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

VOYAGE OF THE ACOLYTE

Steve Hackett

 

Eclectic Prog

4.21 | 894 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

The T
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars For some people, GENESIS really disappeared the moment that Steve Hackett left the band. In a way, it is true. Only partially. What died with Hackett's departure was symphonic-GENESIS, and the band still had a few good albums up their sleeves (especially the trio's first). But something good came out of all of that. Finally, the guitar-master was able to explore his art freely, to create whatever he wanted. And the results were truly magnificent. Curiously, one of Hackett's best (if not best) albums was recorded before he left GENESIS, his first masterpiece, the superb "Voyage of the Acolyte"

We have an album made of 8 tracks, all of at least better-than-good quality. As always with Hackett, we have a big array of styles and influences, even though it's safe to say that he still owes a little bit of his sound to his (then)-main band. It's no secret also that probably this record's best tracks are, in my view, those two which feature GENESIS members alongside Hackett. So, hearing the style (still much more prog-rock-oriented and less world-music) and having in mind the collaboration of Collins and Rutherford, both factors would clearly affirm that the guitarist's own project was still not 100% his own. That, of course, is a totally invalid conclusion, and I'd say it's the other way around.

For what we have here is 100% Steve Hackett, exactly because a big part of GENESIS' beautiful music was due to Hackett's wonderful playing. If one ever wonders what was lost in the band's music after "Wind and Wuthering" (I would say after "And then there were three", an album were the trio still managed to pull a prog masterpiece), it was the atmospheric style, that sound that evoked something beyond the music. What GENESIS lacked from "Duke" onwards was, simply put, magic, the kind of magic that their guitarist was able to provide in enormous, immeasurable quantities (and, mostly, quality).

Steve Hackett has never been a guitarist that tries to show off his skills. We will rarely hear him dazzling us with his speed or his mind-defying fingering. His technique is superb, even admired by classical music fans, but it's not in his fingers but in his mind, in his imagination where we will find the true high art. He manages to make the guitar sound like a keyboard, manages to make it cry, to make it laugh, to express things that can't be explained in words. De-wording music is actually making pure music, and Hackett achieves this constantly. He invented (or perfected, actually) techniques later falsely attributed to others, he played music thought impossible for rock musicians, but that's not what his art is about. His art is about sounds, about creating a canvas where his guitar's notes are the brushes and the colors at the same time. His art is about songwriting, for if there's any doubt that Hackett can craft a good track, it only takes a few listens to any of his albums to erase it.

Ace of Wands (8.5/10) The most energetic of the lot, is also probably the less atmospheric but at the same time the more virtuosic. But even in the midst of the convulsion the artist creates magic in a middle section that ascends to the stars. Excellent opener.

Hands of the Priestess - Part I (9.5/10) A beautiful opening reveals a flute that tries to bewitch us like that one that legend found in Hamelin. We will dearly follow its trail. Pure beauty. This is what prog music is all about. Short but memorable.

A tower Struck Down (8/10) A very haunting, menacing opening sends shivers down our spines. Terror lurks in the dark it would seem. Peace eludes us as the second section fills us with even more doubts and uncertainty. The scene has flames, little figures dancing around it, mental-illness, eyes like tornadoes. Very good track.

Hand of the Priestess - Part II (9/10) The amazing melody of Part I returns but this time it sounds more pastoral, with an oboe singing the tune in a joyous celebration of nature and prog-rock. Even shorter, but still outstanding.

The Hermit (9/10) The beginning is very sad, with vocals appearing for the first time, buried under three feet of reverb, coming from a distant place. It's Hackett, who never was a singer but always was (and is) an artist who knows where and how to use his voice. The flute appears again, with a little melancholic melody. The end of the track is pure instrumental bliss. Excellent.

Star of Sirius (9.5/10) My love for GENESIS shines through when, at the mere appearance of Phil Collins' voice, I smile. Of course, the majestic music underneath it is what really captures my emotions. Everything is pensive, atmospheric, surreal; a figure in keys appears which announces the arrival of the fast section, full of the same glorious relaxed-energy that only GENESIS or its guitarist could create. We get a repetition of both sections, and we long for more minutes when the track's 7 are finally over. Superb.

The Lovers (8/10) A quick interlude in acoustic guitar, this is very soft and acts as the perfect introduction for the magic that is about to unfold.

Shadow of the Hierophant (10/10) Mike Rutherford collaborates with Hackett in this track, and one can't deny the importance of his input. But in the end, it's the music that absolutely overwhelms us. When the female voice rises over the acoustic arpeggio, it's like an angel singing to us tales that we can't yet grasp because we've never been told to truly understand beauty. The tragic melody that strikes when the bass and drums come back feels like a dagger in our weakened hearts. The celestial creature sings again, but then we're brought back to our senses immediately before we can get lost in so much light. She appears once again, but for the third time she's stricken off the canvas. Suddenly Hackett starts playing around with his instrument, he taps the strings creating a whirlwind that ascends to a much brighter place. The music is happier now. Percussive vibes start announcing the arrival of the final part of the epic. First we get it at very low intensity. It grows until it explodes tenderly in our ears. And a superb song has ended, one of the best in all rock. The album fades.

There are no weak tracks and no boring moments. Maybe a couple songs could've been even better, but rarely do we get albums like that. This is a towering masterpiece that grows with me every time I hear it, like the legend that created it, arguably the greatest guitarist in all progressive-rock, and for my taste, in all that is rock.

The T | 5/5 |

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