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


Steve Hackett


Eclectic Prog

3.85 | 401 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars It's reassuring to hear an old pro like Steve Hackett still going strong, long after the far brighter commercial star of his former bandmates in GENESIS sank below the horizon. In fact, he's playing today like a man half his age, with all the ease and confidence suggested in his portraits throughout the CD booklet.

The best news in this limited edition two-disc set is the higher ratio of instrumental tracks, always a healthy sign for a strong guitarist with a weak singing voice. The new album is more or less equally divided between high decibel thrashes (including a soundalike LED ZEPPELIN break in the song "Prairie Angel") and the incomparable delicacy of Hackett's acoustic classical guitar.

Those quieter moments offer a welcome measure of aesthetic relief from the pile-driver fills of drummer Gary O'Toole heard elsewhere on the album. Responsibility for the somewhat impersonal, inorganic sound of these sessions belongs to co-producer Roger King, who also recorded, mixed, and mastered the CD. But at least Hackett's insecure vocals, a major liability on earlier albums (see "Guitar Noir", among others), have finally been rescued by modern recording technology, for the first time in my (admittedly incomplete) experience actually sounding almost like a skilled singer.

And his guitar playing is, thankfully, stronger than ever, with more than one distinctive, typically thrilling solo: in "The Phoenix Flown" (the title is perhaps a reflection of Hackett's reawakened Prog Rock instincts); in "Two Faces of Cairo"; during the extended coda of the otherwise unremarkable pop stylings of "A Place Called Freedom" truth, just about everywhere on the album.

Oddly enough, it's the longest song here, the climactic "Turn This Island Earth", which fails to hold together as a piece of writing. In theory the twelve-minute track is exactly the sort of minor epic most Prog fans would normally salivate over, but the realization sounds more like a self-conscious medley of ill-fitting ideas, strung together with little momentum or structure, and with barely a hint of resolution (it just...sort of ends).

Far better is the "Four Winds" quartet opening the bonus disc: ten minutes of strictly instrumental splendor highlighting the best of Hackett's guitar wizardry. A guest appearance by CHRIS SQUIRE on several songs is another boon to old school Progheads; you can best hear his meaty bass guitar in the heavy blues of "Catwalk". And the inclusion of the classic Focus melody "Tommy", excerpted from the side-long "Eruption" suite on the Dutch band's 1972 album "Moving Waves", offers a welcome touchstone to a shared musical heritage.

All of which underlines a talent all too rare in aging Prog Rockers: the ability to look backward while moving steadily forward. After his 24th (!) solo album, maybe it's time to stop referring to Steve Hackett as the ex-Genesis guitarist.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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