Album review: STEVE HACKETT – Under A Mediterranean Sky

STEVE HACKETT - Under A Mediterranean Sky

Inside Out  [Release date: 22.01.21]

Being the modest chap that he is, Steve Hackett would probably not describe himself as a virtuoso.

However, in a career spanning getting on for fifty years from the early days of Genesis through his magnificent solo career, time has shown it is indisputable that he falls into that category.

Nowhere is this more manifestly self-evident than his solo acoustic guitar work, which has generally fallen into the classical genre with albums such as ‘Bay Of Kings’, ’Momentum’, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘Metamorpheus’ – the latter two with an orchestra.

The last of these was 2008’s ‘Tribute’ so a fresh waxing was well overdue.

‘Under A Mediterranean Sky’ has been inspired by Steve’s visits to places all around the Med where he has absorbed sights, sounds and cultures and translated these diverse influences into an absorbing collection of songs.

Unlike previous solo acoustic work which has relied heavily on Hackett’s interpretations of classical works, all bar one track here has been self-penned – albeit with assistance from bandmate Roger King (who took care of the orchestration) and wife Jo Hackett.

The journey begins in Malta with ‘Mdina (The Walled City)’ which commences with pounding drums and orchestra, seguéing into classical acoustic guitar which weaves its way in and out of the orchestration to tell the tale of the city’s centuries of conflict.

‘Adriatic Blue’ with its cascading acoustic arpeggios is inspired by the Dalmation coast and ‘Scirocco’ ups the middle-Eastern vibe with music inspired by winds playing through the historic places of Egypt.

One of the highlights is ‘Joie De Vivre’ – the title giving away its paean to French food, wine and family and its stinging fretwork recalling Beggar’s Opera’s timeless ‘Classical Gas’.

‘The Memory Of Myth’, set in Greece, has a stunning violin intro by Christine Townsend and leads into the only non-original piece on the album – ‘Scarlatti Sonata’ by Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757), a fiendishly difficult acoustic workout originally written for keyboard.

‘Casa Del Fauno’ features lush orchestration and flute from Steve’s brother, John and fellow bandmate Rob Townsend and celebrates Pompeii.

The centrepiece of the album is ‘The Dervish And The Djin’ – the most middle-Eastern sounding track on the album (as you’d expect) featuring the Tar of Malik Mansurov (from Azerbaijan) and the Duduk of Arsen Petrosyan (from Armenia). At the time of recording their respective countries were blowing lumps off each other. The healing qualities of music eh?

‘Lorato’ is a pleasant folk tune, ‘Andalusian Heart’ does what it says on the tin and ‘The Call Of The Sea’, a song about the Med itself, beautifully played, brings the journey to an appropriate end.

Although solo acoustic albums are by their very nature an acquired taste, and, for those of us who play a bit, aspirational – ‘Under A Mediterranean Sky’ is a great listen.

Superbly recorded (you can almost hear Hackett’s fingernails on the strings), technically jaw-dropping and with sympathetic, rather than over-the-top orchestration complementing the staggering guitar work, it should appeal well beyond Hackett’s devoted fanbase.

This is how these things should be done.  ****

Review by Alan Jones   

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