Review ‘Discovering Steve Hackett’ 5cd set

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InsideOut music have just released a budget priced retrospective collection of five of Steve Hackett’s less well known rock albums……..Review and photos by TIm Darbyshire.

This collection comes after last year’s mammoth ‘Premonitions’ deluxe box set reissue of the Steve Hackett Charisma albums (see my review here) and features every Hackett rock album from 1984 to 2006 (with the exception of the collaborative ‘Feedback 86’ released in 2000). The albums included are ‘Till We Have Faces’ (1984), ‘Guitar Noir’ (1993), ‘Darktown’ (1999), ‘To Watch The Storms’ (2003), and ‘Wild Orchids’ (2006).

The five albums come in card sleeves, replicating the front cover artwork of the original releases and a thin outer slipcase to house them. There’s no booklet or additional information, but this is a budget release and should be judged accordingly.

Taking its name from a C.S.Lewis novel, 1984’s ‘Till We Have Faces’ was Steve’s second album after leaving Charisma, (the all acoustic ‘Bay of Kings’ preceded it in 1983) and in some respects it’s a natural successor to ‘Highly Strung’, with contributions from Nick Magnus and Ian Mosley . However, the album was recorded in Brazil and adds World Music elements, particularly Brazilian percussion.  Highlights include the lengthy ‘Matilda Smith-Williams (Home For The Aged)’ and the minor chart hit ‘A Doll That’s Made In Japan’.

Steve of course teamed up with Yes’ Steve Howe in the mid-80s to form the supergroup GTR and released his second album of solo classical guitar pieces ‘Momentum’ in 1988, but it wasn’t until 1993’s ‘Guitar Noir’ that he resurfaced with an electric album.

‘Guitar Noir’ – as the title suggests, see Steve using a much darker guitar sound, but Steve’s signature smooth guitars style is also there – notably on ‘Sierra Quemada’. ‘There Are Many Sides To The Night’ has some lovely acoustic guitar, as does the short ‘Walking Away From Rainbows’.  ‘Vampire With A Healthy Appetite’ became a stage favourite for many tours.

1999’s ‘Darktown’ continues the dark themes of ‘Guitar Noir’ with the tracks ‘Omega Metallicus’ and ‘Darktown’. ‘Man Overboard’ and ‘The Golden Age Of Steam’ hint at a more familiar Hackett sound. Although the subject matter is largely dark – including ominous narration on ‘In Memoriam’ – this album has plenty of light and texture, with ‘Twice Around The Sun’ being a highlight. Long time Steve Hackett collaborator Roger King makes an appearance on this album.

For me though, it’s 2003’s ‘To Watch The Storms’ that is a real return to form, and the best of the 5 cds in this set. Coincidentally it also marked Steve’s return to the UK touring circuit with a full electric band for the first time in 10 years including Gary O’Toole, Rob Townsend and of course Roger King all three of whom are still with Steve today.

Highlights are the King Crimson-esque  ‘Mechanical Bride’, the beautiful ‘Strutton Ground’ and ‘Serpentine Song’ and the catchy ‘Brand New’ – which wouldn’t sound out of place on ‘Spectral Mornings’.

The set is completed with ‘Wild Orchids’ from 2006. Stylistically it follows on from ‘To Watch The Storms’ without reaching the same creative peaks for me. ‘A Dark Night In Toytown’ kicks things off in raucous style, ‘A Girl Called Linda’ provides light relief and the album’s closing tracks ‘The Fundamentals Of Brainwashing’ and ‘Howl’  provide great atmospherics.

For the price of this Limited Edition set, it’s a no brainer. I paid 16 Euros including shipping to Canada – a welcome addition to the collection, even if you only need one or two of the discs.

The next studio album after ‘Wild Orchids’ was the triumphant ‘Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth’ (2009), and from then Steve really seems to have been on an upward trajectory, both artistically and commercially.  ‘Beyond The Shrouded Horizon’ (2011) and ‘Wolflight’ (2015) have left fans of Steve’s music looking forward to the anticipated release of his new album in 2017.

 

Full track listing:

Disc 1 – Till We Have Faces
1.    What’s My Name
2.    The Rio Connection
3.    Matilda Smith-Williams (Home For The Aged)
4.    Let Me Count The Ways
5.    A Doll That’s Made In Japan
6.    Duel
7.    Myopia
8.    Taking the Easy Way Out
9.    The Gulf
10.    Stadiums of the Damned
11.    When You Wish Upon a Star
Disc 2 – Guitar Noir
1.    Sierra Quemada
2.    Take These Pearls
3.    There Are Many Sides To The Night
4.    In The Heart Of The City
5.    Dark As The Grave
6.    Lost In Your Eyes
7.    Little America
8.    Like An Arrow
9.    Theatre Of Sleep
10.    Walking Away From Rainbows
11.    Paint Your Picture
12.    Vampire With A Healthy Appetite
13.    Tristesse
Disc 3 – Darktown
1.    Omega Metallicus
2.    Darktown
3.    Man Overboard
4.    The Golden Age Of Steam
5.    Days Of Long Ago
6.    Dreaming With Open Eyes
7.    Twice Around The Sun
8.    Rise Again
9.    Jane Austen’s Door
10.  Darktown Riot
11.   In Memoriam
Disc 4 – To Watch The Storms
1.    Strutton Ground
2.    Circus Of Becoming
3.    The Devil Is An Englishman
4.    Frozen Statues
5.    Mechanical Bride
6.    Wind, Sand And Stars
7.    Brand New
8.    This World
9.    Rebecca
10.  The Silk Road
11.   Come Away
12.  The Moon Under Water
13.   Serpentine Song
Disc 5 – Wild Orchids
1.    A Dark Night In Toytown
2.   Waters Of The Wild
3.   Set Your Compass
4.   Down Street
5.   A Girl Called Linda
6.   To a Close
7.   Ego And Id
8.   Man In The Long Black Coat
9.   Wolfwork
10. Why
11.  She Moves In Memories
12.  The Fundamentals Of Brainwashing
13.  Howl

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