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Robert Calvert - Captain Lockheed & The Starfighters CD (album) cover


Robert Calvert

Psychedelic/Space Rock

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5 stars This is Robert Calvert's first and best solo outing. The album takes its inspiration from a scandal in Germany in the late 1950s, where the Government purchased many new Lockheed Starfighter jets, only to have them kill off many of their young pilots who dubbed the jet "Widowmaker".

The album is an excellent fusion of comedy sketches and music which is similar to some of Hawkwind's material such as 'Silver Machine' or 'Urban Guerrilla', (not surprisingly both were co-written by Calvert). Some of the sketches in between music can be nothing short of hilarious if your sense of humour leans towards the likes of Monty Python. Musical highlights for me are "Aerospaceage Inferno" and "Catch a Falling Starfighter", both of which display Calvert's taste for irony, with lines such as "Fly through sound like a circus hound/Through the burning hoop with just one bound/So not even your ashes will be found/What a good way to go..." Scary stuff!

Anyway, it's an excellent album and is highly recommended to those of you who would like to listen to something with a sense of humour once in a while, and those of you who enjoyed 'Silver Machine' and would like more from the same bizarre mind.

Report this review (#42341)
Posted Wednesday, August 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Here we have a great album by Robert Calvert and his cosmic friends. Both music and storyline are more sophisticated and serious than in an average Hawkwind album, maybe because Robert had more control over the production. I'm very allured by psychedelia and many other releases of these spaceheads, but this is just different kind of music than majority of their releases. The storyline of the record is political and related to the time when album was written, focusing to a case when German government bought jet fighters from the America. The purchased fighters were converted to unconventional operational military usage for saving money, which caused many accidents. I think this realistic theme is interesting subject for contrast of more abstract cosmic operas, though Hawkwind also has had political themes on their agenda. Between the music there are humoristic dialogues of German officials inspecting the army, businessmen doing trade with Americans and some excerpts from pilot conversations from a Starfighter cockpit. My own favorite tracks are the "Aerospace inferno" with nice pulsing rhythm and creation of moods, a really well rocking "Ejection" which was later also played by Hawkwind on stage, and definitely the end hymn "Catch a Falling Starfighter", which I found very touching conclusion. As a small funny detail, I noted Robert looks just like Bob Dylan in the photograph of the inner sleeve, fitting to the stance taking attitude of this neat album.
Report this review (#45290)
Posted Friday, September 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars First and maybe best album by Robert Calvert. His experience with Hawkwind is truly exposed in these psychedelic heavy / bluesy rock compositions punctuated by humourus narrative interludes. If you like the original sound of the band with Lemmy Kilmister and others this one is for you ("space ritual' era). It can also takes you back to the crazy psychedelic sounds of "spirit of the age" and first demos of the band back at the end of the 60's. For those who are not familiar with Hawkwind, it can be described as a cross between blues, heavy bass attacks and spacey rock of the Floyd. The narrative voices and sketches make this album a little bit different with nice "zappa" influences. The concept of the album is about Air force, war trainings and technology of battle between West Germany and the US. " My nerves are made of steel and my eyes are eagle sharp and what would freak the average man does not affect my heart"
Report this review (#57132)
Posted Sunday, November 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Talk about original. Robert Calvert was probably one of the true oddball prog figures, a combination poet/iconoclast/rebel/punk/weirdo and a true prog personage with no peers. This South African became famous as a Hawkwind stalwart, performing on numerous albums including the quivering Hawklords -"25 years On" album and released this first solo foray back in 1974. Calvert was your original space cadet, wanting to be a jet fighter pilot but rejected because of health (drug?) problems.

Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters tells the slightly morbid yet mildly amusing true story of a massive fighter plane sale in the early 70s to then West Germany, in particular the outrageously designed F-104 Starfighter. It seems that the Yanks at Lockheed were more interested in the sale than providing a decent plane, as the German variant ("G for Germany") kept crashing in flames in droves killing young German pilots in the process! Like fellow weirdo Frank Zappa, the spoken humorous dialogue is part droll and part outright gruesome, courtesy of Viv Stanshall and Traffic's Jim Capaldi, among others. The cockpit check is hilarious ( " Haloperidol 5 mg, .. check, Benzedrine 20 mg, .. Check, Demerol 20 mg,.. Check, Glaaaass of Water...cheeeeck.. Jet takes off and promptly crashes.). Ha, ha, ha...Nicht lustig (not funny).The music is a fascinating bastardized schism of the Hawkwind sound, with Lemmy, Rudolph, King, Brock, Turner & Dettmar morphing with Eno, the wild Arthur Brown and the quirky Adrian Wagner on keys. The take-off 4.5 minute "The Aerospace Age Inferno" is just plain masterful, gritty, lewd, turbulent, brash and leaves a pungent aroma of burnt kerosene in its wake, definitely a track for the ages. All the other songs bathe in sheer genius, interfaced with more sarcastic dialogue , giving space (sic!) to such tunes as the lurid "The Widowmaker", the tantalizing cynical charm of "The Right Stuff", the petulant "Hero with a Wing", the brutal punko-hard prog of "Ejection", the funereal dirge of "Catch a Falling Starfighter" and the smirky 2 part "Song of the Gremlin".

Great original artwork on the vinyl, simply not reproduced on subsequent CD versions, proving again that the LP generation had access to a stronger art sense. A delightful, whimsical monument to a 'fallen Star.fighter". A very unique recording that deserve entrance into any worthy prog collection.

Rest in Space, Robert.

4 crashed jets.

Report this review (#159934)
Posted Saturday, January 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Calvert was responsible for some amazing concept albums, my favourite being Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters.

It's a darkly comic tale of death and destruction with musical contributions from Hawkwind, Pink Fairies and Arthur Brown. The Luftwaffe is persuaded to buy an unsafe jet fighter with sub plots of official incompetence, cover-ups by the manufacturer, and fighter pilots wearing make up (but only a little).

Those familiar with mid 70s Hawkwind will have a fair idea what the music will be like, driving spacerock propelled by Lemmy's bass. In fact, Hawkwind often include Ejection, and occasionally The Right Stuff, in their live sets.

Between the musical tracks are short pieces like extracts from radio plays. Some still make me laugh out loud 25 years after first hearing them (... and all that was left was her false eyelash!).

Standout tracks: Aerospaceage Inferno, Ground Control To Pilot, Ejection, Interview.

Report this review (#163357)
Posted Friday, March 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Twinkle, twinkle, little Starfighter...

A bit of a curio, this one - and the track titles would fill out this review faster than my normal analysis would. If you're looking to expand your Hawkwind collection, though, this is a good addition, very much in the right sort of style - and, given that nearly everyone's here, plus some bonus names, including the welcome additional talents of the legendary Arthur Brown and John Twink Alder, you'll have some idea of what you're letting yourself in for - and it's quite a trip.

But this isn't just another Hawkwind album - it's a fashioned concept, with wooey noises a-plenty, and lots of voices conjouring up all manner of scenes... mainly concerning aeroplanes, instead of space travel, and mainly concerning a dubious fantasy theme around the reconstruction of the glorious German Luftwaffe. No spoilers here, but there are some comical monologues and dialogues around this theme between the songs.

The songs themselves are what you'd expect - average Hawkwind-style songs with a high wooey-noise quotient, tasty little guitar licks and sax bleeps. But they're also not what you'd expect at all, and not what they sound like on the surface - as with all Hawkwind, you may need to dig deep for the massive payback.

Obviously, there's nothing any more complex than two or three chord progressions, but that's never been what Hawkwind are about. There's nothing here on a par with Psychedelic Warlords, Brainstorm or Master of the Universe, but there's plenty of Hawkwind space-punk energy, driving the lyrics, which are explorations of various parts of the developing story (no spoilers here), and the songs are all fun, as well as very trippy, as you'd expect.

Picking out highlights is next to impossible - the quality is consistent throughout, and all the songs are equally enjoyable for what they are, which is the original psych-space-punk-rock which made Hawkwind the unique outfit they were. Received in the right mood, the power here is just as overwhelming as on anything else Hawkwind released - and the material increases in quality as the album progresses, so don't be put off by the boxy sound of the opening songs.

If you're not accustomed to the ways of Hawkwind, this isn't a bad introduction to their material, and will certainly make you appreciate their sense of humour better. If your ears aren't spoiled by modern production and fine-grain quantisation, and you're not looking for dazzling displays of virtuosity or precision of any sort, then you will definitely enjoy the raw resonance and sonic splendours of this album, especially given that it was released in 1974. If you can do that thing with your ears which is the equivalent of seeing the picture in one of those 3d posters that looks like random stuff until you kind of squint a bit, then it pays dividends.

Listen end-to-end at high volume for best results - this is not an album to dip into at random.

I agree with the consensus here - this is an excellent addition to any prog music collection. 4 solid stars.

Report this review (#190058)
Posted Friday, November 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars What day is it today ? It's the start of the World Cup (soccer) of course. And since it's in South Africa this time I thought i'd honour the occassion with a review of Robert Calvert's debut "Captain Lockheed & The Starfighters". Robert of HAWKWIND fame was born in South Africa so that's the connection, although his family moved to England when he was very young. Lots of HAWKWIND alumni helping Calvert out on this one including Brock, Lemmy, King and Turner. Heck even Brian Eno and Arthur Brown are on here.

This could be listed under Comedy or Psychedelic at a record store. In fact the first time I heard it, it took me back to when I was in grade seven and the teacher let one of my class mates play Cheech & Chong. It was so funny. "Dave's not home man". Wer'e talking in the seventies and vinyl records. Anyway back to this album.

Calvert tells the story of a German who's trying to get the German Airforce back up and running to revenge what happened in WWII. Of course Clavert casts this guy as a bumbling idiot who buys faulty planes etc. Just about every other track is a comedy bit while the music is very HAWKWIND-like for the most part. So many funny parts including the "G" is for Germany bit and also the drug checklist for his flight which of course includes a glass of water. A unique album that will make you laugh but also some great tunes too.

Report this review (#285993)
Posted Friday, June 11, 2010 | Review Permalink

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