Flicknife 1981-1988 / Atomhenge 2014
Stray strands of space rockers’ labyrinthine DNA given a Schrodinger’s box treatment on five CDs.
One may think the ’80s weren’t the greatest of times for HAWKS, yet leaving Gerry Bron‘s stable didn’t prevent the band from chart action. No surprise, really, given the band’s diversity thanks to its members’ varying agenda that’s on display here. Flicknife Records became a home for group’s archival releases, while their only fully-fledged album on the label, 1985’s "The Chronicle Of The Black Sword" could have overshadowed the cosmic bandits’ releases on RCA had it been conceptually lighter. Speak about parallel universes but Dave Brock’s always found a spirit of the age a mere function of musical ideas, so whether it’s an H-entity or a spin-off, there’s an unbroken umbilical cord running through the cuts which sometimes hardly share a lot of a common ground.
As a result, 1983’s “Zones” that occupies the second CD of this collection – each disc in a replica of its original sleeve – emerges as an integral work which defies its own piecemeal nature. The album threads demos for “Levitation” and “Sonic Attack,” such as a wordless cross of “Dust Of Time” and “Fifth Second of Forever” in the guise of “The Island,” with concert tapes from the “Choose Your Masques” tour and creates an entirely new storyline. There, hung heavily on social commentary, the glossy romanticism of “Dangerous Vision” hits the rocks once the consumerism-lambasting couples the “Utopia ’84” diatribe and the belligerent “Social Alliance,” whereas Michael Moorcock ups the alienation level with a rap on “Running Through The Back Brain.”
Moorcock and his DEEP FIX are a tangible presence on the initial instalment of the “Friends And Relations” triplet of outings, expanded now with single and EP tracks, including “Dodgem Dude,” a slice of insistent glam from the B-side of the lyricist’s ensemble’s debut ’45, and the soulful “Good Girl, Bad Girl”; the combo’s bassist Pete Pavli re-emerges alongside Arthur Brown associate Drachen Theaker on disc 4 as STRAVINSKY’S SHOE to cook up a gloomy, cello-adorned beat of “Vampire.” Splintering into fractions sheds a beckoning light on each musician’s contribution to the canon, the point made very clear by Nik Turner’s individual aerobatics on jazz perennial “The Man With The Golden Arm,” on HAWKS’ 1982 outtake “Turner Point” or within his INNER CITY UNIT’s punky quirks on “Raj Neesh,” and by Brock’s solo rendition of the “Motherless Children” blues, swamp twang shooting into a nebulous electronic backdrop. Elsewhere, the dance element of the enterprise is represented by raves from its leader’s debut under his own name and from the HAWKLORDS rhythm section, Martin Griffin and Harvey Bainbridge receiving a personal spot – the former in the company of Richard Strange and Dave Winthrop among others; the latter on solitary terms.
Still, it’s classic material in freshly fashioned interpretations that the fans will focus on, be it’s a transparent 1977 reimagining of a "Warrior On The Edge Of Time" staple “Golden Void” by SONIC ASSASSINS, another venture for Dave Brock and singer Robert Calvert, or two madfully harmonic readings of “Brainstorm” by the HAWKS themselves, who, on the “Out & Intake” comp which takes the last CD of the box and piles more 1982 live cuts with studio workouts, cover the streamlined “Ejection” from Calvert’s solo LP without him in the ranks, while the last volume of the family anthology holds the delicately funereal “Widow Song” – planned for "Captain Lockheed And The Starfighters" too, but committed to tape a decade later, in 1984. Harking much further back, the earliest composition on offer aren’t even “Who’s Gonna Win The War,” a brilliant 1979 demo by HAWKLORDS – whose “Valium Ten” is as enchanting as its title suggests – smoothed with Steve Swindell’s synthesizer magic before the mothership collective appropriated the piece for their Bronze swansong, but “Hurry On Sundown” from 1969 laid down as HAWKWIND ZOO. The other track from the same session, the equally psychedelic “Sweet Mistress Of Pain,” saw the light of day in the mid-’70s on the flip side of the “Kings Of Speed” instrumental that closes the first CD on a merry note here.
The third one drills deeper into the history and is launched with an on-stage smearing of “Earth Calling” – recorded soon after it was cut for the album but before the world heard it on “Space Ritual” – and a 10-minute-plus BBC session for the otherwise non-issued trance of “We Do It” whose par-below quality only stresses that the target audience of the whole thing is collectors. Who else might be interested in “Psychedlia Lives” documenting HAWKS’ 1981 appearance at Glastonbury and capturing their revitalized groove as perfect as “Spirit Of The Age” from 1977, the last recording of Calvert under the HAWKWIND banner? Yet even without him the 1987 attempt to resurrect a 10-year-old “Hassan-i Sabbah” as “Assassins Of Allah” sounds fantastic.
It’s great to have it all in one box that, with the rest of HAWKWIND’s Flicknife output also reissued on Atomhenge, pretty much rounds off the band’s not-so-shallow ’80s. It’s rewarding to be a completist when there’s a presentation like this.