Album review: JOHN HACKETT – Another Life

JOHN HACKETT - Another Life

Esoteric Antenna Records   [Release date: 25.09.15]

Although it must be difficult to carve yourself out a career when you are the sibling of a high-profile and much-revered performer, John Hackett has made more than a mere niche for himself in the field of progressive rock music.

As the go-to man when anyone needs a rock flautist (given that Ian Anderson is a one-band man) he has appeared on more albums than you could shake a stick at – the most noted of which were those of his brother Steve following his split from Genesis.

His work on albums such as ‘Voyage Of The Acolyte’, ‘Spectral Mornings’ and particularly ‘Please Don’t Touch’ was exceptional and laid the foundations of what has been a high quality if ‘under-the-radar’ career.

This career has included many albums with Nick Magnus in the ambient trio Symbiosis and a few solo works for flute and guitar.

Strange then that ‘Another Life’ (is there a statement in that title?) is only his second outing in the the rock genre following the critically acclaimed ‘Checking Out Of London’ in 2005.

It almost goes without saying that he has called in favours from a number of previous collaborators, not least brother Steve who takes care of lead guitar on seven tracks (plus harmonica on one), Nick Magnus who swaps between the drum and keyboard stools (as well as producing) and a wonderful cameo appearance from original Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips.

Inevitably, during a career involved with the movers and shakers in the progressive rock world, Hackett has absorbed no end of influences which are laid bare here – not as mere pastiche but almost in a celebratory fashion.

In many ways this is an album of contradictions too – despite being recognised as a flautist, the flute only occurs sporadically; despite having Steve Hackett on guitar the most Steve-sounding track, ‘Forest’ doesn’t feature him and despite never having worked with Peter Gabriel, the riff on ‘Burnt Down Trees’ is an absolute shoo-in for ‘Sledgehammer’.

There are many highlights here – check out in particular the cascading chords of the title-track opener, the ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ guitar arpeggios of ‘Look Up’, Steve’s coruscating guitar solos on ‘Burnt Down Trees’ and ‘Rain’ and the pastoral loveliness of Anthony Phillips’ twelve-string on ‘Satellite’.

‘Another Life’ is essentially a low key, elegiac album – more a Sunday morning listen than a Friday night – but the excellent tunesmithery of Hackett himself together with the top-notch musicianship of all concerned, carries the album along beautifully.

An under-stated gem.    ****

Review by Alan Jones

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