OK, before you read this review of Hawkwind’s “Warrior on the Edge of Time” Three Disc Expanded Edition, you ought to know that I’m a bit of a fanboy of Mr Brock and his cohorts. However, having replaced most of my (stupidly sold vinyl) Hawkwind collection with CDs (and Vinyl) Warrior was one of the discs I’d omitted to restore for some unknown reason. How such an oversight could have happened I have absolutely no idea, suffice to say that when Mrs Hifi Pig and the piglets clubbed together and bought me this edition for my recent birthday I was somewhat over the moon.
For those that don’t know Warrior at the Edge of Time was Hawkwind’s fifth studio album and was released in the spring of 1975 on United Artists. It’s a bit of a concept album, this was the 70s after all, and many of the lyrics are provided by sci-fi author Michael Moorcock with whom the band have collaborated several times.
The three disc expanded version of the album gives you the original album remastered from the original ‘75 analogue master tapes plus eight bonus tracks on the first CD, a new stereo mix by Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree fame made from the multi-track master tapes is on CD2 where you also get another five bonus tracks two if which are previously unreleased. Disc three in the nicely packaged box is a DVD and contains 5.1 surround sound and stereo mixes of the album by Steven Wilson plus a 96kHz 24-bit flat transfer of the original ’75 master tapes. On top of the discs you also get a nice little 16 page booklet that has an “essay” by Malcolm Dome, loads of photos and other stuff Hawkfans will enjoy having a look at whilst listening to the album. It costs just shy of £19 which I think is very good value indeed and is a price that will allow the diehard fans as well as new folk curious about the band to dip their toe in the psychedelic waters.
If you don’t know the music of Hawkwind there’s a couple of questions that need asking, the most important of which is – where have you been hiding all this time?
Warrior kicks off with “Assault and Battery” which quotes lyrics from the poem “Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth laid over the heavy riffing, space noises, complex bass lines and heavy drums that are a Hawkwind trademark. Assault blends into “The Golden Void” which is more of the same with Nik Turners sax overlaid in places. It’s spacey, it’s psychedelic and it’s great (I did warn you at the start that I was a bit of a fan!).
Next up is “The Wizard Blew His Horn” which along with “Standing on the Edge” and “Warriors” further on in the album are Moorcock penned poems which are based on the author’s Eternal Champion character. Each of the poems are recited over the top of space noises, drums and whatnot and have heavily processed vocals which will get your head spinning nicely.
Track three is “Opa Loka” which is an instrumental dominated by relentless four/four drums with loads of noises/instruments overlaid. OK, I’m not describing this very well am I but you really do have to hear it to know what I’m banging on about. Next up comes “The Demented Man” which would seem to bring you down a little with its acoustic feel but what it actually does is take you further out there with its overlaid mellotron (always made me think of seagulls) and mournfully delivered lyric. It’s heady stuff and probably best appreciated whilst suitably chemically enhanced!
“Magnu” comes in at track five and starts with a disturbing wind and rain sound before giving way to Brocks head down riffing, Turners demented sax, relentless rhythm section and a reverse reverb on the vocal which creates the aural equivalent of vapour trials. It’s a long track at 8:15 and breaks down into percussion, electronics and keyboards half way through before getting back into the groove.
“Standing on the Edge” is next up followed by the Simon House penned “Spiral Galaxy 28948” which I’d always wrongly assumed was the actual name of a galaxy somewhere but is apparently just House’s date of birth. It’s a meandering track overlaid with electronics, violin and takes you into outer space – as you may well expect from the title.
“Warriors” and its Davros delivered recital is followed by Nick Turner’s “Dying Seas” which starts with a fabulous bass line, more riffing and overlaid electronics and sax. Last up is “Kings of Speed” with its Michael Moorcock penned lyric which should have been on his band “Deep Fix’s” album “New World Fair”
Ok so that’s the album as it was originally released and it has to be said brings back a lot of good, if slightly hazy memories from my misspent youth.
The bonus tracks on Disc One include Lemmy singing Motorhead which appeared as the B side of Kings of Speed from 1975, a Michael Moorcock version of “Soldiers at the Edge of Time”, “On the Road” with Dave Brock belting out the tune on acoustic guitar and harmonica 9Sadly not for very long) and a Nik Turner version of “The Wizard Blew His Horn” which I actually prefer to the version on the original album. There’s a demo version of “Spiral Galaxy” which is actually very good indeed, a Nik Turner version of “Soldiers at the Edge of Time” which was previously unreleased, a fabulous version of Motorhead with Dave Brock taking on vocal duties and an instrumental version of Kings of Speed. You may think that these extra tracks would be for Hawkwind completists but actually they’re pretty accessible and well worth having on the album – but then as I mentioned I’m a bit of a fanboy.
The second disk in the three disks in the pack is the version mixed by Steven Wilson and it has to be said that on first listen to someone who has heard this album countless times it’s a little disconcerting in that “err, that’s not what it should sound like” kind of way. However, once you get your brain over the fact that it’s processing something that is “the same but different” it’s actually very good indeed and sounds somewhat cleaner than the original mix with clearer separation of instruments in the mix. It does lose some of the feel of “flying by the seat of your pants” that the original has but it’s worth having in the collection for sure! As bonus tracks you get an instrumental version of “Motorhead” which is great, the previously unreleased “Dawn” which to begin with sounds like a Steve Hillage tune before breaking into a long meandering Hawkfest. The “Watchfield Festival Jam” is a pretty abysmal recording but sort of what Hawkwind are all about live – it’s long, it’s freeform and it’s very spacey! You also get “Circles” and then to conclude this disc you get “I Am the Eye” recorded at Watchfield Free Festival in ’75.
The final disc in the pack is the DVD which contains a 5.1 Surround Sound mix by Steven Wilson, the 96 kHz/24bit stereo mix and a 96 kHz/24 bit flat transfer of the original master tapes. I don’t do surround sound so this was a bit lost on me but the flat transfer of the original master tapes is absolutely stunning and, in my opinion, probably worth the asking price alone!!!
So, if you’re a fan of Hawkwind just go out an buy this or the Super Deluxe edition (Both are on Atomhenge through Cherry Red) which in addition to all the above comes with a 180g vinyl facsimile of the original album (along with the gatefold shield and bag) cut from the original analogue cutting master tapes. You also get posters, postcards and a few other bits and bobs with the Super Deluxe edition!