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Steve Hackett - Bay of Kings  CD (album) cover

BAY OF KINGS

Steve Hackett

 

Eclectic Prog

3.34 | 156 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
3 stars For whatever negative things that can be said about early 80s Steve Hackett, let us also say this: he wasn't in it just for the money. Even as Steve had been repositioning himself as a contemporary peddler of synth pop, he was also continuing to amass a nice pile of (mostly unreleased) classical guitar instrumentals, and he was determined to see them released together in a single album. Charisma refused to allow him to release an album of classical guitar on the grounds that they deemed it career suicide, so Steve went all-out on self- sabotage by jumping from an established record label to a label owned by a car company so that he could release these pieces. This is indeed an album of nothing but Steve's classical guitar pieces, with only some light touches of keyboard and flute applied sparingly, and the effect would have been startling indeed to somebody who, for whatever reason, had come on board only with Highly Strung (which didn't have any acoustic guitar snippets on it).

I like the idea of Steve's career having an album of just acoustic guitar instrumentals (he'd also have another one a few years later with Momentum), and I enjoy the album when it's on, but I'd be lying if I said I had strong feelings for this album. I've always been a fan of Steve including bits of classical guitar on his albums, but my enjoyment of those pieces has always been the way I'd enjoy having a tasty spice included in a meal placed before me. I mean, oregano is nice and all, but "Boy, I sure feel like pouring myself a nice bowl of oregano" is a sentence that would never cross my mind in a million years. Because I've never bothered to learn much (or anything, really) about the world of classical guitar, and thus have no idea where Steve would sit in the hierarchy of the great masters of the style, it's extremely difficult for me to find "good" and "bad" in this album beyond the level of "boy, that's kinda pretty I guess," and thus I feel this album is largely wasted on me. Steve, of course, seems to have a pretty good grip on what he's attempting to do (the liner notes have some elaborate comments on how acoustic guitar can be made to imitate a whole spectrum of instruments, and he's also kind enough to provide brief summaries of all of the tracks), but I can't really get that same grip.

There are, of course, some bits that ultimately jump out at me; I'm struck by the majesty of the opening title track, or the sunny beauty of "Marigold," or by how happy I am to hear familiar material in "Kim" or "Horizons," or similar feelings in other tracks. I also find myself wanting to improvise vocal melodies to use over the chord sequences presented here; quite a bit of the material here, I think, would have made for a good foundation in songs with vocals.

Beyond these bits, though, I end up needing to treat the album in much the same way I'd treat a slightly above average ambient album; ultimately, this album is a bunch of pleasant, perfectly listenable atmosphere, full of tracks I'm happy to listen to individually but would be hard-pressed to want to listen to collectively. Still, there are much worse things in the world, and I don't see why a Hackett fan wouldn't want to hear this a few times.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |

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