In the late 70’s when I discovered Hawkwind at the insistence of my cousin Tony I took that journey in chronological order, enjoying the noisfest that the albums created up to Warrior. The blanga was in full flow and the Captain and crew could do no wrong.
My hopes were high as I bought Astounding Sounds and Amazing Music. Everything was in place, great Barney Bubbles cover, harking back to science fiction magazines of the 50’s and 60’s. The titles of songs, The Aubergine that Ate Rangoon, Kadu Flyer, Reefer Madness, Steppenwolf, it was all there.
Then I played it and felt a sinking feeling. There was no power here, it was kind of Floydy or maybe T-Rex or my god a little approachable. How deserted I felt by the peoples band, my Dad even looked pleased by Chronoglide Skyway and it’s soothing violin solo. Out of 7 tracks only 4 had lyrics and they almost made sense. There was a quirkiness there brought along by Bob Calvert but this had nothing to do with the all out assault on the senses that the earlier albums had been.
I promptly hid the album away and never revisited it as far as I can tell, at some point it left my collection never to be seen again. I have no recollection of selling it or giving it away. It’s a mystery.
Then last week as I rummaged through the racks at EveryDay music there it was staring at me. It is a wonderful cover after all. The front all early science fiction and the back a little fascistic and intimidating with the Hawk in it’s Germanic glory. I ended up buying on impulse and then having to gather my courage to listen. It’s a reissue from Atomhenge and they have even re-created the style of the old Charisma label. The sticker proudly claims it was cut from the original analog masters so what the heck.
Thirty or so years later here I am once again listening to Astounding Sounds. It still seems a little distanced from other Hawkwind albums, transitional is the phrase normally associated with this type of album. Maybe it is, the follow ups all made sense in the Hawkwind story, poppy and punky leading up to the raucous joy of the 79 tour after Calvert had left the building again.
On reflection the album is an awkward move to a different sound, what makes it jarring is the fact it followed Warrior which was so masterful. It is also according to Brock the first album he mixed without tripping which may reflect in the clarity of the sound. Calvert’s lyrics are here for the first time for a whole album with the band, his sense of humor is not to the fore as much as on later releases. It is however not a lost masterpiece but it is better than that first time I listened.