Review Summary: Hawkwind reach their creative peak and nothing can stop them now. Hawkwind – A trip through Space, Part IV The Magnus
Between Doremi and this album Hawkwind only managed to lose one member, replacing Dik Mik for the brilliantly talented Simon House. This relative structure to the line up helped them to build on the sound of Doremi without changing the style excessively, but this is Hawkwind and change there is.
Compared to their earlier works, the music on Mountain Grill is shorter and more coherent, being forced into shape by the band members. It sounds darker and heavier, with fewer random jams. And when compared to earlier works, it is much less synthesiser driven. This doesn't mean they are sitting there quietly, and you can still see them flare up in full force time and again. But every now and then they happily take the back seat to the pounding bass of Lemmy and the guitars of Brock.
On this album Hawkwind is.
Dave Brock – lead guitar, 12-string guitar, synthesizer, organ, harmonica, vocals
Lemmy – bass, vocals, guitars
Simon House – synthesizer, Mellotron, violin
Nik Turner – saxophone, oboe, flute, vocals
Simon King – drums, percussion
Del Dettmar – keyboards, synthesizer, kalimba
Grill starts out with a throbbing guitar line that carries throughout the first song. It is more hard rock than anything Hawkwind have done up to this point, Lemmy even lends a hand to the vocals his dark voice complimenting Brock's lighter vocals. Half way into the song, in breaks down to a jam that sounds very King Crimson at points. Contrasting the synthesiers is a brilliant catchy tune from the wind department as the guitars get louder and quieter in tandem with the music. This style of song sets the tone for the album, many of the extended jams are gone, replaced with a more structured style.
The mood is starkly contrasted as the album moves on. 'Wind of Change' is a spacey, airy and dare I say progressive song. Filled with highs and lows from the wind and synthesisers. It is a nice relaxing number that can take your mind far away from all the troubles of the world. Lifted high above the music, with the drums being the sound of your feet as they clap away at the sky below you.
You come crashing back down to earth with 'Web Weaver' an acoustic track with spacey synthesied vocals and blurring synthesiers beaming rays of sound over the track. Finally the drum builds up, and you have a brilliant little space rocker which is shoved in between two of the larger songs.
The first side ends off with the chugging 'D-Rider' which is a mixture between the newer heavier Hawkwind and the older spacey version. It mixes the two together perfectly, forming a hard space rocker with excellent guitar work from Brock, and powerful music from House.
Side B is unique among many albums, in a similar style to the first album, 'You'd Better Believe It' and 'Paradox' were recorded live in concert, before being added to the album. 'You'd Better Believe It' is an old style Hawkwind jam, bringing together the best of what Hawkwind can offer, a mix of the hard rock style from Lemmy and King, and the synthesied parts from Del and House. The album flows on to the self-titled song, a chilling piano piece was ebbs and flows into the depths of psychedelic torment.
Then something so unexpected crops up, something so un-Hawkwind it really stands out. The dark and gritty song called 'Lost Johnny' which is a song that is strangely prophetical in nature, as the band would be affected by this in a few years. Lemmy takes the lead vocals and the guitars, his voice sounding perfect on the record. Whether it is the grinding chorus, or the brilliant dark edged synthesied guitar solo in the middle, 'Lost Johnny' is really a song unto itself. A brilliant rocker that would eventually end up being played by Motörhead.
This dark gritty sound is carried on to 'Paradox' the song that wraps the album to its close. Another Hawkwind jam, this one much harder and faster than any they have done before, Lemmy's rumbling bass shakes you to the core and the synthesiers blaze in a firestorm of glory overhead, taking the vocals in their grasp. Finally the album winds down, the battle is over, the warriors are going home.
Hall shows all the best qualities of Hawkwind to date. The jams have been toned down and have been given a structure, the music quality is excellent and all the instruments get their fair turn. Brock's vocals are top notch, Lemmy's bass is pounding, the synthesisers are blaring, the drums blasting and the wind section brings it to an excellent conclusion. This is Hawkwind at its greatest, and is easily the album you should listen to first if you decide to get into the band.