Way back when no-one in the right mind was trying to promote prog in the UK, I was beavering away running ‘Feedback’, and one of the labels who sent me everything they released was Cyclops Records. They were behind a great deal of British bands in particular, later spreading their wings into Europe and America, and one of the artists they sent me was Steve Hillman (guitars, keyboards, synths). I reviewed three of his releases, ‘Matrix’, ‘Riding The Storm’ and ‘Convergence’, but had not come across him for more than 20 years until now. Back in 2016 he met Nik Turner (vocals, saxophone, flute), and they discussed working on an album together. Given that Steve had already written enough material he decided to pull together a band to record this with Nik being the frontman, so he asked two of his bandmates from Ra Rising, drummer Dai Rees and bassist Rob Andrews, to complete the line-up. They also brought in some well-known guests including Angel Flame (dancer in Nik’s Space Ritual and the Crazy World of Arthur Brown), bassist Dave Anderson, (Amon Duul II, Groundhogs, Hawkwind) and Mr. Dibs (Hawkwind). If that were not enough for Hawkwind afficionados, the album closes with an extended version of “Children of the Sun” which originally appeared on ‘In Search of Space’, when Dave and Nik were both involved.
The result is an album which is firmly sat within space rock, as if it could be anything else. Turner has been an incredibly important influence on the scene, not only with Hawkwind but multiple other bands and solo releases while also guesting with many others, and his saxophone and flute playing has graced many albums. I am not sure how old he was when this was actually recorded, but at the very least he would have been in his late Seventies and his playing shows all the fluidity and dynamics we have come to expect, although his voice was certainly quite quavery as one might expect. There will be a great many Hawkwind fans who will seek this out due to who is involved, but will they then play it more than once? Actually, the answer to that is “yes” as this is a nice album – not essential, but certainly really enjoyable. With the core of the band already playing together for some time there is a tightness among them, and while they have put Nik front and centre for much of it, there are also plenty of opportunities for them to also show off their strengths. One can only wonder if this will remain a one-off album or if Steve, Dai and Rob bring someone else in as although they will have very large boots to fill indeed, the death of Nik should not bring this project to an end. This may well be the last album Nik recorded, and if that is the case then he left on a high, as this is space rock which shows that after more than 50 years of pushing the boundaries he was still not satisfied and need to keep moving on.
7/10 Kev Rowland