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Steve Hackett - Wild Orchids CD (album) cover


Steve Hackett

Eclectic Prog

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5 stars What can you say! Steve Hackett is the MAN! This is a record that is really hard to categorize. And why should you. You can just sit back and enjoy the trip that brings you all the time something new but all the time the same musical quality you are used to ion Steves music. The strange thing is that all this diversity can be equally enjoyable.

The start of the album (the Special Edition) is kinda shock showing us a powerfull side of steve all the way to death metal growl showing that even that can be done with sophistication. After the growl you get strong music with some classical insertions in style of ballakirev and rossini. The combination is genious. The rest is too much to picture here. All I want to say that there is no weak point and this record most probably ends up very high in my list of best records of 2006. Great romantically treated metallish ballads. Goes ahead into post-prog.

Report this review (#89425)
Posted Monday, September 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Team
5 stars Wow, and again, wow. What a treat to have a progressive icon delivering music of this caliber, this late in his career. I would have been satisfied if was just decent. The previews had it looking pretty good, but this is one of the few times that expectations have been far exceeded.

If you have been paying attention to his more recent releases, you can see something new developing (the days of GTR are long behind him). The final ingredient was last year's "Metamorpheus." This is a return to rock, but he utilizes orchestration as well. It is a blend of many styles and moods (he even covers a Bob Dylan song ... yeah, Dylan!). The title is a good indication of what is in store for the listener. Yet, there is a consistent flavor throughout. The dark narrator is back, he shreds, plays with eastern influences, jazz, and there is even a hint of the old days. Hackett is in fine form (as always), and doesn't even strain on the vocals. I look at it as a musical buffet, and Steve is the well-aged fine wine.

I find it all wonderful, and have yet to find a weak moment. My copy is the special edition, with the extra tracks. It wasn't any more expensive, so go for it. They belong on the album, unlike the usual afterthoughts. It may be the rush of a fanboy reviewing one of his heroes, but this is my vote for best album of 2006. I could change my mind later, but it's not likely.

H.T. Riekels

Report this review (#89586)
Posted Wednesday, September 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Is there anything this guy can't do? His talents are seeemingly endless as he follows up "Metamorpheus" with an amazing album of classical fused with rock, almost like some sort of fusion. It looks like Steve has broken through the wall of progressive rock and has reached a new level of music, where few have gone. "Wild Orchids" is one of Steve's best. It's hard to pick a favorite song because the album just flows so wonderfly. The fact that this man is still consistently putting out great albums is amazing. After all these years, he's still better than any prog acts out there today. I advise you to run out and buy the special edition because it will will give you 72 minutes of uninterrupted bliss. Sit back and just soak it in. Pure Genius. Simply amazing!
Report this review (#89674)
Posted Thursday, September 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Wow...what can i say? I am relatively a new fan of Steve Hackett. After purchasing the entire gabriel/hackett era of Genesis, I decided to pursue Hackett's career in music. Each album i have purchased so far has been better than the former. Now Steve releases sublime work called Wild Orchids. Each track delivers a potpourri of moods and emotions. It's trully an amazing experience to put your headphones on and listen to the entire album from Transylvannia Express to Until the last Butterfly. So why didnt i give this album 5 stars? Simply because I was not impressed with john hacketts attempt at speed metal in Ego and Id...also I am not too fond of the outlawish midwestern style utilized in Man in the Long Black Coar. I definately recommend this album.
Report this review (#89681)
Posted Thursday, September 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Looks like it's a real winner. I think it's one of his finest, and the reason for that is all that classical experience. It has opened up "The Well At The World's End" if you know what I mean. This album is not really classical, the string section is tightly woven into the fabric of the music, and is not merely used as a background or for effect. There is only one truly classical instrumental "She Moves In Memories", and it's a real gem or structure and subtlety. Other pieces are more rock oriented, and are very diverse. it's a real smorgasbord of genres, but unified in their diversity. The strongest songs are the ballads "Set Your Compass" and "To A Close", which are just so beautifully crafted, makes you think of "Trick Of The Tail". Other highlights are "The Funamentals Of Brainwashing/Howl" a 7+ minute mini-epic which is as solid a anything Steve has ever done; then there is the monstrous and nightmarish "Down Street" with its shifting meters and atmospheres and a fantastic use of orchestra in the second half; the stunning Indian "Waters Of The Wild", the most un-Hackett-like piece, which when you listen to it carefully reveals the most Hacket-like themes; "A Girl Called Linda", a very tender Beatles- like song that tends to make me very nostalgic, and ends beautifully in an acoustic jazz improvization. The surprise is the opener, which is somewhat speed-metal like (as in Malmsteen or Savatage), but works well as a Hackett piece. Overall a very impressive effort, and no bad tracks at all. I don't think this album is quite as good as "To Watch The Storms", but it's very close, which is saying a lot, because the latter is a real masterpiece. I cannot really give it a five, but four and a haft - so I am giving it a 5 :).
Report this review (#92477)
Posted Thursday, September 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars With every album, Steve Hackett proves more what a diverse musician he is. He delves into all kinds of styles and instrumentations and it can all be heard on "Wild Orchids". With so many influences, there most likely something for everyone on this album. However, that means that there is a good chance at least some of it will be lost on everyone.

It is a dark album at many times, musically and lyrically. On other sides of the album are beautiful passages that rest on the opposite side of that spectrum. Each of these approaches are fueled by the orchestra and Steve's guitar, which are both menacing and soothing when needed. Added to this is tasteful piano playing by Roger King, which is never more present than in the song "Howl".

Final Analysis: "Wild Orchids" is an album of tremendous range and depth, with many treats for those of an open mind and a taste for various kinds of music.

Highlights: "Transylvanian Express", "Set Your Compass", Cedar of Lebanon", "Howl"

Weaknesses: "Ego and Id", "Why"

Rating: 4 stars

Report this review (#92833)
Posted Sunday, October 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
4 stars Remarkable how many good guitarists their names start with an 'H': Howe, Hillage, Holdsworth, Hendrix, Harrison, Holly .. and of course Hackett, my favorite one. I have never seen Genesis live but Hackett became a more than decent substitute when The Phil Collins Trio left symphonic prog to make prog pop. I was there when Hackett visited Holland for the first time in 1979 and remember vividly how enthousisatic he was received and how great his performance was! Since then I have seen Hackett solo many times on stage and last year I was carried away when he played Firth Of Fifth. But I also noticed how fresh, inspired and creative Steve Hackett and his band sounded, this is also the case on the new album entitled Wild Orchids. And remarkable that it has the best rating (4.50) of all Hackett solo albums!

The opener Transylvanian Express is one of the best compositions he has ever made, what a compelling sound: a bombastic first part featuring fiery guitar and captivating classical orchestrations, then great guitar overdubs and a fine contrast between first the biting electric guitar and then the warm classical guitar. The next song Waters Of The Wild is also very strong: a catchy rhythm with propulsive percussion, the intricate sound of the electric sitar and a bit wailing vocals. At some moments the atmosphere reminds me of the track Kashmir by Led Zeppelin because of the Eastern climate. The other 15 songs (I own the special edition with 72 minutes and 17 tracks) sound varied, it's typically Hackett to switch so easily from dreamy and romantic (sometimes a bit too smooth for me) to heavy and bombastic. My other highlights: moving bombastic with biting wah- wah and floods of Hammond organ in Ego And Id (Freud rules!), first mellow featuring beautiful classical orchestrations, then a powerful break with propulsive percussion and an Eastern atmosphere in Cedars Of Lebanon, a tight and sweeping rhythm with howling guitar and subtle interplay between guitar and piano in Howl and finally virtuosic classical guitar in Until The Last Butterfly (Hackett says in the booklet "the nylon has the last word").

On this CD Steve Hackett has prooved to belong to the top of the prog with his very distinctive, often exciting electric guitar sound and varied and creative writing skills. A future classic and now we wait for the Wild Orchids tour!!

Report this review (#92990)
Posted Monday, October 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Reviewing the Special Edition.

Buying this album was a bit of a risk for me as I'm not a fan of Genesis and know very little about Steve Hackett's solo work. I'm very glad I took the risk as this album is now one I'd consider a favourite.

On the first listen I was shocked by the sheer diversity of the album (everything from classical through swampy blues to very heavy prog) but I soon found that the diversity is one reason why this album is so good.

Of course the other reason is the quality of the music itself which despite a couple of down points (A Girl Called Linda and Why which in my opinion are the closest this album has to filler tracks) is excellent throughout. I found the use of the orchestra particularly interesting in the heavier songs.

I find it hard to pinpoint one favourite song from the album but in my opinion the highlights are: Set Your Compass, Down Street, Man In The Long Black Coat, The Fundamentals of Brainwashing/Howl and A Dark Night In Toytown.

Overall this album is a very good listen and in my opinion a good introduction to Steve Hackett's solo work for those who (like myself) haven't heard anything by him before.


Report this review (#93762)
Posted Sunday, October 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
Man With Hat
Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
4 stars When I purchased this album, I was coming off the high which was To Watch The Storms. I expected great things out of this album, and was a little afraid I was going to overhype the album in my own mind (especially after reading many positive reviews of it). Well, somehow, this album lived up to all expectations. This is one of the most solid albums Hackett has created. Each song flows perfectly, even though the album is one of the most diverse I've heard from him. I was lucky enough to find the special edition (which I believe everyone who buys this album should), and this review is of that.

There are many moods on this album. From frantic, to soothing, to almost sinister, to warm. This album also continues the guitar sound from Darktown and To Watch The Storms, which for me is a major plus. It gives the album a totally different feel then his early albums. Also, his acustic guitar work is amazing on this album. For me, Steve has always been one of the best at that instrument, and it really shows here. Another element which makes this top notch is the inclusion of an orchestra that contributes to many tracks. Their presences gives many songs a certain drive without making the song "classical". It also another proof of the great diversity of the album, not just overall but in each song. Highlights: Transylvanian Express, a fastastic and spooky opener, Ego And Id (like nothing Steve's done before), Cedars Of Lebanon (stragne, never stagnant, beautiful piece), She Moves In Memories (a classical classic), A Dark Night In Toytown (dark, pulsating, string driven madhouse), and Until The Last Butterfly (a beautiful, majestic, guitar virtoso close).

All in all, this is one of Steve's best albums, and undeniable proof that he is still able to create wonderful melodies, song structures, and still be able to play with the best of them. A definite for Hackett fans. Although not his best work, one that will become a classic in time. 4.5/5 Bravo.

Report this review (#93771)
Posted Sunday, October 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Simply stunning. I understand now why he chose not to tour with the other Genesis alums. They've all run out of ideas, but Hackett has yet to fulfill his greatest potential. Time will tell how this album will be judged among his other singles but I'm ready to put this on the same level of brilliance as the Voyage of Acolyte. A must have for proggers.
Report this review (#102700)
Posted Tuesday, December 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars One of the best Steve Hackett's albums of the last years, the acclaimed Genesis guitarist managed to make a very varied and seductive work. While definitely approaching progressive rock standards, it is notorious the artist intent in creating something different. The result may not be revolutionary neither particularly original, but still a very interesting and passionate album

The album flows in several terrains, recreating a trip all over time and space. The album opens with the quasi-operatic string arrangements, very classical-inspired, of "A Dark Night in Toytown". Next tracks flow between the convincing eastern-Islamic joyfulness of "Waters of the Wild"; the acoustic solitude of "Set Your Compass"; the psychic cinematic narration of "Down Street", where space is created to several guitar solos and the peaceful very Christian-church-like "To a Close". "Wolfwork" adds a very James Bond-like refrain. Flute is prominent, particularly in the symphonic beauty of the instrumental "She Moves in Memories". The album closes with another instrumental, the energetic "Howl", the most Genesis-like of the collection, in which guitar and piano reach standout levels.

A very respectful album from one of the greatest progressive rock personalities. With numerous works made, all over a great and long career, it's praising to know Steve Hackett still manages to try taking his music to new boundaries, almost as years did not pass on him. Excellent addition to any progressive rock collection!

Report this review (#105031)
Posted Sunday, December 31, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Oh my.

13 tracks on this release, and almost as many musical styles explored. How to give an accurate description of an album like this beats me, really.

But an ecclectic taste is a prerquisite for enjoying this one, wandering from prog rock to something that sounds like a 50's film score, with all sorts of different styles visited along the way.

Something for everyone here, but an album to take a good listen to before purchasing, due to the extreme variety of the songs here.

Highlights: "A Dark Night In Toytown", a progrock tune quite typical of Hackett's solo work - well performed and with strong presence. "Waters Of The Wild", a synth based tune with strong arabian/middle east flavouring. "Down Street", starting off as a kind of film noir tune with talkover, before ending in a blues/jazz exploration theme.

Report this review (#113084)
Posted Thursday, February 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars 2.5 Stars

Variety is good, but this album is so musically incoherent due to it's immense variety that it makes it seem like an extra CD full of bonus tracks. Also, musically it is not very impressive (save a few tracks) and does not redeem the awful vocals throughout the CD. I never expected Steve Hackett to have vocals as weak as Steve Howe. I have heard this album more than five times and it doesn't click on me, the interest keeps fading, though I admit that the some songs are very enjoyable.

1. A Dark Night In Toytown : Great opener. A symphonic track composed as if it was metal, except that the riffing is conducted by an orchestra. Pretty original and it has great guitar playing as well as a nice musical break around the middle in which the orchestra dominates and plays slower. The vocals are pretty weak, but they don't bother me much here. 8.5/10

2. Waters Of The Wild : an eastern song with interesting percussion and sitar playing. Nothing impressive but it is another original song, though it probably should have been shorter. 6.5/10

3. Set Your Compass : It quite sounds like Genesis' acoustic songs like "Entangled", with its delicate acoustic guitar, gentle vocal harmonies and dreamy feel, but this one does not have great vocals and nothing really happens. Quite dull. 4.5/10

4. Down Street : Easily the most interesting song of the album, though it takes time to get used to. It begins sounding like a very dynamic and bleak soundtrack of a horror movie with a narrative then it ends with three minutes of magic: a showcase of Hackett's ability to produce wonderful arrangements and play phenomenal guitar solos. 9/10

5. A Girl Called Linda : another very mellow that is ruined by its emptiness and lack of good vocals, only that this one is longer. The flute playing is pretty however. 3/10

6. To A Close: Extremely boring. If the previous song didn't put you to sleep, this one will. It's all vocal harmonies and a symphony and while the melodies are pretty, the song is just very boring and appears after another boring track. It feels like a nursery rhyme. 2/10

7. Ego & Id: A heavy rocker, finally some excitement! There's no problem about this song instrumentally-speaking as the guitar work is very good and the songwriting is solid. The problem is again the vocals; they are weak, especially for this type of music. 6/10

8. Man In The Long Black Coat: An atmospheric mellow tune with nice guitar performances and better-than-usual vocals and melodies. However, the rhythm is repeated for five minutes, making it a bit dull. 5/10

9. Wolfwork: A song dominated with syncopated orchestra stabs. However, this song is very varied and quite enjoyable throughout. Steve Hackett plays very good here. 6.5/10

10. Why : what is this? it sounds like an intermission that sounds like 40s jazz with extremely bad vocals. Thank God it's short. 0/10

11. She Moves In Memories : pointless filler. Basically an orchestra playing the awfully dull song "To a Close". It's a bit better, but I give it 0/10 because it's pointless!

12. The Fundamentals Of Brainwashing : I decent mid-tempo track with effective modified vocals in the refrains, which uses vocal harmony and instrumental backing in a very good way. 7/10

13. Howl : A continuation of the previous track, this time being instrumental. The piano playing here is superb. 7/10

If I average the score/min of the album, I'll probably end up with a 3-star album, but since the album is so incoherent in terms of style and quality, it is a bit painful to listen to it in its entirety. As a result, I consider it a 2.5 star album rounded down.

PS: The sample of "Transylvania Express" is quite impressive, maybe I should have gotten the special edition.

For Fans of Steve Hackett.

Report this review (#113272)
Posted Friday, February 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars When it comes to studio rock albums, Steve has been in a rich vein of form for a number of years now. Steve returned to the top form of his earliest 4 solo albums when he released "Darktown" in 1999, then came the even better "To Watch the storms" (2003) and now "Wild Orchids".

Steve has always excelled at being diverse and imaginative in his musical styles and experimentation, and this album is just another example of how Steve gets better with age. If you have been a Steve Hacket fan for some time now you will know that each new album will bring something unexpected and new, and you will not be dissapointed with this release.

For those of you new to Steve's work, don't expect one track to necessarily compliment the next, or for a single style of music to prevail throughout the album. That would be boring!The following tracks illustrate my point exactly:

Waters of the Wild - pop/rock meets indian infuenced music - done before maybe, but not as smoothly as this. Full of energy and hypnotic.

Set your Compass - dreamlike folk, almost a lullaby

Down street - a typical Hackett "Epic" - this could easily be a soundtrack to a surreal horror movie! A continually changing theme with different styles and instruments, using Steve's deep narrators voice.

A girl called Linda - possibly my favourite. Paul Mccartney would be proud of this light pop number, but Steve gives it a twist with a wonderful light jazzy interlude and ending, courtesy of brother Johns flute.

Blue Child - In the sleevenotes Steve suggests that if there was a style called progressive Blues, then this is it. He's right. Full of energy and emotion, worth replaying over and over.

Ego & Id - deliberately frazzled, distorted heavy rock song, raises the hairs on the back of your neck- this was actually written by brother John.

She Moves in memories - a pure orchestral piece - majestic and sweeping.

Every track is solidy composed and accomplished, with the exception of "Why" (a 30 second track filler).

Buy this superb album and enjoy the ride. The special edition has 17 tracks on it.

Report this review (#115370)
Posted Friday, March 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars

Where is my 'Mechanical Bride', Mr. Hackett?

I got the Special Edition CD of this album quite late, after hearing all good words and reviews about this new album by Steve Hackett. My expectation was very high because I thought this must be better than "To Watch The Storm". The CD arrived with Porcupine Tree's "Fear of A Blank Planet" which I prioritized to be listened to first prior to "Wild Orchids". It's probably two factors that finally conclude me that "Wild Orchids" as just "good" album and nothing more. First, I enjoyed "Fear of A Blank Planet" first, which musically is very superb and masterpiece; each track is a wonderful one and I have no major complaint with it. After enjoying this Porcupine Tree new album and then enjoying Steve Hackett's "Wild Orchids" I experienced great gap, emotionally. "Wild Orchids" failed to exceed my satisfaction even though it's not bad at all. Second, my expectation about "Wild Orchids" was very high way before I clicked my order of this album. I suddenly compare this album with "To Watch The Storm" and I cannot find the song that is at par excellent as "Mechanical Bride". So, where is my Mechanical Bride, Mr. Stephen Hackett?

Why Liking This Album

Pretty straight to the point: because you have been familiar with any of Steve Hackett's music which I believe has been quite consistent. Well, I might say that since "The Dark Town" album he has explored further his musical boundaries with sort of avant-garde endeavor. I enjoy The Dark Town album, really. As I mention quite often in my reviews about Hackett's albums, he is not a good singer, actually, but for some reason he can adjust his "mundane" (even bad - excuse me!) voice with his music style. In a nutshell, I can say that he approaches his music in a way that at the end would accommodate his "so and so" voice quality. I don't know why for this album, I cannot ( or fail to) identify the beauty of his voice merging beautifully with the music. It might be I'm quite bored with his singing style. But this does not apply in specific terms. For example, I do enjoy "A Girl Called Linda" very much even though his singing quality is mundane.

For those of you who enjoy "Dark Town", you might be very satisfied with the opening track "Transylvanian Express" (3:44). In my humblest opinion, this instrumental opening track is superb and it's the best track from this album. This is actually the instrumental version of track no. 16 "A Dark Night in A Toy Town" which can also be enjoyed by those who purchase the standard CD version. Oh my God . this is really a masterpiece and well-crafted composition! In fact, I played this song in a local FM radio program "Saturday Night Rock" at Trijaya Network, broadcasted all over the nation. I was quite proud putting this track in my play list.

For those of you who like something explorative in nature, "Waters Of The Wild" (5:35) is an interesting track with the middle east influenced style. "Down Street" also has good musical exploration at the ending part, even though the intro is quite awkward. I do enjoy "A Girl Called Linda" (4:44) especially in the music style which resembles the memory of old days with excellent interlude of flute and jazzy rhythm section. Through this album, Steve Hackett also demonstrates his love of blues through "Blue Child" (4:25) - which is not bad at all.

Why Not Liking This Album?

You might find that the opening track "Transylvanian Express" is a beautifully crafted music combining excellent orchestration and a bit of avant-garde style. But .. unfortunately this is not continued seamlessly with another upbeat tempo track and sounds like disjointed. This is only one example. Another thing is that the fact that this album offers various music styles, the whole album seems like not in a cohesive whole. It's not a big problem, actually, but it's a bit bothering to my ears, really. In a way, I love blues music but if I listen to it in the middle of my prog mode being switched "on" I got trouble digesting the music.


Having said so, I considered this album is good and actually can be excellent if some other things included: more prog, more coherent setlist, more upbeat music. But, because I'm a fan of Steve Hackett, I will still keep this CD to complete my collection. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

3 Days to DRAGONFORCE Live in Concert, Jakarta, May 19,2007! Be There!

Report this review (#122285)
Posted Wednesday, May 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Ex-Genesis legend, and long time solo-performer, Mr. Steven Hackett is recognized even by the musical world outside of prog (though not much...) to be an excellent guitar player. So will this prog icon fade away, and never relive his former glory? No way! This little hidden gem is a testament, along with Peter Gabriel's Up, that aged musicians can still return to their former glory, or rise to a new level. However, this album's magic doesn't reside in the musical skill of Hackett, or even in the great compositions of the songs, but in the nostalgic aura surrounding every second of sound.

What a nice hodgepodge of styles here, ranging from very bluesy guitar, to classical, to lounge jazz, to Beatles-esque sitar, with even dark songs, experimental in nature. This wide arsenal of varied musical textures and soundscapes really make this album extremely pleasurable to listen in entirety (though the songs are excellent when removed from the album, as well). Hackett, not one known for his vocal prowess (to say the least), proves firmly that he is a good singer! His sincere, almost monotone voice fits astonishingly well with his music. And thankfully, his wizardry on the six-string has not suffered even a fraction over the years. In fact, I would say that it has even improved. Also to improve is his melody-writing skill, which is a key part of this inspired album.

Production is top-notch: all effects and editing, sound quality, and booklet are all superbly executed. The entire ensemble is drenched in elegance. The orchestral touch is phenomenal, and not over the top. The atmosphere is compelling, and lyrics are surprisingly well done. The energy builds, and is strongest during Down Street, Wolfwork, and most powerful in the closer Howl, though it's sort of an anti-climatic, and not dramatically epic album in the end. Overall, this is makes for a quite unforgettable journey, which takes only a few listens to immerse into fully. Picture this as a completely unessential masterpiece.

Report this review (#130273)
Posted Wednesday, July 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Specialist
5 stars STEVE HACKETT is turning into a terrible problem for a long time fan as me, each time he releases an album, I love it and don't expect him to continue in the same level, but the guy insists and each new album is at least as good as the previous, if he keeps producing masterpieces in this rhythm, I will soon have financial problems..But to be honest, thanks God for musicians like Steve who keep giving us this problems, money comes and goes, but good music stays with us for ever.

The versatility Steve shows in no longer a surprise, he has jumped from Symphonic to Classical, passing by Jazz, some sort of Avant and now seems more oriented towards a dark form of Symphonic - Ethnic Prog, and is really captivating.

Because I got the Special Edition, won't bore the readers with a detailed review of the 17 tracks, so will focus in the ones that have impressed me more.

The album opener "Transylvanian Express" is simply breathtaking, with greats kills he combines his usual mysterious sound with Romanian Ethnic influences almost in Mazurka rhythm, but without forgetting his Prog roots, radical changes and excellent electric guitar work prove that he's as skilled plugged or unplugged. Excellent drumming and bass.

In "Waters on the Wild" now embraces oriental Folk, despite he's not an amazing singer, he manages to modulate his voice to sound pretty acceptable. Simpler than the previous, is still an interesting change of style, the electric sitar is a nice touch.

"Set Your Compass" is a return to his roots, more melodic and mysterious, but still with a touch of Folk, the vocal work is very well elaborate, somehow I feel the spirit of "Voyage of the Acolyte" in this track, but so well developed that sounds absolutely original, as he had never tried something similar.

"Ego and Id" is another surprise, Steve starts to Rock almost in a metallic style he had never used before and....What a surprise.He does it well again. His electric guitar work in the vein of the Metal masters is outstanding and a constant Hammond backups him efficiently, Wonderful track.

"Cedars of Lebanon" starts with a dark intro, while he scratches the guitar chords to create a rough percussive effect, a dark voice makes the perfect balance, then he gets the acoustic instrument and a well elaborate chorus makes a delightful work. The orchestral instrumental break is extremely beautiful and peaceful, but don't get confident, he starts to get wilder as the song goes "in crescendo" ending as it started.

"She Moves in Memories" is more than I expected, now STEVE HACKETT invades the classical territory, not that it's the first time he does this, but in the context of this album is pretty unexpected. A great stress reliever and a chance to listen one of the most versatile musicians ever.

"Howl" makes me think that Steve still has a place in his heart for GENESIS, even though it's different to anything he did with the great band, the atmosphere keeps reminding me of Wind & Wuthering...I can't simply respect more a musician that uses influences in such a way that always sounds absolutely original.

The album is closed with "Until the Last Butterfly", an excellent acoustic track created by Steve and for nobody to play it except him, his style is so peculiar that any other musician doesn't matter how great, would sound unnatural playing this song.

Haven't mentioned several tracks, but not because their quality which is outstanding, but because a very long review would get boring and spoil the effect this album will produce in a listener.

No doubts, 5 stars for Wild Orchids and for STEVE HACKETT'S career.

Report this review (#180667)
Posted Sunday, August 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Steve's produced proggier albums, but I don't remember one being so good. Of course, most things that Steve does are a sort of prog to me. It doesn't matter if he's straight out shredding or not. What impresses me about Steve, no matter the genre is the same thing that impressed me from the first time I heard his melancholy riffing underlying Genesis' In the Rapids off of the Lamb: I have come to call it note choice.

That's why I would still recommend prog fans at least listen to Steve's cover of Bob Dylan's (!!) Man in a Long Black Coat. It's pretty obvious that Dylan cannot be prog. And Steve doesn't try to force his cover into that mold either. He respects the piece for what it is. Steve sings it almost as a blend between Dylan's plain style and Johnny Cash's saga style. He sticks pretty close to folksy blues for the guitar breaks. They are amazing breaks--not technically amazing like Holdsworth's 20nps marvels. Again, it's the choice of notes. The breaks are still impressionistic, not rote guitar patterns.

Steve actually used a more standard three-string blues pattern in his raucous solo on Return of the Giant Hogweed, he just added some slides up and down the G-string (I think) and slides into position. But if you listen closely to this landmark (Fountain) you'll hear the sus-4 barre bend pattern that blues guitarist have been using for half a century. Innovation.

The end result is a interesting harmony, which blends the world outside of prog with the complex sensibilities that forever ruins us for listening to pop. It's all the more astounding when you realize that he kept this song close to it's genre, and yet he adds his notes and his never-a-dull-moment style of play.

Of course, Steve's been doing this type of thing almost right from the beginning. I have to say Voyage of the Acolyte doesn't fight the prog label as much as the genre-roving he does on Please Don't Touch, or the excursions he takes into a bizarre kludge of Ragtime and Samba (??) he does in The Ballad Of The Decomposing Man off of Spectral Mornings. Or the WWII-radio interlude on Tigermoths. And even in the renaissance years from Guitar Noir to Storms are characterized by full orchestra with classical guitar on half the songs.

What can I say, but that Steve's either your cup of tea or he isn't. As for the rest of the album, Set Your Compass bristles with the magic that Steve must hear in Disney's When You Wish Upon a Star, which he covered outright on Until We Have Faces. Only here, he crosses it with a subtly dark discord of what reminds me of a sea chantey/dirge. It's a highlight of the album.

To a Close is a lovely tune, and varies on the mournful theme from Compass for a tragic tale of an heiress fallen from glory and features more orchestral lushness from Mr. Hackett at the very end. She Moves in Memories, I believe, is an instrumental orchestral reprise of ToC, the She of the title is the suicide heiress.

I get a sense that A Girl Called Linda is loosely linked into this trio tales, but I can't be sure. It sounds to me like there are variations of the other themes, but the poppy verses and straight flute-jazz interludes make it enough of a trail to follow. The light pop (from another era) is enough to make me want to forget it, so much so that I can forget the nice jazz interludes that make the song listenable.

To add to that Howl, Wolfwork are A+ guitar pieces, some shred with jazz elements to mix things around. Where A Dark Night in Toytown is Steve playing his axe accompanied by what reminds me of a movie score (Think orchestra mimicking a train to hell and some tinker-toy music innocence threatened by it.)

Why? is a throwaway throwback to the type of thing Steve did with Sentimental Institution, which I've always found at least interesting for it's ability to totally create a sound from another era. It's one of the few bits of filler on the album (but it's short enough), along with the fair-enough Ego & Id and what people generally feel is Steve repeating The Devil is an Englishman in the song Down Street. This last song is enjoyable enough, that it saves it from the filler category for me. I love the big-band blues style of playing that Steve mixes in, before the run-down carnival trick and more genre-bending with the Parisian ditty segueing into the final piano interlude, which is all nonetheless interesting to me.

Some people feel that The Fundamentals of Brainwashing is the highlight of the album. It's definitely the most modern sounding song, unless you count the world music venture Waters of the Wild. If I had to give it a name Fundamentals sounds like a curious blend between Pink Floyd and Cold Play.

What I've left out so far is that these lyrics are some of the most dazzling that Mr. Hackett has ever penned, not to mention that he keeps to this pattern by covering the formidable Dylan to begin with. To a Close is touchingly tragic with the faint impression of the distance that comes from hearing about tragedy second or third hand. Stale details that only poke at the tragedy. Wolfwork is acidly vicious. I couldn't agree much less with the sentiments of Fundamentals of Brainwashing, but they are properly mechanistic in image and I have to give him credit for evoking a sort of technological-Dickensian bleakness in sound and word.

This is a straight 5 in my book, but for PA, I can only knock it down to a 4.

Report this review (#196511)
Posted Wednesday, December 31, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars A toy night in Darktown!

People seem surprised at the progressive nature and the generally high quality of this album, but this is mostly the same kind of music Steve had been doing for years. Bearing strong similarities with his previous three efforts, To Watch The Storms, Darktown and Guitar Noir, Wild Orchids basically offers more of the same, and while generally better than the somewhat disappointing Darktown, it is, in my opinion, not up to par with the other two mentioned albums.

The opening track, A Dark Night In Toytown, was immediately familiar to my ears from the live DVD Once Above A Time where Steve and his band performed an earlier version of this song, then called If You Can't Find Heaven. This is a great song with a strong melody and fantastic guitar work. The following two tracks are also very good and they constitute a very promising start. However, the seven and a half minute Down Street is where he looses it. It is clearly trying to recreate the mood and atmosphere of Darktown, but this song ends up sounding a bit like a theme song from a Tim Burton film and is even sillier than Vampyre With A Healthy Appetite from (the otherwise far better) Guitar Noir.

To Watch The Storms and Guitar Noir had perfect mixtures of several different styles and those albums managed to hold together very well. Wild Orchids stretches it a bit too far in various different directions and it does not hold together well enough in my view. It all becomes a bit too shattered. The styles involved are (as usual) Jazz, Blues, Classical, Avant- Garde, Folk/World music, (hard) rock and (dark) humour.

The material is generally good but not as strong as on To Watch The Storms. Indeed, as far as I'm concerned there is nothing on Wild Orchids that is as good as the best material from the previous three Steve Hackett studio albums. Even the somewhat sterile Darktown and the underrated Guitar Noir have some really strong songs. Wild Orchid also lacks a counterpart to the amazing, King Crimson-esque, Mechanical Bride from the previous album.

Steve also found it necessary to record a cover of a Bob Dylan song, Man In The Long Black Coat. The same song was also recorded by Emerson Lake & Palmer in the 90's.

As a big fan of Steve's, having all of his albums, I must say that Wild Orchids is not one of his best. If you want to have a taste of this genius recent work (and you ought to!) I would recommend one of his excellent live DVD's or the previous studio album To Watch The Storms.

Wild Orchids is good, but not essential.

Report this review (#213536)
Posted Sunday, May 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars This review is based on the so-called "Special Edition", featuring 17 tracks.

Steve Hackett has had a long and fascinating career, but WILD ORCHIDS is not one of his most convincing statements. It reminds me, above all, of the Beatles' WHITE ALBUM: a wildly varied collection which contains a handful of beautiful songs, and which some fans find important, but which really constitutes no more than a haphazard bunch of pieces, many of which are little more than HOT AIR.

Let me start by praising the moments of beauty. "Blue Child" is described by Hackett himself as "Progressive Blues". It takes a melody which reminds me of the second part of "After the Ordeal" and (through expert soloing) lifts it into the stratosphere. Just goes to show how much Mr. Hackett has learnt and improved in the intervening years. Hackett fans will want the album for this track alone. "Ego and Id" does not have much in the way of a melody, but Hackett really lets rip, on super-loud electric guitar. Highly enjoyable - as are the fanciful instrumental passages in the earlier "Down Street". "Man in the Long Black Coat" is a Bob Dylan song with lead vocal AND guitar embellishments by Hackett. It works remarkably well. Tell your Dylan-loving friends! "Cedars of Lebanon" sounds like something from Bowie's "HEROES" or LODGER. Hackett at his darkest and most experimental. Wish the whole album were like this. And finally there's "She Moves in Memories", which sounds like an outtake from Hackett's hyper-romantic suite A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. Funny to think it was only meant to be a backing track. I like it more than the actual song it was written for: "To a Close", a sleep-inducing acoustic ballad.

So that brings us to the remainder of the album. I don't want to trawl through one mediocre track after another, let me just sum up what's wrong with the music in general. There are precious few moments of real substance, too many lethargic ballads, too many over-loud drums, too many circus noises, and there's way too much "Victorian nursery" whimsy. After decades of songs about toys, fairy tales, funfairs and haunted houses, you'd expect Mr. Hackett to let the old mask slip for once --- but no. He just keeps playing the gentleman-collector of curios. Surely it must mean something that the two most exciting tracks on the entire album are "Transylvanian Express" and "A Dark Night in Toytown", where Hackett simply recycles a "riff" (if you'll forgive me the anachronism) from C.F. Gluck's opera ORFEO ED EURIDICE. In Gluck's opera this music serves a specific function and does so wonderfully well. Hackett merely uses the figure in order to dish up some "Grand Guignol". This annoys me just as much as ELP's careless mistreatment of Parry's "Jerusalem". RATHER immature!

At the time of writing, WILD ORCHIDS is Hackett's third highest rated studio album, with 42 ratings and a score of 4.10. Much to my amazement, it even beats TO WATCH THE STORMS, which is probably the most satisfying album of Hackett's career. I can only conclude that Hackett freaks must have gone wild when this album first appeared.

Just don't play it to Gluck fans.

Report this review (#228911)
Posted Wednesday, July 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars This is so far my favorite Steve Hackett release by far!

It's exceptional to see such great work after years and more years of average releases (with the exception of Darktown). Before buying the album I saw the promotional footage that was available on YouTube and the video looked really promising but I wasn't expecting such an overall excellent experience.

The orchestration of this material has really done wonders to Steve's music and the backing band featuring Nick Magnus and John Hackett do an excellent job maintaining a balance between the orchestra and band sound. Compositions like A Dark Night In Toytown, Ego & Id and Wolfwork are some of the biggest surprises that this album has to offer. Still, even the ballads are some of the strongest that I've heard on a Steve Hackett solo album. A Girl Called Linda, To A Close and especially The Fundamentals Of Brainwashing work so well in the mix.

It really great to hear such a confident performance from Steve. Every composition seems to hide quite a few hidden secrets that don't reveal themselves until one begins to dig deeper into the material. This album is essential to anyone who wants to explore Steve Hackett's solo career and an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection. It's safe to say that I'm looking forward to his next release!

***** star songs: A Dark Night In Toytown (3:42) A Girl Called Linda (4:44) Ego & Id (4:08) Wolfwork (4:49) She Moves In Memories (5:00) The Fundamentals Of Brainwashing (3:01)

**** star songs: Waters Of The Wild (5:35) Set Your Compass (3:38) Down Street (7:34) To A Close (4:49) Man In The Long Black Coat (5:07) Why (0:47) Howl (4:31)

Total rating: 4,44

Report this review (#255215)
Posted Wednesday, December 9, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
2 stars The first HACKETT album from the new era with which I have familiarized myself, "Wild Orchids" possesses many of the hallmarks of his earlier solo work - an eclectic and seemingly haphazard mix of styles with little to unify them but Hackett himself, generally poor vocals sung in novelty style as if he doesn't want to appear to be trying to sing well, and fine acoustic and electric guitar work. Where it drops the ball is in a general lack of defining melodies and songs one could really call "great".

20+ years on I'm a little tired of hearing the same locomotive type beat that we get on "Ego and Id", but at least before he would have had the sense not to sing on it. Even worse is the film noir of "Down Street", amounting to seven and a half minutes of aural torture, while "Wolfwork" and the similarly named "Howl" also provide plenty of fodder to skeptics. The highlights aren't all that high, but include "A Dark Night in Toytown", a breathtaking orchestral romp, the Dylan penned "Man in the Long Black Coat", where Hackett's lead tickles the bluesy nerve, and "Fundamentals of Brainwashing". A couple of the softer tunes are just too somnolent, like "Set Your Compass" and "To a Close". They are pleasant enough but just don't possess that transcendent quality that would elevate them above ordinary nice songs.

It pains me to say but I can't consider this more than a technical equal of albums like "Spectral Mornings", "Defector", "Cured", or "Highly Strung". Sure it's galaxies ahead in production and technology, but compositionally and architecturally "Wild Orchids" is like that floral arrangement that's been on your dining room table a few days too long. Pretty in a withering way, but smelling a tad past its prime. 2.5 stars rounded down.

Report this review (#288060)
Posted Thursday, June 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars "Wild Orchids" was released in 2006 and many consider this one of Steve Hackett's better solo albums.There's lots of variety and a guest orchestra helping out called THE UNDERWORLD ORCHESTRA.The sound quality is excellent and it's very modern sounding but man this pales when compared to "Voyage Of The Acolyte" or "Spectral Mornings". Just my opinion of course.

"A Dark Night In Toytown" kicks in quickly with a classical flavour and urgent sounding vocals. Some nice guitar a minute in and it's even better after 3 minutes. "Waters Of The Wild" has a catchy rhythm with an Indian flavour with sitar reminding me of THE BEATLES. A calm before 2 1/2 minutes with flute and other sounds before that rhythm kicks back in. "Set Your Compass" features gentle guitar as reserved vocals join in.This is kind of cool. "Down Street" has these deep spoken words and a beat. Some harmonica and horns too. I like the guitar after 5 minutes then we get a calm with flute. It ends in a classical manner.

"A Girl Called Linda" is a light and poppy tune with vocals. Flute and bass before 2 minutes. Catchy stuff. "To A Close" is a mellow tune with vocals and acoustic guitar standing out. Not a fan really. Another classical ending. "Ego And Id" is quite heavy with vocals. Love the guitar 2 1/2 minutes in. "Man In The Long Black Coat" is a Dylan cover.This one features some bluesy guitar and harmonica with reserved vocals. "Wolfwork" is orchestral to start with church bells. It kicks in with a beat and processed vocals contrasted with normal ones. Not a fan. "Why" is a short sampled music piece. "She Moves In Memories" has an epic classical intro and it stays orchestral throughout. "The Fundamentals Of Brainwashing" has this beat with deep almost spoken vocals. "Howl" opens with some great sounding guitar with heavy drums. Some nice piano in this one too.

Too much variety for my tastes and i'm just not that into it overall.

Report this review (#357072)
Posted Saturday, December 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
3 stars This album from ex Genesis guitar player pretty much follows the pattern of his latter work: every track seems to have a different style from the previous one. Far from showing versatility, it shows an almost total lack of unity or cohesion. Sure, there are several very good tracks (strangely, most of them on the CD´s second half) and a bunch of not so good ones. The problem lays in what we should expect from mr Hackett. He has done some very good albums in the past and I think Please Don´t Touch, Spectral Mornings and Highly Strung for exemple as some real good overall works that shows him at his top both as songwriter and performer. But most of all, they are full records, with a strong sense of direction - even if like now, he already was able to handle different styles of music.

Don´t get me wrong. The guy hasn´t lost his muse and he can write some fine prog songs like Set Your Compass, The fundamentals of Brain Wash and Howl, but we hardly hear his trademark guitar solos that used to set my heart on fire like the old times. Most of the time Wild Orchids shows glimpses of his genius, but nothing is really overwhelming. I liked the record in general, but I don´t feel like listening to it again after it is finished and a few tracks, like the dixieland Why sounds plainly self indulgent. Of the others I should point out the beautiful orchestrated instrumental She Moves In Memories and the bluesy take he does on the Bob Dylan penned Man In The Long Black Coat.

Overall I feel this record to be more pleasant than to the previous To Watch The Storms, but still a far cry from his most inspired works. Everything here is well performed and produced, but be sure to get his 70´s CDs before tackling this one.

Rating: 3 stars.

Report this review (#494265)
Posted Monday, August 1, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Even by Hackett's standards, this a weird album with a weird flow. Part of the reason for this is that a good chunk of the album feels like Hackett imitating others, whether deliberate or not. "A Dark Night in Toytown" sounds like it should be a David Bowie song; "Down Street" has guitar work that sounds like it belongs to Wall-era Gilmour, and much of "The Fundamentals of Brainwashing" sounds like an alternate version of "High Hopes" from The Division Bell; "Ego & Id" often sounds like mid-90s King Crimson crossed with a smidge of mid-90s Flaming Lips and post-Blackmore Deep Purple; and of course there's a Bob Dylan cover, where Steve either sounds like Mark Knopfler or Leonard Cohen. There are plenty of elements that bear a clear Hackett stamp, of course, and all of the songs I listed are just fine, but while Hackett has had plenty of diversity in his career, I can't think of another Hackett album that sounds so at war with itself. The charming randomness of the To Watch the Storms track ordering is amped up here to a point that the album actually ends up feeling a little uncomfortable, even for somebody like me who generally likes this aspect of Steve's albums.

The best aspect of the album is that it has some really top-notch ballads. "Set Your Compass" may be more atmosphere than melody, but it's a gorgeous atmosphere, somewhat reminiscent of Voyage, and the periodic "set your compass by your dreams" line could stay in my head forever if it wanted to. "To a Close" is more traditional and conventional, but no less impressive, centering around a set of gently swaying acoustic guitar lines and featuring lovely flute lines, subtle orchestration and fantastic vocal harmonies. A small step behind them, but still a delight, is "A Girl Called Linda," a jazzy French-tinged number that just drips whimsy but never becomes too cutesy for its own good. Oddly, these three songs are grouped close together in the middle of the album, and I somewhat feel that lessens their overall effect, but that's just a small gripe.

The rest of the album is downright nutty, though that's not necessarily a bad thing. "The Fundamentals of Brainwashing" is a solid downbeat ballad in its own right, featuring some nice lyrics ("History is a vinyl record stuck in a groove" strikes me as a really inspired opening lyric) and a great vibe (and a great brief pedal steel solo) once you get beyond the way it sounds like a Division Bell outtake, but rather than moving into a gentle conclusion, the song dissolves into a monstrous instrumental, "Howl," which maintains the same main underpinning set of piano chords but covers it in noisy jazzy anger (manifesting in, well, howling and screeching guitar sounds of pure passion that give way to a nice extended jazz piano solo). The combination of the two tracks makes for a great conclusion to the album (I ripped the two as one track and can't imagine listening to them separately), but it's an extra strange experience to listen to this immediately after "Why" (a minute-long 30s jazz send-up, or basically a more condensed "Sentimental Institution") and "She Moves in Memories" (basically a five-minute orchestral rearrangement of "To a Close"). Maybe the sequencing would make more sense on the 17-track special edition (which I haven't heard yet), but here I'm just kinda baffled.

Coming immediately before the final stretch of the album, and right after the "ballad" stretch, is the "rocker" stretch, and the results are mixed. "Wolfwork" has a couple of nice ideas in the quieter moments, but on the whole it's a bit of a tuneless pounding mess without much to compensate, and it doesn't add much to the album. "Ego and Id" is pretty fun, if only for the novelty of Steve clearly trying to make his sound harder and noisier, and he manages to squeeze some great sounds and passages out of his guitar in the process. And finally, the Dylan cover is rather pleasant and moody, but the choice of song to cover ("The Man in the Long Black Coat") ends up being startling for a reason outside the context of the album; this track had been covered by Emerson Lake and Palmer a dozen years earlier on their In the Hot Seat album. Who would have ever thought that this decent-but-not-especially- notable track from a decent-but-not-especially-notable late-80s Bob Dylan album would become the Dylan cover of choice for aging progsters? To be honest, I actually kinda prefer the ELP version; this one is just fine, but it's pretty conventional, whereas the ELP version had a little more variety in the sound (for better or worse) and a growling repeated riff that made it stand out.

Finally (or initially, I suppose, since these tracks are all near the beginning of the album), there's the "eccentric Hackett music" stretch. The opening "A Dark Night in Toyland" has some great guitar parts tucked underneath that betray it as Hackett, but as I said earlier, I feel like this should have been a Bowie song, maybe on Heathen; there's just something about the combination of the music box in the beginning, the up-tempo orchestration, the deep vocals and the slightly dark lyrics (with the great repeated line, "If you can't find heaven I'll show you a ghost train to hell") that instinctively makes me want to file it as a Bowie song. "Waters of the Wild" is another nice example of Steve's occasional fascination with Eastern-tinged music, featuring a fun set of sitar lines (or maybe an imitation, whatever) over a decidedly non-Western beat, and maintaining a solid intensity that keeps it interesting for its full five-and-a-half minutes.

And finally, there's "Down Street," yet another one of Steve's ventures into a track that features a spoken downward-pitched vocal. Fortunately, this is much closer to "The Devil is an Englishman" than the two Dark Town instances of this, and the music is a lot of fun, moving from something vaguely Tom Waits-ish into (as mentioned) something driven by Gilmour-ish "Another Brick in the Wall 2" lines, eventually bringing in some great harmonica lines to make the whole thing seem about 20% less dorky than it is, and then going in various directions that could be expected on a Hackett album. The vocals are hard to shake, but truth be told they do disappear for a large chunk of the song, so I can listen to the track without feeling like they really ruin much.

For me, the bottom line is that this is another very good late-period Hackett album, but it's also one that I think would be a pretty bad introduction to this period of his career, and I definitely don't think somebody should hear it before hearing at least one of the "regular" albums that bookend it (To Watch the Storms and Out of the Tunnel's Mouth). There's some tremendous material that every Hackett fan should eventually, hear, though, so don't put off getting it indefinitely. And hey, if you're somehow the kind of person who thinks of Please Don't Touch as one of Steve's career peaks, then maybe this kind of messiness will appeal to you more than it does to me.

Report this review (#963379)
Posted Tuesday, May 21, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Steve Hackett is, after Peter Gabriel, one of my favorite members of Genesis, because of the way of playing the guitar during the classic period. Maybe, he is the member that has composed more albums to date and continues on the road playing and composing amazing music. The 'Wild Orchids' album is definitely a fine piece of art, with incredible instrumental sounds. A great variety of styles are shown in here, symphonic, orchestral, oriental, rock... The album, in its complete version, changes a bit in the order of the songs to the simple version. No matter which one you hear, it fits perfectly. Many of the songs, as I mentioned, are instrumental, but there are some others with lyrics and Hackett singing only as he knows, with different tonalities and nuances that make every song different. I like it so much!
Report this review (#1030879)
Posted Sunday, September 8, 2013 | Review Permalink

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