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Steve Hackett - Please Don't Touch! CD (album) cover


Steve Hackett


Eclectic Prog

3.58 | 556 ratings

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2 stars Former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett's first proper solo album after leaving the band, a follow-up to his album, `Voyage of the Acolyte' that almost works as a default Genesis album, 1978's `Please Don't Touch' is a fairly unconvincing, frequently overtly commercial eclectic rock/pop album devoid of much in the way of consistency or cohesion. The fact that Hackett himself barely sings any lead vocals himself, instead bringing in a bunch of guests, only adds to the confusion. But most disappointingly, there's not much that actually drifts close to proper prog-rock that it drives home even more of what a letdown it is compared to its predecessor. It's not without a few nice moments, mostly in the second half, and there's no denying Mr Hackett was trying many new sounds and styles, but it rarely completely satisfies.

Hackett's instantly recognisable chiming guitars, jangly piano and a guest vocal from Kansas frontman Steve Walsh are the highlight of album opener `Narnia', an upbeat pop/rocker with a melody that wouldn't have sounded out of place on an Alan Parsons Project album. It's pleasant and undemanding at best. The quirky and whimsical `Carry On Up The Vicerage' drifts closest to his old band, especially due to the nice organ, but the wind-up-toy vocals will be loved and loathed in equal measure. It seems like a silly joke that slightly raises a smile the first time, but is grating and unfunny from then on. If it were to have appeared on a Genesis album, it would have been a hugely divisive track. `Racing In A' darts through a range of fragments of themes back and forth, even some classical music snippets, but despite a lovely acoustic guitar passage near the end, the piece seems thrown together, and another Steve Walsh vocals dates it rather badly.

I can't shake the feeling that `How Can I?' occasionally nicks some of the melody from the Beatles track `Across The Universe'. Steve's acoustic guitar chimes are nice, and it certainly is romantic, but the scratchy and stuffy vocal from soul singer Richie Havens drags it down, and the rhyming lyrics make me cringe. I think Steve's own voice would have meant a lot more to the track. Worst of all on this album, `Hoping Love Will Last' is a commercial orchestrated soul pop number sung by Randy Crawford that sounds like one of those overly sentimental ballads you'd find on a Michael Jackson album (I don't exactly mean that as a criticism, though). Of course it's exquisitely performed by her, but it's so lost here, almost seeming like it was accidently included on the album from another artist. I'm sure Steve had a great respect for these two soul artists he brought in to sing lead on these tracks, but when I think of English progressive rock, I damn sure don't see much connection to the rich history of black American music. Their vocals sound completely out of place here, even though I'm sure they offer plenty of character and warmth in their own music.

Much better is the classical guitar and drifting flute instrumental `Kim', simply beautiful. But best of all are the frantic prog workouts (finally!) `Land of a Thousand Autumns' and the title track `Please Don't Touch'. Classical guitar mystery, darting prancing flute, backwards effects, thick punching bass, spectral keyboards, nightmare Mellotron and snarling guitar menace, with plenty of bombast, power and tension throughout. `The Voice of Necam' is a childlike circus-style ditty with dark electronic glitches and eerie droning sighing wordless harmonies soon joined by more ravishing classical guitar. `Icarus Ascending' is a dramatic and classy closer, with quite a spacey and ethereal atmosphere, plus quick little boppy bass and jazzy piano twinkling diversions, but another smooth vocal from Richie lets it down for me.

Those who can admire Mr Hackett at this early point in his solo career experimenting, attempting sounds away from progressive rock and trying to work out what directions to head in, as well as those who can appreciate more straight-forward rock music with a lot of variety, will likely enjoy this album most. I'm really glad there are others who rate it much higher than I do. But those wanting a more complex, involved progressive work will only find fleeting moments throughout to satisfy them. It bugs me a little that, for all the thought that Steve Hackett was the keeper of the `true' Genesis/prog flame as his former band was drifting towards more commercial sounding in the later 70's, there are average pieces on this album that are far and away more blatantly commercial than anything that band had offered at the same time. The follow-up album `Spectral Mornings' was an improvement (but still not the classic to my ears that many people regard it as being), and `Defector' in 1980 was even better, but `Please Don't Touch' is a frustrating, disappointing experience, despite little glimpses of that proper progressive magic sometimes shining through.

Two stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 2/5 |


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