Hawkwind: Hawkwind (1970)
Hawkwind, like Gong, and much later, Ozric Tentacles, was one of the biggest names in space rock. If it wasn’t those first two groups I mentioned, it’s hard imagining there being a band like the Ozrics out there. And like the Ozrics, Hawkwind was (and surprisingly still is) a fixture on the British free festival circuit.
A few major differences exist with Hawkwind and the Ozrics. Hawkwind was around much longer. They took a more pychedelic/hard rock/heavy metal approach to the space rock genre, with lyrics that tend to sci-fi, or fears of a totalitarian regime, while the Ozrics was all instrumental, and Gong tended to write songs about Pot Head Pixies and Flying Teapots.
The Hawkwind discography is ridiculously huge. For every official release, there’s something like 5 or 6 unofficial releases, bootlegs, live albums, compilation albums, you name it. Many of these unofficial releases tend to be crap, and sifting through the crap to get to the good stuff as far as Hawkwind is concerned is a real task indeed. The best stuff, of course, is usually the material the band officially released themselves on whatever label they were recording at the time (Liberty/United Artists, Charisma, Bronze, RCA, Flicknife, GWR, RoadRacer, etc.).
If trying to following the lineups of Gong or Ozric Tentacles was a pain in the ass, the Hawkwind lineup was much worse. While the band was always lead by guitarist and vocalist Dave Brock, the band had many different and often interesting figures in their lineup like Robert Calvert, Lemmy Kilminster (later of Motorhead), Nik Turner, Dik Mik, Del Dettmar, Huw-Lloyd Langton, Simon King, Tim Blake (of Gong fame), Ginger Baker (yes, that Ginger Baker, of Cream and Blind Faith fame!), Dave Anderson (of Amon Düül II), Simon House (of High Tide, and later of David Bowie), Michael Moorcock (the sci-fi author), and too many more to mention.
Now let’s get on with reviewing this album, which happens to be their self-entitled debut from 1970. In my book, I find this album rather underrated, as this album totally blew me away the first time I ever heard it! The album opens with an excellent acoustic and bluesy number, “Hurry On Sundown”. Not too often I hear harmonica on a Hawkwind album.
The next cut, “The Reason Is?” is a totally mindblowing instrumental piece that’s little else than psychedelic sound effects, it reminds me a bit of very early Tangerine Dream. The next, “Be Yourself” is largely a jam with some killer guitar work. “Paranoia Part 1 and 2” is mainly an experimental piece with some strange voices, before going on to the next cut, “Seeing It As You Really Are”, which is all-instrumental, and is so mindblowingly intense, I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Then the album closes with “Mirror of Illusion”, which, like “Hurry On Sundown”, is another proper song, which is great as well.
By far and large, this album has that wonderful underground psych feel that I like so much, and it has that rawness and intensity that just blows me away (the album boasted that it was recorded live in the studio). Also, the album oddly sounds more ’60s than ’70s. Although this album did not make a big impression on the underground scene (their second album, In Search of Space, in 1971 would), it’s a rather underrated gem, and if you like some really killer and intense psychedelic jams, or of course, if you’re a Hawkwind fan, get this album.
– Dave Brock: vocals, guitar, harmonica
– John Harrison: bass
– Huw-Lloyd Langton: lead guitar
– Terry Ollis: drums
– Nik Turner: saxes
– DikMik: electronics
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