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Steve Hackett - Defector CD (album) cover


Steve Hackett

Eclectic Prog

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars Not quite as good as the predecessor and the last of his good album for quite a while. I may seem severe on him but a lot of the stuff is expandable on this one especially on side 2. If it weren't for the opening The Steppes, this would be rather weak. There are too many weird/silly tracks (especially on side 2) that make this album a relatively difficult album to listen to.

This gets another half-star because of my respect for Hackett, but beware of the general overly enthusiast opinions of over-appreciative fans that have a tendency to look at this album with its excellent processor.

Report this review (#26140)
Posted Wednesday, March 31, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Here is the CD I like to call the forgotten HACKETT album. It's not his best but without it, you'd be missing out on some essential HACKETT. The opening track "The Steppes", is a very dark piece with a heavy bass line and ominous guitar passages that truly convey images of frigid winds sweeping over the lonely Siberian steppes. "Time to Get Out" is very similar to "Carry On Up the Vicarage" whereas "Slogans" is a nice little jazzy tune. "Leaving" is a delicate, moody ballad (the introductory guitar notes sound like MIKE RUTHERFORD's 12-strings). "Two Vamps as Guests" is a short acoustic, classical guitar piece that would have fitted well on his "Momentum" album. "Jaccuzzi" is a dazzling, whirling instrumental as only Hackett can concoct them whereas "Hammer in the Sand" (one of my all-time HACKETT favourites) is a beautifully haunting instrumental with a moving melody. "The Toast" is a slow, slurry waltz that conveys the floating state during the last stages of inebriation (which, for me, is about 2 glasses of wine!). "The Show" is a tongue-in-cheek rocker, a crowd-pleaser on concert nights. The album closes with "Sentimental Institution", a spoof on 1930's ballads, complete with old 78 rpm scratchy sounds, nasal vocals and foxtrot flavour (not to be confused with the big G's famous album title!).

As I said, not HACKETT's best and if you're a fan, you already know this. But you wouldn't trade it away, right?

Report this review (#26141)
Posted Sunday, May 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Underrated...' The Steppes' arguably Hackett's finest song released and the rest of the album is not bad either. Yes he was making that leap to more commercial music but ' Defector' was still in the transitory stage of doing that.' Time to get out' is also a nicely smoke filled hazey song about getting stoned , and genrally the mood is optimistic and loaded with some great riffs and bass lines. If you have not heard 'The Steppes' do so ASAP.
Report this review (#26142)
Posted Tuesday, August 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I consider this album to be the most sentimental one from Steve Hackett, and it is also among his best ones. It has some similitudes with the previous one "Spectral mornings", but I find the sound of "Defector" more mature, more refined. The "Steppes" track, in the beginning, is a bit long and repetitive, but the combination of the floating keyboards and the extremely sustained guitar notes at the end, like on the "Spectral Mornings" and "Every day" tracks, produces a very rich, powerful, intense and moving soundscape. Like the on "Spectral mornings" album, "Defector" contains some ordinary moments, like the "Please don't touch-esque" "Time to get out" and the insipid "Slogans". Fortunately, there are more good tracks than bad ones, and Hackett goes into sentimental moods here, like on the peaceful "Leaving".

The side 2 is much better: the first track, "Jacuzzi", is a cute rhythmic & romantic track with pleasant guitars and flute parts. You have to uninterruptedly listen to the 2 next tracks "Hammer in the sand" and "The Toast" in order to notice how romantic Hackett can be. "Hammer in the sand" is a WONDERFUL New Age track, full of moving floating keyboards and nostalgic piano. "The toast" is a relaxing & magic track, having a slow rhythm and securing vocals; it is very moving and romantic, as reveals the flute-symphonic keyboards combination, especially during the second part. Those 2 tracks are among the best Hackett's tracks, no doubt. Actually, I must admit that those 2 tracks make me feel like if I was in love, especially the second part of "The toast". "The show" is a more conventional track full of vocals. The last track, "Sentimental institution", is a dullish & badly recorded sentimental retro song full of clarinet.

Report this review (#26144)
Posted Wednesday, May 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars At album level, "Defector" represented a major drop from critically acclaimed "Spectral Morning" previously released by Steve Hackett. Through this album Steve wanted to demonstrate more role of keyboards in his compositions by maintaining his guitar style. At track level there are excellent track that worth listening specifically the Steve Hackett's unique guitar sounds.

"The Steppes" is an excellent album opener with simple structure with a music theme that revolves around great harmony between keyboards and guitars aided by Taurus bass pedals. No major challenge is given to drummer as it functions as beat keeper. "Time To Get Out" is not something attractive to have a listen but it represents one of Hackett's pop music characteristics - straight forward bass line, mediocre vocals, simple structure. "Slogans" is a great track that demonstrates a great combination of keyboard and guitar works. It has excellent and relatively complex riffs performed beautifully in an upbeat style. It has become one of Steve' legendary songs, and usually performed live in concert. "Leaving" is a good mellow track in classical outfit exploring keyboard, guitar fills and vocals. It continues seamlessly to fully acoustic guitar in classical music style under "Two Vamps as Guests" with a bit of melody from "The Steppes".

"Jacuzzi" is one of the high light songs. It's an instrumental song that combines energetic and explorative keyboard with guitar works in an uplifting mood and upbeat style. The interlude part with keyboard improvisation and excellent drumming is really good. This is a great song and has become one of key features in some Steve's performance on stage. "Hammer In The Sand" is a short and nice piano outfit combined with keyboard; good melody. "The Toast" is a link track that connects to a happy mood track that has become my favorite: "The Show". It's actually a simple and straight forward track but it's a nice one to enjoy. I like the keyboard work aided with a good drum beats and inventive bass lines. It's the kind of track that you would want to play early in the morning to cheer up the start of the day. It's really good! The concluding track "Sentimental Institution" was co-written with Peter Hicks. It's a kind of oldie pop song with jazzy style and distant vocal style. It's an entraining one to enjoy - provided the right mood.

It's not a good album to start with but overall it's a good album. Keep on proggin' .!

Progressively yours, GW

Report this review (#37691)
Posted Saturday, June 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars The fourth work announced in 1980 "Defector". It is an exoticism and an album of a dark content. "Slogans" is wonderful in the tune such as initial GENESIS and KING CRIMSON. "Jacuzzi" is a tune as if CAMEL collaborated to Steve Hackett. The produce of the album is John Acock and Steve Hackett.

Report this review (#47011)
Posted Saturday, September 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I recently purchased the remastered version of this, and I am doing this review based on that. This is, in some ways, the logical descendant to the classic Spectral Mornings, even down to the similar cover. The first track, 'The Steppes', is another classic Hackett offering, a superbly melodic instrumental, with trademark flowing guitar solo. A wonderful way to start. 'Time To Get Out' is a more standard rock song, with nice harmonies, displaying Steve's enormous gift for composition. Nice touches of guitar on this too. 'Slogans' is, or was, a live favourite, showing that his playing is technically better than some critics think. He has never been a fast player, as he said himself, it wasn't his style, but this track does show his competence when in faster mode. 'Leaving' is one of those haunting ballads with beautiful harmonies, another trademark of Hackett's. 'Two Vamps' is an nice acoustic piece, again, haunting. He does this type of track remarkably well. 'Jacuzzi' was the opener on side two of the original record. A fast paced, bright and cheerful instrumental, with nice flute from brother John, this is a wonderfully melodic tune. 'Hammer In The Sand' is another melodic highlight, with superb piano from Nick Magnus, a slow, melancholic tune, wonderful! 'The Toast' is somewhat reminiscent of 'Leaving', another slowy with nice harmonies. 'The Show' is not my favourite track on here, but is decent enough, more uptempo and more in the straight rock vein. Finally, 'Sentimental Instituiton' is another of Steve's famous pastiches. An old, big band type of song, sung really well by Pete Hicks, with humorous lyrics. I love this type of song. The bonus tracks, five of them, are all decent, but none essential. They include an old B side, 'Hercules Unchained' possibly the most un-Hackett like song he has ever written. Almost punkish in its ferocity. Nothing spectacular. Good live versions of 'Sentimental Institution', 'The Steppes', 'Slogans' & 'Clocks - The Angel Of Mons' follow. All are interesting but add nothing to the album itself. The quality of the remaster, however, is superb - loud, crisp and clear. After this album, he was to change his style dramatically, and, some would say, controversially. This is a must have for Hackett fans.
Report this review (#53969)
Posted Sunday, October 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Hackett's first album of the 80s shows him in transition from his past to newer, more mainstream influenced music. You can hear the seeds planted for his future two albums Cured and Highly Strung in this album, but this album totally surpasses those two albums. There are some wonderful instrumentals on this album, but you can also find some interesting AOR based songs and songs that could have fit on his following two albums. Overall, though, there is a lot of merit in this album and it should in my opinion be more highly regarded among Hackett fans.

The album opens with one of the strongest Hackett instrumentals ever in The Steppes. A sparse flute introduces the main theme of the song, which is then joined by a steady drum beat and a droning taurus pedal note. The song itself has a very Egyptian feel musically and it really evolves quite nicely with some great soloing from Hackett. Time to Get Out, as the other reviewers of this album mentioned, is a more straightforward rock composition with some nice vocal harmonies and a great offering on the guitar from Steve Hackett. Certainly not prog, but not a bad piece of music at all. Slogans is the second best song on this album after The Steppes, in my opinion. A forboding keyboard tone in 5/8 introduces this song, and it really hits home with some great tapping work from Hackett and some brilliant keyboard work from Nick Magnus.

Leaving and Two Vamps as a Guest are musically linked tracks, with the first being a great harmony based flute/keyboard song and the second being the same motif from the first, but this time with an acoustic edge. Jacuzzi is another wonderful instrumental with some great swirling flute and guitar melodies that shift seamlessly between sections of 7/8 and 5/4. It's the third best song on the album right behind The Steppes and Slogans. Hammer in the Sand is another instrumental that is led by some wonderful piano work from Nick Magnus. Another truly outstanding song on this album. The Toast is a pretty commercial sounding track that has no real invention or even any little complexities from Hackett what so ever, it seems like a flagrant excuse for a hit single in my eyes. The Show carrys on the same vein of Time to Get Out, it's not the best song on the album, but a strong piece in the end. Sentimental Institution ends the album on a humorous note in the vein of Are You Ready Eddy? on ELP's Tarkus album. It's a bit of a comic number with some definite references to that 40s Jazz pop style and really ends the album on an uneven note.

In the end, Hackett's fourth studio album is seen in most fans eyes as a weak one, but I truly love this record. Granted it's not as good as Voyage of the Acolyte or Darktown, but it's certainly an achievement for Hackett. I'd rate it the same as Spectral Mornings, which is another fantastic record from the guitarist who seems to be all over the place stylistically. 4/5.

Report this review (#84237)
Posted Thursday, July 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Allright progheads, Today I put in DEFECTOR by STEVE HACKETT, leant myself back, closed my eyes and listened to the music and what I heard sounded dreamy, beautiful and diversified. I heard some pretty good guitar work and sometimes very beautiful flutes and the two last tracks right at the end of the album that didn't really fit in comparison to the rest of the album, though these songs were individually very nice. The last song sounded as if it was made in 1930, I guess this was intentional made that way, it reminded me on swing, whereas the rest of the album sounded very modern. While listening to the album I heard some wonderful piano work in the song "Hammer In The Sand" or some amazing guitar work in the song "Two Vamps as Guests" or "Time To Get Out" or "Slogans". I'll always bring it to my mind, that this album has something cryptic. However, I decided to give it 4 Stars because of the great instrumental work and the mood that enchants you at least in the first eight songs.
Report this review (#85247)
Posted Monday, July 31, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Probably my favorite of Steve's early albums. I think he really found his footing here with the rest of his band. It's a shame this lineup didn't record more albums. Vocally, Steve shines here. Although often not considered a great vocalist, he seems to do very well on this album. All the songs are incredible, and the musicianship is top notch. While Genesis was descending into pop mediocrity Steve was carrying the progressive torch. The music ranges from beautiful to dark, and always melodic. The atmosphere is also just right here. Definitley an essential Hackett album.
Report this review (#93288)
Posted Wednesday, October 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars "I can thrill her with Glenn Miller"

Steve Hackett's albums are so diverse in content, that you never know what to expect when approaching them. One album can be completely acoustic, the next a heavy, lead guitar driven selection.

"Defector" is nearer to the latter than the former. The opening bars of "The Steppes" with their plodding, deliberate back-beat, and soaring lead guitar indicate straight away that this is a "Voyage of the Acolyte" type album. the track is a striking instrumental with feedback on the guitar and a "Firth of fifth" type sound. This is one of several instrumentals of a similar style on the album, "Slogans", which seems to be a reworking of "Clocks" is another. "Jacuzzi", which opens side two is more upbeat, and slightly lighter, but of the same mould.

"Two vamps as guests" is not the spooky nightmare the title might suggest, but a gentle acoustic piece very similar to the intro to Genesis "Blood of the rooftops". "Hammer in the sand" is another strangely titled instrumental, the dominant piano featuring in a gentle, almost new age type arrangement.

In terms of the vocal tracks, the overt pop rock of "Time to get out" disguises some very cynical lyrics such as "23 and one half billion joints were smoked by Thursday.. Place your bets which side lives longer, time to get out while you can". "Leaving" sounds remarkably like a track by Camel, the reflective melody complementing the slightly off-key harmonics in the singing. "The toast" is a warm, slightly inebriated, slurring song which paints a picture of sitting by an open fire after a raucous evening.

"The show" strays dangerously close to the territory Genesis moved into after Hackett left, thus retaining his credibility. This and the closing "Sentimental institution", a cod war time song, are by far the weakest tracks on the album.

None of the tracks here is particularly long or indeed intricate. The album as a whole is not overtly prog, despite the presence of a number of instrumentals. As a whole, the songs are easily accessible and in their own way pleasant. Hence, while I enjoy the album when I hear it, I cannot in all honesty say it is one I listen to often. Good but unremarkable is probably the best description.

Report this review (#115708)
Posted Tuesday, March 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Hibou shares my thoughts about Defector: "It's not his best but without it, you'd be missing out on some essential HACKETT." On the whole this shortish album is not as great as the three earlier ones, but it has some very beautiful music on which the romantic and melancholic side of Hackett comes into perfection. You could call it the "Wind & Wuthering" atmosphere you get glimpses of from the Genesis album, the last one featuring Hackett. Out of ten tracks five is with vocals and even two of them, 'Leaving' and 'The Toast', are slow-tempo beauties with emphasis on that wuthering soundscape. Album's weakest spots to me are the faster songs 'Time to Get Out' and 'The Show', especially the latter. 'Sentimental Institution' sung by Pete Hicks is a humorous pastiche of really old entertainment song, probably a bore to an average progger but I feel sympathy for it.

On the instrumental side this is pure Hackett quality all the way. The powerful 'The Steppes' has became a concert classic. 'Two Vamps as Guests' is a nice acoustic guitar ballad. 'Jacuzzi' is a fast tune sounding like certain soli from Spectral Mornings. 'Hammer in the Sand' is a lovely moody piano-centred piece. If you dig Hackett enough to get more than a couple of his best albums, this is warmly recommended to get its place on the shelf next to Voyage of Acolyte and Spectral Mornings.

Report this review (#126385)
Posted Wednesday, June 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars point of inflexion for Mr. hackett. from now on he´s definitely leaving behind genesis and its last traces (steppes?). but in front of us we have a superb album, full of intimate feels and insight, as hackett use to. times a changing, heavy rock is in the scene and steve cant let its fingers "jacuzzi" and "the show"..i think a key of his sucess is letting his wife paint the front covers, of the albums, of these years...wel, master, what an inmense interior world you have there to show, to let us discover. many thanks and keep on, as usual. cheers, Luis
Report this review (#127493)
Posted Wednesday, July 4, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars It is always illadvised to think the loss of an individual isn't felt in a band, or that the deficit will be easily filled and unnoticed in the material. The reverse is also true; to assume a single musician's own work, reaching out with a more internal vision, will be less accomplished is frequently proven wrong. Often liberating, these solo projects can be a much more personal and intimate expression of an artist and for Defector, Steve Hackett demonstrates this with the same quiet expertise he brought to Genesis. The album suffers at times from an early 80s techno-box quality that cheapens the sound (including a few flirtations with outright disco), but mostly this is one of Hackett's better albums and it fixes a hole where the rain gets in.

Steve Hackett had been making solo records since 1975, so regardless of his tenure with his 'other' band, it was nothing new. And though both Voyage of the Acolyte and Spectral Mornings are first-rate sessions, this one is a touch more clear-headed and concise in its vision, and no less ambitious. 'The Steppes' opens on a soothing flute, rumbling awake with Dik Cadbury's bass and a most pleasing melody of layered guitars from our host, expanding over a grand landscape. 'Time to Get Out' tastes of later Genesis with springy arpeggios, bright pop appeal and a countrified solo, abruptly pushed aside by the militant 'Slogans' which features a hornet's nest of guitar pyrotechnics and Hackett's sense of restraint and musicality. Highly prog and full of movement, it seamlessly transitions to the sweet-sounding 'Leaving', a reflective vocal harmonic. The master's nylon-strings are showcased in the delicate 'Two Vamps as Guests', and 'Jacuzzi' is prime Hackett, handling the synths as well as guitars for some great symphonic rock that could easily be mistaken for Genesis circa 1973. 'Hammer in the Sand' is a tearful lament on piano, 'The Toast' is slow, drunken sentiment which becomes a salute to Erik Satie and refreshes the soul with its simple beauty. 'The Show' curbs this even flow with a cold dance beat and funky bass sounding like a play for radio appeal, and the hilarious 'Sentimental Institution' creaks with 1930s Americana, Victrola atmosphere and early jazz crooning.

Though bumpy at times and giving a sense of a work unfinished , Defector was one of the best prog offerings of 1980 and proves why Hackett's absence in his former band was deeply felt. Very nice.

Report this review (#130875)
Posted Tuesday, July 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars The last album of Hackett's first era as a solo artist. He would go in a different direction after this and would change labels in a few years due to disagreement over his direction.

Hackett comes back again with the same lineup. It is not as good as its predecessor and has some weaker tracks, though never bad ones. I should point out that this is a relative measure. Hackett is capable of amazing material and something weak for him is not necessarily bad at all. There are some great moments and songs mixed in. The highlights are "The Steppes". "Two Vamps as Guests", and "Jacuzzi". "Hammer in the Sand" is also excellent. "Slogans" is basically just a showpiece for Hackett's tapping ability (He did invent it after all (at least the use of it on a guitar)). Nonetheless, it is very entertaining. Overall, "Defector" is very decent.

Report this review (#146800)
Posted Wednesday, October 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Yes, Rock Music Should be Free, but it's Worth Less and Less..."

Great album this, I think. I actually prefer it to Spectral Mornings (yes, yes, heresy I know...).

It certainly lives up to Steve's normal diversity within his albums from outright prog (The Steppes) to near disco-ish pop (The Show) but don't be put off by the diversity I think it all blends magnificently.

Starting off in outright proggy mode is the excellent "The Steppes", very redolent of a lot of Steve's instrumental tracks it builds from a quiet beginning but is soon pounding with drums and guitars to a near ecstatic ending. Time to Get Out follows and is a lot more pop-orientated and accessible but it's a great track, a bit like The Show later on in the album it definitely is accessible melodic but there is something a bit more to it (they both also have great lyrics). The discordant "Slogans" follows and is a strange beast and takes a few listens to get used to but bear with it, it certainly has something different to it.

"Leaving" and "Two Vamps as Guests" are gentle tracks, "Two Vamps..." being an acoustic solo number (reminds me of a slowed down "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" for some reason), but Leaving is a gorgeous little tune, following from the hectic "Slogans".

Jacuzzi and Hammer in the Sand are two of my favourite Hackett tracks. Both instruments, Jacuzzi is a jolly upbeat tune, much favoured as TV background music a few years ago I remember, with sterling work by John Hackett on flute (actually the flute playing throughout the album is superb). Hammer in the sand is an altogether different beast, being a beautiful piano led tune.

"The Toast" is a song that appears to be about being inebriated as far as I can tell and again features superb flute and clarinet work in the middle section.

Finishing off with "Sentimental Institution" the spoof 1920s jazz song, shows a healthy sense of homour (Old and lovely, She's so wealthy, But so ugly, I've gone crazy, Someone help me do).

Report this review (#147132)
Posted Friday, October 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars The last album of Hackett's first era as a solo artist. He would go in a different direction after this one.This album represents one of the last truly great old school prog albums in my opinion. From here on , Hackett's work became more diverse and less 'prog' based than his previous albums. In the same vein with Spectral mornigs, but with a little darker aproach in some pieces, like on The Steppes, Hackett proves is one of the true guitar heroes of his time. So the best tracks are: The Steppes, Time to get Out and Jacuzzi. The members are all great here, the voice of Steve shines here. Although often not considered a great vocalist, he seems to do very well on this album. All in all a great album In Hackett style but non essential i think, 3 stars for this one, good no doubt but less enjoyble than previous ones.
Report this review (#147752)
Posted Sunday, October 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars In my opinion, Hackett's best album. I'll get right into it.

The Steppes: Eerie flute intro brings us into this heavy, pounding instrumental. the guitar and flute share the main melody, while the drums steadily move forward and the deep synth tones add sinisterness. there is a point where the synth joins the guitar and flute on the lead, but it doesnt last. the echoing drums are reminiscent of Peter Gabriel's 3rd solo album. the next part is introduced by a screaming lick, and sounds more distant and otherworldly. the mellotron is essential in creating this mood. soon its back to evil, however. the ending part of the song is a nice solo from Hackett, as he seems to be crying through his guitar. the hypnotic guitar theme repeated to the end does well to end this great song. some odd sounds lead us into...

Time to Get Out: a slight pop song, but with great guitar and keyboard to make up for it. the vocals are also beautiful. the bridge is also quite epic, with the pounding drums accompanying a great keyboard theme. the La la las are a little bit corny, but I do like this song, and it doesnt take away from the album. the outro is the bridge again, with some great leads from Hackett.

Slogans is by far the darkest, heaviest track on the abum, with frenetic drumming and dark riffs from the mellotron and guitar. this song literally scares the pants off you the first time you hear it, but listening to the solo guitar part, I am blown away once more by Hackett the axe master. he is using some kind of fingertapping and harmonizing with himself on the other halves of the strings. the flute is also following him for part of it. Then the great drum break followed by some weird sounding voices, and a reprise of the main theme. the ending theme sounds like something out of a tv show or videogame involving some epic quest, and this would be the final boss music. very interesting.

Leaving: a very atmospheric track that sounds a little like Entangled, from Genesis' "A Trick of the Tail" in that it is perfect sleep music. the guitar work is perfect here, and the vocal harmonies sound on par with Yes or the Beach Boys. The whole song has a bit of a dark feel, but not nearly as much as the last song.

Two Vamps as Guests: A classical interlude, alternating slow picking with extremely fast strumming in places. it moves from minor to major, and becomes a true classical composition in this way.

Jacuzzi: Nice, bouncy instrumental, with some great flute work accompanying the guitar and keyboard. the first part stays in a major key, but when the electric takes the lead, it gets slightly off, a foreboding kind of mood. Hackett is, as usual, on top of his game with the picking, and blasts us with a few blinding runs, and then some low down roars. However, the mood changes back to light and airy to end the song. One of of my favorites.

Hammer in the Sand: Piano-based instrumental, this song is so tear-jerking it nearly kills me. the piano is masterfully played, with some great runs as well as gorgeous melody. the mellotron moves in to back it, only emphasizing the sadness expressed. However, the chord lightly and unexpectedly changes to major and the song sounds more optimistic and happy, if notes can express feelings without words. the whole song is done by Nick Magnus, and what a job he does of it, creating an instrumental all his own.

The Toast: another slow, happy song, the vocals are dreamy and seem to be singing a lullaby in a very simple melody. the guitar is simple, but again, its a nice song to sleep to. the bridge is great, with a sad melody and flute that is so perfectly placed it has to be divine intervention. then the lullaby is reprised, and the song slowly ends.

The Show: kicks up right away with the bass sounding funky and some crazy guitar sounds. the synth comes in with the main melody and its great. a good dancing song, methinks, and very catchy as well. the bridge makes it sound like what the 80s would have sounded like had the musicians in the 80s been talented. it ends with some cool guitar tones from the man himself.

Sentimental Institution: Only Steve Hackett could have put these last 4 song on the same album: a piano/mellotron instrumental, a gorgeous lullaby, an 80s pop/funk tune, and a 50s ballad. The keyboard used here is great, the singer fits the song well, with the Louis Armstrong growl perfectly fitting where necessary.

Overall, a broad range of songs, all very well done, a perfect album for the last great guitarist from the 70s to keep making good music.

Report this review (#155247)
Posted Wednesday, December 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars The first three albums of Steve Hackett's solo career had shown to the listening public what a diverse and and accomplished artist he was. His first three classic albums were followed by a fourth, Defector, in which most of the first half of the album was themed around the cold war and the imagined experiences of a defector from the eastern block.

Defector starts off with a powerful epic instrumental, The Steppes. The piece starts off with a single flute, and the piece builds up to a pounding musical picture that evokes all the musical imagery of that desolate part of the world.

This is followed by Time to get out - why this was never released as a single I will never know - full of energy and great Vocals by Dik Cadbury and Pete Hicks made this fast paced rocker one of the highlights of the album.

Slogans, an instrumental, uses some great guitar techniques and Leaving uses multi layered vocals to evoke an atmpospheric almost dream like quality to this song, which the guitar work builds on effectively.

Two Vamps as guests is another accomplished classical guitar piece by Steve.

Jacuzzi is a lively track with John Hackett prominent on flute, and Hammer in the Sand is an unusual venture for Steve in that this almost classical number is written for concert grand piano rather than his customary guitar. The mixing of the Phrophet 5 and Mellotron produces an accompanying ochestra effect that makes this a memorable and moving track.

The next track The Toast is one of my all time favourite tracks. The song is a reminiscence of past loves and regrets and has a beautiful sadness to it. The song is broken in the middle with a Sate' -like waltz with John on flute.

The Show was released as a single, but didn't sound like a typical Steve Hackett track - this was more commercial than most of his other work, and hinted at what would come in his next album, Cured. I'm still not sure about this track - it sometimes seems too ponderous, and would have been better replaced by Time to get out as a single.

The original album ended on a humerous note sentimental Institution which uses an Optigan to achieve an effect of an old 78 record. Great Lousis armstrong impersonation by Pete Hicks!

The remastered version has 5 bonus tracks - live versions of The Steppes, Sentimental Institution, Slogans and CLocks - the angel of Mons, and a studio recording of Hercules unchained. The live tracks are always welcome additions, as Steve is always in top form live, and Hercules Unchained almost sounds like an iron maiden/def leppard track - you would never think Steve Hacket had written this!

This marked the last great studio rock album of Steve Hacketts early career. It was only in 1999 with Dark Town that Steve again reached the level of consistency he had attained in his first four albums. He has since continued to produce great symphonic rock albums in the latter parts of his career (To Watch the Storms and Wild Orchids), which would make me suggest that if you want to listen to Steve at his best pick from his first 4 albums and his last three albums.

Report this review (#156665)
Posted Wednesday, December 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Steve's albums are not really consistent : brilliant, average, excellent. This is my opinion about his first three albums till "Defector".

This one holds several good tracks but the awful "Time To Get Out" is rather disappointing. If ever he left "Genesis" for their new commercial approach, I wonder where is the difference with such a poor track.

At this time of his career, I guess that Steve was looking for some directions and wasn't maybe aware of the best one to follow. "Jacuzzi" sounds as an Oldfield piece of music (but features some pleasant mellotron). If you would except the poor intro, it is not bad after all.

"Two Vamps As Guests" brings us back in the old days ("Horizons") and is a subtle piece. I guess that we have to thank him for this delicate moment. There are some fine melodies as well available on "Defector". "Hammer In The Sand" for instance. A mix of an almost classical piece with some enjoyable and aerial keyboards. Very emotional.

This album holds no true great songs. No masterpiece, for sure. Even if "The Steppes" and "Slogans" are good tracks, they don't reach the level of the great "Star Of Sirius", "Shadow Of The Hierophant" from "Voyage" or "Clocks" and "Spectral Mornings".

Instead, another poor one with "The Show" (really unbearable). On par with some poor "Genesis" production from the eighties (yes, that poor). Synthetic, repetitive. Press next to avoid this nightmare!

All songs are short formatted. As the album. Three stars is really the maximum I can rate this work but five out of ten is probably closer to my feelings. The closing "Sentimental Institution" is another very weak song.

Report this review (#159756)
Posted Friday, January 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album starts brilliantly, and ends......well, not so brilliantly.

The Steppes is a great Hackett instrumental, displaying much of the style and substance of the title track of the previous album. The rest of the album, however, doesn't do as much for me. Once again, Pete Hicks takes the vocal slot, with Hackett doing a bit of singing as well. The album is consistent, but unfortunately for me, this isn't as good a thing as it was on the last album. Still, this is by no mean bad and I would rank it above Please Don't Touch on the whole (even if the that album has a couple tracks I like more than anything on this album).

Frankly I'm finding it hard to recall details of each song, despite having heard the album just 2 days ago, so I won't do a song by song review. The exceptions are the opener, which I discussed a bit above, and the closer, which I generally don't listen to. It is a song I don't really understand the purpose of and simply find a bit annoying to listen to. However, the rest of the songs are up to Hackett's usual standards and certainly are quality material (with the now obligatory classical guitar piece being one of the highlights).

On the whole, I think this album rates about a 4, with one star off for the final track. It is much more consistent than Please, but less appealing to me than Spectral. So a worthy addition to any Hackett collection, and probably to any prog collection as long as you've heard Spectral (or Voyage) first. After this it seems Hackett would take something of a dip in quality, judging from the ratings for the next couple of albums. I have not heard those so can not judge. But if this is the case I suppose this was a good way to end his initial quite good 4 album run.

Report this review (#171732)
Posted Tuesday, May 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars "Perfector"

Even if I consider myself a major fan of Steve Hackett, I have been relatively critical of his early solo albums, especially Please Don't Touch and Voyage Of An Acolyte. Even though these albums had several Hackett classics, they were, in my opinion, severely inconsistent and uneven. One problem with them was due to utilizing too many different vocalists, some of which were totally wrong for Hackett's music, and also displaying too many different musical styles, only some of which really fitted with the rest of Hackett's music. All these factors gave the impression of an artist not knowing in which direction he wanted to go. On his third album, Spectral Mornings, Hackett finally began to better find his own musical identity and that album certainly constituted an improvement over the first two. However, Spectral Mornings still suffered from some of the same problems and despite some excellent tracks, that album as a whole did not reach excellent status in my book.

Defector is a bit more consistent and in that sense it was Hackett's best album up till that point! Almost everything on Defector is excellent, but perhaps not quite matching the very best couple of tracks from Spectral Mornings. The dark, mystical, Far Eastern-flavoured instrumental The Steppes is great, and has been in Steve's live set many times up till the present day. The Pop/Rock songs Time To get Out and The Show are in many ways forerunners to what Steve would do on his next album, Cured (not at all as bad as some people say!). Leaving and The Toast are vocal-based numbers that reminds me of more recent Hackett material such as Serpentine Song and In Memoriam (from To Watch The Storms and Darktown respectively).

Jacuzzi is a great Jazz-Rock/Fusion type work-out in typical Hackett fashion while Hammer In The Sand is a very beautiful, mellow piano-based composition. Not too common on Hackett albums. Two Vamps As Guests is a very typical Hackett Classical guitar piece that interestingly starts with a reprise of the melody from The Steppes - beautiful but hardly his best piece in this style. However, it does contribute to the very appealing diversity of this album. Like The Steppes, also Slogans, Jacuzzi and Hammer In The Sand from this album have made it into Steve's recent live sets.

The only real low point of the album is the closing number, Sentimental Institution. This 30's/40's style song is a throwaway and occupies the same role on this album as The Ballad Of The Decomposing Man did on Spectral Mornings. The vocals on this one is done by Steve himself (while the other vocals on this album still was by Pete Hicks) and I get the feeling that up till and including this album Steve often needed humour to make him feel comfortable as a singer. On the next album, Cured, Steve would gain a complete new confidence in the vocal department and do all the vocals himself for the first time. Maybe the title of that album refers to being cured from his previous vocal inhibitions? But since this song comes at the end, it doesn't disrupt the flow of the album.

Overall, Defector is a great album that very well represents Steve Hackett's early career; it sums up very well what he had been doing on his previous albums but leaves out most of those albums deficiencies. The primary influences are Jazz, Folk and Classical and perhaps you could say that the sound here is closer to those influences than on many other Hackett albums. The mood is a bit darker and the music a bit more mellow here and Steve's brother John Hackett's wonderful flutes are heavily featured.

Defector is one of Steve's best ever albums and it is an excellent addition to any Prog collection

Report this review (#185595)
Posted Tuesday, October 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars With this fourth studio effort, Steve Hackett bid his farewell to the 70s, and his musica lstrategy was mostly going headlong for a continuation of the sound and moods that had made his previous release "Spectral Mornings" such an accomplished progressive opus. This time, "Defector" didn't match tha tsort of greatness, but still deserves to be justly labelled as a Hackett classic. All in all, this album exposes an emphasis on the rockier side of Maestro Hackett, which in places spins a turn into the pop side of things, which directly affects the width of the room given to his pastoral/acoustic side. So, let's go for the tracklist itself, shall we? 'The Steppes' opens up the album with an eerie mood that may somehow remind us of the preceding album's title track but, in comparison, 'The Steppes' delivers a punchier vibe based on the melodic motif's exotic ambience, while 'Spectral Mornings' was a demonstration of sheer eerieness. The majestic beginning is followed by a more easy-going piece, 'Time to Get Out', which kind of reminds me of the sort of prog- pop tunes that Camel usually came up with increasingly since the end of the Bardens-era. Good stuff, indeed, not lost in the standard frivolity of pop but properly ornamented with tastefully constructed solos and an ordained rhythmic structure. Later on, the also poppish (even poppier) 'The Show' handles this scheme more directly, which means that it doesn't enjoy the same level of musical inventiveness: it is a pity, since this joyful song might as well have used a more expanded arrangement. But let's recover our procedure and go for 'Slogans', a superb gem from this album: this piece is a daughter of 'The Towers' and a niece of 'Tigermoth', an exhibition of psychedelic progressive architecture with ample room for guitar tapping, providing an overall sinister mood. The piece is firmly constructed but it doesn't deter it from becoming authentically muscular. The adequate contrast comes in with the segued acoustic ballad 'Leaving', which sets things on mysterious ground while remaining warm. The coda 'Two Vampires As Guests' is a lovely classica lguitar solo piece, a delightful coda for the album's first half. The second half starts with another highlight - 'Jacuzzi'. This delightful composition is yet another perfect example of typical Hackett progressive voice: inspired melodies, stylish developments and a clever use of sundry adornments in pure symphonic style. This is a hard trick to follow, but then come 'Hammer in the Sand' and 'The Toast', two slow pieces that keep the majestic ambience going: the former features a piano basis and a marriage of guitar-synth and mellotron layers, the latter being more akin to acoustic Genesis (12-string guitar and all). The closer 'Sentimental Institution' is a funny old-style jazz song that sounds like a very old vinyl single: it's all about the Optigan, a pet keyboard of hackett himself. Well, here we have yet another fine musical work by Hackett, the last one of what many call his classic era.
Report this review (#239403)
Posted Tuesday, September 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars I really like "Defectror"...cover is incredible and also the music is on the top notch!...I was haunted since the flute intro of "The Steppes"..and then many beatiful melodies and voices tottaly catch my imagination...

I would describe the mood of record as "vampyric", so this album is unique - 100% vampyric prog, full of magic sounds and inspiration of S.Hackett band!

All songs are excellent in arrangements, maybe except "The Toast" - the same verse repeats 2 times, that was a strange decision, Steve should compose one more couplet for this song or reduce its lenght.

"Slogans" is fantastic song, very complex and fast, vocal phrase in the middle is really scary!

"Leaving" is magic song, vocals and melodies absolutely otherwordly.

"Two Vamps As Guests" classic guitar masterpiece.

Can't stop playing this album for fifteen years! Thanks a lot mr.Hackett!

Report this review (#244657)
Posted Wednesday, October 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars What a pleasant surprise! Considering that most people consider Spectral Mornings to be Steve Hackett's best album, they seem to have forgotten to mention that Defector equally great!

Well, I would say that it's debatable whether Spectral Mornings is all what the fans give it credit for. But the thing I don't understand is why this particular release is rated so poorly in comparison. It's just as much of a mixed bag as it's predecessor and, although some of the lesser material, both of the albums manage to come up on top in the end. What's not to like when the album kicks off by a great opener The Steppes and continues on with a nice mix of instrumentals and vocal-driven ballads. Hackett may not cover any new ground but I'm satisfied as long as the song writing is at a decent level.

Slogans might be just another composition in the same style as pieces like Please Don't Touch and Clocks (The Angel Of Mons) but I welcome this type of material any day over the quirky works like Sentimental Institution or The Ballad Of The Decomposing Man. I never really appreciated Hackett's fascination with contemporary pieces from the '30s and '40s although the bonus track live performance on this album does make it sound a whole lot genuine in a live setting.

Defector is the second in line Hackett-album that manages to get away with a weak excellent rating which considering Steve Hackett's work in the '80s is still quite a solid achievement indeed.

***** star songs: Slogans (3:42) Jacuzzi (4:35)

**** star songs: The Steppes (6:04) Time To Get Out (4:11) Leaving (3:18) Two Vamps As Guests (1:58) Hammer In The Sand (3:09) The Show (3:40)

*** star songs: The Toast (3:41) Sentimental Institution (2:32)

Total rating: 4,06

Report this review (#254713)
Posted Monday, December 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars Having scored some commercial and critical success with "Spectral Mornings", STEVE HACKETT more or less maintained the formula with "Defector", which was relatively easy to accomplish given the continuing presence of a dedicated backing band. It was the dawn of the 1980s, and the fat synths of that decade were starting to creep in, and the tendency to arrange electronically rather than acoustically was in vogue, but quality songs and instrumentals with an abundance of progressive character remain the norm.

"The Steppes" is a superb opening piece in which Hackett seems to borrow rhythmically from his old GENESIS buddies, particularly MIke Rutherford, and tosses in some icy cold and sinister eastern European licks on guitar. Part of the melody rivals Ravel, and this one seems to accomplish what the title cut to "Spectral Mornings" could not, in less time. The other star instrumental is "Jacuzzi", a much cheerier and swifter piece but equally well arranged. "Slogans" might have been in the same league if it wasn't so aligned with "Clocks" off its antecedent. "Hammer in the Sand" and "Two Vamps as Guests" round out the full complement of Hackett styles, be they atmospheric "Wind and Wuthering" oriented interludes or classical guitar centered delectables.

Then there are the vocal tracks, from the quirky hard pop of "Time to Get Out", which starts oddly like "Lamb Lies Down", to the reflective and spacey ballads "Leaving" and "The Toast", which include substantial unsung parts. The weaker moments occur on "Sentimental Institution" where again he resorts to novelty song to mask lead singer anxiety, and the unctuous pop of "The Show", which would be better developed on the subsequent "Cured".

If you are a fan of late 1970s GENESIS or HACKETT but have avoided his 80s work on principle or because die-hards insist it isn't worth the effort, it's time you defect to our camp and enjoy the amenities.

Report this review (#258964)
Posted Saturday, January 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
2 stars Hackett's preceding albums had clearly shown that he didn't have a strong grip on his song writing deficiencies. Also this Defector wobbles between great instrumental tracks and awful pop songs with vocals.

The Steps kicks off strongly with a solemn and dramatic guitar piece. It's a bit over the top orchestral but that suits the track rather well. Also Slogans is a fascinating instrumental, very dark and menacing, a vibe similar to A Tower Struck Down from his solo debut. Leaving is one of the few interesting sung tracks, very soothing and mellow, and just a hunch of sweet melancholy. It is followed by the mandatory classical guitar study, amazing really how Hackett can build this atmosphere with just an acoustic guitar and a bit of eerie reverb.

The contrast with the pedestrian instrumental Jacuzzi or with badly written commercial songs like Time to Get Out and The Show couldn't be bigger. Hackett suffers from a creative standstill, resorting too much to sounds and melodies he had visited before. Hammer In The Sand and The Toast aren't bad new age pieces but can hardly be called a thrilling listening experience.

On the whole, this is slightly better then Please Don't Touch, but not very much. 2.5 stars.

Report this review (#261058)
Posted Saturday, January 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is the 2nd Hackett solo project with this lineup. This is also decidedly more of a Hackett project than a band project. "The Steppes" is a good example of what I am referring to. It is a good song, but like "Spectral mornings" it doesn't have that much going on, which makes it too long of a prog song. That is what makes prog what it is. For me, the ideal prog song is one where there is something different going on about every ten seconds or so. Of course there are acceptable variations, but for the most part nobody wants to keep hearing one or two chords over and over for thirty minutes! I am certain the music industry would die very quickly if we had to put up with that all the time.

Some of the tunes I really liked on "Defector" are, "Jacuzzi," "Two Vamps as guests" [a classic guitar solo], "The Toast," and "The Show." The last one being geared toward top 40 audiences.

I didn't like "Hammer in the Sand" or "Sentimental instution." The first one was like "The steppes," but it was very boring to me. The last song sounded like Steve went back to the roaring twenties and found a crappy ballad, and decided to bore his listeners even further. Some of the other songs are not that memorable to me. This album was, to say the least, very disappointing. I know Mr. Hackett is capable of much better material than that. I give this one 2.5 stars. It will get 3 stars for the archives, but I don't recomend that anyone waste their money on it.

Report this review (#276072)
Posted Saturday, April 3, 2010 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
4 stars Slightly inferior to the previous Spectral Mornings, but still a very fine prog album by one of the most influential guitarrists ever. That´s the concluion I get after several days listening to this CD. Muy remastered version has a very clean sound and five bonus tracks, mostly live versions of tracks from Defector plus Clocks from Spectral Mornings. They don´t really add much, but nice anyway. Defector is one of Hackett´s works that is better appreciated when heard as a whole instead of a track by track analisis. Ok, it is, like anything Hackett released, quite varied and with ups (many) and downs (few). But to me only the last tune, Sentimental Institution (a spoof on 1930´s style music complete with scratching sounds) sounds out of place here.

It won´t grab you like Spectral Mornings, it takes longer to really sink in, but once it does, you cannot help but enjoy this record very much (at least for a symphonic prog fan like me). The instrumental parts are specially tasteful and very well done. The vocal parts are a bit more on the commercial side, but not much (see Time To Get Out). But let´s remember that this kind of music was completely out of fashion in 1980 and I´m quite surprised it was realeased at all! So I guess S H was trying to adapt somehow. The 80´s synth sound was beginning to creep in. Yet, Defector is pretty much a symphonic prog album of high caliber. His band was in top form and his trademark guitar sound still intact.

Conclusion: one of SH´s top albums, no less. Not the better one, but excellent anyway. It stood very well the test of time, even if in 1980 it surely must have sounded too 70´s for most people. 4 strong stars.

Report this review (#301492)
Posted Friday, October 1, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Steve Hacketts is my favourite solo artist not just in prog but in all genres, he offers diversity on all his albums that really does deliver something for everyone, voyage of the acolyte through to spectral mornings his music kept getting better and better and in this album Defector we see another fantastic effort. This album is every bit as good as spectral mornings with his songwriting abilities improving, a segment of the album dedicated to the classic nylon guitar solo pieces we associate so much with steve which are every bit as impressive as they are beautiful. The albums opener The Steppes is a typical powerful Hackett instrumental similar to Please Don't Touch and Clocks. This album really has something for everybody whether it be symphonic prog, rock songs, acoustic guitar or jazz fusion guitar tracks, Defector is one of Steves finest offerings and a must have.
Report this review (#305219)
Posted Monday, October 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team
2 stars A very disappointing album that continued Steve's slide into obtuse and totally unique and idiosyncratic song crafting that had started with Please Don't Touch and Spectral Mornings (on which he had been successful). Defector just left us turned off and turned away. One great albiet brief song, "Hammer in the Sand" (3:11) (9/10), and two good songs, "Jacuzzi" (4:36) (8/10) and "The Steppes" (6:05) (9/10) cannot keep this one afloat. It sinks into ignominy where it belongs. The next album, Cured, brought him a little back toward the fold of accessibility, but then things fell apart again until his classical Bay of Kings. Don't be a defector, steer away from Defector. You'll thank me later.

P.S. Does anyone really like the art of Kim Poor?

Report this review (#406681)
Posted Wednesday, February 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars Every time I listen to Defector, I always end up concluding that this album isn't as good as Steve Hackett's previous releases. Along with Spectral Mornings, this album suffers from the plastic '80s sound. The composition and guitar playing is just fine, if not great. But unlike Spectral Mornings, absolutely nothing stands out to me. When I listen to this album, I'm hearing all of the bells-and-whistles symphonic progressive rock sounds, but I frequently get bored in between the few passages where Steve Hackett really lets his playing fly high. If you enjoyed Spectral Mornings a lot, I'd at least give a listen. Otherwise, Voyage of the Acolyte is probably the best Hackett album.
Report this review (#431199)
Posted Monday, April 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars A wonderful refinement and polishing of the approach Hackett took on Spectral Mornings, Defector finds the guitarist in fine form, playing in styles ranging from the soaring progressive rock of the opening track to the New Wave-influenced The Show. Sentimental Institution is the novelty track this time around - and unlike The Ballad of the Decomposing Man from the previous album, it doesn't outstay its welcome (being just over two minutes long) and is pleasant to listen to. On balance, then, this has all the finer qualities of its predecessor without being marred by a seriously substandard song in the middle of the running order, making it an ideal companion piece to that album.
Report this review (#565500)
Posted Thursday, November 10, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars For the longest time, I simply viewed Defector as an inferior sequel to the spectacular Spectral Mornings. However, in hindsight, this was a very unfair opinion about the album. While this album can be viewed as a sequel to Spectral Mornings, it is a very fine album in it's own right. It is also a gem because this album was made at the very beginning of the eighties. While many prog contemporaries were moving to pop, we still see Hackett holding on to his roots, despite some of the "pop-rock" songs. Just like his previous three albums, Defector contains many tracks that are easily classics in Hackett's repertoire.

The album kicks open with The Steppes. A solemn flute opens the piece before the pounding drums come in. While the title of the song would have listeners think otherwise, the song sounds as if one was going on a difficult journey through the mountains. Hackett's guitar work is fantastic as usual. He has always seemed to be the most comfortable when he is writing instrumentals. The song then segues (slightly) into Time to Get Out, a humorous baroque-pop piece. While many might say this song (and others on this album) are sowing the seeds of what would soon be Hackett's experimentation with pop, it is an enjoyable and well done piece.

Slogans is this album's Clocks (The Angel of Mons). While Clocks was more mysterious and ethereal, Slogans is more energetic and rambunctious. The song is filled with many sinister and anxious keyboards/guitar passages. The song then segues into the quiet Leaving, which one would think was a lost Camel song if it were not for the vocals. Though both songs are enjoyable themselves, it is better to listen to them together. It is like watching a raging battle and then seeing the tragic aftermath of that battle.

Two Vamps as Guests, despite the title, is a calm classical guitar piece in vein of Horizons. Jacuzzi and Hammer in the Sand are probably two of Hackett's most underrated instrumentals. The former combines rock, jazz, pop, and classical to give the listener a feeling that they actually are sitting in a jacuzzi witnessing the sunset at the beach. The latter is a beautiful classical (almost new-age) piano driven piece filled with calming strings and Hackett's violin-esque guitar playing.

At first, I did not like The Toast, thinking it was far too ambient for me. Eventually, the more I listened to it, the more I grew to enjoy it. The song is soft in the vein of Leaving, but has a more uplifting feel in contrast to the melancholy of Leaving. The Show is another enjoyable pop-rock piece. While the same criticism is given to this song as TTGO, Hackett is able to do these songs very well. The powerful bass and synths give the song an upbeat "celebratory" feel.

Unfortunately, the album ends on a low note with Sentimental Institution. The song is this album's Ballad of a Decomposing Man. However, the song fails to achieve either the macabre and sarcastic nature of the lyrics or the quirky vintage sound of the 20's in the music (it is there, but very very boring).

I want to give this album five stars, due to fantastic pieces such as The Steppes, Jacuzzi, and Hammer in the Sand. However, the weakness of the closing song forces me to lower the rating down to 4 stars. But I will bump the album score up a little bit since it is just one (short) piece that it brings down the rating.

4.5 stars total. Essential for Hackett fans and 70's progressive rock fans.

Report this review (#888421)
Posted Saturday, January 5, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars The most striking thing about this album to me is how clearly it was made in the 80s, despite being made only a year after Spectral Mornings (which sounds like it could have been made at any time in the second half of the 70s). There's a shiny gloss on everything that wasn't even hinted at previously, and while some of the tracks would have sounded perfectly at home on previous albums (albeit if with different production), some of the tracks betray their contemporary influences too much to be imagined in a previous era. Steve's usual pattern of going about 50/50 with instrumental and non-instrumental material remains, but there are definitely significant shifts to be found.

The non-instrumental tracks are fairly sparse in the first 70% of the album (five of the first seven tracks are instrumental), though the album ends with three pieces with vocals to compensate. Neither "Time to Get Out" nor "Leaving" is especially strong in terms of melody or other standard measures of song quality, but they're both very pleasant and make me glad that I'm listening to them when they're on. "Time to Get Out," for seemingly like a pretty chill song on the surface, has a lot of hustle-bustle in the details (becoming most apparent in the little nagging synth riff in the breaks that feels like it's going twice as fast as it really is), and I really like the simple guitar additions in the last 30 seconds or so. "Leaving" never jumps out in any particular moment, but it's a combination of pretty and sad that I like a lot, and there are some haunting atmospherics in some of the vocal and synth parts that definitely don't sound like anything Hackett had done to this point. Among the ending group, "The Toast" is a moderately go-nowhere ballad, and the album doesn't gain much from its inclusion (its best part is a tender flute part, but it's not one of the more moving flute parts on a Hackett album so far), but "The Show" is a great disco-influenced pop song with a marvelous synth riff (if this is a guilty pleasure, then lock me up), and the closing "Sentimental Institution" is a retro (as in, from the 20s or 30s) jazzy ballad, made to sound as authentic and old-timey as possible. No, these don't make for the same kind of rousing conclusion as Steve managed on the last album, but I kinda like that Steve switched things up so much.

Among the instrumentals, one is great and four are good. The opening "The Steppes" makes Steve's guitar the star right away, but in a vastly different way from "Spectral Mornings." The best comparison for the track, I think, is one I never see mentioned by anybody; unless I'm completely delusional, the track bears the strong influence of Bowie's "Warszawa," coming within a hair of quoting it repeatedly. Where Bowie took its mournful theme and built a half-ambient piece around it (though eventually sticking in some wordless vocals in the second half), though, Steve sticks to this track's own theme (a dark, heavy guitar lick with a serious Eastern tinge) for about half of the track before allowing the second half to alternate between the main theme and various expansive solos based around the theme. No, it's not as good as "Spectral Mornings," but it makes for a hell of an opener.

A couple of tracks later comes "Slogans," which is just dark goofy fun. Beyond the main riff (which opens the piece and then appears after an incomprehensible distorted voice in the middle that I've decided is saying "Beware the mighty Megatron!"), which I suppose is supposed to be ominous but ends up being a little silly, the song is ultimately a giant guitar/synth noodle, but in the hands of Steve there's enough in the way of restraint and interesting tricks to keep it enjoyable. The side-closing "Two Vamps as Guests" isn't an amazing acoustic instrumental on its own, but I like the way it works in quotes from "The Steppes" and "Leaving" without drawing too much attention to them, and I enjoy it plenty in context. "Jacuzzi," which opens side two, is the necessarily happy and uplifting balance to "The Steppes," and while Steve's guitar parts have nice moments, the star of the piece is definitely John's flute, especially when it's featured on top of the keyboards. I guess a lot of it (especially in the second half) could be dismissed as a bit too close to late 70s Jethro Tull, but that wouldn't knock it down too far in my eyes. And finally, "Hammer in the Sand" is a (mostly) keyboard piece that sounds a lot like solo Rick Wakeman at its most tasteful, and Steve's guitar contributions come in the form of atmospheric texture in the second half. I like it!

No, this isn't an amazing album, but it's a really good one, and it shows that, just as with his former bandmates, he could have a relatively smooth transition into the new decade. Granted, things got a little rocky later on, and a lot of the open-armed embracing of contemporary technology will seem a little jarring to somebody more oriented to the sounds of earlier years, but other than the relative shortage of essential classics (even "Jacuzzi," as much as I like it, isn't quite a classic, and neither is "Slogans" or, as much as I'd like to tell myself it is, "The Show"), I can't think of much in the way of bad things to say about this album. There are better Hackett albums for sure, but not that many.

Report this review (#897816)
Posted Wednesday, January 23, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Surprisingly for a deeply artistic work, ''Spectral mornings'' would reach No.9 in the UK album charts and even had a decent praise in the United States, climbing to No.138.Good thing for Hackett was that the new line-up he established was dedicated to his works, so he could eventually tour with comfort and in August 1979 he even played at the famous Reading Festival.The result was that by the recordings of his fourth album no line-up changes had occured, the only change being the studio (Wessex Sound Studios, London).Another product of the Charisma label, ''Defector'' would see the light of day in June 1980.

The 80's virus could not pass by Steve Hackett's works, so ''Defector'' opens a new era for the great British guitarist/composer.His new album has this dreamy, smooth approach of many British acts of the early-80's, somewhat abandoning any powerful, symphonic orchestrations and increasing its Pop sensibilities.The result was an album, consisting of short tracks with balanced work on guitars and keyboards, instrumental and vocal moments, intricate and accesible material.At times it sounds like a combination of IQ early offerings with a slight GENESIS vibe in the more symphonic-inclined material and ALAN PARSON'S PROJECT around the same time with plenty of poppy vocals and flexible melodies.Of course the album remains highly professional, flirting always with Hackett's prog roots, offering lots of dramatic instrumental parts with some marvelous guitar work and bombastic keyboards.But the overall result is very close to Neo Prog, having a less emphatic symphonic mood and a greater sense of melody.The flutes of John Hackett and the classical guitar of Steve retain some of the folky underlines as heard in his previous work, especially during the pair of mellow instrumental pieces at the second half of the album.It is just that the listener was not actually used to such strong use of synths and poppy vocal tunes by Hackett.

Not exactly an uneven album.In fact ''Defector'' sounds pretty balanced overall, but it is a work with a discreet 80's feeling compared to Hackett's previous albums.Even so, the good material is sufficient enough to recommend it to all fans of Progressive Rock.

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Posted Sunday, May 11, 2014 | Review Permalink

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