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Steve Hackett - Guitar Noir CD (album) cover

GUITAR NOIR

Steve Hackett

 

Eclectic Prog

3.26 | 161 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
3 stars If this is a "comeback" album, then it's a disappointingly predictable one. One of the prominent features of the late 80s and early 90s in rock music was the regular release of "return to form" albums by artists originating in the 60s and early 70s, where the albums weren't actually very good but where everybody was just so relieved that they were abandoning 80s production techniques that nobody really cared. Guitar Noir, unfortunately, fits very well in that category; all of the experimentation (for better and for worse) since 1980 has basically been abandoned, and the album is a very straightforward collection of melancholy instrumentals and melancholy "normal" songs. The songs are never worse than decent, and Steve has fully grown into his voice (he sounds a lot like late- period David Gilmour in spots), and the sound is very guitar-centric, but it's very difficult to sit through an hour of this kind of sound.

There is, of course, some material that I enjoy a lot. The opening instrumental "Sierra Quemada," originally titled "Flight of the Condor," is a fine addition to the list of solid guitar- based Hackett instrumentals; the tasteful synths, the slightly intricate drumming and the minimalistic guitar parts make for the most majestic (not necessarily the best, but definitely the most majestic) Hackett piece since "The Steppes." Of the "normal" songs, I'm especially partial to "Lost In Your Eyes," which starts off sounding like it will be unbearably cheesy (largely thanks to the synth line), but it quickly turns into a pounding harmonica-driven rocker, and so help me I just can't resist the "I see a world lost in your eyes" line at the end of each verse. I guess typical Hackett fans wouldn't like this, but if this had been on, say, Voodoo Lounge, this would have been beloved by a lot of people.

Some other songs have some nice features that make them stand out, too. "Take These Pearls" is the closest the album gets to looking back to Faces, initially centering around an intricate Eastern-sounding xylophone/vibe bit (probably synthesized, but whatever), before breaking out an interesting vocal melody that gets mirrored by acoustic guitar at one point, and eventually culminating in some nice bits of guitar synth. "In the Heart of the City" is the most desperate-sounding song on the album, and while the more upbeat portions are a little jarring, the bulk of the song works for me. The closing instrumental, "Tristesse," makes for a fairly moving finale, based around descending lines and covered in lovely guitar parts, though its impact is fairly muted by not differing hugely in tone from everything that came before.

And really, I just can't escape the sleepiness brought by most of what came before. The goofy, overblown dark "rocker" "Vampire With a Healthy Appetite" isn't really that good of a song, and it's got an incredibly silly attempt by Steve to sound menacing, but it's such a relief to have some levity that I find myself enjoying it more than a reasonable person should. Everything else is perfectly competent and moody and, for the most part, perfectly tasteful, but it goes overboard on good taste and moodiness in a way that makes my mind register it in much the same way it would register smooth jazz. That's not a compliment.

Again, nothing on here is bad in the same way some material on his 80s albums was bad, and the material reaches some terrific peaks, but while this is a reasonable re-entrance to the world of "normal" albums, this wouldn't have been a good new direction for Steve. Fortunately, I think he knew this too; while it would have been very easy for him to start churning out albums in this vein, he was just a little too restless for such a thing to happen.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |

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