style at all. It is too poppy too with its verse, chorus, verse structure and I was used to the improvisational style of Hawkwind.

'Hassan I Sahba' is more like it and I adore this in any incarnation and it has had a few. It is very trippy, with lots of oriental flavours and an overall crunching riff. The repeated phrase is hynotivc and Brock belts this out woth powerful vocals. It certainly is one of the best Hawkwind tracks on a studio release.

'The Forge Of Vulcan' returns to synth sequencing and some anvil banging effects that at first is innovative and then induces a migraine. The instrumental component is well performed overall, but it really feels like the type of polyfiller that will pervade the 80s albums.

'Days Of The Underground' is a Calvert lead guitar riffing piece, with some interesting elements, such as synth motifs and quasi-glam-punk vocal delivery. It is followed by 'Iron Dream', asdhort instrumental that gies nowhere but ends the album at least on a rocking riff and some nice synths. So overall again the album is a mixed affair with some awesome moments overshadowed by some dire moments. It is perhaps as good as Calvert's input got but it is nevertheless nowhere to the standard of the first 5 albums; not even close.

Report this review (#646575)
Posted Monday, March 5, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars Space, middle-eastness and punk

3.5 stars

After the experimental and messy previous opus, "Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music", this seventh studio album comes as a welcomed good surprise. More focused than its predecessor, "Quark, Strangeness And Charm" shows HAWKWIND on par with its time, as the music uses elements from recent musical developments from this period: electronics, punk and more direct heavy metal. Robert Calvert wrote all the lyrics and sounds more and more like David Bowie. Furthermore, Nik Turner has now left, which results in the disappearance of wind instruments in the band's soundscape. But then... is it still HAWKWIND?

Yes! Although not the stoner psychedelia from the early 70's anymore, this late 70's album is still space rock and pre-dates the synth metallic direction that Dave Brock and co. will definitely take in the 80's. More concise, the musical style is just evolving, naturally, and the Hawks ventures into unexplored spatial territories, again.

The opener "Spirit Of The Age" will become a classic of the band. Repetitive guitars, Morse code samples, a rhythm and an ambiance similar to NEU!, this song is a trippy rock. The musical change can be perceived from this very first track: less stoner, more focused and with cleaner sound. With its electronic introduction and punchy riffs, "Damnation Alley" is one of the best tracks of the record. It can be described as a "soft space punk", with interesting changes, for example a short reggae passage. "Fable Of A Failed Race" is a floating ballade with Calvert's aerial voice. Not extraordinary, but enjoyable though. The title track is the surprisingly the worst. Quite out of place and not very typical of HAWKWIND, this tune is just a poppy rock'n'roll, a bit irritating.

On the contrary, the middle-eastern "Hassan I Sabbah" is another highlight of the disc. In the style of "Magnu", however heavier and shorter, this mystical song with arabian lyrics is a middle-eastern space metal classic! With its fast synthesizer sequence, "The Forge Of Vulcan" seems to be an extracted from a TANGERINE DREAM album! The differences are the darker tone and the hammer sound effect, coherent with the track name. "The Days Of The Underground" is a pleasant pop-punk piece, despite Robert Calvert's theatrical voice. The record finishes with "The Iron Dream", a short synthesizer electro metal ender.

Although still slightly uneven, "Quark, Strangeness And Charm" is more convincing and coherent than "Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music". The songs "Spirit Of The Age", "Damnation Alley" and "Hassan I Sabbah" will often be played live at concerts. If the title track has been replaced, I may have rated this opus 4 stars.

This disc is a turning point for the band, as it displays glimpses of the future to come. Furthermore, despite the arrival of punk and the gestation of new-wave, the music is still on par with its time, proving that Brock and co. were still at the edge. HAWKWIND's most space metal album from the late 70's, and one of their bests from this period, with "25 Years On".

Report this review (#1555701)
Posted Monday, April 25, 2016 | Review Permalink
3 stars Hawkwind - Quark, Strangeness and Charm (1977)

The second record of the Robert Calvert years of Hawkwind and in many ways a return to form. The band combines glamorous punk (in the vein of David Bowie), progressive electronic (a bit like Tangerine Dream), shoddy eastern influences and old fashioned space rock / metal.

The opening track Spirit of the Age is a bit uneventful, but most other tracks are either catchy or interesting. The nine minute track Damnation Allay stands out as a classic. I myself also like the original sounding Days of the Underground. I know not everybody loves Calvert's extravert performances - and they can be hit and miss - but at least he is some-one! He's out there adding personality to the music, something Hawkwind hasn't had much of in its long career.

Some of the songs have reappeared in different versions over the decades. I prefer the symphonic version of the title track on The Business Trip, this one sound a bit too punky and under-produced for my taste. Do mind about the lyrics though, quite funny. I think the eastern sounding Hassahn I Sahba has returned as Assassins of Allah on later releases and the Instrumental The Iron Dream was integrated on the Alien 4 record on Are You Loosing Your Mind?

Conclusion. I would rate this among the better work of Hawkwind and perhaps the best record of the Robert Calvert years. Not quite up there with Warrior on the Edge of Time, Levitation, Electric Tepee and Alien 4, but still more then worthwhile. Three and a halve stars.

Report this review (#1643170)
Posted Wednesday, November 16, 2016 | Review Permalink

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