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Hawkwind - Space Bandits CD (album) cover

SPACE BANDITS

Hawkwind

Psychedelic/Space Rock


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greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is progressive space hard rock music. The ambiance is so futuristic! I call it "big Blade Runner atmospheres". It is sophisticated hard rock, full of relaxing mellow bits and floating atmospheres - it is sometimes real New Age music. There are many space guitar effects, and the guitar is really present and flashy. Motorcycle sounds, applauding crowd. This record is complementary to OZRIC TENTACLES and Steve HILLAGE. On "Black Elk Speaks", the old narrator seems to be the same as on Roger WATERS' "Amused to Death". The female lead vocals are androgynous. Is it a wah wah electric violin on the first track? Amazing!!

Report this review (#25648)
Posted Saturday, April 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars One for the birds

"Space bandits" is one of those rare Hawkwind albums with a female vocalist, in the form of Bridgett Wishart.

The album starts with the best track, "Images". Wishart's vocals are superb on this long, driving slice of Hawkwind rock co-written by her with Dave Brock and Alan Davey. The track is a typical Hawkwind album opener, along the lines of "Back in the box" or "Motorway city".

Things inevitably have to go down hill after such a great track, but unfortunately, none of the following tracks even comes close. The songs thereafter all much of a muchness in terms of quality.

"Realms" is a soft, atmospheric piece featuring the "Duke Lysergic Orchestra", while the Wishart led "Wings" is also slower, and in truth, something of a plodder. Alan Davey generously gave 10% of the royalties from this track to the RSPB (UK bird protection charity). Worth buying for "Images" alone, but don't expect too much from the rest.

Report this review (#25649)
Posted Friday, April 30, 2004 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars "Images" is truly a very good track and the album covers are nice, but sadly I can't find anything else good to say about this record. HAWKWIND could have worked out a fine EP from this material , but as a long player it doesn't work. Nice gesture though, that some royalties of song "Wings" by Alan Davey are donated to the royal society for the protection of birds.
Report this review (#25650)
Posted Friday, April 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
Joolz
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Hawkwind are, of course, the quintessential 'Psychadelic Space Rockers', renowned for lengthy 'spacey' jams played over a throbbing driving bedrock of bass and drums. But over their 35+ year history, they have not only had many changes in line-up, but also changes in their sound. As they moved into the 90s they became more 'industrial', with songs becoming more and more dependant on keyboards and sequencers (one album would be entirely so). In 1990 the great days were long past but they still had something to offer as this album shows.

The most notable thing about Space Bandits is the principal singer - namely Bridgett Wishart. An old friend of Richard Chadwick, Bridgett had begun to hang around the band and first played with them in the summer of 1989, becoming their full-time singer early in 1990. Her voice suits the material well, indeed it is a natural fit, and she brings a new dimension to the songs. It all ended in tears a year or two down the road and sadly this is the only studio album recorded with her.

Images opens the album on a high. Beginning with a guitar motif - which reminds me of ELO - it soon kicks into a 174 bpm Hawkwind-Heavy-Metal blast. This is Hawkwind almost at their best, with all the essential spacey elements in place - including some lovely violin from Simon House and some sympathetic keyboard fills - and Bridgett's voice holding it all together admirably. A mid-song ambient break allows a breather before the frenetic Chadwick/Davey/Brock combo stampede back for a final power freak-out.

Black Elk Speaks is a spoken word ambient piece: Black Elk - a Sioux - recites a prayer to 'Grandfather, Mysterious One'; which is followed by a short poem by Bridgett. Proceeds from the publishing of this song go to the Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation. The instrumental backing is somehow quite evocative - of the plains, camp-fires, peace-pipes etc.

Wings was written by Alan Davey in response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the enormous harm it did to wildlife. It is actually my favourite track here - it is not instrumentally fantastic, it is not spacey in any way, and it doesn't have outstanding lyrics. But there is something about the way it jogs along, with plaintive sound effects and sad vocals from Bridgett (and Alan) which somehow contrives to evoke an almospheric image of desolation. Proceeds from this one are donated to a British wildlife charity.

The album begins to tail off after that. Out Of The Shadows returns to the 'Hawkwind Sound' of Images, but at a somewhat more sociable pace! Lots of sound effects support a mainly guitar-led one-chord bash, with Brock taking the lead both instrumentally and vocally. Interesting that the drums sound much more organic here, but ultimately the song is a little unsatisfying as the music doesn't seem to achieve anything, instead moving aimlessly and inexorably towards a segue with the next track.

Realms is ambient noodling, nothing more than forgettable filler, full of generic pads and washes which lead into ..... Ship Of Dreams, which begins as another keyboard-led, heavily sequencer-dependant 'song' with short spoken vocal (Brock) and lots of effects. It picks up when a lovely distorted guitar joins the party though the voice becomes unintelligible, and there is a cute bit of folksy 'jigging' courtesy of House's violin. But it doesn't really hang together as a cohesive piece of work. It's almost a backing track in search of a song. No focus.

TV Suicide closes the album with an array of effects and sounds sampled from TV added to another 'keys and sequencer' led soundscape. The simple lyrics about the dangers of TV are presented by a spoken male voice (Bainbridge?). But it is all ineffectual and ends with a return to generic pads and washes to fade.

This is very much a transition album for the band: it sees them branching out into the new technology of samplers and sequencers; and it marks an upturn in the quality of their recorded material after a few years in the doldrums. This is not, however, a 'return to form' but merely a swing in the right direction. A major criticism of this new 'industrial' direction, is their inexpert use of sequencers: at that time Chadwick, in particular, was unfamiliar with drum sequencers but found it necessary to use them because he was otherwise unable to play Images on a live kit. A consequence of this inexperience is the 'over-quantisation' of the drums, most noticeable on Images.

The first three tracks are worthy additions to the repertoire, and Hawkwind fans - especially those of the later 90s/00s output - should find something to like here. Newcomers, however, should be advised that there are better examples of their work.

Report this review (#74722)
Posted Wednesday, April 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars This one is really for Hawk-fans only and contains some suprises, the most obvious being the addition of female vocalist, Bridgett Wishart who had previuosly been a member of the Hippie Slags all-girl group. Rumour has it that she was drunk backstage at a Hawkwind gig in Nottingham, England and was asked, along with her band to jam with them on a new song they were working on called "Back in the Box" ( which appeared on the Palace Springs live album ). She accepted, the rest of her band chickened out and she eventually became a full-time member briefly in the early 90`s. She has a voice and singing style not unlike that of Debbie Harry of Blondie and donned costumes and danced during Hawkwind live performances.

The album blasts off with an unusually high energy heavy track entitled Images which reminds the Hawk-fan of the 1980 Levitation album and is definitely the highlight of the CD along with the second selection. Black Elk Speaks re-enacts a native prayer recital by a guest speaker, John Neihardt, which seems to refer to the book of Genesis and follows Christian theology very closely. The Blondie- sounding vocalist joins in the chanting and all this is spoken over some impressive atmospheric guitar painting along with ceremonial tom-tom beating which adds to the setting of a native elder worshipping his god. It works very well and is one of my Hawkwind faves.

Unfortunately after this glorious start the album loses it`s pace. The band experiments with electronic devices and effects throughout and although the rest of the album becomes rather patchy it does have it`s moments. Wings, which is kind of a Mournful Lament for the birds affected by the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska certainly evoked some emotion out of this reviewer who happens to be an avid bird enthusiast. Out of the Shadows has some cool motorcycle sound effects at the beginning but putters out and runs out of gas. TV suicide uses some cool sampling effects but ends too abruptly just as it`s starting to go somewhere . The album would have worked better with the re-positioning of the two stronger introductory tracks in the middle and conclusion, respectively, to break up the some of the monotony which occurs on the latter part of the album.

A funny album in that it contains a couple of Hawkwind`s best compositions and some of it`s more experimental and not so up to par offerings. Hawkwind fans should go for it while the uninitiated would be better off with Electric Teepee which is a better example of Hawkwind in the 90`s. I`d feel bad if I gave it two stars so it gets three gold ones on the strength of the two introductory tracks.

Report this review (#80771)
Posted Friday, June 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is the first whole Hawkwind album I've hear this far, and before buying it by a coincidence I had come in contact with maybe ten songs. I'd actually bought some kind of best off album (not official?) after hearing "Levitation", "Silver Machine" and "Master of the Universe" on a compilation album.

I didn't know much what to expect, but what I heard was not expected, that's for sure. Well, I could say that the album is a mixture of 80's hard rock stuff, psychedelia/new age (in the vein of Ozric Tentacles or something, it's very electronic and ambient), rock with a gothic touch and on the top - some indians, birds, and motor cycles. I can't describe how suprised I was, and I was completely overwhelmed! My feelings have cooled down a bit, but I still can't say anything else than that the material is awesome!

I acutally think this could rate as high as 9/10, it was so much different than I expected and I am really over-suprised! But since I'm pretty sure there are better albums by Hawkwind out there I leave one star empty, so there's room for one more when I review something even better from the Kings of Space Rock! Flaws: to short, and it doesn't feel very much like an album, more like a collection of songs or a long EP. The material is still outstanding.

Report this review (#114419)
Posted Wednesday, March 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars ONE TRACK ISN'T ENOUGH

While listening to the opening « Images » one might think that the great "Hawkwind" is back. Powerful music, convincing vocals performed by Bridgett Wishart, a sublime guitar work , a catchy and wonderful catchy and upbeat melody, and to top it all: some gorgeous violin play. Help! This is so great! Almost ten minutes of the best "Hawkwind" you can think of. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that it (hard) rocks alright and "Images" is by far the best song of this album.

After this very good song, others sound useless and uninspired (the spacey "Black Elk" or the dull "Wings"). To be honest, this album is not recommended if you would like to discover "Hawkwind". Here and there some ambient to spacey track reminds us some of their original style ("Realms", "Ship Of Dreams" even if the latter if a bit longish and repetitive).

The closing "TV Suicide" flirts between electro beats and ambient theme again. Not bad but not great. All in all, this "Space Bandits" is very average. As such, two stars sounds OK.

Report this review (#168727)
Posted Saturday, April 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars With Space Bandits Hawkwind bestow us with another uneven album. They have been doing that since so many years that nobody even seems to care anymore. It might be good to give this one a spin though. It's a vast improvement over the Xenon Codex catastrophe and the much too undemanding Chronicles. It has quite a few good songs that should please any remaining Hawkfans out there in the universe.

The first thing you would come to notice about Images is its length. With 9'33" it must be the longest track they've done since somewhere in the 70ties. A second thing that will strike you is that it is sung by a female singer. And she pulls it off quite well. Nothing like Dave Brocks magical nasal space vox but if fits the song quite well.

The third thing you will hear is that Hawkwind sticks to their 80's plastic sound (which is something uncomfortably similar to Peter Hammill's Foreign Town) ; meaning terrible synth drum sound and midi instruments instead of real live instruments. Lots of lush keyboards though.

Finally and much to your relief I hope, you might find that the songs are quite decent here: Images will please most fans with lots of groovy sections and its excellent chorus, Black Elk Speaks and Realms are nice, be it rather redundant ambient pieces. Ship of Dreams has a very spacey declamatory opening but instead of growing into something interesting it goes nowhere at all and fades out like a dying candle. TV Suicide has some potential as well but sounds directionless and underdeveloped.

Two other winners for me would be the very moody Wings and the typical upbeat Hawkwind tune Out Of The Shadows. Wings is very much unlike your usual Hawkwind fare so it's no surprise other people seem to dislike it. With its repeated electronic pulses and female vocals it comes closer to Siouxsie & the Banshees then to your accustomed Hawkwind predictabilities. Rest assured it's an excellent track I wouldn't want to leave it out of a Hawkwind 80's collection.

Just a bit too uneven for 4 stars I'm afraid.

Report this review (#243427)
Posted Wednesday, October 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Yet another Hawkwind album in which the first track (in this case, Images) is pretty good, but the rest of the album took longer to grow on me. A fast-paced and energetic opener gives way to slower, dreamier material. Hawkwind had always been closely associated with the free festival movement in the UK, so it was inevitable that their musical craft would eventually nudge them in a more New Agey direction, but they retain just enough of an edge to avoid becoming entirely saccharine. (Call it "New Edge", perhaps.) It's hardly a masterpiece of rocking out, but as background music for contemplative moments it isn't half bad.
Report this review (#597228)
Posted Tuesday, December 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
2 stars "Space Bandits" is yet another dull album for Hawkwind, a few good songs are here such as 'Out of the Shadows' which is the best thing on it. 'TV suicide' is intriguing with channel switching effects, voice sound bytes. Bridgett Wishart sings on 'Images', a rare thing to hear a female vocalist on a Hawkwind album. I would have preferred Stacia but her talents lay elsewhere.

There is very little to recommend and those interested in dipping into Hawkwind's extensive ocean of albums, would be better to try the first 5 albums, "Space Ritual", "Chronicle of the Black Sword", and the latest "Blood of the Earth". The problem is that "Space Bandits" is not exactly hard core space rock or for that matter psychedelic, rather is mostly ambient new age mumbo jumbo with too much emphasis on synthesizers and bad arrangements.

It may be the second worst album for Hawkwind, despite what others are saying. I have heard them all and this is really desperate stuff from the band. To use a woman as a vocalist seals the deal; they were simply a sinking ship waiting for another iceberg. Thankfully things can only improve from here. And they did with the excellent "Electric Tepee" to follow. But this album is a must to avoid. Collectors need only apply.

Report this review (#647330)
Posted Tuesday, March 6, 2012 | Review Permalink
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"

Report this review (#896146)
Posted Saturday, January 19, 2013 | Review Permalink

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