“When asked, in Bass Guitar magazine, of his last solo album, Human on the Outside, “What’s on the inside?” Alan Davey, former Hawkwind bassist, simply responded, “Its eclectic.” Since then, he’s enjoyed acclaim for his regeneration of early 80s Metal outfit Gunslinger, issued four CDs of tracks from his collection of demo recordings under the umbrella-title Four-Track Mind and now releases a new solo album that also promises a deliciously diverse selection of material: Eclectic Devils.
Always in search of the interesting collaboration (watch for his ‘Egyptian’ album, recorded with one-time Hawkwind band-mate Bridget Wishart), Davey has rounded-up some highly regarded contributors for this new album. Having played with Simon House (Hawkwind, High Tide, Bowie, Japan) during one of House’s irregular stints with the Hawks, there’s a great sense of symmetry when House plays on four of Eclectic Devils' ten tracks. With House’s classically-trained violin weaving and soaring across numbers like the driving opener ‘Angel Down’ and the dense and dirty instrumental ‘Waste of Space’, and juxtaposed with Davey’s trademark heavy bass lines, there’s a strong link back to classic 70s Hawkwind: Hall of the Mountain Grill and Warrior on the Edge of Time. That’s not to say that there’s a 70s time warp amidst the album’s swirling vortex of sound – Davey knows very well how to take inspiration from the past without ever failing to deliver a very 21st Century makeover. Long-time Hawkwind fans might nod approvingly at his reverence but won’t fail to recognise that Davey has a totally contemporary space-rock sound.
Elsewhere on Eclectic Devils, Davey pushes at his own boundaries with impunity; songs like ‘Encounter’ (with lyrics and achingly-beautiful vocals by Isobel Morris of festival-favourites Bruise) have a sureness of touch which demonstrates that it might be twenty-five years since Davey first burst into recognition by joining Hawkwind at the fabled 1984 Stonehenge Free Festival, but he’s never stopped looking to develop and refine his craft. ‘Encounter’, with its brooding structure, delicious lead-guitar and overwhelming sense of place and atmosphere hints at new directions and is quite possibly one of the best things Davey has done in his career so far. ‘Too High’ and ‘Ya Know Ya Should’ thematically follow-up ‘World of Fear’ and ‘Delusions of Ganja’ (from Human on the Outside) – you’ve got to keep a clear head to take on ‘The Man’.
Davey’s own path is made very clear in Eclectic Devils; he’s having a ball with his creative freedom!”
I think one of the things that’s so good about this latest Alan Davey CD is that where Human on the Outside was wide-ranging in its ambitions, perhaps not unnaturally given that Alan at the time was coming out of a long association with Hawkwind and enjoying the chance to highlight different aspects of his craft, Eclectic Devils has a little bit more focus. Now, it’s still quite right to say, as I have above, that Alan’s “having a ball with his creative freedom”, but where his last CD had a bit of everything gathered into it, for this one he’s spent additional time thinking through what he wants to achieve and the type of approach the tracks should take.
Some might miss the instrumental synthesiser-wash that he’d got a tad pigeon-holed into with Hawkwind (‘Blue Shift’, ‘Out Here We Are’) but what I’m hearing is someone refining his song-writing skills. He’s had some assistance... I’m really not overstating my case when I note that the Isobel Morris co-write ‘Encounter’ is one of his best tracks not just here but throughout his solo and Hawkwind career, in fact it’s the emotional heart of the collection. But there’s clarity of purpose to the whole which delivers a highly satisfying cohesiveness and elevates this album right up to the heights of Alan’s catalogue.
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