Simply can’t keep ’em down. New music, orchestral and acoustic, anniversary tours and now a career-spanning compilation from Hawkwind.
Release Date: 10th December 2021
Label: Cherry Red Records / Atomhenge
Format: 2CD / 6 CD deluxe
How do you cram the fruits of a fifty (plus) year career into some sort of compilation? You can be brutal and edit it down to two CDs worth and run the gauntlet of the ‘should have / shouldn’t have included…’ brigade or go for the more luxurious option of having six discs that contain 81 tracks and several hours worth of Space Rock indulgence. Even then you may come short of trying to contain a Hawkwind retrospective.
On the other hand, Cherry Red have been good to Hawkwind over the last few years when it comes to releasing their new music, so ca n be considered as trustworthy as anyone when it comes to a considered evaluation of one of the most legendary of British bands.
Dust Of Time sees all eras of the band covered, the good, the bad and the ugly, with the occasional ‘rare’-ish or alternative track or live cut thrown in.
For all the years, all the albums and the ins and outs of line up changes, you can sometimes find it a task to spot the joins. That’s despite the shift from making their mid Seventies Space Rock mark before shifting to the more poetic performances with Robert Calvert as key lyricist, before the 1980s and 1990s saw them embraced by followers of Heavy Metal and latterly Acid House audiences.
All the while, the the thought that occurs that the song has remained pretty much the same as the band retained their influential edge, doing things their own uncompromising way and occasionally dipping into the signs and sounds of the times. Admittedly, the danger is that we could end up with a review that’s almost as long as the Dust Of Time collection itself.
So indeed, we start by travelling waaaay back to to 1968 to find Dave Brock singing Bring It On Home. Imagine if you will, the picture of Dave that recently appeared in PROG magazine where he’s on the streets of London in fringed jacket, seemingly serenading some old dear. Thos busking days, even to the extent of playing for free on the edges of festivals, played their part.
Even the opening track on the first album, Hurry On Sundown, is a pale, but fun, shadow of the outfit that would explore the sonic boundaries with their rudimentary technical prowess. The mono single version having a particularly bass-heavy mix, while on the same sequence we get the sprawling You Shouldn’t Do That where the experimentation starts in earnest. By the end of that first disc we’re in very familiar territory, having rubbed elbows with Master Of The Universe, Down Through The Night and Urban Guerilla. And – a spectacularly dynamic Born To Go from the Greasy Truckers Party.
Disc two has the key tracks – The Psychic Warlords (Disappear In Smoke), Assault & Battery, Orgone Accumulator (Hawkwind’s Roadhouse blues?)and The Watcher all in this sequence while Disc three acts as a reminder that it wasn’t always whooshing, whizzing Space Rock and grooving out over pounding repetitive riffs, via a couple of rock and roll numbers that fit the Bowie/Glam Rock template. Constant little reminders crop up that Hawkwind would regularly tap into the zeitgeist while retaining their core essence – Death Trap is proto Punk and Me To Your Leader heads into Techno. Not surprising that they would earn a reputation as a band that would be embraced beyond their more obvious followers.
The more recent work might have been acknowledged in a more fleeting fashion ad credit to Dave Brock and whoever else he ropes into being Hawkwind at that particular time, that he still has the passion to continue to do what he’s been doing for so long. However, let’s address the elephant in the room by acknowledging that Hawkwind is about those pioneering Seventies flights.
The beauty of accumulating such a set is the fact that occasional mighty but forgotten in some mists of time tracks (Robot springs to mind) is revealed and will trigger reminders that take you down the road on which the portal into that particular album, and of course you know the rest… A compilation that does the job in providing the gateways into the the albums and the catalogue.
Dust Of Time also becomes the first compilation to encompass key tracks every era of this remarkable band’s history and is a tribute to their legacy as warriors skirting the edge of time. “You can’t do this, you can’t do that, you can’t go forward and you can’t go back,” – who says?
And – here is Dust Of Time from the Levitation album: