Space-rockers Hawkwind are the Grateful Dead of the progrock milieu, and they have, like Garcia & Co., spawned not only a staggering wealth of releases ranging from magnificent to hideous but also a number of sub-groups (Hawklords and such), offshoot solo efforts (Robert Calvert, etc.), and then interpolated cats like Helios Creed for various outings. Huw Lloyd-Langton comes under this last heading…but with a big difference: he was also a founding member of Hawkwind but split after the 1st disc, later brought along to open shows, hang, sessioneer, and etc. More, that eponymous debut Hawkwind LP, though it is blasphemy to say so, was one of the acid-headed spacefacers' absolute best, despite being acoustic as opposed to the brainmeltingly distorted metal fare that commenced in the very next release, the classic In Search of Space.
Later in their history, the Hawk-boys started mellowing out, producing marvelous LPs like Xenon Codex, and Langton tends to that same vibe when he gets cosmic, the 8-1/2 minute A Dream a perfect example, the kind of track that puts the deli back in psychedelic, a feast of distorted tones and starfields. And it's to Langton's fretwork we must repair, as the vocals and lyrics leave much to be desired; again, not all that dissimilar to some of the Dead offshoot materials, quite adequate for the hard-core fans, but not up to his stringbending, not by a country mile. More than once, Fish Rising and L period Steve Hillage shine through as well, and it's difficult not to go back to that glorious era once one has been there—I'm certainly not going to be the one to call for a halt to it, as we've precious few who crank out this kinda stuff. Still and all, Hard Graft is a mixed bag of heady cosmic euphoria and oft sub-standard vocals.
Is this CD worth getting? Good question. The instrumental part is way past Langton's participation in the unremarkable post-Mott the Hoople band Widowmaker, even Trower-esque in a number of cuts, thick and smoky, but the disc could also have been engineered a tad better. Thus, my advice is to toke up and trip out, 'cause Hard Graft is serious head music. Come back later to make your decision post-hallucinations. Nonetheless, I'd have to say "Yeah, it is…just barely" but wouldn't argue if you disagreed. It's so damned hard to get this kind of true hard-core psychedelia any more that I'm willing to forgive much, but it's a tough call. Think groups like Bevis Frond, Black Sun Ensemble, and you'll be in the ballpark quality-wise.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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