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Music Review: Hawkwind – Levitation (3-CD set)

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Every year I make my annual pilgrimage to London to join the vastly assorted mass of Hawkwind weirdos for their pre-Christmas gig. I marvel at Dave Brock’s energy and enjoy the visual show, totally losing myself in the Space Ritual of what being part of the Church Of Hawkwind is all about.

It goes without saying that their Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music ensure that each year is magical in its own way. Okay, that’s enough cheap puns. You see, until recently I'd thought I owned most Hawkwind stuff — until I received the triple-disc remastered release of their album, Levitation.

Originally released in 1980, the album was the first since the departure of frontman Robert Calvert and the only one to include Ginger Baker on drums. Baker had stepped in after Simon King quit the band during the album's early sessions, amazing everyone with how quickly he picked up and laid down the tracks. Recorded at Roundhouse Studios in London, Levitation made use of state-of-the-art digital equipment.

After an initial 33-date tour, Hawkwind played an additional eleven gigs, one of which — on December 18, 1980 at the Lewisham Odeon — was (fortunately) professionally recorded. Initially intended to be released as a live album, Hawkwind's label felt that it was too soon after the previous year's Live Seventy Nine.

This collection captures the whole of that magical night, including a guest appearance from Sci-Fi author Michael Moorcock. Hearing it now leaves me totally at a loss to know where the hell 30 years have gone. This is time-warpingly good. So good, in fact, that I can actually visualize it and experience it in all its glory again.

Kicking off with a scene-setting six minutes of “Running Through My Back Brain (Messages),” Hawkwind then take us through a set heavy on Levitation — including “Who’s Gonna Win The War?," “Motorway City," “Space Chase," “World Of Tiers," “The Fifth Second Of Forever," “Dust Of Time,” and the title track — as well as "Death Trap," “Dangerous Vision," “PSI Power," and “Shot Down In The Night."

As if that isn’t enough the set boasts eight bonus tracks, including the full version of “Valium 10,” a live version of “Brainstorm” (also from 1980), “Douglas In The Jungle,” and the single version of Dave Brock’s “Who’s Gonna Win The War?" I need say no more except that the sound on this set is excellent throughout. There is something new here even for those who thought they had it all. Therefore this is a must for Hawkwind junkies young and older.

Available through Esoteric Recordings / Atomhenge as part of a series of re-releases covering the Hawkwind catalogue from 1976-1997. Levitate towards Hawkwind by visiting their official website or their MySpace page.

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