As I listen to this CD over and over again, trying to determine how much I like it, I find the listening experience changes every time. Multi-instrumentalist Simon House joined Hawkwind in the mid-seventies, at a time when they were about to peak creatively. It is not an understatement that his contribution provided the band with the symphonic excellence that they could not achieve on their own. House’s predominant violin, synth and mellotron took Hawkwind out of the head-banger space-rock time warp they were stuck in and into something that was truly exciting and progressive.
Most of the material on “Spiral Galaxy Revisited” has seen the light of day – or should I say “the darkness of night” – before. The first three tracks – “Spiral Galaxy”, “Forge of Vulcan”, “Hall of the Mountain Grill” are Hawkwind staples. Here they’re a bit more organized and cleaner, losing that drug-induced nightmarish edge in favor of a polished, yet still ethereal timber.
“Lunar Sea”, track 4, plods into Jean Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream territory. It’s not as effective, given the necessity for archaic drum machines and tape loops. Yet, as to be expected with House, there’s excellent electric violin, especially the plucking of strings that adds a subtle rhythm to the sound. “Ozone” is a nightmare of a different color– insipid new age ear candy - and it’s a shame it made it to the album. At times, it’s almost an embarrassing listen. And things don’t improve much with the next batch of songs either. Only the closing 19 minute “Glencoe” gets that magic back, capturing the wonder that is apparent on masterful instrumental albums like Clearlight’s “Symphony”.
Even though there’s energy, thought and moments of uncompromising experimentation and fusion, the CD never seems to get back where it began. Some of the recording techniques on the last half aren’t as clean as the first batch of tracks and the arrangements seem to stray in every direction.
It seems that House didn’t know which cards to play on “Spiral Galaxy Revisted” – the age-old never-die stoner, or the glittering, reborn new age sage. His music can have mass appeal and that appears to be the problem. At times, the lush, melodic backdrop is so sweet it makes you feel like you’ve eaten too much candy. And at other times, you hear the talent and creativity of a seasoned veteran.
So, do I like this CD… or do I not…?