"Space Hawks"

By the Great Sun Jester

This new studio release through Eastworld Records is not a traditional album featuring new material, but instead finds the veteran space rockers revisiting some of their recent material, reworking some long neglected gems, and including a few new tracks. Initially, I felt a bit skeptical about this sort of release and wondered if the relative dearth of new songs signaled a band on the creative wane. This seminal outfit, particularly its longtime leader Dave Brock, has faced enough challenges in their recent history to dampen anyone's enthusiasm. However, this release is not a piece of product with a few perfunctory new songs tacked on. It is a cohesive statement achieving the unique goal of casting a creative eye to the past while still aiming towards the future.

"Seasons", a highlight from the band's last studio album Onward, is a great opener. Over a fleet-footed groove, Brock and company unravel a classic dystopian Hawkwind lyric. The production and performance work to accentuate the instrumental sweep. There is real weight and energy behind the band's playing, but never overwhelms the listener. In fact, there is a sort of indefinable, but appealing, airiness surrounding the music that captures the attention. The band's mastery of dynamics is an important factor in their best songwriting and Brock's remix brings that to the fore.

"The Demented Man", from 1975's Warrior on the Edge of Time, might initially sound like a radical revision of the original, but reveals more than it distorts. On this album, "The Demented Man" returns to its initial conception as a lovely folk song with strong acoustic guitar work. The swirling orchestrations present in Warrior version are much lighter here. A definite high point on this album.

In a similar vein, "We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago" strips off the sonic murk surrounding the original version and, instead, presents the song with only minimal ambient backing. Dave Brock's clean baritone remains strong despite his advancing age and imbues the social criticism in the lyrics with the same confident, inviting vocals that have always helped define his singing.

 The inclusion of "Master of the Universe" serves as a tribute on this release. Featuring legendary and recently deceased Hawkwind guitarist Huw Lloyd Langton in his final studio recording with the band, his guitar playing announces itself early and often throughout this version. It will not cause anyone to forget superior versions, like even the original album cut, but this is perfectly respectable run-through of a classic Hawkwind warhorse and offers longtime fans a chance to hear the great Langton shine for a final time.

 "Sacrosanct", a new song, is an expansive marriage of crashing Hawkwind guitars and shimmering keyboard textures. While there are no lyrics per se, beyond some chorused female voices earlier in the track, this isn't cobbled together filler. Instead, it is another entry in a long tradition of Hawkwind "mood pieces" that succeed on a musical basis alone and a compelling listen.

 "It's All Lies" covers familiar lyrical ground for the band, but setting that aside, it is a great stomper with a punchy punk rocker spirit. The consistency of Brock's vision is remarkable. Through decades of shifting lineups, outright chaos, and innumerable releases, Hawkwind still stands expounding on the same themes and delivering their message with the same commitment that they displayed from the beginning.

This collection is a good purchase for new and old fans alike - Hawkwind are fielding one of the best lineups in their long history and the new songs demonstrate an abiding commitment to following the vision that has cemented their legendary status. Highly recommended.