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Steve Hackett - Darktown CD (album) cover

DARKTOWN

Steve Hackett

 

Eclectic Prog

3.79 | 303 ratings

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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!
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |

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