Live at Canterbury Festival, Vol. 1

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Another day, another live Hawkwind album but, before we go any further, one thing must be made clear. Although it has been trimmed down from the original CD release, this album is not a remastered recycling, an upgraded bootleg, a degrading rip-off, or any of the other calumnies that haunt the Hawkwind catalog. Rather, it is one of the best Hawkwind concert documentaries of all, a pulsating set that, in terms of sonic assault, accumulated orgones, and universal mastery renders even the best-heeled of its myriad predecessors redundant as anything but historical documents. A Hawkwind live album you'll actually want to play more than twice. A lineup that merges the veteran Dave Brock, Simon House, and Alan Davey with more recent recruits Keith Kniveton and Richard Chadwick drifts, dreams, and demands your attention through a set that, though hyper-heavy on older material, sounds almost frighteningly fresh -- frightening because some of the songs here are older than the audience listening to them, but step out with as much punch and verve as numbers infinitely their junior. Songs that so many cheap and nasty rip-off collections have ground into the dirt (oh good, another live "Angels Of Death") are totally reinvigorated, while the hoariest oldie of them all, the inevitable "Silver Machine" is given an even more startling facelift as old Hell Fire himself, Arthur Brown, steps out to unsheath an operatic lead vocal and, while the band prepares for the encore, a brief but smirk-worthy poem. The sense of occasion engendered by Brown's presence is overwhelming; the sense of triumph unveiled by the album itself is unsurpassed. Of course, Space Ritual remains the benchmark by which all Hawkwind live albums should be measured. But Canterbury Festival proves that they remain capable of reaching those same lofty peaks.