CD Reviews

Steve Hackett - 'Live Rails' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     February 24, 2011    
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Wonderful stuff!

Released through his own website ( this two disc album represents the first leg of touring to promote his excellent 'Out Of The Tunnel's Mouth' CD and it shows a band at the top of its form. He may be a solo artist but that doesn't mean that Hackett hogs the limelight and it really comes across as a tight knit and cohesive band that are playing these songs. I could probably come up with a different set list that ticked all the boxes for me but actually I have no gripes at all because despite some of my favourite tracks being omitted, what is present is so well played and beautifully balanced in terms of Hackett's strengths and variety of material, that all the bases are covered.

Opening with the ever impressive 'Everyday' is a masterstroke as this is one of his very best songs with all the hallmarks of why, in my opinion, he continues to be so revered. This version sounds particularly energised, which is testament to the quality of the band. A superb melody is just the start; when the instrumental section kicks in his guitar work is utterly sublime and the addition of Amanda Lehmann to the mix gives the backing vocals a lovely depth, not only to this song but to others later in the set. 'Fire On The Moon' is a classic Hackett instrumental, oozing melody while the wistful 'Emerald And Ash' is a delight. 'Ace Of Wands' and 'Pollution C' takes the tempo up again; before another classic in the form of 'The Steppes' is superbly delivered. The arrangement of this track has changed so that Rob Townsend now plays the flute part on oboe (?) which is a nice twist and refreshes the sound without changing the track too radically. The serene 'Serpentine Song' is sandwiched between two of Hackett's more aggressive tracks ('Slogans' and 'Tubehead') that again demonstrates the versatility of material on offer.

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CD1 is pretty damn good, but CD2 probably trumps it with so many of Hackett's signature pieces, gleaned from both his solo career and from his tenure in Genesis. 'Spectral Mornings' is simply brilliant but so is the full version of 'Firth Of Fifth'. It's great that he now plays the entire track rather than just the guitar solo because it shows the band at their best. Roger King's piano and synth work is wonderful and Gary O'Toole (drums & vox) carries the vocals superbly.

'Blood on the Rooftops' is a thing of beauty and is followed by a couple of cuts from 'The Lamb…' on which Nick Beggs (bass/Chapman Stick) rattles the rafters with some thunderous bass. After that there's time for a breather with the majestic 'Sleepers' before the Blues based 'Still Waters' changes the mood.

The CD closes with triumphant and rousing versions of 'Los Endos' and 'Clocks', the latter of which has the edge taken off it by an overlong drum solo to bring it to a conclusion. By the second leg of the tour this solo had grown still further, which is a mistake. Take a tip Steve, play it like the original. That aside, this is a fabulous representation of a brilliant artist. Existing fans will want this, those not yet familiar with the man's work could do worse than start here. Wonderful stuff!

Gary Marshall

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