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Steve Hackett - Please Don't Touch! CD (album) cover

PLEASE DON'T TOUCH!

Steve Hackett

 

Eclectic Prog

3.60 | 382 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Their artistic goals might have been completely different, but I feel like the circumstances of Steve's departure from Genesis in pursuit of a solo career have a lot in common with Phil's departure from Genesis 15 years later. Like Phil eventually would, once Steve got the taste of making solo albums in his mouth, that glorious freedom of making his own decisions and not having to compromise with others (read: Tony Banks), he just couldn't muster up the same enthusiasm for working in a band setting again (to Phil's credit, though, it took a decade of massive commercial success for him to decide to leave the band, whereas for Steve it only took one album). It also didn't help that, even as the band was continually turning down ideas that Steve desperately wanted to make it onto Genesis albums, the band was also continually putting pressure on him not to make any more solo albums while he remained in the band. Between that and the ever-increasing boredom he was getting from not bringing in other musicians, it was almost inevitable that he'd leave, and the other members weren't especially surprised.

All that pent-up irritation with compromise, and the corresponding reveling in the chance to make albums without having to answer to anybody else, dominates this album, but while I'm usually more positive than not towards the eccentric flow of Steve Hackett albums, I actually feel like the lack of cohesion somewhat hurts this album. The more I listen to this album, the more I feel like it was made in a bit of a snit, as if Steve decided early on that he wasn't going to be restrained and that every single idea he had was going to make it onto the album. Well ... a little restraint might have helped. "Carry On Up the Vicarage" is probably a better track than one based on such a silly idea (having one vocal pitched down while it harmonizes with another vocal pitched up to sound like a chipmunk) should be, but it's not great either, as there's not much memorable other than the big Tony Banks-like chords that pop up every so often. And why the strange sample at the beginning? "The Voice of Necam" is also a little problematic, sounding like a dumping ground of every spare idea lying around. Why the carnival music at the beginning? Why the segue into the (albeit quite nice) directionless harmonies? Why have this suddenly cut off into an unfinished fragment of a classical guitar piece? And why have this wedged in between the title track and the closer?

The song quality is pretty mixed overall, even putting flow concerns aside. There are some big highlights, of course; the opening "Narnia" probably would have been a hit had it been allowed to be issued as a single (the vocals are done by Kansas' Steve Walsh, and his company wouldn't allow a single release to go forward), and given that it boasts a wonderful rolling guitar line, a bouncy main melody (with bits of barroom piano!) and non-banal lyrics about an all-time great children's story, I can't say I'd mind. I'm also quite partial towards the combination of "Land of a Thousand Autumns" and the title track on the second side; the former makes for an eerie-as-hell atmospheric prelude, full of the best "futuristic" sounds Steve could coax from his guitar, and the latter is a great instrumental that absolutely would have made Wind and Wuthering a better album had it been included. The piece is based off three main guitar-driven ideas; a slow rising theme (with pounding bass and busy percussion underneath), a hellish and noisy theme, and a goofy upbeat theme (with a fun flute part dancing around it), and the track does a good job of shuffling them in and out until it suddenly stops and "The Voice of Necam" shows up.

The rest is ok. Two of the tracks feature guest appearances by Richie Havens on vocals, and while they're not career highlights, they're rather nice. "How Can I?" is a jaunty acoustic ballad that doesn't have especially strong hooks but makes good use of Richie's voice, and the closing "Icarus Ascending" is a slow pounder in the main parts with piano buried deep for texture and Steve's guitar constantly winding its way up top, though it also detours into a sequence that's every bit as slapdash in mood and style as "The Voice of Necam." It definitely shouldn't have been 6:32, though, however nice the flutes over the extended synth- based coda might be. "Racing in a" is a semi-forgettable 5-minute rocker, "Kim" is a decent duet between flute and acoustic guitar, and "Hoping Love Will Last," for all the hub-bub of kinda being the song that ultimately broke the prog Genesis apart, is kinda underwhelming. Randy Crawford gives a nice enough vocal performance, but she can't completely save what's ultimately just a decent soul-based ballad, albeit with bits of Steve's familiar guitar textures sprinkled throughout. Honestly, the most notable part of it is how weird its placement is; it's immediately followed by the "Land of a Thousand Autumns"/"Please Don't Touch" pairing, after all.

The truth is, this is much closer to a "typical" Steve Hackett album than is Voyage (or even Spectral Mornings), but in this case that's to its detriment and not its beneft. One thing I would definitely not do is pick this up after only hearing the albums that bookend it; it's just way too confusing an experience for somebody expecting something more prog- rock-ish, and the song quality isn't really enough to make up for the choppy flow. If you're interested in getting into Steve's solo catalogue, make sure you pick up a few albums from later in his career (not just including the ones adjacent to this) in order to get a feel for the man. This is definitely more of a good album than a bad one, but getting this too early could prematurely make you give up on him, and we wouldn't want that.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |

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