HAWKWIND Live 1990 (Hawk)

This well-filled double CD contains the band's performance on the ITV programme "Bedrock", as well as other, undocumented, live recordings from the titular year. It's a little difficult to determine which bits come from where. The first disc and opening three tracks of the second are pretty well recorded, barring the odd stuttering dropout, but from then on the sound quality is sufficiently different to suggest the remainder of the album is drawn from an entirely different source altogether. Containing abbreviated versions of songs already featured, the sonics suddenly become congested and compressed, not conspicuously stereophonic and with the odd crackling outbreak of interference. The very obvious presence of violinist Simon House, compared to his absence on the earlier material, who according to the sleevenotes left soon after the "Bedrock" taping, suggests this section is that, although some detective work is required to reach this conclusion.

Enough of the deerstalking, what about the music? Well, for a first extended listen to Hawkwind, it's surprisingly enjoyable. Whilst being almost exactly the expected brand of volcanic space rock, there's a kind of outlaw, punkish energy behind the music that makes some kind of sense coming from the band that provided Lemmy with a living in his pre-Motorhead days. Other reference points might include The Grateful Dead (a bit obvious, perhaps, but probably their only equal in the stoned but structured jamming stakes) and Pink Floyd (ticking clock effects all over the place), whilst effects like the circling motorcycles during "Ejection" highlight how great chunks of the Hawkwind experience have been appropriated by young tykes like The Orb, keeping the original sources sounding fresh. If the band aim slightly below the kind of free-falling instrumental vortex whipped up by Ozric Tentacles, the result is arguably rather more consistent and dependable. And for every jarring few minutes - the mad scientist narration during "Back In The Box", for example - there are compensatory stretches, such as the wonderful, subtle playing that closes "Night Of The Hawks".

Hawkwind fans will undoubtedly scoop this up hungrily, the package enhanced by the fact that very little of the material performed here seemed to make it to their studio albums. For the uninitiated there must be better first purchases - something/anything with "Silver Machine" on, for example - but "Live 1990" does more to explore the mystique than explode it.

HAWKWIND Space Ritual Vol. 1 (Back On Black) 

I feel a rant coming on. I bought Back On Black's double vinyl album "Space Ritual Vol. 1" naively expecting it to contain the entirety of the 1973 double vinyl album "Space Ritual" (or "The Space Ritual Alive In Liverpool And London", to give it its Sunday name). I felt especially secure in this as a cursory scan of the tracklist seemed to match up, presuming that Back On Black's simultaneously issued double album "Space Ritual Vol. 2" would be a reissue of the 1985 album "Space Ritual Volume 2".

Of course, it's not as simple as that. Back On Black's "Space Ritual Vol. 1" actually contains the contents of the first CD of the 2007 reissue of "Space Ritual", which only covers the first three sides of the original double album. To hear its thrilling conclusion, I have to pony up another 22 quid for the accompanying "Space Ritual Vol. 2", home to everything previously found on the second CD of "Space Ritual" stardate 2007, that being side four of the original album and a raft of bonus material.

The logic behind this strategy utterly escapes me. Why not bung the lot in a nice box and sell the material complete? Who could possibly think that "Space Ritual" would be improved by losing the last 25% of it? (People who don't like Hawkwind, I suppose).

Rant over, what about the music, or what I have of it, at least? Well, as a first extended listen to Lemmy-era Hawkwind, I can report that it's not bad. Repetitive, maybe, but not without a certain psychedelia-scorching charm, like a Jurassic age version of The Orb, or Ozric Tentacles with all the whimsy distilled off. Proceedings are punctuated by sci-fi poetry that suggests The Moody Blues on the wrongest drugs available, and peak with the glammy grind of "Orgone Accumulator", and not just due to familiarity with Pop Will Eat Itself's concise cover. For a live album, though, there's precious little audience response, and although the music certainly has the spontaneity and reverberant bounce of a concert there's not much conventional atmosphere in the swirling sonic fog.

Somewhat belying their name, Back On Black have pressed "Space Ritual Vol. 1", pretty competently, I must admit, on blue vinyl. Unfortunately the quality of what's impacted into the vinyl isn't quite so commendable. Given how closely the tracklist apes the 2007 CD version, and the "2007 Digital Remasters" credit on the cover, it would surprise me if anything as quaintly archaic as an original master tape was involved in its creation. I have no conclusive evidence that it's just the CD cut to vinyl, apart from the dry and uninvolving sound, but this is not the kind of reissue that envelops the awestruck listener in cuddly analogue warmth.