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Steve Hackett - Rails Live CD (album) cover


Steve Hackett


Eclectic Prog

4.31 | 113 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars If you're only going to buy one Steve Hackett live album, then this is the one to get. That's not to say that it's anywhere near a good representative of Steve's whole career, but it does match well with my notion that the only periods in Steve's career that really matter are the early period (through Defector) and the late period (roughly Dark Town onward). Actually, Steve goes even more extreme than that; the late period is represented by two tracks from To Watch the Storms (an expansion of "Pollution B" called "Pollution C," and "Serpentine Song" which is called "Serpentine" here) and a whopping six from Tunnel (all but "Nomads" and "Last Train to Istanbul"), with nothing from Dark Town or Wild Orchids, while the early period reaches back to his Genesis days and stops, as mentioned, with Defector (though it totally ignores Please Don't Touch). The only acknowledgement of Steve's middle period comes from a snippet of "Myopia" at the beginning of "Los Endos," and otherwise this is a pretty cut-and-dried "play the classics and promote the album" kind of affair.

It's a really good one, though. Initially, I actually listened to the versions of Tunnel tracks on this album far more than I did to the studio versions, and while I eventually came to prefer the originals on the whole, I still have a strong fondness for how the tracks are done on here. "Sleepers" and "Still Waters," in particular, breathe in a way that they didn't in studio, and they absolutely sound like classics in this context. As far as the older solo material goes, there aren't really surprises (I guess "Slogans" is pretty surprising, though), but the material is all done well and feels very at home with this lineup (which says something given that it was tailored to accommodate the Tunnel material more than the older material).

Oh yeah, there's also Genesis material. The inclusion of "Los Endos" near the end isn't really a surprise, and it's done pretty closely to how he'd started playing it during the Genesis Revisited era (aside from the new inclusion of the "Myopia" introduction), but the other performances deserve special notice. "Blood on the Rooftops," if you'll recall, was never performed live by Genesis, and it was only after the Genesis reunion (without Steve) had come and gone that Steve apparently decided it needed to make it onto the stage. Well, I'm glad it did. The drummer, Gary O'Toole, is nowhere near as good of a singer as Phil from a technical standpoint (even Phil on Wind, where I feel he's not that great), but the deeper, rougher, more clearly British voice helps a lot, and he throws a lot of passion into his part. The use of saxophone in some of the spots that had previously been keyboards is a nice touch, too. Elsewhere, "Firth of Fifth" is done pretty closely to the original, albeit with sax replacing flute, and people who didn't like the Revisited version will be plenty happy here. And finally, they do the "Fly on the Windshield/Broadway Melody of 1974" medley (starting from just after the vocal part in the original "Fly"), and it sounds great, with just a little more primal power in the drums and a little more bite in the guitar (which was fine enough in the original), and O'Toole does a great job on vocals in the "Broadway Melody" part as well.

Quite honestly, I probably listen to this more than any other Hackett album, and while somebody who isn't predisposed to enjoying live albums might find this a bit high of a rating, I find that there are sufficient amounts of surprises and reinventions (mostly mild, but sometimes not) of older material that a rating like this is justified. And besides, while it may not quite work as a Tunnel replacement (I just couldn't go without "Nomads") it does make for a nice set of alternate versions.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |


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