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Robert Calvert - Lucky Leif & The Longships CD (album) cover


Robert Calvert

Psychedelic/Space Rock

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3 stars Hawkfans on Progarchives should be ashamed of themselves! Bob Calvert is criminally underreviewed here. IMO, most of Hawkwind's best work was done under Calvert's influence, particularly the magnificent "Quark Strangeness and Charm". Unfortunately, his solo work, while undeniably the work of the unstable genius that he was, is a bit spotty. "Captain Lockheed' was a great work, almost the lost Hawks album, full of energy, humour and classic tunes. He tried a similar formula on this second album, but with less success. A strange theme about Vikings discovering America is fairly confusing as it veers from the proggy to pastiche. The Beach Boys parody "The Lay of the Surfers" is amusing, but not something you'd listen to everyday, as is the bluegrassy "Moonshine in the Mountains". The more serious tunes like "Ship of Fools" and "Ragna Rock" work better, sounding like a mixture of space rock and Roxy Music-ish glam, no doubt due to Eno's presence as producer on the recording. Paul Rudolph makes notable guitar contributions, and Michael Moorcock, Simon House and Nik Turner are also present. I do find that the marriage of topic and music does not work as well on this album as it did on Calvert's first, but no serious Hawkfan or lover of the weirder sort of seventies concept album should avoid giving it a listen.
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Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album tells about Vikings' trip to America. Looking at the music side of this album I have to admit that "Leif..." is a unique collage of different music styles. There are tracks kept in Hawk-climate ("Ship Of Fools", "Ragna Rock" or electrically "Storm Chant Of The Skraelings") also You can find a parody of The Beach Boys style ("Lay Of The Surfers") or counrty rock style ("Moonshine In The Mountains"). Besides Robert Calvert reached for early Pink Floyd soundlike song ("Brave New World") and some music experiments ("Phase Locked Loop", "Volstead O Vodeo Do"). When You add to it all a song based on shanty harmonies ("Voyaging To Vinland") and imposed in many coasts declamation ("The Making Of Midgard") you will recieve rare mixture which is hard to call "a simple concept-album". Explanation is simple: Hawkwinders always shocked and they often crossed stereotyped borders of music styles.
Report this review (#87818)
Posted Monday, August 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Good vibrations

The late Robert Calvert recorded this his second solo album in 1975, a year after his debut and two years after leaving Hawkwind. This time he called upon the services of Brian Eno as producer, and took his concept from the pre-Columbus visits of the Vikings to America.

The music is surprisingly accessible, ranging from the more melodic side of Hawkwind to folk and pop. Various notable guests appear along the way, including Nik Turner on sax, Michael Moorcock on banjo, and Simon House on violin. The highly gifted Andy Roberts also appears on a range of instruments.

The opening "Ship of fools" turns out to be one the album's highlights, offering a mid paced pop based song whose simplicity disguises a fine composition. "The lay of the surfers" is a tongue in cheek tribute to the Beach Boys including the lyric "I guess you could call us Barbarians" sung to the tune of "Barbara Ann". "Voyage to Vinland" ventures towards folk territories, the acoustic basis of the song suiting the melody well.

"The Making of Midgard" is an odd, unaccompanied poem recital with the reading multi-tracked and offset, along the lines of Queen's "The prophet's song". It contrasts well with the following "Brave new world", a wispy upbeat song with a country style chorus. "Magical potion" is a funky but cynical look at modern America while "Moonshine in the mountains" lives up to its name by diverting into a backwoods style Dukes of Hazzard sing-a-long.

"Storm Chant Of The Skraelings", the second longest track but still under 5 minutes, has more in common with Calvert's work with the British Amon Duul The slightly distorted vocals and sundry sound effects make the track the most intriguing here. Despite its lengthy sub-title, the reggae influenced "Volstead O Vodeo Do" is the low point of the album, even if I does sound like plenty of fun was had recording it. The brief "Phased lock loop" fares little better, apparently being the sound of someone re-tuning a radio. We close with "Ragna rock", the longest track on the album at a shade under 6 minutes. The song returns us to the accessible rock of the early songs on the album, the track benefiting from some strong guitar rhythms.

"Lucky lief.." was the cause of some divide among Calvert fans, mainly due to its diversity. It seems there was some friendly disagreement between Calvert and Eno about how best to present that diversity, with Calvert wanting to add brief linking narratives. Eno won the day though, and the tracks are left as isolated and disjointed pieces. This has the effect of rather annulling the concept of the album, as there is no continuity whatsoever. On the plus side, the diversity of sound means that there is something for pretty much everyone here. On the whole, a decent album by Calvert, with plenty to enjoy.

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Posted Wednesday, November 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars After the great "Starfighters" theme album, this Viking expedition to Vinland does not succeed very well in my opinion. Album starts with horn fanfares, leading to messy and tired sounding hard rock riffings. The melodies are guaranteed Calvert style, but there doesn't seem to be much enthusiasm in the stuff. Along the trip we get Beach Boys resembling surf-pop pastiches, multivocal march hymns, stoned rockings not leading to anywhere, annoyingly echoed reciting reminding a poor Monty Python joke, and lots of jolly funky loungings in country music spirited melodies, all treated in a light Hawkwind-styled manner. Funnily named "Ragna Rock" (Ragnarök is the apocalypse of Viking sagas or something such boring) is the best track here, direly placed as the last song of a quite dull album, so it is possible the some fans never get it to the end and hear it (well, they do not miss terribly much even in this case). I would recommend this only to the Hawkwind completionists, at least listen trough it carefully before purchasing.
Report this review (#230390)
Posted Friday, August 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars There is certainly an unpredictable and therefore eclectic nature to Robert Calvert. Listening to "Space ritual" by Hawkwind you are served up one of the most fearful live-albums of all time, filled to the brim of psychedelic space prog delivered in it's filthiest form. And if you've come to know Calvert through that album you will certainly be surprised to hear the material on this album. That is not a bad thing, yet it might detract from the album's somewhat brilliant content if you stare to blindly into the sun that was "Space ritual". That was the case for me, when I heard this conceptual album för the first time.

The cover, if I'm allowed to start there, is one of simple brilliance. It is intriguing with it's blue ocean with that lonesome viking ship heading towards some distant shore. The tale revolves around the viking expedition to Vinland and the encounter with the native population already living there. The flipside of the cover depicts the Statue of liberty wearing a viking helmet, which is sort of hilarious.

How about the music, then? The album opens in grand fashion with a viking horn signalling the arrival of the tale and heads straight into the heavy "Ship of fools", which is a great and menacing track. And then the albums true heart of eclecticism goes berserk with "The lay of the surfers", a Beach Boys pastiche which is so different to what one might expect from someone with a past in Hawkwind but it works. Not as an isolated track but in the grand scheme of things it really works. The folky "VOyaging to Vinland" is the best track, in my opinion. Dramatic and grand with a glorious guitar that blows me off my feet in it's simplicity. "The making of Midgard" is a spoken piece with voice effects. Quite effective, actually. "Brave new world" is a gentle pop song, "Magical potion" bluesy rock'n'roll, "Moonshine in the mountains" recalls some Civil War folk song and "Storm chant of the Skraelings" is slightly more in the space prog category, with it's droneing melody. "Volstead o vodeo do" is reggae and "Phase locked loop" is a sound collage. It all ends with the great and magnificent "Ragna rock", a brilliant song.

Sounds messy? Well, it is. It is a messy and by the sound of it severely disjointed. Still, repeated listening will unearth the scheme of things and paint a picture of the mind of an artist boasting excentricity and brilliance. There are certainly moments that on it's fails to hold up to scrutiny but as a whole this is a really entertaining and rewarding album. If you are a fan of Hawkwind it might pass by as novelty and if you've never heard of Calvert this album might not come your way but I think it's well worth a listen, though a singular sitting won't suffice. As a whole it is "Good, but non-essential" though there certainly are tracks well worth four stars. I have a soft spot for Calvert and this album is quite dear to me, as is "Captain Lockheed". He never made "The album of the century" but he provided music that is both interesting and highly original. Clever chap, he was.

Report this review (#1853729)
Posted Thursday, January 4, 2018 | Review Permalink

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