Inside Out [Release date 24.03.17]
Those who were lucky enough to call themselves Genesis fans back in 1977 would most certainly think that guitarist Steve Hackett had made the worst career decision of his life by leaving the ranks of the Prog Rock masters that year, as the most commercially-successful phase in the band’s life was only just about to begin.
Well, forty years and twenty five (!) solo albums later the Pimlico-born virtuoso has been most certainly vindicated for having made that very decision – a decision which enabled him to both remain commercially relevant and discover, in the process and in his own very words, “just how good I was on my own”.
My introduction to Hackett’s solo work came pretty late in life, with 2009’s “Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth”, and the very things that attracted me to his music then were the same as they are now; variety of style and an amazing sense of balance.
Hackett’s latest musical offering “The Night Siren” is an eleven track album which has been created with these very principles in mind; a continuous need to indulge in new themes and sounds and an amazing compositional skill in blending those ideas in a style of playing that is so very characteristically his.
Not many people are capable of making the sound of Tar sound so inviting to one’s ear, but it is the inclusion of the said instrument in the opening track “Behind The Smoke” that gives the song its distinct oriental character.
The Sitar has been featured in rock compositions since the 60s but very seldom has it operated in themes as uplifting as that of “Martian Sea” while the massive-sounding “Fifty Miles From The North Pole” has been created in the spirit of early Genesis, while featuring a child choir and the sounds of the…didgeridoo.
It is the tribal drumming and the haunting orchestral themes of “El Nino” which stand out for me, as they create a perfect aural representation of this often catastrophic natural phenomenon while the follow up “Other Side Of The Wall” finds Hackett indulging in a dreamy tune that’s perfectly adorned with layers of melodic orchestral melodies and acoustic guitar tunes.
On “Anything But Love”, the maestro combines successfully Flamenco guitar with bass-led rock melodies while “Inca Terra” and “In Another Life” bring two different and pretty distant civilizations closer together, the latter featuring Troy Donockley (Nightwish) on Celtic Uilleann pipes.
The last three compositions of the album are equally varied and impressive with “In The Skeleton Gallery” playing the role of the dark offspring of the bright and melodically-gifted “West To East” while the two and a half minute “The Gift” portrays Hackett as one of the few truly gifted guitarists in the history of rock music who have managed to stand out by following the ‘less is more’ approach in guitar playing.
Hackett’s previous studio album “Wolflight” was one of the highlights of 2015 as far as I am personally concerned – a record which I believed, at the time, he would find very difficult to top. Well, as I am sure you will soon find out for yourselves, the sixty seven year old guitar wizard has done exactly that!
While a surprisingly easy album to get into, “The Night Siren” is nevertheless the kind of record that has many aces kept up its sleeve – an album most willing to let you into its dark secrets, providing that you are willing to offer your valuable time and utmost attention in return. Please do so as this just happens to be one of the best releases so far this year! *****
Review by Ioannis Stefanis
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