Sunday, 23 January 2022

Doremi Fasol Latido - Hawkwind


Provenance: As with Gryphon, Hawkwind are another band I've inherited from my dad. I've got albums, been to see them (and a few of their offshoots) live; hell, I even spent a weekend on the Isle of Wight at HawkFest.

Yet I'm no superfan. It's taken me a while to get around to reviewing Hawkwind on this blog. The reason behind that is, in my life, Hawkwind speak to a very specific mood, or perhaps more accurately, a particular state of mind. A state, as it happens, that is not very congruent to sitting down and tapping away at a computer.

Nonetheless, ultimately it's music - and thus even if my third eye is a little attenuated on a dull Sunday afternoon, I'll give it the old college go.

Review: Almost immediately after hitting the play button on my stereo, I regret that I'm not lying back in a darkened room at midnight. I could close a few curtains but it would be a faint attempt at recreating the ideal conditions to absorb Dave Brock's singular contribution to our specie, Hawkwind. In fact, 2am in a marquee surrounded by other revellers and vision-questers is probably the ideal. As I have mentioned before now, Simon Reynolds has convincingly argued the case that EDM can only be properly experienced at a rave, with the attendant sensations, lighting - and drugs. I think the same applies to Hawkwind.

So, I'm not about to get myself twisted at the same time as Paul O'Grady: For the Love of Dogs is on TV (nor will I ever, really - I'm notoriously boring in this regard). Still, at their best - which Doremi Fasol Latido approaches - Hawkwind are a mighty proposition, beaming in all manner of strange vibrations from the dimly-perceived reaches of the galaxy. For the uninitiated, Hawkwind have worn a few hats in their time, but their most famous guise is as 'space rock' pioneers; long, jammy, semi-improvised pieces with an emphasis on repetition and lashings of burbling synths and crazy guitar tones. Not top forty stuff - for the most part.

For the most part, that's what you get on Doremi Fasol Latido, especially on the likes of 'Brainstorm', 'Lord of Light' and the lengthy 'Time We Left the World Today'. However, there's a very cool acoustic spine to many of the tracks here, which suggests a kind of bridging between the hippy past and the electronic whoosh 'n' clang sound that would come to dominate the space rock genre. The woodiness of acoustic guitar and the extra-terrestrial beeps and blats actually blend very well on tracks like 'Space Is Deep' and a personal favourite of mine, 'Down Through the Night', which sounds like a transmission from the starry vault above. Meanwhile another acoustic number, 'The Watcher', was straight enough a composition to appear in relatively unaltered (albeit, massively amplified) form on Motorhead's debut album.

Yes folks, this is Lemmy-era Hawkwind; in fact, Doremi Fasol Latido is the first studio album he appears on. In what form, however, is a little obscure, simply because his bass is virtually inaudible. His inimitable croak, like a toad regurgitating a sheet of sandpaper, graces one track, though it is in (relatively) limber form compared to how it would sound only a few years down the line. Still, I don't really mind the lack of bottom end, as all the fun stuff on Doremi Fasol Latido occurs in the mids and trebles - the hypnotic two chord buzz-guitar for one, and Nik Turner's free verse flute and saxophone soloing. I've long been a big advocate of people going insane on the flute in rock music, and would love to see a revival.

(A couple of days ago I saw a cool band in Brighton that featured a dude playing amplified accordion. Immensely enjoyable. More of this in rock music, please, but specifically, more hog-wild flute parts.)

Now, whilst I very much like the version of Hawkwind that attempted things like melodies and choruses (Quark, Strangeness and Charm), it's this iteration, one that deals more in sounds and textures, that is dear to my heart. Out go pop song structures - in come grinding guitars, motorik percussion and synthesizers that feel like they're about to split apart. Yes, there's plenty of abandon present, but lurking at the centre of Doremi Fasol Latido is a kind of meditative focus; that through ritual (you could describe much of the music as here in the vocabulary of chants and marches) and intent, we're only a tachyon or two away from hitting upon the universal resonance that opens us up to the music of the spheres.

Take heed my fellow psychonauts, Doremi Fasol Latido is the rocket fuel needed to kick clear of Spaceship Earth, even if it's just for forty minutes or so. It's longer than Bezos managed.

Thursday, 13 January 2022

Rock The World - Various Artists


Provenance: Back when I were a lad and finding my feet musically, compilation albums proved a great gateway drug. I look down on them a little these days, and perhaps I should rethink; it is through a compilation album that I got hepped to my favourite band, Blue Oyster Cult. 

Now, Rock The World and I have a history going back many years. My mum used to work in a library, and as such would often bring home tapes and CDs that she thought my brother and I would be into. That way led me to becoming a fan, fairly idiosyncratically, of both ZZ Top's Recycler and Aerosmith's Nine Lives, neither of which would ever be hailed as tree toppers by those bands' fans.

Rock The World was one of these albums mum brought home to us, and we played the shit out of it. I think my brother even obtained a copy. However, like some kind of weird divorce, as we drifted off to university, first me and then my brother, our music collections had a parting of the ways. All of a sudden I was bereft of Van Halen, Ozzy Osbourne and Megadeth; he was left pining for Steve Vai and Motorhead, amongst others. Nonetheless, Rock The World went one way, I went another.

Fast forward to April 2020 and I was idly dicking about on Discogs looking for some eldritch NWOBHM release or another when from nowhere the thought popped into my head: Rock The World! And lo, there it was, with a British seller and a total price (including p&p) of £6.44. Automatic purchase. The transaction was conducted swiftly, buyer 'n' seller gave each other pleasant reviews, and then I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Until, finally, I contacted the seller to suggest the CD was lost in the Bermuda Triangle of a Royal Mail sorting office. £6.44 duly refunded and I got on with life.

Then, last week, a padded envelope arrived. Not entirely unexpected as this coincided with my birthday, and friends often send me music as a gift. But - you've guessed it - inside was Rock The World a full eight months after I had ordered it. The address was one house number awry, and this was apparently enough to send it into limbo for two-thirds of a year. Still, I have it now, a little piece of my youth. Nice, eh?

Review: What is there to say? It's the kind of rock comp that contains 'Layla' by Derek and the Dominoes (sans Duane Allman outro), '(Don't Fear) The Reaper' by Blue Oyster Cult (retaining Buck Dharma's masterful solo) and other big beasts like 'Bat Out Of Hell', 'Smoke On The Water', 'Born To Be Wild', 'Boys Are Back In Town', 'Hold The Line' get the picture. Little you hadn't heard before, one would suspect.

Indeed, the listening experience is like a pleasant stroll through one of the calmer zones in Jurassic Park - imagine each of these songs as peaceful sauropods lumbering around, any threat that their sheer size presents countermanded by their docility. Fuck, there's even a mimetic quality to 'Smoke On The Water', possessing as it does the exact rhythm, one suspects, of a charismatically large dinosaur ambling to a watering hole. 

In fact, this harmlessness is the common characteristic to all the cuts on Rock The World. There's no New Wave spikiness, nor thrashy bite to proceedings, and precious little mystery. Black Sabbath's hoary old workhorse 'Paranoid' is about as occult as things get (though that didn't stop us playing it at Band Bash - our version contained an ill-starred slide guitar solo, performed by yours truly). Saying that, there are a couple of curveballs herein - relatively speaking, of course.

For example, when I first encountered Python Lee Jackson's downbeat beauty 'In A Broken Dream' I was very impressed with how their lead singer could ape Rod Stewart so well (until I discovered it actually was Rod Stewart). Starship's 'Jane' is the only track with a cod reggae section, and Atomic Rooster's brassy 'Devil's Answer' would be partly responsible for my later purchase of their excellent Death Walks Behind You album. Amusingly, as there was about a zero percent chance of licencing a Led Zeppelin track, some jabronis called Black Velvet deliver an admittedly very credible 'Since I've Been Loving You' (were Kingdom Come not available?).

Ultimately, though, the value of Rock The World doesn't stem from the music it contains, though it's a bit of quaint knockabout fun in the age of streaming and shuffle. It doesn't even matter that it's dad rock incarnate, so much so that you can picture it in bootcuts, feigning expertise in single malts and hitting on your girlfriend. No, this album represents something greater - sitting on the battered sofa in my bedroom with my brother and our friends, going nuts at each other over a multiplayer cage match of WWF War Zone on the PS1. Memories of laughing uproariously, dropping the Stone Cold Stunner whilst 'Black Betty' blares away in the background - now, isn't that worth £6.44?