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Steve Hackett - Beyond The Shrouded Horizon CD (album) cover


Steve Hackett


Eclectic Prog

3.86 | 399 ratings

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5 stars I astutely opted for the deluxe 2 CD set, as I was hoping for some less polished material. A tale of two sides, Steve Hackett has put together a package that offers up two differing edges to his craft, a song oriented series of compositions (Disc 1) and the more virtuoso displays on the second disc. I must state for the record (pun!) that I am totally in love with disc 2's constellation of pieces that cover all the cardinal points, a stellar performance that is a high point in his glorified career.

So I will start backwards if I may. The obviously four-part 'Four Winds' suite is exhilarating, Steve's fluid playing a joy to witness, phosphorescent guitar leads that rage and torture, screeching and reaching for the stars, lush with power and deep in emotion. Long-time colleague Roger King and new guy Benedict Fenner shine on piano, drum legend Simon Phillips and bass legend Chris Squire conspire to infuse some magic into the proceedings but Steve really steals the show on 'South' , delving into Phil Manzanera territory, a Latin- influenced experimental rock that can only astonish and satisfy. I mean, WOW! The man still has loads of creativity on the more musical side, of that there is no doubt. Then of course, on 'West', Steve whips out his stunning acoustic nylon guitar, which conjures such lovely medieval imagery. Gaga gaga gaga! How about some orchestral symphonics to keep the mood flowing? 'Pieds en L'Air' is a Peter Warlock composition of immense presence and power. This is followed by the brilliant 'She Said Maybe', a sassy 'n sultry piece that sounds almost like Return To Forever fusion, shimmering, glimmering and breathtaking. Steve really stretches out nicely, in a style that is not really has claim to fame, proving once again his mastery over the instrument and willingness to explore beyond the norm. 'Enter the Night' sounds like an arena-prog anthem, cheering crowd in the background, very 'sustain the thought' and inspired by Peter Pan. It has a more accessible tendency, a sing-along piece that breezes nicely. To highlight his open minded ness (after the Manzanera-DiMeola hints), Steve harkens back to the day in the early 70s when he was on Peter Banks' solo album 'The Two Sides of'' , dueling with a Dutch lad called Jan Akkerman of Focus. So it's quite befitting that a rendition of the classic 'Tommy' from the stellar 'Eruption' suite of Moving Waves album, though only too brief in my opinion. It would have been grand to have him play the whole bloody thing! 'Reconditioned Nightmare' closes the disc on a reworking of a recent Hackett style, a full-fledged anthemic instrumental. Disc 2 is a ***** collection without a doubt.

The original single disc release (and disc 1 of my package) has Steve in familiar territory, proposing his typically English method of progressive rock craftsmanship, best vehiculated by the lush 'Loch Lomond' with its Celtic overtones full of stunning contrasts where bruising guitar slashes and liberating pastels meet up for some rabble rousing. One must immediately introduce the presence of bass wunderkind Nick Beggs (who still has the weird Kajagoogoo hairdo), giving O'Toole's drumming even more basso profundo, in a style closer to Tony Levin. Check Beggs' sensuous bass work with Steve Howe, Kompendium and of course Steve Wilson's The Raven'. This master opener is followed by two polar opposite instrumentals, the brooding, almost violent 'The Phoenix Flown' and then the spectral liquidity of the very brief 'Wanderlust'. Slick methodology and smart pacing. On the lovely 'Til' These Eyes', Steve gives his finest vocal performance, a hushed voice that has definitely improved with age, wrapped in a gorgeous melody and a symphonic adornment. I have the feeling Steve has been listening to his fellow legend Phil Manzanera because 'Prairie Angel' has at first that epic Roxy Music ('Prairie Rose'?), later blended with some full tilt southern style boogie with beefy rhythms, mean drum bashing and slithering complexities. O'Toole does the vocals on the inspiring 'A Place Called Freedom' which has a different albeit commercial style, a very Irish feel, with a folky side that breeds hymn-like qualities. Steve's whopping guitar solo searches out the farthest horizons (he likes that word!) and sears the nodes with some sensual playing, sounding like Akkerman on the majestic Focus classic, 'Sylvia'. There is definitely some good vibes here, with lots of choir work, very nice indeed! 'Between the Sunset and the Coconut Palms' has John Hackett's voice on the lead, some seductive strings (viola and cello) which provoke stirring imagery, again very British, ornate, prim and proper, wot! Just to confuse the masses even more with the unexpected, Steve offers up a massive veer in style with the soaring 'Waking into Life', a comp loaded up with sitar-like sounds, oriental percussives and Amanda Lehmann's serene vocalizings. All of course carpeted by Hackett's patented lush effect-laden stylings and Townsend's bass clarinet, giving this an Egyptian feel. It should not surprise anyone then, that the next instrumental piece is called 'Two Faces of Cairo', where the Saharan feel continues unchecked, sweeping majesty, sweltering heat and passionate delivery. May Allah be praised with such evocative music! Highpoint for this disc! So upon returning from El Alamein, the lads return to Albion with a dedication to the 'English way', a sweeping melody that exalts all the feminine virtues and the love inspired within. 'Looking for Fantasy' is a memorable piece that has the classic hallmarks of crisp beauty, with seductive acoustic guitar ornaments and a hint of cello, recalling some breezy Californian and Tuscan escapades. 'Summer's Breath' is atypical minute long acoustic etude that we all know and love. One word= beautiful. In stark contrast, the bawdy 'Catwalk' recalls bluesier times, something out of classic Robin Trower's repertoire with some bad-ass rock 'n roll, featuring Squire on the bruising bass and Phillips banging away like some John Bonham ghost. The gentleman's collar gets hot and sweaty, Steve letting loose on his fiery guitar , swerving madly, cursing at the pain and bitching all the way to the awaiting bedroom , for some good old fashioned hard loving. Think Bad Company! Steve even does a good imitation of Paul Rodgers to boot! I need something to cool down and the closer certainly does the trick. The other major high point is the epic 11 minute + 'Turn This Island Earth', a track that has it all, fueled by tantalizing choppy vocals, ruminating bass and depth-charge drums, with a titanic chorus and stinging guitar forays, enslaved to a delirious pace, a race to the checkered flag of a successful album, certainly one of his best recorded statements yet. The 'Greensleeves' hint is utterly delightful!

It must be said that I vastly prefer Hackett's instrumental work, over his vocal song oriented material. It's just me and my fascination for his creative flair technically, because many have wrongly stated that his style is too limited to effect pedals and long sustained notes. Wrong! The guy has never been more prolific with Kompendium and Genesis Revisited mark II, plus this special release! Do strive to get the deluxe 2 cd set, you would be severely missing out on the complete package!

4.5 Veiled Panoramas

tszirmay | 5/5 |


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