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Steve Hackett - Voyage Of The Acolyte CD (album) cover

VOYAGE OF THE ACOLYTE

Steve Hackett

 

Eclectic Prog

4.21 | 879 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars One Genesis album not credited to Genesis is the first solo effort by Steve Hackett. The album was made after Gabriel had left and the guys were taking some time to try different things before making decisions about Genesis. Hackett took the chance to "be the Captain" for a change and this album has all of the beauty and grandeur of the 70s finest symphonic successes. A balance is achieved between delicate pastoral moments and rocking ones, the arrangements and sound are quite good, and the list of guest stars is impressive: Collins, Rutherford, John Acock, Sally Oldfield, and Percy Jones. Hackett notes that it "was great to work with Phil and Mike in a different way outside the confines of the band."

"Ace of Wands" begins with an uptempo riff and muscular bass that alternates a mellow section of acoustic guitars and synths. Nice progressions lead to some fancy Hackett leads towards the end. "Hands of the Priestess part 1" is pure prog heaven with acoustic and lovely flute over mellotron. The melody is gorgeous and dreamy. Occasionally light chimes and volume controlled electric leads make a welcome appearance. "A Tower Struck Down" jolts you from the serenity of the previous song with a Crimsonesque harshness to the mood. Sound effects come and go adding drama and unease. It then drifts back to the loveliness of "Hands of the Priestess part 2" briefly before going into "The Hermit." The music is very pretty with cello, acoustic guitar and flute. The vocals are somewhat tentative and thin as Hackett was obviously not too comfortable with his vocal prowess. "Star of Sirius" begins side 2 with mellotron, acoustic with effect, and a guest vocal by Collins who does a nice job. This track features a catchy pop-ish chorus that gets a bit sing-songey but I find the overall cheese rating of the album to be more than manageable. Let's face it, there's good cheese and bad cheese and this is some of the fine stuff. Some say albums like this are what made Punk necessary and while there is an element of truth to that philosophy, it can never take away the joy that music like this gives to people. Punk and prog can co-exist just fine in the eyes of we fans-it seems like the artists are the ones who have trouble getting along. "The Lovers" is a short instrumental introduction to the real highlight of the album, the magnificent "Shadow of the Hierophant." This has to be one of symphonic prog's greatest moments. I am captivated by the yearning beauty of the main melody that keeps finding its way back, seemingly more passionate each time. And then there is the angelic beauty of Oldfield's vocal which just makes my heart burst. The louder parts trade off with soft passages of mellotron, acoustic guitar, and flute. There are some pleasant electric leads peeled off now and again. Some have complained the track is a bit sweet and this is true but what can I say? Sometimes a particular piece of songwriting catches you in its spell and other times definitely not. I find it completely charming and spellbinding.

I would highly recommend this album to anyone who loves melodic symphonic prog like Genesis, Novalis, Willowgrass, Rousseau, Yes (think "To Be Over"), Oldfield, or Camel. It may not be a masterpiece but it is an exceptional album. The gatefold mini-lp reissue features good sound and the amazing artwork of Kim Poor whose album cover won an award. Her website describes the cover as follows: "Through bone and fire the sightless priestess foretells the future. Her eyes are denied the usual sight, but she represents events foretold: precognition, premonition and the road of the tarot are her stock in trade. The hands of this gifted seeress, and feminine intuition, allow the drawbridge of consciousness to be lifted for her, immediately becoming an open door. It is a Chinese watercolour in her background which tells of past lives ... the tower about to be struck down ... the balloons of colour that must be snatched and fully grasped in order to move forward, representing the artist herself." [Kim Poor] It also features two bonus tracks, a live version of "Ace of Wands" and a 17 minute extended version of "Shadow." All in all a high-quality release and one deserving of its reputation as one of the highlights of the mid 1970s prog scene.

Finnforest | 3/5 |

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