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- Take Me To Your Leader
Review No: 247
Jason Stuart: Keyboards
Simon House: Keyboards, Violin
Arthur Brown: Vocals
Matthew Wright: Vocals
Lene Lovich: Vocals
Jez Huggett: Saxophone, Flute, Trumpet
James Clemas: Keyboards
‘Take Me To Your Leader’ is the 21st all new studio album to come out under the Hawkwind banner since the band’s conception in 1969. (The number would run into hundreds if you counted all live albums, compilations, and semi legal bootlegs). It is also a fine return to form by the original lords of Space Rock. Hawkwind’s last studio album was ‘Distant Horizons’ from 1997, which quite honestly should have stayed on a distant horizon. The following year ‘In Your Area’ was released which was a better album, but being half live and half studio did not quite make up for the disaster of Horizons.
Part of this slump in form may be attributed to the fact that long time Hawkwind bass and keyboard player Alan Davey (he joined as a mere slip of a lad of twenty in 1984) temporarily left the band in 1996 to work with his own band ‘Bedouin’ who are worth checking out on their own, but then that is a story for another day. But the cat came back, and although Alan Davey joined the band fifteen years after its conception, he had become an integral part of the band, as is shown by Hawkwind’s rejuvenation here.
Hawkwind of course have been and always will be led by their captain Mr. Dave Brock, who’s contribution here is stamped all over every nuance, a man still at the absolute peak of his creative powers. Dave Brock is joined on ‘Take Me To Your Leader’ by long time Hawknaut drummer Richard Chadwick who joined in 1988, and has stayed the flight ever since. Dave Chadwick had a tentacle in writing four of the songs on this album, one with sole credit ‘Digital Nation’ which has already become a staple of the Hawkwind live show, as I am sure it will remain for many years to come.
The album is topped and tailed by two tributes to their former front man Robert Calvert. The first story on this album is a re-recording of the Hawkwind classic ‘Spirit Of The Age’ written by Robert Calvert and Dave Brock in 1977 for the album ‘Quark, Strangeness and Charm’. The story is of travel in deep space and being frozen in time, leaving behind your loved ones, so quite obviously upon your return, they are no longer still around. So, if on your space journeys you have an android for company and she doesn’t love you, things can become a little complicated! Sound a little strange? Well what do you expect from Hawkwind!
Just to make things a little weirder, Matthew Wright, a long time Hawkwind fan and popular children’s TV presenter in Britain, has been invited into sing Robert Calvert’s words and what’s even weirder is that it works perfectly. ‘Spirit Of The Age’ has been brought dragging and screaming into the year 2005, and even if you have the original it is well worth getting this album to get your story updated.
‘Spirit Of The Age’ is brought to a fine Hawkrock conclusion, and then blends neatly into ‘Out Here We Are’, the first Alan Davey song to materialize, emphasizing the importance of his role within the band. Beautiful layers of Hawkwind keyboards are layered one upon another to give you that sound that only the masters of Space Rock can produce.
This slow paced instrumental track shows you all the classic traits of the Hawkwind vibe, whilst adding a few twists of its own with a very jazzy feel in the mid section, leaving room for some stunning saxophone work for sometime Hawknaut Jez Huggett. The song lulls you along in a swish of sound, relaxing your ears to the sonic waves, but as the song drifts out, the second Alan Davey song ‘Greenback Massacre’ launches off from its platform, reminding you never to turn your back on any Hawkwind as it can instantly whip into a tempest at the flick of a switch.
‘Greenback Massacre’ is probably the best new Hawkwind rocker since ‘The Secret Agent’ on Hawkwind’s album ‘Electric Teppe’ (1992). The unmistakable sound of Dave Brock’s guitar leads us into another song, this time written by Captain Brock, ‘To Love A Machine’. You do start to worry a little about the band’s fixation with love and machines, but then those in glass space ships and all that.
The title track is led in by some smoky blues piano, which shows the band are not afraid to delve back to their roots (scratch any band hard enough and you will come up with a Robert Johnston riff), but as the song slowly appears the bass work is so heavy it will make your speakers rumble, and your windows fall out. I’m pleased to say the moggies for several blocks scattered when this first dropped out of the CD player. The perfect centrepiece to any Hawkwind album.
This is strongly followed by Richard Chadwick’s ‘Digital Nation’, everything a Hawkwind song should be, futuristic to an extreme. It also allows Chadwick’s punk flag to fly high, frightening when you think about it that time has slipped by so quickly that although Richard Chadwick started out his musical journey as a member of the punk revolution, he has now been the mainstay of a band that is regarded as the oldest hippies in space.
‘Digital Nation’ also shows off some more influential work by Jez Huggett, this time on flute. As the songs are led up for inspection they just get better and better.
Next is an Arthur Brown song (yes he, the very same god of Hellfire). ‘Sunray’ twists the dials up a notch with the band giving rock solid support to a Brown crazed (sic) vocal. Arthur Brown has certainly lost none of his passion over the years and his screams as the song reaches its climax are as chilling as ever, whilst ex-Hawkwinder Simon House adds some sonically enhanced violin to the mix, whilst James Clemas plays keyboards as if being auditioned for the role of ‘Phantom Of The Opera’.
‘Sighs’ is just a minute burst of some spaced out Hawkwind to introduce the last proper song on the album ‘Angela Android’, which could be ‘Spirit Of The Age Part Two’; more stories of consorting with metalloids, taken at a very fast space race time, with tongue firmly poked in cheek. (I Hope!) The songs close out with an amazing cameo appearance by Lene Lovich who plays out the role of the aforementioned android, when she springs into life, giving the androids side of events.
The final number on the album is a rant by Arthur Brown paying tribute to the eccentricity of Robert Calvert, who twenty years after his death still has a great influence over the band. Brown plays it as if he is actually having a conversation with the great man, whilst the band jams up the Hawkwind groove behind him.
All in all a fine return to form from the spaceship Hawkwind. As ‘Take Me To Your Leader’ took three years to get together, we shall not be expecting any new product in the immediate future, but this will be a standout album among the many highlights of Hawkwind’s space journey.
If you still think that Hawkwind was a one hit freak wonder with ‘Silver Machine’ (1972), ‘Take Me To Your Leader’ would be a good point to find out that there is more to the Hawkwind machine than a thin silver varnish.
The axis of Hawkwind has now expanded to a quintet with Jason Stuart joining the band, providing a great contribution to this album on the keyboards. The artwork on the front cover by Peter Pracownik of an alien landing is worth the price of the album alone.
The band is now out on the road in Europe, getting your musical appreciation improved by getting some Hawkwind.
‘Take Me To Your Leader’ is dedicated to the memory of John Peel and Tommy Vance.