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Steve Hackett - Highly Strung CD (album) cover


Steve Hackett


Eclectic Prog

2.95 | 297 ratings

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3 stars With "Highly Strung" and its predecessor "Cured", it seemed at the time that Steve (or his record company) were trying to court a wider and more commercial audience. Whilst "Cured" was distinctly "Pop" orientated, "Highly Strung" had a more "Transatlantic Stadium Rock" feel about it. The trouble with this genre of music is that sometimes you end up with songs full of noise, but without much substance, and this was the case with some of the tracks on this album. However, there are just enough good tracks in here to rescue the album overall.

The album starts well enough with Camino Royale - a rousing rocker with a good hook in the chorus and enough of Steve's individuality to make it work well. Good Keyboard/synth work as well on this track.

Cell 151, released as a single, is another decent track with a powerful foreground beat hammered out by Ian Mosley on drums and Steve producing good riffs on guitar. The fact that Steve had employed Ian to replace the Linn drum machine on the previous album meant that there was more percussive energy to all the tracks on this album. The only critisism I have of this track is that it doesn't seem to know when to end (i.e it goes on a bit too long!).

"Always Somewhere Else" and "Walking through Walls" are 2 average tracks that suffer from the above mentioned lack of substance, the former is an instrumental and the latter is a lightweight rock number wich repeats the chorus too much to keep the listeners interest for long.

"Give it Away" is a much better offering - the best track on the first half of this album. This is a fast, energetic rythmic number, employing an interesting combination of harpsicord and electric guitar that builds up momentum as the song progresses. Great chorus and verse structure.

"Weightless" is another lightweight number (no pun intended!), in which Steve's Vocals are a bit too high in places.

"Group Therapy" is a great track - an instrumental that keeps shifting rythms and styles to keep it dymanic all the way through. Steve and Nick Magnus both play frenetically on this track, Steve on Guitar, Nick on Keyboards. At some points in the track it sounds as if Steve and Nick are trying to outplay each other, at other points they go out of their way to set each other up for a mini solo. In the middle of all this Ian Mosley fills any gaps (which you have to measure in milliseconds!) with a powerful beat that keeps the whole piece structured. Breathtaking!

After the last track the pace and sound mellows with probably the best track on the album. "India Rubber Man" is a warm, sentimental song with orchestral effects and piano. Steve's Harmonica in the break adds to the atmosphere of this beautifully composed piece.

The original album bows out with a rousing finale "Hackett to pieces" - an instrumental that allows Steve and Nick to set out the basic rythm, and Ian to thrash out a fast beat on drums.

The remaster comes with 3 extra tracks - 2 good, one poor.

Guitar boogie is Steve and friends thrashing out furious "boogie" on guitars and drums. You can tell from the energy in this piece that all involved are having a great time and you can't help liking this infectious piece.

The next is a 12 inch version of "Walking Through Walls". The original version was dull enough, and this 12 inch version is even more repetetive.

The remaster ends on a very high note - "Time lapse at Milton Keynes", one of Steve's best "Classical" guitar numbers. This piece starts in "Baroque" style, then takes in other classical influences as it moves gently along. This is tranquil, haunting and so soothing. Sit out under the stars and share a glass of wine with your partner when you listen to this one.

Overall, "Highly Strung" not the best of Steve's work, but there are a few gems in here that place it into 3 star territory.

Leonardo | 3/5 |


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