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

BEYOND THE SHROUDED HORIZON

Steve Hackett

Eclectic Prog


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4 stars Since my interest in Hackett's output was resurrected about a year back I've learned that, from Darktown onwards, there is usually something to excite which gives every album merit, but also plenty to frustrate. I've also learned that you can generally be sure there will be a diversity of musical styles on any new album.

My favourite of recent releases was 'To Watch the Storms' , whereas 'Wild Orchids' was a very mixed bag- too eclectic to be coherent and, although some love it, 'Out of the Tunnel's Mouth' mostly underwhelming, but still a worthwhile acquisition. 'OOTM' was recorded in Steve's flat as his studio was unavailable and I think it showed on some tracks.

Anyway, a couple of years, an extensive tour and a wedding later, Steve has released 'Beyond the Shrouded Horizon', so I ordered an early copy in the hope that it might feature some gems to add to my 'best of Hackett' I keep in the car. Early signs are that it certainly does and, for me the most pleasant surprise is that the guitar at a number of times makes those wonderful signature sounds heard only infrequently since 'Defector' marked the last of a splendid first quartet of solo albums.

The styles through the album are diverse of course, but largely hold together this time, and the album is arguably more progressive than anything he's done in many a year.

'Loch Lomond' is stong opener, but the couple of minutes of instrumental 'Phoenix Flown' it segues into are blisteringly powerful, guitar soaring, reminiscent of 'The Steppes' , but better.Magnificent.

'Prairie Angel', inspred by Kerouac's visions on the Great Plains, starts with more soaring guitars and then cuts loose before segueing into 'A Place Called Freedom'. This is a very positive, with probably Steve's best vocal (rarely a strong point). The music is excellent, upbeat verses broken with some guitar work sounding like 'Carpet Crawlers' and a return mid-song to the opening of 'Prarie Angel', this time bursting with joy and life. I count this as one of Hackett's best 'complete' songs (as opposed to instrumentals), up there with 'Serpentine Song' off 'To Watch...'

'Two Faces of Cairo' again allows the guitar to soar,howl and scream while conjuring convincing images of its subject.

'Catwalk' is perhaps the one track that seems to not fit, being a sleazy,strong blues number, a follow on from 'Still Waters' on the last album, but better.

Then there is the closer 'Turn this Island Earth' , an 11-minute track including Steve Howe amongst the writing credits,which twists and turns through various styles which should at least be of interest to all proggers, even if the whole is, to me , somehow slightly less than the sum of its parts.

The other tracks do support well, generally a mix of brief instrumentals and pleasing ballads. Overall, it's a strong album with a wealth of musicians.....time will tell just how strong. There can be little doubt however that so many years on Steve Hackett is in good from and for that all prog fans should be grateful.

I was fortunate to buy the 2-disc version, as the 2nd CD does have some fine things on it, most notably , the 'Four Winds' suite.Perosnally I prefer the ten minutes here to 'Turn this Island'. 'East' wind is the pick of the four short tracks , seamless guitar work on a relaxed backdrop co-written with Benedict Fenner. This will become a firm favourite for late night driving. If you have the chance to buy the 2-cd version it is worth it.

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Send comments to oldcrow (BETA) | Report this review (#532034)
Posted Sunday, September 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Still going strong.

Steve Hackett is one of the veterans in the scene. It seems he is not interested in just hanging around, living of the plaudits he receive for Firth Of Fifth and his other Genesis contributions. Not to mention his previous work. Hence this album. An album that is wide in it's scope.

Fans and admirers of Steve Hackett knows what they get on this album. An album where his guitar is lighing up the heaven with some stunning displays. But Steve Hackett has never been "merely" a guitarist. He has always composed music in the crossroads between classical music and rock. This album follows that formula (again). Some of the music here is guitar orientated. Some music is orchestral classical new age music.

My gripe here is the lack of any great tunes. But this is still a very good album which I am sure will grow on me over time. But for the moment.........

3.5 stars

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Send comments to toroddfuglesteg (BETA) | Report this review (#532997)
Posted Monday, September 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars In recent years, Steve Hackett has been putting out some of the best albums of his career. His vocals have improved tremendously since the days of Cured and Highly Strung, and his guitar playing is still as good as ever. How does this new release compare to the likes of To Watch the Storms and Out of the Tunnel's Mouth? Personally, I prefer it to both of them. From the soaring "A Phoenix Flown" to the epic "Turn This Island Earth," the listener will encounter some of the best songs Hackett has produced in his lengthy career (and that's saying a lot). For me, highlights include "Loch Lomond", "A Phoenix Flown", the "Prairie Angel/A Place Called Freedom" suite, "Two Faces of Cairo," and the monstrous twelve minute closer, "Turn this Island Earth." I also recommend getting your hands on the special edition, as some of the bonus tracks are just as good as the main album.

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Send comments to 1970sgenesisfan (BETA) | Report this review (#533924)
Posted Monday, September 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Doin' the Foxtrot since 1971 and Hackett raises the notch again!

With the new found groove that Steve Hackett has maintained over his last 4 solo albums, it's no surprise that this is one of his best albums to date. It seems finally he has progressed passed the mundane that some of his older albums possessed and transformed this one into something magical. It's different, in that it feels like you're embarking on a journey when you hit the 'play' button.

In many ways it is similar to Out of the Tunnel's Mouth, but improved upon in every detail. The songs flow into each other and there are hardly any bad moments (none that I can remember after 3 listens). Of course, with a Hackett album, you can expect some soft melodic songs, which never drag on before his guitar riffs back in; each are strategically placed and only build to the continuity of the music.

Is it possible that Steve Hackett has not reached his peak yet?

I think it is.

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Send comments to morgazmo (BETA) | Report this review (#534781)
Posted Tuesday, September 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars A fine album. Not at all disappointing or a let down; however neither is it in anyway particularly special. There are some great moments, especially I found on the songs on the first half of the album. As we go deeper into it, the music becomes less interesting and appealing. I was very much looking forward to the 12 minute epic, having been very impressed with the music early on, but found that "Turn this Island Earth" was to my ears, the let down of the album. A song with varying sections none of which seem to relate to one another and none of which particularly give the song a cohesive kind of sound.

The album goes from rock, progressive rock, classical, world and new age (and subsequent combinations of each) and back again. The classical and new age parts in particular were lacklustre.

If the album had of continued in the way of the first 6 songs, I would have had a tough decision whether to award 4 or 5 stars, however, the second half and the final song didn't match to that.

I'd recommend the album to Hackett fans or someone looking for something a little bit different with some interesting world music-like rhythms and sounds incorporated into it.

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Send comments to TrickedTail (BETA) | Report this review (#535774)
Posted Wednesday, September 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
lazland
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars A new release by Steve Hackett is always an important event. By far the most prolific, and I think, most consistent of the former Genesis members, the fact that he can still release visionary and relevant music in 2011, and on his 24th solo release, is testament to his talent. In a recent review of Anthony Phillips' debut solo album, I remarked upon Armando Gallo's comment that hearing that album made him wish that Phillips had never left Genesis.

Well, as much as I admire and adore Phillips' output, listening to this, the vast majority of Hackett albums, and his immense contribution to Genesis themselves, all I can say is thank God Hackett did join the band and provide us with such an immense body of work.

Much of this album was written whilst on holiday in Egypt, with Hackett joined by his wife Jo and keyboardist Roger King, both of whom it is abundantly clear have made a huge contribution to the feel and shape of this album. I really enjoyed the predecessor album, but this, I think, is a more accessible work, and has the feel of a band effort throughout, not withstanding the array of artists that Hackett gets to join him, including, on three tracks, the great Chris Squire.

There is barely a weak moment on this album. It opens with Loch Lomond, which, after a rather heavy start, moves into more of a "traditional" Hackett track. It features some exceptional acoustic guitar work, alongside nice vocal harmonies. The denouement reverts to a classic rock feel, with Hackett showing off his electric prowess, mixed with some lush keyboards by King.

The Phoenix Flown is the first of the "Egyptian" songs, and is lush, wholesome, evocative, and far too short. This mild criticism could also be applied to Wanderlust, a lovely acoustic guitar solo.

Til These Eyes is a gentle ballad, very pleasant with more very rich acoustic guitars given a lush texture by keys. The additional orchestration provides a somewhat melancholic feel.

Prairie Angel is a real highlight, and is a brilliant instrumental evoking the Wild West in all of its glory. Extremely imaginative, this is a track with no lyrics which speaks loud and clear to you, and a special mention should go to Amanda Lehmann for her superb guitar work accompanying the master himself. It moves along at a cracking pace, and the track then segues into A Place Called Freedom, which continues the American West theme, this time lyrically. Gary O'Toole sings superbly, and the whole track easily brings to mind the spirit of the Native American world view and the surrounding geography.

Between The Summer & The Coconut Palms is a thoughtful track, which is, surprisingly to me, given the nature of the music, inspired by a Peter Sellers sketch.

Waking To Life features Lehmann again, this time taking lead vocal duties. She sings very well, and this is a nice love song, with layers of rich Middle Eastern sounds to bring to mind romance filled evenings on an Egyptian beach.

Two Faces Of Cairo was written at the foot of The Sphinx, and it shows. Gary O'Toole provides a memorable drumming performance, invoking the modern day tomb raiders existing alongside the richer past of the country. King's swirling Egyptian keys provide the lead instrumentation.

Looking For Fantasy is the first track to feature Chris Squire, and features some nice orchestration. It is pleasant without being remarkable.

Summer's Breath is another track to feature Hackett's mastery of the acoustic guitar. It moves, though, into what can only be described as a very heavy blues number. Catwalk is as heavy as Hackett has got for many a year, and the rhythm section of Squire and the great Simon Phillips on drums sets the tone throughout. A marvellous track, very much at odds with much of the pace of what preceded it, but not any the worst for that.

The album closes with its longest track, Turn This Island Earth. Clocking in at almost twelve minutes long, this is a science fiction inspired track, and, again, the mastery of King on keys especially manages to portray its futuristic theme. Squire and Philips again shine, and you really do, by now, begin to wish that the long promised Squackett collaboration becomes available soon. This is a real group effort, but, of course, led by some extremely complex Hackett guitar work. It is truly progressive, containing a multitude of time signature and mood changes, a percussive Greensleeves, orchestral work, and is truly awesome, and at times creates a massive wall of sound and also true menace, interspersed by true symphonic beauty. A great way to finish the album (I did not buy the bonus CD version), this is proof positive, if any were needed, that Hackett's creative drive and zeal remains as strong as ever.

I should also mention the fact that the Amazon download comes with a sumptuous digital booklet, featuring some marvellous photography.

Strangely, I haven't gotten around to reviewing Out Of The Tunnel's Mouth, the predecessor album. That, to me, is a solid three star album. This one is better. This is a very strong collection of tunes, well written and exceptionally well performed, with some fantastic highlights. Hackett shows he is a master of all things stringed, he sings very well, he writes very well with his wife and King (Steve Howe also contributed to the writing of two tracks), and the whole work feels like a collaborative effort between a host of talented musicians.

Four stars for this, and it comes very highly recommended to all of you who enjoy true mastery not just of the guitar, but of the true progressive genre as a whole.

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Send comments to lazland (BETA) | Report this review (#547619)
Posted Monday, October 10, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars I think of Steve Hackett as the Artillery man from 'The War of the Worlds', because when he left Genesis it was so that he could create soundscapes away from the restrictions of being in a band. But has he ever delivered? Personally, I'd say no, although the ride has had its moments...

So here we are more than three decades after the split. The rubbishy 'Out of the tunnel's mouth' commenced yet another new era of fiscal and creative restraint. After that, even I was undecided about buying this new album... Thankfully, I relented, because this is indeed a fine piece of work...

The album 'Guitar Noir' was the start of a new era and sound for SH. The 'Steve Hackett band' was gone, and we were treated to a more restrained, more personal approach. Sorry Steve, but you can't sing, and it'll never be the substitute for a real singer. It compromises the music too much. However this was to be the new SH. There's been the odd song that has scaled the heights, but generally it's been hard work.

What 'Beyond the shrouded horizon' represents to me is an anthology of his work since (but including) 'Guitar Noir.' The negative aspects of this are Steve's own singing, the harmonica and the blues.

Despite this, there are many, many positives in this album. For example, Steve is in cracking form with the guitar, and there's plenty of it! The band back him up supremely too, Then there's the production, which I guess is the work of Roger King. He manages to bring all the complexities together in a very polished offering.

Steve's singing is still a problem, for me at least, When we finally hear someone who can sing (Gary O'toole I think, in 'a place called freedom') it sounds like a 'proper' song,

Regardless, everyone on the project excels themselves, bringing all the ideas on offer here to fruition. There's a great first song, tremendous drumming in it's reprise. A strong middle section to the album too, plus a strong and moody ending as well. It's a complete package. World's music? No, not really. Maybe I've heard too much already for this to make any in roads in that area.

So, it's Steve at his post-nineties best, and this album deserves to sell well, but...

Can Steve ever take us to the place he promised all those years ago? Well, with Roger King onboard, who knows? There are brief examples to be heard in this album, so it IS an avenue that Steve could go down. Then again, with Steve there's no telling where we're heading next. Regardless, this was a very nice stop-over.

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Send comments to sussexbowler (BETA) | Report this review (#550195)
Posted Friday, October 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Oh man .... He has done it again! This album blew me away at first spin for a couple of reasons. First, I am amazed with how productive he has been since 1975 until now producing 22 (twenty two) studio albums plus some live albums and DVDs. This is great, really. In fact he has produced 21 albums after he quitted Genesis while the band he left had not produced that many albums. Second, talking about quality, I think Hackett has been very consistent with his music style so far as compared to Genesis who tried to make poppy albums. I have not seen any effort that Hackett made to make pop music, he has been so consistent with his progressive music style. Look at this album; you will find this one is consistent with his styles since debut album in 1975, also the legendary 'Spectral Morning' as well as 'Dark Town' in 1999. Third, I like enjoying this album as I have always been failed with my effort to stop the music in the middle of the album. Whenever I play this album, I always spin in its entirety from start to end. The music has a solid structural integrity and it's so cohesive like story telling from start to end.

He has been consistent with his music style

Let' have a look the music in this album. It starts off wonderfully with "Loch Lomond" (6:49) where it reminds me to the Spectral Morning album in terms of nuances and textures even though the song is totally fresh - there is no such elements that copy the previous tracks from previous albums. This is not something like "Everyday" that opens Spectral Morning album nicely, it's much mellow than Everyday. Wonderful! It also reminds me to one of his songs 'The Steppes' of Defector album in 1980. The guitar fills still represent his style really well. What surprising is when the vocals enter comprising male and female vocals, it's really nice. Even thogh Hackett's vocal quality is not that good but he manages to blend nicely with the music. The guitar solo is also stunning. The second track 'The Phoenix Flown' (2:08) sounds like continuing the opening track by showing off Hackettian guitar style with some howling segments as well. Even though it's a short instrumental track but it's so instrumental to the album as a whole because it satisfies Hackett guitar style freaks. It's really great!

'Wanderlust' (0:44) is basically a guitar fills outfit that reminds us to 'Horizon' and it flows nicely to 'Til These Eyes' (2:41) which ha opening guitar fills that remind me to Kansas' 'Dust In The Wind'. Again, I enjoy this mellow track especially with Hackett guitar fills and vocal, backed with nice string section. I am sure most of you would love this track as the melody is really nice and it's very Hackett!

You must love 'Prairie Angel' (2:59) as it starts beautifully with howling guitar work by Hackett. It flows in mellow fashion with slow tempo and when it enters the interlude there is a rocking part with his unique guitar riffs followed with music that moves faster, faster and faster - combining the work of guitar and keyboard, augmented with guitar fills that is unique style of Hackett as an opening of the next track. It flows seamlessly to 'A Place Called Freedom' (5:57) with vocal line. In here Hackett explores his guitar fills as rhythm section of the vocal line. 'Between The Sunset And The Coconut Palms' (3:18) - again ...it reminds me the Defector album, something like before 'The Toast' I believe .... It's a nice track.

'Waking To Life' (4:50) something that is really different than other tracks of Hackett even though there are components that are still his style. This one has eastern music style with female vocal. I think he is brilliant making this track as it demonstrates something unique that focuses more on traditional elements as the music flows in this track. The guitar solo is still showing his style; he plays it soft and inventive. The song has high energy especially it contains beats and grooves. It's probably will be your favorite from this album. As the tittle implies, 'Two Faces Of Cairo' (5:13) represents the nuances of Middle East music. The opening part that has atmospheric drumming work sets the tone of the music really well. What follows are the keyboard solo that replicates the style of eastern music followed brilliantly with Hackett guitar solo while the drumming style remains intact. Well, you might refer to Led Zeppelin's Kashmir on the kind of eastern style the rhythm section (predominantly played by keyboard) of this track. This track is really killing me man!

'Looking For Fantasy' (4:33) starts off with keyboard work followed with Hackett vocal line and acoustic guitar fills. 'She's only looking for fantasy ...' followed with wonderful guitar fills that sound really great if you play your CD at decent stereo set or using a headset. 'Summer's Breath' (1:12) is a nice acoustic guitar outfit that bridges to the next 'Catwalk' (5:44) that sounds blues rock to me - and it's really an excellent track as far as my taste. Again his guitar solo rules!

I think the mascot of this album is the concluding track 'Turn This Island Earth' (11:51) that has opening part in the same nuance like Dark Town album with its atmospheric, haunted style combining sound effects from keyboard and a wonderful acoustic guitar work. The song moves in crescendo and it's really moving on with rockin's part especially in the interlude. The guitar and drums sound really nice backed with inventive string arrangements at the back. The music turns mellow at approx minute 7:50 - it's really a very nice segment and it flows mellow with nice melody augmented with atmospheric music comprising keyboard and string section at the background. It's hard for not loving this track, really!

With all the positive words that I use throughout this writing, I am confident to say that this is really an excellent addition to any prog music collection with 4+ rating. Keep on proggin' ...!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#553026)
Posted Wednesday, October 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
Rivertree
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Psych/Space Team & Band Submissions
4 stars Steve Hackett provides 13 multi-layered songs here, so all in all this is as diversified as we should expect from such a prolific musician. Nothing to consume in passing or greedily, this is hardly possible! 'Beyond The Shrouded Horizon' needs full attention to get it. Just take the extended Turn This Island Earth which evolves like a modern symphony in rock - Hackett's creative highlight ... well, at least when it comes to this album. A wonderful workout placed at the farthest end, which makes clear that this album is not the end of the flagpole, I'm sure.

Charming folksy impressions with acoustic guitar are representing the majority, however often alternating with (heavy) rocking parts like it is with the opener Loch Lomond - he starts his special journey beyond the shrouded horizon on the shores of Scotland's biggest lake, bagpipes come up in between ... remarkably enough he acts like a quick-change artist here due to multiple varied moods, this track is simply growing the more you listen as a consequence.

Prairie Angel and A Place Called Freedom are arranged like a couple which sounds like Hackett is paying tribute to Andy Latimer, in between though he's surprising because it turms into a straightforward rocking thing. Another pair consisting of Waking To Life and Two Faces Of Cairo is presenting a significant ethno/world orientation the other way round, where Catwalk simply comes as a blues cracker. Furthermore you'll detect rudiments of orchestral sentiment respectively classical components due to implemented strings all over.

It would burst all limits to bring up the complete various impressions which are implemented on 'Beyond The Shrouded Horizon'. Those highly considered musicians, which accompanied him on tour with the result of the excellent 'Live Rails', are on his side here again. Stylistically not that kind of music I'm focussed on, which I would expect to knock my socks off, (I came to this via promo offer) - I find it utterly prolific all in all - even considering some rock/pop excursions such an album deserves high appraisals.

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Send comments to Rivertree (BETA) | Report this review (#554233)
Posted Friday, October 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
Slartibartfast
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars From the shores of Loch Lomond to the Rings Of Saturn, eh?

Steve Hackett seemed to have lost interest in progressive rock for a while, doing some lackluster pop oriented stuff, then some nice classical oriented stuff, but when he came back around to doing regular prog he has really put his heart back into it.

It's a very upbeat album which is a nice contrast to say, Darktown, which was his first move back into serious prog rock. He showcases and refines many styles he's visited before. It's heavy on the instrumentals and lets the music mostly tell the tale. When Steve does sing, you can really appreciate how well he's developed over the years. There's also a welcome female vocal presence, Amanda Lehmann, who makes Steve's tribute to love's discovery, Waking To Life, really shine. There's a great set of musicians including Yes man Chris Squire on five tracks, if you count the bonus disc.

Speaking of which, the bonus disc is no mere appendage. Some more instrumentals and for some strange reason, The North Wind, blew its way in front of the epicesque ender of the main album, This Island Earth. I rather like it that way I must say. More Instrumental winds will blow and one track with no Steve on it at all. She Said Maybe, may be the best track included with the bonus set. Next, an old Hackett instrumental gets vocalized in the middle of the Night, Focus erupts in Tommy fashion, and then the Nightmare gets Reconditioned.

And to think this album missed out on the distinction of being number 1500 in my collection by one slot. I went for an autographed double deluxe addition from overseas so go figure. The sicker on the cover says "The new studio album from Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductee and former Genesis / GTR guitarist STEVE HACKETT." Sigh.

Anyway, spring for the deluxe edition, unless you don't like SH, then you can save yourself some trouble and just avoid it altogether. The extra tracks are worth having, the book/booklet has some nice artwork with brief comments by Steve for each track including those on the bonus disc. My only complaint is that his fat silver pen autograph on the cover looks like n . Ha_duw. I mean, Steve, really, were just cracking up at the sticker as you signed the things? Solid four stars, keep up the good work!

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Send comments to Slartibartfast (BETA) | Report this review (#566657)
Posted Saturday, November 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Still a songwriter of great diversity of styles--all on display in this album, as Steve is want to do on all his studio albums--and still as gutsy/quirky a songwriter, I find Beyond the Shrouded Horizon, overall, perhaps the most accessible prog studio album Steve has done in about 30 years. (Save for the Sketches of Satie album, IMHO, you have to go back to the Voyage of the Acolyte/Spectral Mornings/Please Don't Touch/Defector/Cured period to find as appealing and accessible a studio album as this one. All of the live ones). Bravo, Steve! Thanks! P.S. LOVE the cover of Solution's saxophonist, Tommy Barlage's song "Divergence"--made famous by Focus's inclusion of it on Moving Waves' epic "Eruption" as part 6, "Tommy"--and by Jan Akkerman's inclusion of it on virtually all his solo live albums. Very cool! Would love to hear Steve and Jan Akkerman play/do an album or song together.

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Send comments to BrufordFreak (BETA) | Report this review (#571315)
Posted Saturday, November 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
Nightfly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars Two years after Out Of The Tunnels Mouth Steve Hackett returns with another solid effort Beyond The Shrouded Horizon. It immediately gets a thumbs up from me simply for having real drums instead of the programmed variety.

It's a diverse collection and Hackett is certainly not a man afraid to mix different genres and styles as he does here. From solo acoustic guitar - Summer's Breath, Eastern and African Influences - Waking To Life and Two Faces Of Cairo, blues - Catwalk, Ballads - Looking For Fantasy and of course prog. Loch Lomond, which open's proceedings is powerful stuff - think The Steppes off Defector until it mellows out. The Phoenix Flown follows it and is a fine instrumental with some searing guitar work. Turn This Island Earth is a mini epic shifting from a moody intro into more upbeat territory. It's marred a little by some treated vocals which fortunately are made up for by some captivating instrumental work. Vocals have never been Hackett's strong point. Acceptable certainly but it could make all the difference if he got a singer in to help out more often. This he does on Waking To Life where Amanda Lehmann takes lead vocals giving a very authentic Indian style.

Any complaints with Beyond The Shrouded Horizon are minor however and it's an album worth repeated explorations for it to fully reveal its charms. Hackett seems to be on a bit of a roll at the moment and the only ex member of Genesis doing anything that I'm interested in these days including Peter Gabriel. Well worth checking out. A very good solid 3 ½ stars.

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Send comments to Nightfly (BETA) | Report this review (#572391)
Posted Monday, November 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Hackett continues to merge all kinds of sounds, acoustic and electronic. Orchestral elements are present in almost all songs, particularly strings backing up. The sound of the drums varies more than ususal which is welcome, but too often it's very processed and muffled in character.

All songs have a big ambiance with lots of reverb, and the half- time drum groove is extensively used, which become a bit too much of the same thing. The style and atmosphere has ingredients of new-age, symphonic rock and fusion.

Although there is a lot of changes happening sound and stylewise, the music progresses forward very smoothly. The reason I think is the strings in the background, or other noises that binds everything together , and the the reverb smooths the edges of everything. Another thing might be modern production technology which keeps the sound frictionless. The album would need elements of the opposite.

There are many romantic sides of Hackett, and this time the overall mood is not as much "halloween" as on Wild Orchids, but parts of it instead has an atmosphere similar to " A Midsummer Night's Dream", with a major-key oriented classical feel, represented by some acoustic solo pieces and some orchestral sections in the songs. I like it.

There's more exploration of exotic, ethnic sounds, but it's not overdone. Some middle eastern touches, some indian touches, and a bit of bagpipe.

Out Of the Tunnel's Mouth was largely disappointing, and I wasn't sure of what to expect from this album. But it is definitely better and has a few great songs, which is satisfying.

CD1

1. Loch Lomond (6:49)

The first song is a varied piece with a slow and powerful rock riff. It recalls Cell 151 with the 16th-note driven bass part. The heavily effect-treated drums sound muffled. The main verse is entirely different in key and style, softer with acoustic guitar and singing. It has partly the same chord sequence as Sleepers (from the previous album). There are many diverse parts that are not too interesting and are too unrelated. It is somewhat entertaining anyhow.

2. The Phoenix flown (2:08)

The previous track continues into this one with the same tempo and drum groove. Big sound, guitar alternately playing melody and soloing over two chords. It's just a theme without any construction around it. It would have needed some context.

3. Wanderlust (0:44)

A nice, short acoustic guitar piece in free tempo. It works like an intro to the next song.

4. Til these eyes (2:41)

Mellow tune with acoustic guitar . Somewhat folky with a few verses, each concluded with the refrain"til these eyes...". A nice form that "Golden Age of Steam" also had. A characterizing element is the guitar picking method. Just to name a reference, "Julia" by Beatles also has it, and two other nice songs are "God if I saw Her Now" by Anthony Phillips, and "Jenny Gwen" , Paul McCartney. The guitar and singing is backed up by symphonic arrangement. A pretty nice song.

5. Prairie angel (2:59)

Half-tempo drum groove, simple guitar melody over three not unfamiliar chords. Big anthem-like style. It then switches radically to a blues rock n roll -riff which bridges over to the next song. The bluesrock part feels out of place.

6. A Place called Freedom (5:56)

The first theme of Prairie Angel returns, but softer with vocals. I come to think of "From Now On", the verse of the Supertramp song - similar in chords and vocal melody. It is okay, but the positive energy in the major key harmonies , the singing coupled with the big spacey sound, becomes a little too new-agey.

7. Between the sunset and the coconut palms

This was a "wow" experience for me on the first listening of the album. But it's very simple with a verse and chorus that complement each other nicely. The vocals in the verse are several vocal parts put together forming harmonies. The only rythm sound is a gentle drumming on the acoustic guitar. At the chorus the sound becomes larger with largely major key harmonies. It has some resemblance to the verse of "Silent Sun" from Genesis first album. The song is rounded off by the chorus theme played instrumentally by orchestral strings and piano in rich harmonic arrangement - it's character reminds me of the orchestral album "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Great!

8. Waking to life (4:49)

This is a cool song. Indian influences with percussion and sitar. Nice singing by Jo Lehmann. There's a drum machine sound and groove, similar to Equality by Howard Jones. I really like the song during the vocal parts. But it changes direction after a while.. Electric guitar breaks in and after a while there are "Please Don't Touch" harmonies. So the song gets a bit sidetracked, but it's still one of the albums highlights.

9. Two faces of Cairo (5:13)

Instrumental song starting very tranquil with a spacy middle-eastern ambience, then slowly increasing the dynamics with a fast half-tempo rythm in triplet feeling (similar to a groove in Genesis "Duke's Travels") . Booming tom-toms backing up the orchestral string melody and electric guitar soloing. The synth string pads help giving the song a more new-age-fusion feeling rather than world music. But it's pretty nice. There are interesting production elements with cool sounds enriching the song.

10. Looking for fantasy (4:32)

I love this kind of Hackett song. Very easy to like at first listen, and flows with ease from start to finish. Like " Between the sunset", the verse and chorus fits perfect together. It starts with a mellotron intro in 3/4, with a classical feel, a little Händel-ish and then goes into 4/4 , soft verse with acoustic guitar and vocals, cello I guess, and additional sounds such as backwards guitar noises. The chorus is catchy in its own way. The vocal phrase 'She's only looking for fantasy' is sung with rich vocal parts, like a choir. The effects-processeced drums have a special character and mixed so low that you barely notice it - but it fits the song well. The key of the song feels low. Hackett sings in a low register, and the tempo is slow and gentle - it almost feels slowed down, as when you play a 45 rpm vinyl in 33 rpm, which creates a soft laid back feeling. There is a middle interlude with solo acoustic guitar, another passage reminiscent of the romantic flair of "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Very nice!

11. Summer's breath (1:12)

Solo acoustic guitar in a spacy ambiance. Three different successive tempos and finishes with a cool arpeggio, which unfortunately only rings for a second before the next song starts. Very nice , but short.

12. Catwalk (5:44)

12/8 blues-rock with Simon Phillips on drums. Not the sound I associate with Phillips . Mixed in the same way as the first track on the album. It takes away it's natural sound, not to mention all the ghost notes. Hackett is probably aiming for a rougher sound , to avoid slickness, but it is in my opinion a little too muffled and spacious. The song as a whole doesn't bring anything special or new.

13 Turn this island earth (11:50)

The longest song of the album contains several phases, and a wealth of electronical and acoustic sounds and effects. It feels like two parts, the first one being 7 minutes, the other 4.

It begins with an intro in free tempo, a dark dramatic mood, string instruments in lower register and some acoustic guitar arpeggios. Spacy electronic sounds emerges, then processed vocals starts ? the first verse. Bass and drums are added in a nice short instrumental theme with a half-time drum groove, orchestral bass and a melody played by glockenspiel among other instruments.

The verse returns. The all too familiar descending bass line that was used in "Sleepers" from his previous album is used, and the chords follows it in equally predictable manner.

The song goes into an intense rock section with fast drumming by Phillips. There is a nice detail - the melody of the riff is the melody that is played in the earlier section between the two verses. It took me a lot of time before I recognized that. The drums are compressed/gated in a weird way that sounds messy.

Then follows many varied parts concluded by some playfulness by sampled orchestral instruments. Not very interesting.

At 7 minutes there is silence. From this point the song is much better. An atmospherical part in 3/4 begins , similar to "The Toast" (from Defector) and then goes into a cool swingy part in a laid back half-time groove with brushes on the drums and harpsichord. So nice, but it's only a short passage before moving on to more orchestral playfulness, ending with a boom. The last minute is very spacy and swirly, a weightless feeling.

As a whole , few of the parts are very interesting or captivating but it is entertaining to listen to. New things can be discovered with each listen.

CD2:

1. Four Winds: North (1:34)

Short piece somewhat like "Blue Child" from Wild Orchids, but weaker. The descending bassline from "turn this Island" (and others) is here again but in major key harmonies. Bad drum sound. Bad.

2. Four Winds: South (2:06)

Mellow improvisational romantic stuff , flurries of notes with piano and acoustic guitar. Very sketchy.

3. Four Winds: East (3:34)

Bluesy lounge-music in minor key. Guitar soloing over organ chords and a percussion rhythm loop. The guitar expression reminds me of the Guitar Noir album.

4. Four Winds: West (3:04)

A classical piece for solo guitar. It is brilliant!

5. Pieds Em L'air (2:26)

Slow waltz with strings, slightly loungy. Sampled strings with an atmospheric character. The harmonies are somewhat banal. But there are some nice moments with inspiring jazz chords.

6. She Said Maybe (4:21)

This is one of the best songs on the album including both cd's. It's instrumental sort of rock-fusion with varying parts and nice harmonies, very well composed! Largely written by Roger King. Stylewise it could perhaps be compared to Steve Morse.

7. Enter The Night (3:59)

This is a remake of "Shadow of the Colossus", now with vocals added I have often thought that it would have been fitting to play on some big sports event, like a football game, to set the mood. In this version the vocals has a reverb with an arena-like character, so it really sounds as if played in such a setting. This version is a big improvement over the previous one , and the whole atmosphere has a strong 80's vibe - very fun! The only thing I'm sceptical about is that arena-reverb, which puts the song into a specific sound environment, making the experience less direct.

8. Eruption Tommy (3:37)

A cover of a Focus song, and feels like a tribute to them. Very true to the original, but Hackett's version sounds a little smoother and more loungy.

9. Reconditioned Nightmare (4:06)

This is a re-recorded version of the original. Nothing is changed. The original is better.

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Send comments to wilmon91 (BETA) | Report this review (#573138)
Posted Tuesday, November 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
Neu!mann
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars It's reassuring to hear an old pro like Steve Hackett still going strong, long after the far brighter commercial star of his former bandmates in GENESIS sank below the horizon. In fact, he's playing today like a man half his age, with all the ease and confidence suggested in his portraits throughout the CD booklet.

The best news in this limited edition two-disc set is the higher ratio of instrumental tracks, always a healthy sign for a strong guitarist with a weak singing voice. The new album is more or less equally divided between high decibel thrashes (including a soundalike LED ZEPPELIN break in the song "Prairie Angel") and the incomparable delicacy of Hackett's acoustic classical guitar.

Those quieter moments offer a welcome measure of aesthetic relief from the pile-driver fills of drummer Gary O'Toole heard elsewhere on the album. Responsibility for the somewhat impersonal, inorganic sound of these sessions belongs to co-producer Roger King, who also recorded, mixed, and mastered the CD. But at least Hackett's insecure vocals, a major liability on earlier albums (see "Guitar Noir", among others), have finally been rescued by modern recording technology, for the first time in my (admittedly incomplete) experience actually sounding almost like a skilled singer.

And his guitar playing is, thankfully, stronger than ever, with more than one distinctive, typically thrilling solo: in "The Phoenix Flown" (the title is perhaps a reflection of Hackett's reawakened Prog Rock instincts); in "Two Faces of Cairo"; during the extended coda of the otherwise unremarkable pop stylings of "A Place Called Freedom"...in truth, just about everywhere on the album.

Oddly enough, it's the longest song here, the climactic "Turn This Island Earth", which fails to hold together as a piece of writing. In theory the twelve-minute track is exactly the sort of minor epic most Prog fans would normally salivate over, but the realization sounds more like a self-conscious medley of ill-fitting ideas, strung together with little momentum or structure, and with barely a hint of resolution (it just...sort of ends).

Far better is the "Four Winds" quartet opening the bonus disc: ten minutes of strictly instrumental splendor highlighting the best of Hackett's guitar wizardry. A guest appearance by CHRIS SQUIRE on several songs is another boon to old school Progheads; you can best hear his meaty bass guitar in the heavy blues of "Catwalk". And the inclusion of the classic Focus melody "Tommy", excerpted from the side-long "Eruption" suite on the Dutch band's 1972 album "Moving Waves", offers a welcome touchstone to a shared musical heritage.

All of which underlines a talent all too rare in aging Prog Rockers: the ability to look backward while moving steadily forward. After his 24th (!) solo album, maybe it's time to stop referring to Steve Hackett as the ex-Genesis guitarist.

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Send comments to Neu!mann (BETA) | Report this review (#589536)
Posted Friday, December 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well, what a varied set of reviews we have here. And even though I don't agree with some parts of each review, on the whole, they are right on the spot. So, I won't go into a long review, just a summation of previous, and my own thoughts.

I believe this to be the best work Steve Hackett has done in quite some time. I agree with almost everyone that he never (including on this release) seems to find his special spot of sound. The vocals (of which I personally like the style, especially for a musician willing to sing his own songs regardless of professional abilities) do come off a bit "over layered" and therefore, not very personal. I guess speaking from my own experience, I wish he would just "let er' rip" when he sings, and never mind the cracks and creaks, and we then would get the energy and personality that the music deserves.

But, as for the rest of the CD's attributes - BRAVO! BRAVO! BRAVO! - this is fine progressive music. The bass playing and drumming throughout are wonderful, BUT! the last 2 or 3 songs are with the addition of Chris Squire and Simon Phillips (I believe the greatest drummer alive) and are just outstanding. What a progressive rhythm section!

I also love the hint, and just a hint mind you, of slightly avant leanings in the orchestration sections near the end. The female singer is superb, and of course the production (although maybe a bit too "big and polished") is quite well done.

Although I enjoyed the 2nd CD, and it was quite well done, it's not what turns the disk multiple times for me - the main/1st CD is what the stories about I believe.

OK, one more thing - thank god the cover is back to something somewhat mystical and appropriate for the music inside the jacket.

Thank you Mr. Hackett for another fine outing - please "keep progressing" in writing. You are the only Genesis alumni to do anything worth listening to in quite a long time. And always - THANKS! to Progarchives.com for this fine place to courteously express reactions and ideas.

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Send comments to tmay102436 (BETA) | Report this review (#597201)
Posted Tuesday, December 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
memowakeman
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars After a long and successful career, with a vast amount of releases and tours, Steve Hackett gave us once again a great album in this 2011. He seems not to cease ever, he is always cooking something new and most of the times, he creates good songs and albums. Though it is always positive to look for new bands and support recent artists, we cannot help but still listening and enjoying the older ones, provided they are worth it. Steve Hackett, for god's sake, of course is worth it.

This time he offers an album entitled "Beyond the Shrouded Horizon", which consists on thirteen compositions that make a total time of one hour of music. It kicks off with "Loch Lomond" which starts with a dark atmosphere which little by little is lighting it down. Then after a minute we may say the song actually starts; Hackett's guitar is beginning to cook something, while the others instruments help him creating a structure; now another minute later it dramatically slows down, acoustic guitars and delicate vocals (front and back) appear, creating that charming sound that Hackett's music use to share. This is a wonderful opener track, almost seven minutes that will lead to shorter compositions.

"The Phoenix Flown" has a positive and hopeful sound. The guitar solo is gentle, not bombastic at all, and it accompanies drums, bass and synth, creating a short but wonderful instrumental track. "Wanderlust" is the shortest composition, and it offers only Steve Hackett with his acoustic guitar, nothing more. It leads to "Til These Eyes" whose mood is also peaceful and hopeful; here the vocals return and creates that charming yet fantastic sound. This track has orchestral arrangements which I am not sure if were done by keyboards, or an orchestral actually, anyway, it produces a beautiful sound.

"Prairie Angels" continues with that pastoral and charming sound, there are moments (brief ones) where the music may be touching the new age boundaries. This is an instrumental track with Steve's crying guitar and Rob Townsend's winds at first, but just before reaching the second minute, it drastically changes creating a much rockier sound, reminding me of some 70s rock and roll acts. A strange, but good change in this short track. It kindly finishes and links us to "A Place Called Freedom", whose lyrics and musical structure might be the catchiest of the album. The sound is very Hackett, I know you get me here. A joyful track.

"Between the Sunset and the Coconut Palms" has a delicate sound, front and backing male vocals while the acoustic guitar plays, there is also a charming atmosphere softly created by keyboards. The last instrumental minute is sweet, actually the best part of the track. The next song is "Waking to Life" starts with guitar for some ten seconds and later drums appear in a catchy rhythm, while a sitar also sounds and the sweet voice of Amanda Lehmann complements it. Later the instrumental passage takes us absolutely to Indian territories, creating a wonderful background, while percussion and female voice appear once again. This is a great and different track. With "Two Faces of Cairo" the previous emotional and energetic sound vanishes. This track starts with a desolated atmosphere whose background is being built up little by little, primarily by percussion and bass. At a minute and a half the mid-eastern (Egyptian, indeed) flavor appears. There are some guitar riffs and passages where it clearly takes the leadership, but when it quits, the keyboards replace it. This is another highlight of the album, an extraordinary instrumental song. In "Looking for Fantasy" vocals return with their soft and calm sound. So the song itself is like that, soft, charming, relaxing.

"Summer's Breath" is another short track with acoustic guitar and a soft environment of kids playing, ocean waves, birds. It leads to "Catwalk" which really contrasts with the previous tracks, because this has a rockier and even bluesy sound. Both, its instrumental and its vocal passages are cool, though I have to admit this is not my favorite track of the album. Anyway, I like the changes and that the album did not follow a particular style in its entirety.

The last track is a 12-minute composition entitled "Turn This Island Earth", whose first two minutes are slow and atmospheric. Later vocals appear with some effects (I am not really fan of it) and the other instruments (and their respective musicians, of course) begin to built up the structure and offer those different moods, rhythms and passages. What I like of this track is its vertiginous changes in tempo and style that gives as a result an interesting modern progressive rock composition, no matter the roots and experience of the musicians. There is a two-second hiatus at minute seven, then the second part of the song begins with a pastoral and charming sound; later it produces more and more changes, it could even work for a film scene. In the end, it is a very good composition that let us know once again Hackett's compositional skills.

The album is really good, however, it is not one of their best, not even close, but it deserves 3.5 (rounded to 4) stars nevertheless.

Enjoy it!

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Send comments to memowakeman (BETA) | Report this review (#602071)
Posted Monday, January 02, 2012 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars Blues with a feeling

Beyond The Shrouded Horizon is another good release from the ever prolific Steve Hackett. This one is not as good as 2009's Out Of The Tunnel's Mouth or 2003's excellent To Watch The Storms, but it is a good example of the kind of music that Steve has been doing pretty much since 1994's Guitar Noir. This means Rock with influences from Blues, Jazz, Folk, World and Classical music. While always eclectic, it is not necessarily progressive. He occasionally manages to fuse the various elements together into something genuinely new and exciting and when he does, Hackett can create really wonderful music. This time around I think that he has been slightly less good at that than on some other of his recent releases. Don't get me wrong though, this is a good album. But within such a vast and prodigious discography, Beyond The Shrouded Horizon does not stand out for me. It's just another good Steve Hackett album. If such great albums as Guitar Noir, To Watch The Storms and Out Of The Tunnel's Mouth did not exist however, who knows how impressed I might have been by this one?

Overall, this is an enjoyable and varied Rock album. I am personally not at all fond of straightforward Blues Rock and sadly Hackett insists on doing several such numbers on this album. There are also a couple of pure Classical guitar pieces. These function very well as pleasant interludes, but they are not very exciting in their own right. Prog fans are bound to get extra interested when they see that the closing track is nearly 12 minutes long. But if someone expects anything like a lost Genesis classic, they are bound to be disappointed by this otherwise decent and moderately progressive piece.

It is impressive that Steve manages to be so productive and release a steady stream of Rock albums, Classical albums, live albums and live DVDs. But there is always the risk that even his most loyal fans will eventually grow tired of even high quality products. I love Steve's music and have enjoyed pretty much every new release of his, but I feel that if he should continue releasing new studio albums at the current rate he ought to let his sound evolve a bit (preferably away from Blues Rock and toward Prog). Anyone familiar with Hackett's back catalogue is unlikely to be taken by surprise by Beyond The Shrouded Horizon despite its many fine qualities.

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Send comments to SouthSideoftheSky (BETA) | Report this review (#602943)
Posted Wednesday, January 04, 2012 | Review Permalink
2 stars After the more than excellent double disc live album "Rails", I was convinced that Steve Hackett was on the move again and so when I heard that he released his new album "Beyond the Shrouded Horizon", I bought it immediately. I even bought the deluxe double disc set.

Putting the first disc in my player, the disappointment started right away. As on his albums "Highly Strung" and "Until We Have Faces" Steve Hackett gives us once more a sort of inspiration less mixture of boring symphonic rock. Where are the highly inspired and great songs, that were once his hallmark. Again an emotionless and weak album. It seems that Steve Hackett is nowadays only capable of repeating successfully his old songs. I have loved so much his brilliant albums like "Spectral Mornings" and "Voyage Of The Acolyte" and even the so dynamic but inconstant "Please Don't Touch".

Steve Hackett has succeeded more or less in producing once more a symphonic rock album, but after having listened two both discs, I wonder why I still love symphonic rock. Even the presence of reputable musicians like drummer Simon Phillips and bassist Chris Squire doesn't raise the music to a higher level. The orchestral parts programmed by Roger King sound boring and far-fetched. I don't very much like instruments like the saxophone, but the sax solos by Rob Townsend are at least inspired and worth listening to. They make the music more powerful.

Once more the vocal qualities of Steve Hackett are less than average. Someone as famous as he, should be able to find a good singer. On his earlier albums his self sung songs contained a sense of humor, but now the music is far to pretentious for the quality offered.

Probably lots of die-hard fans will still go on their knees for this failed effort, but to me the album shows a shrouded inspiration. The two stars are because Steve Hackett has produced such great albums in the past and because of his importance for the sound of the symphonic rock guitar.

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Send comments to Dutchman (BETA) | Report this review (#623126)
Posted Monday, January 30, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars There is very little on this album that is not on any previous Hackett albums, but at the same time listening to it is highly satisfying. Hackett has definitely found his particular niche. The acoustic and electric mix we are used to hearing are not separated much, but rather many of the songs employ both approaches, intertwining them into a rich and organic whole. The songs are well constructed, as is expected, and are better than usual. Rocks more than To Watch the Storms but is not as meaty as Wild Orchids. (Not having Out of the Tunnel's Mouth, I can't compare it to that.) We have bombast, melodrama, thematics, soft segments, expert integration of various instruments and tones. In short, a Steve Hackett album. Outstanding tracks include the opener, Loch Lomond, Waking to Life, with Amanda Lehman's excellent vocals, and the 11-minute opus, Turn This Island Earth. If you want a concise experience of Hackettness, this one song will give you all you need to know. I am also particularly fond of the Four Winds suite found on disc two of the expanded version. I recommend that one, not that there is much truly different on it, but that it is more high quality music. Nit-pickers will no doubt eschew the presence of Enter the Night, a vocal version of Pressure Drop (found on Time Lapse) and the pumped up version of Cured's Air Conditioned Nightmare called here Reconditioned Nightmare. For me, I find the vocal of the former a significant alteration of the original, while the latter amps up a song I always thought could be amped up (not that I have a problem with the original). Many will also be pleased there is nothing like Diary of a Vanishing Man or the slowed down vocals he has used so often in the past. This one is classy all the way through. Stylistically, nothing new, but that is not to say we have a clone of previous albums. The integrated approach here is distinct, and the production is superb. Another great release from a great artist.

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Send comments to Progosopher (BETA) | Report this review (#767897)
Posted Friday, June 08, 2012 | Review Permalink
2 stars I have always been a great admirer and fan of my guitar playing compatriot Steve Hackett. I have supported his faux pas on "Highly Strung" and "Till We have Faces". Everything about this new album sounded very promising, until the cd entered my player. The booklet promised a splendid symphonic album, but I was bored to death instead. The playing on "Beyond The Shrouded Horizon" sounds dull and uninspired. The presence of great drummer names, like Simon Phillips and a bass player like Chris Squire can't prevent the music from sounding static. A drum machine sounds more alive. There are absolutely no beautiful or catchy themes to discover on this album. Being a true fan, I naturally bought the double disc version, but that turned out to be an even bigger mistake. The boredom continued on the second disc. Where have remained the sparkling and brilliant themes that keep you on the tip of your chair. On albums like "Voyage Of The Acolyte" and "Spectral Mornings" Hackett is literally reaching for the stars, but apparently everything is shrouded now. Probably "true" Hackett-fans will think my words blasphemy, but you will have to be blind (or deaf) not to notice the lack of inspiration on this album. I have so much enjoyed "Live Rails" and I was so full of expectation about this new album, but it turned out to be a cold shower. I consider this album for die-hard fans only and therefore I will grant it the obliged two stars. Whistler.

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Send comments to Whistler (BETA) | Report this review (#769119)
Posted Monday, June 11, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'm afraid I very much disagree with the previous members review of thIs album.

To me, this is a body of work that is up there with classics like Spectral Mornings and Please Don't Touch.

From the atmospheric Loch Lomond to the spine-tingling The Phoenix Flown and the heart-warming Prairie Angel/A Place Called Freedom (OMG the flute along with the harmonies on the fade out is ecstatic and just completes perfection).

Waking to Life and Two Faces of Cairo (some of the chord changes here are nothing short of left-field but just so darned right for the track).

The grower on the album is Turn This Island Earth. I didn't like it that much on first listening but, after numerous plays I now most definitely 'get the vide man!'

The album just illustrates how Steve 'feels' music with his ethereal virtuosity.

As a frustrated songwriter, I would give my right arm (I'm left-handed you see he he) for an ounce of his golden, no, platinum talent.

Steve, for as long as you love writing and playing, I'll love listening.

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Send comments to Timbo61 (BETA) | Report this review (#790239)
Posted Wednesday, July 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
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

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Send comments to tszirmay (BETA) | Report this review (#947355)
Posted Sunday, April 21, 2013 | Review Permalink
tarkus1980
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars It's mindblowing to me that my second favorite Steve Hackett album was released 32 years after my favorite of his solo albums (Spectral Mornings) and 40 years after his first relevant recording (as Genesis' guitarist on Nursery Cryme). Yes, I think it's a better album than Acolyte; it won't satisfy people looking for "pure" progressive rock in the way that album would, but as a demonstration and celebration of Steve's multiple preferred forms of musical expression, it's hard to beat. Interestingly, all of the tracks also contain writing credits for Roger King (producer and keyboardist) and Jo Hackett (his new wife; he'd divorced Kim Poor a few years earlier), and while I don't know how much input they actually had (I'd guess Roger had a lot, and Jo some, though I might be wrong), their input clearly didn't hurt things.

To be honest, for as much as I like this album, I don't really love how it begins. The first couple of minutes of "Loch Lomond," after the great guitar and keyboard sounds that kick it off, are built around a stiff and leaden old-man hard rock riff, and if the entire track had been built around this things might have been problematic. Fortunately, this riff eventually takes its place as a mere supporting element of the track, popping out intermittently from a Scottish-tinged acoustic ballad, full of nice melody and arrangement twists. Following this mixed bag of an opener, we enter an extended stretch that has to rank up there with Hackett's best. "The Phoenix Flown" is a two-minute instrumental with Hackett doing his minimalist-yet-fluid electric guitar thing as well as ever, "Wanderlust" is a nice 45-second acoustic interlude, and then we come to the main attractions of the album. "'Til These Eyes" is an AMAZING acoustic ballad; the build from the verses into the "'Til these eyes have seen enough" parts, ending with "'Til these eyes have seen love," strikes me as pop perfection. I don't like to break out "if you don't like such-and-such track then I can't understand you and your musical taste" comments very often, but if you don't like "'Til These Eyes" then I can't understand you and your musical taste.

"Prairie Angel" (which features writing credits from Steve Howe and old GTR drummer Jonathan Mover) and "A Place Called Freedom" are indexed as separate tracks, but they're really two parts of the same piece, and I can't imagine listening to one without the other. "Prairie Angel" starts with a nearly perfect (to my ears) set of slowly unfolding and rising guitar lines, before bursting into an AWESOME set of bluesy guitar riffs (eventually featuring Steve on harmonica), which in turn segue into "A Place Called Freedom." I don't especially care for the chorus/title (I've always had a weird instinctual allergy to tracks with the word "freedom" in the title, with some exceptions), though it makes for a nice climax every time it pops up, but the rest of track is amazing. The way the track effortlessly moves between the folksy/country-ish acoustic-guitar-driven verses, the breaks after the chorus (with a slow guitar line over an underpinning acoustic guitar part that brings to mind "Carpet Crawlers" in a good way), and the main ideas of "Prairie Angel" leaves me wanting to hear the track (and its predecessor) over and over, and the extended outro only makes this urge stronger. It's a shame such a great pair of tracks ended up on an album so (relatively) few people will ever hear; I guarantee that if U2 had done this track (which wouldn't be fully out of the realm of possibility) it would be universally beloved.

Anything after this stretch can't help but be a small letdown, but it's only a small one. "Between the Sunset and the Coconut Palms" is a nice atmospheric acoustic ballad about taking a boat into the horizon, and it's an effective low-key respite from the overpowering beauty of "Prairie Angel"/"A Place Called Freedom." "Waking to Life" is another of Steve's incorporations of ambiguously foreign music into his core style, and the combination of the catchy-as-hell verses (culminating in the great "and I've never seen your face before") hook and all of the frenetic instrumental parts a la "Last Train to Istanbul" make it every bit as fun as, say, "Last Train" or "A Doll That's Made in Japan." "Two Faces of Cairo" is an instrumental that Steve wrote while visiting the Sphinx, and while it's definitely a little directionless and primarily geared towards atmosphere, it's fine enough atmosphere for me.

"Looking for Fantasy" is another instance (see: "Camino Royale") of Steve writing a song where part of the song came from a dream (this time a dream where he heard Jimi Hendrix singing this melody), and it's yet another of Steve's nice atmospheric ballads, about looking for meaning in things that aren't really grounded in reality (best line: "In an open top car the Kennedys passed by/To this day she swears that Jack gave her the eye"). "Summer's Breath" is another nice acoustic snippet (probably no better than the average track on Bay of Kings or Momentum, but as I've always said, it's better to have these tracks surrounded by tracks of other styles), "Catwalk" is decent pounding mid-tempo blues (with Chris Squire on bass), and finally we come to the conclusion, "Turn This Island Earth." At first it seems like it's going to be something irritatingly faux-majestic in a queasy "Valley of the Kings" sort of way, which doesn't seem promising for a 12-minute track, but these parts turn out just to be an extended introduction, and for a while the rest of the track is decent enough. An atmospheric distorted vocal slowly fades in, the song takes shape, there's a synth part playing what had been the bluesy riff from "Prairie Angel" (interestingly, this track also has a Steve Howe/Jonathan Mover credit, so I have to assume the bluesy riff is the GTR leftover that prompted the credit), and eventually the bluesy riff becomes the center of an extended instrumental bit, before the song then basically becomes a dumping ground for various ideas (such as a snippet that could have been the center of a nice McCartney-ish ballad). Truth be told, on first listen I was almost ready to call this my favorite track, but now I consider it a relatively weak point, and enough to keep me from giving the album an even higher grade.

In addition to the standard release, there was also a 2-CD special edition version, and that's the one I have, so I'll briefly mention the contents. It's only about half an hour, and it's clearly not an essential addition to the album, but I like the disc for the most part. The first four tracks are part of an instrumental suite called "Four Winds," with the four parts naturally called "North," "South," "East" and "West," and while none of the parts show Hackett at his very best, they're nice for somebody who generally enjoys this era of his career. "Pieds En L'Air" is an odd inclusion, in that it's a strings-only cover of a song by an old Welsh composer who went by the pseudonym Peter Warlock; it's weird to have a track on a Steve Hackett album that doesn't involve Hackett at all, but I have to assume that the piece meant a lot to Steve, so I don't begrudge him throwing it on. "She Said Maybe" isn't an amazing guitar-driven instrumental, but it's a decent one; I wouldn't have minded having it on the main album. "Enter the Night" is a reworking of "Depth Charge"/"Riding the Colossus" to finally give it vocals, and honestly the track finally sounds finished; it was always a good instrumental, but here it feels like it finally reached its full low-key 80s-arena rock (if such a genre can be low-key) potential. "Eruption: Tommy" is an instrumental snippet from an old Focus (one of the lesser-known 70s prog bands) that depicted, sure enough, the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, and it fits in well with Steve's gifts as a guitarist. And finally, "The Reconditioned Nightmare" is slight reworking, in a live context, of "The Air-Conditioned Nightmare" (from Cured, remember that one?), and it's every bit as much goofy fun here as it was before.

So ok, it's not as polished as Spectral Mornings is, and while there was a brief time where I thought it might be my favorite Hackett album, that time has passed and won't return (the decline in my feelings towards "Turn This Island Earth" is the biggest reason). If that's the extent of criticism I can give, though, then I can't help but have a lot of good feelings towards this album. If you're somebody who only has Voyage and/or Acolyte, and you're looking for a place to start getting into Steve's later studio albums, this or Tunnel is the place to start.

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Send comments to tarkus1980 (BETA) | Report this review (#964465)
Posted Thursday, May 23, 2013 | Review Permalink
Second Life Syndrome
COLLABORATOR
Post/Math Rock and Crossover Teams
5 stars So, my Genesis-fanatic younger brother told me that Steve Hackett is basically that "dude from Genesis that no one actually liked". So, I avoided his solo career for a while, but I'm glad I finally gave him a chance. "Beyond the Shrouded Horizon" is a great album that I feel falls just short of 5 star status.

The album opens with the stunning "Loch Lomond" that I feel sets up the style for the rest of the album. We get the expected awesome guitar work that isn't just 'technical" but is also amazingly well written and even "epic". However, this stellar guitar work is set against a backdrop of ethereal, atmospheric vocals and rhythms. I simply love this combination: It is so pleasing to hear the opening track with its great jams slowly transition into "Til These Eyes", a simply beautiful ballad.

As the album progresses, we get hints of Pink Floyd and obviously Genesis, but I really can't say this album sounds like anyone else in particular. From the different male and female vocals to the more abstract tracks, Hackett certainly outdid himself presenting us with an almost spiritual journey of earthy proportions. I'm certainly glad I gave this newer album a try, and I look forward to his future endeavors. My lesson? Never listen to my brother.

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Send comments to Second Life Syndrome (BETA) | Report this review (#1011545)
Posted Monday, August 05, 2013 | Review Permalink

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