Review Summary: "88 minutes of brain-damage."
A lot can be inferred from an album's artwork, and the cover of Space Ritual
shows you exactly what you're getting into when you listen to Hawkwind's fourth album. It's striking, it's overblown, it's memorable, and most of all it's entertaining; all words that describe this album.
Hawkwind is an English band formed in 1969 that plays a brand of space rock similar to Pink Floyd or Spacemen 3. Space rock is mostly characterized by ambient electronics and long instrumentals, and while both of these are definitely a part of this album, Hawkwind's music tends to be much more engaging than such a description would suggest, particularly because this is a live album. Spaced out jamming broken up by straight up, no holds barred rock is the name of the game here.
"7 to 7" is a good example of this. Light electric guitar strums and washes of keyboard pave the way for a chugging bass riff and howling saxophone. One of Hawkwind's strongest assets is the unique sound they create. On guitar, when David Brock isn't soloing his riffs tend to scramble themselves into wah-wah addled waves that mix with the synths to make some of the coolest audio chaos you'll ever hear. On bass is the infamous Lemmy, and album is mixed so that his blunt hammering on the instrument is readily apparent. It is his bass lines that often end up being the main thrust of the songs.
Musically Space Ritual
is a killer, and you'll be hard pressed to find finer examples of space rock anywhere. The one divisive factor that may turn off some would be the presence of "astral poet" Robert Calvert. Throughout the album there are spoken word bits featuring quirky, science fiction-esque poems by Calvert. While I personally feel that these campy interludes add to the overall atmosphere of the album, I could understand how they'd grate on others.
In short, if you're a fan of bands like Earthless or Acid Mothers Temple, or if you've ever wanted to get into space rock, pick up this album. Hawkwind's Space Ritual
is a stunning example of the heyday of 70's psychedelic rock.