Mojo (UK) - - What Goes On! -

THE INCONGRUOUS col­lab­o­ra­tion has a no­ble his­tory in rock, from Stan­ley Un­win guest­ing with the Small Faces to Karl ‘Wi­moweh’ Den­ver’s team up with Happy Mon­days. Yet few have the dou­ble-take qual­ity of Hawkwind’s new al­bum Road To Utopia, where reimag­ined songs from the group’s first decade are given new or­ches­tral frames by Mike Batt, the pro­ducer be­hind hits for Steel­eye Span, Vanessa Mae and, of course, The Wombles. “We met him when we were queu­ing up for visas at the Amer­i­can em­bassy in 2007,” says chief Hawk Dave Brock. “I prob­a­bly met him when he was work­ing in the of­fice at [early Hawkwind la­bel] Lib­erty in 1970. Strange how your paths cross. Some fans prob­a­bly won’t like it but you have to do some­thing dif­fer­ent, don’t you?” Batt got in­volved af­ter a pro­posed Hawkwind acous­tic al­bum be­gan to ac­quire elec­tric el­e­ments. Though Hawkwind weren’t pre­sent when he added strings and brass to the tracks, their col­lab­o­ra­tive prepa­ra­tions for con­certs re­veal a lively creative dy­namic. “Mike’s a very clever, ec­cen­tric char­ac­ter,” says Brock. “When we were re­hears­ing he was say­ing, ‘Oh, you’re two bars out…’ he gives you a bol­lock­ing if things go wrong. And the first time we’re go­ing to play with the fuck­ing orches­tra is when we do it live! It’ll be all right though. Is he a mem­ber of Hawkwind? I should bloody well hope not! We ad-lib a lot.” Batt plays pi­ano on a new ver­sion of The Watcher, a Lemmy com­po­si­tion from 1972’s Doremi Fa­sol Latido: the track also fea­tures the un­mis­tak­able gui­tar of Brock’s early-’60s busk­ing pal Eric Clapton. Re­con­nec­tion was made when Brock con­tributed to Philip Nor­man’s new bi­og­ra­phy of Clapton. “They wanted to know all the bits and pieces about our back­ground and the blues, when we used to sit around in Rich­mond play­ing our guitars,” says Brock. “And we thought, Wouldn’t it be good if we got Eric to play on The Watcher? It was re­ally nice to see him – I prob­a­bly hadn’t seen him since he was in Cream. What did we talk about? Not the next project, this one.” The next project, won­ders MOJO? What’s that? “Oh I dunno, who knows?” says Brock. (In­trigu­ingly, Hawk man­ager/Brock’s part­ner Kris Tait chips in with, “He’s com­ing down next week.”) An­other old com­rade the record salutes is late, great Hawkwind poet/ front­man Robert Calvert, who died 30 years ago this month: four of the nine songs are co-writ­ten by him. The Road To Utopia’s cricket-themed cover art also ref­er­ences Calvert’s 1979 re­lease Cricket Star. “On the sleeve Mike Batt’s the um­pire, Eric’s in the pav­il­ion com­ing out to bat, and Bob’s there too,” says Brock, “in the sil­ver ma­chine/fly­ing saucer in the sky.” Still ca­pa­ble of sur­prise nearly five decades into their voy­age, Hawkwind’s or­ches­tral tour be­gins in Oc­to­ber. Fol­low­ing past stage the­atrics – we’re think­ing Calvert’s steam­punk fighter ace out­fit or dancer Sta­cia’s psy­che­delic body paint – might there be room for a Womble on-stage? “Cer­tainly not!” re­torts Brock. “[Hawkwind bass/ voice] Dibs could put a mask on though.”

“I hadn’t seen Eric since he was in Cream.” DAVE BROCK

The road to Utopia is paved with Batt and no-balls: Eric Clapton and (right) Dave Brock; (above) Mike Batt and the al­bum.

Road To Utopia is re­leased by Cherry Red on Septem­ber 14. See re­view on page 93.

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