Review Summary: "Hawkwind is space rock"
As the advertisements declared, "Hawkwind is space rock". This is certainly not an inaccurate statement, as Hawkwind's self titled debut was one of the very first space rock albums ever created. And perhaps it is Hawkwind's greatest attempt at capturing the spacey and communal atmosphere of this magical musical movement. As its context falls further and further into the abyss of psychedelic music history, Hawkwind's self titled album receives more and more polarity in its reception. The album itself is perhaps not as incredible as the atmospheres that it conjures, but it is a masterfully formatted cosmic journey. On the surface, "Hawkwind" is a bit of a mess, with two fairly standard vocal songs bookending a strange string of instrumental jams, but once you break the surface of this strange package there is a palette of colourful atmospheres that are gripping and emotive.
The opening track "Hurry on Sundown" is arguably Hawkwind's most famous track. The song is very reminiscent of the 60s/70s blues revival, but the band is still creating their atmospheric trademark sound. This track gives the album a fulfilling and upbeat start before exploring more psychedelic atmospheres. "The Reason Is" creates a dark mood that is juxtaposed to the upbeat rhythmic drive of "Hurry on Sundown". "Be Yourself" is a perfect continuation of this brooding atmosphere, with its powerful and ambient guitar riff and distorted vocals, rising from the swirling darkness of the previous track. This track contains an excellent saxophone solo from Nik Turner, which is followed by one of Hawkwind's greatest guitar solos. This powerful atmosphere is followed by the strange and unnerving sound of "Paranoia" parts 1 and 2. The sound here is more ambient than the previous track, but here we have a spooky and dark atmosphere that is created by the dissonance of the main theme, which is repeated throughout, growing louder and faster. The sound effects in this succession of tracks are not dissimilar to the sound effects in Hawkwind's next release, "X In Search of Space".
"Seeing It As You Really Are" begins side two with the uplifting washes of sound that are needed after the dissonance of "Paranoia". This track is comparable to "Be Yourself" in its progressive development. Everything that gives Hawkwind their signature sound is displayed in this track; the driving drums and bass, the powerful guitar chords, the manipulated saxophone sound, the swirling sound effects...
The highlight of the album is "Mirror of Illusion". This track is in the vein of "Hurry on Sundown", but here we have a more emotive piece that is quite sentimental in it's sound. There is a glowing and spiritual sound to this piece which isn't displayed in the previous tracks, ending the album with a feeling of fulfilment, completion, and happiness. A true gem among Hawkwind tracks.
This album is more unpolished than Hawkwind's subsequent releases, but this is what makes the album such a gem. "Hawkwind" is a coherent and cosmic documentation of the raw underground psych sound of the early 70s, capturing the true spirit of this raw and communal musical movement.
P.S. The bonus track "Kiss of the Velvet Whip" is outstanding.