Ok, so technically this wasn't a Hawkwind album...back in 1978, the space rock legends were involved in a legal dispute over the name 'Hawkwind', and seeing as they were in the middle of recording a new album, decided to release this one under the name of Hawklords. As history has it, the band won that dispute and went right back to being known as Hawkwind, so most fans look at this as just another album in their discography, though further review shows it as being somewhat of a departure for the band. The line-up for 25 Years On was Dave Brock (guitars, keyboards, vocals), Robert Calvert (lead vocals), Harvey Bainbridge (bass, backing vocals, synths), Steve Swindells (keyboards), Simon King (drums), and Martin Griffin (drums). Simon House, who was in and out of the band numerous times over the years, contributes some violin to a few tracks, For the most part, space rock 25 Years On isn't, instead much of of this material on display straddles the line between the oncoming New Wave craze, say like a Talking Heads, and some of the David Bowie material post Ziggy. While it can be fun in spots, it's by no means classic Hawkwind.
Fans of vocalist Calvert will be happy to know that his presence is felt in a big way throughout this album. Quirky, new wave/pop/punk tracks like "Psi Power", "Free Fall", "25 Years", "Flying Doctor", have an upbeat, bouncy feel, but are more vocal oriented pieces and don't contain a lot of compelling musical arrangements. "The Only Ones" is a nice dreamy space rock/pop number, complete with alluring acoustic guitar from Brock and some sweeping synths, "(Only) The Dead Dreams of the Cold War Kid" has a pseudo Pink Floyd feel to it, and "The Age of the Micro Man" has a soaring science fiction element going on, again reminiscent of '70s era David Bowie, complete with strong Calvert vocals and some effective synth layers. A few bonus tracks fill out the first CD, most notable being a rocking "Death Trap", which also found its way to the PXR5 album a year later, here released in its single form.
The second CD comprises recordings of the side project called Sonic Assassins. Actually, this fits in well with the rest of the 25 Years On material, at least in theory. In 1977 Robert Calvert & Dave Brock befriended a local band in Devon called Ark, and they decided to form a band, titled Sonic Assassins. The only live gig the line-up ever played was in December of that year at Queens Hall, and the performance is included here. Here we have the usual spacey, noisy music most associated with early Hawkwind. "Over the Top" rocks with raw, spacey power, and the popular "Magnu" crackles with energy as frantic riffs and loads of bleeping synths take the listener on a journey to the stars. A brief "Angels of Life" leads into a wonderful "Freefall", complete with luscious synths and deep grooves (easily a highlight here), and a metallic, noisy "Death Trap" ends the set in chaotic fashion. The remainder of the tracks on the second disc are made up of alternate takes, demos, and rehearsal recordings, probably only worth a listen or two, but for the loyal fan no doubt appealing.
The remaster treatment from the folks at Atomhenge as always is top notch, so regardless of what you think of the actual material on 25 Years On, it really does sound great. A very informative booklet is included that maps out all the events prior to and after the recording of the album, which will give you all the insight you need. A bit of an oddball in the Hawkwind cannon, but a fun album nonetheless.
1) "Psi Power" (Robert Calvert, Dave Brock) – 6:06
2) "Free Fall" (Calvert, Harvey Bainbridge) – 5:13
3) "Automoton" (Calvert, Brock) – 1:13
4) "25 Years" (Brock) – 4:31
5) "Flying Doctor" (Calvert, Brock) – 5:38
6) "The Only Ones" (Calvert, Brock) – 4:14
7) "(Only) The Dead Dreams of the Cold War Kid" (Calvert) – 3:55
8) "The Age of the Micro Man" (Calvert, Brock) – 3:31
Atomhenge bonus tracks
9) "PSI Power" [single version] – 4:26
10) "Death Trap" [single mix] (Calvert, Brock) – 3:52
11) "25 Years" [single mix] – 3:30
Atomhenge bonus CD: "The Sonic Assassins"
1) "Over the Top" (Calvert, Brock, Bainbridge, Paul Hayles, Martin Griffin) – 7:50
2) "Magnu" (Brock) – 3:12
3) "Angels of Life" (Brock) – 1:12
4) "Freefall" (Calvert, Bainbridge) – 7:56
5) "Death Trap" (Calvert, Brock) – 4:30
6) "The Only Ones" [acoustic demo] (Calvert, Brock) – 4:38
7) "(Only) The Dead Dreams of the Cold War Kid" [demo] (Calvert) – 3:31
8) "Flying Doctor" [live studio rehearsal version] (Calvert, Brock) – 5:37
9) "25 Years" [take one] (Brock) – 8:00
10) "Assassination" – 3:56
11) "Freefall" [take two] (Calvert, Bainbridge) – 5:28
12) "Only the Dead Dreams of the Cold War Kid" [take two] (Calvert, Brock) – 3:16
13) "The Age of the Micro Man" [take one] (Calvert, Brock) – 5:44
14) "Automoton" [full extended version] (Calvert, Brock) – 2:33
15) "Digger Jam" – 2:38