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Steve Hackett - Out Of The Tunnel's Mouth CD (album) cover

OUT OF THE TUNNEL'S MOUTH

Steve Hackett

 

Eclectic Prog

3.63 | 264 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

maribor
4 stars During a time of great personal and professional turmoil, the details of which I will not go into, Steve has kept very busy, playing gigs with his own band and Djabe and doing music for his new solo album, as well as collaborating with the likes of Chris Squire for the highly anticipated Squackett album.

Steve has always been able to use an impressive cast of musicians on his solo albums (Steve Walsh, Phil Ehart, Richie Havens ? to name just a few) and this album continues in this tradition. This time we hear such legends at work as Chris Squire (Yes), Anthony Phillips (his predecessor at Genesis), Ferenc Kovacs from Djabe and of course his brother John (not the one from Lamb Lies Down on Broadway).

The album's title is very apt. It seems as if there's a whole new surge of energy in the music, as if Steve had been wandering in the dark for many years. His previous efforts have been good to excellent, but this is even a step further. Everything clicks for Steve here. The compositions are dramatic, the melodies sometimes hauntingly beautiful, while at other times rocking. This really has all of his best characteristics ? his self-reflective and melancholic side, as well as his more dynamic rock face. But most of all the music shines with a new life and vibrancy that has been missing to some degree for some time now.

The album opens with a cracker. "Fire" is one of Steve's most heartfelt songs. The beginning is played with a musical box effect and Steve's tender vocals on top. This is contrasted by a grand chorus without vocals but it's so mesmerising that you can't help but feel shivers down your spine. The song is structurally fairly standard, however Steve does mix it up with a few of his moving guitar solos.

"Nomads" kicks off with some typically beautiful instrumental classical guitar work with Steve's vocal added a few lines into the song. After a few choruses we hear a nice flamenco solo on the classical, which soon transforms into an instrumental progressive rock workout on the electric guitar.

"Emerald and Ash" is one of Steve's longest compositions, but it remains interesting throughout due to its lush arrangements and structure. The first part is played on the acoustic guitar (I think Anthony Phillips adds some 12-string lines during the chorus) and is slightly reminiscent of "Virgin and the Gypsy" from the Spectral Mornings record and just as lovely (if not more). We are in for a turn during the second segment, where we hear some blistering instrumental rock.

"Tubehead" is a fast-paced instrumental where Steve is able to show us that he's not only a master of creating great atmospheres and touching melodies, but that he's got some chops on him as well. This won't go down as one of his best instrumentals because it doesn't have any particularly great melodies, it merely serves to stretch Steve's muscles and to showcase his rock side. This should work really well in a live setting though. It could really get the blood pumping as a show opener.

"Sleepers" also begins with an instrumental section on the classical guitar. It reminds me of "Hairless Heart", one of Steve's tremendous contributions on the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway album when he was still in Genesis. After the nice introduction, Steve continues acoustically, but adds vocals to the mix. The last segment is again full of rock goodness (Do I se a pattern emerging?). The man certainly has a flair for the dramatic as he knows how to switch to the heavier parts at exactly the right time. We also hear some nice backing vocal work by Amanda and Jo Lehmann towards the end of the composition.

"Ghost" is an instrumental which is played on classical guitar at first (and is also classical in nature), but it takes on a blues tinge during the second segment of the composition.

So you see, the former Genesis guitarist hasn't forgotten the blues. And to prove this he continues with the blues feeling on the next track as well. There's some very soulful singing from Steve and some fine female accompanying vocals, which create a gospel atmosphere. To end a great album we have "Last Train to Istanbul", a composition with a very distinct eastern/Arabic flavour and with an air of mystery throughout it, as befits a composition with an eastern influence. We hear some nice solos from Ferenc Kovacs on violin, Rob Townsend on saxophone and John Hackett on flute. Steve also uses the sitar sound to make the Arabic feeling even more genuine. The legendary guitarist provides us with some of the best musical moments in his entire career on this effort. The chorus on "Fire" is absolutely gorgeous, as is the one on "Emerald". His guitar solos are extremely fluent and fit the themes, while the transitions from the slower parts on classical or acoustic guitar to the faster rock segments are very well crafted and flawless.

On a more negative note, I wish Steve wouldn't overproduce his albums as much as he has done in the recent years. This album unfortunately keeps this trend going and the biggest effect is felt during Steve's vocal lines, which occasionally appear processed and thus artificial. This has been the case for quite a number of years and while not a major issue, it's still a slight annoyance (and musical critics always have to find something to complain about).

Whatever happened in Steve's personal and private life, he has come out of it all the better. He has taken the emotions from his experiences and put them into his compositions. But we don't hear any anger or resentment in these songs, only new hope, joy and a vision of a bright future for him. Out of the Tunnel's Mouth might just be his best album for a very long while and that's saying a lot because his recent material has been anything but poor. But this album simply displays some newfound energy and enthusiasm. Stylistically, we don't get anything particularly new, but in terms of great compositions, melodies and guitar solos, this is an inspired effort and it bodes well for Steve's future releases.

maribor | 4/5 |

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