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2010 : VOLUME 35
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REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:


Mars Hollow – Mars Hollow
Mars Hollow – Mars Hollow
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:10t Records
Catalogue #:10T100241
Year of Release:2010
Time:57:33
Info:Mars Hollow
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Wait For Me (9:29), Midnight (5:07), Eureka (9:20), If I Were You (7:32), In Your Hands (6:33), Wild Animal (7:10), Dawn of Creation (12.22)

With the marketing material accompanying this debut album, the California based quartet Mars Hollow tries to convince potential fans with references such as ELP and Spock’s Beard. That’s not so surprising as there are connections between several of the bands members with musicians such as Ryo Okumoto, the eccentric keyboard player of “The Beards”, and knowing that several of them played in the ELP tribute band The Endless Enigma. If you look at the website of record label 10T, the CD already was a pre-sale best seller. Impressive names are dropped to underline the quality of this band, including the fact that the mixing and mastering has been done by King Crimson associate Ronan Chris Murphy. So let’s find out if Mars Hollow really is the new rising star they promise us.

Let’s first have a look at who are we dealing with. Mars Hollow has a classic line up with four musicians and consists of John Baker (vocals/guitar), Jerry Beller (drums/vocals), Kerry Chicoine (bass/vocals) and Steve Mauk (keyboards/vocals). Most of the lead vocals are done by John Baker, who has a high voice, which makes me think a bit of Jon Anderson (Yes) or Roger Hodgson (Supertramp). His singing is mostly at full volume, so there is not much dynamic variation there. However, the “poppy” track In Your Hands is sung by Kerry Chicoine, who apparently is the main song writer (the artwork accompanying the CD is not very informative, so I am not sure if he wrote all of them). In spite of the reservations I mentioned, I definitely prefer Bakers voice above Chicoine’s.

The seven tracks on the CD all are song oriented and melodic, with instrumental parts that show some jazz and fusion influences. The music makes me think now and then of the Swedish band Brother Ape. The sound is very “natural” with no modern effects and gimmicks. The production sounds pure and authentic, as if the songs have been recorded live, including some rhythmic errors here and there which are not fixed. The charm of the music is perhaps precisely that. No expensive producers have made more of it than what’s essentially there. On the other hand, you might think of this as not living up to modern standards.

It’s the riffs and solo’s that make the music “proggy”. Mars Hollow plays a style reminding us of the seventies, although in addition to ELP no other band of that era pops up to my mind. Sometimes riffs are a bit annoying if repeated too much, as for instance with the electric guitar at the start of the opener Wait For Me or the Hammond arpeggio in the third track Eureka.

Several synthesizer and guitar solos on the album sound like they are the result of spontaneous improvisations. Sometimes this works out fine (for instance in the synthesizer solo in Midnight or the guitar solo at the end of If I Were You), sometimes this doesn’t (synced synth solo at the end of Wait For Me).

Mars Hollow is not a bad debut and the CD is rather pleasant to listen to. There are a couple of rather good tracks on it, my favourites being Dawn Of Creation and Wild Animal with a fine multi vocal chorus and a screaming guitar solo at the end. Yet I miss too much depth and originality in the compositions to find Mars Hollow really as convincing as the marketeers expect me to.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

ERIK LAAN



Wigwam - Fairyport
Wigwam - Fairyport
Country of Origin:Finland
Format:CD
Record Label:Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue #:ECLEC 2182
Year of Release:1971/2010
Time:65:39
Info:Esoteric Info
Samples:N/A

Tracklist: Losing Hold (7:06), Lost Without A Trace (2:29), Fairyport (6:53), Gray Traitors (2:48), Caffkaff, The Country Psychologist (5:22), May Your Will Be Done Dear Lord (5:28), How To Make It Big In Hospital (3:01), Hot Mice (3:19), P.K.’S Supermarket (2:20), One More Try (3:26), Rockin' Ol' Galway (2:27), Every Fold (3:07), Rave-Up For The Roadies (17:20)

Wigwam - Being
Country of Origin:Finland
Format:CD
Record Label:Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue #:ECLEC 2183
Year of Release:1974/2010
Time:38:19
Info:Esoteric Info
Samples:N/A
Wigwam - Being

Tracklist: Proletarian (2:10), Inspired Machine (1:25), Petty-Bourgeois (2:58), Pride Of The Biosphere (3:15), Pedagogue (9:11), Crisader (4:47), Planetist (3:08), Maestro Mercy (2:32), Prophet (6:11), Marvelry Skimmer (2:32)

Wigwam - Live Music From The Twilight Zone
Wigwam - Live Music From The Twilight Zone
Country of Origin:Finland
Format:CD
Record Label:Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue #:ECLEC 2185
Year of Release:1975/2010
Time:70:56
Info:Esoteric Info
Samples:N/A

Tracklist: The Moon Struck One (17:20), Let It Be (7:49), Groundswell (6:35), Pig Storm (2:54), Nipistys (8:38), Imagine (3:32), Help Me / Checkin' Up On My Baby (7:27), Grass For Blades (15:38)



I, like many prog fans in the UK had my first taste of Wigwam with their 1975 international breakthrough album Nuclear Nightclub. Described as the most important Finnish band of the seventies they came with a history and a respectable catalogue of releases behind them stretching back to their inception in Helsinki six years earlier. Following their first two albums Hard 'N' Horny and Tombstone Valentine (released in 1969 and 1970 respectively) their third release Fairyport made its debut in late 1971. With three writers within the band they had more than enough songs for a single vinyl album so rather than a compromise they extended it to a double album with the 17 minute plus live jam Rave-Up For The Roadies filling out the entire fourth side.

The band comprised Jukka Gustavson (vocals, piano, organ, electric piano), Jim Pembroke (vocals, harmonica, piano, electric piano), Pekka Pohjola (bass, violin, acoustic guitar, piano, Celeste, harpsichord, backing vocals) and Ronnie Österberg (drums, congas, percussion). This keyboard dominated collaboration combined prog with 60’s flavoured pop-rock and occasional jazz excursions which celebrated the instrumental dexterity of the four musicians involved. This is exemplified in the title track Fairyport which features Gustavson’s flashy Oscar Peterson inspired piano runs competing with his own fuzzed Hammond playing. His soulful vocal delivery ain’t half bad either whilst Pohjola’s nimble bass work and Österberg’s tasteful drum fills are a sheer delight.

British born Pembroke for his part contributes some memorable and tuneful songs including the wistfully acoustic Lost Without A Trace and the penultimate Every Fold. Other standout tracks but in a proggier vein includes Pohjola’s lively instrumental Hot Mice and the strident opener Losing Hold which brings to mind early ELP, PFM and Greenslade. The aforementioned Rave-Up For The Roadies on the other hand which was recorded live in Helsinki on 6th June 1971 is a disappointing closer. It’s a cacophonic mess with bootleg quality sound and over indulgent guitar wailing (and feedback) from guest Jukka Tolonen. As such I strongly suspect that when it originally appeared on vinyl few people got past side three after the first couple of plays. Noticeably absent from this Esoteric reissue is the bonus track that appeared on the 2003 remastered edition which combined a live version of Losing Hold with the bands take on Sibelius’ Finlandia.

Following a gap of nearly three years, the fourth album Being saw the band continue along the fusion route this time with a melodic Canterbury flavour evocative of Hatfield And The North and National Health. They added Mini-Moog and VCS 3 synthesizers to their usual array of keyboards and also enlisted the services of orchestral instrumentation including soprano saxophone, flutes, clarinets, oboes and bassoon. As before Gustavson was responsible for the more adventurous pieces whilst Pembroke provided the shorter, song based material. To use ELP as an analogy, you could say that Gustavson was Keith Emerson to Pembroke’s Greg Lake. Wigwam on the other hand also had Pohjola in their ranks whose lush instrumental Planetist makes effective use of the aforementioned sax and woodwind led by his own classically inspired violin.

Pembroke’s songs are all typically laidback affairs, including the haunting Maestro Mercy, the American rock influenced Marvelry Skimmer and the quirky Petty-Bourgeois. His vocals during the latter song are very bizarre as is the mock sermon he provides for Gustavson’s otherwise stately Pride Of The Biosphere. And its Gustavson’s compositions that continue to dominate including the opening pairing of Proletarian and Inspired Machine which is centred around a riff very similar to Wishbone Ash’s Vas Dis. Crisader, Prophet and the albums near 10 minute centrepiece Pedagoguen all see an exploration of prog-jazz themes occasional bordering on jazz-funk with inspired keyboard playing to the fore. Gustavson also seems to have developed a liking for Stevie Wonder influencing his vocal phrasing along with the electric piano doodling during the latter piece.

Following the albums release, the increasingly disenchanted Gustavson parted company with Wigwam in the summer of 1974 followed soon after by Pohjola. This left Pembroke at the helm and it was under his leadership that the Nuclear Nightclub album would materialise. Prior to that however a farewell tour was captured for prosperity under the title Live Music From The Twilight Zone, a double album recorded in June 1974 but not released until the following year. Unprecedented for a live album it features no songs at all from the bands previous albums and none penned by Gustavson. By this point the band was so fragmented that they couldn’t even agree on a full set list of their own tunes so compromised by including a number of standards like The Band’s The Moon Struck One, The Beatles Let It Be and John Lennon’s Imagine. The performances and sound quality throughout however are well above par.

The Moon Struck One took up the entire first side of the original vinyl release and features a very solid performance from Wigwam joined by new member Pekka Rechardt. His guitar and Gustavson’s superb organ soloing are tastefully incorporated into the song bringing to mind the instrumental flair of Santana. Let It Be and the mellow Groundswell both feature stunning bass solos from Pohjola whilst his own composition Nipistys is a typically majestic instrumental that has more than a hint of Focus about it. Rechardt’s heavy and bluesy Pig Storm is a little too close to both Cream’s Sunshine Of Your Love and Deep Purple’s Smoke On The Water for comfort for my money whilst Pembroke’s Grass For Blades allows for some very impressive soloing from all concerned. Pohjola’s showy display in particular will bring a smile of recognition to those familiar with Chris Squire’s similar workout during Fish.

So ended a significant chapter in the history of Wigwam. Fairyport and Being proved to be the progressive rock highpoints in the band’s career and Live Music From The Twilight Zone for its part demonstrated that live the Gustavson, Pembroke, Pohjola, Österberg partnership was a force to be reckoned with. Pembroke and Österberg along with Rechardt continued under the Wigwam banner until the bands demise in 1978 whilst Pohjola developed an artistically successful solo career working with the likes of Mike Oldfield. Gustavson’s later profile was not as high but remained typically diverse including composing music for ballet and writing classically inspired themes that expanded his spiritual beliefs. Sadly Österberg committed suicide in December 1980 whilst Pohjola passed away in November 2008.

Conclusions:
Fairyport: 7 out of 10
Being: 7.5 out of 10
Live Music From The Twilight Zone: 7 out of 10

GEOFF FEAKES



Porcelain - ...As It Were. Here And There
Porcelain - ...As It Were. Here And There
Country of Origin:Finland
Format:CD
Record Label:Univocal Music
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2009
Time:45:30
Info:Porcelain
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Lost In Haze (6:39), Parts (6:16), Caught In A Dream (5:23), Rainbow (5:49), Someone & Love (8:18), Markens Grøde (4:29), Vinden (8:41)

“Good Old 70’s progressive rock”, that is the way that Porcelain identify themselves. While the word porcelain may conjure up something fragile or easily breakable, this band can be as tough as nails. It is hard to distinguish the multiple influences that thread this album. The band often plays music that reminds me of early psychedelia; reminiscent of Pink Floyd during the Syd Barrett era. However, Charlotta Kerbs adds some spice with her down and dirty Grace Slick inspired vocals. This combination results in some otherworldly music that even though reminiscent of 70s prog often mixes and combines to formulate something entirely new. Normally, I would not evaluate an album on a song by song basis, but in order to give you the best understanding of something so eclectic I think it is necessary to take inventory of what this album has to offer.

Lost In Haze: This song jump starts the album as if you have leaped in, in the middle of the album. It is a rocky way to start the album, and perhaps this track would have better served the album by being placed later in the mix. Nevertheless, the immediately obvious garage nature of the band is in full swing. This is not a finely chiselled prog album, but rather a jam session that the listener has just happened upon. Many who walk by may run away as the music is a little bit of an assault on the senses, but you are only feeling some of the burn that results in a fast take off, stick around this band has somewhere they want to take you. One can also hear some elements of Blind Melon guitarist Roger Stevens’ style in Niklas Harju’s guitar; full of distortion and pedal effects.

Parts: A quiet Floydian opening sets the landscape complete with a pillow of winds. This is clearly a hymn to environmental concerns. Kerbs voice lazily lilts across a wasteland, a world in chaos. Her voice almost a cry for help issues from a sparse atmosphere. Markus Kankkonen nicely sets a bass tone that is almost Shamanistic in its rhythm. One can imagine the band in a desert around a night fire, pleading their case to a world gone mad.

Caught In A Dream: An otherworldly vision appears to our intrepid hero’s. As Kerbs weaves the story of the dream, the band builds to a lazily marching beat. The keyboards are used here both to set a mystical mood and to offer a taking off point from the song. Towards the end of the song Tony Nystrom offers a short liftoff that carries us easily into...

Rainbow: In this album I am often reminded of the jamband spirit of the West Coast. Here in particular, the music is often reminiscent of Rusted Root and the mellower moments of Blues Traveller (sans the harmonica). The cries of Kerbs again feel like flashes in the dark. Pia Kurten brings in the violin creating a folk duet that is a cross between Celtic and indigenous tribal sounds.

Someone & Love: For me this is the standout track of the album. Not only is it of epic length but it passes through varying phases and tells a story that is haunting and eerie. Kerbs narrates the story of a lost woman whom she engages in conversation on the street. Meanwhile the band creates a background for what will become Kerbs “Clare Torey” moment. The full stretch of Kerbs vocal prowess is belted out in dramatic fashion. Her voice punctuates emotional moments within the story that are cathartic and dramatic. One can also here some homage to Porcupine Tree in the way the music builds in fits and starts. But then again, I would say that The Doors are easily being represented here as well.

Markens Grøde: Someone & Love blends into this song and this results in the feeling of a suite. Again the music has that sparse early Floydian style that ultimately provided the backdrop for so many journeys in Pink Floyd. Set The Controls comes easily to mind as does the dream sequences for movies from the early 70’s. Again the drums hold a tribal quality, repetitive and mystical. This is also another shining moment for Nystrom’s Hammond.

Vinden: This is another song bleed, closing the suite with a quiet Finnish prog landscape. Kankkonen plays some very mean bass on this track, but sadly it is a short solo. While the song does not remain quiet it starts and ends there, again rising and falling throughout the song. A slow build allows all the musicians to chime in with their own personal signature.

Although the band suggests that they are influenced by Yes, Genesis, and Camel, these rarely show up in the music. What does show up however is a mixture of Finnish folk and garage jam, sometimes reminiscent of The Doors and Pink Floyd crashing into Janis Joplin and Grace Slick, and often a bridge between progressive rock and the jam band movement. The most important thing for you to know is that this is a band with potential. Within the confines of this brief survey of their sound, one can see the blueprint for something original and powerful getting ready to be born. While I certainly wish each of the musicians would have stretched their wings a little more, in the brief moments that they did so their music soared.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

WOODY HARRIS



Sendelica – Streamedelica
Sendelica – Streamedelica
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:R.A.I.G.
Catalogue #:R052
Year of Release:2010
Time:70:55
Info:Sendelica
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Song Of The Seidr (4:33), Dream Mangler (6:24), Screaming And Streaming Into The Starlit nite (9:16), Carn Ingli Hill Of Angels (4:58), Day Of The Locusts (25:17), Power of the Sea (3:13), Spacehopper Blues (8:24)

As I am always looking to broaden my horizons within the progressive music genre, with differnet bands, musicians and musical streams that I have very little experience of. So recently I cast my gaze over this latest release by Sendelica, Streamedelica ~ She Sighed As She Hit Rewind On The Dream Mangler Remote, to give it its full title. A Welsh group of psychedelic rockers, who not so long ago Jim Corcoran did a review on their previous release, The Girl From The Future Who Lit Up The Sky With Golden Worlds.

Now it is my turn to review this very psychedelic looking CD with a swirling head of what I believe to be a woman, most likely Nemesis the dancer/vocalist who is accompanying the band on at least their live performances. Similar to the dancer, Stacia, who was present with the concerts of Hawkwind in the past.

It is also with Hawkwind that I find a similarity within the music, as it is of the same intriguing psychedelic type. At times very experimental and at others, hard Stoner rock and it is my guess that Sendelica will always perform their music in a altered form from the music as played on an album. The music lends itself to long improvisations, especially with the epic track Day Of The Locusts, to which I found myself wandering off in a dreamland. I was walking in the Welsh country side, wide open spaces, wind through my hair, hovering in the clouds.

Fair is fair, Sendelica make music for your senses, best listened to at high volume, alone in a room, or in the field, eyes closed and dreaming. Dreams about future and past. Things to come or just to forget everyday life.

It is by far an easy album, let alone the title of the album. Day Of The Locust will certainly be on my playlist more often and maybe some of the other tracks. I enjoyed the album very much.

Conclusion ~ if you are very much into improvisation or psychedelia then Sendelica is an absolute must. Otherwise you may try, but beware, it is far away from AOR or...

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

GERT HULSHOF



The Dino Haak Collective - Filmscore
The Dino Haak Collective - Filmscore
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2010
Time:42:46
Info:The Dino Haak
Collective
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Das Foto (3:30), Elektrik Sirloin Funk (3:23), Filmscore (3:22), Games Without Frontiers (4:11), Dromedary (3:24), Life Bit Me (again) (2:59), K.G.Z. Panik (5:04), Hollow (4:21), Thannheimer (4:01), Plakattack! (2:26), Two (6:05)

Dino Haak is a German artist resident in the USA. His move to America may have been supported by progressive rock musicians such as Trey Gunn and Emmett Chapman, but that alone does not qualify his music as “progressive rock”. Neither does his use of the Mobius Megatar, a twelve-string touch-style instrument of the same family as the Chapman stick. No, the qualification would have to come through the music. Now, regular readers will know that I have a lenient interpretation of where the boundaries of “progressive rock” are situated within the musical universe, but not even I can squidge Filmscore into that part of space. Irrespective of the instrumentation used, I would call Filmscore a cross between funk and club music: Haak himself calls it “groove”. Joining Haak on the album are Todd Gray and Alex Westcoat (drums), DJ James Ho (turntables!) and Artis the Spoonman (spoons & wisdom!).

So, unless that type of music has some appeal for you then you’re unlikely to enjoy Filmscore. I enjoy funk all the way from James Brown to some of the rockier versions such as Heads Up! and find some club music enjoyable in small doses – and I’ve also enjoyed Filmscore’s mix of sung and instrumental music. If you want to hear Peter Gabriel’s classic Games Without Frontiers played in this “groovy” style, then this is your big chance.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10

ALEX TORRES



Illusion – Turbulence And Tranquility
Illusion – Turbulence And Tranquility
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Legacy Media
Group
Catalogue #:LMG0901
Year of Release:2010
Time:55:05
Info:Illusion
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Now Is The Nothing (4:28), Bible Black (4:13), I Am What Might Have Been (4:41), Of Time And The River (2:44), You Lied (3:28), All Too Clearly (4:11), The Despised (6:10), Tapping (4:20), Immaculate Deception (5:04), Die A Little More Tonight (3:27), A Winter’s Tale (3:42), Nevermore (4:46), His Shell (3:46)

Illusion are John Patrick (guitar), Jon Roybal (drums and vocals), Ron Smith (bass, acoustic guitar and vocals), and Doug Tucker (vocals and acoustic guitar), who hail from Detroit, Turbulence And Tranquility being their third album proper.

Turbulence And Tranquility is an album that strides the crack of classic rock / prog metal having one foot planted firmly either side not really wanting to step to one side or the other which allows Illusion an opportunity to keep their options open.

Turbulence And Tranquility is an average album at best, that is not genre defining or ground breaking. Some of the songs presented here are very samey and at times I have struggled with the boundaries between the ending of one song and the start of another. The instrumentation throughout is of a good standard featuring some really nice guitar work, All Too Clear, Immaculate Deception and Trapping are really good example of this, but as a whole the package just lacks something?

Illusion have definitely been heavily influenced by some of the classic rock giants, their promo quotes them as being, “Descendents of legends such as Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Rush,” which to be honest is somewhat pushing it. I think probably I could name quite a few bands that Illusion does sound like in various places. They have got a whole mixed bag going on here, having come up with thirteen tracks of basic rock, prog metal with a hint of originality

Now Is The Nothing opens the album sounding very much like the spoken intro of Dream Theater’s Scenes From A Memory before dropping into a retro sounding Tenacious D track, with a somewhat unique vocal presentation. There is some really nice bass work throughout from Smith and some tight stick work from Roybal. Bible Black has a Japanese toned opening with some very exquisite acoustic work with Tucker hitting the mark, sounding somewhat vocally like Ian Anderson and could maybe have sat on the Jethro Tull album Broadsword And The Beast. Patrick’ exquisite guitar work kicks in, upping the ante and the pace, becoming a more classic rock affair. I Am What Might Have Been features some really nice lyrical work, but does to be honest sound like an extension of the Bible Black. As ever the great guitar tones presented are housing a great hook and melody. Of Time And The River strolls along with some great interaction between electric and acoustic guitar, the back line really hold this together. I really like Roybal’s drum style, it’s just has something about it and is really well complemented by Smith’s bass work. You Lied drops back into the classic rock land with some great guitar work, the vocals are probably for me the weakest on this track, which lets the side down making it sound like an album filler. All Too Clearly picks up the pace again struggling to step out of the same domain as You Lied. The Despised opens with its heavy guitar work which soon drops into some very interesting guitar passages that have been well layered with the song having a Blue Oyster Cult feel. Tapping is an area that Illusion needs to explore further, having a very intriguing approach and style, being one of the stronger tracks on the album along with All Too Clearly and Immaculate Deception. Patrick’s good guitar style saves the day. Immaculate Deception allows Patrick, Roybal, Smith and Tucker time to relax and structure a really strong song which musically complements each other. Die A Little More Tonight is Illusions attempt at a radio friendly hit single, which sounds nice and saccharine with some very nice guitar tones and maybe being the other avenue that Illusion should pursue or investigate. A Winter’s Tale steps up the game being the nearest thing to prog metal for me where the vocal work is at is most effective and powerful. Nevermore has a basic and tired approach which sounds like another album filler. One or two of the interactions within the song work well, the guitar lead is strong as ever, but on the whole Nevermore just doesn’t go anywhere. His Shell revisits the Ian Anderson arena again with Smith playing some nice acoustic guitar being a fitting and strong album closer.

John Patrick is the saving grace on this album as he has recorded some really strong and adept guitar parts which has added some character to the whole affair, which would have otherwise have been rather dull. There is definitely a lull in the album, where the band seems to have run out of steam. What is interesting though, during these perceived lulls there are some really good little interactions. For me this is where the problems lay, the vocals aren’t consistently strong throughout the whole album, some of the songs are very samey in approach and the biggest let down for the band is the production. Had the production value been brighter the piece as a whole may have come across as being a bit stronger? This is certainly something for the band to think about on their next release.

Conclusion: 5 out of 10

JOHN O'BOYLE



Hawkwind - Church Of Hawkwind
Hawkwind - Church Of Hawkwind
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Atomhenge
Catalogue #:ATOMCD 1021
Year of Release:1982/2010
Time:61:45
Info:Hawkwind
Samples:N/A

Tracklist: Angel Voices (1:21), Nuclear Drive (3:39), Star Cannibal (5:32), The Phenomenon Of Luminosity (2:40), Fall Of Earth City (3:23), The Church (1:38), The Joker At The Gate (1:54), Some People Never Die (3:34), Light Specific Data (4:06), Experiment With Destiny (2:46), The Last Messiah (1:41), Looking In The Future (4:09), Angel Voices [extended version] (2:21), Harvey's Sequence (3:00), Fall Of Earth City [alternative version with Harvey Bainbridge vocal] (4:49), Water Music (Light Specific Data) [demo] (4:41), Looking In The Future/Virgin Of The World (10:23)

Church Of Hawkwind was the group's second release on RCA records, originally hitting the racks in May 1982, although much of the groundwork for the album had been laid during the sessions to the previous year's Sonic Attack album. This was during an unplanned hiatus in recording due to drummer Martin Griffiths contracting German measles and having to spend several weeks recuperating. In his absence, the remaining members of the band, Dave Brock, Huw Lloyd-Langton and Harvey Bainbridge, took the time to experiment with a more electronic approach which took the music in a different direction to that which their fans were used to hearing. This was particularly evident in the drum department with live drums only appearing on six of the original twelve tracks of the album.

The album starts with the pre-flight checks of Angel Voices and is typical Hawkwind segueing neatly into Nuclear Drive, a fairly straight forward number that is not too different from material that had appeared on the previous album, with lots of synth sounds, plenty of guitar and a driving rhythm. The band seem to get into a bit of a rut and end the song with, what else, an explosion! Well why not? Star Cannibal harks back to the style of music first explored by The Hawklords, although there is a strong resemblance, particularly at the start, to Uncle Sam's On Mars. At five and a half minutes the songs goes on for too long with not enough variety, even if the bass synth does song particularly good on this re-mastered version, particularly when played loud! We are back aboard a space craft for The Phenomenon Of Luminosity which features a recording of astronaut John Glenn talking to NASA mission control during the first US manned space flight in 1962. A typical brief Hawkwind linking piece. Another track to use recordings is Some People Never Die, the origins of which date back to the time of The Hawklords in 1978. During those sessions the first attempts at amalgamating news reports of the assassinations of both Lee Harvey Oswald and Robert Kennedy with a musical backing were undertaken. That recording, under the title Assassination, can be heard on the second disc of the Atomhenge reissue of 25 Years On.

Two other tracks that stem from the original Sonic Attack sessions in June 1981 are Fall Of Earth City and The Church (both of which were included as demos on the recent Sonic Attack reissue under the titles of The End Of Earth City and Devlish Dirge). These two tracks, along with the following The Joker At The Gate really highlight the problem with the album - the lack of coherence and flow. It does seem like a collection of leftovers cobbled together. Better is Light Specific Data, the start of which I swear Pink Floyd appropriated for Signs Of Life!). This a more rounded instrumental number: it is certainly the less esoteric and more band orientated numbers that stand out. As with Nuclear Drive, if a suitable way to end the track doesn't come to mind, bung in another explosion! Experiment With Destiny, a reworking of Virgin Of The World, also from the Sonic Attack album, was originally intended to close the album, written to segue from Looking In The Future although for some reason the two tracks were separated on the final running order. The linked tracks are included as one of the bonus numbers. The Last Messiah is a 101 second synth piece leading into the aforementioned Looking In The Future which uses the Longfellow quote "Lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time", previously used by the band on Assault And Battery [part 1] from the Warriors On The Edge Of Time album. Another good song and one of the album's highlights.

As with all Atomhenge/Esoteric releases, the CD is rounded out with bonus material. In addition to the original pairing of Looking In The Future/Virgin Of The World, the CD includes a different, and longer, version of Angel Voices, an overlong, and rather dull, synth piece by Bainbridge (appropriately called Harvey's Sequence), an alternative version of Fall Of Earth City with Harvey Bainbridge providing the narration, and Dave Brock's Water Music, the original demo for Light Specific Data. The 1982 LP release featured a limited edition illustrated lyric book which, as would be expected, is fully reproduced in the CD booklet.

Church Of Hawkwind was the last Hawkwind that I bought on its release as it was a case of diminishing returns from the band and changes in personal musical tastes. Re-evaluating the album after 28 years its strengths are more evident as are the all too apparent weaknesses. Not a patch on the classic Hawkwind albums but it still has its moments.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10

MARK HUGHES



Psychedelic Warriors (Hawkwind) - White Zone
Psychedelic Warriors (Hawkwind) - White Zone
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Atomhenge
Catalogue #:ATOMCD 1023
Year of Release:1995/2010
Time:45:16
Info:Hawkwind
Samples:N/A

Tracklist: Am I Fooling (1:28), Frenzzy (5:49), Pipe Dreams (3:37), Heart Attack (0:54), Time And Space (4:04), The White Zone (7:32), In Search Of Shangrila (5:35), Bay Of Bengal (1:37), Moonbeam (4:07), Window Pane (5:09), Love In Space (5:24)

And lo, it came to pass that in the year one thousand nine hundred and ninety-five, common era, the three sonic troubadours that flew on the Wind of Hawk did find themselves in the house of acid, succumbing to the movement of rave. The unholy union begat White Zone, a bastard child that besmirched the very name of their glorious forefathers. And verily, the results were as piss poor as all other like sounding music of the rave.

Okay, so maybe that is rather tongue in cheek, but this album contains very little that would be of interest to even the most hardcore of Hawkwind completists. Repetitive synthesised beats, dance vibes and the stuff of musical nightmares. Certainly a few pieces, such as Pipe Dreams, Time And Space and Bay Of Bengal, rest more in the ambient field, and parts of the title track are typical Hawkwind of the era (although would have been stronger if some of the extraneous additions were deleted), but the album is largely superfluous and tracks such as Frenzzy are not an easy, nor enjoyable, listen. The only vocals are voiceovers, such as the instructions on how to vomit tidily (I kid you not!) on Heart Attack.

The album was not available for long following its initial release, although one hesitates to suggest that had anything to do with the style or quality of the music. Best one can say is that it was a bold experiment for the time but, like a trendy teenage haircut, probably wisest to leave it in the drawer of embarrassing memories.

Conclusion: 2 out of 10

MARK HUGHES


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