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Steve Hackett - Wild Orchids CD (album) cover


Steve Hackett


Eclectic Prog

3.75 | 293 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars This review is based on the so-called "Special Edition", featuring 17 tracks.

Steve Hackett has had a long and fascinating career, but WILD ORCHIDS is not one of his most convincing statements. It reminds me, above all, of the Beatles' WHITE ALBUM: a wildly varied collection which contains a handful of beautiful songs, and which some fans find important, but which really constitutes no more than a haphazard bunch of pieces, many of which are little more than HOT AIR.

Let me start by praising the moments of beauty. "Blue Child" is described by Hackett himself as "Progressive Blues". It takes a melody which reminds me of the second part of "After the Ordeal" and (through expert soloing) lifts it into the stratosphere. Just goes to show how much Mr. Hackett has learnt and improved in the intervening years. Hackett fans will want the album for this track alone. "Ego and Id" does not have much in the way of a melody, but Hackett really lets rip, on super-loud electric guitar. Highly enjoyable - as are the fanciful instrumental passages in the earlier "Down Street". "Man in the Long Black Coat" is a Bob Dylan song with lead vocal AND guitar embellishments by Hackett. It works remarkably well. Tell your Dylan-loving friends! "Cedars of Lebanon" sounds like something from Bowie's "HEROES" or LODGER. Hackett at his darkest and most experimental. Wish the whole album were like this. And finally there's "She Moves in Memories", which sounds like an outtake from Hackett's hyper-romantic suite A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. Funny to think it was only meant to be a backing track. I like it more than the actual song it was written for: "To a Close", a sleep-inducing acoustic ballad.

So that brings us to the remainder of the album. I don't want to trawl through one mediocre track after another, let me just sum up what's wrong with the music in general. There are precious few moments of real substance, too many lethargic ballads, too many over-loud drums, too many circus noises, and there's way too much "Victorian nursery" whimsy. After decades of songs about toys, fairy tales, funfairs and haunted houses, you'd expect Mr. Hackett to let the old mask slip for once --- but no. He just keeps playing the gentleman-collector of curios. Surely it must mean something that the two most exciting tracks on the entire album are "Transylvanian Express" and "A Dark Night in Toytown", where Hackett simply recycles a "riff" (if you'll forgive me the anachronism) from C.F. Gluck's opera ORFEO ED EURIDICE. In Gluck's opera this music serves a specific function and does so wonderfully well. Hackett merely uses the figure in order to dish up some "Grand Guignol". This annoys me just as much as ELP's careless mistreatment of Parry's "Jerusalem". RATHER immature!

At the time of writing, WILD ORCHIDS is Hackett's third highest rated studio album, with 42 ratings and a score of 4.10. Much to my amazement, it even beats TO WATCH THE STORMS, which is probably the most satisfying album of Hackett's career. I can only conclude that Hackett freaks must have gone wild when this album first appeared.

Just don't play it to Gluck fans.

fuxi | 2/5 |


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