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Steve Hackett Darktown album cover
3.78 | 357 ratings | 26 reviews | 24% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1999

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Omega Metallicus (3:48)
2. Darktown (4:59)
3. Man Overboard (4:17)
4. The Golden Age of Steam (4:09)
5. Days of Long Ago (3:23)
6. Dreaming with Open Eyes (6:54)
7. Twice Around the Sun (7:15)
8. Rise Again (4:26)
9. Jane Austen's Door (6:13)
10. Darktown Riot (3:10)
11. In Memoriam (7:59)

Total Time 56:33

Bonus tracks on 2013 IOM reissue:
12. Flame (4:21)
13. Coming Home to the Blues (6:13)
14. Fast Flower (4:32)

Line-up / Musicians

- Steve Hackett / vocals, guitars (electric, nylon, 12-string), harmonica (2,3), thumb piano (3), addit. strings (4), percussion, narrator voice (2,11), computer software orchestral (3,4) & chorus (2) simulation, producer

- Roger King / bass & keyboards (2,9), drums & flageolet (4), Mellotron (10), programming (1,7,9-11), computer software chorus simulation (11), Fx, post production
- Ben Fenner / Mellotron & organ & DX7 synth (7), Fx, strings & children choir arrangements (4)
- Julian Colbeck / keyboards (2)
- Aron Friedman / piano & keyboards (8)
- John Hackett / flute & panpipes (6)
- Ian McDonald / saxophone (2)
- Billy Budis / cello (5), bass (8)
- Jerry Peal / strings (4,6), bells (4), bass & keyboards (6)
- Doug Sinclair / bass (1), fretless bass (7)
- John Wetton / bass samples (11)
- Hugo Degenhardt / drums (8)
- Jim Diamond / vocals (5)
- Jamie McKenna / children chorus vocals (4)
- Mae McKenna / children chorus vocals (4)

Releases information

Artwork: Lippa Pearce with Harry Pearce (photo)

CD Camino Records ‎- CAMCD17 (1999, Europe)
CD Wolfwork Records ‎- WWCD003 (2011, UK)
CD Inside Out Music ‎- IOMCD369 (2013, Germany) With 3 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy STEVE HACKETT Darktown Music

STEVE HACKETT Darktown ratings distribution

(357 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(24%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(43%)
Good, but non-essential (24%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

STEVE HACKETT Darktown reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by loserboy
4 stars For those like me who are "Mega" HACKETT fans may I strongly recommend "DarkTown", Steve's new release. Not unlike all of HACKETT's other release you will find smartly crafted songs put to some of the tastiest guitar playing around. "Darktown" marks yet another major milestone in Steve's musical explorations, this time bring joined by guest Ian McDonald who adds some lovely sax playing and comrade Julian Colbeck (keyboards). "Darktown" is surrounded by many animated-like accents including ominous narration and background sound effects. As the title would suggest the album is dark in nature with atmospheric landscapes and loads of minor chords. "Darktown" also features a few numbers with the ol' mellotron including the standout instrumental number "Twice Around The Sun". Most of the vocal parts are handled by Steve with a guest appearance by Scotland's Jim Diamond.
Review by Hibou
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars What a fine display of talent this album is, yet what a troubled soul Mr. HACKETT seems to be. From the satanic intro to the funeral anthem that closes the album, one mood prevails: gloom & doom. Yet, it is one of STEVE's most accomplished works ever (including "To Watch the Storms") and my personal HACKETT favourite (the very few I grant 5 stars to).

Putting "Darktow" into your CD player holds the same morbid fascination as going to out see what you know is going to be a horrific yet beautiful movie ('Schindler's List' comes to mind, here). Such is the power of "Darktown": it is utterly dark yet so beautiful and moving you can't help but feel drawn to it. The opener "Omega Metallicus" is a totally zany bass number. "The Golden Age of Steel" recounts the chilling tale of a youngster stooling on his Jewish friends during WW2, the horror being emphasized by the innocent, almost happy-go-lucky drum and flute melody. The ballads "Jane Austen's Door" and "Days of Long Ago" are so touching they'll move you to tears. The soaring instrumental "Twice Around the Sun" showcases one of STEVE's best guitar solos since "Firth of Fifth". Finally, the magnificent anthem "In Memoriam" is a slow-cooking instrumental where STEVE intermittently talks before finally flying into one of his lacey solos that trail off into the night and leave you speechless.

With "Darktown", you discover a facet of HACKETT that was only hinted at on his previous albums. An album as 'dark as the grave' to which you are inevitably, insanely drawn.

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars As much as I love Steve Hackett's 70s input, I must admit that I regard his 1999 'Darktown' as his top achievement. This effort captures the gloomy spirit of sheer melancholy and emotional restlessness in a modern sounding approach; yet, you can still notice that the vintage Hackett touch is evidently there. Hackett manages to catch up with the current avant-garde rock scene, while keeping his own artistic integrity intact, and at the same time, refreshed. "Omega Metallicus" kicks off with a full frontal techno-industrial guise, which is only the particular ambience that Hackett chooses to convey his first testimony of anger on his fiery guitar lines. Things slow down in tempo though not in attitude in the title track, very sombre indeed: the sort of reprise "Darktown Riot" retakes this picture with a higher level of energy. Track 3 "Man Overboard" portrays the first momentary rite of introspective relaxation: with nylon and 12-string acoustic guitars leading the main harmonies, Hackett sings his meditative lyrics in a peaceful manner, leaving some room in the interlude for the splendour surfacing of a most beautiful keyboard orchestration. This piece reminds me of the old Hackett's bucolic side as exposed in his '78-'80 albums. - sublime! An even more excellent introspective piece is the bossa nova-tinged number "Dreaming with Open Eyes", where Hackett 's immaculate finesse on classical guitar shines like an exotic jewel in the middle of an autumn rainy night in the highway. "Twice Around the Clock", a stunning slow tempo instrumental that allows Hackett to exorcise once again the ghosts of 'Spectral Mornings', as I said before, in a modern ambience. "Days of Long Ago" and "Jane Austen's Door" are the most relaxing tracks, relying on a more conventional mainstream ballad structure - two nice occasions to take a rest and enjoy the simplicity of sheer romanticism and let it move you. On the other hand, "The Golden Age of Steam" takes a cynical look at the ways of war on a martial pace articulated by synthetic orchestration and rhythm patterns, creating a 'false' celebratory context for child espionage. Saving the best for last - "Rise Again" and the closure "In Memoriam" are my fave tracks of this album. The former is lyrically centred on the subject of death and reincarnation, starting with an acoustic section, which then gives way to a jazz-rock tour-de-force, driven with passion both in the instrumental and the vocal departments (when shouting that "we will rise again", Hackett is not only making a statement, he's genuinely proclaiming a testimony of faith). The latter is a tribute to the glory days of KC, reconstructing the majestic melancholy of 'Epitaph' with a gentle touch of density taken from 'Starless' and 'Exiles': oddly enough, regarding the lyrics' contents, behind the wall of doom and gloom there seems to be some space for hope. If it is true that you cannot properly judge a book by its cover, as the old adage states, it is abundantly clear to me, regarding this particular case, that the cover and inner pictures of 'Darktown' constitute a signal of the album's same spirit. The very essence of the human heart's darkness has been masterfully conveyed in this excellent album: Hackett at his finest!
Review by Muzikman
3 stars Steve HACKETT's legacy has reached legendary proportions over the years due to his contributions to progressive rock in bands like GENESIS. His solo career has also left its imprint upon the history of progressive rock. Although I haven't heard too much of his solo work, these two releases gave me a good idea of what direction HACKETT went on two of his outings.

"Feedback 86" was his post GTR solo album [of material intended for the second GTR album], and it probably was a huge disappointment, it certainly was for me. It all sounds like over produced fluff; it's overtly technical, fake and plastic. It's really a shame, as HACKETT is a great guitar player, one of the best. What saves the day are the 20 MP3 bonus tracks. I suggest you skip right over the album and go right to the MP3's, they are excellent. Chester Thompson and Ian McDonald also contribute tracks. Several of the songs are of the unplugged variety. Of particular interest are the cuts from the Tokyo Tapes. "Court Of The Crimson King" and "Heat Of The Moment" are fantastic acoustic adventures that will have prog fans and collectors reeling. "Sketches of Satie-Pieces Froides #2," "Skteches of Satie-Gnossienne #2," and "Momentum- Cavalcanti" show a beautiful side of HACKETT's guitar playing. All the tracks have a decidedly Latin flavor ala Segovia.

"Darktown" is a much better solo effort. HACKETT seems much more focused and the music is more codified and driven with purpose, whereas "Feedback 86" was a unfocused mish mash of cold and calculating technology. His guitar work is exemplarily, and many of the songs have a world feel to them, as many different instruments are employed. It's like what Peter GABRIEL has done in the past, filling the studio with a wonderful cross section of musicians from around the world to create a rock and roll hybrid all his own.

I know that Steve HACKETT has garnered rave reviews and the respect of his peers over the years, and I am a little disappointed that I couldn't rant and rave about his work. I hope I have the opportunity to hear more of his catalog in the near future so I don't have to look at his solo career through just two CDs. I have a feeling he did a lot of great work over the years that I just haven't had the privilege to hear yet. I believe regardless of my feelings that these two discs were well worth the listen and any prog rock diehard would find some value and entertainment in them, I certainly did, especially in all of the MP3s.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Through this album Steve Hackett has embarked his music into new kind of gothic settings with a darker nuance and heavier style while maintaining its original roots. I have found a considerable use of sampling / programming in this album. I have owned this CD long time ago and considered it as an excellent album. When I observed on track by track level, I found there are definitely reasonable number of great tracks and also some good ones. That's why I will give my track by track review under these two categories.

The Great Tracks

In my review of Steve's Live Archives box set, I did mention a wonderful bass player Sir Douglas Sinclair. Yep, Steve asks him to perform great job in this great track: "Omega Metallicus" (track 1). He does a superb job in this track with his dazzling bass guitar style accompanied with Steve' guitar style. The main rhythm section uses a sampling designed by Roger King. This song represents new Hackett style in his music creation.

The title track "Darktown" (track 2) is a fantastic track that blew me away at first listen. It opens nicely with a soft guitar effects and (almost) growling Steve's vocal. The rhythm that follows after the first paragraph of lyrical part is really catchy and memorable. Luckily this rhythm section is repeated quite often throughout passages of the song and the form like a central melody of the song. Lyric-wise this song represents Steve's quest about the school system in Great Britain. The drum work is programmed (I guess Roger King did tit). Ian McDonald's saxophone work has created an image of avant-garde sort of music. Oh man . I love this second track very much!

"Man Overboard" is a nice track opened by an acoustic guitar outfit augmented by a soft keyboard sound at background. When the voice line enters, there is an inclusion of strange sound - that I guess it's a thumb piano - which enriches the song textures. The melody part is composed by maintaining the roots of Hackett's music.

"The Golden Age of Steam" (track 4) is another fantastic track that brings us to a further darker nuance through a tightly composed music. It begins with a woodwind work followed with an excellent orchestration. Oh man .. I never imagined before that Steve would ever create this wonderfully crafted tune! This song is inspired by a book "The Diary of Anne Frank" about character's development from child, to spy and to monster - a story of opportunism at its worst (as put in CD sleeve). It's a great track!

"Darktown Riot" is an excellent instrumental tune that revolves its main rhythm around sampling and adopting the catchy segment from "Darktown" (track 1).

The Good Tracks

"Days of Long Ago" is a mellow track featuring the only guest vocal for this album: Jim Diamond. The main rhythm is Steve's acoustic guitar work. "Dreaming With Open Eyes" is a mellow track with sampling rhythm. "Twice Around The Sun" is a nice song with a really stunning guitar solo. It flows to the next track "Rise Again" which probably the only track that uses real drum set, played by a fantastic drummer: Hugo Degenhardt - whom I commented in my review of Live Archives box set. "Jane Austen's Door" is again another mellow track. "In Memoriam" uses soft keyboard sound as its main rhythm section using virtual drum (designed by Roger King). It's a symphonic outfit, I would say. I find that this song duration should be made around five minutes as this current version makes me boring with repeated melodies.

Overall it's a recommended album with 4 out of 5 stars rating. - Keep on progging!

Yours progressively

GW - Indonesia.

Review by chessman
3 stars Steve Hackett has never released a 'bad' album, in my opinion. Even his lesser liked works, such as Cured and Till We Have Faces have some good points about them, and, of all the artists and bands I like, he is, maybe, the most consistent of all. However, if I had to choose a least favourite album, this would be one of the contenders. Yes, I like it, and I have played it quite a few times, but for me it lacks an indefineable something when compared to his other releases. Maybe it is a little too ' modern' or 'jerky' in parts. Hard for me to describe really. 'Omega Metallicus' is a case in point. It is too bassy, staccato-like, and surprisingly unmelodic for Steve. Not bad, you understand, but not great either. 'Darktown' itself is another track that doesn't endear itself to me. It is ok, but doesn't have the atmosphere of a true Hackett classic. 'Man Overboard' is better. Nice harmonies, something Steve is a master of, combined with a good melody and that true Hackett 'atmosphere' I just mentioned. A good song. 'The Golden Age Of Steam' is ok, but not wonderful. Interesting lyrically, the melody doesn't inspire one greatly. (Nice harmonies again in the middle of the song though!) 'Days Of Long Ago' has some nice guitar touches, but is a quite average ballad really. However, the next track, 'Dreaming With Open Eyes' is excellent. One of my top three songs on this album, it is Hackett back to his best. Nice acoustic guitar, strong lyrics, atmospheric melody. It is the sort of song to drive along to down a country road in mid-summer. Beautiful. 'Twice Around The Sun' continues the good run of form. The second of my fave three tracks, this is a powerful and typical Hackett electric guitar instrumental, with amazing sustain at the end. Brilliant. 'Rise Again' is sombre, dark, and, well, average. A simpler song without a strong melody. Nice guitar in places though. 'Jane Austen's Door' is a nice ballad, with effective, muted guitar, and nice vocals from Steve. Not bad at all. 'Darktown Riot' is actually better than the title track mentioned earlier. Quite amusing yet dark. As intended of course. Then we have the third of my favourite three, the magnificent opus 'In Memoriam'. I thought at first he may be using lyrics from Tennyson's famous poem, but this is a different beast. Good melody, superb keyboards, astounding guitar work, which at times sounds like keyboards as well, and an almost choir-like chant in the chorus bring together many fine threads into a lovely work. This song could easily have fitted on Guitar Noir. It reminds me in a way, not melody wise but production and atmosphere wise, of 'Heart Of The City' on that album. I love it, and it is a grand way to finish the album. (I don't possess the Japanese version, so can't comment on the two bonus tracks.) Although it is not one of my favourite Hackett albums, it is still worth a listen or thirty! Again, his talent is undeniable.
Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Darktown is a fitting goodbye to the millenium in Steve Hackett's eyes. It's got a bitter feeling, a gritty edge, and a ripe dose of melancholy. This album is like peering into the soul of the softspoken guitarist who really shows a wide range of emotions on this album, from dark and dreary instrumentals to somewhat more uplifting pieces, to even a pop song that takes the album down a different avenue. Hackett's ensemble of musicians here range from the versatile Ian McDonald to his keyboardist Julian Colbeck, and the entire group crafts these songs wonderfully and they all have a great aura of mystery and self-doubt that really make this album a depressing listen. In the end, you'll find a nice balance of majestic acoustic pieces and rollicking heavy numbers that add a great blend of light and dark atmospheres. It's a recipe for success, but does it come out on top?

From the rubbery slapped bass intro to Omega Metallicus, one can already here a darker, more mature Steve Hackett. This short instrumental opening prepares the listener for the overall mood of the album. Some top notch bass from Doug Sinclair on this one, as well as a great solo theme from Hackett. Darktown opens with a an ascending/descending riff underneath Hackett's modulated voice to give it a deep and rather grim tone. Add some wild saxophone from Ian McDonald during the instrumental interludes in it and you have yourself a live favorite and a phenomenal piece of work. Man Overboard acts as the first acoustic ballad to diversify the forboding heaviness of the album. Hackett's vocals on this track are soothing (maybe because he sounds like David Gilmour?) and his acoustic work is impeccable and the orchestra arrangement as well as the choirs give it a very warm feeling. The Golden Age of Steam invokes memories of World War II and has a rather majestic feel to it thanks to the orchestral arrangement. A voice over is played towards the end that describes convoys moving across bombarded streets that helps retain that feeling of the past.

Days of Long Ago seems to be the only true weak link on this album. An acoustic ballad at its core, the vocals from Jim Diamond don't only feel cheesy, but the entire song has this whole overblown feel and it really hurts the album more than strengthens it. The only truly weak song here. Dreaming With Open Eyes begins quietly with some hymal style vocals from Hackett and some subtle percussion, with memories of Star of Sirius because of the very bell like percussion. It never really changes in mood, it only develops on the mellow atmosphere and really offers a nice balance to the heaviness of the next track. Twice Around the Sun is the second instrumental on the album, it features more sprawling solo work from Hackett who really is able to create a terrific atmosphere with his soloing that also creates a main theme for the song, some more great bass work from Doug Sinclair is also on this song. Rise Again seems to be the uplifting piece of the album, with some great vocals from Hackett and a nice acoustic rhythm. It quickly turns into an uplifting instrumental breakdown that has some incredible drumming and some more great vocals from Hackett.

Jane Austen's Door has the ballad feeling because of the drum beat, but it really is a gentle piece with some great harmonized guitar work from Hackett and a nice chorus. Darktown Riot reiterates the main theme from the song Darktown, albeit in a slightly skewed and sped up form. It's a cool little instrumental interlude before the closer of the album, which may as well be Hackett's saddest piece ever written, In Memoriam. In Memoriam closes the album with a very slow paced ballad that features some great solo work from Hackett between the verses. The choir sings brilliantly during the chorus and adds a hymnal flare to this song. Hackett also uses a synthesized guitar on this track that gives the guitar the sound of a keyboard. It's probably my favorite piece on the album and it's one of the most emotional songs I've ever heard.

In the end, Darktown is a phenomenal album that no fan of Steve Hackett should go without. It's got its sore spots, but on the whole, it's a brilliant experience and it has a wonderfully dark feeling to it that should cater to more audiences than none. It's among the best Hackett albums and a great return to form for the guitarist. 5/5.

Review by Prog-Brazil
3 stars Great album by Mr.Hackett. When I saw him for the first time in 2001 (Florianópolis/Brazil), playing Darktown Riot (I think), I confess I didn't like it so much. Because this, I didn't look for this album before. But now I had the opportunity to listen it at all, and I really loved it. This music is not like Hackett from seventies, but it's so good as old times, or more mature, how people have said in other reviews. This is a different kind of progressive, with electronic, dark and experimental passages, but almost all time, mellodic. The first track (Omega Metallicus) opens the album remembering some parts of Cassandra (bonus track of Guitar Noir), that Hackett composed with Brian May. Days of Long Ago remembers Horizons, and Jane Austen's Door "stole from himself" the riffs from "Vôo de coraįão", recorded in 1983 with Ritchie partness. "Man Overboard" and "The Golden Age Of Steam" are the beautiful ones that I like more. The songs aren't connected to each other, but you will enjoy Darktown if you listen the entire album (like almost all prog-albums). I give three and a half stars for this album: (very) good, but not essential.
Review by TGM: Orb
3 stars Darktown

Omegus Metallicus Quirky, entertaining and light-hearted with a great bass part. Not Hackett's best, but not bad at all.

Darktown A dark, moving tune with particularly excellent sax and keyboard parts. The vocals are appropriate. A serious, progressive song with deliberate, meaningful lyrics.

Man Overboard An acoustic-based song with a choral part that works quite well and subtly with the rest of the music.

The Golden Age Of Steam Not my favourite, but nonetheless very good.

Days of Long Ago Despite the acoustic theme, it's fairly pathetic. The vocals sound generic, the lyrics are brainless, I try to ignore the vocals and listen to the music. I don't think it's particularly bad as typical ballads go, but I don't like those.

Dreaming With Open Eyes Not my favourite. The vocals are vaguely similar to the few lines on TWTS's The Silk Road, but don't work nearly as well. I find the music, good, but a bit aimless. Still not a weak track, with an interesting charm.

Twice Round The Sun Wow. A meaningful, deliberate, guitar-dominated piece. I love it. A real modern instrumental, with both quieter and louder (heavier seems inappropriate) moments of equal excellence.

Rise Again Simply not a style I like, so I can't really comment on the merits of the music.

Jane Austen's Door A charming, ironic piece. At the same time condemning and supportive. Probably my favourite 'soft' track from the album.

Darktown Riot I'm not too keen on the opening, but as a concept piece, that's 100% forgivable. Essentially a continuation of Darktown. Quite good as a heavier oddball tune, and has grown on me.

In Memoriam A good use of the choir and Hackett's hollowed-out spoken lines (which remind me of [i]Dire Straits[/i] Private Investigations). It does go on a bit longer than it needs to, but that doesn't really damage it. A nice conclusion.

A 7/10. Some very good moments, but not as focussed, confident or impressive as TWTS, and containing a few let-downs. The use of the choir is very strong. Worth getting for the high points. I'm glad that Hackett had the taste not to make a whole concept album, but a decent album with a few pieces around a particular concept.

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars Steve renews with a more prog sound with this album. Finally!

The first two songs are definitely on the Crimson edge, dark (but this is "Darktown", right?) and scary. Even Steve's voice fits "Darktown" alright. At times, one gets some disjointed moments which inevitably reminds the master in the genre.

The first number to fully remind his earlier work is "Man Overboard". A brilliant and peaceful intro, but as soon as the vocals start, I must say that the beauty is seriously altered. I have never been found of Steve's vocals. Just because they are not great. And the addition of these orchestrations was probably not the best idea.

The same feeling repeats with most of the sung tracks; as if Steve (or his entourage) was not conscious of these limitations. Of course, I discovered the man in 1973 while he was the silent and so brilliant "Genesis" guitar holder. Neither a thank you came out of his voice during a concert (at least the four ones I attended). For the best of his albums, Steve was very much inspired to invite great vocalist (but not all the time) or produce lots of instrumental pieces.

In this album, almost each track features vocals. And even when a guest provides them like during "Days of Long Ago" I can't say that the experience is thrilling. And I prefer to close my ears while listening to the very average "Dreaming with Open Eyes" even if the work on the acoustic guitar is extremely good. Sorry, Steve. You have done much better in the past.

How great this album would have been if more tracks like "Twice around the Sun" would have been featured. A great and inspired piece of music. Fabulous and passionate guitar track like Carlos (Santana of course) could have released. The highlight of this album (but so far very little could have retained my attention). If ever you think I'm too harsh with Steve, you know where my taste is.

These symphonic moments are really superb. I'm just asking for more.

The closing number is another good song. The impressive list of guest musicians won't compensate the average song writing. Still, it has been quite a while (five years since Guitar Noir) that Steve didn't produce such an album.

Three stars.

Review by el böthy
3 stars Genesis former guitar hero leaves the acustic guitar and makes a return to the prog world with what appears to be a dark album with one or two Crimson influences and with one of two Crimsons; John Wetton and Ian McDonald make guest appearances in bass and saxophone respectively. But to say this album is dark wouldnīt be very accurate for, although there are certain dark tones here and there, I donīt think it get anywhere near dark, with the possible exception of both Darktown and Darktown riot. Nor would it being called a symphonic rock album, personally this sounds more Neo than anything else.

Before I go on I would like to say that I donīt consider Hackett a virtuoso as many do, he is a fine guitarist but technically he has some way ahead of being one. On the other hand I think he doesnīt need to be one for his compositional skills are far more interesting than thoused notes per second. Now, on to the music. The album opens with an instrumental: Omega Metallicus. With slapping bass (probably provided by mr. Wetton) and sharp guitar licks which quickly turn into solos. I gotta say, although the playing is exciting I donīt get much out of this song, nor, for that matter, any other. No song is bad, and there arenīt probably weak moments which can be finger pointed out, but at the same time nothing stand out too much, at least for the average listener, Hackett fans really seem to like this album a lot, canīt say I agree.

To summon things up, Hackett gives us an Ok album that will not take away the sleep of most progheads but at the same time wonīt be the subject of strong disliking.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
2 stars Steve will rise again

Released in between two of Steve Hackett's best studio albums, Guitar Noir and To Watch The Storms, Darktown pales in comparison. The opener Omega Metallicus has awful drum loops and it sounds like a bad remix of a 'proper' Hackett song, rather than an original piece in its own right. And there is some truth to that last statement because this track includes samples from an older Hackett song, Cassandra. Cassandra is available on the Feedback '86 album and in my opinion it is very much better than Omega Metallicus.

Several other songs here, including the title track, are also drenched in those drum loops. Personally, I have an aversion to that sort of thing. Rise Again has a strong melody and it starts out fine. But then enter the horrid programmed drum patterns again, making it sound like a remix. This song is still good, but it could have been so much better.

Man Overboard and The Golden Age Of Steam are fully acceptable Hackett songs, but they do not stand out. Days Of Long Ago is horrible and completely out of place here. I don't know who the vocalist is but it surely is not Steve. You could not have guessed that this is a Hackett song if you didn't know it. Reminds me a lot of those failed guest appearances on the Please Don't Touch album. It is not Hackett's style at all.

My biggest problem with this album, apart from the programmed drums and some weak material, is that the band-feeling is totally absent due to there being too many people involved and the drum duties largly being handed over to computers. Darktown is a solo project in the real sense of the term. For his next album, Steve would surround himself with a real band again. And what a difference that would make!

In Memorian is clearly the best song here, reminding me of King Crimson in their softer, more symphonic moments. This song, together with the good title track are both included on the excellent live DVD Somewhere In South America. And if you already have this excellent DVD, this studio album offers little of interest for people other than Steve's hard core fans - like me!

Only for fans/collectors.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars After a shaky period during the '80s and first half of the '90s Steve finally delivered an album I was waiting for!

Darktown shows a much darker side of Steve Hackett's sound that doesn't sound like any of the playful records of the '70s nor the acoustic material that he was releasing prior to this album. The album starts off with an unexpected funky instrumental called Omega Metallicus which really kicks off the album in the right direction. The rest of the material sounds a bit more familiar but with grand enhancements like the use of strings and funky rhythmic sections.

There is definitely not much I can complain about here. The music is completely revitalized through this completely unexpected approach and I especially enjoy the album's concluding track titled In Memoriam that probably features some of Hackett's best work to date. Simply a must have album for fans of Steve Hackett and an excellent addition to any prog rock collection.

It's great to have you back Mr. Hackett!

***** star songs: Omega Metallicus (3:48) Days Of Long Ago (3:23) In Memoriam (7:59)

**** star songs: Darktown (4:59) Man Overboard (4:17) The Golden Age Of Steam (4:09) Twice Around The Sun (7:15) Rise Again (4:26) Jane Austen's Door (6:13) Darktown Riot (3:10)

*** star songs: Dreaming With Open Eyes (6:54)

Total rating: 4,15

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars After Defector I skipped all things Hackett till I heard this inspiring album. It's not very consistent, but at least it sounds fresh and exciting.

The funky slap bass and dark industrial influences on Omega Metallicus grabbed my attention right away. Also the slow marching pace of Darktown would work excellently as sinister cinematic music. Hackett adds some spoken word in an uncannily low and gothic voice, zombie rap! The sky clears on the sunny-sweet Man Overboard, by itself I'd discard it as too mellow but here it works quite well. I have less compassion for the music hall stylings of The Golden Age Of Stream, although it has its moments.

The last thing the album needed at this point was r&b, but the "soul of MTV", that plastic-packed sentimentalism is featured on Days of Long Ago. Maybe it is a competent song in this particular style of music, but it's something I have no affinity with at all. Dreaming With Open Eyes stays in similar silky lounge atmospheres. But this time it's more jazzy and not bad at all, also the vocals at the end are quite tasteful. Twice Around The Sun is an average romantic guitar solo and is better skipped, just like the two ensuing tracks. The harsh Darktown Riot, a reprise of the second track, gets me back into the album's realm. In Memoriam is a sentimental closer but remarkably convincing. Around minute 3, it subtly cites the lead guitar theme from King Crimson's Epitaph.

Darktown is a very eclectic and slightly uneven album. It would rate it at 3.5 stars, but given that he has stronger albums 3 will have to do.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
4 stars Definitly this is a grower. I had to listen to Darktown several times to really start to appreciate this album. The tacklist seemed awful at first: very different, very dark (of course! the title is darktown, isnīt it?) and totally uncharacteristic. But then I started to pay atention to the guitar sound and there was: beautiful, tasteful, creative as ever. Then the songs started to make more sense and then, slowly, I found several good songs. Still different of cours, but good.

Maybe the initial bad impression wouldnīt be so great if the first two tracks, Omega Metallicus (too jazz rock) and Darktown (too King Crimson-like, without the spirit) were not the openers. They are good tunes, ok, but again, too alien for a Steve Hackett fan. Man Overboard is the first one to really capture my atention with its great acoustic guitar work and real nice melody line. I really liked to hear Jim Diamondīs voice after so many years and it worked very well on another beautiful ballad (Days Of Long Ago). There are some lesser songs (The Golden Age Of Stream is surely one of them), but ultimately none is bad. Jane Austerīs Door is really interesting for brazilians since he re-uses the beautiful guitar riff he lent to singer Ritchie in 1983 (Richard Court is an englishman who lives in Brazil, he sings mostly in portuguese and had much success in the 80īs). In Memorian is another highlight, a real synphonic beauty that closes the CD. Wanna see Steve Hackett doing bossa nova/lounge jazz songs? Just hear Dreaming With Open Eyes. A great guitar instrumental? Go to Twice Around The Sun. And so goes on. With ups and downs (fortunatly more ups than downs).

Production is veryu good and the musicians involved are, as always, simply terrific (some great bass lines!).

Conclusion: A very good CD. It interesting and refreshing to see how much SH tries to develop and try new styles and challenges. It may not always work, but you at least he does not repeat himself like so many other guitar heroes do. My final rating should be 3.5 stars, but for his boldness and innovations I guess he deserves an extra half star. Be sure to hear this CD with atention, several times and without prejudice. There are some real gems to be found here. Recommended.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars I was starting to wonder if i'd find a Hackett album that I would give 4 stars to post "Spectral Mornings". Well here's the first one. "Darktown" really surprised and impressed me.The atmosphere, the dark sections, the samples and loops are all things that I wouldn't associate with a Steve Hackett record.

"Omega Metallicus" is just insane with those monster bass lines digging almost all the way to hell. Steve mentions in the liner notes : "Although guitars were stretched, and frets were rattled, no instruments were injured during this recording". "Darktown" is dark with spoken words.The music comes in and takes over then the spoken words return as these contrasts continue. Ian McDonald adds some sax as this heavy beat comes in before 3 minutes. "Man Overboard" was written by Steve in Bermuda while sitting on a rock overlooking Jobson's Cove and watching a sunset. Atmosphere and gentle guitar to start, vocals before 1 1/2 minutes. Love the atmosphere. Cool tune. "The Golden Age Of Steam" opens with flute and drums which are promptly replaced by orchestration and fast paced vocals. I like it ! "Days Of Long Ago" opens with choir sounds then the vocals of Scotland's own Jim Diamond takes over. Great voice ! An emotional track. "Dreaming With Open Eyes" is a song that Steve refers to as a car journey put to music. We get a beat with almost spoken vocals. I like the sound when the vocals stop. It continues thankfully when the vocals return. I'm not sure why I find this so moving.

"Twice Around The Sun" opens with atmosphere as a beat joins in. Some abrasive but slowly played guitar comes in. Steve says the sustained guitar note here might be the longest in history.The guitar stops 3 minutes in as a beat with atmosphere leads the rest of the way. So good. "Rise Again" opens with acoustic guitar and reserved vocals along with atmosphere.Vocals stop then drums and a fuller sound arrive after 1 1/2 minutes. Passionate vocals join in. Aggressive guitar comes and goes. "Jane Austen's Door" is a mellow tune with vocals.The focus is on the lyrics. It's about wishing someone the best. My least favourite track. It seems out of place on this album. "Darktown Riot" has these freaky sounds with a heavy beat.This is great ! A dark and inventive tune. In the liner notes it says Roger King is responsible for mellotron plundering,marcato string stealing and choir hijacking. Haha. "In Memoriam" is one of my favourites. Bass samples from John Wetton as well. We get a relaxed melancholic mood as deep reserved vocals join in. Lots of atmosphere too.

While I don't live in Darktown it's a great place to visit.

Review by tarkus1980
3 stars While this isn't quite as good as the albums that follow it, this must nonetheless be considered the first album of Hackett's late period, which would prove, on the whole, to be his most fruitful one. In addition to being the first Hackett album to have significant input from keyboardist/bassist Roger King, who helped Hackett with production (in later albums he would become increasingly more prominent until he'd start receiving co-credits in the songwriting), it's also the first of his albums to balance the steady self-assuredness of Spectral Mornings with the slightly goofy what-the-hell-let's-throw-this-in nature of some of his other albums. Guitar Noir might have been steady and professional, but aside from a few bits it was pretty sterile and didn't show much potential, whereas this album, while getting the same grade, comes across as a slight waste of great potential, but showing promise for the future.

There are some misfires (to varying degrees) on this album, unfortunately, concentrated at the beginning and end. The title track, as well the later "Darktown Riot" (each based around a similar theme), try to create a dark unifying mood to the album, but they strike me as pretty ridiculous; the low-pitched encoded spoken vocals of the former, combined with the wailing saxophones (a waste of Ian McDonald), make for a track that I never look forward to hearing, and "Darktown Riot" ends up sounding like haunted house music. I'm all in favor of Steve being willing to try and fail, but that also means acknowledging that he fails from time to time, and he definitely does here.

I'm also not as thrilled with the opening "Omega Metallicus" or the closing "In Memoriam" as I'm sure some people are. The opening 20 seconds of "Omega Metallicus" sound embarrassing to me; the way the bassline, the percussion and one of the effects come together makes it seem like the album is going to be an album by an old fart trying to make what he thinks the hip young kids are gonna want to be grooving to, and it makes me grumpy. Luckily, the track quickly uses the foundation to build into something much better; Steve breaks out a wide assortment of licks, even sampling the riff from "Cassandra" to good effect, and the assault of guitar sound in its 3:48 is enough to make it worth listening to. Completely different, but also less effective than I think it was meant to be, is the 8- minute "In Memoriam," which is clearly supposed to be a groundshaking requiem (with guitars and keyboards that sometimes remind me of "Epitaph"), but (to my ears) is largely undermined by the spoken parts (in the same voice as in the title track) and the excess length (for the number of ideas). This could have worked at 4 or 5 minutes, even with the spoken delivery, but 8 minutes is way, way too much.

Fortunately, as much as the beginning and ending of the album frustrate me, the middle 7 tracks are enough to leave me with a positive feeling towards the album overall. There are some pretty lovely melancholy ballads on here; "Man Overboard" would have fit in equally well on Spectral Mornings and on Beyond the Shrouded Horizon, "Days of Long Ago" (featuring a nice vocal from Jim Diamond) makes for a great love song, and "Jane Austen's Door," even if it might be a little long for something bordering on adult- contemporary, has some rather moving lyrics and a nice delivery. "Rise Again" almost sounds like Magnetic Fields in the first half, and while the transition in the vocal delivery to screaming in the second half is kinda jarring, the shift in the music from gentle to rocking works just fine for me. There's also a rather curious 7-minute number in "Dreaming With Open Eyes," which starts off sounding like an Eastern-tinged shuffle with some lovely verses, but while the shuffling part ends up taking over and becomes somewhat monotonous, it never stops being attractive and never devolves into muzak, and I like it quite a bit.

As nice as these tracks are, though, the best two are a clear step above, even if they're completely different from each other. "The Golden Age of Steam" is late-period Hackett at his best, a song based around a couple of nagging Eastern-European-ish melodies that instantly transport the listener to a Technicolor version of 30s and 40s Europe, detailing the travels and adventures of a young man in one of the last periods where one could go off and have adventures in the classic European sense. There's only a little bit of guitar (some nylon string bits in the middle for texture), but it isn't needed, and Steve's vocal delivery more than makes up for the lack of his primary asset in the track.

Finally, there's the instrumental "Twice Around the Sun." The rational part of me recognizes that, in terms of overall structure, it's basically a repeat of "Spectral Mornings," what with its A-B-A form, where the A has a few slow atmospheric licks and the B section is an atmospheric contrast that slows things down to a borderline ambient level. I suppose I could be a stickler and say that it's too long and too monotonous, blah blah blah. Well, there's no room for rationality here; once I hear that opening mellotron, I'm pretty much done for. The balance between slow, winding guitar lines and mellotron chords hits me in all of the right gushy prog places, and even if having the final guitar note possibly be the longest single sustained guitar note ever recorded (as the liner notes) is a gimmick (and I kinda feel like it is), it's a marvelous gimmick that makes for a beautiful capstone.

In the end, 2/3 or so of this album is really good, but that remaining 1/3 is so irritating, and so badly positioned, that it can't help but reduce my overall view of the album pretty significantly. Still, this is a case where, even if the overall experience is frustrating, the peaks are so interesting that I have to recommend this to anybody who considers themselves a fan of Steve. For what's essentially the first step in an artistic rebirth, this is quite nice.

Review by Second Life Syndrome
4 stars Darkness. Pitch black night. Those are the feelings you get from this interesting release from Hackett, one of the world's foremost guitarists. He may be that, but I must say that I am far more impressed with his ability to craft insanely unique and gripping songs. "Darktown" is no different, though it is different in tone than many of his works.

This particular album features the sax chops of Ian McDonald, and what an addition he is! There nothing much like a dark, bass-driven song that features peals of saxophone lightning streaking through the blackness. The title track presents this perfectly through a somber mood, a creative vibe, and a deep voice. Sure, this album still contains Hackett's amazing guitar abilities and his airy vocals, but many of the tracks are very, very different.

Hackett is the master of variety. On the same album, we get dark movements, folksy tunes, simple ballads, and something akin to a moody epic. You just won't find this anywhere else. All the while, the performances are top notch and the theme is somehow never lost.

I don't like this album as much as some of his others, however, because I do feel it gets a little lost in the last half. The songs are still excellent, but they lack a certain cohesion that the first half has. That said, this album is still amazing, if a bit 90s, and really showcases some awesome guitar and saxophone moments. I highly recommend it.

Latest members reviews

4 stars The long-awaited return to form and the start of Steve's second breath when he got on the way of creating constantly strong albums with progressive material. It is the strongest set of progressive songs since 1982 or 1980 (omitting classical music albums). The sound has been largely updated, en ... (read more)

Report this review (#2338868) | Posted by sgtpepper | Thursday, February 27, 2020 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Reviewing this in 2011 for me the most important thing about this album is that it marks the turning of the tide in the quality of Hackett's electric output, which fell spectacularly overboard after 'Defector' ,then splashed around for the next 18 years -or-so, mostly drowning and only occasio ... (read more)

Report this review (#545850) | Posted by oldcrow | Saturday, October 8, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars One of Steve Hackett's best musical statements, right after Defector. the only thing this album lacks is a real drummer on all but one the songs. Having said that, he does make good use of the drum machine and makes it work, but real drums would have put this one above Defector. This album does su ... (read more)

Report this review (#155261) | Posted by The Ace Face | Wednesday, December 12, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars well Mr Hackett, nice to meet you! certainly theres something obscure in your music but how lovely can it trully be, really. havent heard all records but being the 90īs on towards a more heartly-born notes like he used to in the early days. how can a dark cover elsewere be so beautifull than ... (read more)

Report this review (#126843) | Posted by luisman | Tuesday, June 26, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars In my opinion this was a very significant album in Steve's career. Whilst Steve has always been consistently first rate when he produces his "classical" works, his rock studio albums after "Defector" were mediocre to "ok" at best. This prog rock album however marked a return to form, and ca ... (read more)

Report this review (#119158) | Posted by Leonardo | Saturday, April 21, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Man! What a record! Both refreshing and unpredictadle. Listening to first two tracks you think the album is experimental, strange, dark electronics surrounds you... but then comes a bunch of lovely, lyrical melodies, connected with European folk and rock tradition ( when I was listening to GOL ... (read more)

Report this review (#53066) | Posted by | Sunday, October 23, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Work announced in 1999 "Darktown". It is "Darkness. " according to the title that the content of the album makes it image.It becomes good at the guitar play of Steve Hackett further. The musician ship of man who keeps challenging is impressed.It is possible to listen to the saxophone of Ian Mc ... (read more)

Report this review (#47012) | Posted by braindamage | Sunday, September 18, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Stunning album!!! Melodic content--sensational. Harmonies sometimes are....unearthly. The rest--musicmanship, studio work--too. A masterpiece!!! It is difficult to compare this album to anything in Steve's rich discography. Although the suggestion of sinking Cassandra in techno-inhumane phraseol ... (read more)

Report this review (#39629) | Posted by | Saturday, July 16, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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