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Steve HACKETT discography

Read the interview

Voyage Of The Acolyte
Please Don't Touch
Spectral Mornings
Defector
Cured
Highly Strung
Bay Of Kings
Till We Have Faces
Momentum
Time Lapse
Guitar Noir
There Are Many Sides
To The Night

Blues With A Feeling
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Genesis Revisited
Tokyo Tapes
Darktown
Sketches Of Satie
Feedback '86
Live Archive
Somewhere In South America...
To Watch The Storms
Hungarian Horizons
Live Archive NEARfest
Live Archive 03


STEVE HACKETT -
Live Archive 03
Camino Records 2004

Another entry in the "Archive" series captures the Steve Hackett band on the European leg of the "To Watch The Storms" tour. Not that the set list is much different from the one played a year before at NEARfest, and there's not much new material from the "Storms" album itself, although pretty slick "Brand New" is exactly what the title suggests. But welcomed in are some old gems: "Please Don't Touch" (now in its entirety, not a part of a medley), "Clocks" and "Slogans", now more powerful than when they were brand new. Surprisingly, the ensemble - arguably, the best the guitarist ever had - still grow in strength, to groove mighty in "Camino Roayle" and bubble joyfully in "Every Day".

What's more and more obvious is a jazz component of Steve's current phase: "Vampyre With A Healthy Appetite" takes in a direct quote from Glenn Miller's "In The Mood", "Walking Away From Rainbows" now boasts a great lyrical flight of Rob Townsend's sax, while "Mechanical Bride" becomes wilder and fully unleashed each time it's being played, this version vying for the 'definitive' status, with five instruments entangled into something sparkling. Sometimes, though, it takes just one of those, Hackett's acoustic solo has been re-shaped to include a couple of rarely played pieces, "Horizons" and "Kim" retained nevertheless, the latter featuring brother John on flute.

Aggressive and gentle, this selection is, perhaps, the best live album of all the recent titles - a pity it's limited to stevehackett.com.

*****
STEVE HACKETT -
Live Archive NEARfest
Camino Records 2003

Joining Hackett's concert recordings that comprise "Live Archive" box set, which traced Steve's trail through the '70s, '80s and '90s, this set takes the veteran into 21st century. His performance at 2002's NEARfest turned into a master class for guitarists and younger progsters, who just can't be as precise as raw at the same time. This time the band do it raw, indeed, but that only adds edge to madful instrumental interplay in the middle section of "Mechanical Bride". It may sound too gritty to one's taste, so the option is to pick up a very similar "Somewhere In South America..." album instead, yet the gain in quality will result in loss of two historic cuts, "Every Day" and "Spectral Mornings", that haven't been played for quite a time and returned on-stage now. All this goes to show that "Hackett To Bits", appearing here as regular part of scintillating medley, means presenting different facets of the guitarist's talent as a whole rather than an array of splinters. But even if it was so, these splinters would be guilded and treasured.

****1/2
STEVE HACKETT -
Hungarian Horizons
Live In Budapest
Camino Records 2003

See the DVD

Perhaps, it's down to Hackett's rock background that the guitarist doesn't turn chamber when he lays his hands on an acoustic instrument, and if previously Steve's unplugged performances might sound a bit sterile, as documented on "There Are Many Sides To The Night", having resumed active touring, in 2002 he gives it a full blow. From the opening "Horizons", the show builds on to incorporate such unexpected in this silky context pieces like GENESIS' "Hairless Heart", strings picked with no sustain, and "Firth Of Fifth", or intro to GTR's "Imagining" which the maestro, accompanied by his flautist brother John and a keyboardist Roger King, takes right on the same level as Bach's "Bouree" or Debussy's "Sphinx" - all because there's as much passion in the delivery as breeziness in the mood. The atmosphere's so airy, it allowed "Mustard Seed" from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" concerto to make its stage appearance alongside previosly edgy "Jacuzzi" crossed with "Overnight Sleeper" off long-forgotten "Cured", that still rock nevertheless.

More rare cuts do so too, guitar dancing with flute on piano bedrock make "Jazz On A Summer's Night" a TULL-type folk attack, rootsy and gentle. That's how the three treat classical material: well-represented in the set are soulful variations on great Italian masters' works such as Giuliani's "Andante In C", Vivaldi's "Concerto In D" or Morricone's "Cinema Paradiso". It flows just naturally - on to tunes from Hackett's debut album, "Ace Of Wands" and dusted-off and polished "Hands Of The Priestess". In Steve's own hands, time blurs, and this performance is truly timeless.

*****
STEVE HACKETT -
To Watch The Storms
Camino Records 2003

An ultimate Hackett album this one, a 'best of' in terms of style. With all their variety, Steve's previous efforts tend to explore some particular strain of his talent, whereas "The Storms" has everything in it, from hushes to smashes. He may go down the memory lane - "Strutton Ground" velvet harmonies might come from "Wind And Wuthering", and if not for "Circus Of Becoming" vaudeville bursting into crystal cosmic rock no ears would be ready for the idiosyncratic disco bubbling of "The Devil Is The Englishman" and the "Mechanical Bride" cruel riffage. It's counterbalanced with classical guitar tremble on "Wind, Sand And Stars" and the "Fire Island" pure blues, yet even the contrast with a nervous Eastern drone of "The Silk Road" - a link to "Till We Have Faces" - feels congenial enough to draw a thread between heaven and hell - and a fair, which is rocking "Brand New" that features Ian McDonald on sax.

Still, no matter what style's explored on a cut - for "Come Away" it's mazurka - the prevailing mood is romantic, "This World" taking the lyricism onto sublime widescreen panorama and "Rebecca" rolling its exquisite poison ivy around the techno groove. Out of this calm emerges a calamity, when, in a "mini-musical" "Marijuana Assassin Of Youth", a church organ gives way to a primal punky twang - the first time Hackett plays rock 'n' roll on a record! - so here's a big concept tapping into a subconcious and a real storm with a jive to it. Dissolving in a flute-awashed flow of "Serpentine Song" - played live for three years before the actual recording took place - it gets under a skin and provide a warm warm comfort. A masterpiece.

*****
STEVE HACKETT -
Somewhere In South America...
Live In Buenos Aires
Camino Records 2002

See the DVD

Once a whole minute of Steve wrenching a note of "The Floating Seventh" out of his Gibson breaks into an almost orchestral soundcloth of "Mechanical Bride", yet to be released on "To Watch The Storms", it becomes clear that the veteran has just been saving energy making a rare live appearance over the last ten years to let it loose in the new millenium. There seem to be two invigorative factors in all this, the first being the guitarist's aural experiments he finally brought on-stage, and the second the band of 2001: bassist Terry Gregory and sax and flute player Rob Townsend are perfect match for Hackett in the solo-delivering department, with Gary O'Toole's delicate drumming and Roger King's keyboard brushes taking "Sierra Quemada" to the wuthering heights. Sometimes, like in "Bride" or another new piece, gentle, vocal harmony-filled ballad "Serpentine Song", the group pull into CRIMSON territory, but it's down to the jazz which Steve's music's soaken with these days, and he spikes with it even a medley of his classic tunes including a snippet of GTR's "Imagining".

Classics are aplenty here, up to GENESIS' wonderful "Hairless Heart", though some receive a new treatment - "Watcher Of The Skies" an instrumental! - and that's good, because it's certainly a progress rather than stagnation one might expect from a progressive rock relict as some think of Steve. And he does rock, plainly riffing in "Vampyre With A Healthy Appetite" or pouring sublime blues into "Firth Of Fifth" only to dissolve the attack in acoustic lace of "Gnossienne #1" from the Satie album and that trademark of his, "Horizons". Numbers both old and new, "A Tower Struck Down" and "Darktown", sit comfortably side by side in the show, so there's hardly a need for uknown short sketches, "The Wall Of Knives" and "Pollution", to hold such a genre-crossing material together. Still, they add shades to Hackett's shadow play, where pleasure reigns. Walk in and live the dream.

*****
STEVE HACKETT -
Live Archive -
70, 80, 90's
Camino Records 2001










Strange it may seem, previously Steve Hackett never had a proper live album. Hardly representative, "Tokyo Tapes" showed a supergroup in action, and "Many Sides To The Night" an acoustic concert. "Time Lapse" had some of it yet comprised two gigs spliced, from 1981 and 1990. Now, each decade of Steve's life on the road receives an exposure. Neat box and impressive booklet aside, "Archive" gives an opportunity to hear in good quality what before was only on bootlegs. Still, it's performance that matters, not the sound.

It doesn't make sense judging which period of Steve's activity is more interesting, but '70s have been intriguing the most and, therefore, get covered on three CDs. The earliest recordings, made on October '78 at Hammersmith, appear at the end of bonus disc available for exclusive purchase through Camino Records site. The very beginning, Hackett just had "Please Don't Touch" out though off this album here's only "Racing In A" featuring Dick Cadbury's pronounced bass and - lest one forget it was later that Steve dared sing - voice of Peter Hicks. Other tracks come from the meister's debut: "Ace Of Wands" marvellously speeded-up with John Shearer's spacious drums and John Hackett's flute dancing around his sibling's guitar to step in the spotlight for the only released version of "Hands Of The Priestess".

That band of two Hacketts, Hicks, Shearer, Cadbury and Nick Magnus on keyboards didn't fall short of upstaging GENESIS in terms of intense playing (not for calmed "Ace Of Wands" and "A Tower Struck Down" though) and by 1979, after "Spectral Mornings", were an established live unit with a lot of material to show: done was half of each three albums! First two CDs contain another Hammersmith concert, recorded in June, and the main part of the additional disc harks back to October's Newcastle; four months' big difference is the former performance coming twice as long. Who else dared stage prog gig in 1979? Opening "Please Don't Touch" alone is enough for the impact, Steve's creating aural fireworks and John conjuring up dervish tricks before spilling heavy jazz of "Tigermoth" and, later, "The Steppes" and "Sentimental Institution" try-outs - "Defector" wasn't in tow yet. Vocal harmonies deserve high praise too: "Everyday", "Narnia" and "Carry On Up The Vicarage" gain more magic than vertiginous studio versions, so surprises lie not only in "Wardrobe Boogie" folk-blues extravaganza following "I Know What I Like" and "Blood On The Rooftops" amazing acoustic snippet or one more rare-comer, "Star Of Sirius". It's a tremendous experience where long applause not cut out only adds to live feel.

CD 3 was committed to tape in Rome in June '81, thus preceding November tracks included on "Time Lapse". This time around there's a complete concert the more worthy as early '80s saw Hackett not only singing himself and having re-shuffled the band to welcome a Chas Cronk and Ian Mosley rhythm section but also re-shaping the style into pop-bordering rock. Hence, from "The Air-Conditioned Nightmare" it's a different mood, lighthearted a bit - spot "The Show" - yet featuring a great interaction with the audience who cheer songs off recent "Cured" and "Defector" alongside favourites like "Wands", "Morning" and "Clocks". Now "The Steppes" was a familiar tune too, and thumbs up were given to John's work on "Jacuzzi" as well. Another approach demanded "Funny Feeling" and "Overnight Sleeper" - more synthesizers than guitar, very down-to-earth, and Steve doing his vocally best on "Every Day" and "Hope I Don't Wake". Sometimes it turns as a colder endeavour with "Picture Postcard" almost lacking the vibe and that translates into music getting restrained even on "Tower Struck Down", "Slogans" being an exclusion.

June '93's performance from London's Grand Theatre is a unique one. Not full this time, only highlights but there's something transcendent about it as Steve cuts in with medley spanning his whole career. Through "Myopia", "Wands" and "Hackett To Pieces" to GENESIS' "Los Endos" and GTR's "Imagining", tunes seague seamlessly one into other lining a thread of Steve's craftsmanship as both composer and player. Towards the end lurks another pastiche, comprised of "Spectral Mornings", "Firth Of Fifth" and "Clocks", but, save "In The Quiet Earth" finale, the band deliver a good part of the then promoted "Guitar Noir" album with an odd inclusion of a staple "Kim" (brother John guesting) and "Always Somewhere Else". The latter depicts the mantle the meister puts on now, helped by thunderous Hugo Degenhardt, liquid bass of Doug Sinclair and Julian Colbeck taken the musical partner's place Nick Magnus had emptied. In this new mode, Steve excells again pouring in many a harmony guitar against "Vampyre With A Healthy Appetite" rap before he breaks into harmonica solo of it and "Lost In Your Eyes". There are many blues to the night.

And many sides to it too, like appropriate song suggests. "Dark As A Grave" gloom sets in with soaring "Sierra Quemada" and breezy Latin-coloured "Take These Pearls" near romantic "Walking Away From Rainbows". Here's the mature musician who's learnt to leave notes out for gaps to talk. Sotto voce but eloquent, the ambience Hackett pursued in the '90s - "In The Heart Of The City" an example - came very natural, representing him as everchanging himself. A river of constant change, then? Did Steve forsee that trek when he was chosing a title for his first album? A man in motion, a voyager, Hackett's "Live Archive" is rather a travelogue. An ongoing journey rather than document of an era dead and gone.

*****
Feedback '86
Camino Records 2000

So called Hackett's "lost album" which gathered dust in the vaults for a long time. The recordings hark back to the GTR period's end. Then Steve was trying to find another turn for his career with a little help from his friends. The names. Let alone faithful keyboards virtuoso Nick Magnus yet on hand was MARILLION rhythm section of Ian Mosley and Pete Trewavas. As was Chris Thompson, who in 1976 belted out "Blinding By The Light" for MANFRED MANN'S EARTH BAND. He lends his voice for "Cassandra", a strenuous pop rock song of ASIA kind - and as melodic, you fall for it right from the off. Duetting with Steve's is Brian May's guitar. A curly axeman hardly needs introduction yet here he gives up to Hackett to step forward with "Slot Machine" co-written with Steve and again sung by Thompson. Easy to imagine good old Mr. Bulsara doing this one, closer to the QUEEN canon rather than Hackett's - it would suit Max Bacon well, too.

But here's another Steve's shadow present - Howe's. While the two were getting ready for the second GTR album they came up with brilliant song called "Prizefighters" which was even sung live as King Biscuit's "GTR In Concert" witnesses. Hackett scored a studio version too, more bluesy and fluent, and had not only Chris delivering the vocals but delicious Bonnie Tyler as well. Two vibrant voices creat somewhat opera effect making one wonder how mighty it would be if on-stage.

"Stadiums Of The Damned" and "The Gulf" recorded only by Hackett and Magnus (and not in 1986, you bet) were previously included in the Camino Records edition of "Till We Have Faces" and here are to fill the space - but isn't it much better to have these solid tracks again than be robbed of the rest? How good Steve voice sounds on them! And for "Don't Fall" Hackett pulls off his first instrument, the beloved harmonica, to underpin Thompson singing the blues with a pop approach - an interesting combination tested by GTR's "Reach Out". And at last we have the studio version of delicate "Oh How I Love You" introduced to the wide audience as acoustical instrumental on "There Are Many Sides To The Night". Originally it appears to be a poignant piano-driven song for which Chris takes on the same tragic tone he used for "The Road To Babylon" - though instrumental version is more heart-wrecking. And if he was to prove that, Steve placed next pure guitar piece "Notre Dame Des Fleurs" that easily could fit "Momentum".

Back in 1986 momentum was lost - and gained now with "Feedback".

****
JOHN HACKETT &
STEVE HACKETT
Sketches Of Satie
Camino Records 2000

It's very unlikely that GENESIS fans will love this album that's for those into classical music. Steve had some forays into this field with "Momentum" and "Bay Of Kings" but those were guitar albums. "A Midsummer Night's Dream", concerto for acoustic guitar and orchestra, was a good statement and "Sketches" are even more serious.

It's John's album rather than Steve's. John has been helping his sibling from the latter's first solo effort, "Voyage Of The Acolyte", and stepped aside when Steve went too deep into rock/pop stuff a la "Cured". So now Steve pays his brother back.

Satie is a kind of "musician's composer". Annie Haslam covered his "Gymnopedie No. 1" on her "Still Life" album (this piece is here) and who else? It's a challenge re-working Satie's piano works for flute and guitar and presenting them as an album. Had Steve not established his "Camino Records" we'd, perhaps, not have this gem. Here Steve just accompanies John's flute playing. How gentle the tunes are, many of them with Oriental ornament! This flute soothes not rocks as Ian Anderson's one. Steve comes up with solo only on three short pieces but towards the end, in five Nocturnes, brothers balance each other - though there never was a competition which ruins many good efforts. But not this one. A must have for every serious music lover.

*****
Darktown
Camino Records 1999

It was a coincidence that the album was released on April 26 on the 13th year after Chernobyl explosion, but a coincidence significant. There are many sides to the night, Hackett said, but until that album he never ever explored a night of childhood mixed through the years with a night of a soul. It takes special means. And maestro is in posession.

"Omega Metallicus" bursts in as a surprise. What is it? A slapped bass? A techno groove? Blackmore gone crazy? Off all the experiments Steve had to the date it was the most challenging one - and a charming, too. Bass is mighty, indeed, but all the tricks are provided by guitar. It goes up classical scales, it goes down a little atonal, it shakes, it breaks, it revs up. Is it really Steve at all? Yes, but Steve wearing a mask and playing a masque. A murky theater. It's Edgar Poe's Red Mask - or Vampyre with a healthy appetite, if you will - entering "Darktown". A voice citing verses, Ian McDonald's silver lightning sax spears the night. In a nightmare. Not air-conditioned one as Hackett's guitar lurks in the shadows. But it crawls out acoustically for "Man Overboard", a delicate, heart-rending piece of "Momentum" kind but with vocals gentle to the core and an orchestral part as of "A Midsummer Night's Dream". And a dream comes. Flute signals and a march begins "The Golden Age Of Steam", soft and warm romantic flashback, decorated with strings. Forties, ain't it? A military choir, a radio commentator. Memory winds back and a vibrant Jim Diamond's voice welcomes the return to "Days Of Long Ago". Almost an operatic effect - and this immediately recognisable acoustic strumming in front of orchestra.

A time machine is on. "Dreaming With Open Eyes" appears slow but hot. Way back to Brazil, to "Till We Have Faces", that's what it is, back in the night of "Guitar Noir". Guitar unrolls into wide stratum, familiar from the GENESIS days, in "Twice Around The Sun", a soaring Icarus ascending. Up and down, up and down - and "Rise Again". Think of Ian Anderson here, where the vocals come low and extremely serious and moody, framed by acoustic. Living in the past? Yes again, as there's a melody passes by, which Hackett returns to again and again. And "The Golden Age" motif is re-visited time and again.

Steve, an eager reader, decides to knock on "Jane Austen's Door", a tune light yet sad. Not Narnia, not Emerald City. It's a Darktown. And there's a riot in it. "Darktown Riot" leads back to that "plastic" groove with guitar escapades. A trick of the tale, of the tail, of memory. A hymn to the days of yore is "In Memoriam", a mighty solemn epic filled with John Wetton's wall-breaking bass samples so it's easy to think of "Starless". Such was the past - here's to the glorious future!

****
The Tokyo Tapes
Camino Records 1998

See the DVD

One of the best live albums of all is a superlative but truth. Rarely appears a combination of superstars not to jam but to play full show. Thanks to mr. Hackett, this happened. Steve's cohort Julian Colbeck and maestro himself got off to Japan accompanied by Chester Thompson, Ian McDonald and John Wetton. Sound quality is stunning and exactly that, needed not to miss any precious note from the band. Audience are on their toes from the opening chords of "Watcher Of The Skies". John Wetton's voice really shines in it, much more than on "Genesis Revisited" and there should be no comparisons with Pete or Phil because this version rocks with another dimension given by John's pumping bass and Ian's flute in soft spots. Breathtaking it is. Steve plays perfectly as always and is more a band member rather than soloist. Well, he was all for it but the friends step back for "Riding The Colossus", a light instrumental with Beethoven tones.

Wetton dramatically breaks into "Firth Of Fifth", another GENESIS tune he already handled on the studio album. "Let it be revealed"? It is, the guitar singing alongside with John. Julian's piano and Ian's reed get in for the central part to be battled by the bass and Chester's cymbals - then Steve breaks in, tension grows at full swing... And peace's restored by completely new guitar solo, thus leaves "Selling England" original far behind. Behind the battlelines, as Wetton puts it. "Battlelines" played by this band has more impact than all other versions John came up with on his live albums. Hackett surely adds his touch to it. Next, we hear Steve introducing his buddies before storming into "Camino Royale", where his axe is supported by McDonald's sax playing in unison. The piece seems to be more jazzy with every live treatment, not to mention guys joining in for chorus. Maybe, it's only a fool who learns to get through, but these musicians know the trick oh so well. Sax rockets to the sun and Steve pulls out his harmonica to provide a frenetic blues. Bass grooves, keyboards sprawl all around - a feast of sound.

And is there a better place for feasts than kings' courts? As a nod towards Ian's songwriting skills (and Wetton's past, too) in set present "In The Court Of The Crimson King". It's smoother without Fripp's hard edge exchanged for Steve's liquid guitar. Not so epic as well but McDonald blows a gentle solo on his flute giving "The Court" a new twist, a new horizon. Had Steve not played his acoustic highlight "Horizons" that night, everybody would feel robbed. In the right mood, in was a right time for "Walking Away From Rainbows" too. From rainbows - and into "Heat Of The Moment" Wetton cut a while ago for ASIA. For this show John chose a stripped bare slow version with only acoustic guitar and keyboards' thin background (spot the lyrics again changed for a proper year to be mentioned). Majestic it is and even more when Hackett starts weaving his spell into it to go straight into "In That Quiet Earth" - again with supportive flute and a newly added free sax. Harmony guitar bounces in "Vampyre With A Healthy Appetite", an arguable stage favourite Steve turned the song into by his beloved harmonica. That was John's turn to have some touches of his, which he did with a great pleasure.

A time came for Ian McDonald to go to the front and sing "I Talked To The Wind". Ian, never a solid singer, delivered, anyway, the most sincere take on the famous CRIMSO's ballad. Once back to the world of magic, Hackett takes off the vintage gem, which "Shadow Of The Hierophant" is. Extremely rarely played, the epic lost none of his catchiness with time. Some intensity, maybe, yet it's compensated by Thompson's drum solo leading to "Los Endos", stronger than before due to Ian and John and jazz they made. And it's not the end of the show... Encores are "Black Light" as exqusite live as in studio, "The Steppes", now not as heavy, and - yeah! - "I Know What I Like". Bet, no one expected this smash - especially to be sung in three voices and in such a cheeky way!

Wish we were there that evening to relive it and relish while listening to "The Tokyo Tapes". One way or another, Steve has a gift for absent friends - two new studio tracks, elaborate "Firewall" and "The Dealer", groovy but atmospheric. European copies have video bonuses, my Japanese version doesn't boast of, sporting instead "Los Endos" in its "Revisited" variant.

*****
Genesis Revisited
Reef 1997

It's hard to stop when you're creating a masterpiece, every artist knows that. And if an artist's great he knows where to stop. Which, nevertheless, doesn't mean he will be satisfied with the finished work. In most cases he's not. So sometimes it's good to revisit a work when you're older and wiser and not under duress. Thus, Steve Hackett decided to relive his GENESIS past to look at some gems of old from an angle of years and maturity. No way he wanted to fix the mistakes - there were any! - but to give the songs another turn, that was the case. With a help from the friends of his own league and Royal Philarmonic orchestra he worked with on "A Midsummer Night's Dream" maestro presented his fans with something as unique as majestic.

No drastic changes to "Watcher Of The Skies" except for power influx thanks to orchestra crescendos and John Wetton's distinctive voice. John re-unites here with his former colleague Bill Bruford, whose drumming is on par with Phil's though different. Hackett's guitar loops underpinned by Tony Levin's bass and Julian Colbeck's keyboards, that's what sounds fresh the most. Completely new look acquired "Dance On A Volcano", now a guitar thing right off the bluesy intro to the original rhythm changed for more digestible - with stunning jazz rhythm section of Alphonso Johnson and Chester Thompson coming to fore while Steve's use of voice effects appears not as impressive. But the tricks he does with guitar - time changes, processors, technique - are breathtaking.

Old friends Nick Magnus and Hugo Degenhardt get on board for "Valley Of The Kings", a new instrumental epic, a follow-up to "The Steppes" with that Moroccan beat and even melody. Well, where did we hear this intro, by the way? There's a clear rock solo quite rare in Hackett's works yet in abundance here. Recalling a dream. as Steve himself marked it. The real recollection, "Deja Vu", also has nothing to compare with, being a piece Peter Gabriel set off writing in 1973 but abandoned so Steve completed the opus now. What a beautiful and heart-rending tune sung by clear and soulful Paul Carrack's voice! Choir background puts Paul's vocals afront while Hackett pulls off his acoustic guitar for coda. That would be a fitting grand finale to any of the GENESIS classic albums.

Bruford and Wetton return to deliver "Firth Of Fifth" and make it more solid than original as this band - with Ben Fenner's keyboards and John's bass given prominence - plays more thick. Orcherstra jumps in for the central, most dramatic part, Bill runs through his percussion amunition, Steve's strumming, obligato - and Hackett goes flying with his classic solo. Really a river of constant change that you can't step in twice. Former ZOMBIE Colin Blunstone takes the vocal duties for "For Absent Friends", singing solely with orchestra the melody much slower than on "Nursery Cryme", closer to waltz tempo but it's lost something in this rendition. What can't be said of "Your Own Special Way". Carrack sounds not unlike Collins there, polishing the song to its soul brilliance yet taking off all of the tune's original naivette. Nothing special to Steve's playing here - it's top-notch as usual.

Re-written comes "Fountain Of Salmacis". In past days Hackett wasn't so confident with his acoustic, moreover, the song grooves now with Johnson/Thompson treatment just like "Till We Have Faces" tracks, even the singing style comes close - Steve explores both high and low registers. On the other hand, GENESIS made it a story in a picture book while this version is more of a cinema show.

With the GENESIS' "Archive 1967-1975" box set out everyone interested became familiar with "Waiting Room Only" atonal jam, which the band played during the "Lamb Lies Down" stagings. Steve meticulously restored it and reproduced in the studio having turned it into a complete piece. Was he inspired by THE BEATLES, by "A Day In The Life" and "The End" orchestra moves? A hurl in the past is obvious - "Decomposing Man" coming to mind first - but it's full of humour with all this jazz, blues, march, avant garde endeavours. Don't take it seriously - hardly a concidence the next track is "I Know What I Like". It became a kind of bluegrass and so charming that Steve introduces his all star combo while it lasts. And what could a vegeterian guitar serve for the final if not "Los Endos", boasting of Degenhardt's and Thompson's drumming and Ian McDonald's flute and sax? Hear the train kept a-rolling? Get on board and on, towards los endos of the rainbow.

*****
A Midsummer Night's Dream
EMI 1997

It was a challenge for Steve to not only write but perform a concert for acoustic guitar and orchestra together with The Royal Philarmonic. Of Hackett brothers, John is classically trained, not Steve. But he tried this minefield and succeeded. The Shakespeare's play given the music treatment is something interesting - maybe, much more so had Hackett took it with rock gloves. But there's no surprise at all after his acoustic endeavours in form of "Bay Of Kings" and "Momentum".

Solo guitar pieces as "Titania" could easily make one of these or be collected together for a new one. So "Dream" is that new in both sences. Sometimes it's a guitar accompanied by orchestra, sometimes other way round, but guitar dominates - it's a guitarist's album! In places one can guess the certain composers manners - spot a hint of Tchaikovsky in "A Form In Wax" or Webber in "In The Beached Margent Of The Sea" - yet there's none of direct quotes and it's hardly Steve thought of those greats deliberately. If they were, they could really liven up the album because it appears to be too sparse in places as if Steve had to fill the space. Thus, "Set Your Heart At Rest" contrasts with intensely delivered "Oberon". Painting a musical portrait (as Wakeman used to) comes easier for maestro rather than telling a story. Strange, because fairy tale sets everyone's fantasy wandering.

Fully-orchestrated "Between The Cold Moon & The Earth" comes as close to GENESIS and "Nutcracker" at one time as possible - a joyful listening, while of "Puck" one could expect more - the brownie's too colourful of a character to be drawn in such a murky tone. Oboe introduces "Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth & Mustardseed", an elegant tune in the vein of Bach Hackett's assumingly very fond of. And of folk, too - there's some of it every here and there. The familiar tune hidden in "Lysander & Demetrius" go alongside with piccolos and "tubular bells" of "Celebration" - these are the most exquisite melodies and arrangements of the album. As Steve himself concluded this, "All Is Mended". Indeed.

***1/2
There Are Many Sides To The Night
Camino Records 1995

It's an amazing acoustic concert Steve performed in Palermo in 1994. Could anyone ever imagine Hackett would dare to get on-stage with his acoustic efforts, accompanied only by Julian Colbeck? (Strangely, at the same time his one-man show put on Steve Howe as well.) It's such delicious to hear a gentle guitar starting with that masterpiece, "Horizons", written way back in GENESIS. How far "Black Light" off "Bay Of Kings" is from "Foxtrot" in terms of time yet how close musically. Time lapse? Quite likely so - and guitarist comes up with "Time Lapse In Milton Keynes" reminiscing a brief reunion of his old band. "Skye Boat Song", a fitting title for such a light liquid melody. Steve introduces his melodies in very intimate way and how receptive is the audience!

"Beja Flor" makes it debut here, obviously dedicated to the artiste's wife, Kim Poor. Much well known and met with applauses is Steve's first address to a fiancee of his, "Kim", originating from "Please Don't Touch"| album. Keyboards get to the fore for a magical "Second Chance" written for TV film, and it's Hackett's turn now to provide an accompaniment. A joke with the audience and Steve delves into poignant "Oh, How I Love You", heartstrings touched even more softly. Again to the "Bay Of Kings" retreat with "The Journey", a tranquility base Hackett feels at home at. But Steve posesses a good sense of humor he shows in baroque of "Bacchus" supported by Colbeck's piano. "Walking Away From Rainbows" is more abstract here, taken off the album context yet no less beautiful.

Eventually the Sicilians are treated with some Italian themes. "Cavalcanti" originally opened the "Momentum" album, now a piece more aggressive, taking a new turn in places. Then, preceded by Giuliani's Andante In C, comes Vivaldi's Concerto In D, a common place for classics-obsessed rock guitarists - just recall "The Steve Howe Album" version. Hackett approaches the piece very carefully, trying to keep it original, and thus plays it quite slowly and solemn. Steve managed to pull the blues in, "A Blue Part Of Town", sounding unexpectedly natural and relevant in this atmosphere. So there's no surprise, really, he has no fear to stretch his memory back to the "Voyage Of The Acolyte" to get "Ace Of Wands" on the surface and change it all over for pure piano treatment. Great, waht else can be said?

Exalted audience made the duo return and deliver the encores, Morricone's "Cinema Paradiso" and "End Of The Day", a surprise. Yes, in the end it's a surprise, a show totally different to others Steve Hackett's put out. There are many sides to the night - to Hackett, too.

*****
Blues With A Feeling
Herald 1994

Well, there were many surprises Steve had for his fans throughout all his long career - acoustic albums, pop albums, rock ones, of course, concert for guitar and orchestra - but hardly any of them was as unexpected as blues album. Through the years on many occasions a listener would notice that Hackett loves to play harmonica, which he emulated sometimes with his multi-faceted guitar, but it's only on this album that he let it play as an instrument equal to his main. And that is the most amazing thing - Steve's harmony guitar delivering the blues with this treadmark sound. Yes, Hackett had a go on blues before - in "Let Me Count The Ways" on "Till We Have Faces", for instance - yet those blues were never as authentic. Thus, the major point is this album is a brilliant album of the genre - regardless that it's by this guitarist.

Steve's set on Chicago city blues, as he confessed, - that's why the band kicks in with well-known "Born In Chicago", recorded long ago by Paul Butterfield and Michael Bloomfield. Hackett meticulously reproduced this old style applied to vocal intonations and the way voice was recorded. One can immediately assume Steve's a master of his harpoon no less than of his axe - both get dancing around each other, making you swinging too. No harmonica at all in speeded-up version of Freddie King's "Stumble" - yes, Hackett had to be more imaginative here, as every name seemed to played it - John Mayall, Peter Green, Jeff Beck - and he's on par with those, indeed. And here comes a time to look at maestro from a new angle as there's a bunch of self-penned blues, the first being "Love of Another Kind". It's modern now, not restricted by original - harmonica anchores old manner while guitar lines stretch beyond the frame going all the way from hard rock to art rock to rhythm and blues. Triple vocals remind a little of FLEETWOOD MAC, and from Green's cup Steve drinks in "Way Down South" sporting mighty bass and drums. Drifting, ain't he? Drifting yet not reaching Delta - a pity.

Deeper into jazz-tinctured textures Hackett delves in "Blue Part of Town" co-written with Julian Colbeck, whose keyboards provide a perfect enviroment for harmonica - how they do catch this inner city blues, this loneliness. The two made the track one of many "Sides To The Night". And there's a honky tonk in this part of town. Out on the tiles Steve storms headlong with "Footloose" adorned with brass section. A sabre dance. Some like "Tombstone Rider" while Hackett rapping on "Tombstone Ruler" just as Greeny on "Oh Well" - that's the only common point, Steve approaches the style differently as if he were making an orchestra score, building an art rock epic in blues settings. And it is so to a certain extent.

Little Walter's "Blues With A Feeling" was Danny Kirwan's thing in MAC and Steve obviously chose that version - had he not excluded piano, he could add some touches off Duke Ellingtone's take, but piano would overshadow beautiful rhythm guitar line. All Hackett's band of himself, Colbeck, Hugo Degenhardt and Doug Sinclair get credited for "Big Dallas Sky", another big production track - and the less bluesy of all, it has atmoshperic, spacious feel and Steve's narrating, not singing. The piece's too sunny to make it to "Guitar Noir" though the mood is fitting. And how sparse seems "To the 13th Floor" if compared to it. There are only guitar and bouncing piano here - and no need for more, really, that's enough for creating the live presence of Steve and Julian jamming.

Another trodden path appears to be "So Many Roads" that Buddy Guy, Otis Rush and John Mayall touched once. Maybe roads are many but Hackett wasn't too inventive with this one having put all forces into rather standard soloing and high vocal - OK, what you can ask of blues. Back on old stomping ground with raspy voice maestro returns with aptly titled "Solid Ground", a feast of the blues, Rory Gallagher would be proud of. That's the feeling. Blues with no feeling are no blues at all.

*****
Guitar Noir
Viceroy 1993,
Camino Records 1997

After some years off art rock endeavours Steve comes back with a stunning album. The opener "Sierra Quemada" paints a mighty landscape with a soft brush. Guitar, underpinned by Julian Colbeck's keyboards, flows so fluidly in this instrumental piece, a listener is immediately hooked. This album has somewhat new age approach but dig the surface, there's much more to it. Laid back and at the same time tight, "Take These Pearls" demonstrates Steve's voice, as bright here as on "Till We Have Faces", and smells of Brazil, too. Some might liken it to Sting's "Fragile" and they won't get wrong with Aron Friedman's polyrhithmic synth work and Hackett's guitars unseparately intertwined. There's no solo as such, the instrument just picks up where the vocals get off. Poignant to the core, especially with those lyrics, really an "essence of a half remembered song".

Again, you can think of Sting and "Roxanne" as Steve admits "There Are Many Sides To The Night" a song of streetwalker. Yes, everyone has a deep motivations for his doings but only a real artiste understands them without condemning. Having started on electrtic, Hackett switches to acoustic mode to deliver a delicate tune in the vein of "Momentum" supplied with a bit of poetry - first verse a narration, and on, singing softly. Is "Guitar Noir" an ode to urban life? "In The Heart Of The City" still bears a tropic spirit, but it's certainly a heat of the city night, pierced with cars honks and threatening shadows. Note the "Kashmir"-like anxious bit after Gabriel-ish vocal build-up, first introduced in "The Steppes" on "Defector". Another plaintive musing is "Dark As The Grave" with Friedman's piano setting the scene. The city's abandoned, a theme of "Darktown" comes in with heavy echo on acoustic guitar and choir splashes cut by a deliberately out-of-tune electric axe.

Hugo Degenhardt's drums pave the way for Hackett's harpoon taken off a dirty red bandana. Hands up to a solid blues of "Lost In Your Eyes", a lost piece of "Blues With A Feeling" puzzle. Band jives at full swing, and who can pluck four strings better than geezer called Dave Ball? But nowadays America is hardly bluesy, dwelling and swelling in melancholy Hackett depicts in down-to-earth "Little America". "Chinese Elvis painted by Norman Rockwell", ain't it a banal thing Americans stuck to themselves selling it to the world? In "Like An Arrow" sparse string arrangement stands against Steve's voice, more low than usual - a gist of loneliness released in pre-War chanson of clarinet-adorned "Theatre Of Sleep". Maginific!

Well, there's "no time to abandon ship, the morning has arrived" while the magic's not over yet. The dream leaves an afterglow, "Walking Away From Rainbows", an exquisite instrumental piece. If yours a romantic soul, you can't wash it off. Together with his manager Billy Budis, Hackett continues the lyrical patch with gentle "Paint Your Picture" until the idyll gets broken by powerful "Vampyre With A Healthy Appetite", an exercise in hard rock. Harmony guitar soars thus contrasting distorted voice as the artiste speaks here rather than sings. A short bass solo, a portion of harmonica, a spot for drums and this guitar, oh this guitar. If you wonder how it works live, go for the "Tokyo Tapes". As a finale comes "Tristesse", a piece moody and too sad to end this wonderful work. So it's only great to revisit some tunes, now in demo versions really on par with those that made it onto album. Compare Colbeck's keyboards with those by Nick Magnus in "Heart Of The City" and home sketch of "Vampyre" to the polished take and get your kicks out of it.

*****
Time Lapse
Camino Records 1992

It's the first Hackett's official live album - the long overdue one. Very apt title as the album's comprised of two shows - one recorded in 1981, the other in 1990. These are a full band perfomances, maybe not so mighty as dream team Tokyo gigs but nevertheless top-notch. The quality garanteed by the players involved. Side by side with Steve on both occasions was his brother John. Listen to his flute in the opener, "Camino Royale" off the "Highly Strung" album. A good attack on the Nineties' listener, the track comes rather bluesy than jazzy compared to studio version - thanks to Steve's harmonica he wasn't keen on taking out back in the Eighties. Julian Colbeck's punctuated keyboards get on well with PENDRAGON's Fudge Smith's drums complementing the guitar together with Ian Ellis' bass. "Please Don't Touch", Hackett's second, a magically crafted collection of music, was always overlooked in the live situation but here it is, a title track, not so heavy loaded with effects so now it can be "played to people with heart conditions". Nowadays the innocence's gone - and returned by John's gentle flute battling his brother's axe. The audience roars and to their delight Steve delivers bouncy "Everyday", a light GENESIS-like song that opened up "Spectral Mornings" and now develops much more furiously than before, again prompting to wonder whether it's based on Beethoven's "Ode To Joy".

Quite naturally next appears "...In That Quiet Earth", the only piece by Hackett's former band on "Time Lapse", in absence of "Horizons" a sign that Hackett decided to lean here towards electric side of his. The epic instrumental somehow lost his depth, the players are given an opportunity to shine though - bass pumps its way through while flute sounds very like Ian Anderson's reed. Thus, the mood is set for a new piece, classically structured "Depth Charge", and the complicate "Jacuzzi" from "Defector". A good dose of CAMEL in this one, remindful of THE BEATLES' "Piggies". Yes, it's hard to change but we're already taken by timewarp back to 1981 and it's MARILLION's Ian Mosley driving "Kashmir"-like pace of "The Steppes", not as heavy as originally on "Defector" yet with amazing interplay between Steve's guitar and Nick Magnus' keyboards. This band, completed with Chas Cronk, is more loose, making "Ace Of Wands" even more magnificent than on "Acolyte" by inserting every here and there extra bits.

What would be a contrast in studio surrounding goes smoothly on-stage - "Cured" was a pop album but "Hope I Don't Wake" fits good here with vocal harmonies uncovering its folky origins - all in stunning sound quality. Notably changed is "Flower Of Tachai": while Chinese tune's retained, tempo gets slowed down turning a piece into a poignant ballad that flows into "Tigermoth". This one, on the contrary, appears with more power to pave the road for "A Tower Struck Down" with keyboards reigning. Guitar flies - and breaks down. And on. And on.

Another flashback - back to 1990... to have a new look on two more "Spectral Mornings" tracks, striding "Spectral Mornings" itself and moody "Clocks". What else? - It's a Time Lapse!

****
Momentum
Herald 1988

Steve decides to regain his momentum of beauty and sticks to his nylon strings again. Feelings are heavy in the beginning, mostly due to this emptiness imparted by echo. "Cavalcanti" is about horses, proud stallions galloping and walking graciously and freely. There's more baroque to it rather than this down-to-earth delight Ian Anderson delivered in his "Heavy Horses". John's flute warms the tune up with simple melody of "Greensleeves" sort. Was Hackett intending to write the cold moonlight album? Everything comes so outlandish. "The Sleeping Sea" is another element, string drip with water little by little and there are galleons at the bottom, gold and pearls buried in the wreckage. Just ghosts are there, there's no human soul in this abandoned world. Quite tempo "Portrait Of Brazilian Lady" gets no close to the polyrhythmis structures of "Till We Have Faces", it's a musing while looking at the picture of someone you seem to know but the person's long gone. Guitar sings the song of memory, taking the cobweb off the dusty corners of one's mind.

Waters of time running - that's what it is, "When The Bell Breaks". Steve pretends he plays a mandolin, ringing the strings softly. Don't ask for whom the bell tolls, it always tolls for yourself. No bell, book or candle can't take you out of this ancient spleen. But a bed, a chair and a guitar can. Maybe a warm sporran as well. "A bed, a chair and a guitar" is a small traditional triplet of classical music, folk and jazz glued together. "Concert For Munich" shows Steve more as a arranger - the piece starring John's flute and strings, a real wall of sound. It's not the kind of concerto Steve applied later to "A Midsummer Night's Dream", it's more expressive. But no less expressive and impressive appears to be "Last Rites Of Innocence", every not a gem, a move in slowed-down sarabande. Guitar even creates a shade of organ in the background! The same effect has "Troubled Spirit". The weather's already warm, but you can't sit still yet. A sparse cuts, a sharp bits of anxiety - and calm in the end, a gist of insomnia delivered impeccably.

"Variation On A Theme By Chopin", the title says all though tune not so well-known as many could expect and the piano pices arranged for guitar proove more confident on "Sketches Of Satie". On the other hand here guitarist explores all the scales of his instrument. From the lower register arises pale-faced "Pierrot". Mandolin-esque guitar pulls melancholy in again. A sad doll, a tear and a wry smile of misplaced childhood. Well, Harlequin would be out of place on "Momentum". The title tracks might resemble De Lucia flamenco had Steve's playing been more fiery, but it's a sole dance in an empty hall. Baroque-styled mirrored hall where even Bach's "Bouree" sounds cold, not as joyful as blown by Anderson who made it TULL's trademark. Gloomy initially looks epic "An Open Window" - yes, it's Italian serenade with elusive melody you hardly get a hold on. But tension grows, wood percussion gets in and you start to tremble and shake in the night - there's a real momentum arrives, a sublime moment of delight. Naturally, "The Vigil" is a gentle and soothing piece, a piano-like lullaby in Debussy manner designed to calm you after the sound calamity. Fortunately, Steve got his pessimist demons out. A glorious momentum, indeed.

***
Till We Have Faces
Chrysalis 1984

Back to the sunny world of "Cured" but differently. Cabalero Hackett found himself in South America, in Brazil, a homeland for his muse, Kim Poor. Steve delves headlong into the world music with Nick Magnus and Ian Mosley aboard and a handful of Rio percussionists. A jungle beat make one forget his roots and look for other connections. Surrounded by hot polyrhisthmic textures, high voice questions: "What's My Name". Is it Robert Plant with his Zen obsession? No, that's Steve at last got a hold on his singing. Completely new harmonies, sparse sunbeams shining through the palms. Synthesizers create a misty ambience while guitar plays a dancing shadows. Of the past or of the future, who knows? Sounds of classical music and march of the days to come. "The Rio Connection", a picture of the city, we seem to have abandoned in "Highly Strung", a jazz groove, deep bass and harmonica. Fast cars, steel and glass reflect the sun shining bright. Afternoon now, in the night everything will change for "Guitar Noir" colours, and later, with the time passing by, to "Darktown". Have we already heard the theme Steve and Nick play in unison in "Matilda Smith-Williams Home For The Aged"? Well, it sounds so familiar - a new pearl to the beads of "Please Don't Touch" and "Camino Royale", the theme of the past, of the memory. Harmony vocals add a little pop feel complimenting the instrumental part.

Halt. Break. Drums beating, cold English blood runs hot. Time to wake up and reconsider the past. Broad guitar strata, overlapping layers. Hackett welcomes a thread of images going by: "some are dead and some are living, in my life I loved them all". One melody comes across another in fantastic combination and, suddenly, they stumble upon the blues. "Let Me Count The Ways" appears to be the blues of a Gary Moore kind, lustrous yet not very deep. But look, the source for inspiration seems the same - Peter Green. "Shall I tell you about my life? They say I'm the man of the world". Steve is him, indeed. And he flies across the ocean, to Japan. No, still not to play there as he did later. He just explores different kinds of music. There was Chinese tones in "Red Flower Of Tachai", so now there's "A Doll That Made In Japan" featuring the voice of Ms. Poor. Steve's vocal approach may resemble that of Roger Waters there, soaring and echoing in the world of plastic where the humans are strangers. The melody just swallows you and you can't get out. Guitar soothing, keyboards enshroud you in the cobweb, Rael's in the cage - in real life though. Artificial battles natural - it's "Duel" remindful of "Personal Jesus". "Don't turn back", sings Steve in low register. Guitar cuts the synthesizers wall as a laser beam.

Who's to blame? Ourselves, just ourselves. "Myopia" is a go at punk, there's a riot going on - and sharp guitar revs beside classical strings. Hackett shouts commands although we don't have to fight, there's another way Steve shows in "Taking The Easy Way Out". Silver rain falling down - we're so content to return to the pastoral wonderworld. Not Narnia but England, isn't it? Soft tones of duetting electric and acoustic guitars, home sweet home. A trip around the world is over.

Later on, maestro once again used the same colours as on "Till We Have Faces" to tell about people's madness. "The Gulf" comes as a ballad embroidered with battlelines. Fight! Anxious guitar paints the desert - again to Moroccan textures of "Kashmir" and Plantey "Ooh Yeah". Storm in the desert. And another kind of madness gets depicted in "Stadiums Of The Damned" - a football madness. When a game leads to death - is there anything more horrible? Melody and approach now owe much to Sting. An uptempo yet disturbing piece. Marches, whistles, tribal dances. Only love can set you free? A phrase of eternal value but does anyone care? Let's hope it'll be so. "When You Wish Upon A Star", an instrumental some seconds long paints an angel watching over us. Watcher of the skies.

*****
Bay Of Kings
Herald 1983

This album had to be done, it was long overdue since "Horizons" appearance on "Foxtrot". There were some attempts to turn acoustic on Steve's albums and, eventually, maestro came up with whole circle of acoustic pieces. Who knows when Hackett became obsessive with music of XVIII century? Childhood, all from childhood... And, by the way, was Steve ever a rock guitarist? He's able to put on any mask he's willing but he always seems stuck to classical. Just peel the surface and peer attentively.

"Bay Of Kings", the title track remindful of Da Milano, is solemn and slow but not serene, anxious. Maestro thought of waves, of galleons lost in the sea - so compare this one to Robbie Krieger's lace in "Spanish Caravan". Hackett's tune bears no trace of flamenco but near the end trembles as heart in sight of a sail on sunset. More airy and romantic is "The Journey", tempo changes every here and there to draw the ship's course through strings-painted sea. Loneliness, solitude with no loving soul beside. And as a mariner thinking of his maid on the shore, Steve anchores his love song "Kim", which was a little lost amidst the glamour of "Please Don't Touch" but is so fitting here, almost unchanged though. The same John Hackett's flute, the same Steve's guitar - yet it's different, because five years earlier ex-GENESIS man seemed shy in expressing his feelings, now being a self-confident master.

Dreams fly to the bright days in the country and "Marigold" comes as a pastotal dance on the lawn, jolly and jaunty. Golden slumbers fill your eyes. And how contrasty cold appears "St. Elmo's Fire" shining in the dead of night on the masts. Sea gets stormy - and there's a magic city awaiting, "Petropolis". A crystal palace glistening in the sun. Eldorado full of ghosts. John's flute crawls like ivy on the broken wall in "Second Chance", a sad tune based on folk motifs. Let the anchore down again, the ship's "Cast Adrift", a bliss, a homesickness. Pace slows and pace quickens, up and down, to and fro. Open up your eyes and look far, it's "Horizons", those majestic ninety seconds that instigated all this beauty.

More punctuated, in flows a fantastic vision of "Black Light", loose and thick at the same time. The mercurial melody of "The Barren Land" exactly conjures up the image of a rocky landscape with sparse crooky trees. Has the ship reached the new shore? Quite likely so as hearts are pacified and beat in a rhythm of waltz of "Calmaria". The end of a journey.

A little later Steve turned marinist again to reflect the GENESIS brief reunion in "Time Lapse At Milton Keynes". Deep feelings spilling out of very introvert wistful tune. A sea for many is the end of a river, a firth of fifth. So for "Tales Of Riverbank" Hackett re-arranged Giuliani's "Andante In C" he used to play on the shows recorded for "There Are Many SIdes To The Night" album. "Skye Boat Song", an old seamen's ditty, Steve played in his chilhood days and now went full circle. The kings in the title? The old grey mariners' shadows.

****1/2
Highly Strung
Charisma 1983

After foray into pop field Steve gets back onto solid rock ground - but changed a little. It's not that serene world he relaxed in in "Cured", now it's conrete and steel rather than sea and sand. Nick Magnus' piano staccato screens a gloomy world of Tennessee Williams and his "Camino Royale". Dark is there, shadows falling to frighten an occasional passer-by. Guitar plays a phantom, the cars out of nowhere and into nowhere. "Only the fool learns to get through", sings Hackett clearly and chorus contrasts to him reciting on the verses. There's an obvious link between "Wind & Wuthering" and "Guitar Noir". Already not fairy tale yet still not reality.

"Cell 151" was a hit for mr. Hackett. Living in the Sci-Fi world, that's what it was. But who are other inhabitants of that human hive? The answer was given a couple of years later when this catchy pop rock motif - a "hello" to QUEEN - re-appeared as "Jekyll And Hyde" on the GTR album. The blues ghosts abound when guitar and keyboard in their ecstatic dance conjure up a harmonica hook, the string quartet move and welcome back the "Camino" melody. Elusive, indeed, but what a good task for a fan to pinpoint those moments to savour. Now it's here and later there... "Always Somewhere Else" - strings introduce the rainy day theme. Folk and even country vibes are rare in Hackett's songs - so once Steve tucks them into his shell to create a pearl one can't help but enjoy as it's not for long. Another spectre looming large. "Walking Through Walls" sounds suspiciously raw and banal with melody underdeveloped. Walls seem thick even for a spectre. "Give It Away" could be mawkish and plastic too if not for arresting guitar hook and voice. Some would claim it's Percy Plant singing, not the bespectacled and bearded GENESIS axeman. Once the keyboards kick in the menuet, the pop aproach gets redeemed.

OK, OK, there are many ways to walk through walls - still to rainbows, not away from them. Rainbows appear once rain is over and one feels "Weightless" to get over it. Guitar plays accordion and violin for hoedown of "Group Therapy" - the city goes crazy when the sun's up again and pools are all around. Everybody dancing in the street - the pace quickens and... Ladies and gentlemen, there's a delight for your eyes: "India Rubber Man". A sad tune, right off the GENESIS circus, delicious Eastern textures flow in. A jester's tear on the sunset. On the string, strung highly. "Camino Royale" returns as a giant hogweed to hack it to pieces. No, "Hackett To Pieces". With GTR Steve will go further and will "Hackett To Bits". Not a bad idea - pieces are easy to swallow.

***1/2
Cured
Charisma 1981

Poppermost of the uppermost, if to allude to THE BEATLES. In the early Eighties maestro Hackett decided to tread the pop territory, still uncharted by him. But with innate taste Steve chose the best pop in the world, the Beatlepop. "Hope I Don't Wake" involving harmony vocals, underlying organ and driving tempo plays at Harrison's base plus Lennon's dry irony. It's only near the end that Hackett lets his guitar dance. Sunny day has begun, drink a fresh air - if you're awake, of course. Steve's voice is fresh here too, clear and bright as never before, it shines a light into monotonous "Picture Postcard", which reminds of afternoon drowse - and yes, of TALKING HEADS and GENESIS of that period, a little jazzy, a little plastic. Sax's silver lining is somewhat predictable and funny in absence of guitar solo. Familiar lace can be caught under the beat of "Can't Let Go" - axe gets on the surface of Nick Magnus' keyboards. Ah, that voice - had maestro in posession of such a high notes before, Phil would still be polishing the stool behind his drumkit, wouldn't he?

Guitarists, hands on deck! Steve at last unleashed his instrument in the mighty instrumental "The Air-Conditioned Nightmare", a wonderful mix of styles. There's a hard rock in it with a neo-classic feel - remember, nobody knew Ingwie those days, - a go on CRIMSON-ish violin and a take on harmonica. Steve left out his harpoon for a while so its ghost haunted him. Was that what he called a nightmare? Seems, it was someone else who welcomed us into his nightmare. OK, Hackett's are better, or, at least, they're air-conditioned. It's a "Funny Feeling", sings Steve. Quite rightly so, one gets a feeling like this, while listening to a song that would suit rather ABC or Boy George. Solo doesn't save, the electric one. Acoustic? It's closer to evening now, a time for siesta. Hackett does delve into acoustic "A Cradle Of Swans", a humble precursor to "Bay Of Kings". Hot and humid it is. Brazil had a big impact on the artist and, when Peter went African with "Bico", on the other side of the globe his former colleague was relaxing to Latin rhythms. Steve put them into a melting pot with pop to let his alchemy create a gem like "Overnight Sleeper". Yes, under the Southern Cross only in the night you can breathe again and dance around the fire, reminiscing yesterdays. "Turn Back Time" is a delicate lullaby, a healing. But was Steve ill to be cured? From what? Hold him in your armchair and you can feel his decease. It's difficult to cure, as Blackmore remarked.

***
Defector
Charisma 1980

A gentle flute, a heavy beat remind of ZEPPELIN's "Kashmir". Steve and John play in unison. "The Steppes" lead us into a kind of Orwell's world. Broad street, narrow minds, grey faces - Big Brother watching you. Is there a place for love in this concrete surrounding? Yes, but be careful - guitar soars like a sole bird to the sun. A glorious, solemn theme with bluesy overtones and solid bass foundation, flute being a flower in the street. But look over the fence, children play and it's "Time To Get Out", a light pop song supplied with a great interlay between bass and keyboards - are we back to the days of "Please Don't Touch"? Don't touch - get out while you can. Harmony guitar solo is a go at steel blues again. Too late to get out, a crowd thickens with a keyboard intro to "Slogans". Bass bouncing, organ introduces folk theme, drums rolls and the march begins. No, it's not "The Wall", it's a story of a stranger in a strange land.

Innocence's still not lost, says guitar in the beginning of "Leaving". The tune comes delicate and anxious - it's a desperation. Hackett set to use harmony vocals on "Defector", very impressive with keyboards. But protagonist is not alone. Acoustically strumming warns of someone coming in. "Two Vamps As Guests" are they. It's not a vampyre with a healthy appetite, the playing's sparse, not intense but who doubts the vamps are the streetwalkers of "Guitar Noir". So what a joy it is to get yourself in "Jacuzzi" with its flute ornament a shadow of THE BEATLES' "Piggies". That's an essence of progressive rock, a staple for nowadays adepts of the genre. The drumming's great, it inserts a serious "reality" part into a playful, serene melody. Guitar runs parallel to flute and unexpectedly comes across the reed - what a trick to paint a confusion! Here's a piano, a grand instrument adorned with strings telling of alienation, a fish out of water. Or a "Hammer In The Sand". A wonderful tune with no guitar in it - a sign that Steve was always more than just a player but a master of a major scale. His axe returns to open "The Toast". Steve soulfully sings of regular things - yet isn't it a delight to have them rather than not. Orchestration is amazing - and it's nearly tewnty years before "A Midsummer Night's Dream".

Bass dances tango, flute swirls in like a screwdriver while guitar chooses to stand aside the dusty curtains - it was just a show. "The Show". Roll up, roll up for the magical mystery show! A jaunty melody sung by McCartney-esque voice. An interesting game - we got to get in to get out. Treat yourself with the air-conditioned nightmare for the first time. Remember of the past grief to avoid it in the future, it's a "Sentimental Institution", the Thirties chanson, Decomposing man gets back with his jazz. Defector has got out alive. Cheers!

****1/2
Spectral Mornings
Charisma 1979

It's a logical thing: if there were wind and wuthering at night, the mornings should be spectral. A fire in the Winter's face. Steve still lives in his wonderland, in his Narnia. A joyful living. "Every day" even seems to borrow some things from Beethoven's "Ode To Joy". What a dream, a world full of harmony - and the song is full of harmony vocals and harmony guitars. Feel the dew on your skin poured by these swirling solos. Gilded splinters of the sun, not the RENAISSANCE carpets as it's no idyll yet the guitar paints something as beautiful that you bathe in sweet pain. Soft strumming and warm vocals tell the story of "The Virgin And The Gypsy". A pastoral adorned with John Hackett's flute, a barren lands laid by the sea. Light melody flies all around like a robin luring you down the yellow brick road. But there's no Dorothy. Chinese doorbells ring the beginning of the tea ceremony. "The Red Flower Of Tachai Blooms Everywhere" projects another fairy tale, a tale of Empire gone. Long gone. "Clocks" tick back the time and here's another ghost, another spectre appears in the mist of morning, "The Angel Of Mon". With a drums rolling thunder all falling apart at the seams.

Twenties' foxtrot is tongue-in-cheek "The Ballad Of Decomposing Man", ragtime bouncing, hell bent on destruction with Steve at last having found a spot for his beloved harmonica to sing. And hurl all the way round with classical-based "Lost Time In Cordoba", an acoustic predecessor of "Bay Of Kings", a theme reoccuring in many of Hackett's tunes. The peaceful easy feeling gets broken by such harmless creature as "Tigermoth", in its angry march and anxiety remindful "Nightingales And Bombers". Right, it's a nightmare of war. Decadence turned into despondence, but the hope remained intact. "You're not as alone as you think, no regrets and Lily Marlene sings again". The night is over. First rays of the sun greet the "Spectral Mornings", a bright ode of love for life. Join the chorus if you can, it'll make of you an honest man.

****1/2
Please Don't Touch
Charisma 1978

If "Voyage" was just an affair, an outlet for a GENESIS guitar player, this album had to be a proper one for a solo artist. And it was, thus establishing Hackett's high profile. Moreover, it showed who was responsible for GENESIS fairy tale material. Steve drawn all his love for books to come up with a magic melodies. KANSAS were all ready to help the Englishman. Steve Walsh shares vocal duties with his namesake for "Narnia". Guitar paints a misty land that's so interesting to explore. What's there behind the hill? A big world for curious chidren's eyes. Two Steves manage to impart all the innocence of the books we read oh so long ago, in the golden days of yore.

Carry on, wayward son, "Carry On Up The Vicarage" - a carousel spins the time back and Hackett pays tribute to Agatha Christie. Infectious melody is delivered by magic guitar and keyboards combination and sung by... sung by... Mr. Hackett splits his vocals to high - for a child, and low - for an old man that tells a story of a little English town, naive and frozen in time. In autumn time, which is so dull for a child. So Walsh and Hackett have fun running and "Racing In A". A jaunty ride in the country air and away to the sun. The strings' cobwebs, the acoustic guitar dances menuet - a boy growing up. He faces his love. "Kim", an exquisite instrumental piece dedicated to Steve's wife Kim Poor, is led by John Hackett's flute accompanied by his brother acoustic - they were testing the water then to delve into that style five years later with "Bay Of Kings".

The golden days are behind as Richie Havens' down-to-earth voice puts it in "How Can I?" There's something of Dylan there, in this singing over guitar accompaniment and organ lines. Chester Thompson and Phil Ehardt back off with their thundering skills to open the door for a melancholy. Randy Crawford, what a choice for singing a ballad! It's not even a ballad, "Hoping Love Will Last", it's an anthem. The next time this deep soul vibe will appear on Hackett's records only at "Genesis Revisited", with that orchestration backing the voice and wailing guitar.

Once got over childhood we so desperately miss it that find ourselves in the "Land Of A Thousand Autumn". A mellotron sets for a murky tone to spill into the splinters of reminiscences. "Please Don't Touch", the memories hurt so painful. Mighty drumming pulls in the guitar rocking to and fro as a lion in the cage. Shadows of blues - and flute, forgotten flute of "Narnia". The melody remains the same but pace slows down to deliver "The Voice Of Necam", a curious effect applied to Steve's voice. It's a sad thing to say farewell to childhood - that's what acoustic guitar say. But if you get out of the wardrobe, you find a child inside yourselves and fly high. "Icarus Ascending" is a solemn hymn of hope sung by Hackett and Havens. It's a summertime - a reggae winks - get to grip with it and enjoy your living. Don't touch - ripples never come back! - but treasure your past, your innocence and your freedom.

*****
Voyage Of The Acolyte
Charisma 1975

Many consider Steve Hackett's solo debut the best GENESIS album. While it's hardly so, all the superlatives are relevant. Indeed, GENESIS were brilliant when they explored the fantastic worlds their minds created but with "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" that was all too much of a thought and not as much in terms of music. The major argument of this point is that Steve didn't include any of "The Lamb" tracks in his "Genesis Revisited" album except for "Waiting Room" jam.

"The Lamb" came as a watershed for the band - not only concerning the principal singer leaving but, again, in terms of music. There was no question, to be or not to be, the question was: which way to turn? And the answer was provided by "Voyage", the album's success proved the meaning of art rock and showed audience's eagerness for wonderworld, not for existential conceptions. Thus, Steve was the one who gave the people what they wanted. Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford lent their friendly hands but should be thanking Hackett for laying the GENESIS' own special way.

Frenetic beat and furious harmony guitar cut into "Ace Of Wands", the first of Tarot card Steve set off to depict here. Guitar strumming and synthesizers interplay intervowen with flute come more prominent than on the band's work - now they're not restricted by the vocalist's presence. Time changes and strange breaks get entangled into tight knots and ornaments that are pleasure to follow. It will never be the same again - even on "Please Don't Touch" that wouldn't be still uncharted territory and appear in simplier schemes. There's more to "Ace Of Wands" than meets the eye, skip to piano version on "There Are Many Sides To The Night" to watch the undercurrent. "Hands Of Priestess" is divided in two interpolating "A Tower Struck Down". The first part boasts of flute underpinned by guitar occasionally popping up to add some wonderful touches. And all the kudos to impressive percussion throughout.

In "A Tower Struck Down" instruments paint on gloomy canvas filled with John Gustafson's bass while guitar slowly claws its way through the jazzy-tinctured throbbing. A kind of chorale peeps in, tension grows. A lonely cough, a chant of the crowd of Colosseum. And the gentle "Hands Of Priestess" return with velvet gloves on - but now it's Steve's turn to be soloing. "The Hermit" appears to be the most famous of the Tarot cards, so for its image Steve found himself in need of additional expressive means - that was the first time he was singing solo. Musically the piece comes close to classical opuses, even guitar lines are unlike cellos - the strings present there. A hint of baroque Hackett would seem to avoid until "Bay Of Kings". In endeavours like these all the mindlikeness between Hackett and Howe is clear - so the bigger was the surprise when the two started playing pop rock in GTR.

The stronger and more confident Steve sings in "Star Of Sirius", an exquisite ballad in the beginning with soaring guitar and strings prominent and a top-notch pop song after unexpected break - but it's a pop of the BEATLES' sort - then again the string menuet ticking in... What an epic it is! But that's not the limit of the beauty Steve's capable of creating. After "The Lovers", a short acoustic ditto in the vein of "Horizons", Hackett starts building the majestic "Shadow Of The Hierophant". Not Sally Oldfield's crystal voice the gist of the epic, it's Steve's guitar - that part maestro re-introduced to his set for Tokyo shows, where he had John Wetton in his band, who many years ago wrote another amazing piece of this kind, "Starless". Flute and acoustic strumming along to the female voice make for belcanto effect yet when the guitar clouds begin to ooze out, you feel the tower struck down and can't help but think of time - the tempo, you know - the water drops, and that melody, the sonic river of constant change. The real voyage was to begin for Steve very soon...

*****
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