(All Album Reviews by ffroyd)
Attention Hawkwind fans, here’s a really cool little artifact that you are definitely going to want to get your hands on. Some of you may remember the band Inner City Unit, led by Nik Turner, that fused the psychedelic sounds of space rock with a more urgent punk rock energy. Maximum Effect, named after the second ICU album, was born shortly after the dissolution of ICU. The group had a very short but potent lifetime. Long forgotten and mostly only as a footnote in the history of Hawkwind, Maximum Effect never released an album but played several concerts and in late 1986 embarked on a short tour with Robert Calvert. By then the band only consisted of Steve Pond on guitars, Dead Fred on keyboards and Roland, their affectionate personification of the drum machine.
The band’s debut gig with Calvert at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London was recorded and released but it wasn’t such an inspired performance. Apparently other nights of the tour were recorded and this show from The Stars and Stripes club in Carlisle has recently been unearthed by Steve Pond. This recording was previously made available exclusively for download on his website but now a CD has been released by the prolific Voiceprint label.
While not exactly having first-rate sound quality, it is a very clean recording and an indispensable historic document for the Robert Calvert fan. There’s just about everything here one could ask for: Hawkwind classics like “Damnation Alley”, “Spirit of the Age”, “Orgone Accumulator”, “Robot” and “Quark Strangeness and Charm”; great tracks from the solo albums Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters, Freq and Test Tube Concieved, and there’s even a couple Hawklords songs, “Psi Power” and “Flying Doctor”. The only conspicuous absence would be that of Robert’s biggest hit “Silver Machine”. I think I heard one time that he didn’t like performing it but don’t quote me on that. Maybe there was an encore that wasn’t recorded, I don’t know.
The execution of the material is very spirited and it’s obvious that the band had a great time on stage this night. I believe that by the time this was recorded Maximum Effect had an actual drummer but there are quite a bit of electronic drums employed. It really is a great recording and I wish this band had more of a chance to develop further.
As a bonus, there are several demo tracks that Robert recorded before this tour that are included at the end of the second disc. These are interesting and I’m glad they were included but they don’t quite fit in with the rest of the music on offer here. Of the seven tracks, I would say the strangest and my favorite is “White Dynasty” based on a chilling poem about Robert’s birthplace in South Africa.
These discs remind me what a powerful writer and performer Robert Calvert was. He was taken from this earth way too soon. Fans out there looking for a better performance than was on the Queen Elizabeth Hall album need to look no further. The CD contains several rare photos and a nice essay by DJ John Hughes (aka Johnny Oldhitz.)