In the world of Hawkwind reissues and compilations, it's very easy to look askance at this four-CD box set and shrug -- after all, it's only one more low budget collection of low-quality outtakes and live cuts, isn't it? As a matter of fact, it isn't. Rather, it is the first ever Hawks collection to compile material from every legitimate source available at that time, including the band's stints on UA, Charisma, Bronze and RCA; indeed, prior to this box, none of the latter material was available on compact disc. Neither were single mixes of "25 Years" and "Angels of Death," and the original studio version of "High Rise" (which was inexplicably replaced by an inferior live version on the P.X.R.5 CD). And that's just for starters. Add one previously unreleased cut, "I Am the Eye That Looks Within" and a full set of lyrics, and this is an almighty package from the word go.
Certainly it eclipses Hawkwind manager Doug Smith's subsequent Epoch Eclipse collection, despite that box's weighty reputation as the "ultimate collection"; no less than 27 of the 44 performances included here are duplicated there, but it's what was omitted that relegates the other box to second place. "LSD," "Born to Go," "You Know You're Only Dreaming," "Lord of Light," "Reefer Madness," "Wind of Change," and "Who's Gonna Win the War" are all stone-old Hawkwind classics, while there's also a far more balanced view of the band's development here, to ensure that every aspect of the group gets a fair shake of the stick. The years that have passed since this box's release, of course, have seen no let up in Hawkwind's productivity, meaning that there's at least another disc's worth of material that ought to be compiled to bring the story up to date. When and if that happens is anybody's guess, but one hopes when they're looking for blueprints to work from, it's 25 Years On that they choose. It isn't the only Hawkwind box set out there, but it is the only one that is truly worth your while to hunt down.