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Steve Hackett - To Watch The Storms CD (album) cover

TO WATCH THE STORMS

Steve Hackett

 

Eclectic Prog

3.77 | 374 ratings

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TCat
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Steve Hackett's 16th studio album "To Watch the Storms" was released in 2003, 4 years after what many fans consider one of his masterpieces, "Darkroom". This album has quite a variety of styles and guests. It is definitely versatile, yet there is that feeling of cohesiveness for the most part.

Here is a quick review of the tracks. "Strutton Ground" is mostly light and acoustic with simple vocals and melody. "Circus of Becoming" is more upbeat, but keeps the same basic light sound, that is until the more appealing instrumental breaks that are progressive. "The Devil is an Englishman" is a cover of a song written by Thomas Dolby ("One of Our Submarines", "She Blinded Me with Science"). Hackett speaks in a dramatic and character driven vocal. This is an interesting track with an upbeat style with synths driving the music. "Frozen Statues" and "Mechanical Bride" are two very progressive songs with outbursts of guitar and orchestral sections, both very good tracks. The first is somewhat experimental where the 2nd is a prog-heads dream, actually getting chaotic at times with a lot of musical humor.

"Wind, Sand and Stars" begins with atmospheric sounds and is soon joined by a Spanish influenced acoustic guitar. This instrumental acoustic track showcases Steve's amazing guitar talent. Later, he is joined by piano and strings with various other sounds. This track is beautiful. "Brand New" features Ian McDonald (King Crimson) on sax. It starts with another acoustic introduction before vocals start and then the full band kicks in. This pattern repeats. Some cool effects, harmonized layers, guitar solo, multiple tempos and meters. "This World" is more straightforward and pleasant, like an Alan Parsons Project tune, except with a very emotional guitar solo towards the end. "Rebecca" is also a softer track with processed harmonized vocals, more complexity in this track than the previous one. There is a sudden change in the instrumental break as every instrument gets to make a statement against a suddenly upbeat background before returning to the original theme. "The Silk Road" utilizes traditional instruments and rhythm elements with Latin and Eastern influences. The vocals are a little odd, but the rest of the track is very engaging. The track is very progressive with ever changing sounds, instruments and etc.

At this point, the special edition has three extra tracks starting with the short and atmospheric "Pollution B". "Fire Island" is definitely very bluesy starting with guitar and organ. Hackett gives his best Clapton vocal impersonation. Nice track anyway with a great guitar solo as expected. No prog influences here, but I love me some blues! "Marijuana Assassin of Youth" begins with orchestra effects and sax and kooky lyrics and harmonized vocals. Church organ. Suddenly, it becomes heavy with a rockabilly riff while they make fun of the Batman theme and throw in various rock n roll themes. Vocals sound almost like Mark Knopfler.

Now, we return to the track list of the original release with "Come Away". Processed layered harmonies against a folk-ish track with flutes, accordion and acoustic guitars and maybe a synthesized saw. "The Moon Under Water" has a nice baroque-era vibe to the acoustic guitar solo that you might accidentally credit to Steve Howe if you aren't paying attention. "Serpentine Song" features more processed harmony against an orchestral effect. The flute on this one is performed by Steve's brother John Hackett. Again, this has an Alan Parsons Project vibe to it. Or, if you have heard Brian Eno and John Cale's collaboration, it also sounds similar to that, at least as far as the harmonies go. Then there is Hackett's beautiful guitar work that sets it apart and a sax solo at the end. The special edition then throws in another bonus track called "If You Only Knew". This is an acoustic guitar solo, slow and lovely, almost hymn like.

I know people who would complain about the many styles of music on this album, that it isn't cohesive, but the variety is what I love about it all. Yes, Hackett gets to shine many times on this album, but he allows his collaborators and guests to shine also. There are so many varied styles here, some songs have a lot of progressive traits while others have hardly any at all. But all the while, the music is well done, with only a few weak tracks here and there, but not enough to really take away from the enjoyment of the album. Alas, it doesn't quite make 5 stars, but it is still one of my favorite albums from this amazing musician.

TCat | 4/5 |

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