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Steve Hackett - The Unauthorised Biography CD (album) cover


Steve Hackett


Eclectic Prog

2.84 | 29 ratings

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3 stars Most of the time I buy a compilation featuring a prog artist, I end up regretting it. For while there are inconsistent prog artists whose best work could be condensed to just one or two quality CDs, those who make up the compilations almost never think in terms of an artist's best prog moments. And while Hackett certainly made some strong consistent albums early in career, I do feel that his work could have benefitted from the compilation treatment. Unfortunately, The Unauthorised Biography is designed to showcase all aspects of his music, which includes his more pop-orientated work alongside his best prog moments.

What makes this compilation is difficult to address is that it still contains some great prog songs, but it isn't all it could be. Any fan of Steve Hackett who looks at things from a prog perspective would undoubtedly push for the inclusion of tracks like Shadow Of The Hierophant, Tigermoth and Everyday instead of something like Hoping Love Will Last or Cell 151. The songs have been selected as follows ...

Voyage Of The Acolyte (1975) - Star Of Sirius, Ace Of Wands

Please Don't Touch (1978) - Narnia, Icarus Ascending, Hoping Love Will Last

Spectral Mornings (1979) - Spectral Mornings, The Virgin And The Gypsy

Defector (1980) - The Steppes, Hammer In The Sand, Slogans

Cured (1981) - The Air-Conditioned Nightmare

Highly Strung (1982) - Cell 151, Hackett To Pieces

2 previously unreleased songs (1992) - Don't Fall Away From Me, Prayers And Dreams

As one would expect, the music on the compilation is somewhat uneven. On the plus side there are two fantastic (and one decent) prog cuts in Star Of Sirius, Ace Of Wands and Icarus Ascending, which are definitely among his best solo works. There are also some personal favourites in the delectable folk-ballad The Virgin And The Gypsy and the awesome instrumental Hackett To Pieces that distinctly outdoes the tune Hackett To Bits that he would later record for the GTR project.

There are some songs I feel conflicted about ... namely the metallic fusiony instrumentals Slogans (in which Steve just burand The Steppes (which I've always felt was rather overrated). I admire the playing but not the sound of these tracks. Then there's the uplifting albeit poppish Narnia which despite the excellent vocal contribution of Kansas' Steve Walsh, took me a while to get used to it (maybe I was expecting too much as Narnia is my favourite series of books!). The acoustic guitar instrumental Prayers And Dreams is quite nice, but there's a voice at the back of my head that keeps shouting out for the glory of Horizons. The poppy guitar ballad Don't Fall Away From Me, which Steve co-wrote with Queen's Brian May (is that Brian on vocals) is hummable, but again, seems wrong for an overview of the great Steve Hackett.

Songs I don't really like include the 80s' pop/rocker Cell 151 which seems to foreshadow the GTR sound, even if I do like portions of the closing instrumental section (that includes a theme used in Hackett To Pieces) and The Air-Conditioned Nightmare (which just plain irritates me). Hammer In The Sand is a little too close to New Age schmaltz for my liking and despite a brief proggy break, the Randy Crawford R&B tune Hoping Love Will Last just doesn't quite work for me ...

Ultimately this is a frustrating collection with lots of great music and some duds, which does sort of sum up Steve's solo career. I don't think any record company is ever going to put out prog-orientated compilations ... but we can hope, can't we? ... 59% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 3/5 |


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