Space Rock is a musical label that instantly conjures a few pre-conceived ideas. It’s become synonymous with long, prog-like arrangements, heavy droning riffs – some of which could be considered a precursor to the US-centric stoner/deep psych scenes – and other-worldly synth freakouts. This isn’t entirely unfair since space rock pioneers Hawkwind have relied heavily upon various combinations of those sounds and moods throughout their career, but, as this box set shows, there’s more to it all than that, and a world of bands beyond the obvious practitioners. Taking a voyage through a twenty year stretch of cult noise, ‘This Was Your Future’ serves up various treats too marginal to be considered obvious nostalgia for a lot of people, but somehow manages to be accessible enough to retain the interest of the vaguely curious. …And who better than to guide you through this world of free festivals and hazy noise than Hawkwind’s very own Dave Brock?
For a band once considered to be the epitome of counter culture and not in it for “the bread, man”, it sometimes seems as if the twenty first century Hawkwind are just a machine churning out new products. December 2021 brought the career spanning, anthology ‘Dust of Time’ – their fourth release in under two years. Although it was beautifully put together, it didn’t give hardcore fans much they wouldn’t already own. However, it successfully covered a lot of musical ground, and for the keen eared and eagle eyed, a couple of rarer BBC recordings could be found within its sprawling eighty one tracks. It’s hard to please everyone, but the six disc box set had a really good go.
Over the years, the market has been flooded with Hawkwind compilations, reissues and retrospectives. From the comprehensive and brilliant (‘This Is Your Captain’, a huge set pulling together the United Artists albums), to the interesting (box sets of Flicknife and Emergency Broadcast era albums aimed more at the completist), to the perfunctory (various cheap “best of” type sets, thrown together by budget labels with no thought), it seems as if no stone has been left unturned in terms of anthologies celebrating the legendary space lords.
According to music historian and author David Hepworth, 1971 is “rock’s most exciting year”. There are a lot of music fans of a certain age who would agree with that: those keen record buyers who still treasure well worn copies of Uriah Heep’s ‘Salisbury’, Caravan’s ‘In The Land of Grey & Pink’, Hawkwind’s ‘In Search of Space’ and Rory Gallagher’s ‘Deuce’; people who’d hit their early twenties in time to hear Pink Floyd’s ‘Meddle’ and Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s ‘Tarkus’ with fresh ears when the sounds of those hugely indulgent arrangements sounded like the future; and certainly not forgetting those for whom the first three Black Sabbath albums heralded the arrival of a whole new genre, but arguably hit perfection in ’71. There’s a lot of further weight to be added to the argument that 1971 is musically significant, with lesser known albums by Samurai and Jade Warrior propping up the art-rock scene, The Zombies’ Colin Blunstone delivering an absolutely killer solo debut with ‘One Year’ and Phil Collins making his first major appearance with Genesis. All of that barely scratches the surface, of course, but it’s fair to say there was always far more to 1971 than Led Zeppelin’s monolithic fourth platter and ‘Who’s Next’.
Billy Sherwood is no stranger to an all star compilation. Over the years, he’s helped mastermind tributes to all manner of artists, often with mixed results. His 2019 project ‘A Prog Rock Christmas’ can seem as scattershot as many of those previous all star affairs, but by bringing together various prog legends to put their own stamp on a few familiar yuletide ditties, there are a several things to enjoy along the way, ranging from the traditional to the bespoke.