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Robert Calvert - Hype (CD)

Genre: Experimental
Release Date: 8th April 2013

Label: Gonzo
Catalogue Number: HST131CD
Price: £7.99
Available: Sorry - Not currently available


Robert Calvert - Hype

Robert Calvert was born in Pretoria, South Africa, in 1945. While an infant, his family relocated to London, where he grew up in the hippy counterculture world of 1960s Notting Hill, a world of alternative ideas and 'underground arts.'

Calvert's activities as frontman of Hawkwind in the 1970s brought him rock circuit fame and acclaim, but he said more than once that he'd like to be known primarily as a poet and playwright. Bending his wordcraft abilities to the penning of rock and pop lyrics was an effective second string to to his bow, however.

The highly accessible Hype album was the third of five solo albums. Originally released in 1982, it consists of the Songs of Tom Mahler - Mahler being the fictional rock star whose turbulent but somewhat jaunty story was earlier told in a Calvert novel, also called Hype.

The musical Hype journey opens with the witty Over My Head where the Mahler character meets a rather sophisticated woman in a bar and the conversation soon is 'over his head!' Mostly unnoticed on its release, the album - part concept album, part soundtrack - musically is a bridge between Calvert's new wave-ish 'Kerb Crawler' days with Hawkwind and the Eno-area electronic pop with which he experimented in the 1980s.

It's the quirky zone where art prog and intellectual punk meet - and they're not so unlikely bedfellows as one might have thought. Hype is often considered by his fans to be Robert Calvert's best album, in terms of song composition and production. Although the album could be described as mainstream, the lyrics lift it onto a rather different plane.  

Hype - both the book and the album - focuses on the somewhat difficult world of the music business. No space voyagers or exploding planets here; just a planet - Planet Earth - where a musician is literally shot to stardom.

Calvert's fellow-musicians for this project were gathered from various strange corners of the Earth. Three (Csapo, Michaels and Dowling) are from punk band Bethnal, whom he met when they played support to Hawkwind on the 1977 tour. Judge Trev and Nik Turner were in Inner City Unit; Pavi and House were together at times in prog band High Tide; and Michael Moorcock was numero uno in the rather quirky Deep Fix. Broadly speaking, though, the collection of lunimaries really serve to underpin Calvert's lyricist role, rather than to push musical envelopes or explore individual avenues of their own. In short, then, they acted as an ideal backing band for a vocal artist.

The overall style is that of rock-pop songs - some of which are decidedly catchy - rather than any traditional rock arrangements with instrumental passages. However, there are moments that can really catch the attention; such as Nik's short but surprisingly grungy and growly saxophone piece in Evil Rock. Ranging over their cleanly-constructed backing are Calvert's unmistakable vocals - from the lyrical almost-punk on songs like  Sensitive and Evil Rock, the brooding style of Hanging Out On The Seafront, through the jaunty We Like to be Frightened, the reflective vocal tones on Greenfly & The Rose to the decidedly unusual Lord of the Hornets.

The bonus tracks are basically demo versions, with Bob playing all the instruments; nonetheless, the sound quality is quite reasonable, similar in quality and general style to Calvert's home-recorded demos that saw the light of day as the Cellar releases. It can only be hoped that the re-issue of Hype brings - albeit belatedly - some of the widespread recognition that this extraordinarily articulate rock performer so obviously deserved.        


Tracks:
1. OVER MY HEAD
2. AMBITIOUS
3. IT'S THE SAME
4. HANGING OUT ON THE SEAFRONT
5. SENSITIVE
6. EVIL ROCK
7. WE LIKE TO BE
8. FRIGHTENED
9. TEEN BALLAD OF DEANO
10. FLIGHT
11. THE LUMINOUS GREEN
12. GLOW OF THE DIALS OF THE DASHBOARD (at night)
13. GREENFLY & THE ROSE
14. LORD OF THE HORNETS
15. BONUS TRACKS OVER MY HEAD (Rough demo)
16. HANGING OUT ON THE SEAFRONT (Different lyrics)
17. FLIGHT 105 (instrumental demo)
18. BONUS TRACK 1

 



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