Hawkwind: This Is Your Captain Speaking... 1970-1974

Oil lights, synths, urban guerillas, naked dancers! Wake up, Captain, it’s one of the box sets of the year!

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Signed to Liberty as the 1960s faded away, Hawkwind’s zoo was tended by acid-crazed keepers. The boracic, busking Dave Brock was nominal leader, but their debut album (1970) was left in the hands of ex-Pretty Thing Dick Taylor who got all the ingredients together, just not in the right order. Even so, the track Seeing It As You Really Are justified the space-rock obsession that they mixed with raw synths and a progressive peculiarity that matched the early krautrockers.

In Search Of Space (1971) locates Hawkwind in the Agitprop camp with 12-string guitars and metronomic rhythms underpinning pre-punk diatribes against Britain’s social torpor. While drummer Terry Ollis and bass man Dave Anderson smacked out a beat that could drown out the Westway, Brock, Nik Turner, Dik Mik and Del Dettmar introduced the patchouli-soaked heads to the zonked delights of the audio generator. This album can still transport the listener back to the era of power cuts.

Talking of which: Greasy Truckers Party (1972) documents their part in the midst of crumbling Britain and remains the classic underground Roundhouse gig. With Robert Calvert and Lemmy on board the band are in their psych jam element: plus you get to hear the wonderful Silver Machine, a No. 3 hit that sounds vital now.

Doremi Fasol Latido (1972) is their metal magnum opus, a warp speed wall of sonic bravura. Brock’s Time We Left This World Today chimes with the vogue for heading out to the stars. Sure the drugs were strong but with music this dense one joins the escapist queue. There you might find kindred spirits embarking on The Space Ritual Alive (1973) recorded in Liverpool and Brixton. It’s the ideal summary of Hawkwind’s musicnauts ethos. The inner sleeve motto: “We were born to go as far as we can fly: Turn electric dreams into reality” says it all, really.

Hall Of The Mountain Grill (1974) has its highlights, notably the Edmonton Sundown versions of You’d Better Believe It and Paradox, while the studio stuff is about as polished as Hawkwind ever get. The ‘1999’ Party (live from Chicago, 1974) and the compilation Of Time & Stars: The Singles rubber-stamp one of the best box sets of 2015./o:p

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