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Steve Hackett - At the Edge of Light CD (album) cover


Steve Hackett


Eclectic Prog

3.89 | 343 ratings

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The Duke of Prunes
4 stars Most well-crafted and diverse Hackett solo album? I would say so. What is to admire about the Genesis maestro Steve Hackett's latest solo works is the fact that he draws a wide palette of musical influences from all over the world and manages to interflow them into something cohesive and conceptual. Unlike most virtuosic guitarists solo albums, Steve is making "compositions", instead of fretboard excursions. Not to mention the fact he has an angelic voice as well. If you are already fan of his work, this album will not dissapoint you, and if you're not familiar with his solo output, this is a great start since it encompasses most of his stylistic diversities.

"At the edge of light" starts with a 2 minute overture named "Fallen Walls and Pedestals". It is dominated by dark and gloomy symphonic orchestrations, later on joined by Hackett's stratospheric guitar. Overall bombastic sound, stellar production, no less can be expected. Perfect mood-settling interlude. And the title resonates well with the music, instilling that world-ending, "on the edge" feel, which is further complemented by the title of the album. The track segues into "Beasts in Our Time". The opening is very unsettling, again having the notable symphonic tinge, and then we hear how well Steve's vocals have aged just like a fine wine. There is emotional dissonance, created by the next orchestrations, flowing into another acoustic vocal section. Again, really good compositional techniques. And then - Rob Townsend's incredible sax is presented, accompained with John Hackett's soothing flute. After a brief guitar solo and a somewhat dreadful, movie-like orchestration, Steve goes balls-to-the-wall with heavy Crimson-esque riff underneath beastly soloing, until the end of this dark and theatrical piece.

As a musical antipode, the next track - "Under the Eye of the Sun" begins with a fast, pumping and uplifting melody. We hear Jonas Reingold with great and heavily audible bass work, reminiscent of Chris Squire. It truly feels like a tribute to the classic Yes years with the high-pitched, light, chorus-like vocals, reminding us of Jon Anderson. After a short solo, we get to a really interesting and spiritual didgeridoo and flute wind section. That is actually the first time i hear didgeridoo in prog. The whole bridge feels like moving through a cave, and at the end of it, the reprise of the main riff can be interpreted as seeing the light again. Enjoyable composition, rather relieving.

"Underground Railroad" has strong, underlying Western American feel with the sitar and Hackett's vocals, which could've been on any Johny Cash song, for instance. Simply proving that Steve is a chameleon when it comes to expressing emotions and themes with his music. Somewhere in the middle, we come out of the "cowboy" vocals with straightforward hard rock, flowing into a moderate beat solo, ending with chorus, similar to the previous song, backed by Tina Turner-esque yells, only to strenghten the American feel.

The next piece is without a doubt the highlight of the album, no coincidence it's the longest one. "Those Golden Wings" has everything you would want in a Steve Hackett composition. The beginning is a classical orchestration with Christine Townsend's viola in front. Really catchy vocal melodies in the acoustic partition. Thereafter we get to a symphonic driven part with Nick D'Virgilio's simple, but effective drumming, leading to a celestial vocal part, reminding me of Steve Hogarth's voice. After a swift bridge, the track divulges into full blown orchestra, with an operatic note throughout. Just epic. Crustily, Hacket takes up with very Rush-inspired riff and rhythm section as well. A quick reprise occurs, and the beautiful and vivid vocal line is presented again. After a short symphonic bridge with acoustic guitar, the track ends with a prolong solo, enough as a reason as to why Hacket is an unparraled guitar magician. "Shadow and Flame" begins really occult-y with the way the vocals are delivered and the Goblet drums. Then we have interweaving violas, decaying and progressing in volume, and the incredible parade of sitar, giving huge Indian/Oriental feel. Wicked piece. Short, but interesting.

"Hungry Years" is your usual pop-rock song, in the vein of Bruce Springsteen. Moderate, non-changing beat throughout. Relaxing, catchy vocals. Nothing that extravagant, or proggy here.

"Descent" is something like battle theme, with a marching drum section, and ominous classical orchestration behind it. Aptly named, truly feels like aviation descent. Good idea, but underdeveloped in my opinion, it feels a bit repetitive.

"Conflict" is again very movie, soundtrack-inspired, orchestral score with some fast guitar playing towards the end.

"Peace" is doing a great job as a closer. The beginning alludes to "Bohemian rhapsody" a little with the emotional vocals and main piano. This is probably Hackett's best vocal arrangement in this album. It starts soft, and builds up tension, released in the heavenly chorus middle section. The track ends with Steve's remarkable sharp and expressive guitar soloing. Laconically, this is probably his best solo recording in terms of musical variety - instruments, motifs, genre- intersections, etc. There are some moments, lacking huge inspiration, but they for sure are in the minority. After all, Steve Hackett aged 69 this year. Not many musicians still continue to produce intricate, intense, proggy pieces, while not succumbing to pastoral and overly laid-back works at this point of their life. Kudos to Steve for that spirit. Recommended for every fan of progressive rock.

The Duke of Prunes | 4/5 |


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