Hawkwind - The Charisma Years 1976-1979 [Atomhenge/ Cherry Red - 2016]Here we have a recent CD box set that brings together the four albums released by British space-rock institution Hawkwind in the late 1970ís, on respected & cult prog rock label Charisma. For the most part all four albums see the band in more focused/song based mood, with the later albums having a very distinctive new-wave/post-punk vibe about them.
The four albums each come in the own mini card slip sleeve, which reproduce the vinyl artwork in miniature. Thereís no inlay booklet for the set, and instead you get a fold-out mini poster/ minimal liner notes single sheet affair. Then all four albums come in a flip lid glossy box.
First out of the door we have 1976ís Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music. This appeared at a time of fairly big change with-in the bands line-up, Lemmy had just been fired as bass player, and Robert Calvert became the bands full-time vocalist, instead of the poet role he had on the bands 1973 album Space Ritual. The bands pervious album Warriors On The Edge Of Time had been a bonafide space/ psychedelic rock classic, with itís epic yet approachable offering of space rock with layers of keyboards & synths, moody flute & saxophone trails. Most of the tracks on Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music are a lot shorter in running length- coming in mostly between three & six minute mark. Also genre-wise the album is a bit less focused moving from simple chugging 70ís rock, onto quirky spoken word- meets atmospheric violin/ sax rock stylings, onto instrumental blends of funk & spacey jazziness on top of simplistic jam like settings. The album passers by pleasantly enough, but really a lot of it seems a little indistinctive, as if the band are trying to find a new identity after the changes. The instrumental tracks sadly feel a little half finished & like studio jams, instead of full form pieces. Also after to thick & layered synth sound of Warriors On The Edge Of Time, keyboards seem to playing a lesser part in the bands make up.
Next in line we have 1977ís Quark, Strangeness and Charm. This eight track album seems a bit more focused thought-out, and more album like- instead of a collection of tracks. Thereís often quite a sci-fied new wave like vibe to proceedings- with chopping synths blended with more wiry sounding guitar work- Though the bands original space-rock stylings still remaining, there just blended in more. Also a vocalist & lyric writer Robert Calvert feels like heís coming more into his own- with tales of returning space travellers, android replicas & the like. We also get a couple more epic tracks each coming in around the seven to nine minute mark.
Album number three in the set comes in the form of 1978ís 25 Years On, with the band name of Hawklords (apparently due to legal reasons). This album stands as one of the most controversial albums of the bands career; due to the almost total departure of the bands original space-rock sound for a more an edgy post-punk/ new-wave sound. It features eight tracks, and these are a lot more formal & focused in their verse- chorus setting, as well as a mix of more punchy Ėto-quite taut melodies & riffs too- with really none of the bands more jam tendencies been present. As album goes itís ok, though I think having a different band name( for what ever reasons) is most fitting, as really this doesnít much at all like any other Hawkwind album- before or since.
Last in the set we have 1979ís PXR5. This see the band returning to their original name, and mostly a more traditional Hawkwind sound, but with a more punchy new-wave edge. The album takes in eight tracks, and these last between just under two to six mintues- with just one track hitting the epic eight minute mark. As Hawkwind albums go is perfectly fine, though it does feel a little by numbers at timesÖ.with the more stretched-out & less focused feel to appearing on a few tracks.
On the whole itís great to have these late 1970ís Charisma albums released in one place. Not all of them are classics, but neither are there any total stinkers either, with even the lesser albums having their moments. My only complaint would be itís a pity there couldnít have been a more substantial inlay booklet- discussing the albums, band members memories, press cuttings, etc from the time.