One of the longest standing members of the space rock juggernaut Hawkwind, bassist Alan Davey got his start in the late 1970s with his own heavy psychedelic rock band Gunslinger. His tenure with Hawkwind ran from 1984 to 1996, and then again, finally, from 2001 to 2007, leaving both times to pursue his own musical interests that included starting his project, Al Chemical's Lysergic Orchestra, releasing its first CD in 2001, simply titled Vol. 1, and then releasing Vol. 2 on CD and digital download at the end of 2013.
Heavy guitar chords and melodic synth begin the first track of Vol. 2, Davey's unmistakeable vocals setting the moodmelancholy, the lyrics about escaping "Death Valley." The guitar solo, though played sparingly, is musically virtuosic, indicating a high level of skill.
Davey's lightly strummed bass chords open "Hell's Gate," the second track, followed by dark synth playing and flute. The drums come in with a corp riff then break into straight swing time. The album winds its way through psychedelic, swirling synth explorations, as with the tune "Mustard Canyon," the bass line heavy with a steady feel, the drums upbeat with complex hi-hat work. At times the mood is like traveling through a cyber dimension, a seemingly cold place, Kevin Sommers singing as though through a distant megaphone, reminiscent of the work of the late Robert Calvert.
The music moves fluidly within a variety of stylesfrom heavy rock to a solid blues shuffle to Chico Hamilton-esque jazz leanings with Middle Eastern elementswhile never straying from intense psychedelia. It not only keeps the listener on edge about where the album will lead next, but also takes you on a journey to distant worlds and vivid places, the feeling of melancholy ever present.
While "Titus Canyon" is mid tempo with the guitar playing chords and soloing with Davey's heavy bass line, playing runs against echoing synth melodies and affected vocal chants, the rhythm on "Old Dinah" comes in offset with Davey playing upright acoustic bass and the guitars echo laden, Sommers singing about a "rusty piece of junk" against the sound of an old train on the tracks.
"49'ers" begins with poetry about the body electric: "With furious devouring guitar... ejaculating tongues of surging flame," and guitar chords played against fretless bass lines and heavy synth melodies. Strings open the final track, "Zabriskie Point," with bass synth tones, leading into a psychedelic orchestral movement similar even to Xenakis or Stockhausen, with no rhythm, a musical movement with urgency stressed through megaphoned vocals. Synth layers and vivid tones give the impression of a cyber wasteland, the music moving through space like the light of stars. Strings augment the synthesizers for an organic sound and feel to bring a characteristic end to the tune and to the album.
1) Goodbye Death Valley, 2) Hell's Gate, 3) Mustard Canyon, 4) Badwater, 5) Dante's
View, 6) Titus Canyon, 7) Old Dinah, 8) 49'ers, 9) The Racetrack, 10) Zabriskie Point
Alan Davey: all instruments; Kevin Sommers: vocals.
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.
Get more of a good thing
Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.