Hawkwind - Doremi Fasol Latido
United Artists Records
Space Rock
7 songs (41:37)
Release year: 1972
Hawkwind
Reviewed by Goat

It’s difficult to sum Hawkwind up for the uninitiated. ‘Space Rock’ is, after all, a pretty unique subgenre of rocks classic and psychedelic that relies on drug-influenced weirdness to take the listener on the interstellar trips so beloved of lyric-writers then. Pink Floyd are probably the best-known players of the style, early classics such as Astronomy Domine and Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun all about man’s fixation with What Lays Beyond, yet it’s Hawkwind who made the genre their own, and Doremi Fasol Latido is arguably their masterpiece. The 70s were an amazing time to be a fan of music, without a doubt, and as brilliant and timeless as its classics are even over thirty years later, they must have been mind-boggling at the time, and this album is exactly that.

With the title taken from the names of musical notes in the Diatonic Scale (do, re, mi, etc) and the concept apparently based around the Pythagorean concept of sound, you’d expect a highbrow, even dull forty-minutes’ worth of music, but you couldn’t be more wrong. The presence of Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilminster on bass and backing vocals alone propels this into Rock legend, and the music has a certain heavy pre- Motörhead headbanging quality to it, but it’s the band’s psychedelic array of acoustic guitars and electronics slathered freely over the top that makes it hypnotic rather than dull. Imagine Hawkwind as an MC5 totally devoted to leaving the planet’s surface, and you’re partway there, although the band’s uniqueness is hard to deny. Reviewers generally lose themselves to flowery prose when describing the music, and once you hear it you’ll know why – one quote from the album’s Melody Maker write-up mentioned how ‘the listener is as much a traveller as the musician’ and this bears quoting, as Hawkwind really do take you to space and beyond, years before modern bands made careers out of their otherworldly atmospherics.

Eleven-minute opener Brainstorm launches itself from the back of Dave Brock’s repeated riffing as the lyrics describe a spaceship preparing for takeoff, and the gathering tension created by the deceptively simplistic drumming and almost random bass are given direction by the guitar effects and electronics which take melodic control just under three minutes in. Proggy melodies swirl and energetic rhythms create the perfect spacey atmosphere, the sheer heaviness of the rumbling chug beneath just about reminding you that you are actually listening to a band rather than space-tripping. The track ends with carefully controlled feedback melding with the synth effects, sliding seamlessly into the following Space Is Deep with style, and the acoustic-and-electronic-driven sound of the song is a nice counter to its Hard Rockin’ predecessor. Saxophone, flute and synths mix in the background, going completely over to electronic abandon as lyrics from famed sci-fi author Michael Moorcock’s Black Corridor poem give it added mystical punch.

The album never lets you down, interlude moment One Change not enough to break the atmosphere, and Lord Of Light returning to wonderful heaviness almost immediately. Hawkwind were one of the heaviest bands of the time, as their downtuned rumble will remind you, and even relatively lighter moments such as Down Through The Night still have oppressive atmospheres due to the effects and nervy, chaotic background flute. It’s hard to pick favourite tracks, although I’ve always had a soft spot for Time We Left This World Today, the backing saxophone and initial call-and-response vocals turning quirkier by the second, as eager to explore dissonance in melody as the solid backing riffs. Even The Watcher, which closes the album almost as an afterthought as Lemmy’s first composition for the band, is a solid fuzzy little number, twanging acoustic guitar and oddly phrased vocals from the legend combine to great effect. My version of the album has a few bonus tracks, all excellent; especially Urban Guerrilla with its Rolling Stones-esque groove, and Brainbox Pollution, a catchy throwback to the early days of Rock N’Roll that is still a live fan favourite.

Doremi Fasol Latido was one of my first purchases as my interest in sounds of the 70s took precedence over anything that modern pretenders to that glorious throne of Rock could offer, and it’s still my favourite of the band’s twenty-five strong catalogue (although I can’t pretend to have heard them all). Everyone from Ministry’s Al Jourgensen and Monster Magnet to The Sex Pistols and Joy Division have cited Hawkwind’s influence in their own music, and they’re often mentioned as one of the few solid links between the hippie and punk movements – it wouldn’t be overstating the case to say that they’re a building block for Rock as a whole, never mind the huge influence on Metal. Think of them as Motörhead’s perpetually stoned older brother, and enjoy the trip.

Killing Songs :
Brainstorm, Space Is Deep, Lord Of Light, Time We Left This World Today
Goat quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Hawkwind that we have reviewed:
Hawkwind - Canterbury Fayre 2001 reviewed by Misha and quoted no quote
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