April 15, 2020

Roadhawks quickly came to be seen as a sort of bookmark, in a ‘last of the “old” Hawks’ kind of way. Add to that the glorious gatefold cover artwork, based on an original Barney Bubbles poster, and you have a very iconic and, indeed, nostalgic package indeed.

To the legions of Hawkwind fans who were already following the band during what is often called their ‘golden era’ in the early to mid ’70s, Roadhawks is remembered with great fondness – more than one would imagine for a ‘mere’ compilation, certainly. There are reasons for that, however. Released in 1976, following the landmark Warrior On The Edge Of Time and the resultant sacking of Lemmy, and four months before the very different-sounding Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music album, Roadhawks quickly came to be seen as a sort of bookmark, in a ‘last of the “old” Hawks’ kind of way. Add to that the glorious gatefold cover artwork, based on an original Barney Bubbles poster, and you have a very iconic and, indeed, nostalgic package indeed.

However, terming the album as simply a compilation is to undervalue it somewhat. Granted, all of the tracks have since appeared on various CD issues as bonuses, but at the time, of its eight tracks, two were singles which had never been on an album before, and another was an unreleased live recording. Much had been remixed as well. This made it an album that fans were very keen to have. To look at it from the beginning, the album opened with the first track on the self-titled debut album, Hurry On Sundown (it is effectively in chronological order). An old busking song of Brock’s from his pre-Hawkwind days, its infectious, bouncy acoustic guitar-based skip is utterly at odds with the identity the band forged since, but it remains an enormously entertaining song, and one which was reinstated as an encore during the band’s recent 50th Anniversary tour. A number of fans might not even have been aware of the track before this, as that first album always stood a little ‘apart’ from subsequent releases, musically and visually, and many never backtracked to it at the time. That can be said even more for the second choice from that album, an edited version of Paranoia, which was something of a deep cut even on that debut disc. In truth, it’s an odd choice for this round-up, being a rather discordant and faintly terrifying cauldron of hellish noise – but then, what were we saying about this not being a ‘safe’ compilation album?

Original inner gatefold photo, reproduced for this edition with some new text added

Next up is a live version of You Shouldn’t Do That, originally recorded for the second album In Search Of Space. This was a big selling point at the time, as it was recorded at one of the Space Ritual shows, but left off that seminal live album because the recording cut out halfway through, leaving a break which was bridged by an instrumental section for this release. Anything unreleased from those shows was manna from heaven for Hawkfans at that time, and the appeal of this excellent rendition is easy to see. Much shorter than the original, at seven minutes, it’s also faster paced. This leads into another live recording, but on this occasion it’s the far more familiar Silver Machine closing the first side. Remixed for the album, however, it is rather more dynamic than the original single, with a brighter, more punchy sound and less ‘murk’. It really does remind you what a superlative recording it actually was, when the cloak of over-familiarity is lifted. Also, let us not forget, the song had not appeared on an album at that time, so it was an excellent inclusion.

That classic poster

The old side two of the original vinyl opened with another non-album single, and this time a real rarity in the form of Urban Guerrilla, which had been withdrawn just after entering the lower regions of the charts as it unfortunately coincided with an IRA bombing campaign. Only Hawkwind! It’s not a remarkable song, but an enjoyable one and quite catchy, so one is always left wondering how it might have fared given a clear run at the charts on its release. Up next is the classic Space Is Deep from the Doremi Fasol Latido album, beginning a spectacular run of three tracks sequenced together seamlessly to bring the album to a close. Wind Of Change, the Simon House-led instrumental highlight from Hall Of The Mountain Grill emerges next and then runs perfectly into The Golden Void. Divorced from its usual ‘first half’ Assault And Battery, one would think the track might suffer on its own. Not a bit of it – and indeed many still maintain that those last two tracks work better here than on their original albums. As the last notes of Wind Of Change start to fade, the ‘gong’ opening of The Golden Void crashes in to startling effect, mixed noticeably louder than its original guise on Warrior…, and the momentum seems to carry through to the whole song, giving it a more epic feel than ever before. The sequencing of those last two or three tracks alone make this an album worth having.

This reissue has been remastered again from the original master tapes for even sharper sound, and is available in both CD and vinyl editions, reproducing all of the original cover art. Remember the poster of the cover artwork which came with the album, and graced so many bedroom walls back then? It’s here in both editions, even scaled down and inserted in one side of the gatefold cover to the CD, which is virtually a ‘mini-album, and looks great. My only gripe? They really should have saved that title for a live album, especially since the name originally referred to live shows! But that’s a question for 45 years ago. For now, I’m as happy as a nostalgic hawk in guano! For me, like many others, these were the real Hawks – never, ever quite matched again. Treasure them as they were.