Live Chronicles

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Recorded live during Hawkwind's 1985 The Chronicle of the Black Sword tour, Live Chronicles is a remarkable retelling of that album's own storyline, spread out over four full sides of vinyl and littered with Hawkwind oldies that really could have been written with Chronicle in mind -- and new material that, apparently, was. Following in the footsteps of 1972's Space Ritual with its combination of music and narration (from original Chronicle author Michael Moorcock), the show more or less follows the studio set's running order, opening with the mood-melding "Song of the Swords" and then pursuing hero Elric through a complex tale that is only strengthened by the sheer cohesion of its re-creation -- Moorcock himself later described the live show as "the pure version," although it must be confessed that vinyl alone loses a great deal of the magic. To truly appreciate Live Chronicles, one needs the accompanying video as well (and how often is that said about Hawkwind?). Necessarily lacking some of the studio album's atmosphere, Live Chronicles nevertheless compensates with energy and immediacy -- the version of "Needle Gun" is positively awesome, while "Master of the Universe" clatters with such metallic mayhem that even its rearrangement as a virtual speed anthem cannot dispel its power, an attribute that is only amplified by the song's positioning between the lower-key "The Pulsing Cavern" and "Dreaming City." Complaints, at the time, that the actual sound of the album is a little on the reedy side do still hold true, although that is as likely a mastering problem as anything else. Certainly, with the volume and bass control cranked up to "full," Live Chronicles echoes with all the passion of the concerts themselves -- and all the imagination of Hawkwind at full throttle.

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