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Steve Hackett Beyond The Shrouded Horizon (2011)

MI0003236269From musicstreetjournal.com

With a career spanning some 40 years, Steve Hackett has continued to blaze a trail across the prog firmament of which most other musicians can only dream. Once the introverted, bearded and bespectacled guitarist with Genesis, since his departure from the band in 1977, he has carved a solo career, which includes more than 20 albums and collaborations with other musicians including his flautist brother John.

After a relatively quiet period, he came roaring back last year with the immaculate Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth which was accompanied by some stunning live performances including a slightly abbreviated appearance at the High Voltage Festival in London. So is Beyond The Shrouded Horizon as good as its predecessor? The answer fortunately is a resounding “yes.” In recent times, his songs have been punctuated by certain episodes in his personal life which often made for lyrically interesting material. But now, he appears to put that particular past behind him having recently married Jo, who has co-written many of the songs and really seems to have brought a spring and a fresh new energy into the body of work here.

Retaining the Electric Band line-up (Messrs Nick Beggs, Roger King, Gary O’Toole, Rob Townsend and Mlle Amanda Leamon), who played so brilliantly with him on the recent tours, the album is a magical mystery tour to some very special places dear to Hackett’s heart. However, what you will notice throughout this album is the immaculate, almost totally effortless way in which Hackett can coax some magic out of his beloved Gibson Les Paul, using every effect in the book, to produce a collection of diverse and highly listenable pieces. Packed full of different moods and textures, this is one of the stand-out prog albums of the year, crafted by one of the greatest exponents of the genre. This album takes the Hackett canon of work to a completely new level. It’s not to be missed.

Track by Track Review

Loch Lomond
The swelling opening chords of “Loch Lomond” leading into a huge slab of melody punctuated by the characteristic wah-wah guitar sound opening into a melodic acoustic section topped by lush harmonies with Amanda Leamon clearly audible and also some bagpipes – perhaps another first in prog.

The Phoenix Flown
“The Phoenix Flown” is an all too brief guitar driven chunk of prog with a great rhythm in which Hackett goes off on a flight of fancy with some gorgeous flowing melody lines that again demonstrate a man on top of his game.

Wanderlust
This is a 44 second acoustic piece which serves as a bridge to the next number.

Til These Eyes
“Til These Eyes” is a rolling river of a song, acoustically led with close harmonies and a lilting melody, underscored by Richard Stuart on cello, Dick Driver on double bass and Christine Townsend on violin and viola.

Prairie Angel
This was a work in progress when Hackett was last on tour. Not anymore. It is now a full blown anthem with a creamy guitar melody that develops into a mighty bluesy workout with lots of hard and heavy riffing.

A Place Called Freedom
If there was to be a single release from BTSH, then it would be the very attractive “A Place Called Freedom” which goes from acoustic, jingling guitars with a delightfully light vocal melody line into that rich creamy guitar and soaring keyboards. But it is that great guitar sound which keeps coming back and hitting you head-on. This is absolutely delicious!

Between the Sunset and the Coconut Palms
This is a gentle acoustic guitar and vocal harmony which brings to mind of Hackett’s “Serpentine Song” and which takes you off on a magic carpet to somewhere warm and wonderful – all woven into its melody lifted even higher with a lovely lilting symphonic passage.

Waking to Life
“Waking to Life” has Amanda Leamon singing above sitar and a swelling melody line before that extraordinary guitar and sustain comes back to send your senses reeling yet again.

Two Faces of Cairo
This is another great musical stopping point in the musical travelogue with some full on drumming from Gary O’Toole and that wonderful Arabian guitar sound which Hackett has constantly captured so well in recent musical excursions. It then morphs into another one of those searing guitar interludes where he can sustain notes almost at will.

Looking for Fantasy
Here is a wistful little song about a lady of a certain age reflecting on her past life recounting some of the key events of the 60s and 70s while dating a guy half her age who “resembles a young Jimmy Page.” Again a beautiful acoustic guitar underscores and heightens the nostalgia of this piece – a recurring theme in Hackett’s work over the decades.

Summer’s Breath
“Summer’s Breath,” another acoustic interlude, makes an all too brief appearance before taking us to the next piece.

Catwalk
One of the stand-out tracks, “Catwalk” comes swaggering in a bluesy full-on, “look at me” kind of way that harnesses both Chris Squire and Simon Phillips in the rhythm section. It sounds like Still Waters with attitude with Steve just getting out there and strutting his stuff in the most spectacular style.

Turn This Island Earth
This incredible journey ends with the haunting “Turn This Island Earth,” a shimmering piece of musical beauty which embraces the cosmos, among the planets, where again, Hackett lets rip with a little bit of jiggerypokery while on this flight of fancy.

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March 3, 2013 - Posted by | Steve Hackett Beyond The Shrouded Horizon | ,

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