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Steve Hackett - Highly Strung CD (album) cover

HIGHLY STRUNG

Steve Hackett

 

Eclectic Prog

2.94 | 173 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars More charismatic, then no more Charisma

"Highly strung" may be slightly longer than the previous "Cured", but at under 35 minutes the album still offers a pretty miserly amount of material. Once again, Steve seems to be more concerned with keeping the releases coming, than on spending sufficient time on them to come up with something truly exceptional. This would be his final album for Charisma records, so perhaps it can be seen as a contractual obligation release.

On the plus side, Steve retains the services of keyboard player Nick Magnus, while calling upon future Marillion member Ian Mosley to contribute drums. The line up is rounded out by three other performers, including John Ackock on keyboards. Hackett rather ill-advisedly once again retains vocal duties.

Another positive is that here Steve tempers the pop influences which drowned "Cured" with a more creative approach on some of the tracks. The opening bars of "Camino royale" are actually rather old Genesis like, with Banks style organ and Hackett's trademark guitar. The vocals are adequate but no more, had a guest singer been brought in this and other songs might have been transformed. Depending on the version of the album you have, the minor hit single "Cell 151" will either be the edited version or the full 6 minute track. The long version is by far the better, as it features a wonderfully eclectic instrumental passage.

"Always somewhere else" appears to borrow from Genesis instrumentals such as "Los Endos" and "Cinema show", and as such makes for one of the album's highlights. "Walking through walls" on the other hand reverts to the prosaic pop rock of "Cured".

The five tracks which made up the second side of the album when it was first released are not generally as strong as those on side one. The pop influences remain to the fore for the rather echoey "Give it away" and the echo box is left switched on for the equally banal "Weightless". While the instrumental "Group therapy" at least explores a more adventurous direction, it is at best an orthodox but rather anonymous guitar led improvisation.

"India Rubber man" is a rather strange short song which finds Steve actually delivering a touchingly good vocal. The strength of the song lies in its simplicity. The album closes with the appallingly named "Hackett to pieces", a guitar piece which Steve would resurrect on the "GTR" album a few years later.

In all, a much improved album when compared to its predecessor, but still something of a parsons egg in the Hackett discography. There is certainly plenty to enjoy here, but I can't help but feel that with a bit more time and effort, a number of the tracks here could have been developed into genuine Steve Hackett masterpieces.

The remastered CD version includes 3 bonus tracks, the brief "Nutrocker" type fun number "Guitar boogie", a single edit of "Walking through walls" (which is longer than the album version!) and "Time Lapse In Milton Keynes", a pleasant solo acoustic guitar spot.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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