Hawkwind - Road To Utopia album review

Hawkwind: Orchestrated? Or castrated? Debatable

Hawkwind - Road To Utopia

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Hawkwind - Road To Utopia

Hawkwind - Road To Utopia

1. Quark, Strangeness And Charm
2. The Watcher
3. We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago
4. Flying Doctor
5. Psychic Power
6. Hymn To The Sun
7. The Age Of The Micro Man
8. Down Through The Night

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We’re all familiar with the well-worn phenomenon of bands in their latter years re-recording choice items from their back catalogues. Some do it to better represent their contemporary live incarnation, others because they’ve come to hate their former bandmates, Dave Brock’s apparently done it because he bumped into Mike Batt in the US Embassy’s visa queue. 

Ex-Womble wrangler Batt has more than made his mark here, he’s rearranged, played piano and orchestrated. With mixed results. 

Problems? The orchestral element is merely string quintet, sax quintet and brass section, which leaves Road To Utopia sounding less like a Wagnerian space rock spectacular and more like a BBC Big Band augmented slot on Seaside Special

Brass predominates, and Brock’s guitar is often lost in a mix favouring Batt’s keyboards. Bob Calvert’s characteristic vocal is much missed on a pedestrian Quark, Strangeness And Charm, and the coup of securing Clapton’s services for The Watcher finds Slowhand sleepwalking through a masterclass in snoozy blues. 

And the sleeve? More Barney Rubble than Barney Bubbles. A Brock-sung acoustic setting of We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago is a highlight, but the less said about how the massed saxes treat Down Through The Night the better. Shame.

Classic Rock’s Reviews Editor for the last 19 years, Ian stapled his first fanzine in 1977. Since misspending his youth by way of ‘research’ his work has also appeared in such publications as Metal Hammer, Prog, NME, Uncut, Kerrang!, VOX, The Face, The Guardian, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Electronic Sound, Record Collector and across the internet. Permanently buried under mountains of recorded media, ears ringing from a lifetime of gigs, he enjoys nothing more than recreationally throttling a guitar and following a baptism of punk fire has played in bands for 45 years, releasing recordings via Esoteric Antenna and Cleopatra Records.