What does it sound like?:
Oh Orinoco, oh Uncle Bulgaria. Did you ever think that forty years down the line your Colonel Parker, your Guy Chambers, would be providing orchestral chops for the musical terrors of Stonehenge. Or, in other words, what a long strange trip it’s been.
When I signed up for this gig my thoughts were ‘Never actually listened to Hawkwind. God knows what they sound like now, but it’s good to move out of the comfort zone.’ On inspection of the press release their record label has provided, the following words ‘For their 31st studio album (giving The Fall a run for their money) the band have collaborated with legendary composer and conductor Mike Batt to recreate a selection of Hawkwind songs with extra orchestral arrangement’.
Yes, dear reader. It’s the LPO lurgey once again. We’ve traded down somewhat from Aretha and Elvis, to now find the UK’s Championship level space-rockers getting their best known tracks (or are they….) rinsed through with light orchestral backing.
I’m a gonna go with this two ways. If you can ignore the press release, the awful cover which sees a cartoon of ‘ver Wind playing cricket, and the Wombling Christmas hitmaker, the songs themselves stand up pretty well. The chugga-chugga krautrock rhythms are indestructible. Eric Clapton – Eric Clapton everyone! Adds what are described in the press release as ‘licks’ to The Watcher. Which is pretty good for The Listener. I liked The Watcher, Flying Doctor, Psychic Power while finding Quark, Strangeness and Charm (in this version anyway) intensely irritating.
Now…what actually. What actually is the bleeding point. Let’s take Flying Doctor, from the classic Hawklords (legal case, different name, do keep up) 1979 album 25 Years On (now that is confusing, as 1979 was more than 25 years ago). The original is well loopy and like many bands of the time shows a brave attempt to go a bit, er, new wave. And, joy of joys, there’s what to my untutored ears sounds like a jews harp solo.On the Return to Utopia Batt boy remix there’s…no jews harp. Psychic Power has some punchy sub-Dexys horns that probably are an addition to the original. A band who most people have heard precisely one song by (not on this album of course) have their mostly unheard songs remixed for people who have not yet heard the original.
What does it all *mean*?
So, who exactly is this for? Is it for someone who’s never heard any Hawkwind and wants an introduction? In which case surely a career retrospective would be a better start, where you can hear the original versions. Would you recommend anyone who wants to start with Neil Young to listen to Unplugged over Decades? People I think would possibly be interested:
Claptonheads – Just the one track then.
Mike Batt obsessives – this should slot nicely in between Katie Melua and the Wombles. Maybe.
Hawkwind completists. I guess it’s you then.
The cartoon cover might look nice in a frame (not!). I got mildly obsessed with the cover (no imgur guys, look it up) and am guessing the batsman lobbing a gentle catch to mid-off and the Bumrah-esque bowler are both Hawkind members. But where’s Batty? Is he the portly fielder checking his phone instead of keeping his eye on the action, or the slightly depressed umpire layered with many many jumpers. I’m guessing Eric Clapton’s contract specified that he was under no circumstances to appear at short leg.
For the ageing rocker some career advice: if you can imagine your manager’s new idea being a subject of a Private Eye celeb cartoon then don’t do it. I can imagine the butler at the door of Garybloke/Mike’s mansion going ‘Mr Batt, a David Brock is here to see you. He says he has a great idea for a collaboration. We did think he was a poacher, but apparently he is a musician’ This also applies to an episode of Brian Pern, and everything about this has a Pernesque smack to it.
Goes well with…
Having your rough edges smoothed off. So perhas with doing your nails, or exfoliating.
Might suit people who like…
Hawkwind. Mike Batt. Oh there’s not much in the middle of that Venn diagram is there?