Space rock is cool, and here are the coolest space albums

by DGO Web Administrator

It was 1989, and my cranky, in-need-of-some-deodorant hold-out from the ’60s co-worker told me he listened to “space rock.” I knew nothing of the bands he referenced, as Tangerine Dream and K.T. Reeder weren’t part of my collection. My knowledge then of the “genre” was the 12 to 20 minutes of wanking the Grateful Dead did in their shows that showed up on set-lists titled simply as “space.” Since, I’ve learned that garage, art, and prog of the rock variety can all fall under the space-rock umbrella.

The “space-rock” my old co-worker Jeff referenced is to me about as interesting as the concert Abraham Lincoln’s statue had to sit through back on January 19th. It wasn’t Gong or Hawkwind. Hell, it wasn’t even Pink Floyd. I’m not sure what that dude was listening to. But here’s what I listen to from the “genre,” some perhaps more space-themed than space rock.

Parliament, “Mothership Connection”Parliament was the funkier sibling to George Clintons Funkadelic, and Mothership Connection its 1975 masterpiece. Clinton always had a concept angle, creating a world where black people were going places they hadn’t; in this case, space. This record is flat-out fun, a stick-in-your-head collection of hooks driven by a huge band, which included staples Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell, and, fresh from the J.B.’s, Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley.

Drakkar Sauna, “20009”This Kansas roots duo is cosmic whether covering The Louvin Brothers, or putting together a tripped-out folk record. While void of predictable space flair of rockets and aliens, it’s grounded in reality, reminding you that space is everywhere.

Paul Kanter and Jefferson Starship, “Blows Against the Empire”Kantner’s tale of a counterculture revolution against an egotistical leader may hit close to home. It’s post-hippie fare featuring heavy hitters from 1970 San Francisco, including Jerry Garcia displaying some nice pedal-steel chops.

Hawkwind, “Space Ritual”This long-running English rock band, still going since 1969, lyrically explored sci-fi while favoring long, loose jams on its live double-album released in 1973. Any band with a “space” influence should bow to Hawkwind.

Esquivel, “Space Age Bachelor Pad”This is loose, weird and animated cocktail jazz at its finest. I’m not sure where Esquivel was coming from, or trying to go with any of his music, perhaps he was just stuck on an elevator hurdling through space and this was the soundtrack.

Al Caiola, “Music for Space Squirrels”Holy instrumental weirdness. Too animated for jazz, too jazzy for animation, Caiola’s covers and instrumentals are all over a space-age map. It’s groovy, it’s weird, it’s Danny Gatton on acid providing the soundtrack for Frankie and Annette surf films set on Mars.

Spiritualized, “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space”Jason Pierce, aka J. Spacemen, does the VU-influenced electric folk and weird art-punk as well as anyone. This tripped-out rock record drips with emotion as Pierce runs both to and from his demons. It’s orchestral without being overbearing, and one of the great records of the ’90s that the mainstream ignored.

Man or Astroman, “Defcom 5..4..3..2..1”This surf-rock band that also bent on sci-fi has always dabbled in the future. While telecaster twang can, at times, stink of nostalgia, there’s a look to the unpredictable in this, and perhaps all its releases.

Space is cool.

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected]


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