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Steve Hackett - Spectral Mornings CD (album) cover


Steve Hackett


Eclectic Prog

4.14 | 850 ratings

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5 stars This is the album that made me a fan of Hackett way back in the 70s and I am still a big fan. Unlike the preceding album, Spectral Mornings has a consistent sound and quality all the way through. With this release, Hackett has reached a new plateau in his music, one that sets the bar for everything to come, not all of which will come up to par. Not only is his guitar playing better here than ever before, so is his songwriting. And despite the back cover photo, he is not always the lead singer. In fact, Steve had brought together a group of musicians he soon came to regard as his band, not as hired hands. Each member, Pete Hicks on lead and harmony vocals, Dik Cadbury on bass, Nick Magnus on keys, brother John Hackett on flutes and bass pedals, and John Shearer on drums, provide perfect support for Steve. Each one also is given the chance to shine out, especially John Hackett and Nick Magnus.

The album opens with a bona-fide Hackett classic, Every Day, a song intriguing in its lyrics (I think it is about how great events are just like every day events on a daily basis) and catchy in its melodies. The Virgin and the Gypsy follows, where Hackett and company out pastorals the pastoral qualities of Genesis, who had pretty much abandoned such sounds by this time. This song also has the same title as a D. H. Lawrence novel, which was probably its inspiration. Brother John's flute really shines here. After this comes the beautiful The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere. I think it should read 'Tai Chi.' Steve plays koto on this one as well as guitar. Now we get another great classic, and certainly one of the highlights of the album, Clocks ' The Angel of Mons. This song is powerful and dynamic. If you do not know the story, it refers to a group of giant angels who appeared above a group of British soldiers during WWI as they were attacked by a larger German force. The Germans were routed. The sounds Steve creates here are as eerie and formidable as their subject. Side one (yes, I am reviewing from my vinyl version bought many years ago) ends with the most controversial song on the album. Many people, myself included, have asked just what in Sam Hill was he thinking when he did Ballad of the Decomposing Man. This is a silly song, memorable in its absurdity, and is almost totally out of place here. In fact, I use the title to describe any other song by Hackett which has a similar characteristic, and almost all of his albums in fact do have one of these. Musically, it is not bad at all. Still, there is an underside of tragedy in the lyrics which the ridiculousness of it all belies.

Side two starts with the acoustic Lost Time in Cordoba, a piece that precedes the classical style Hackett would start to explore extensively in later years. Evocative. The longest song comes next, Tigermoth, which I regard as a lost Hackett classic. Here we get the story of a ghost fro WWII. The wall of noise that represents the falling plane is intense. The album closes with the title track, and Hackett has saved the best for last. This is an emotional piece where its climaxes are augmented by its soft sections. Note that I use the plural there. The melody of this song is a climax in itself. The fact that it is repeated, usually with increasing volume and intensity, takes nothing away. I have one live version of this song, and it is nowhere near as good. It lacks the feeling, the soul that Steve puts into it here.

One of the best qualities of this album is that it is not merely a showpiece for its star. Hackett had worked carefully with his band, as they worked with him, and everything comes through as a whole. Of course there are lead lines and solos, but even those work closely with the rest of the music. It is this cohesiveness that raises the album so high. Along with the great songs, too. Spectral Mornings is an important album in the development of Steve Hackett the auteur and one I think every Prog fan should have.

Progosopher | 5/5 |


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