HAWKESTREL – SpaceXmas

Purple Pyramid 2020

HAWKESTREL –
SpaceXmas

Looking for tidings of comfort and joy, merry gentlemen shoot from Albion shores into the great wide open.

“To each his own” must have been Alan Davey’s rationale for steering his interstellar enterprise towards the Christmas star – otherwise, this attempt of harnessing space rock to a terrestrial season. Still, it’s not the usual Hawkstrels extravaganza this time, as the twelve mostly traditional pieces on display aren’t a galactic gathering of guests, as "Pioneers Of Space" was, featuring one fellow performer on each track, save for a few, only such a minimalistic approach doesn’t affect the album’s effusive sonics. Of course, the material here is more than familiar, yet the prog treatment of Yuletide fare often feels alluring, if not arresting, here.

While the ensemble could do well to let Leonard Cohen’s immortal “Hallelujah” rest, despite the spectral presence of Nik Turner’s flute which flutters over gloomy lyrics, the use Glenn Hughes‘ soulful pipes for scintillating opener “Oh Holy Night” – dipping the vocals into Mellotron magic and sprinkling them with celesta – proves to be an ingenious move on Davey’s part, and the same can be said of weaving Robby Krieger’s sitar in the muscular groove of “Little Drummer Boy” where Alan’s booming bass lays down a mighty riff. His heavy, albeit solemn, delivery, with synthesizers adding symphonic drama, may make “We Three Kings” counterbalance “O Come All Ye Faithful” whose happy ivories are manned by Rick Wakeman, although Steve Leigh’s keyboards improv on “Silent Night” is very impressive too, but it’s the weightless “It’s A Wonderful (Funny Old) Life” and “Für Kirsty” – the former the group pilot’s co-write with Huw Lloyd-Langton, the latter the late six-stringer’s solo number – that shine the brightest thanks to their baroque-esque acoustic lace

Which is why the motorik drive and Jürgen Engler’s processed singing on the carols-quoting “Ein Weihnachliches Lustobjekt” slightly ruin the concept flow, and “Jingle Bells” loses lightness in favor of Davey’s stately passages, before the finale of “Twelve Daze Of Drinxmas” finds him and Danny Faulkner drenching merry rock ‘n’ roll in boozy nebulae – imbibing a genuine spirit of Xmas. Here’s a strange brew of an album that will work its many flaws notwithstanding. Just like the winter’s holiday, really.

***4/5

March 9, 2021

Category(s): Reviews
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