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Steve Hackett Beyond The Shrouded Horizon (2011)

MI0003236269From sequenza21.com

Guitarist Steve Hackett may be best known for his work with early Genesis in the 1970s and participation in the 80s rock super group GTR, in which he played alongside Yes guitarist Steve Howe. But for over thirty years, he has had a distinguished solo career, releasing a number of exquisitely wrought recordings with a variety of collaborators.

Those who are “in” on the existence of this impressive catalog might wish that it had less of a cult status, as that’s what would befit much of Hackett’s output from a qualitative standpoint.

However, remaining slightly below the mainstream’s radar has had had a fortunate byproduct. Hackett has been able to avoid the pressures of mainstreaming and homogenizing his records’s content, a fate that has befallen far too many prog legends once the A&R people got their way. Instead, Hackett has happily explored eclectic music-making; work that encompasses prog rock epics, synth-haloed alt pop songwriting, blues-inflected electric guitar shredding, pastoral neo-folk ballads, and crossover classical compositions played on nylon string guitar. Sometimes all of these approaches appear on the same album.

Beyond the Shrouded Horizon, Hackett’s most recent studio release, epitomizes this eclecticism. Yet, amid all this variety, it is a musically cohesive and engaging recording. The principle reason: Hackett’s singular creative vision remains crystal clear and his chops and voice are both in sterling shape.

Fans of the guitarist’s progressive rock catalog will warm to “Loch Lomond” and the twelve minute epic “Turn This Island Earth;” the latter features guest bassist Chris Squire (of Yes). Squire also provides a contrapuntal bass part on symphonic prog song “Looking for Fantasy,” and lays down a sepulchral groove on “Catwalk,” a roiling blues-rock number that showcases Hackett’s soloing at its most hot-blooded. Amanda Lehman lends nimble vocals to three songs, while John Hackett duets with Steve on the pastoral psych pop piece “Between the Sunset and the Coconut Palms.” Longtime collaborator Roger King provides beautiful synth textures and keyboard playing throughout.

Hackett’s two brief acoustic guitar solo compositions, “Wanderlust” and “Summer’s Breath,” are tantalizing palette cleansers: one would love to hear them in expanded incarnations. For those wanting a concise “single-worthy” pop song, complete with Beatles-esque harmonic shifts and supple string arrangements, Hackett supplies “Til These Eyes.”

Yes, Beyond the Shrouded Horizon is a stylistically omnivorous collection; but one that maintains high musical standards throughout.

March 6, 2013 Posted by | Steve Hackett Beyond The Shrouded Horizon | , | Leave a comment

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.

March 3, 2013 Posted by | Steve Hackett Beyond The Shrouded Horizon | , | Leave a comment

Steve Hackett Beyond The Shrouded Horizon (2011)

MI0003236269From prog-sphere.com

Steve Hackett, with a solo career of well over 30 years behind him is certainly not resting on his laurels with this album of both literal and metaphorical travellin’ tales. Backed by his usual electric band Steve takes us on an Odyssey from Loch Lomond, the band marching over the hills on the back of an almost metal riff, to end with the epic symphonic tale of Turn This Island Earth, on the way visiting many exotic corners of the globe and indeed beyond and inward. Make of that what you will!

On the way we encounter all sorts of styles melded together to make an involving and cohesive whole, and without any of the tempo and mood changes sounding forced. A great blues-rock riff that puts me in mind of early Uriah Heep crashes into the almost sedate introduction to Prairie Angel, and throughout the album classical touches abound as do various world music influences. Possibly a balalaika on Waking To Life is later complimented by a distinct middle eastern feel, leading into some Kashmir-like sounds on the intro to Two Faces Of Cairo, so far one of my favourite moments on the album.

Throughout Steve’s guitar sounds more energised than ever, when one would expect a mellowing over time, and he even verges on heavy in places, especially on blues shouter Catwalk. Some of the songs are bridged with short acoustic pieces which add to the overall cinematic atmosphere.

The longest song on the album is the closer Turn This Island Earth, clocking in at just under 12 minutes. As befitting such a mini-epic, everything is thrown at this, the orchestra and the treated vocals at the start lending it an almost ethereal presence until a rock riff from Steve takes the song down another alley, but the theme is never lost even in the more chaotic Sorcerer’s Apprentice sounding moments. A classical symphony in miniature, this is an unexpected but great way to end a fine album, which, at just short of an hour long has not made the mistake of many over-ambitious projects where bands feel they have to get as close to filling eighty minutes as possible. In Steve’s case never mind the width, feel the quality.

The second CD has, we assume, a few items recorded at the same time as the main album but not necessarily fitting in with the theme. This CD at just under half an hour starts with the Four Winds mini-suite featuring some fine classical piano and classical guitar, as well as some restrained electric soloing from Steve.

Classical piece Pieds En L’Air conjures visions of costume dramas in the grounds of stately homes, electric instrumental She Said Maybe is pleasant if unassuming, and there’s a stunning cover of Focus song segment Eruption:Tommy, not bad for a bonus disc, but you should be more than sated with the main course anyway.

There’s no doubting the love and enthusiasm Steve and the band have put into the making of this well produced album, and Steve along with Roger King and wife Jo have written some gorgeous stuff here that sounds at times like the soundtrack to an epic film, and it sure is a journey well worth taking.

…..and I didn’t even mention the “G” word!

February 28, 2013 Posted by | Steve Hackett Beyond The Shrouded Horizon | , | Leave a comment

Steve Hackett Beyond The Shrouded Horizon (2011)

MI0003236269From seattlepi.com

Former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett has racked up over 20 albums over the course of his long solo career. After his indelible contributions to that group’s classics such as Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, Hackett followed Peter Gabriel out the door in 1977. His solo career had actually begun in 1975 with the great Voyage Of The Acolyte, and has continued at a prolific pace ever since. And as unlikely as it may seem, the 61-year-old axe-hero has come up with one of his finest efforts yet with Beyond The Shrouded Horizon.

Beginning with a wickedly powerful feedback-laden riff, which then opens up beautifully ala “Watcher Of The Skies,” the time-shifting “Loch Lomond” soon settles into an acoustic groove that just screams Selling England By The Pound. Although Steve’s vocals have always been a little on the thin side, his guitar playing has always more than made up for it. In the case of “Loch Lomond,” his electric solo midway through is a powerful testament to the man’s talent.

More than anyone, Hackett is aware that he is a guitar player first and foremost. His solo recordings have always held a fair amount of instrumentals, and Beyond is no exception. Of the 13 tracks on the album, five are instrumental. One of Steve’s trademarks is in providing a short, acoustic introductory piece to his songs. Actually this practice dates back to Genesis, and the indispensable “Horizon’s” which precedes “Supper’s Ready” on Foxtrot. For Beyond The Shrouded Horizon, he prefaces two tracks in this manner. “Wanderlust” does a nice job of setting up “Til These Eyes,” and “Summers Breath” performs the same function for “Catwalk.”

Without a doubt it will be the final song on the album that will receive the most attention. “Turn This Island Earth” is a nearly twelve-minute slice of prime British prog, and longtime Hackett fans should love it. I know I do, as it features time and mood changes galore, as well as plenty of guitar.

Even though Steve Hackett qualifies as a bona-fide guitar legend for many of us, he has never received the widespread acclaim he deserves. Although I realize that this album will probably not be heard much outside of his avowed fan base, it should be.

Former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett has racked up over 20 albums over the course of his long solo career. After his indelible contributions to that group’s classics such as Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, Hackett followed Peter Gabriel out the door in 1977. His solo career had actually begun in 1975 with the great Voyage Of The Acolyte, and has continued at a prolific pace ever since. And as unlikely as it may seem, the 61-year-old axe-hero has come up with one of his finest efforts yet with Beyond The Shrouded Horizon.

Beginning with a wickedly powerful feedback-laden riff, which then opens up beautifully ala “Watcher Of The Skies,” the time-shifting “Loch Lomond” soon settles into an acoustic groove that just screams Selling England By The Pound. Although Steve’s vocals have always been a little on the thin side, his guitar playing has always more than made up for it. In the case of “Loch Lomond,” his electric solo midway through is a powerful testament to the man’s talent.

More than anyone, Hackett is aware that he is a guitar player first and foremost. His solo recordings have always held a fair amount of instrumentals, and Beyond is no exception. Of the 13 tracks on the album, five are instrumental. One of Steve’s trademarks is in providing a short, acoustic introductory piece to his songs. Actually this practice dates back to Genesis, and the indispensable “Horizon’s” which precedes “Supper’s Ready” on Foxtrot. For Beyond The Shrouded Horizon, he prefaces two tracks in this manner. “Wanderlust” does a nice job of setting up “Til These Eyes,” and “Summers Breath” performs the same function for “Catwalk.”

Without a doubt it will be the final song on the album that will receive the most attention. “Turn This Island Earth” is a nearly twelve-minute slice of prime British prog, and longtime Hackett fans should love it. I know I do, as it features time and mood changes galore, as well as plenty of guitar.

Even though Steve Hackett qualifies as a bona-fide guitar legend for many of us, he has never received the widespread acclaim he deserves. Although I realize that this album will probably not be heard much outside of his avowed fan base, it should be.

February 27, 2013 Posted by | Steve Hackett Beyond The Shrouded Horizon | , | Leave a comment