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Hawkwind - Zones CD (album) cover



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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.

Report this review (#77777)
Posted Wednesday, May 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Love them or hate them...I love them!

An enjoyable Hwakwind album, although it's another one of theirs that mixes a few new songs with a whole load of live revisits to established classics. It has to be said that for established fans like me there are a lot of tracks on here that can be found on other albums.

That aside, it is actually pleasant to listen to and would be a good starting point for new fans. Lots of synthesizers, mantric rhythms, good lead guitar work and spacey vocals - this is Hawkwind!

If you're not a new fan, then its value-for-money would depend on how many of the other songs you've already got (several times over probably!)

Report this review (#111465)
Posted Saturday, February 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars This is a hybrid album which contains some new tracks as well as some live ones (played in front or not of an audience).

When you listen to the short intro "Zones", the nightmare of "Church Of Hawkwind" seems to come back to your mind. Is it possible to make a second poor album in such a short period of time?

It seems so during the first three songs, but with "The Island" and its some sort of "Watcher Of The Skies" similarity, things are improving. The second part of this song features an excellent guitar part. It is the real start of this album.

The live version of "Motorway City" (from the album "Levitation") is another very good song. Dynamic, hard, performing. But what's the use of such a piece as "Utopia 84"? "Hawkwind" is also delivering almost a punk number with "Social Alliance". But long time fans are used to this. Indeed, it is not the first one ("Disintegration" from "Sonic Attack" was another one) . So, whether you like the genre or not will determine how you feel about it. I don't dislike it even if the middle part (fully loaded with sax) is somewhat too disjointed.

The last three songs are known tracks but not always their best ones ("Sonic Attack" for instance). The band is even playing a very old song from their repertoire: "Brainstorm" from their album "Doremi." released in.1972. One of the best songs from "Zones" (but there aren't that many). Fully dynamic (hard), the orgy of guitar is a great moment.

But this is not a great album to be honest. Two stars.

Report this review (#168165)
Posted Saturday, April 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars This is a weird old odds-and-sods collection from Hawkwind. Side 1 comes from two sources in December 1980 - the Lewisham Odeon gig gives us Dust of Time (misnamed here as The Island) and Motorway City, whilst the three preceding tracks (or rather, two tracks plus a brief intro) were recorded in a mobile studio in the same month. Flip over to side B, and we've jumped forward two years to an October gig on the Choose Your Masques tour.

Whilst this might have been useful when Zones first came out, subsequent releases have left it entirely redundant. Though not from the same gig, Coded Languages gives us a full live set from the 1982 tour recorded somewhat after side B here, and incorporating all of its material. Meanwhile, the 3CD rerelease of Levitation includes the most complete version of the Lewisham 1980 gig yet, including live runthroughs of the two studio pieces here (Running Through My Back Brain and Dangerous Vision) which are more than satisfactory substitutes for the studio material here.

Still, the album cover is very pretty.

Report this review (#1940019)
Posted Wednesday, June 20, 2018 | Review Permalink

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