Steve Hackett is not a man to rest on his laurels or use his illustrious past as a member of Genesis in an exploitative manner, thankfully that is because on this, his 25th solo album, The Night Siren, he has once again opened his “Musical Box” to craft and create something rather special indeed.
It’s an album of deep emotion and some stellar playing. Whereas previous albums may have suffered from a lack of a cohesive theme and, dare I say it, some uneven pacing and a few bits of filler in between the diamonds, this album manages to avoid those pitfall entirely. When coupled with the theme of unity, harmony and the search for peace in our very divided and troubled world, its pleas ring out with truth, vision and clarity.
The 11 songs each have different moods and timbres, and all are varied in style, but they all share one common thread. The superb musicianship throughout from a rich and varied cast, with international musicians woven into and across many of the tracks, this is how World Music can sound when married to rock stylings, and of course there is the use of some great orchestration by Steve’s regular collaborator Roger King. As always, the piercing but never shrill sound of Steve’s lyrical guitar playing cuts through the mix, adding soaring lines over every track, but not for showmanship’s sake, more for embellishment and to enhance rather than distract. There is real passion, grace and fire on display here with some of Steve’s most ferocious and wildest playing in a while. He genuinely sounds enthused here, and boy, does it sound good. I’ve often wondered why Steve is not held in higher regard for his guitar playing, the man is a monster talent and great stylist too. There are some stunning and world class guitar breaks on this album which is like a global journey, from the Balkans to Iceland, on to Peru and back home, all in 57 minutes – no turbulence, no annoying airport security checks, and hopefully no drunk passengers either!
As with most of Steve’s releases, it takes a few listens to fully sink in, but when it does you can only marvel at Hackett’s remarkable vision and ongoing renaissance in both making the past live again and also in continuing to craft classics for the future.
It’s only just March now but this, along with This Winter Machine’s album, is already likely to be on my Top Ten list for the year. It is an absolutely storming album and needs to be played loud for best effect. For me, this is a distillation of Steve’s last few solo albums into one truly outstanding release with my favourite tracks being the mood setting opener Behind the SmokeAnything But Love and the lead-off track In the Skeleton Gallery with its Kashmir-like riff and some interesting lyrics.
In truth, the whole thing is great and I can heartily recommend this album.
01. Behind the Smoke (6:57)
02. Martian Sea (4:40)
03. Fifty Miles from the North Pole (7:08)
04. El Nino (3:51)
05. Other Side of the Wall (4:00)
06. Anything But Love (5:56)
07. Inca Terra (5:53)
08. In Another Life (6:07)
09. In the Skeleton Gallery (5:09)
10. East To West (5:14)
11. The Gift (2:45)
Total Time – 57:43
Steve Hackett – Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Oud, Charanga, Sitar, Harmonica, Vocals
Roger King – Keyboards, Programming
Steve Davy – Bass, Vocals
Gary O’Toole – Drums
Amanda Lehmann – Vocals
John Hackett – Flute
Rob Townsend – Baritone & Soprano Sax, Flute, Flageolet, Quena, Dudek, Bass Clarinet
Record Label: Inside Out
Date of Release: 24thMarch 2017