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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
1 stars How Howe and Hackett get hacked to shreads. Do you think my play on words go too far or is this just a plain awful album?

I was weary of this as it came out for Howe had been up to Asia , the Yes-no albums and Hackett had made some bad albums of late. Professional gamblers will tell you to keep going with a streak until the streak is over. I waited for friends to buy it and was happy to pass ........ Am I ever happy I did.

Report this review (#26854)
Posted Friday, February 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
Jim Garten
Retired Admin & Razor Guru
1 stars This is probably the most disappointing album I have ever bought - the idea of two of the greatest progressive rock guitarists getting together filled my imagination with the idea of soaring guitar solos, epic musicianship, and the best progressive rock album of the 1980's. The actual result was far less than the sum of its parts - basically, this is a watered down AOR album, with high pitched Journey-like vocals; if you like mid 1980's American AOR, then you may find this album worth a listen, otherwise I would avoid this - even the 2 solo pieces by Hackett/Howe are solo-by-numbers
Report this review (#26857)
Posted Thursday, March 18, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars If ASIA was cheesey, GTR was bacon with cheese. The group was centered on the estimable talents (and considerable prog rock cachet) of two guitarists: STEVE HACKETT (late of GENESIS) and STEVE HOWE (late of YES & ASIA). ASIA founder Geoffrey DOWNES produced their eponymous debut (contributing one song as well, "The Hunter"), which also featured (in descending order of fame) vocalist Max BACON, drummer Jonathan MOVER and bassist Phil SPALDING. "When The Heart Rules The Mind" did rule the airwaves for a little while, and there's no question that GTR's debut is superior to ASIA's waning product, but spending HACKETT and HOWE in this setting is akin to using a pair of Faberge eggs for door stoppers. That may be my musical elitism showing through, since both guitarists thought enough of this amalgam to fully engage themselves, adding all manner of mighty riffs to the material. BACON is also a worthy vessel for the vocals, not quite as powerful as WETTON but not prone to his sentimentality either. Like ASIA's first album, there are quite a few songs that find patches of prog rock fertility within the seemingly sterile landscape of arena rock: "Here I Wait", "Toe The Line" (no, not the TOTO song), and "Imagining" among them. The album also includes an instrumental each from HOWE and HACKETT. Howe's "Sketches In The Sun" is warm and agile and idiomatic; HACKETT's "HACKETT To Bits" is a variation on "Please Don't Touch."

Prog fans can take umbrage with GTR's packaging, but the product is pretty good. After a worldwide tour, GTR disbanded, underscoring what prog fans already knew to be an unnatural alliance. Still, their lone album is an interesting detour for fans of Steve Howe and (to a lesser extent) Steve HACKETT, and a logical second course for anyone who feasted on ASIA's first offering.

Report this review (#26858)
Posted Tuesday, April 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
1 stars what's wrong with those guys?? you must be curious with the collaboration of Mr. Howe and Mr. Hackett at the first time. and you must be expect an extraordinary masterpiece from them. but... after you listened the entire songs in this album, you're gonna throw up. nothing's special coming out of the genius touches of Howe & Hackett. and Max Bacon's vocal is very similar to Dennis de Young's of Styx. plain. dry. it's useless. don't buy this album. nothing's prog at all here. go find others.
Report this review (#26859)
Posted Thursday, May 13, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars The best songs in this album are "When the heart rules the mind", "Hackett to Bits", "Imagining", "Toe the Line" and "Sketches in the sun". This was one of the albums of 1986 which showed Progressive musicians playing music more oriented to pop rock and for the Radio (others were: the overrated Peter Gabriel with "So"; Emerson, Lake & Powell`s album; Genesis`s "Invisible Touch"; Kansas`"Power"). Both guitarists play very good, but I don`t like Max Bacon`s vocals very much. The production is noisy, with a lot of echoes added. The songs which are nearer to progressive music are "Hackett to Bits" (which is an abridged version of Hackett`s "Please don`t touch" song from his album of the same name), the superb acoustic guitar intro to "Imagining" (played by Hackett alone), and "Imagining". "When the heart rules the mind" has a very good part played with acoustic guitars. If some people blamed Phil Collins for making commercial music, I think that he wasn`t alone in those days.Even the overrated Gabriel, GTR and others were doing the same things.
Report this review (#26861)
Posted Monday, September 6, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Whilst I certainly enjoyed this album when it came out, it has not aged well, mainly because of misguided attempts to sound contemporary. I seem to recall Steve Hackett saying something about the aim of GTR being to take the guitar into the future. This appears to have meant using guitar synthesisers, which achieves little other than making guitars indistinguishable from keyboards. Both guitarists (Hackett and Howe) are playing well below their ability, and the songs, mostly mediocre to start with, suffer from embarassingly poor lyrics. However, it is not all doom and gloom. The opening track and single "When The Heart" is strong, and Steve Howe's solo piece is very pleasant. But the best aspect of the album, and the reason I've been generous with the stars, is Max Bacon's superbly unique voice, soulful and wide-ranging.
Report this review (#26863)
Posted Friday, December 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
Dan Bobrowski
Honorary Collaborator
1 stars After many years, my memory of GTR waned, I decided to give it another chance. As bad as this was on vinyl, it is just as bad on CD. Maybe I was being hopeful that the CD version would have been better when I picked it up the second time. The oh-so-thin production values still rang through, no bottom end at all. The guitars sound as screechy as Max Bacon-n-eggs' whimpy pale voice. The lyrics, insipid in the 80's, are even worse today. Placing your speakers anywhere near a mouse cage would be considered inhumane as the mouse would surely run itself to death trying to escape the putrid noise. Alas, how could such reknowned musicians team up to concoct this utter drivel? Money, eh? Many felt Steve Howe sold out with the first Asia release, but I would hold that album in much higher regard in my music collection than I would the disgrace of GTR.

Let us deduce the meaning of the acronym GTR: Get To Radio. Gone To Rust. Go Try Rogain (for Steve's latter years). Greedy Tangled Rip-off. Geriatric Topographic Rubbish. I'm sure you all can come up with your own meaning, but it all comes down to chasing the cash flow. If I remember correctly, MTV had a preview show that ran nearly an hour and then ran the video clip of "When The Heart Rules The Mind." It featured the two icons spinning about on a platform of some kind. Obviously the stars became dizzy and proceeded to lose any self-respect. At least Bill Bruford didn't play drums on this turd.

The two instrumentals, Sketches in the Sun and Hackett to Bits should rank a full star and a half higher just because they didn't have Bacon on it. Less filling, still nowhere near the potential of the musicians involved.

Having money in your pocket: $15 Buying the GTR CD: Stupid Reading this review and getting something else: Priceless

Report this review (#26864)
Posted Monday, February 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars GTR must have surely have broken more hearts than any other band in the world of prog ... yes, even Asia. Every self-respecting prog-fan has a wet dream like this ... Steve Howe and Steve Hackett, both surely among the greatest guitarists in the prog roster, get together and form a group that saves the musical world, following which the two heroes ride off into the sunset. Well, it didn't quite work out like that.

Prog-fans can't say they weren't warned. After all both Howe (with Asia) and Hackett (some, but by no means all of his solo records) had dabbled in mindless pop-rock music before GTR. But the truth is that when these two men got together, it really was like a dream come true. I know I was practically drooling when I picked this CD up for U$3 at a flea market ... and after seven years, the pain is still pretty acute.

The simple fact is that Howe and Hackett got together to make commercial rock music (they take turns to hold chords on the synth, for Chrissake!). Along with singer Max Bacon and the world famous rhythm section of Phil Spalding and Jonathan Mover, they put together a generally bland set of songs that wouldn't be out of place on a Heart, Starship or even Asia record of the mid-80s.

It's not all that bad, though. Admittedly When The Heart Rules The Mind is a pretty memorable poppy tune, there's a nice solo in the middle of Here I Wait and both Toe The Line and Imagining (a rather Yes-like tune) have classy minute-long acoustic guitar intros. Come to think of it, the whole of Imagining is quite good. One of the greatest tragedies of this album however, is that its two finest songs are the instrumentals Sketches In the Sun (a solo piece by Howe that ranks among his best) and the biting Hackett To Bits which is basically a Hackett solo work. The fact that we are denied a chance to hear proper interplay between the two masters is really too much to take. ... 25% on the MPV scale

Report this review (#26865)
Posted Wednesday, February 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars i consider it a great album, great guitars of course by hackett and howe. It´s not a prog record, it´s more pop, but it stills has great things. Just litsen to imagining and hackett to bits, great songs, and the other songs are not bad at all. Just don´t expect great progressive material. Take it as it is, an 80s rock pop album made by progressive genius (howe and hackett).
Report this review (#26866)
Posted Wednesday, March 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Ah, the great controversial entity that was GTR! I left this cd behind somewhere years ago but back then, it was one of my top picks and I was sad to have lost it. Yes, I was a foolish teenager in '87 and to me, GTR was the pinnacle of the prog/mainstream crossover. Howe and Hackett could have made a recording of cats wailing in an alley and I would have bought it. But, as it was they recorded an unbelievabley mainstream album that actually had some uniqueness to it.

Now in 2005, I've seen some of the video footage that Steve Hackett has and realized GTR still wasn't so bad. Yeah Max Bacon's wail could shatter glass (didn't he sound a lot like James Labrie of Dream Theater?) but GTR was a fair band with some great musicians. Check out the instrumentals "Sketches in the Sun" and "Hackett to Bits", those alone are worth the price of admission. Granted, this disc may be for Hackett and Howe completists and those of us who want to taste a bit of our foolish youth again, but it really isn't a bad album. Check out the videos on Hacketss web site for some good laughs at GTR too.

Report this review (#26867)
Posted Tuesday, May 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars When I first heard the song: When the Heart rules the Mind, I Almost went beserk. Why,? Because this song was a tune to get goosebumps! Terrific ! Max Bacon has a good voice and Steve Howe plays really nice: Sketches ... Bits to pieces is a little bit too technical and quick but it's okay! After buying the LP and 12inch of When the Heart... I bought the CD.

A little bit more for the AOR fan but it will also fit in any Prog Music collection.

It's a pity there was never an offical following second album.

Report this review (#26868)
Posted Monday, May 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars Just another proof the eighties had a horrible influence on good musicians. Gtr stands for the guitars of Steve Howe and Steve Hackett. Two famous guitarists in one band ? The result should be breathtaking. Unfortunately it isn't. Their only album is full of streamlined AOR. "When the heart rules the mind" charted in the states and is a perfect example. The melodies are absolute catchy but this stadium rock is far from what you expect from a line up like this. "The hunter" is a mysterious sounding track with moody keyboards, enjoyable melodies and stunning guitar solo's but it could be included on an Asia record as well. Surprise Surprise. A look at the credits show that Geoff Downes was the composer. Ten years after GTR the song would be recorded by Asia for a compilation album. Downes is also credited as producer but he didn't do a great job to my opinion. Never before have I heard an album which sounded so harsh. The sound on the remastered CD hardly improves. Two tracks deliver the kind of music an album like this should have more of . "Sketches in the sun" was a Howe song that was around for some time and finally got recorded. A peaceful and enjoyable instrumental on electric guitar that would sound better on acoustic guitar. True to it's name "Hackett to bits" is basically "Please don't touch" in a heavy outfit but only less appealing. Still two highlights on this record : "Jekyll & Hyde" and especially "Imagining" are full of complex changes in moods and rhythms. My favourite moment on the album is the instrumental part of "Here I wait". Although the song starts very cliché, as soon the second part is announced by virtuous guitar lines, you'll get what you came for. A perfect atmospheric mood, angel voices and Howe and Hackett playing one stunning guitar line after another. Other tracks aren't really bad but too slick and commercial to appeal even if the former Nightwing vocalist Max Bacon has an enjoyable voice. During the recording process the two Steves had an argument which lead to the departure of Hackett while Howe tried to keep the river flowing by replacing Hackett with Robert Berry. This wasn't working out either and within a year the writing was on the wall. However they did record lots of demo's which ended up on a bootleg. Some tracks got an official release afterwards on solo albums from Hackett and Berry.

This album has some excellent guitar lines but on most of the tracks the point gets lost. Generally the album lacks a real soul and the overall format of the song is too conventional. It aged not too well either ; you can tell it is a product of the eighties with the big drum sounds and the dubbed vocals. Not much to tell from the rhythm section either. The bass and drums don't really fit in with the tracks and add no essential elements. Spalding did some excellent work with Toyah and Mike Oldfield before joining GTR proving he's a skilled bass player but here, you don't notice. A missed opportunity. two stars and a half for the stunning guitarlines

Report this review (#26869)
Posted Wednesday, June 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Quite obviously I am in the less than minority here in my opinion, and truth be told on first hearing back in the 80s I saw GTR as a bunch of opportunistic AOR hopefuls trying to cash in on Asia's success. That said, becoming a huge fan of Max Bacon's voice years later I picked this up and it quickly became one of my most favourite albums. What you have to understand is that what occured on this album is natural and not forced, not like what Genesis and Mike And The Mechanics (who were actually OK in my opinion) were doing. "When The Heart Rules The Mind" is somewhere between epic AOR and epic Pomp Prog rock with soaring vocals, layers of guitars, and complex changes of rhythm, chord, and melody. Max Bacon's high pitched wailing vocals are fantastic throughout this album and Steve Howe plays some excellent riffs and solos. Hackett is as bad as he's always been, but he doesn't ruin the album. When listening to GTR the most outstanding tracks are the ones with the shortest solos such as "Here I Wait" and the ones where they get more adventurous like "Imagining." I love every track here, even Hackett's solo piece after waves of nothing develops into some good ideas. The rhythm section, both guitarists, and Bacon made a record that is to my mind what Asia should have been more like- harder, heavier, more biting, louder. The first two Asia records with Steve Howe are great, but after Steve Howe left and Asia fell into oblivion what else was there for Steve Howe to do but to form a band that would surpass Asia's descent into dogerrel with "Astra?" I prefer GTR to any post Howe Asia album, and anything Genesis recorded after Duke. You have to have an open mind and you have to like shrill, high pitched vocals in the vein of SHY and Max Bacon's other 80s masterwork Bronz, if you have both those qualities you should appreciate this album. No, there is none of the groundbreaking work of early 70s Yes or Genesis here, but it makes a welcome change into prog rock than Genesis's change into throw-in-the-gutter pop trash. Bacon sounds forceful and commanding, by turns smooth and melodramatic throughout, and Steve Howe plays some of his best guitar since the heydey of Yes here, no joke. GTR is one of my favourite albums, and although it may not be one of yours, it remains one of mine. Enough said.
Report this review (#54057)
Posted Sunday, October 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This album sounds quite like Asia: Geoff Downes's production and Steve Howe' s guitars give this album another Asia-like sound. The presence of Steve Hackett allows the listener to compare the styles of the 2 famous prog guitarists: it is interesting to notice that their parts have distinctive sounds and styles through the miscellaneous electric and acoustic guitars. The lead vocals are very good, reminding a bit Kansas: recall that this singer worked for Mike Oldfield on his "Earth Moving" record. Like Yes' "Big Generator", the sound here is VERY strident & metallic. The bass is insufficient. There is a good reprise of Hackett's "Land of 1000 autumns" (from the "Please Don't Touch" album). The keyboards are not bad, but they could be more melodic, colorful & elaborated. The songs are not progressive at all; I would even say that they are accessible and rather pop. Globally, I prefer Asia.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Report this review (#54070)
Posted Monday, October 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
1 stars I had around 1000 CD in my collection, now i have around 999 CD because i sold this one. When i brough this CD everybody was telling me not to buy it, but it was cheap, around 7$, i was too curious and it had the two Steve in it, Mr. Hackett & Mr. Howe two of my favorites guitar players of all time, so i brough it. WHAT WAS I THINKING!!!!!! How two of the best guitarist in prog can come with that crap???? Even for a 1986 album????? I really don't know??? For me, this album may be the wrost music ever come from the prog scene!! Even the worst Yes combine with the worst Genesis can't beat that crap!!! A MUST AVOID AT ALL COST!!!!!! It's a shame i can't put 0 stars because it's all it deserve!!! Sorry about this review but, when you listen to "Firth of Fifth" or "And You And I", why would you listen to "When the heart broke the mind" I would change that title to "When the Steves Broke The Music" ;)
Report this review (#77572)
Posted Tuesday, May 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
1 stars Years ago I have rated this album without writing a complete review. Now I want to spend some words about it. There's a thread on a PA forum about "how you understand that your purchase is not prog". I could answer, when there are two guitarists and both are "Steve".

I was very curious to hear what two guitar monsters as the two Steves were able to produce, but few seconds of the first track "When the heart rules the mind" were enough to understand which kind of album it was, and it's not the worst track.

It was 1986 and we all know that 80s were the poorest decade for music (not only prog). However the 80s have seen the birth of neo-prog groups like Marillion or the rebirth of Yes with 90125, so not everything from these years is good for the trash can.

But I really don't know what was ruling the minds of the two Steves when they hired Max Bacon as singer. Not that he's a bad singer, but he sounds like a pop-metal band of that age called "Europe".

"The hunter" wants to sound like Yes, but this is not Jon Anderson, and the song is very trivial from a musical point of view. A track to skip.

"Here I Wait" is another try to emulate 90125. This time they are quite close to reach the target.

"Sketches in the sun" is an instrumental on which the two guitarists give a demonstration of what they could do when they are inspired enough. Unfortunately this is just a 2 minutes track. Too few to save the album.

With "Jekyll and Hide" we are back to the 80s pop. This could have been inserted into Yes' Big Generator, but if possible, this is worse. Trivial in the lyrics, too. "Is the mirror lying, I must decide if I'm doctor Jekyll or Mister Hide"...what a poetry! a quite good guitar riff in the middle of the song is not enough.

"You can still get Through" starts with electronic drums with a typical 80s sound. The singing makes clear the fact that this album is mainly a Howe's idea. You can still throw this disc.

"Reach out, never say no". Is not different from the previous tracks. Some good guitars on a trivial yes-sounding base.

"Toe the line is probably featuring the first real Hackett's contribution to the project. Not a masterpiece, of course. The lack of ideas involves Hackett, too but this is probably the best album's song if a best exists.

"Hackett to bits" is a sort of remake of "The air conditioned nightmare" from Cured. Not too bad, quite interesting, great guitars but just two minutes long.

"Imagining" has a classical guitar and mandolin intro. Is this Paco de Lucia? Unfortunately not. After two minutes we are again on the chords of Big Generator. The strange thing is that Howe was not in the Big Generator's lineup.....

My rating doesn't change. Get it only if you want to own EVERYTHING a Yes or a Genesis member has done, otherwise save your money.

Report this review (#97753)
Posted Thursday, November 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars GTR surfaced in the 80s in the context of the most compromised era of symphonic prog. I actually find the material in this sole album better than Asia at their best, since I happen to enjoy (in some way, as a sort of guilty pleasure) the more muscular sound based on the prominence of the dual guitars and the non-intrusive use of keyboard sounds. That's the main virtue, but it cannot hide the unsubstantial attempt by the band's leaders and main writers to sound as 'renewed sons of the era', which proves to be an artistic mistake. The compositions are mostly desgined to provide a nice combination of stylish melodic flavors (this is where the prog ingredient comes in) and AOR-ish hooks (this is where Bacon's polished vocal style comes in as the major factor, but it also applies to the arrangements that forge the musical ideas' final shape). The powerful opener 'When the Heart Rules the Mind' perfectly incarnates this nuclear idea: it is catchy, moderately sophisticated, comprising effective arrangements and atractive guitar leads. 'The Hunter' is a very nice mid-tempo ballad: penned by Downes, it might have become another mellow Asia ballad, but the use of acoustic 12-string guitars and mandolins among the guitar riffs and solos makes it genuinely attractive. From now on, the repertoire will mostly go from mere AOR ('Here I Wait', 'You Can Still Get Through', 'Reach Out (Never Say No)') to prog rock with a poppier twist ('Jeckyll and Hyde', 'Imagining'). I believe that the latter two would have benefited from more expansive arrangements, since the main riffs and melodic shifts show some interesting potential, but that's how it goes. The classical guitar intro to 'Imagining', especially, could have been as an individual number on its own. On the other hand, the acoustic- based ballad 'Toe the Line' and 'Sketches in the Sun' are symptoms of Howe's firm sense of majesty: these two numbers are really inspired. Also inspired are the exciting opening riffs of 'Hackett to Bits', but in the end it is only a reprise of one of Hackett's most archetypical compositions, 'Please Don't Touch'. It is a pity that Hackett's input tends to be surpassed by Howe's: a more balanced equilibrium between the two guitarists might have helped the band to gain a more solid sound had Howe allowed Hackett instill some of the energy of his previous two solo rock albums "Highly Strung" and "Till We Have Faces", but that's how it is, isn't it? "GTR" is an okay album that gives soem decency to the history of 80s prog-pop. At least, more decency than Genesis at the time and most of Rabin-era Yes albums, and evidently, more energy than the Camel albums for the early 80s.
Report this review (#100593)
Posted Monday, November 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars A cruel deception

The band's name is of course a common abbreviation for "guitar". This is intended reflect the fact that this "supergroup" includes two of prog's most accomplished guitarists, Steve Hackett and Steve Howe. The line up is completed by relatively unknown musicians, although the album is produced by Howe's Asia band-mate Geoff Downes.

For one reason or another, GTR did not last long, and on the strength of this offering it's probably just as well. The conversation between Howe and Hackett must have gone something like this: "Fancy making an album together?" "Sure, with our histories including some of the finest progressive rock songs ever made, together we could make some further classics". "Actually, I made a lot of money with Asia, a pop rock band" "Well come to think of it, I missed out big time when I left Genesis prior to their transition to a pop band" "Stuff the prog then, let's make some big selling pop" "Agreed!".

The opening chords of track 1, "When the heart rules the mind" instantly reveal that this is no meeting of the prog giants. Max Bacon's vocals, the catchy melody and the sing-a-long chorus are much more reminiscent of REO SPEEDWAGON or FOREIGNER than Yes or Genesis in their heyday. Producer Geoff Downes does not actually play on the album, but his compostion "The hunter", is to be found here. Tellingly the song, a slightly slower power ballad, was also recorded by Asia. Add a Bob Catley like voice and you would instantly have a standard Magnum song.

It is the two Steve's though who must take responsibility for the pop nature of the songs, since they are jointly or severally involved in all the other tracks. The obvious problem is that neither is particularly good at writing pop songs, resulting in a procession of second rate soulless efforts. No matter how competent the performances and how good the production (and both are faultless), the foundations here are laid on quicksand of the most lethal kind.

Each guitarist is afforded a brief solo guitar spot, which only serves to remind us how cruelly we have been deceived. The only track which caught my attention at all was "Toe the line", which appealed to my weakness for a melodic ballad. The song has powerful instrumentation, which becomes almost symphonic at times. Bacon's vocal performance here is also of a different calibre. Sadly that's it though, and after Hackett's solo spot, we close with a very poor pop rock song. "Imagining".

A wasted opportunity of the highest order.

Report this review (#113909)
Posted Thursday, March 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Many prog fans see this project and album as a fair disappointment, and considering who are involved here and how the final result is, I have to say that I have to agree to a certain extent.

I'm not against the fact that musicians like to experiment, in fact I think that they should, or they have the risk to end up being boring and repetitive. But here, considering the talent and musicianship of the two Steves, the result, experimenting or not, is pretty weak

What we have here is moderately enjoyable arena rock, much in the vein of Asia (not in coincidence two of its members took part here) with subtle, (but just that) touchs of prog spirit and elegance. And that's all. I mean, I insist in the fact that there's nothing wrong behind of this project's idea, but the result could have been much better considering who worked here, and I'm not talking only about Howe/Hackett, I also consider Downes as a professional.

There are some moments here that deserve at least a bit of recognition, namely "Toe The line", "Sketches in the Sun" and "Hackett to bits". If the rest of the album would have reached the consistence of these songs, probably myself and many other reviewers of this site would have told a different story.

Oh, and by the way, I find Max Bacon's voice irritating at times.

Report this review (#129601)
Posted Saturday, July 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
1 stars While fresh prog was happening way underground and the punk/metal crossover scene was beginning to push prog metal out into the open, the 80's were just an absolute train wreck of classic proggers attempting to reinvent themselves. Some were commercially successful, albeit bile reflux inducing (in regards to Genesis' 80's output), but most floundered in obscurity. GTR were among the latter. Featuring the prog royalty virtuoso guitarists Steves Howe and Hackett, the project had an admittedly unattainable standard to reach while simultaneously needing record company buy-in. The result was about as uncomfortable as Steve Howe looks in the GTR promo photo, resplendent in his baggy polyester suit "16 Candles adult guy extra" style. The album encompassed everything single-sliced-processed-cheese-product 80's sound; complete with overly reverbed drums, high wailing vocals that blurted syrupy platitudes, and our prog hero guitar duo defiled with the obligatory chorus pedal's pseudo-scintillation. The song highlights were in fact the instrumental tunes Sketches in the Sun and Hackett to Bits, the latter of which was nothing more than outtake of the title track of Hackett's second solo album, Please Don't Touch!. But even a couple of respites from the shrill vocals of Max Bacon are not enough to make this album even remotely listenable. The songs structures were routine with ultra-straight-ahead pedestrian rhythms. Nothing to hold this listeners ear and frequently aspects that make me want to plug them.
Report this review (#141868)
Posted Wednesday, October 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars It's been a long time. I can't remember whatever moved me to buy GTR back in the day. Was it the promise of Howe and Hackett together? Did I really enjoy When the Heart Rules the Mind back then? Did a friend give it to me? Was it one of those twelve albums that I got for a penny from the record club? For the life of me, I can't imagine why I'd have grabbed this.

Anyhow, I did own it, and forgettable is probably the best adjective to describe it. There is nothing on it that is really awful (hence I'm not giving it one star) but there is precious littl on here that rises above mediocrity. The only reason I'd listen to it now is to hear the two guitar solo pieces. Sketches in the Sun is a decent Howe composition in a style that we expect from him, while Hackett to Bits makes up in energy what it lacks in originality. The rest of this is slightly substandard AOR.

If you want to get some GTR, get the King Biscuit live album instead. GTR was a decent live band and included a lot of solo stuff from the two Steve's in their show. The KB album includes a decent sampling of that.

2 stars. If you don't already have an idea that you will like this, don't bother.

Report this review (#164120)
Posted Sunday, March 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars I don't know what I was thinking back in 1986 when I purchased GTR's self-titled debut (and fortunately only studio release). It must have been that one song they kept playing on the radio, When the Heart Rules the Mind. I don't know what it was about that song. Maybe the catchy hooks? It couldn't have been the vocals, could it?

Now all these years later, I find that this album hasn't aged well at all. Instead of a fine wine, what we have here is a chunk of moldy cheese. In other words, it's not just a cheesy album, it's also pretty bad. GTR were known for their two guitarists, Steve Howe and Steve Hackett. What isn't widely known is that instead of using keyboards, they used those awful guitar-based synthesizers. This basically meant that the vibrations of their guitar strings were fed into a synthesizer trigger pickup which sent MIDI signals to a synthesizer. I've never been fond of the sounds these produced often causing me much irritation.

The other problem with this album is that once you get past the first track, their lone top 40 hit, When the Heart Rules the Mind, the rest of the album is quite a disappointment containing mostly arena rock-styled mediocrity. It almost sounds like a poor man's Asia, and maybe that's because Asia keyboardist Geoff Downes produced this album. I find it unbelievable that these two highly acclaimed guitarists made this stuff. It must have been a sign of the times and a clear indication of what was wrong with music in the 1980s.

GTR disbanded in 1987. And that's pretty much it.

I feel inclined to give this one star because for me it is a difficult listen. But I know there are a lot of fans out there for these two guitarists, and being fans, they'll probably want this. Everyone else should probably avoid. Two stars.

Report this review (#165487)
Posted Tuesday, April 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars Some reviewers were expecting an old-school Yes or Genesis album because of the people involved here. Any such expectations were however obviously misdirected; this album was released in 1986, about the same time as Genesis' Invisible Touch and Yes' Big Generator. I think this album is very much better than those albums.

Many tend to compare GTR to Asia, probably because Steve Howe was in Asia just before he formed GTR with Steve Hackett, and also because the album was produced by another member of Asia, Geoff Downes. Downes also wrote one of the songs here, The Hunter. However, I don't think that it is a good comparison at all, since Asia and GTR are quite different bands. But let's go on with it anyway and compare these two bands. I think GTR is much better than Asia.

The guitar work on this album by two of my all time favourite guitarists is outstanding. A lot more varied and interesting than on the Asia albums. Both Steves play a lot of acoustic guitars in addition to the electric ones. And both of them also play keyboards! Max Bacon is a very good vocalist with a distinctive voice (and to go along with the Asia comparison) I much prefer him to John Wetton. The GTR album is also much more varied than the Asia albums. Both Howe and Hackett have their own instrumentals here and the there is a well balanced mix between slower and faster material. Even the lyrics are far better than Asia's in my opinion.

The GTR album is also much more progressive and harder rocking than any of the Asia albums. In fact, much of this album is complex hard rock rather than the 80's style pop/rock of Asia.

The are only two things that I can think of speaking in favour of Asia in this comparison. The first is the band name and the second is the cover art. GTR is a really bad band name and the album should have had a Roger Dean cover!

In my opinion at least this album is a lot better than any of the albums by Asia, or anything either Yes or Genesis did during the 80's. I also think this album ranks among the best work either Steve Howe or Steve Hackett ever did outside of Yes and Genesis.

This album is highly recommended for all prog fans and for fans of either Steve Howe or Steve Hackett this album is essential listening.

Report this review (#178358)
Posted Monday, July 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
2 stars One truly big disapointment in a decade full of big disappointments (prog-wise, I mean). I believe I was one of thevery few old school prog lovers who actually liked Asia´s first album. I also enjoyed Genesis pop albums and some of Kansas stuff with John Elefante. Even Styx and Yes. After all, it was good prog influenced pop music. But some projects just didn´t work. GTR was an obvious exploitation of Asia´s success. Ok, nothing against it as long as the music was good, prog, pop or whatever.

Alas, tha was not the case with GTR. I didn´t like the album then and I don´t like it now, for the very same reason: the union of two genius prog guitar heroes is not enough to make a good band out of it. Even if the other musicians are very good, they simply don´t gel. And the songwriting is really bad. With two exceptions, the opener When The Heart Rules The Mind and The Hunter, the rest of the songs are just awful. The two instrumentals don´t count, of course, for they are really solo spots, not the work of GTR.

Everything sounds forced and contrived. No wonder there was not a folow up. I guess it was all too embarassing for everyone involved. Very forgetable, at least for me. It would make a nice pop single with the two aforementioned songs. Two stars is the most I can give them based on that. If you want to try it, be warned: listen before you spend your hard earned money based only upon the names involved. This may not be worth it, even for the hardcore Hackett and /or Howe fans.

Report this review (#178367)
Posted Monday, July 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Specialist
3 stars I have a copy of GTR since it was released, and always hated the album, but his week took my record, placed it in the car's CD player, listened it carefully. and found it much better than I remembered.

Maybe the problem is not the quality of the album because it's good POP stuff, but that we expected so much of a Hackett - Howe release that disappointed all of us when we heard it, specially the Prog fans who of course believed GTR would be a Progressive Rock master`piece and not just a good but not outstanding AOR/POP release.

So leaving behind the prejudice, will try to review it and be fair.

The album starts with "When the Heart Rules the Mind" a song that from the first note reminds clearly of ASIA, something that could be expected because both bands are product of the 80's with key members of Prog bands who decided to go for a more profitable alternative and with that keyboard sound that defined the decade.

But being honest, I don't know why I disliked this song so much when if is at least as good as most 80's stuff, solid guitar, with Howe reminding of YES (Drama era) and Hackett providing some interesting atmospheres. Max Bacon is not Lake or Wetton, but still a very decent vocalist and the interplay between Spalding and Mover was pretty solid. A good track, with 80's sound but enjoyable.

"The Hunter" also presents interesting moments, Howe's guitar again reminds of YES (This time GFTO era) and Hackett does an outstanding job, maybe the only problem is that at some point the drums sound too mechanic, but again a good AOR track.

"Here I Wait" is the lowest point until this part of the album, boring, repetitive, a hybrid between AOR, POP and lame Hard Rock, so lets go to "Sketches in the Sun" which starts with an incredibly beautiful chords interplay between Hackett and Howe, what apparently was only an intro, goes increasing in intensity until it stops and starts again, very nice song, a very high moment, sadly a bit short.

As "Here I Wait" before, "Jekyll and Hyde" is a forgettable boring song, so again will go to the next track which is "You Can Still Get Through" a song that rises the level of the album again, they even dare to make a couple of radical changes, but something is true, the voice of Bacon is boring me at this moment, the guy has very little versatility and lacks of emotion, the synth and guitar break is interesting, again a correct song.

"Reach Out (Never Say No)" starts almost like a 90125 track, but soon the voice of Max Bacon starts to bore me again, not much to comment, except for the bass work, so for the third time I run to the next song "Toe the Line" a song that should had been an instrumental, the guitar work is very pretty, but the vocals are weak.

"Hackett to Bits" alone could pay this album, Steve Hackett does a wonderful work in each moment, heard this track in live concerts and always enjoyed it from start to end, outstanding confrontation between the electric and acoustic guitar, if just all the album was as good as this song.

"Imagining" has an acoustic intro that shouts "Hackett", seems this guys reserved the best for the end, then Howe and the band join to make a very good closer, except for the vocals that by this point are starting to turn me off.

The big question is How bad would we had considered this album if Hackett and Howe were not together on it? Probably the rating would be over 3 stars because it's not bad, the problem is that the expectations were too high for this Aorish but decent album.

Now, I thought ASIA deserved at least three stars because I didn't expected as much from them, but some tracks of this album are superior to anything ASIA did, and the bad tracks are not as bad as the worst from the already mentioned supergroup.

So being an average album will have to give the average rating, three stars, but only if you don't expect a Prog masterpiece at the level of Hackett and Howe.

Report this review (#219208)
Posted Sunday, May 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Since I have a guilty pleasure for 80's hair metal, I wasn't surprise when actually liked this for what it is, The singer sounds like the guy from stryper, maybe the guy from europe, journey, you get the picture, 80's mtv formula pure and simple, but if you listen closely, Only a band like this, could come up with an atmosphere as complex yet deceptively simple, I would have been much happier if rick wakeman would have joined in and played the vocal parts. I paid 1.98 for a vinyl copy of this, I must admit, I doubt i ever listen again. so ultimately 3 stars is all i can do. Its not as bad as you think.
Report this review (#407398)
Posted Thursday, February 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars Interesting AOR project by Mr. Steve Hackett (Genesis) and Steve Howe (Yes, Asia). Without a second album, GTR present a sort of POP AOR without mordantv but with excellent AOR tracks in: "When The Heart Rules The Mind" and "The Hunter". For the rest interesting music, no Prog or similar (Asia was more Proggy in those years). Good for writing the songs have also good arrangements but mot hard sound: too easy, also due to sound production.

GTR was a great band for AOR and for the presence of two genious of guitar, Hackett and Howe. For the rest typical 80's POP AOR band with a normal POP AOR album.

Report this review (#418314)
Posted Saturday, March 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars GTR is one of the hated bands here on PA, only few proggers tried and succeded to have some nice words around this band since it was introduce to data base years ago. Well I will be one of the proggers who like this one, not better not worst then any Asia album , because the comparation in inevitable, musicaly speaking. Releasewd in may 1986, become almost instantly gold in sale numebers, something realy intristing for today standards, if we look at the line up we see some big names in prog world, the contrast between the names and what they play here is huge. Hackett and Howe are for sure the main actors here, the rest of the musicians even are ok and great contribute to the overall sound they are not so well known, at least to me. Anyway the album sounds like AOR with some typical thet special rock of the period, with some good moments, some Yes moments, vague but are, some pop elements added and here we have selftitled GTR. Sketches In The Sun who is a pice wrote by Howe, can be recognizeble his style instantly, beautiful pice, Hackett To Bits is of course a Hackett one, very dark and very progressive, this piece easely is similar with any piece from Defector, same attitude and moody dark atmosphere, very good, the rest of the pieces are ok for me, nothing realy special but ok, each musician did a good job. So, to me is a 3 star album, nothing more nothing less, enjoyble but not very often to be puted to spin.
Report this review (#502464)
Posted Saturday, August 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Just realized that I have not put my words about this legendary album by collaboration of two guitar maestros of the 70's: Steve Howe (of YES fame) and Steve Hackett (of Genesis fame). When I heard about this collaboration it's was natural that I expected something spectacular which in reality did not happen. Well it's probably over expectation as those two gentlemen were coming from prog powerhouse. It's similar with what I expected with Asia in the early 80s. But if I forget who the people behind this debut album, this is actually not a bad album at all even though I do not here something prog related to the work of of Howe or Hackett. Well, it's probably they formed this GTR to do things differently from the bands they were coming from.

The masterpiece is of course the opening track co-written by two Steves 'When The Heart Rules The Mind' which was successful as the track reached number 14 in the Billboard Top 100 and spent a couple of months on the chart. This was of course an achievement by prog musician who could chart their work on Billboard. Composition-wise this is something that you would expect from straight rock or pop rock band. However, as we all know the style of the two guitarist therefore there are pieces filled with their unique guitar style - that what makes this track differs from any music from straight rock band.

The Hinter was the one written by Geoff Downes (Asia) and represents a slower or mellow track of this album. There are good tracks like Reach Out - especially I like the energy of the song and the guitar solo work. Also Imagining, Here I wait, Sketches In The Sun and Hackett to Bits. Sketches In The Sun is an acoustic number was performed with Asia. The "Asia Live In Asia" home video has a recorded version of the song taken from the gig on December 1983. Steve Howe has a number of versions available of this track including a demo on the original Homebrew demo.

Overall, it's a good album with minimum prog elements but still deliver god music overall. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#810116)
Posted Saturday, August 25, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars Like a lot of 'supergroups', GTR has widely been regarded as a disappointment and a wasted opportunity by progressive rock fans. Also like a lot of supergroups, some of the flak it receives is deserved, but a fair amount of it is the result of unfair expectations. Anybody expecting a grandiose symphonic prog masterpiece in the vein of Close to the Edge or Foxtrot from this 1986 collaboration between Steve Howe and Steve Hackett is probably looking in the wrong place, and though their disappointment is likely to be monumental, folks that set more realistic expectations may be likely to find some enjoyment from this decent eighties' rock album. GTR feels rather unadventurous and disappointing considering the stellar lineup, but the end result is still an average effort that is substantially better than anything Yes or Genesis were doing at the time.

In many ways, the music found on GTR's sole album is what we'd expect from progressive rock's 'dinosaurs' during the mid eighties' - commercial oriented and melodic tunes with catchy choruses and approachable lyrics. Fortunately, GTR is a notch above what one may initially anticipate as most of the songs here are not too shabby at all. "When the Heart Rules the Mind" is a decent little pop tune, "Imagining" and "The Hunter" are pretty good rock tracks, and "Sketches In the Sun" and "Hackett to Bits" are nice instrumental pieces that let us know that we are dealing with two legendary guitarists. Lead vocalist Max Bacon has a powerful set of pipes that suits this style of music perfectly, and this combined with the hard rocking AOR compositions should definitely bring Journey and other American rock groups to mind. This 'American' style, however, sacrifices everything that made Hackett's pastoral tones and Howe's frantic fretwork so unique in the first place; the lack of personality is probably GTR's greatest setback, and although it is mightily disappointing to see two progressive rock giants make an AOR album, their failure to leave a unique stamp on the material is what impacts my enjoyment of the music most.

That being said, the material here is still not bad as far as I'm concerned. Does it sound like it was produced through a tin can? Yes. Does it fail to highlight what makes Hackett and Howe such excellent guitarists? Yes. Is it a relatively mediocre AOR album when all is said and done? Also yes. Still, no matter how much I should hate GTR, I find myself singing along to a few of the choruses and enjoying the hell out of the crisp riffs and melodic vocals every time I give it a spin. GTR is a supergroup with a massive amount of missed potential, but for what it is, they put out a decent observation before disappearing for good.

Report this review (#882927)
Posted Thursday, December 27, 2012 | Review Permalink
1 stars In retrospect, this album never had a chance. While there certainly have been some exceptions, supergroups are generally the kind of idea that seems really great in theory but quickly becomes unbearable, like deciding to eat an entire pizza yourself. So it was with GTR, the short-lived collaboration between Steve Howe and Steve Hackett (with the rest of the group filled out by various anonymous players, including vocalist Max Bacon, who is an embodiment of all of my least favorite stereotypes of vocalists from the 80s). The story behind the group actually had its roots in another supergroup; while Howe was perfectly content with the kind of slightly artsy arena rock being made by Asia, he wasn't happy with the relatively minor position of his guitar in relation to the keyboards, and this helped to fuel his departure from the band. Howe had three main principles in mind for his new project: (1) the music style would be arena rock, (2) there would be no keyboards, and instead any synth-like parts would be handled by guitar synthesizer pickups attached to the guitars, and (3) he wanted Steve Hackett on board as the other guitarist. Hackett was willing to do the project, but he didn't have the same enthusiasm as Howe did; where Howe viewed this as a potential long-term project, Hackett viewed this as a short-term collaboration, and (on the surface at least) it really seems like the main driver for his participation in this project was that his last couple of albums (Bay of Kings and Till We Have Faces) hadn't sold very well.

Very predictably, this setup didn't work out so well. Howe and Hackett never really got on the same page creatively, and anybody hoping for any quality interplay between two of the giants of 70s prog guitar will be extremely disappointed. The guitar playing on this album (rather predictably) isn't so much interplay as it is the two sides taking turns, with one guitarist at any point either dropping from the mix or acting as a synthesizer mimic. Furthermore, while there are some stretches where it's clear which guitarist is currently playing a given part, there are long stretches where both Howe and Hackett disappear behind the wall of generic arena rock they've put up for themselves. Furthermore, even when the parts clearly belong to one or the other, the effect is to call up a nostalgia for when the technique on display was used in a better song. It should also be noted that any parts clearly recognizable as Hackett basically discard all of the advances and experimentation from Faces; it's pretty clear to me that Hackett didn't put a tremendous amount of himself into this project.

The album's big hit was the opening "When the Heart Rules the Mind," but aside from the mildly promising opening (with a nice part clearly from Howe), the track is mostly generic mid-tempo 80s arena rock of the worst kind, and it's only notable for somebody interested in collecting every spare Howe and Hackett lick ever recorded. Much better is the following track, "The Hunter," written by producer Geoff Downes (an aside; if Howe's main drive for leaving Asia was that he didn't like the ratio of keyboards to guitars, then why would he invite Asia's keyboardist to produce this album? Of all the peripheral details of this album, this one still confuses me the most); aside from a pretty decent and compact verse melody, as well as a nice build into the various climaxes ("...only the hunter ... only the hunter ... SURVIVES!!!"), it also has the album's most blatant bit of nostalgia thanks to Howe breaking out his "Your Move" guitar approach in the verses. The song isn't anywhere near great, but it's mildly decent, and that makes for a relative highlight.

The best tracks on here sound the least like the typical material of the album. "Sketches in the Sun" is a solo piece from Howe, with him playing a duet with himself on electric guitar, and it's a delightful use of 2:33 that would have sounded great on one of his solo albums. Of the various "regular" songs, "Toe the Line" is easily the best; the song is a model of restraint in its morph from an acoustic ballad into a slightly louder number, and Howe's brief snippet of slide parts in the last minute is quite lovely. I'm not really sure what role Hackett plays in the song, but whatever.

The other six tracks are absolutely atrocious. The Hackett match to "Sketches in the Sun," entitled "Hackett to Bits" (yup, he's even reusing puns from previous song titles), is a vile bastardization of "Please Don't Touch," but it's still probably the best of the remaining material. The sung tracks might all have different melodies, but they're all built around the same basic formula; mid-tempo arena rock built around disappointingly generic guitar (with occasional bits of individual personality coming through), goofy guitar synths, plodding drumming, and those awful vocals. Oh, those awful vocals. With a better vocalist, some of this material might have been salvagable, but there is no better vocalist to be found.

Anyway, this band wasn't long for the world, and it's just as well. Try and find the best two or three tracks, but stay far away from the rest of this. This isn't the worst project Steve Howe was ever a part of (at the least, it's a lot shorter than Union, and Howe's involvement in that album is much less than his involvement here), but it is probably the worst project Steve Hackett was ever a part of, and that says something.

Report this review (#916372)
Posted Wednesday, February 20, 2013 | Review Permalink
1 stars What a strange paradox are my feelings about this album. It was the 80's, and as is widely known, a paltry, sad, dark decade for prog. I had only just discovered Yes (from 90125, then worked back and discovered everything else), and yearned for ANY new music that would feature any of my heroes, specifically Howe. Asia was, well, Asia, but then Steve had left and they released the truly abysmal Astra. When I heard "When the Heart Rules the Mind" on the radio, I had no idea who these folks were, but I recognized Steve Howe's guitar. This was also before the internet, and I had no idea how to keep up with what anyone was doing, so I had no idea that Steve had been up to anything. I loved the album at first, but now realize that it was just because I was starving. A saltine cracker will taste like filet mignon if you're starving. Now, listening to this, I'm struck by it's awfulness. There's absolutely no depth to the sound. The lyrics are worse than banal. The singer is really annoying. It just sucks. It's a saltine cracker that's stale and doesn't have enough salt. Nonetheless, I still like "When the Heart..." only because I remember the excitement I felt at that time.
Report this review (#1146100)
Posted Tuesday, March 11, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars How to disappoint your loyal followers in 2 easy steps.

I guess it really is no big news how lame virtuoso guitar players can become when forced or self forced to compose. Since I heard Steve Howe's first solo release, I was well aware that his performing skills are opposite to his songwriting ones. Maybe I was expecting more from Hackett, his first solo release is, in comparison to Howe's, far more daring and creative.

Anyway, the more I listen to GTR's "GTR", 1986, the worst it gets (and I am listening to their 2015 remastered deluxe 2 cds edition). The 80's Pop "clean cut" mainstream song style is the least of its problems. This could justify the audiences it expected to reach. No, the big upset is how self-indulgent these extraordinary guitar players can get. Showing off your lack of songwriting skills can turn out to be the best way to dissapont your talented performances followers.

You could gather around like 5 minutes of what is worth listening to, the rest is just expendable as 1000s of the 80's musical productions.

**2 "lame and forgettable" PA stars.

Report this review (#1500422)
Posted Thursday, December 17, 2015 | Review Permalink

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