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Space Waltz - Album Review: Victory

13 Jun 2023 // A review by Rob Harbers

Way back in New Zealand’s entertainment history, as hard as it may be to believe, long before the days of streaming, if you wanted to watch TV you had one choice. State broadcasting provided all content, across a single channel. And only if you were really, really flash was it even in colour!!! Imagine the shock, then, when in 1974, there dropped in to this monochrome world, like visitors from another planet, the ever-so-slightly androgynous Alistair Riddell, with his band Space Waltz, channelling full-on glam across the screens of the nation! First coming to notice on the talent show 'New Faces', with the heavily Bowie-influenced Out On The Streets, their journey took them all the way to the top of the charts at the time, before foundering on the rocks of an attempt at breaking through in Australia. Various members of the band then cropped up in other, more successful, outfits over the next few years, showing the nurturing effect of such an environment on Aotearoa’s musical talent. Before breaking up, an album was released, and showed the potential of what could’ve been, had things gone a little differently.

However, the dream never really faded, and in 2004 there was talk of an imminent follow-up album. Anyone holding their breath for this, though, would’ve long since expired, as it is only 19 years subsequently that it’s finally come to fruition! Doesn’t pay to rush things...

But here we are, and in a span of musical time vying to rival, on the literary front, the 55 year gap between Harper Lee’s debut novel 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and her follow-up, there’s a new Space Waltz album to enjoy! No doubt there’s some stats geeks out there who can tell us whether this is the longest period between a first and second album, but does it really matter? The more important question is whether the band can still entertain, and the answer to that is an emphatic “yes!”

Leading off with the enticingly swinging Hypnotise Me, a groove is laid down that shows that age has not wearied them, and this is maintained throughout the album’s 49 minutes. This track prominently features the young keyboard maestro Eddie Rayner, and based on the skills demonstrated here and across the rest of the material, he’s got a very bright future ahead of him!

Track 2, What Good Does It Do Me, displays an endearing swing and lightness of touch, underpinned by the years of collective experience of the various band members. But if we’re being perfectly honest, it’s the third track’s updated version of Out on the Streets that many will gravitate to before anything else, just to see what’s been done to it. Avoiding the sadly overworn path of attempting to completely recast classic material (Layla, anyone?), this is a subtle rejuvenation of the original, only serving to fill out the texture and improve on it. Thankfully not an attempt to reinvent the wheel, but just kitting it out with a better tyre, perhaps. This same approach holds for the 3 other re-recorded songs (Fraulein Love, Angel and Scars of Love) , keeping the faith with past fans while injecting new life into the favourites.

The new material sits comfortably alongside these classics, showing the depth of songwriting talent present herein, while encompassing deeper concerns, as might be expected to be an outcome of increased maturity. In this respect, Golden Weather stands out, with its theme of environmental degradation. Rule the World has a streak of optimism about it that in many ways typifies the overall feel of the album, an uplifting spirit that concedes little to the advance of time.

In summary, then, an album that carries much interest, for both original fans and maybe a new generation. The very fact that this even exists is a triumph of itself, the fact of sounding so good is the icing on the Victory. No excessively nostalgic exercise, giving the past its due while being firmly in the present, this is a project worthy of attention, and piques interest for the upcoming tour. I’ll be there, and should this get the respect it deserves, so will many more!

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )

About Space Waltz

Sounding like New Zealand's answer to Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, Space Waltz were fronted, sung, guitared and written for by Alastair Riddell, who caught the wild and trippy spirit of the times with the 1974 hit 'Out On The Street'.

Alastair Riddell and Eddie Rayner will be releasing a new Space Waltz album at the end of July 2004.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Space Waltz


Year: 2023
Type: Album
Space Waltz
Year: 2002
Type: Album

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