We Are Not Alone was John Hackett’s previous album, featuring the very talented Nick Fletcher on guitar. Now fully trained for his next mission, John includes him along with crew members Wayne Proctor on drums with Simon Hall on a six-string bass for the journey Beyond The Stars – another original from Cherry Red records.
The CD’s striking cover, by Nick’s daughter Katherine, has hints of Camel’s Moon Madness, with the merest splatter of The Clangers, and like the previous album it is world class, proving you can judge a book (..let) by its cover.
This album is a mixture of proggy styled jazz, rock songs, and pastoral leanings and to that end makes for a very pleasant experience with the title track Beyond The Stars launching this behemoth into nearly an hour of flight. Layers of Nik Kershaw sounding guitar chords underpin a song about us all returning to the dust from whence we came, with some excellent Holdsworth-esque lead guitar and busy jazz bass. A successful beginning for the trip, but one wonders how many universes are in the Hoover bag? This CD feels like a throwback to the character that brother Steve seemed to find on his earlier albums, the chorusing of vocals certainly help but Nick Fletcher’s timbre is very reminiscent of that certain player.
By A Time In Place this theory is totally justified as the familiar flute introduces this number, the time signature conductor shouting “all change” quite a lot here with choppy cross groove jazz funk in between slower vocal sections that imbue a Richard Sinclair baritone type vibe. But it’s the lead guitar playing that makes the listener sit up. The returning flute gives up a lovely pastoral ’70s feel, not to mention Wayne Proctor’s unfashionably (and therefore superb) good drumming.
Simon Hall fretlesses with the ghost of Pastorius holding his hand on the song of lost relationships Leaving It All Behind before The Spyglass warns us of the perils of data theft. Again, very Steve Hackett – especially when the classical guitar section is brought in – which is no bad thing at all.
Shades of John’s earlier collaborations with Nick Fletcher can be heard on the opening of Mist On The Lake. Mellotron choirs get happy’d up by a smiley guitar with no minor keys rippling the water and it’s a joyous exposition of the difference between the city and the great outdoors (shared with a chum, of course). This could have been re-titled ‘SONG FOR YOUR CAMPER VAN’ and, not for the first time, the flute playing will also remind you to make sure Spectral Mornings is packed along with the propane bottle. This idea works a second time as the lone instrumental The Waves Of Fair Isle played on various electric and acoustic guitars is the perfect accompaniment to the track you have just been off the beaten of – now just add the FX of water gently washing on the lake’s shoreline.
Longest song That Ship Has Sailed actually uses up all the words 3 minutes in with 11 left, but they are then repeated. However, that does mean there is a second chance to hear “doubloons” (a Spanish coin) rhyming with “swoon”. The true majesty of this piece is then exposed as the sudden speeded up section returns to the original tempo with a great nostalgic lead guitar that tells us in notes that the ship really has sailed and when THAT is repeated, a full-on Mellotron foamy white horse of a wave joins the guitar, ending with a ‘get out of the water before you drown’ panic.
So, it definitely appears that the Hackett brothers appeal is closing its gap. Beyond The Stars is exactly the type of music that will appeal to fans of this genre that begins with a “P” and ends with a “rog” (phew! mustn’t upset the genre haters):
a style or category of art, music, or literature…
but ultimately this is a great rock album regardless of the lineage and first and foremost is an album about the music. May your retro rockets all be facing the correct way on landing.
01. Beyond The Stars (5:17)
02. A Horse Named Cadillac (6:45)
03. A Time In Place (6:52)
04. Leaving It All Behind (4:23)
05. The Spyglass (6:33)
06. Mist On The Lake (8:54)
07. The Waves Of Fair Isle (3:19)
08. Sign Of The Times (5:21)
09.That Ship Has Sailed (11:34)
Total Time – 58:58
John Hackett – Vocals, Backing Vocals, Flute, Organ, Mellotron, Piano, Electric Piano
Nick Fletcher – Electric, Acoustic & Classical Guitars, Ambient, Slide, Bass Guitars
Simon Hall – 6-String Bass, 5 String Fretless Bass
Wayne Proctor – Drums (track 2)