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


Steve Hackett


Eclectic Prog

3.78 | 387 ratings

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3 stars I'm not sure when STEVE HACKETT became "cool". But at some point his material verged dangerously away from the substantive to the stylistic - heck he even quotes the STYLISTICS in "Brand New", but I digress. While the 1993 comeback "Guitar Noir" was a more than ample expose into the man's expansive musical lexicon, in recent recordings we find him rushing to parade out his bizarre array of influences, sound effects and time signatures on every 3 minute piece. Now I admit that I'm much more comfortable with Steve Hackett "cool" than PETER GABRIEL "chill", but can someone prescribe poor Stevie some ritalin, like now?

Luckily, this one grew on me to some extent, as I learned to navigate its hazardous corridors. "Strutton Ground" is a sedate opener with a lovely melody, while "Circus of Becoming" lends the title to the album and milks big top musicality to a T. "Wind Sand and Stars" is an instrumental with a mix of keys and orchestration, like an updated early GENESIS, while "Rebecca" is a lovely acoustic-cum-electric song with a slightly medieval meets new age flavour, and just the right amount of quirkiness. Possibly my favourite. The album closes with another throwback called "Serpentine Song", one of the more developed numbers here and closing with brother John's serpentine flute reminiscent of KING CRIMSON's "Cadence and Cascade".

But if that reference to KC was slightly nuanced, subtlety fairly crashes through the 5th floor window on the dreadful "Mechanical Bride", an uneasy rip-off of "21st Century Schizoid Man". The catchy central riff only underscores how inspirationally impoverished this is, and after recently witnessing it in the live set, I can assure you there is no proper setting. "The Devil is an Englishmen" is another nadir. The treated vocals that characterize most of the album can get wearisome, but when they don't even try to sing, and speak in a lugubrious accent, I have to hit next and let someone else gain benefit from the parable. Apart from these two huge missteps and the aforementioned highlights, most of the rest of the songs have strong and weak aspects. For instance, "The Silk Road" is a fascinating percussive exercise but reminds me of some folk festivals I used to attend, with their undue emphasis on education at the expense of entertainment value.

Like real life storms, this Hackett album can be alternately exhilarating and miserable, but within the eye of the storm is a calmly centered middle ground. Seek it out and you will find the real Steve Hackett.

kenethlevine | 3/5 |


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