ALBUM REVIEWS

Steve Hackett 

(click on the album Art to buy the CDs)

ALBUM RATING SYSTEM

*****

An excellent album. Strong effort from beginning to end! A must own!

****

A very good album. A few low points but, overall, a decent effort. Recommended. 

***

A good album. Several weak points detract from the album, but it's still worth owning.

**

A mediocre album. Unless you're a real fan, you might not like this album very much.

*

A poor album. Stay away from this one unless you are a hardcore fan!


 

Steve Hackett - Voyage of the Acolyte (1975)

WOG RATING: ***

In what would become the first solo project of any card carrying member of Genesis, Voyage of the Acolyte allowed Hackett to unleash his musical muse that by the mid-70s started to feel confined by the democratic collaborative songwriting process within the band. Interestingly enough, despite feelings of creative disregard from Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, Hackett’s first solo endeavor was not a radical departure from the Genesis sound of this period. That sense of similarity of Genesis’ period sound was probably further reinforced by appearances from Collins and Rutherford on the project. In fact, to date, Voyage is probably Hackett’s most progressive rock sounding album to date with later albums like Please Don’t Touch!, Defector and Spectral Mornings starting to draw elements from other influences of the rock scene and beyond.
 
Highlights on the album include “Shadow of the Hierophant”, "Star of Sirius" and "Ace of Wands."  While many Steve Hackett and Genesis fans embrace this album as being among his best work, I found the album to be a bit mediocre. There are a few exceptional moments that really stand out, but overall, to me, it almost comes off like a somewhat below par Genesis project. I believe that Hackett really started to hone his talent with Voyage, but really began establishing himself as a unique voice with his sophomore solo release.  
 

 

Steve Hackett - Please Don't Touch (1978)

WOG RATING: ***

As mentioned previously, while Hackett cut his artistic teeth as a solo act on Voyage of the Acolyte and came up with a few epic pieces, he really finds his inner voice beginning with his second solo album, Please Don’t Touch! This time out, Steve enlists Genesis touring drummer Chester Thompson, Steve Walsh from the rock band Kansas, and Richie Havens. Although still showcasing a progressive flare, Touch started to take Hackett is a slight different place than that of his former colleagues in Genesis. Tracks like the title cut for example, demonstrated a dark, almost sinister side, while other songs offered radically different moods and influences going far beyond your traditional progressive album.
 
Other memorable tracks like “Narnia”, "Racing In A," and "Kim" further separated Hackett from the Genesis ‘sound’ with their unique style and tone. Interestingly, although the album ranged from heavily progressive to more of a straight-ahead melodic rock quality, the flow of Touch works really well and helped balance the album as a complete body of work. Again, much like Voyage of the Acolyte, while I don’t consider this Hackett best work, it has several decent tunes and, in hindsight, shows a clear direction as to where Hackett would evolve to musically in years to come.    

 

Steve Hackett - Highly Strung (1983)

WOG RATING: ****

Although GTR is considered by many to be Steve Hackett's first truly commercial rock album, in many respects, Highly Strung is really his first foray into straight-ahead mainstream pop/rock. Largely propelled by Hackett favorites like "Cell 151" and "Camino Royale" the nine-track album (later reissued with three bonus tracks) successfully fuses his progressive roots with the trendy '80s pop sounds of the day. This is perhaps best exemplified by tunes like "Walking Through Walls," which while very dated sounding today, was very contemporary in its time. With the exception of a couple of songs, Highly Strung is a fairly solid offering. I think some Hackett fans too easily dismiss this album, because it did deviate from the direction of Steve's prior solo works a bit, and some might have seen it as a bit of a commercial "sell out," but I thought it was a reasonably adventurous effort and clearly an indicator of what was to come with more commercial projects like GTR.       

 

Steve Hackett - Bay of Kings (1984)

WOG RATING: ****

This album emancipated Hackett from the confines and the politics of major record labels and served as his first true independent release (which was frankly, quite avant-garde, for its time). Whether forced to do so out of necessity or artistic integrity, the end result was Bay of Kings, a beautifully crafted acoustic guitar album with synthesizer accompaniment. At this point, Kings was by far the most risky project any Genesis member (past or present) had ever recorded. Kings is probably among my top five favorite Hackett projects, and really showcases his prowess as a guitarist. This innovative album would be a pre-cursor to wonderful acoustic driven albums like Momentum and There are Many Sides To The Night. I highly recommend this album. Collector's should also note that this record has seen several album covers over the years and in various countries (the most recent of which being the cover on the left). 

 

Steve Hackett - Till We Have Faces (1985)

WOG RATING: **

Peppered with influences from the Brazilian culture, portions of Faces showcase a sort of carnival flare. Unfortunately, for me, where the album falls short is in its complete lack of cohesion.  The album is very much all over the place - very similar in some respects to the inconsistent flow of 2006's Wild Orchids. There is absolutely no flow or direction, almost like random bits and pieces thrown into one project and called an album. That doesn't make it a bad solo effort, but it definitely detracts from the overall listening experience - especially from an artist that generally has a very unique, smooth and, on occasion, sometimes very edgy atmospheric quality to his music. To be clear, I'm not disappointed with the album for its level of diversity. My displeasure stems more from Hackett's ability to pull this array of diverse music together in a way that it flows in an enjoyable direction. It doesn't feel like a solid album - more like a strewn about taste of odds and sods.
 
Till We Have Faces starts out with "The Duel," a track from one of Steven Speilberg's early flicks. Although somewhat dated, this is actually a fairly good rock track and would have probably fit nicely on a record like Highly Strung, but it just doesn't fit here. After circling in scattered directions, the disc concludes with an instrumental version of the Disney favorite "When You Wish Upon A Star" which leaves you scratching your head and once again just doesn't seem to gel with the rest of the music included here. There are a couple of decent offers on Faces, but overall, I don't consider it to be among Hackett's finest moments.

 

Steve Hackett - Momentum (1988)
WOG RATING: ****

In a bold move and in complete contrast to his previous project with the commercial pop/rock band GTR, Hackett released Momentum in 1988. Unlike GTR, Momentum is an instrumental acoustic guitar album, with occasional accompaniment on flute by brother John Hackett . The album is completely devoid of the constraints of technology (or should I say the over-use of technology) and outside musical or major record label interference. An album free of compromise or record label manipulation and control may not sound like such an adventurous undertaking by today's standards where being an independent artist is not a scarlet letter but a badge of integrity, but remember that Momentum actually pre-dated the trend of a major artist releasing projects as an independent. Or, for that matter, the resurgence in popularity in the late '80s and '90s of rock artists creating acoustic guitar-driven records that followed as a result of MTV's Unplugged. All of those things aside, the album was a return to Hackett's love of classical guitar which, at this point in his career, could only be paralleled to his landmark 1983 album, Bay of Kings. Unlike Kings, however, Momentum was classical guitar in its purist form - there was no synthesizer adding to the mood of the music here. Among the highlights on the album are "Cavalcanti", "A Bed, A Chair and A Guitar" and "Variation on A Theme by Chopin" which exemplify Hackett's natural elegance and skill with the guitar. To date, Momentum remains one of Hackett's finest recordings as a classical guitarist and one of my personal favorites of his entire solo catalog.
 

 

Steve Hackett - Time Lapse (1991)
WOG RATING: ***

To wait some 15 years to release your first live album seems almost unheard of by today's standards. Especially, since Hackett has released no less than 13 live releases in the 15 years that followed this release! That being said, that was the case with Time Lapse. The album was Hackett's first live release, recorded partially at the famous Savoy Theater in New York City in November 1981 with the balance of the tracks from Central TV Studios in Nottingham, England in October 1990. Collector's should note that the original album cover, which was a live picture of Steve Hackett circa his GTR days in 1986 was later removed for a live picture of him from the Genesis Revisited Tour from Tokyo in late 1996. This occurred when the Time Lapse album was reissued on Hackett's own Camino Records label (Granted, history has shown that it is not the only time a Hackett album cover has changed over time!). Perhaps more important, however, the Camino reissue used an alternate live version of "Camino Royale" than the original release which is significantly different in time length!

The album itself is an fairly good representation of his early works in the live setting. Many of the early solo classics are here including "Camino Royale", "Please Don't Touch", "Everyday", "The Steppes", "Clocks", "A Tower Struck Down", "Ace of Wands", "Spectral Mornings", "Tigermoth" and, of course, the instrumental track "Depth Charge," one of the truly rare cuts from this set. There are clearly some overdubs on this record on both the vocals and, I believe, some of the guitar parts. At one point during "Ace of Wands" for example, John Hackett switches from rhythm guitar to flute at light speed, which seems virtually impossible. There are a couple of tracks that do not quite work as well, too. "Hope I Don't Wake", for example, is probably the weakest track in the collection and does not translate well on this live version.  In some respects, this is probably a better anthology than The Unauthorized Biography collection that soon followed. However, despite its strengths in track listing, it is clearly not Hackett's best live album to date.
 

 

Steve Hackett - The Unauthorized Biography (1992)

WOG RATING: ****

The Unauthorized Biography is a one-disc anthology spanning the Virgin Records years of Hackett's career from 1975's Voyage of The Acolyte through 1983's Highly Strung. The songs were personally selected by Steve Hackett and as a bonus, this set includes two previously unreleased bonus tracks: "Don't Fall Away From Me" and "Prayers and Dreams" written by Hackett and Queen guitarist Brian May. The May/Hackett tracks were for a collaboration project in the late '80s that never completely got off the ground, and are truly among the high points of the album from a collector's standpoint. This set is really "a young person's guide" to the early years of Steve Hackett's solo work and is a great place to start if you've never owned a Hackett CD before. Many of the early classics of Hackett's solo catalog are featured here including: "Cell 151", "The Steppes", "Spectral Mornings", "Hackett To Bits", "Ace of Wands", "Star of Sirius", "Slogans", "Narnia", and more! There are a few essential early favorites, like "Clocks" and "Camino Royale" for example, that are missing from this 15-track collection, but it is still a great place to begin your journey into Steve Hackett's solo work.
 

 

Steve Hackett - Guitar Noir (1993)

WOG RATING: ****

Guitar Noir is an interesting album at times sounding like a throwback in style to projects like Spectral Mornings and, at the same time, offering an edgier rock feel never before heard by Hackett. The 12 core tracks that make up the album (various pressings were made with added tracks beyond the 12 album cuts) include an array of straight ahead pop; incredibly dark, sinister rock; a few upbeat, catchy anthems; and some beautifully reflective, melodic melodies. Collectively, this well-balanced set is one of Hackett's finest moments as a rock solo artist and is, without question, one of the best works of his entire career to date. New Hackett standards like "Walking Away From Rainbows" and "Vampyre with The Healthy Appetite" frequent Hackett's touring set lists, and other songs like "There Are Many Sides to The Night", "Sierra Quemada" and "Take These Pearls" are classic Hackett. This album is a great place to start if you are unfamiliar with Hackett's solo material. If this album does not capture your interest in Hackett as a rock solo artist, virtually nothing will. Highly recommended! 

 

Steve Hackett - Blues With A Feeling (1995)

WOG RATING: *

This album holds the inimitable distinction of being the worst Steve Hackett album of all-time. I've often respected Hackett for his willingness to explore new genres of music whether that be rock, classical, or anything else. In that regard, he is fearless in his passion as a musician, and I certainly respect that. This time out, however, Hackett decides to try his luck with the blues, and fails miserably. Ironically, where this album fails is that it lacks feeling. The guitar work is fine, but Steve's ethereal, breathy vocals just don't translate to the blues at all, sounding almost emotionless at times. Track after track, Blues With A Feeling just keeps getting more and more difficult to digest. I'll be the first to admit, I probably like more of Hackett's solo work than most people, and I simply can't listen to this album. It's a shame, because I think if he had a decent blues singer with a deep gravely voice on the project, it would have come across much better. If you are planning to explore Steve's catalog, this is the absolute last album you should try (if at all).
 

 

Steve Hackett - There Are Many Sides To The Night (1995)

WOG RATING: ****

Some of my favorite Steve Hackett solo projects have been the acoustic guitar albums like Bay of Kings and assorted acoustic bits from other solo releases. In many ways, these stripped down pieces seem to showcase Hackett's abilities as both a songwriter and guitarist in ways that never quite come across as clearly on his rock albums. In the acoustic setting, Hackett performed live with only the accompaniment of keyboardist Julian Colbeck, to an adoring audience in Italy in December 1994.  The end result is this live album. In addition to hearing rarely played live gems like a version of the then unreleased GTR track "Oh, How I Love You", "Cinema Paradiso", "Black Light", and "Cavalcanti", pieces from various classical influences, and a couple of reworked acoustic versions of Hackett classics, Steve even worked in a few hidden, yet unmistakable, Genesis bits as a nod to the fans. Without question, this is my favorite live project Steve has ever released. A great disc from beginning to end and a truly unique show. Very cool, Mr. Hackett, very cool... 
 

 

Steve Hackett - Genesis Revisited (a.k.a. Watcher of The Skies: Genesis Revisited) (1996)

WOG RATING: ***

Genesis Revisited is just what the title suggests, Steve Hackett's tribute to his years in Genesis which spanned from 1971 to 1977. Perhaps more interesting, however, is Hackett's approach to the project. Not only does Steve involve an all-star cast of legendary musicians in the reworking of old favorites, many of whom have musical ties to Genesis at varying points in their own careers, but we also get a taste of a never before heard Genesis song, called "Déja Vu," originally developed in 1974 by Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett which laid dormant in time until it was completed by Hackett circa 1996!  The list of guest artists on Revisited includes Chester Thompson, Alphonso Johnson, Paul Carrack, John Wetton, Ian McDonald, Tony Levin, Bill Bruford, Colin Blunstone, and even The Royal Philharmonic! Outstanding tracks on the album include Paul Carrack's soulful rendition of "Your Own Special Way", John Wetton's great cover of "Watcher of The Skies" and a new powerful version of "Los Endos." The only thing that detracted from this album at all were the deep vocal effects Hackett uses when he sings on songs like "Fountain of Salmacis," which completely ruined the song in my opinion. Still, there are enough good tracks on Genesis Revisited to make early period Genesis fans find this a worth while purchase.
 

 

Steve Hackett - A Midsummer Night's Dream (1997)

WOG RATING: ****

A Midsummer Night's Dream, Steve Hackett's first orchestral album, featured the London Symphony Orchestra, and revolved around Shakespeare's classic play about the tale of Oberon and Titania. While Hackett had done classical projects in the past as a guitarist, this was certainly among the more complex endeavors he had done to this period of his career. Of course, this album would serve as the catalyst for future inspirations like the Metamorpheus album, which is clearly influenced by Hackett's work on this ambitious project. The 18-studio tracks that make up this release flow beautifully, and Hackett is in top-form on this release. This is without question among Hackett's finest moments as a classical guitarist. Rarely do you find an album that surpasses your expectations, but this was clearly one of them for me. I found this release to be excellent overall, and remains his best orchestral album. Having never heard anything like this from Hackett previously, it further strengthened my belief that Steve Hackett has a unique ability to transcend genres of music as a guitarist and composer.
 

 

Steve Hackett - The Tokyo Tapes (1998)

WOG RATING: ****

Recorded on Hackett's Genesis Revisited Tour of Japan in 1996, The Tokyo Tapes features Steve along side of fellow progressive rock legends like John Wetton, Ian McDonald, and Chester Thompson! This highly respected band of musicians rip through an amazing set of classics and fan favorites from their collective repertoire! From Hackett solo favorites like "Camino Royale" and "The Steppes", to classic Genesis songs like "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)", "Watcher of The Skies" and "Los Endos", to a stirring version of King Crimson's "In The Court of the Crimson King" to an incredible acoustic version of Asia's "Heat of The Moment" - it's all here along side of many other great tunes in a comprehensive double disc set! Highly recommended! 

 

Steve Hackett - DarkTown (1999)

WOG RATING: **

DarkTown was Hackett's first completely original rock album in five years and is, without question, the darkest and most ominous album of his career. Described by Hackett as being "firmly autobiographical", the nightmare-esque feel of the album would give Marilyn Manson the creeps! From the in-your-face, guitar heavy "Omega Metallicus" to haunting tracks like "In Memoriam", DarkTown's eerie journey is relentless. In fact, this album is so overwhelmingly dark, it's almost too much to endure in a straight sitting. There are a few gems on this project, namely "In Memoriam", the title track, "Days of Long Ago", and "Jane Austen's Door", but at times the album has such a blatantly unwelcoming ambience, you really need to be in the right frame of mind to listen to it. Kudos to Steve for successfully pulling off such a mood provoking album, but DarkTown is just too disturbingly sinister and esoteric for my tastes.

 

Steve and John Hackett - Sketches of Satie (2000)

WOG RATING: ***

In a collaborative effort between the brothers Hackett, the two pull together a thoughtful homage to French classical composer Erik Satie's music. The project features completely reworked versions of Satie's material with emphasis on flute and guitar. Although I was not personally familiar with Satie's original material, I found many of the new translations of the songs to be quite beautiful. John Hackett stands out on this recording as a outstanding flautist, perhaps more so than on any other of Steve's projects featuring his brother. Sketches of Satie has a few weak points where some tracks come across a little dry and overbearing, but I enjoyed the album as a whole. The project comes across so technically perfect, from a musical perspective, you have to respect it regardless of whether or not you like the Hackett's revamped versions of the musical pieces. If you enjoy classical music, I think you'll find this album worth exploring.

 

Steve Hackett - Feedback '86 (2000)

WOG RATING: ***

In what has been described as Steve's 'lost' album, Feedback '86 represents a series of previously unreleased recordings made by Hackett after the demise of GTR, his former band with guitarist Steve Howe. The eight tracks that comprise the album feature an impressive line-up of guest musicians, including: Brian May from Queen, Bonnie Tyler, Ian Mosley and Pete Trewavas from Marillion, and Chris Thompson from Manfred Mann's Earth Band.
Although somewhat 'dated' in its sound, Feedback '86 has a few strong tracks, including: "Cassandra" (which was previously released as a bonus cut on Hackett's Guitar Noir album in the U.S.) and "Slot Machine" with Brian May, "Don't Fall", and the GTR non-album track, "Prizefighters" with Bonnie Tyler on vocals. Perhaps not surprisingly, there are a few stinkers in the set like the ultra-sappy "Oh, How I Love You" - but these are unreleased tracks, after all! Overall, I found the album a welcomed release - especially since poor quality copies of many of these songs have been circulating on bootlegs for years!
 



 

Steve Hackett - Live Archive 70, 80, 90s (a.k.a. Live Archive 70s, 80s / 90s, Feedback) (2001)

WOG RATING: ****

For years, official live recordings of Steve Hackett were few and far between. Even after the release of 1993's Time Lapse, much of his treasure trove of live recordings from the 1970s and 1980s were left mysteriously unreleased. As years past, more recent live performances (like 1995's There Are Many Sides To The Night) were issued, but those early recordings remained buried in the vaults. Today, I am glad to say that the hopes of many a Hackett fan have finally been appeased! The 4 CD Live Archive set not only satisfies with several now rarely played classics, but also offers some complete performances rather than numerous hacked bits from various gigs. From an enthusiastic Hammersmith Odeon crowd in 1979, to screaming fans in Rome's The Castel Sant' Angelo in 1981, to the roaring audience at London's Grand Theatre in 1993, Live Archive represents the ultimate Steve Hackett time capsule. Some highlights on this collection include live versions of "Star of Sirius", "Shadow of The Hierophant", "The Air Conditioned Nightmare", and an excellent medley with "Myopia", "Los Endos", "Imagining", "Ace of Wands" and "Hackett To Pieces." On top of all that, the sound quality is stunning! 


 

The European 4 CD 70s, 80s, 90s Archive

The set is accompanied by a beautiful 40 page full-color booklet with many rare and never before published photographs (among a few familiar ones), liner notes on each era performance by Hackett himself, and a seemingly complete tourography from the 1970s through mid-2000 ( including GTR dates)! This is truly a fan's box set. Several rare live tracks, complete archive concert recordings, and deluxe packaging... Who could ask for more?!  What's that? You still hunger for more live Hackett, you say? Ok! The Japanese version of the Live Archive set is different, not only in terms of album artwork, but also in track listing (see picture to the left). The Japanese version is separated into two different 2-CD sets. The first volume, 70s, 80s, features an alternate performance from New Castle City Hall from 1978 in place of the Hammersmith '79 gig on the European edition (the Rome '81 concert remains the same). Like the Hammersmith show, the New Castle concert sounds superb and includes other rare gems such as "Sentimental Institution." Luckily for fans, you can purchase this New Castle show by itself exclusively on the official Hackett site. The second volume of the Japanese Live Archive set, 90s, Feedback, includes the same Grand Theatre show from '93 plus the studio album Feedback '86. This collection is not only an excellent archive piece, but a valuable set for any Hackett fan. These archive recordings are highly recommended! 

 

The Japanese 2 CD  70s, 80s Archive


Steve Hackett - Genesis Files (2002)

WOG RATING: ***

Genesis Files chronicles a short span of Hackett's solo career with excerpts from selected projects from the mid-80s through the late '90s, culling material from the albums Genesis Revisited, The Tokyo Tapes, DarkTown, Feedback '86 and Bay of Kings.  For the collector, the set does offer one previously rare track, the studio version of "Riding The Colossus," which was only available on the Japanese edition of Genesis Revisited. While the double disc set makes a nice introduction to some of Hackett's more recent projects, the collection focuses heavily on his own versions of Genesis era material (as the title might suggest). Eleven of the twenty tunes featured on Genesis Files are material written with Genesis while Hackett was in the band. Personally, I would have preferred to see a collection of material that focused on a more diverse mix of Steve's more recent solo projects on his own label, Camino, spanning his work with rock, classical and blues. Such a mix would have been a much better representation of Hackett's artistry as a songwriter and guitarist. Sadly, the pesky world of royalties limits this compilation from being a comprehensive full career retrospective, since Hackett's early material is on Virgin Records. Perhaps more disappointing; however, is Snapper Music's seemingly blatant attempts to cash in on Steve's stint with Genesis, leaving the casual listener with the impression that Hackett hasn't written much in the way of good material since his Genesis days.

 

Steve Hackett - Somewhere In South America (2002)

WOG RATING: ****

Recorded live in concert in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Steve's 2001 tour, Somewhere In South America, is a double disc set that features the line-up of Steve Hackett on vocals and guitar, Roger King on keyboards, Terry Gregory on bass and vocals, Rob Townsend on saxophone and flute, and Gary O'Toole on drums and vocals. Musically speaking, Steve Hackett and his band are 'tighter' than ever here. The concert showcases Hackett in all his glory, spanning his career with classics ranging from his own solo works and his recent classical project with John Hackett to his work with Genesis and beyond! In addition to some old favorites from Hackett's career, we also get a few new, non-album gems like "Mechanical Bride" and "Serpentine Song" (that later appeared on 2003's To Watch The Storms). The quality of the audio is excellent. I find it hard to criticize anything on this album. The performance, sound quality, and track listing were all well selected. If you are looking for a decent live Hackett collection, this one is ideal! Highly recommended! 


Steve Hackett - To Watch The Storms (2003)

WOG RATING: ****

Probably one of the most interesting aspects of a new Steve Hackett release is that they are always a bit like Forrest Gump’s proverbial box of chocolates; you never know what you are going to get. Will it be rock? Classical? Or, maybe, it will be little of both? In the case of his latest effort, To Watch The Storms, I would describe it as a rock album that draws heavily many genres of music.  There are several cuts that are reminiscent of classic Hackett circa Bay of Kings, Voyage of the Acolyte, Spectral Mornings, Defector, and even Guitar Noir fused with a modern influence that demonstrates the range of Hackett’s almost seamless genre-crossing ability. There are even occasional, subtle hints of jazz and new age on this album, which are virtually uncharted waters for Hackett.
For those who saw Hackett perform with his new band on the 2001/02 tours, telling you that the chemistry between the players on this record is extremely strong will come as no surprise. We haven’t seen Steve with a fairly steady band since 1980, and their ability to balance the delicate material on Storms with the one or two more boisterous tracks attests to the group’s musicianship. Also of note, the production quality of this album is fantastic and by far the best of his catalog! Among the standouts on the album are “Serpentine Song” with its rich, hauntingly unforgettable melody – one of my all-time favorites from Steve; the straight-up rocker “Mechanical Bride;” “Circus of Becoming,” a quirky piece that almost has a GTR feel when the song kicks in; and “Wind, Sand and Stars,” a dreamy acoustic number with violin and piano accompaniment. The fact is, spare “The Devil Is An Englishman,” a b-side sounding Thomas Dolby tune (reworked here with the now commonplace demonic tune with deep vocal effects that somehow manages to make at least one token appearance on every Hackett rock album since 1994), To Watch The Storms is solid, and one of his best studio albums in years.  Fans of old will find this project to be a welcomed return to form while new listeners will get a sense of the many textures that Steve is capable of creating as artist.

 

Steve Hackett - Hungarian Horizons (2003)

WOG RATING: ***

Recorded in Budapest, Hungary in support of the Sketches of Satie album, Hungarian Horizons offers fans a complete live concert showcasing Hackett's prowess on classical guitar along side of brother John Hackett on flute and Roger King accompanying the brothers Hackett on keyboards. This 2-CD set offers a varied assortment of material including Hackett solo favorites like "Bay of Kings", "Kim", Black Light", "Ace of Wands" and "Walking Away From Rainbows" interlaced with brief excerpts of Genesis classics like "Blood on The Rooftops", "Hairless Heart", "Firth of Fifth" and "Horizons" nestled against Bach, Debussy, Vivaldi and more. 
Masterfully recorded and meticulously performed, Hungarian Horizons is a true treat for the classical enthusiast. Acoustic performances tend to be somewhat unforgiving for some artists, but Hackett comes across beautifully here. In all, the double disc set outshines even the Sketches of Satie studio album! Also available on video, Hungarian Horizons is a surprisingly enjoyable effort from beginning to end.
 

 

Steve Hackett - Live Archive NearFest 02 (2003)

WOG RATING: ***

Although I am a fan of Steve's Live Archive releases, I find the need for this set to be extremely debatable. Recorded in Trenton, New Jersey in 2002 at the progressive rock NearFest festival, this double disc set closely mirrors the set list from Hackett's Somewhere In South America album. In fact, the differences in the performances are so subtle and the track listing so identical, at times it is easy to forget which one you are actually listening to. Despite the minor differences, this collection leaves me wondering why even bother? The performance is excellent, the set list is good, but didn't we just get this a year ago? For those of you who have not already purchased the Somewhere In South America CD, this is a worth while purchase. If you did buy it already, you will find this title somewhat unsatisfying. In fact, unless you are a Hackett completist, you might find NearFest 02 to be highly questionable at best. As previously stated, I am a fan of releasing live material, but there is a difference between getting quality live recordings in the hands of the fans and rehashing virtually the same show on a different night and calling it something new. Somewhere In... (Insert City Here) anyone?

 

Steve Hackett - Live Archive 03 (2004)

WOG RATING: ***

Live Archive 03 is a 2-CD set compiled from Hackett's 2003 To Watch The Storms European tour, featuring tracks recorded at gigs in High Wycombe, Stockholm, Braunschweig, Croydon, Mannheim, Rotherham and Limbourg. Live Archive 03 thankfully mixes things up a bit more in terms of track listing and in minor arrangement changes than other Hackett archive releases of recent years. That being said, this set still closely mirrors the live albums Somewhere In South America and NEARFest 02, with 14 of the 22 tracks on Live Archive 03 also featured on NEARFest 02. Despite this, there are enough changes to the set list to make buying this title much more palatable than the NEARFest volume, which was virtually a clone to the South America collection. Perhaps not surprisingly, with each tour (and archive release) Hackett's band continues to get tighter and tighter in the live setting. Some of the stand-outs on this live album include "Kim", the acoustic medley, "Wall of Knives", and fantastic live versions of "Brand New" and "Walking Away From Rainbows."  This archive title restores my faith in Hackett's archive series. I look forward to Live Archive 04.

 

Steve Hackett - Live Archive 04 (2004)

WOG RATING: ****

Live Archive 04 is a 2-CD set recorded in April 2004 at Petofi Csarnok in Budapest, Hungary. Without question, this is one of the better live archive releases in the series to date. In addition to a distinctly different set list, the musicianship and raw energy of Hackett's band remains second to none and the arrangements are more playful here than I've ever heard him do live before. Several tracks, like the totally reworked version of "Los Endos" breathe new life into old favorites along side of some Hackett standards and a few great classics like "Air Conditioned Nightmare" from Cured, "Hammer In The Sand" and "Slogans" from Defector and "Ace of Wands" from Voyage of the Acolyte! Critically speaking, there is little I can say that could have potentially made this release better. If you enjoy Hackett's music, you will find this Live Archive title to be well worth the price of admission. Next to perhaps the Somewhere In South America album, this is probably Hackett's best live rock album. 
   

 

Steve Hackett & The Underworld Orchestra - Metamorpheus (2005)

WOG RATING: ***

Metamorpheus is Steve Hackett's second orchestral album and fifth classical album overall. According to Hackett, the album is a musical expression of the legend of Orpheus and his passage through the Underworld. Metamorpheus' combination of nylon guitar with the eight-piece orchestra blends incredibly well into a deeply atmospheric collection of music that almost sounds like a soundtrack to a film more than it does a stand-alone body of work. The Underworld Orchestra skillfully compliment Hackett's masterful guitar solos, providing a thoughtful balance of elegance and ambiance behind Hackett's stirringly passionate guitar playing.
   
The recording passes from somber moods earlier in the release to the last four tracks, which are a bit more spirited and bring the set from it's delicate tones to a new dimension of exuberance. Classical enthusiasts will embrace this album whole-heartedly, while the average music listener will find that the album is very pleasing to the ears... Not just because it's a record with soothing, sweeping orchestra and melodic guitar, but because it is completely unpretentious and beautifully crafted.

 

Steve Hackett - Live Archive 05 (2005)

WOG RATING: ***

The 2005 edition of Steve Hackett's Live Archive series was recorded at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall on April 3, 2005 during the Acoustic Trio Tour in support of the Metamorpheus album. The double disc set includes the entire performance that night, showcasing Hackett performing solo on acoustic guitar and also as a trio complimented by Roger King on keyboards and John Hackett on flute. Among the highlights on this archive release are the excerpts from Metamorpheus along with a completely reworked version of Genesis' "After The Ordeal" and Hackett's tribute to Andrés Segovia, the father of modern classical guitar.
 

In many respects, I enjoyed the live performances better than the actual studio recordings, which surprised me. If you were not lucky enjoy to see this performance, or the tour from which it came, this is a great opportunity to hear the essence of Hackett as he explores his classical influences and a few classic gems from his extensive back catalog on acoustic guitar. The combination of offering up several previously unreleased live tracks and some excellent performances make Live Archive 05 a worth while addition to any Hackett fan's collection and to the Live Archive series as a whole.

 

Steve Hackett - Live Archive 83 (2006)

WOG RATING: ***

The 2006 release of Live Archive 83 documents Hackett's first acoustic tour supporting the Bay of Kings album. Featuring only Steve Hackett on acoustic guitar and his brother John on flute, this 18-track instrumental disc is actually a incomplete bootleg recording from November 4, 1983, at Queen's Hall in Edinburgh, Scotland supplemented with a three tracks from another gig recorded on November 17, 1983 at Swansea University (of equal dubious origin) to complete the full set list. The recording is clearly not professional, but it is a fairly well recorded bootleg, and despite the obvious but subtle tape hiss and occasional distortion or faded commentary by Hackett between the songs, it sounds surprisingly clear and balanced. 
 
Among the tracks are a few rare live gems like "Concert for Munich" and "A Cradle of Swans" along with a set list that eventually would become staples of Steve Hackett's future acoustic tours. Perhaps more important than anything else, the release of this CD is significant for historical purposes, since it was really one of the first times that a rock guitarist attempted something like this (and pre-dates the popularity of "Unplugged" type live releases by about five years!). If you are a fidelity fanatic, you may have some issues with the actual recording itself for the reasons mentioned above. If you're a Hackett fan, however, you will probably find yourself forgetting that this is a less than perfect audio recording due to the technical performance itself, which is very good. The casual fan will probably find Live Archive 05 more appealing overall, but this is a great offering and truly an Archive release worthy of mention.  

 

Steve Hackett - Wild Orchids (2006)

WOG RATING: ***

Wild Orchids was released in two editions, a standard edition with 13-tracks and a special edition with 17-tracks and deluxe packaging. The album represents Hackett's first studio rock album since 2003's To Watch The Storms and, like its predecessor, offers an array of diverse musical styles throughout the disc. Unfortunately, unlike Storms, Wild Orchids never quiet gels together, and its diversity of music ranging from electric guitar-laiden rock to world/ethnic influenced pop to orchestral music and even folk, actually - in this case - makes that lack of cohesion overwhelmingly obvious - most particularly with the expanded 17-track edition. The longer edition flows inconsistently from track to track without any rhyme or reason and leaves the listener feeling as if the disc is a collection of scattered ramblings instead of a solid, consistent album that flows smoothly. The truth is, had this disc been slimed down to 11-core tracks, it would have been an above average Hackett offering. In this case, I suppose less would have been more.
 
Don't get me wrong, as a Hackett fan, I am grateful to have these extra songs, but I think in some cases a few cuts seriously detract from the body of work as a whole. The shorter, standard edition, actually flows a little better, in my opinion. Its a very diverse record, and its refreshing to hear an album that completely lacks monotony and offers an array of influences and styles, but it sounds to me almost like two or three mini albums that have been mashed together to make one longer album simply because they will fit on a single CD.  Among the stronger tracks are Hackett's surprisingly good cover of Bob Dylan's "Man In The Long Black Coat", his reworking of brother John's "Ego & Id" (previously featured on the Checking Out Of London album), and "Wolfwork." Hackett fans will definitely embrace this album, but unlike the consistently good To Watch The Storms, for example,  its got a few songs that should not have made the album (some of the bonus cuts are better than the ones that made the standard edition, by the way). If you are a true Hackett fan, buy the special edition. If not, the shorter edition works much better as a body of work.
 

 

Steve Hackett - Tribute (2008)

WOG RATING: ****

After an unusual year long absence, Steve Hackett returns triumphantly with the release of Tribute, a new unaccompanied classical guitar album. This time out, Steve pays tribute to some of the great classical musicians like Bach, Granados, and Barrios and, ultimately, to the late Andrés Segovia, who many consider to be among the greatest guitarists of all time (if not the greatest guitarist of all time!). Among the thirteen compositions are three original Steve Hackett songs as well, "The Fountain Suite", "Cascada" and "Sapphires."  
 
I've always been a fan of Steve's acoustic guitar albums, mainly because it showcases his guitar chops in a way rarely as evident on rock projects. The stripped down nature of an album like this shows the majesty of his playing and perhaps more interestingly, how well he adapts his playing style to the different and unique pieces of music Steve pays homage to. If you enjoyed albums like Momentum, There Are Many Sides To The Night, Sketches of Satie, and Bay of Kings, this album is a must own. Tribute is beautiful classical guitar in its purist form and pays fitting reverence to the immortal talent of these legends of classical music.
 

 

Steve Hackett - Out of the Tunnel's Mouth (2009)

WOG RATING: ****

As mentioned here before, Steve Hackett's musical style tends to straddle the boarders of various musical genres and themes. All of these influences are uniquely mixed together and the end result is usually something that combines an assortment that may include anything from progressive rock, pop, folk, classical, blues, to even a hint of world music on occasion. At it's core, while Out of the Tunnel's Mouth is clearly a straight-up rock album, it draws heavily on elements of classical guitar, along with a few doses of progressive rock, and an overall melodic feel that works incredibly well.  
 
I have difficulty deciding whether the production itself or the players should take credit for this, but this is probably the first Hackett solo album where I felt the rhythm section comes across as powerfully on record as Hackett's guitar parts, making this album a really solid all-around recording. The bass on this record has a nice thick, chunky sound quality that you can really sink your teeth into backed by a rich, slightly louder, drum sound than I'm used to hearing on Steve's work. When being played, the acoustics of Out of the Tunnel's Mouth almost beg incessantly for 5.1 surround sound treatment as the project moves from song to song on my stereo. The arrangements in general just sound so good! Perhaps only comparable to To Watch The Storms, this is probably the most polished sounding studio record Steve has ever offered. Among the wide array of talent on this album are Nick Beggs and Chris Squire on bass, Roger King on keyboards, Anthony Phillips on 12-string guitar, John Hackett on flute, and, of course, Steve Hackett on lead vocals and guitars. Between the quality of the material and the abilities of the musicians assembled here, Out of the Tunnel's Mouth is, without question, one of Steve Hackett's brightest moments as a solo artist. Anyone who enjoys Steve's work will relish in this true modern classic. If I was to introduce someone to Steve's music for the first time, this is very likely the album I would play for them.
 


OTHER ALBUMS FEATURING STEVE HACKETT:

GTR - GTR (1986)

WOG RATING: ***

In the age of '80s "super groups" like Asia and Damn Yankees, GTR was the progressive rock enthusiast’s dream. Two of prog-rock's preeminent guitarists: Steve Hackett from Genesis and Steve Howe of Yes were coming together to form a new band. Advanced speculation was that the album would be a return to the progressive influenced sound of their roots, but instead, the album turned out to be more of a surprisingly experimental project for these two axemen. To the commercial public, GTR was a welcomed breath of fresh air - an album with solid musicianship and catchy songwriting saturated into a hybrid of '80s pop music meshed with minorly audible progressive influences. To progressive purists, however, GTR was an experiment in pop excess gone horribly wrong, which many described as a complete and utter commercial "sell out."
The album, which had two hit singles with "When The Heart Rules The Mind" and "The Hunter" and sold more than a half a million records in North America alone, was radically different than anything Steve Hackett had done before sans perhaps elements of Highly Strung. Although somewhat dated in the '80s pop sound of it's heyday and despite a few weak tracks, the GTR album was a decent offering and further demonstrated Hackett's ability to cross into the mainstream - at least when he chooses to. Despite overly critical comments from some, I enjoyed hearing Steve explore commercial pop music - a genre that I mistakenly thought was far beyond the realm of his repertoire. Although it was not his best album, aside from his symphonic works, in many ways GTR is probably one of Hackett's most ambitious projects to date.
 

 

GTR - King Biscuit Flower Hour Archive Series: Greatest Hits Live (1997)

WOG RATING: ***

Also released under the names Roundabout, The King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents GTR and GTR Live On The King Biscuit Flower Hour (each with different album covers for you collectors out there!), this album was recorded live in concert as part of the King Biscuit Flower Hour radio program at the legendary Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles, California, on July 19, 1986. This album captured the "super group" fronted by guitarists Steve Hackett and Steve Howe (of the progressive rock band Yes) on their world tour in support of their self-titled (and only) studio album. Released posthumously some ten years after GTR's demise, this live set highlighted the band's energy in concert.
 
While history has since reported that the band's personal chemistry had already significantly deteriorated by this point in the summer of 1986, it certainly is not evident on the performance featured here. Among the 15-tracks on this release, nine of the ten songs that made up the actual GTR album are included (only "Toe The Line" was omitted) plus the non-album track "Prizefighters" which later appeared as a studio version without GTR on Steve Hackett's Feedback 86 album, Hackett's "Spectral Mornings", Genesis' "In That Quiet Earth" (which is uncredited on the liner notes) and "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)", plus Steve Howe's "Pennants" and Yes' "Roundabout." While the term "super group" has become little more than a footnote in '80s pop music history books, this album allows you to go back and relive GTR live - just months before they were history themselves! 
 

 

Nick Magnus - Hexameron (2004)

WOG RATING: ***

Most Hacketteers will know Nick from his keyboard work on Steve's solo albums like Highly Strung, Bay of Kings, and Till We Have Faces. That being said, Magnus' second solo effort, Hexameron, offers a unique blend of progressive rock and new age music tied to an underlying emphasis on sophisticated arrangements and multi-dimensional compositions that sounds on several occasions as if they have been lifted from some intense mythology-based film soundtrack. While this album clearly showcases Magnus' own sound and influences, you will also notice some familiar players on the project, including Steve Hackett's guitar work on "Double Helix" (also featuring John Hackett) and "Seven Hands of Time," as well as contributions from Pete Hicks and ReGenesis' Tony Patterson.

The stand-out tracks on this album are "Double Helix" and the Celtic influenced "Sophia's Song," the latter of which has some incredibly beautiful vocals by Siobhan McCarthy. "Double Helix" almost harkens back to Magnus' days in Steve Hackett's band and answers the question of what the band might have sounded like today if they still worked together on all of Steve's projects. A few tracks on the release were not quite as strong, but overall I really enjoyed the project. Having never heard Nick's solo debut, Inhaling Green, Hexameron makes me very curious to explore it. While Hackett fans will find its elements to be fairly different from anything Nick has done with Hackett in the past, Hexameron is certainly a worthy investment.  
 

 

John Hackett - Checking Out of London (2005)

WOG RATING: ***

I must admit, my initial curiosity with hearing this album was more to due to Steve Hackett's sporadic appearances on guitar than for his brother John's reputation as a rock artist and songwriter. After all, like anyone familiar with his other projects, John is traditionally known as a flautist not a rock guitarist or lead singer. Essentially, I expected an album that was an attempt to clone a Steve Hackett rock project. So, when I popped the disc into the player, it was almost like poor John had two biased strikes against him, which is what makes the experience all the more surprising.
 
Checking Out of London, aside from a few brief moments, sounds really nothing like a Steve Hackett album. Yes, it has a progressive edge to it, but this album is distinctly different. In fact, at times I almost hear a Pink Floyd style quality, which works extremely well with Hackett's assortment of proggish-laced melodic pop songs. The one quality that remains similar to brother Steve's album is a very atmospheric, moody quality, which I've always found enjoyable; but make no mistake, this album clearly has a distinctness to it. It is by no means a clone or copy of anyone! To my astonishment, John's vocals were very good... Dare I say, in most cases, I even liked his vocal qualities better than his brother Steve (blaspheme on a Genesis fan site, I know)!  There were one or two tracks were I thought his vocals did not work as well, almost coming off a bit lounge singer-ish, but that was the exception, not the rule. ReGenesis singer Tony Patterson's vocals also break up the album nicely, and the Patterson sung "Ego & Id", a fiery rocker complete with a wailing Steve Hackett guitar solo, is among the standouts on the album (and must be heard by any Steve Hackett fan). Other favorites include the (John) Hackett sung "Late Trains", "DNA", "Fantasy" and Patterson's "Whispers" and "Dreamtown." All in all, an solid first rock effort. I certainly hope it is not the last. Who knew John had it in him, and why did it take so long for us to find out? Now, that is the question!   
 

 

Algebra - JL (2009)


 

WOG RATING: ***

Algebra's new release, JL, is a concept album inspired by Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull. The project features guest appearances by Steve Hackett (who does a guitar solo on "Il molo deserto"), John Hackett (who appears on three songs), Aldo Tagliapietra (from the progressive rock band Le Orme), and Lino Vairetti (of the band Osanna) among others. Fronted by Italian Genesis biographer and Dusk fanzine Editor Mario Giammetti, the album does exhibit hints of jazz and folk music but, make no mistake, its heavily progressive rock influenced right to its core.
 
Often times, because I only speak English, I'm left wishing I spoke Italian when Mario releases a new Genesis related book or a new update for Dusk, because his projects are so well put together.  Strangely on this particular release, I think that I benefited by the fact that I did not speak Italian. I may not have completely understood the lyrical content on this album (although the liner notes of the CD are in English), but I think that disadvantage of not speaking Italian made me listen far more intently to the music itself and the way the vocals flowed within the compositions than I might have otherwise. JL was a surprisingly moving album, and the musicianship was quite impressive. Italian, being a romance language, naturally works beautifully in song, and the melodic qualities of JL benefit greatly from this. Whether you are a Steve Hackett fan or not, I would encourage fans of progressive rock to explore this release further. I was impressed with the album, and I look forward to hearing more from Algebra in the years to come! 
 

 

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