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Steve Hackett - Beyond The Shrouded Horizon CD (album) cover


Steve Hackett


Eclectic Prog

3.86 | 399 ratings

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4 stars Since my interest in Hackett's output was resurrected about a year back I've learned that, from Darktown onwards, there is usually something to excite which gives every album merit, but also plenty to frustrate. I've also learned that you can generally be sure there will be a diversity of musical styles on any new album.

My favourite of recent releases was 'To Watch the Storms' , whereas 'Wild Orchids' was a very mixed bag- too eclectic to be coherent and, although some love it, 'Out of the Tunnel's Mouth' mostly underwhelming, but still a worthwhile acquisition. 'OOTM' was recorded in Steve's flat as his studio was unavailable and I think it showed on some tracks.

Anyway, a couple of years, an extensive tour and a wedding later, Steve has released 'Beyond the Shrouded Horizon', so I ordered an early copy in the hope that it might feature some gems to add to my 'best of Hackett' I keep in the car. Early signs are that it certainly does and, for me the most pleasant surprise is that the guitar at a number of times makes those wonderful signature sounds heard only infrequently since 'Defector' marked the last of a splendid first quartet of solo albums.

The styles through the album are diverse of course, but largely hold together this time, and the album is arguably more progressive than anything he's done in many a year.

'Loch Lomond' is stong opener, but the couple of minutes of instrumental 'Phoenix Flown' it segues into are blisteringly powerful, guitar soaring, reminiscent of 'The Steppes' , but better.Magnificent.

'Prairie Angel', inspred by Kerouac's visions on the Great Plains, starts with more soaring guitars and then cuts loose before segueing into 'A Place Called Freedom'. This is a very positive, with probably Steve's best vocal (rarely a strong point). The music is excellent, upbeat verses broken with some guitar work sounding like 'Carpet Crawlers' and a return mid-song to the opening of 'Prarie Angel', this time bursting with joy and life. I count this as one of Hackett's best 'complete' songs (as opposed to instrumentals), up there with 'Serpentine Song' off 'To Watch...'

'Two Faces of Cairo' again allows the guitar to soar,howl and scream while conjuring convincing images of its subject.

'Catwalk' is perhaps the one track that seems to not fit, being a sleazy,strong blues number, a follow on from 'Still Waters' on the last album, but better.

Then there is the closer 'Turn this Island Earth' , an 11-minute track including Steve Howe amongst the writing credits,which twists and turns through various styles which should at least be of interest to all proggers, even if the whole is, to me , somehow slightly less than the sum of its parts.

The other tracks do support well, generally a mix of brief instrumentals and pleasing ballads. Overall, it's a strong album with a wealth of musicians.....time will tell just how strong. There can be little doubt however that so many years on Steve Hackett is in good from and for that all prog fans should be grateful.

I was fortunate to buy the 2-disc version, as the 2nd CD does have some fine things on it, most notably , the 'Four Winds' suite.Perosnally I prefer the ten minutes here to 'Turn this Island'. 'East' wind is the pick of the four short tracks , seamless guitar work on a relaxed backdrop co-written with Benedict Fenner. This will become a firm favourite for late night driving. If you have the chance to buy the 2-cd version it is worth it.

oldcrow | 4/5 |


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