United Artists 1975 / Atomhenge 2013
From the Vikings to the vanity fair: the HAWKWIND warbler recounts how the West was won – and lost to whiskey and good vibrations.
Long before Columbus set his foot in The New World and Vespucci gave his name to this land, the continent get conquered by the Scandinavians… Well, almost, but the classic “what if” scenario seems interesting enough to have caught Robert Calvert’s imagination. And when his former band worked around the story of a fantasy champion, the singer drew parallels between the Vikings’ name for the future America, Vinland, and the country’s drinking problems which resulted in The Prohibition. Now, the concept felt less restrictive as the Widowmakers satire of the artist’s solo debut, so its follow-up, produced by Brian Eno, provided Robert with a broader stylistic canvas to paint on. Which he did brilliantly.
Who else could swing the northern Berserks into the Appalachians and have Michael Moorcock play banjo on the raw country of “Moonshine In The Mountains” or toss the Norse seafarers onto the crest of the wave and base “The Lay Of The Surfers” on “I Get Around” as if they were your regular beach boys before passing the vocal polyphony to “Voyaging To Vinland” and its electric battle march? Pastiche? Of course, but there’s more to the record than a simple parody, the lyrics’ alliterative tease and the spoken word of “The Making Of Midgard” that splinters and echoes in a kaleidoscopic way. It gets far from the usual HAWKS skronk, although “Storm Chant Of The Skraelings” drags its mantra quite close to the space ritual.
A different sort of tribalism marks the dub of “Volstead O Vodeo Do” daubed with Nik Turner’s sax, natty groove appearing also on the non-album “Cricket Lovely Reggae” – minus juke joint sleaze and gunfire. Burning slowly, “Ship Of Fools” opens the proceedings with an unhurriedly unfolding riff that floats on its folksy sails into a psychedelic reverie where the seagulls’ cries crack the bluesy skies whence Paul Rudolph’s guitar solo falls, stricken down with Simon House’s violin, while the mass-culture-baiting “Magical Potion” boasts the Diddley beat and harmonica and “Brave New World” dissipates its harpsichord-sprinkled baroque into bluegrass harmonies. Conversely, the pert funk makes “Ragna Rock” the tightest piece on offer, prefacing both disco craze and Calvert’s return to the ensemble fold. Yet “Lucky Leif” remains a curious testament to his singular talent, its peculiar mythology still standing tall as a Drekar ship.