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Steve Hackett - Darktown CD (album) cover

DARKTOWN

Steve Hackett

 

Eclectic Prog

3.79 | 221 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Darktown is a fitting goodbye to the millenium in Steve Hackett's eyes. It's got a bitter feeling, a gritty edge, and a ripe dose of melancholy. This album is like peering into the soul of the softspoken guitarist who really shows a wide range of emotions on this album, from dark and dreary instrumentals to somewhat more uplifting pieces, to even a pop song that takes the album down a different avenue. Hackett's ensemble of musicians here range from the versatile Ian McDonald to his keyboardist Julian Colbeck, and the entire group crafts these songs wonderfully and they all have a great aura of mystery and self-doubt that really make this album a depressing listen. In the end, you'll find a nice balance of majestic acoustic pieces and rollicking heavy numbers that add a great blend of light and dark atmospheres. It's a recipe for success, but does it come out on top?

From the rubbery slapped bass intro to Omega Metallicus, one can already here a darker, more mature Steve Hackett. This short instrumental opening prepares the listener for the overall mood of the album. Some top notch bass from Doug Sinclair on this one, as well as a great solo theme from Hackett. Darktown opens with a an ascending/descending riff underneath Hackett's modulated voice to give it a deep and rather grim tone. Add some wild saxophone from Ian McDonald during the instrumental interludes in it and you have yourself a live favorite and a phenomenal piece of work. Man Overboard acts as the first acoustic ballad to diversify the forboding heaviness of the album. Hackett's vocals on this track are soothing (maybe because he sounds like David Gilmour?) and his acoustic work is impeccable and the orchestra arrangement as well as the choirs give it a very warm feeling. The Golden Age of Steam invokes memories of World War II and has a rather majestic feel to it thanks to the orchestral arrangement. A voice over is played towards the end that describes convoys moving across bombarded streets that helps retain that feeling of the past.

Days of Long Ago seems to be the only true weak link on this album. An acoustic ballad at its core, the vocals from Jim Diamond don't only feel cheesy, but the entire song has this whole overblown feel and it really hurts the album more than strengthens it. The only truly weak song here. Dreaming With Open Eyes begins quietly with some hymal style vocals from Hackett and some subtle percussion, with memories of Star of Sirius because of the very bell like percussion. It never really changes in mood, it only develops on the mellow atmosphere and really offers a nice balance to the heaviness of the next track. Twice Around the Sun is the second instrumental on the album, it features more sprawling solo work from Hackett who really is able to create a terrific atmosphere with his soloing that also creates a main theme for the song, some more great bass work from Doug Sinclair is also on this song. Rise Again seems to be the uplifting piece of the album, with some great vocals from Hackett and a nice acoustic rhythm. It quickly turns into an uplifting instrumental breakdown that has some incredible drumming and some more great vocals from Hackett.

Jane Austen's Door has the ballad feeling because of the drum beat, but it really is a gentle piece with some great harmonized guitar work from Hackett and a nice chorus. Darktown Riot reiterates the main theme from the song Darktown, albeit in a slightly skewed and sped up form. It's a cool little instrumental interlude before the closer of the album, which may as well be Hackett's saddest piece ever written, In Memoriam. In Memoriam closes the album with a very slow paced ballad that features some great solo work from Hackett between the verses. The choir sings brilliantly during the chorus and adds a hymnal flare to this song. Hackett also uses a synthesized guitar on this track that gives the guitar the sound of a keyboard. It's probably my favorite piece on the album and it's one of the most emotional songs I've ever heard.

In the end, Darktown is a phenomenal album that no fan of Steve Hackett should go without. It's got its sore spots, but on the whole, it's a brilliant experience and it has a wonderfully dark feeling to it that should cater to more audiences than none. It's among the best Hackett albums and a great return to form for the guitarist. 5/5.

Cygnus X-2 | 5/5 |

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