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Steve Hackett - 'Out Of The Tunnel's Mouth' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/e7/6a/3d/264_SteveHackettOutOftheTunnelsMouth2009_1270730096.jpg Hot

Added by James Gaden     April 08, 2010    
 
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New record from the prolific solo artists and ex-Genesis guitarist.

 

Isn’t it amazing that despite having left Genesis eons ago and produced over 20 albums (excluding live ones) as a solo artist he’s still invariably referred to as former Genesis guitarist, Steve Hackett; and I’m as guilty as most. I still recall the shock that I felt when I heard of his departure, I thought it was the end of my musical world, and when I sat down and played what was his first solo album after leaving the band, but in fact was his second (“Please Don’t Touch”) I recall being both awed and confused because it wasn’t an archetypal guitarists album and it wasn’t a clone of his former band. Over repeated plays I became more and more convinced that the man was a genius and I’d an even greater respect for his talent.

For Steve it’s not just about the guitar, it’s the composition that matters and he’s more concerned in creating something musically interesting than simply showing everyone he’s a wonderful guitarist. It’s as if he doesn’t have to compromise to satisfy any desire for commercial success. On the face of it he has a fan base that is sufficient for his purposes. This preamble is because Steve has continued to plough this particular furrow and as a consequence his albums aren’t the sort that are instant, out of the box, favourites but require to be absorbed and appreciated and this latest offering ticks all the right boxes for those willing to take that time.

The production is superb (take a bow Roger King), not least because it was recorded in his living room at very low volume levels, which seems impossible (see interview in Fireworks issue 38) but the power is certainly there. I’d also go as far as saying that Steve’s singing has improved. This has been my one criticism of him down the years, as I have long thought he should have got someone in to handle these duties as his voice hasn’t been strong enough. This time around I was looking to see if he’d got John Wetton involved, but he hasn’t.

The eight tracks on offer demonstrate the usual diversity we expect and in many ways the opening number, ‘Fires On The Moon’ encapsulates what I like about his material. A gentle vocal passage leads into a smooth but powerful refrain with a wonderful rumbling bass line before returning to the original theme. This time the upbeat section goes into the first guitar solo of the album and it is quite superb. It sounds simple but probably isn’t, with a delicious melody and sustained notes to make your neck tingle. Fortunately, we get an extended version to round out the track. I can see this becoming a live staple.

‘Nomads’ has him reaching for the Spanish guitar, of which he is a fine exponent. After a flamenco style intro the song moves into more traditional territory and has a really nice chorus. A more upbeat flamenco passage is followed by an electric solo that sneaks into Santana mode thanks the distinctly Brazilian percussion. ‘Emerald And Ash’ is a lengthy number that has an initial feel similar to the track ‘Strutton Ground’ from ‘To Watch The Storms’. This is the one that made me think of John Wetton on the opening ballad section. The acoustic guitar in the middle section recalls some Genesis material, albeit fleetingly, before the last third of the song changes tack completely and the guitar gets very gritty indeed. This is probably the heaviest he’s been in some time, and I don’t mean weight. ‘Tubehead’ is another destined to be a live favourite. A succinct and energetic instrumental it fair rattles along. ‘Sleepers’ is another long track and is delightful. If you, like me, are a fan of Inspector Morse on TV then this could be lifted from the soundtrack as it has the hallmarks of Barrington Pheloung’s best work. It features a lovely acoustic guitar and wonderful orchestration on the early part. Like ‘Emerald…..’ before it the track takes on a different persona later on with the Wetton comparison returning. A heavy beat and processed vocals giving way to another ripping solo, which again I suspect will be hard for him not to use live; even if as part of a medley.

‘Ghost in the Glass’ borders on Jazz –lite and is very smooth, the acoustic and electric sections working beautifully against each other. ‘Still Waters’ then plunges us into the Blues and a guitar sound that Joe Bonamassa would be proud of. The album closes full of Eastern promise with ‘Last Train To Istanbul’ the title of which pretty much tells you what it sounds like.

There’s nothing here that will have the uncommitted suddenly embracing Steve as never before, but those who have always been Acolytes will be purring with delight at the quality of these new songs and hoping that several get a good airing when he tours the UK in November. I think it’s one of his best and most consistent albums in quite a while.

Gary Marshall

 

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