“I am the creator of this universe, the wind of time is blowing through me” incanted head pilot Brock in 1971. One hundred thousand young hippies’ hairy heads melted and nothing mattered anymore. But Hawkwind have always mattered to anyone who has ever sought a certain astral escapism (drugs are optional enhancements). That’s most of us right? Therefore, the difficulty in objectively assessing this album of very well executed covers is this: have I listened to this album so much because of the sheer nostalgic beauty of early Lemmy-era Hawkwind, and would it not really matter who covered these songs as long as they were a reasonably credible band? Not taking anything away from the three bands of the triad here, but most artistes are onto a winner covering early seventies Hawkwind. So, bearing this in mind Hawkfans, let me attempt to ‘review’ this little labour of love.
We kick off with the iconic cosmic-stomp anthem ‘Master of the Universe’ – a fine, if not obvious, choice to start a Hawkwind tribute album. What can I say? It’s immensely enjoyable. It sounds very like the original. US Christmas do the honours here, and like all three contributors, they do a sterling job. The singer sounds like Dave Brock. The oscillating electronic space noises also sound very similar. Part of me thinks this: what is the point of such an exact re-creation? The unthinking and immediately sensory part only thinks ‘this is amaaaaaazing’. I go and listen to Hawkwind straight after. Back to the source.
Steve Von Till (aka Harvestman) offers a slightly more interpretive reading of the Hawkwind sound. ‘D Rider’ is a successful cover in that Von Till’s gravel-bottomed tones add a richness to the cover that changes it from a straight-ahead copy to ‘Hawkwind done the Neurosis way’. Minsk, possessors of a mighty and cataclysmic swirling sound, plunge into the gorgeousness of ‘7 X 7’. The singer groans out ‘my astral soul’ over that familiar saxophone refrain that instantly makes me detach from the mundane reality I’m immersed. My head floats off to a time when I was young and I camped in woods giggling on mushrooms with my lazy mates.
Harvestman attempt ‘Down Through The Night’ and pull it off with aplomb. I feel so nice that I have to lie down on the old leather sofa. What this album highlights well is the astounding strength of song writing within the Hawkwind camp, particularly in the early to mid seventies. We all know that anyway, but it’s good to have that fact recontextualised. Big word, for a big album. Next up is ‘Assault and Battery/The Golden Void’, which is a stunning track anyway, so Minsk don’t have far to go. Needless to say it’s wonderful. The flute in it reminds me of the opening music to ‘Shameless’. Frank Gallagher – drugs – long hair – Hawkwind.
US Christmas return with ‘Psychedelic Warlords’. US Christmas could embark on a secondary career as the official tribute band. I imagine a wild eyed Druid priest in a parallel universe where Brock and co. are revered as deities, claiming, in a steady and sombre voice; ‘they are the ones who sound most like Hawkwind’, to an amassed crowd of awestruck acolytes gathered under some huge monoliths. Bloody hell, I nearly went then! Anyway, back to the album. Minsk do ‘Children Of The Sun’. What a fucking great song this. Another faithful rendition – chock full of flute, acoustic twelve string and moog-tastic space noodlings.
Make way for the ‘Orgone Accumulator’! Like ‘Spirit In The Sky’ pumped full of lysergic diesel and stretched out for a thousand light years, this track drives on and on and on and on and on – a true classic of the genre. In fact this song probably epitomises prime Hawkwind more than even ‘Silver Machine’ (a wise choice to leave off this album). And, as usual, US Christmas do an excellent job of covering the original.
Lemmy penned masterpiece ‘The Watcher’, performed by Harvestman, fulfils the ‘successful cover’ criteria (where basically the original should be lovingly interpreted in such a way as to delight the listener with its ‘fresh new take’). Von Till’s voice is superb – all weary and fucked yet slightly malevolent. NEXT! US Christmas don’t quite achieve the original juggernaut momentum of the ground-breakingly weird ‘You Shouldn’t Do That’, but it’s good to hear them try. Last track, the rip-roaring and endorphin flooding ‘Magnu’, borne on a riff that truly defines the concept of ‘riff’, is…well, rip-roaring and endorphin flooding. ‘Magnu’ (here covered by Harvestman) makes me want to dance around and writhe in an undulating fashion, like one of ‘Pan’s People’ (raunchy TOTP dancers in the seventies).
That’s it – I’m done. Great album. A lot of fun (yes, ‘fun’) to listen to, like flipping through your faves on a drunken Friday night in with a few friends. In all honesty though, the originals are covered so well here, and with such attention to detail, that I may as well listen to the originals. This is a relatively ‘straight’ attempt to pay tribute to one of the most important bands in the annals of rock, and because of this fact, ‘Hawkwind Triad’ doesn’t quite hit the money for me. If you’re going to cover a song, then make it your own. Deviate from the original; warp it until it’s bordering on ‘beyond recognition’; speed it up; shorten it; slow it down; drag it out – play with it. Clever covers – Moss strangling the Discharge classic ‘Maimed & Slaughtered’, or Bong heartily perverting ‘Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun’ so its even more potently psychoactive than the original. As a final note though, if this album gets a whole host of young new listeners in the states into checking out Hawkwind, then great. Listen to the first five studio albums son. Now go and form a band. And lay off the acid.
Scribed by: Adam Stone