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Steve Hackett - To Watch The Storms CD (album) cover

TO WATCH THE STORMS

Steve Hackett

 

Eclectic Prog

3.76 | 282 ratings

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The T
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is the first Steve Hackett album I've ever heard, and even right now I haven't heard more than two (WILD ORCHIDS being the other one). So I will say, from the start, that I won't give any comment about the legendary guitarist's solo career, as it is practically unknown to me.

I will say a few words about that "other band" where Mr. Hackett had a chance to play some guitar, though. When Hackett left Genesis, more than two decades ago, he took with him most of the prog-magic that made that group's music one of a kind and arguably the most respected in all of prog-music history. Even though I personally love one of the Hackett-less albums made by the trio (ATTWThree), it's evident that without the master of the 6 strings, there would be no more "Fifth of Firth" or "Supper's Ready", and music in general suffered because of his absence. He embarked on a respectable solo career, and now the time has come for me to meet the man outside of that magic world of Gabriel, Banks, Rutherford and Collins.

Now, about this album. I won't give an overall comment about the record as a whole, as it's really difficult to categorize such a varied, diverse piece of art. All the tracks are so different, they offer to the listener the ticket to enter so many different music- parks, that I think I'll make my position on the album clear by doing a song by song review. Again, I'll opt for a more feeling-oriented description, as I think I can manage that better than a pure musical, theorical one, as a good friend wisely advised me long ago.

Strutton Ground (10/10) Wonderful, such a beautiful and simple piece of music I've yet to hear again. Acoustic guitar and a melancholic voice, the song seems like a picture, a picture of a man walking through the streets and parks of a British city thinking about the time when he walked the same streets with a woman he loved, all at that time of the afternoon when the light is more treacherous, when is not so dark that you can't see anything, but when it's so dark that you can get lost. What a beautiful piece of music! Circus Of Becoming (10/10) Some dark organ opens the track. Then a funny, yet ironical theme that reeks of sarcasm but also of foolish satisfaction. Comedy, sadness, but also longing. You actually long for sad times, because those were better times. Life is like that. Another success. The second section bares some resemblance to Genesis, but it lasts less than a minute. Beautiful music. And Hackett's voice, though nothing great, is so nostalgic, so emotional, so blue-ish. Great.

The Devil Is An Englishman (8/10) What a piece of pure genius the start of this song is! The playful-yet-dangerous acoustic theme is fantastic. It sounds like the melody of a nice-looking mature man who would appear harmless and amiable, but hides a dark, very dark secret within. The music gets more electronic-oriented, and that takes away a little from the rating of the song, as does the bland vocals, though we have to say, they work for the context of the song.

Frozen Statues (9.5/10) The start sounds like Debussy under water (that's almost a pun). Just quiet, drunken, 3 AM piano chords in some lost bar in the middle of a giant, gray, people-eating metropolis, with a man lying over the bar completely depressed, thinking on killing himself over a lady in purple who played with him. Just some echoes of a trumpet player in the background, that is all.

Mechanical Bride (8.5/10) Suddenly we enter a mechanized world, and then a pure hard-rock, even metallic riff unfolds. But it's stopped by an incredibly ridiculous piano figure. Another good track, so simplistic yet so meaningful. It's colder that the preceding tracks, but that's perfect for a song called "Mechanical Bride". An iron-cold song, with a swingy-jazzy section in the middle. The song is long and continues to develop into utter chaos. Exactly what you'd get of a mechanic, perfect yet in-human mechanical bride. It sounds a little like King Crimson, as cold and cerebral as the music from that band is.

Wind, Sand And Stars (9/10). Exactly what the title says: the noise of minuscule grains of sand flying carried by the wind amidst utter darkness, emptiness. Oddly enough, a flamenco guitar stops the voyage and starts delivering note after note of comfort, musical comfort, the comfort of emptiness being filled, of a void substituted with little falling stars cascading in the form of guitar strings. Near the end strings and keys join this celebration of the obvious, this chant to what's there, to what IS. Good piece.

Brand New (8/10) A decidedly Spanish-sounding guitar that reminds us of Rodrigo's or Granados' works starts the song. Hackett blue/purple voice sings to our ears before the track goes the rock way, and then the dreamy landscape returns. A happier, less nostalgic song than all the preceding ones, Hackett plays with the stereo in the studio, as he himself let us know in the album's booklet. Effects and distortion, a pure game of knob-management. Then a guitar solo. A good track, a little cold.

This World (9/10) One of the most beautiful moments in the album, the beginning of this song reminds me of Ennio Morricone's music. Then an incredibly sweet and seducing song follows. This is not a love-related tragedy, but just utter infatuation. The protagonist is happy, and even when he asks for his lover not to "take this world from" him, he doesn't sound too pessimistic. The vocal harmonies in the chorus remind me of Pink Floyd. The whole song has a certain PF aura to it, yet mysteriously romantic, which is not much in the vein of the band that Waters and Gilmour fronted. Very good track.

Rebecca (10/10) Another one of those songs that make this album a masterpiece. Guitar, just guitar, the tool that Hackett uses to build the most beautiful blocks of music. His voice over the guitar, the calling for a woman, some Spanish-like tremolos, the atmosphere is just poisoning, poisoning like any feeling where the heart overcomes the brain. A moment of insanity in the way of electronica with a wonderful solo by the master. Where's this situation taking us? Well, back to the beginning. To the superb 70's-sounding music of the start, the world of dedication.

The Silk Road (8/10) A mostly percussion-driven track, the title is perfect: this music speaks of a large enterprise where someone makes the wrong decision to try to reach the Silk Lands in the East without considering that though Silk lies in the future, the road is not made of silk. Good music, very descriptive.

In my version, (the special edition), the order of the songs is not the same as listed at the top.

Pollution B (?/10) Again, Hackett shows us he's not only good with a guitar, but with a pen when it comes to pick titles for his tracks. A very short track that's only noise, pollution. This one is forgettable but it's so short it doesn't hurt the album.

Fire Island (7/10) It was only time before a blues-flavored track in triple rhythm arrived, and as I said before, this is not my favorite style. Good dirty sounding vocals, a guitar that demands respect from a rather grotesque audience, some lousy organ in the background. The song lasts 5 minutes, not 2 as listed above. And to be honest, I'd prefer if it had lasted just 2. But Hackett is so good that even this track didn't damage my experience. Anyway, good bluesy track, not my cup of tea.

Marijuana, Assassin Of Youth (6/10) This one borders on atrocity though of course I guess it's the sought effect. It starts with a melody that sounds like some 40's movie music with black and white actors. Then some organ a la Bach (well, it IS Bach), and abruptly enough, the BATMAN melody strikes! Marijuana assassin of youth? Don't think so. Assassin of brain cells? You bet! A complete mess, chaotic piece with ridiculous vocals and the Tequila theme thrown in for good. But, as I said, just like with the oregano-looking herb, we can't demand coherence of someone who decided to treat himself with the wizard hiding in the green forest. As a piece of music, I abhor this. But let's set this straight: the perfect song for such a title, a title that, like Hackett says in the booklet, is inherently false, as is the absurdity and weirdness of this track.

Come Away (8/10) We travel England's countryside, we ride to a town in a wooden bike and dance in the central plaza with lots of unknown yet friendly people. And we're lost in the most complete and stupid happiness. What everybody's looking, really. This word will look weird here, but this is a "cute" track. The thing is to, once again, discover the genius behind the music.

The Moon Under Water (9/10) Joaquin Rodrigo comes back to illuminate Steve Hackett's playing. A beautiful instrumental piece, with just an acoustic guitar and some artistic brushes, shaped as human fingers.

Serpentine Song (8/10) A charming, irrelevant song. It sounds so old, so peaceful, not deserving of such an awful place like the world. As always, Hackett plays his guitar underneath a soft layer of musical grass. Flowers. Happy faces. This is music coming from a satisfied person.

If You Only Knew (7/10) Another short acoustic track, not as brilliant as the preceding one, this one lacks the drama, the beauty, the emotion. But it serves as yet another proof of Hackett's skill (yes, as if we needed it).

A truly excellent album that is marred by a couple weak tracks, TO WATCH THE STORMS would've been a perfect 5 if it had maintained the level of beauty of the first tracks.

This is atmospheric, descriptive music. Hackett is not a mere musician, but a painter, an artist whose canvas comes in the shape of a guitar. An artists that has given us some 17 paintings to look at and listen to. But, attention, this is not cold art. This is the art of painter with a heart, who draws melodies instead of lines, who fills his pictures with the colors of a thousand notes.

Art.

Not recommended for: Well, I don't know. Maybe fans of music without emotion. Maybe people that prefer noise. Maybe people that dislike painting and prefer their graphics to come in the shape of mundane comics.

Recommended for: Fans of atmospheric, descriptive, paint-like music. This album speaks of humanity.

.As long as you're sure you come from planet Earth, this is for YOU.

The T | 4/5 |

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