It took forever to find a good copy of Doremi Fasol Latido, the third album from space rock pioneers Hawkwind for a price that wasn’t outrageous. The band’s third studio album – and the first to feature one Mr. Ian Fraser Kilmister on bass – marks the change of emphasis of their signature space rock sound from the “space” to the “rock” but I feel like the album gets a bit of short shrift since the live album that documents the touring cycle of the record might be one of the greatest live albums ever recorded. It’s definitely the place where I first heard most of these sings. But the studio effort has a lot going for it, so for me it’s still a part of the band’s essential discography.
Each album at this point arrived with lineup changes, and Doremi Fasol Latido was no different. In addition to Lemmy taking the bass spot from Dave Anderson, Simon King took over drum duties from Terry Ollis, and his more driving, forward motion rock beat helped set the stage for the band to get heavier and more propulsive with their music. You can hear it straight away in the 11-minute opener “Brainstorm” – Brock may be singing about being released from the planet’s erosion, but the riffing is pure grounded blues rock jamming. Even as the keyboards explore new sonic universes Lemmy’s bass keeps the track tethered to the earth. Things settle in a bit more with “Space Is Deep”, the synthesizers juxtaposed against some sweet acoustic strumming. It’s a nice showcase for the role Michael Davies, aka Did Mike plays in the band. When the more electric, rocking portion of the tune kicks in after about three and half minutes that sense of psychedelic space motorik keeps things interesting. It also provides enough of a taste to really enjoy the brief side closer “One Change” from keyboard and synthesizer player Del Dettmar, who also handles the production duties.
Side Two gets even more straightforward with its rock elements, starting with the classic “Lord of Light”. Although Hawkwind are primarily known for their songs based on the stories of Michael Moorcock, here we have a loose interpretation of the famous award-winning novel by Roger Zelazny. At seven minutes long there’s still plenty of space for some interstellar jamming and echoed vocals, weird panning effects and everything that you would come to expect when you see the tag “space rock” added to something. For me things get a little tedious with “Down Through The Night” and its similar acoustic stylings to “Space Is Deep”, albeit without the more interesting elements. It’s also probably rh track that suffers from the most from the production. There are a LOT of ambient sounds layered over the guitars and flutes, and rather than adding any kind of aural aura it just muddles things to the point where you kind of forget the song exists.
Not so with heady rocker “Time We Left This World Today”. Buried beneath the call and response vocals is a Sabbath-worthy riff that ebbs and flows out of the song until things start to get positively Voivod-ian…except of course that band wouldn’t exist for almost another decade. Hendrix-heavy wah work guides us out of the wilds and back to that primordial riff just in time for some vicious Lemmy bass soloing. And speaking of the great Kilmister, we get his first penned track to close out Doremi Fasol Latido: the acoustic doom blues of “The Watcher”. We also hear Lemmy sing, and it’s a huge departure from both what we’ve heard so far on the album, but also from what would turn into the styling that would mark Kilmister’s next band – in fact he re-recorded it for Motörhead’s eponymous debut and with the fuzzed-out bass and his more signature snarl you can barely hear any Hawkwind (maybe the doubled vocals) but you can certainly where Lemmy would go for the next 30+ years.
In the end Doremi Fasol Latido certainly does work as a studio album, as as an introduction to where Hawkwind would head in their next few classic records. But would I go to this rather than Space Ritual, which has everything except “The Watcher” on it, and in more expansive form? Who knows, but it’s certainly nice to finally have the choice.
Now to listen to some Motörhead.