Arguably the biggest cult band in the UK, Hawkwind are both one of the most quintessentially English acts in the country but also the most underrated.
Hawkwind – Dust Of Time: An Anthology (1969 – 2021)
Label: Atomhenge / Cherry Red Records
Release Date: Out Now
Words: Paul Monkhouse
With more than five decades under their belts, countless albums and endless tours, a truly great compilation was due to bring us from those nascent first recordings, right up to the latest, critically acclaimed releases. Sure, they may have had their commercial heyday in the ’70s, but they’ve never stopped moving and growing, and whether you plump for the two or six-disc set of Dust Of Time, you can’t but help marvel at the original Space Cowboys fervid imagination and jaw-dropping output.
Since forming in Notting Hill in 1969, the Dave Brock led combo have let the music do the talking and have taken listeners on a magic carpet ride across the cosmos.
Choosing either the twenty-six track version or its weightier eighty-one version, you can follow their arc from psychedelic warriors, through their heavier Metal phase, into a more serene trance influencing era and beyond. Irrespective of where you dip in, there are strange delights aplenty and a distinctive sound that is very much their own.
There’s a treasure trove to dive into by mixing album tracks, single versions, and live cuts.
The two-disc set is perhaps the perfect introduction to anyone curious about Hawkwind, tripping through the years with a deftness that hooks you in from the opening strains of Hurry On Sundown through to the last notes of Strange Encounters. Truth be told, it’s an almost impossible job to distil a fifty-three-year career into two discs, but Cherry Red has once more proven that the band have found a fine home with them, the choices highlighting each era well.
Given that a lot of the band’s output is hewn from themed albums with a strong narrative core, removing these individual pieces from the puzzle works remarkably well as they stand on their own, a gateway drug into a new musical addiction.
Definitely, something to be listened to in one sitting, headphones glued to your head, its something to be absorbed as you go from fan favourites like the epic Master Of The Universe, Urban Guerilla and Quark, Strangeness and Charm (the latter once having been played live on Marc Bolan’s extraordinary TV show) through to the ever-present power of hit single Silver Machine and beyond.
Elsewhere, the journey embraces the blues boogie of the joyful, aforementioned, Hurry On Sundown and the grooving Orgone Accumulator, hard-rocking Motorway City and Angels Of Death and the chilled-out bliss of Heads.
Given that they’ve released thirty-four studio albums and twelve live sets, there’s bound to be potential dips in quality or tracks that just don’t work, but thankfully, Dust Of Time sidesteps that in both formats. Certainly, the charm of tracks like Spirit Of The Age’ may be a little more niche than the grand sweep of 2021s Strange Encounters, but both have rightful places in the multi-hued tapestry that is Hawkwind’s output.
Unique in their style with a laser-like focus on the path ahead, Hawkwind may have gone through a multitude of line-ups over the years, but at their core, here is a rock band at their finest and one to be lauded much more than they are outside their own fanatical following.
Dust Of Time addresses this and more, showing that the band has set its own distinctive path and continues to lead. After five decades together, that’s quite a feat and one that should be celebrated. Whilst some may find fault that their favourite track isn’t included, this set ticks all the boxes and is a vital purchase for anyone who loves music that pushes the boundaries.
Captain Brock continues to steer the ship onwards and upwards, and its mission continues through this cosmos and onto the next.