CD Review: Hawkwind "Blood of the Earth"

CD Review:  Hawkwind "Blood of the Earth" 
Plastic Head North America
All Access Review:  B+

Major Tom is presumably still out there sitting in his tin can far above the moon, and from time to time, every couple of years or so, the unfortunate lost astronaut longing for his earthly home has probably watched the space-rock voyager Hawkwind rocket past his doomed ship, heading to parts unknown to any other musical entity of the last 40 years. Blood of the Earth is another mind-blowing trip through the psychedelic/prog-rock cosmos for a band that blasted off in 1969 and has put on more miles than all the space shuttles and astronauts in NASA combined.

Not quite as wild and wooly as 1973’s Space Ritual Live [live], but far more visionary than some of the atrocities of the late ‘90s and early 2000s committed in Hawkwind’s name, Blood of the Earth looks backward and forward, and eastward, for inspiration. On occasion, this version of Hawkind, with longtime leader Dave Brock (guitar, keyboards and vocals) still manning the captain’s chair and ably assisted by crewmen Richard Chadwick (drums), Niall Hone (guitars), Mr. Dibs (bass) and Tim Blake (keyboards), is capable of stirring up awesome cosmic tempests on command and shifting into the kind of maximum, hypnotic overdrive that would propel rhythm sections of the band’s glorious past through storming guitars, as they do on “Green Machine.” Pushing the needle into the red, Hawkwind takes off on a careening, metallic re-make of “You’d Better Believe It” from the 1974 LP Hall of the Mountain Grill with all the powerful thrust of Apollo 11, while the blurred rush of late-‘60s pyschedelia, propelled by airy horns, on the pulsating opener “Seahawks” is reminiscent of the Moody Blues in their prime.

The ultimate counter-culture tribe, one that is constantly creating planets of sound rather than visiting them physically on some “Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy”-like holiday, Hawkwind again merges prog-rock complexity, not to mention pomposity, with the sonic bombast of its space-rock imagination to stun us earthbound mortals as “Comfey Chair” builds and builds to a dramatic conclusion. But, Hawkwind doesn’t confine itself to building sci-fi soundscapes of wonderfully strange and trippy elements. The tribal beats that ground the soaring electronica and guitars that seem the aural equivalent of the Northern lights on another re-make, “Sweet Obsession,” from Brock’s 1984 solo effort Earthed to the Ground, lend an organic feel to the track, while the Middle Eastern-tinged “Wraith” is an exotic bazaar of instrumentation that has one foot in Persia and another in ancient alien worlds. 

Blood of the Earth doesn’t always captivate. There are valleys along with the peaks, places where everything is stagnant and seemingly not sure of where to go next. But overall, Blood of the Earth is typical Hawkwind in that it’s difficult to predict what direction their spaceship will go and the propulsive ride evokes a myriad of images and spacey effects that stirs the imagination.

- Peter Lindblad

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