Recorded live in December 1972 and released the following year, Space Ritual is an excellent document of Hawkwind's classic lineup, underscoring the group's status as space rock pioneers. As the quintessential "people's band," Hawkwind carried '60s countercultural idealism into the '70s, gigging constantly, playing wherever there was an audience, and even playing for free on five consecutive days outside the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival. The band's multimedia performances were the perfect accompaniment for exploring inner space and imagining outer space. While not concerned with rock's material trappings, Hawkwind were, ironically, among the hardest-working groups in Britain, averaging one show every three days during the year preceding these recordings. Given all that practice, it's not surprising that the performances collected here are incredibly tight (although, reportedly, a couple of tracks were edited). Incorporating most of Doremi Fasol Latido, the show for the Space Ritual tour was conceived as a space rock opera, its blend of sci-fi electronics, mesmerizing psy-fi grooves, and heavy, earthbound jamming punctuated with spoken word interludes from astral poet Bob Calvert. Although his intergalactic musings date the album, coming across now as camp futurism, they still provide fitting atmospheric preambles to Hawkwind's astounding, mind-warping sounds. Calvert's manic recital of Michael Moorcock's "Sonic Attack," for instance, is an exercise in tension that subsequently explodes on the stomping "Time We Left This World Today"; with Nik Turner's otherworldly sax, Dave Brock's guitar distortion, and the earth-moving rhythm section of Simon King and Lemmy, this track offers a blueprint for the album's most potent material. Another standout is "Orgone Accumulator," ten minutes of hypnotic (Wilhelm) Reich & roll that could be the missing link between Booker T. and Stereolab. A 1973 advertisement described Space Ritual as "88 minutes of brain damage"; that characterization still holds true.
AllMusic Review by Wilson Neate
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2