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Steve Hackett - Till We Have Faces CD (album) cover

TILL WE HAVE FACES

Steve Hackett

Eclectic Prog


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chrlsalvrz@ao
4 stars Excellent album. Steve's experimentaions with ethnic percussion sections within a couple of track are stunning. The blues-ish "Let Me Count The Way" is unlike anything ever heard previous from Steve and the rockers actually are entertaining. Charles

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#26178)
Posted Wednesday, March 31, 2004 | Review Permalink
greenback
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Honorary Collaborator
2 stars This album contains many exotic percussion (Latino). Keyboards remind me the ordinary stuff of Patrick Moraz's solo career. Many songs bits sound like Latino fiesta music. We cannot talk bout hits. "Taking the Easy Way Out" is a smooth, soft sentimental piece which give a little wanted break for the rather irritating songs.

My rating: 2 1/2 stars

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Send comments to greenback (BETA) | Report this review (#26180)
Posted Monday, July 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
luile3@hotmai
3 stars This is one of Steve Hacketts best received collection of songs. It is clearly influenced by Brazilian music, since he was in Brazil at that time. It is interesting but it seems a little difficult to mix. Still "Matilda" and "Let me count the ways" stand out.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#26181)
Posted Sunday, December 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars An off day in the quality control department

"Till we have faces" may well be Steve Hackett's most commercial offering of his entire solo career. Unfortunately, what it demonstrates above all is: a) Hackett's value was far greater as a member of Genesis, and b) He's not that good at making commercially orientated music.

I'm not saying this album is bad, it is not by any means, but this is the sort of music which is regularly churned out by any number of rock star wannabees. The vocals are dull, and despite a certain amount of processing, undistinguished. Hackett's forte, his guitar prowess, is largely hidden in a mish-mash of synthesisers and dance rhythms.

Tracks such as "A doll that's made in Japan" and "Myopia" have catchy themes, but then so do many dance anthems. What they lack is anything original or appealing. Hackett certainly moves through different styles, there's the jazz funk intro to "What's my name", the freeform guitar on "Matilda.", the Led Zeppelin style blues rock of "Let me count the ways", and the brief lullaby "When you wish upon a star" to close. The afore mentioned "Matilda.." (Full title "Matilda Smith-Williams home for the aged") is a lengthy, more ambitious track with nuances of Yes' "Gates of delirium" and "Ritual".

The better tracks include "Stadiums of the damned", a softer ballad style piece, with a Pink Floyd/Camel feel; "The Rio connection" which has a striking theme, although the Camel like vocals are average at best, and "Taking the easy way out" with its "Clocks" like start leading into a Roger Waters type vocal and repetitive chant.

This is by no means a solo album, Hackett calls in the assistance of many fine musicians, throughout. Unfortunately, he did not present them with a plethora of great material with which to work. For me, Hackett will always be best when he is part of a team of equals. His days with Genesis are long since gone, but his more recent "Genesis revisited" project demonstrated that in the right situation, and with the right material, he can be up there with the best. On his own though, he misses the quality control needed to ensure that only the best material is allowed to be included on his final products.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#26182)
Posted Tuesday, March 01, 2005 | Review Permalink
Matti
COLLABORATOR
Neo-Prog Team
1 stars As I've lately refreshed my relationship with Hackett's music with many surprisingly fine albums, it is strange to think he has done an album of this low quality. Hackett is not at home at all in this commercial effort. Guests include a group of Brazilian musicians and Ian Mosley (who joined Marillion that year). I had this LP some 17 years ago and the only song that I liked was 'Taking the Easy Way Out'; it's the only one with a glimpse of that certain Hackett beauty, even if it's a bit too sweet ballad. 'Let Me Count the Ways' tries to be a nice blues ballad but sounds too lifeless to be that. Most songs are horribly bad. I dare say (after hearing most of his albums) that this is definitely his worst ever. I give this only one star, but all in all I rate Hackett VERY high as a guitarist and a composer. Everybody fails sometimes.

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Send comments to Matti (BETA) | Report this review (#26183)
Posted Tuesday, May 03, 2005 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Speaking for general music buffs, this one was a significant drop compared to "Spectral Mornings". It's not that all tracks are bad but it represented Steve Hackett's musical push towards what so called "world music" which the term itself has confused me even until now. It seems to me whenever a music is full with percussions than it is called "world music". It also happened with Peter Gabriel fourth album when he used percussions in many of his compositions in that album, people called it world music. I disagree with this narrow definition as the world music should not always be limited to the extensive use of percussions but it should also cover the extent to which ethnical music elements that are used in the composition for example Balinese gamelan,etc. Germany musician Eberhard Schoener had explored the world music style in his "Bali Agung" album sometime in the nineties. No one called it as world music but actually it is.

For this album Steve tried to embrace the Brazilian music into his compositions using local Brazilian musicians. All works were done in Brazil but the final mixing was done back in the UK. The fallacy, I would say, that Steve has made with this album was that he took the Brazilian music nakedly. He did not really polish them and combine it smoothly with his music style. What's the point of having this CD if we are only offered with a pure Brazilian music. It's better purchasing the real Brazilian music. It happens to the opening track "What's My Name" that comprises percussion work and it's so boring. Sadly, this is an album opener.

But, don't get me wrong; there are good tracks here. "Let Me Count The Ways" is Steve's interpretation and love of blues. "A Doll That's Made In Japan" is another good track worth listening to. "Myopia" is a rocking track with stunning guitar work. "Taking The Easy Way Out" is another good one.

One chief reason for me purchasing this CD was: I love Steve' guitar work and music; so I have to complete all albums he has ever released. For me this is a good album even though not essential - of course! Suggestion-wise, I don't think I would recommend you to purchase this CD - unless you are completionist. BTW, I also love the cover design and artwork by Kim Poor, Steve's wife. This album was dedicated by Steve to Kim - it's a very personal album for him, I guess. My CD is an enhanced CD that contains additional 20 bonus MP3 tracks and video footage. This album is good for collectors only and it's not a bad album. Keep on proggin' ..!

Progressively yours, GW

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#37692)
Posted Saturday, June 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
chessman
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This album is usually considered, along with 'Cured' as Hackett's most uneven, or weakest effort. I used to think the same myself, all those years ago. He seemed to have abandoned any connection with his past and was going into that strange domain that was to become known as 'world music'. Now, I have never been keen on world music, it doesn't do anything for me really, far too much percussion, and not enough melody for my liking! Recently, however, I taped this album off a friend, and gave it some serious listening time. I found, with hindsight, and probably age, that I enjoy it much more now, so I purchased from GFT the remastered cd. I can say now I really like this album! True, there is more percussion than I would usually care for, but that is really confined to the first couple of tracks. There is much more melody than I used to give the album credit for, and Hackett's trademark guitar sound does come through, now and again, to remind one who we are listening to. I won't go into individual titles here, but the highlights, for me, have to be tracks 3, 4, 5 & 6 on the run. 'Matilda Smith-Williams' is a sprawling affair, with the type of humorous lyrics Hackett is sometimes associated with. Nice guitar on here too. 'Let Me Count The Ways' is an early example of his blues roots, with nice, restrained playing and decent singing. (His singing on this album is slightly improved to what it was on 'Cured', but not as deep or tasteful as it was to become on later works, such as the lovely 'Guitar Noir'. 'A Doll That's Made In Japan' is quite atmospheric actually, with nice melody and and playing, and is notable for a rare outing on the vocal front from wife Kim, supplying the Japanese girl's voice. (A Brazilian, with Japanese accent, talking in English - interesting combination!) 'Duel' has an infectious rhythm, a concise, self-contained melody, good lyrics, (based on the film with Dennis Weaver) and superb guitar work from Steve. Excellent stuff! Also worth a mention is 'The Gulf', with its atmospheric acoustic guitar work at the beginning, a good vocal, and nice electric guitar work further on. Good song! 'Stadiums Of The Damned', a song about football supporters, is also very good,and the ending few seconds of 'When You Wish Upon A Star', courtesy of Nick Magnus's keyboards, ends the album nicely. The songs I haven't mentioned, although not my favourites, are nowhere near as bad as I remembered them! All in all, a solid effort that deserves a solid three stars.

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Send comments to chessman (BETA) | Report this review (#80888)
Posted Saturday, June 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk Researcher
1 stars Were you one of those kids in school whose teacher would give you a low grade on a writing assignment while giving your stoner friend a decent grade, then tell you it was because she “expected more from you”? Well, that’s how I feel about this album.

Not that I’m a big Genesis fan; in fact, I’m not a fan at all. ‘Wind and Wuthering’, maybe 'Trick of the Tale'. That’s about it. And I’m not much of a Hackett fan either, but I do own ‘Please Don’t Touch’ and ‘Voyage of the Acolyte’. Both of those are varied and interesting albums, but everything he did after seemed to either be underachieving or blatantly commercial. This album is both.

It doesn’t help this came out during a very, very bad time for progressive music. Other than half-decent albums from Marillion and Rush there was almost nothing being produced that was worth picking up in 1984. R.E.M. maybe, just because they were a bit novel and interesting at least. Oops, I said 'progressive' music though.

But this thing is a heaping pile of commercial crap, and displays virtually every eighties musical and stylistic cliché that decade is know for. Piles upon piles of synthetic keyboards, sequenced and digital drum tracks, simple and danceable beats interspersed with faux ‘world’ percussive sounds that only the inept would consider authentic. And above all insipid lyrics that completely fail to grab the imagination, inspire, entertain, or even spur any emotion beyond boredom. Is boredom an emotion?

From the embarrassing calypso/mambo digital midi-sounding “Matilda Smith…” to the suspiciously Disney soundtrack-like “Taking the Easy Way Out”, this album smacks of an attempt to leverage the technical skill of the various musicians who performed to take advantage of an unusually stupid and low-reaching musical public. And yes, I count myself among that group. I did after all buy Queen’s “The Works” that same year and consider it a stellar album. Not now of course, but I think my point is made.

The closest Hackett comes to delivering something worth playing more than once is “Let Me Count the Ways”, but even here the white-collar blues guitar riffs chafe my eardrums after just a few listens. And by the way, A Flock of Seagulls could have done “A Doll That’s Made in Japan” just as well and probably delivered an appealing video to boot!

So this should probably be a two-star album, since Hackett fans are quite loyal and I’m sure a lot of them bought this thing. But like I said at the outset – I expect more of someone with the musical lineage of Steve Hackett, especially if I’m going to actually spend my money on something spawned from a band I don’t find particularly interesting. If Hackett really needed to pay the bills he should have at least given Phil Collins or Peter Gabriel a ring: at least they were putting out pop music in the eighties that was easy on the ears. One star.

peace

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Send comments to ClemofNazareth (BETA) | Report this review (#127289)
Posted Sunday, July 01, 2007 | Review Permalink
Gooner
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Clearly, if you like Brazillian music...this is a CD to check out. I do, however, recommend listeners try to pick up the 2002 "inside out" version with the extra tracks. It definitely improves on the album that I would otherwise give 3 stars. "Taking The Easy Way Out" is certainly not what Mr. Hackett had done when he wrote this gem. This is one of Steve's most ethereal tunes ever written, and dare I say best vocal performance. Approach this album with an open mind as it is certainly unlike anything he'd previously recorded with either Genesis or solo. "Let Me Count The Ways" is also an excellent/fluid blues band piece that is sure to impress during any romantic moment. I'm not sure if this entire album is "prog.", but it is a great "world rock" album that sustains interest in its entirety. I would refer to Mike Oldfield's "Crises" and "Discovery" LPs for familiarity purposes. If you like the aforementioned, Steve Hackett's "Till We Have Faces" is a winner!

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Send comments to Gooner (BETA) | Report this review (#133065)
Posted Tuesday, August 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars It is clear that "Till We Have Faces" is not that popular here on PA. I feel, like many people do, that it is rather uneven but it does offer more than people give it credit for. With a cool Brazilian percussion section behind Ian Mosley, it provides a very unique sound. It just never really reaches its potential. If done right, this could have been one of Steve's better albums.

I do not much care for "Duel", "Let Me Count the Ways" or "Myopia". They are all too boring, trite, or just plain annoying (in the case of the last one) for me. I enjoy the rest though. It is an ecclectic sound and something that Steve hadn't really done before. It's just a shame half the tracks seem uninspired. But, I certainly do not think it is commercial as many here have said. I don't see a single song here that could be, well, a single. I just think Steve was in the middle of progressing his sound and was trying a lot of elements (i.e. blues, world, pop). It didn't always work, but he always connected on something imo. I mean, I can find stuff to like on all of his albums and this is no different. Besides, you can find many genres of music on most or all of his albums.

I don't think it is a bad album by any means, just one that could have been a lot better than it ended up being. Final Rating: 3 stars out of 5 Highlights: Last two minutes of "Matilda Smith...", "A Doll Made in Japan", and "What's My Name".

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Send comments to White Shadow (BETA) | Report this review (#136368)
Posted Wednesday, September 05, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Although not the best of Steve Hackett, I do like this album, particularly as it ventures into a Brazillian theme on a number of tracks. This is hardly surprising, as most of these tracks were recorded in Brazil, and the idea for this album was hatched on one of Steve's Christmas visits to there to see Kims relatives.

Steve adopted a number of talented percussionists whilst in Brazil, and tracks such as Matilda Smith Williams Home for the Aged, What's My Name and The Rio connection really demonstrate this to the full.

Highlights are:

Matilda Smith Williams... - This humerous slant on an old peoples home in the Carribean really comes to life in the second half with a blistering samba beat that wouldn't sound out of place in a Brazillian carnival - the highlight of the album. This would be a tour show stopper if Steve could ever get these percussioninsts on stage with him - but alas, that is not likely to happen.

The Rio Connection - Good funky bass work underpins this funk/rock hybrid instrumental, which uses two brazillian drummers. Steve's harmonica and electric guitar improvisations really make this number stand out.

Duel - this rock/shuffle features the best vocals from Steve - almost sounding like the Doors Jim Morrison! this rocks on at a steady pace.

Gulf - good vocals again from Steve - this track was added in the later version of this album (86/87). Many and varied instruments are used on this number and it even has a middle eastern feel in parts. The song eventually builds up to a frenetic ending with Steve playing the hell out of his electric guitar, accompanied by Ian Mosley on Drums.

Stadiums of the Dammed is a nice musical spoof centered around a football hooligan changing his ways due to the love of a good woman!. There are elements similar to Peter Gabriels story in a song that Peter used to do so well in his Genesis days.

Although some tracks are fillers (When you wish upon a Star), and other tracks are tainted by Steve singing too high, this is still worthy of 3 stars, even without the benefit of bonus tracks which the first Hackett albuims have received recently.

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Send comments to Leonardo (BETA) | Report this review (#156939)
Posted Friday, December 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars Even if Brazilian music is your cup of tea, you won't be very much attracted by this poor album. Very few numbers actually sounds truely Brazilian.

The opening number of the remastered issue "What's My Name" is chaotic, directionless, melody less etc. And the funky "Rio Connection" has nothing to do with Brazilian sounds. Why did you do this again Steve?

I thought that we agreed that you could only produce one poor album in your entire career and you already produced "Cured" some years ago. So, your quota has been reached already. That's not fair from you.

Of course, there will be some percussions works during "Mathilda". But do we really need to listen to you producing ethnic music ? I don't! Song writing is very poor, totally uninspired. And what to say about these vocals, Steve? We also discussed over this already. You promised to limit these to a minimum and now you are even trying some bluesy stuff! OK, your guitar play during "Let Me Count The Ways" is wonderful, but I can't really stand the rest of it.

And this idea to combine some Eastern sounds with Latin American ones. This isn't too serious, right? Did you think that to write an average song as "Duel" was enough to captivate your friends?

I can understand that you would like to rock some times, but did you really enjoy while playing the awful "Myopia"? I don't when I listen to it Steve. Luckily, there is still a symphonic song on your album. I was afraid that you had forgotten how great you were with your acolytes before they were three.

To tell you the truth, Steve, I have had some hard time to listen to this record. And it is not "The Gulf which was not featured on your original album that will reconcile me with it. I have to press next again Steve (if I didn't do it more, it is because we are friends, Steve).

Another song has also been added to this remastered edition, you wrote it in 1987 and couldn't obviously be featured on your original release. But don't you think that it should have remained profoundly hidden?

Come on, Steve! Don't dare to do this again, please! One star, Steve.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#160161)
Posted Tuesday, January 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
progaardvark
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Steve Hackett's Till We Have Faces can best be described as an experiment gone wrong, i.e. the "Frankenstein" of Hackett's solo career. Hackett had been on a downward spiral in terms of quality since his Cured album of 1981. Although he would turn this low point of his output around, things would continue to sit around in the mediocrity zone as he would join Steve Howe to form GTR two years after this release. After listening to Till We Have Faces, I can see why GTR turned out the way it did.

The most notable difference on this album is the use of Brazilian musicians throughout the album. He continued to have Nick Magnus on board, but drummer Ian Mosley would leave around this time to join Marillion. In fact, nearly this whole album was recorded in Brazil, while the final mix was done in London. It's an interesting combination of Brazilian and English rock. The percussionists do a delightful job. But the problem isn't with them, it's with this mediocre group of songs. They're mostly unimaginative and are amongst the most accessible material Hackett ever wrote.

The most interesting songs I found were the Duel and What's My Name. Duel was based on Steven Spielberg's first feature film (also called Duel) from 1971 about a trucker stalking a motorist. What's My Name is just strange, and that's what I like about it. After all these years, I still cannot get that What's my name? Ahhhhhhh part out of my head. Thanks a lot Steve.

Clearly only for die-hard Hackett fans and completionists. Interesting, but hardly worth looking for. Two stars.

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Send comments to progaardvark (BETA) | Report this review (#168604)
Posted Thursday, April 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
J-Man
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars Before I start discussing the album, Steve Hackett is one of my favorite guitarists and he was great in Genesis and his earlier solo albums but good lord!! This album is basically a mess. It has some okay poppy songs, but the songs that try to be proggy end up being pretty bad. For example, the second song is the same riff over and over again, and to make it be sort of proggy he puts a bad percussion section in the middle of the song. I think Steve Hackett suffers the same problem many solo artists do-songwriting. His music is all over the place on this album and his choices really don't make sense. Another Example is when he made the 'song' A Doll Made In Japan. That song's terrible, and really everything else isn't that good either.

Overall, everthing is either too commercial or wannabe prog on this album and the only person I would recommend this to is a collector. I wouldn't even tell a Steve Hackett fan to get it because even me, being a Steve Hackett fan, hates this album. So DON'T BUY IT!!! IT'S A TRAP!!!!!

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Send comments to J-Man (BETA) | Report this review (#179185)
Posted Friday, August 08, 2008 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
2 stars Faceless

This is possibly the weirdest album in Steve Hackett's whole catalogue. The lyrics are often weird, the sound is weird throughout, and some musical choices are really weird also. What's My Name and Matilda Smith-Williams Home For The Aged (what a title! And the phrase actually features in the lyrics!) are very long tracks with Steve's Brazilian friends doing some rather overlong percussion workouts. Not too interesting, I must say. Matilda Smith-Williams Home For The Aged is based on a melody recycled from the previous album, or very close to it. A bit unimaginative if you ask me!

Till We Have Faces was recorded in Brazil and produced by Hackett himself. The sound of this album is really weak. The instruments often sound timid and thin, and there are problems with the recording and/or production.

The Rio Connection and When You Wish Upon A Star are simply out of place, being more than a bit silly and not at all in touch with Hackett's musical vision. Let Me Count The Ways is a pure Blues rock number, and as far as Blues numbers go, this is not the worst, but a bit boring nonetheless.

A Doll That's Made In Japan is quite nice but probably too Pop oriented for the average Prog fan. Duel is enjoyable and it vocally reminds me very much of Andy Latimer of Camel. This is also the first song on the album with really good guitar work.

Myopia is a song I knew from Steve's live set, where he used to play a short instrumental snippet of this song during a medley (available on the excellent live DVD Somewhere In South America, for example). The riff is fantastic, but here it sounds really weak in comparison with the powerful live version. And one great riff does not make a good song. A huge disappointment for me, this one!

Taking The Easy Way Out slows things down, and this is a nice, but ultimately forgettable song with some good acoustic guitar. The Gulf is actually a very good song! And easily the high point of the album. Also Stadiums Of The Damned is pretty good. Both of these songs are available on the recently released Feedback '86 (intended for release in 1986, but stayed in the vaults until 2000), however, where they sound much better. So there is really no reason to buy Till We Have Faces for those two songs. Get Feedback '86 instead!

Till We Have Faces is easily the low point of Steve Hackett's long career, and an album strictly for us fans. The only reason I give it two stars rather than just one, is the presence of a few decent moments and some interesting musical ideas (sadly not executed very well, though).

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Send comments to SouthSideoftheSky (BETA) | Report this review (#197658)
Posted Wednesday, January 07, 2009 | Review Permalink
1 stars I never really cared for this album at all. It was really hard to get through it. The songs are very weak lyrically.( Nothing catchy) Steve did play a decent solo on a blues tune that I can't remember off hand, but it wasn't anything that sounded fresh or exciting. It was then I decided to stop buying his solo stuff. I never did until I heard how good "Many Sides to the Night" sounded.

It was truely a disappointment for my ears. I am glad however that Steve does have better material on other albums. I think he just wasn't hungry enough on this one to be effective.

I have to give this record 1 star for lack of content.

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Send comments to Keetian (BETA) | Report this review (#278216)
Posted Friday, April 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Till we have a direction...

Released in 1984, after the purely acoustic Bay Of Kings, this album clearly shows that Steve Hackett didnt have a clue on what to do in the that year. The music here is very tentative, like he was trying too hard to be something he is not. Pop, prog or fusion? Latin, maybe? He even recorded his first ´real´ blues song on this LP (Let Me Count The Ways ). This song has all the blues cliches one should expect except for real feeling. The synths are still very cheesy 80´s plastic sound most of the time. He even uses several brazilian musicians on the album to spice up the tracks, but it seldom works that great. The production didn´t help much either, a bit too thin.

Ok, this is not bad. It has its moments, expecially the instrumental parts where he guitar still shines, even if those moments are few and far between. Taking The Easy Way Out is one of those moments: ethereal, beautiful keys, great guitar work. A pity that it is so short. The CD´s opener Duel is a nice synth rock with a fine melody (it would fit very nicely on any Alan Parsons album of the period). Contrary to some of his previous stuff his vocals sound a bit weak this time (production problems again?).

Till We Have Faces is one of those albums a fan should only own if he has already bought all other Steve Hackett major stuff. Not a good starting point to know the solo work of one prog´s greatest and most influential guitarrists. Transitional.

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Send comments to Tarcisio Moura (BETA) | Report this review (#303868)
Posted Thursday, October 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
tarkus1980
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars First, an important technical note: the CD reissue from the mid 90s (which is the version I have) is fairly different from the original release, in that it not only has two additional tracks (taken from Feedback '86) but also has a completely different track order. I've seen the original track listing (on this site and elsewhere), and honestly, I think the original version would be a bit worse than the one that's currently available; this is an album where sequencing matters a bit, I think.

This album isn't exceptionally good, but it is exceptionally interesting. One aspect that's often highlighted is the album's "world beat" leanings; the album was recorded in Brazil, and there are a number of Brazilian session musicians contributing an ethnic flavor in the percussion and other areas. That aspect shouldn't be overemphasized, though, as Latin music is just one of the influences that makes its way into the whole. There are trace elements of Japanese music, there's a full-fledged blues number, there's New Wave music, there's stadium rock, and there's even a snippet of a Brandenburg Concerto, played on keyboards, shoved into one of the songs just because it can be. Of course, this diversity can't compensate for all of the album's weaknesses; the melodies aren't always fantastic, Steve's singing is still a bit of a liability, and the balance between keyboards and guitar definitely won't satisfy somebody coming here straight from the first few albums. While the diversity can't cover all of the album's ills, though, it can cover a lot of them, and it's sorely tempting to bump up the album a notch in the rating (I'll resist, though).

The first three tracks are essentially all instrumental, even if the first ("What's My Name") and the third ("Matilda Smith-Williams Home for the Aged") do have some perfunctory vocals. Honestly, I find the vocals in "What's My Name" kinda unattractive; this album was my first of Steve's albums from the 80s, and I wasn't quite prepared for how ugly I'd find the "WHAT'S MY NAME??!! AAAH-AAAH-AAAH-AAAH!!!" chant the first couple of times I listened to it. It's important not to focus on the vocals of this track, because they're not that important; I'd argue that the koto breaks that follow those vocals are much more crucial in the makeup of the track. Nah, this track is all about the rhythms of the introduction and the ominous low- pitched synths, which sound somewhat like they're cribbed from bits of Security but not so much that I especially mind.

"The Rio Connection" would probably make a hardcore prog fan want to punch a wall (then again, a lot of the tracks on this album could be used in a sentence of "*track x* would probably make a hardcore prog fan want to punch a wall"), but I rather enjoy it. It's a bluesy number with swing, with Hackett tearing it up on harmonica, but there are lots of synths and guitars making pig noises too, and I like it more than not. "Matilda Smith-Williams Home for the Aged" centers an intricate riff doubled on guitar and synth, but there's an extended passage in the last two-thirds with great atmospheric guitar and keyboard noises (and later some great soloing) featured over the army of ethnic percussion, and the 8 minutes goes by way faster than a track with just these elements probably should.

After "Let Me Count the Ways," the album's generic blues workout (I'm somehow not surprised at all that Steve could sound so at home in the blues, though he really should have considered getting somebody else to sing), we come to what may well be the album's highlight, "A Doll That's Made in Japan." This is where the album's genre-smooshing really reaches its peak; the music isn't really that Japanese (aside from the rhythms, sort of), but the melancholy low-pitched ramblings in the verses give the music a definite exotic feel, and the combination of the up-lifting chorus (though with oddly sad lyrics), the great guitar solo that doesn't do much to attract attention to itself, the smatterings of Japanese phrases spoken by Steve's wife, and whatever else I'm missing make this into, at the least, a minor classic.

The second half of the album is a little worse, but pretty decent all the same. "Duel" features Steve singing in a lower register (where, honestly, he sounds better) and using a great tone (providing texture more than melody) over a steady rhythm to make something that sounds both old and new, and his soloing in the second half (which sounds not a bit like any solo he'd done to this point) is really breathtaking. "Myopia" is a frantic up-tempo New Wave rocker with Steve doing his very best to sound like Sting, and it's a hoot, especially when the Bach snippet randomly pops up (the only rational explanation I can come up with for why it's there is that the chord sequences in the rest of "Myopia" are probably inspired by sequences in the rest of the concerto). The album takes a bit of a step down at this point, though. "Taking the Easy Way Out" is just a little bit too boring and lacking in guitar for me to enjoy it that much; it definitely could have used a guitar part (other than just the acoustic bits in the background) integrated into the verses. "The Gulf" is an interesting look at the Iran- Iraq war, full of intriguing atmosphere in the first half, but when it becomes a big synth-heavy pounding anthem, it gets a little bit tacky, though the second half does provide some atmospheric bits of its own (also, a lot of the guitar parts are really interesting). And "Stadiums of the Damned," well, that's one that I enjoy more than I should; an arena-rocker with these kinds of synth parts and a chorus like "With a woman like you, I know that I can change" is something I probably wouldn't tolerate most of the time. Then again, I'd definitely take it over the weaker material from Higher Strung, and I can listen to it multiple times without feeling like I need a shower, so whatever.

All of this, plus the 40-second reworking of "When You Wish Upon a Star" at the end, makes for one heck of a ride. Maybe it deserves a higher grade, maybe it doesn't, but it's definitely the best of Hackett's 80s albums. As long as you can avoid feeling too irritated by Steve's vocals or the occasional overbearance of 80s synths, and as long as ridiculous diversity isn't something that you consider a negative, you should enjoy this album. Well, unless you're hoping for a sequel to Spectral Mornings, in which case you'll despise it.

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Send comments to tarkus1980 (BETA) | Report this review (#916150)
Posted Tuesday, February 19, 2013 | Review Permalink

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