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Steve Hackett - Spectral Mornings CD (album) cover


Steve Hackett


Eclectic Prog

4.14 | 850 ratings

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TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Review 25, Spectral Mornings, Steve Hackett, 1978


Four years after his promising debut solo album Voyage Of The Acolyte, the legendary Steve Hackett seems to have really found his own style and variation on the very English feel of Gabriel/Hackett-era Genesis. The ties to Genesis are much reduced from Voyage, and the incredibly English, folky vocals may make some of it less accessible to many listeners, but with a little patience and tolerance, the quality of the varied material should shine through. Any musician who can manage normal guitar soloing, haunting atmospheres and acoustics so adeptly deserves all the praise he gets.

The catchy punchy bass of Everyday kicks off this superb album, supported by tapping percussion and some weird guitar that reminds me of The Hermit. The lyrics and vocals, typically weird, slot in to provide . A couple of short instrumental breaks mark the first part of the song. After the final verse, Hackett provides an extended rocking solo, striking a balance between fast, soulful and optimistic playing. Dik Cadbury's bass and John Shearer's percussion shine throughout, both moving around a bit and providing a neat launching point for the stellar guitar solo. Vital for anyone who loves Hackett's Genesis solos, and a great introduction for the great album.

The Virgin And The Gypsy is the first of the acoustic songs on the album, and, though the eery Lost In Time In Cordoba is much more to my taste, it's excellent. The cleverly harmonised vocals and folky acoustic guitar combine very nicely with the lush organ and flowing electrics. The small problem with this one is that the tapping maracas (or whatever) don't really add anything. John Hackett provides us with a couple of delightful flute solos. Great stuff. My sort of prog folk.

The Red Flower Of Tachai Blooms Everywhere is an almost-stereotypically oriental piece, with Hackett's koto and some swirling synths dominating the piece. Very listenable, and showing brazenly the world influences that will permeate the later Silk Road and Rise Again. Short and sweet.

The brilliantly titled [instrumental] Clocks/The Angel Of Mons flows in with a slowly increasing ticking sound (not unlike Time, but with much less awkward chimes), and humming, almost-reverent synths. A searing guitar part bursts in suddenly and viciously, while John Shearer brings out rolling drums and clashing percussion. We get a scintillating Moog solo, followed by a suitably elephantine drum solo before the track slowly swells up to its climax. Absolutely stunning track. One of my all-time favourites.

The sarcastic Ballad Of The Decomposing Man is a complete contrast, with its mixture of bass-driven chachacha rhythms and steel drumming, general quirkiness and hilarious lyrics and vocals, but with a darker edge. Steve throws a couple of superb harmonica solos in our direction. We get Steve's funniest guitar solo since Counting Out Time. The inclusion of a couple of slightly more serious moments to provide contrast is great, and the fade (I often have issues with fades) isn't bad at all. I love it.

Lost In Time In Cordoba is an acoustic-driven oddity (which I compartmentalise [this is just me] into three 'themes' and two brief 'interludes'), with a nostalgic Spanish feel from the Hackett brothers (on flute and acoustics) on the 'first movement' moving to a more curious, spectral 'interlude' from Steve alone, moving to the decadent 'second theme', which features a subdued synth (I think). A 'second interlude' from Steve leads to the much darker 'Third Theme', which feels like the unraveling of all that's gone before. As a whole, I consider this the excellent prelude to Tigermoth. Very interesting.

Tigermoth begins with 'One-Two-Three-Four' in a heavily distorted voice, and then kicks off with its haunting keyboards/bass and a chaotic guitar solo, before the main guitar/drum/bass riff bursts in. A lengthy dark, yet almost-sarcastic keyboard solo takes over for while. The main theme leads in again, with John Shearer providing some interesting percussion. Another long synth part with wailing siren-like guitars and atmospheric hidden vocals leads to a combination of whirling flute, mock accordion, synths, tapping drums and some acoustics or koto accompanying the main vocal part, with Pete Hicks' unusual English-folk style and harmonies, detailing a series of WWI encounters. Various sarcy pianos (or perhaps the clavinet) bring the song to its conclusion. Absolutely brilliant, with a perfect mix of eclecticism and atmosphere.

Spectral Mornings is basically a long augmented guitar solo, with what I assume is the 'novotron' (sounds like a Mellotron), some interesting spitting percussion and a fairly simple-sounding bass part providing the background for it. After an illusory almost-conclusion, the guitar solo is revived from a keyboard solo. The piece has two small highlights for me: the harpsichord and vocal-percussion-guitar fade. Good, even if I'm not the greatest fan of huge guitar solos, and definitely morning music.

A melting pot of excellent material, and a superb album throughout, as well as a massive development from Voyage Of The Acolyte. It should also be noted, that, though Hackett's lyrics are probably not on a level with the Genesis lyrics contributed by Banks and Gabriel, they work very well throughout this album and mesh nicely with the music. I'm giving it a glowing five stars, mainly for the constantly interesting compositions, atmosphere and diversity. I recommend this very highly to any fairly open-minded/diversely interested prog listener, regardless of whether they like Genesis or not. A masterpiece in its own right.

Rating: Five Stars

Favourite Track: Clocks/The Angel Of Mons, though the Lost In Time In Cordoba/Tigermoth pairing gives it some competition

Disclaimer: not sure whether that's a synth or a flute on the second theme of Lost In Time, and I'm not certain about some of the other instrumentation on the album. Don't trust me!

TGM: Orb | 5/5 |


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