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

BEYOND THE SHROUDED HORIZON

Steve Hackett

 

Eclectic Prog

3.85 | 321 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

lazland
Prog Reviewer
4 stars A new release by Steve Hackett is always an important event. By far the most prolific, and I think, most consistent of the former Genesis members, the fact that he can still release visionary and relevant music in 2011, and on his 24th solo release, is testament to his talent. In a recent review of Anthony Phillips' debut solo album, I remarked upon Armando Gallo's comment that hearing that album made him wish that Phillips had never left Genesis.

Well, as much as I admire and adore Phillips' output, listening to this, the vast majority of Hackett albums, and his immense contribution to Genesis themselves, all I can say is thank God Hackett did join the band and provide us with such an immense body of work.

Much of this album was written whilst on holiday in Egypt, with Hackett joined by his wife Jo and keyboardist Roger King, both of whom it is abundantly clear have made a huge contribution to the feel and shape of this album. I really enjoyed the predecessor album, but this, I think, is a more accessible work, and has the feel of a band effort throughout, not withstanding the array of artists that Hackett gets to join him, including, on three tracks, the great Chris Squire.

There is barely a weak moment on this album. It opens with Loch Lomond, which, after a rather heavy start, moves into more of a "traditional" Hackett track. It features some exceptional acoustic guitar work, alongside nice vocal harmonies. The denouement reverts to a classic rock feel, with Hackett showing off his electric prowess, mixed with some lush keyboards by King.

The Phoenix Flown is the first of the "Egyptian" songs, and is lush, wholesome, evocative, and far too short. This mild criticism could also be applied to Wanderlust, a lovely acoustic guitar solo.

Til These Eyes is a gentle ballad, very pleasant with more very rich acoustic guitars given a lush texture by keys. The additional orchestration provides a somewhat melancholic feel.

Prairie Angel is a real highlight, and is a brilliant instrumental evoking the Wild West in all of its glory. Extremely imaginative, this is a track with no lyrics which speaks loud and clear to you, and a special mention should go to Amanda Lehmann for her superb guitar work accompanying the master himself. It moves along at a cracking pace, and the track then segues into A Place Called Freedom, which continues the American West theme, this time lyrically. Gary O'Toole sings superbly, and the whole track easily brings to mind the spirit of the Native American world view and the surrounding geography.

Between The Summer & The Coconut Palms is a thoughtful track, which is, surprisingly to me, given the nature of the music, inspired by a Peter Sellers sketch.

Waking To Life features Lehmann again, this time taking lead vocal duties. She sings very well, and this is a nice love song, with layers of rich Middle Eastern sounds to bring to mind romance filled evenings on an Egyptian beach.

Two Faces Of Cairo was written at the foot of The Sphinx, and it shows. Gary O'Toole provides a memorable drumming performance, invoking the modern day tomb raiders existing alongside the richer past of the country. King's swirling Egyptian keys provide the lead instrumentation.

Looking For Fantasy is the first track to feature Chris Squire, and features some nice orchestration. It is pleasant without being remarkable.

Summer's Breath is another track to feature Hackett's mastery of the acoustic guitar. It moves, though, into what can only be described as a very heavy blues number. Catwalk is as heavy as Hackett has got for many a year, and the rhythm section of Squire and the great Simon Phillips on drums sets the tone throughout. A marvellous track, very much at odds with much of the pace of what preceded it, but not any the worst for that.

The album closes with its longest track, Turn This Island Earth. Clocking in at almost twelve minutes long, this is a science fiction inspired track, and, again, the mastery of King on keys especially manages to portray its futuristic theme. Squire and Philips again shine, and you really do, by now, begin to wish that the long promised Squackett collaboration becomes available soon. This is a real group effort, but, of course, led by some extremely complex Hackett guitar work. It is truly progressive, containing a multitude of time signature and mood changes, a percussive Greensleeves, orchestral work, and is truly awesome, and at times creates a massive wall of sound and also true menace, interspersed by true symphonic beauty. A great way to finish the album (I did not buy the bonus CD version), this is proof positive, if any were needed, that Hackett's creative drive and zeal remains as strong as ever.

I should also mention the fact that the Amazon download comes with a sumptuous digital booklet, featuring some marvellous photography.

Strangely, I haven't gotten around to reviewing Out Of The Tunnel's Mouth, the predecessor album. That, to me, is a solid three star album. This one is better. This is a very strong collection of tunes, well written and exceptionally well performed, with some fantastic highlights. Hackett shows he is a master of all things stringed, he sings very well, he writes very well with his wife and King (Steve Howe also contributed to the writing of two tracks), and the whole work feels like a collaborative effort between a host of talented musicians.

Four stars for this, and it comes very highly recommended to all of you who enjoy true mastery not just of the guitar, but of the true progressive genre as a whole.

lazland | 4/5 |

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