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Steve Hackett - Genesis Revisited CD (album) cover


Steve Hackett


Eclectic Prog

3.41 | 318 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars I fell in love with Genesis in '75 when I was introduced to "Selling England by the Pound." I immediately acquired vinyl copies of what I'd missed along the way and eagerly saturated my ears with the innovative, eclectic progressiveness that is the group's eternal legacy. Although I was a dedicated and jealous Yes freak I was instantly intrigued by their unique blend of folk, jazz and rock coupled with Peter Gabriel's alluring strangeness that made them stand out from all other bands in existence. However, the sole monkey wrench in their aural art was the thin, almost amateurish sound quality of their albums that I found cruelly distracting if not downright criminal. For the life of me I couldn't understand why their music didn't have the stunning high fidelity that made the material by Yes and ELP leap out from my speakers and engulf me in soundscapes that were darn near rapturous. Evidently there's not much that can be done to change the fundamental recordings that populate "Nursery Cryme," "Foxtrot," "SEBTP" and "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" because even the most recent re-mastered CDs have failed to make drastic improvements in their overall presentation.

Thusly, for decades I've often wondered what the colossal impact their magnificent songs and epic tracks would've had on me and the rest of the world at large had the group been able to retain the services of someone like Eddie Offord who could've efficiently captured their magic on analog tape. In 1996 the guitarist that was a member of the band during their most creative period, Steve Hackett, released "Genesis Revisited" and I felt that perhaps my dream had come true. He'd taken some of their most beloved tunes and re-recorded them with the help of a host of very talented musicians in order to showcase them in the glorious auditory Technicolor that late 20th century state of the art studio equipment and techniques offered. But once again I was reminded of the truth imbedded in the phrase "be careful what you wish for." I'm not condemning this disk as an utter disappointment. Not at all. Steve did his level best to upgrade the songs he picked out for the album and I have no complaint whatsoever about the way the CD sounds. It has all the rich tones and depth that's missing in the aforementioned classic LPs. Yet it makes me appreciate the undiluted energy and raw excitement that Genesis' early recordings contain in spite of their anemic audio resonance. No matter the shortcomings, their genius was not to be denied. It's painfully obvious that you can only catch lightning in a jar one time and then that golden moment is lost forever.

Hackett wisely begins his labor of love with the stupendous "Watcher of the Skies," employing a cast of skilled synthesizer wizards and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to punch up the awesome intro. The cavernous atmosphere they establish is very impressive, adding a wider dimension to this excellent composition. Of course, it doesn't hurt having John Wetton's proggy voice, Bill Bruford's inimitable drumming and Tony Levin's bass guitar acumen included. They do a terrific job. At this juncture I was ecstatic, thinking that the entire "Genesis Revisited" was going to be a godsend to this aging fan's ears. "Dance on a Volcano" is next and, with the rhythm section of Chester Thompson on drums and Alfonso Johnson on bass being on board, I was braced to be blown away. I adore the huge aura Steve erects for this cut but I'm not too crazy about Hackett's electronically enhanced vocals. I appreciate his attempt to offer an alternative vision of how the song should be portrayed but, alas, it comes up short in comparison to its gargantuan debut found on the sublime "Trick of the Tail." From there he segues into a new and rather heavy-handed instrumental, "Valley of the Kings," that's firmly grounded by Hugo Degenhardt's solid drumming. Steve's spirited guitar playing throughout is top-notch and a treat to hear. He's right up there with Jeff Beck as far as conjuring amazing quirks and feedback out of his guitar. "Déjà vu" follows, a tune that Hackett and Gabriel were working on during the band's preparation for "SEBTP" but didn't finish in time. Paul Carrack's unmistakable voice is perfect for this lovely number and he does it full justice. The lush symphonic score is a wonderful surprise, as well. "Firth of Fifth" is one of my all-time favorites and I couldn't wait to see what Steve did with it. First of all he smartly utilized the presence of Bill and John to lay down a killer track. In addition he didn't succumb to the temptation to try and duplicate Tony Banks' brilliant grand piano overture that so magnificently dignified the original version but opted to let the synth crew serve up a respectable alternative. Wetton's singing style is suitably haunting for this epic but it's Hackett's classical guitar work at the beginning of the second movement that grabs my attention most. After that Bruford's hot percussion and a stunning orchestral score soar aloft while Steve's extended guitar ride is passionate and moving.

"For Absent Friends" is okay as a change of pace. Colin Blunstone sings it well enough and the symphony is an elegant touch. All in all it's a sweet rendition of one of the group's prettier numbers. I'm not sure what Hackett was aiming to accomplish by completely overhauling Mike Rutherford's "Your Own Special Way" but he went too far off the prog reservation with it. It sports a prominent modern R&B groove for Carrack's soulful vocal to ride atop but the track is so overproduced that it gets lost in the fog. It's not unlistenable but it doesn't come close to capturing the simple innocence the original on the extraordinary "Wind and Wuthering" possesses. "The Fountain of Salmacis" fares much better. The duo of Thompson and Johnson rumbling underneath the surface lays down an imposing foundation but it's Steve's classical guitar intro segment that impresses most. Why Hackett insisted on doing the tricky singing chores is beyond me but at least he doesn't destroy the ambience. Gotta hand it to him, though. This is an odd and very complex piece of progressive rock to pull off but he makes it admirably worth any progger's while to sit through repeatedly. "Waiting Room Only" is the low point. The Sanchez/Montoya Chorale, harmonica and sax along with a variety of weird effects and sound bites contribute to this experimental seven-minutes of barely-tolerable madness and bluesy instrumental interludes. Of all the fine songs on "Lamb" this was his choice? Hmm. His take on the iconic "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" follows. He bestows upon it a jazzy swing groove that's definitely novel and all but not captivating or charming in the least. Unfortunately he doesn't do it any favors by trying to inject a big dose of British humor into the proceedings, either. The group's first hit song deserves better. Steve goes out with a bang, though. "Los Endos" features Chester and Hugo kicking tail on their respective drum kits with Pino Palladino doing bass guitar duties. The challenging, fusion-like arrangement (especially in the early going) is tight and spectacularly rendered although Ian McDonald's sax and flute contributions are woefully underemphasized in the mix.

I'm glad Steve took it upon himself to try to make amends for the inexcusable engineering flaws that crippled the recordings of some of Genesis' most earth-shaking tunes in the era preceding Peter Gabriel's departure to go climb up Solsbury Hill alone. This endeavor was something that had to be done sooner or later and who better to give it a go than one of the guys who was there when it all went down. While it doesn't totally right the tragic wrongs that marred the otherwise brilliant "Nursery Cryme" and its brothers, Mr. Hackett does deserve a modicum of gratitude from all Genesis fanatics for making the effort. I reckon if Phil, Tony, Mike and Peter had joined him on this project it might have been a prog rock event equivalent to the moon landing but speculation is cheap and plentiful. I might as well chase the wind. As it is, though its appeal is understandably limited to charter members of the Genesis brigade, it earns my highest 3-star rating. Fine job, Steve. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

Chicapah | 3/5 |


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