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Steve Hackett - Voyage Of The Acolyte CD (album) cover


Steve Hackett


Eclectic Prog

4.24 | 1344 ratings

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4 stars Since this is Steve Hackett - the then-guitarist of Genesis - we're talking about, it's easy to have high expectations of his debut solo album. Sadly however, whilst this album is certainly unique and interesting, it's perhaps not the classic that you'd expect.

On the Genesis albums, Hackett had never been much of a standout guitarist, in the way that Steve Howe or Robert Fripp had been, but had instead been content to work mainly in the background, letting Tony Banks take the lead on most of the solos. Sure he let out the occasional guitar solo, e.g. Firth of Fifth, but never anything too monumental. His solo album would then surely be a chance to hear his talents in the spotlight? Not so. Here we see a man who takes his music deadly seriously, and writes music for orchestral instruments, with the occasional prog rock twist.

I've always enjoyed solo albums for the line-ups on the album. 'Voyage of the Acolyte' is no exception, as Hackett manages to bring Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford from Genesis to play on drums and bass guitar respectively. Whilst Collins has now become the anti-christ of prog, back then he was known for his impressive drumming ability, and it shows here. Rutherford had been even more of a background man in Genesis, and even though he still is in the background here, there's no denying that he can be heard more on this album. Also appearing is John Hackett, Steve's younger brother, on flute and synthesizer. John would go on to appear on most of Steve Hackett's solo albums. A number of other guest stars appear, but I shall get to them later.

The album begins cleverly with the full-on prog instrumental Ace Of Wands. It's clever in the sense that any proghead who'd picked the record up and started the first side would instantly be drawn in by the sensational intro drum fill. In the first four seconds of this album, you are immediately transported into a world of proggy wonder. Since purchasing this album, there's always been a little button I can press on my iTunes menu to hear that wonderful fill. The rest of the song isn't that bad either. There are soaring electric guitars, synthesizers and flutes, all blended into a beautiful melodic whole. In my opinion, this is the best track on the album.

Next up is an acoustic track, Hands of the Priestess, Pt. 1. This is where the album starts to get dull. Very little happens in this track, and it feels like filler. However, A Tower Struck Down changes all this. The electric sounds are brought back for a dark instrumental. Strangely enough, this is the most Genesis-y the album gets (e.g. the riff that begins at 1:17). Unfortunately, it starts to get a little repetitive after a while. Suddenly, in the middle of the track, there is a recording of a person coughing, and then a recording of people shouting 'Sieg, Heil!' before an explosion. The rest of the track is quiet, and we are left wondering what on earth that was all about. Hands of the Priestess, Pt. 2 picks up from where part one ended. This part is slightly more interesting, as it reprises a riff from the end of Ace Of Wands.

The Hermit is a very dull song indeed. The main feature of this track is Steve Hackett singing, which is hardly that impressive. He actually reminds me slightly of Camel's Andrew Latimer. The track is dominated by acoustic guitar, but features oboe and flute too. A very pretty song, but also dreadfully dull.

Over to Side 2, we start with Star of Sirius, a song which features Phil Collins on vocals. His voice has been double tracked, giving a very strange effect. Those familiar with later Genesis may find the familiarity of his voice helps them to get into this song. It is a song with verses and choruses, but it is definitely progressive, as there is an instrumental that is very reminiscent of The Hermit on Side 1. The chorus is actually quite catchy and I do enjoy this song every time I put it on. Doing research for this album lead me to an amazing discovery: John Gustafson of Roxy Music and Quatermass plays the bass on this track, in place of Mike Rutherford.

The Lovers is another short and dull instrumental, in lieu of Horizons from 'Foxtrot'. Perhaps the only intersting point is that it uses a short snippet from the next track.

The final track on the album is in fact Hackett's longest solo track to date. Shadow of the Heirophant stands at an impressive 11:43, but when listening to it, one realises that there's hardly 5 minutes worth of music, as this is actually a very repetitive song. Essentially, there are two parts to this track, the six-minute 'main part' and the mammoth six-minute 'outro'. In the main part of the song, We hear guest star Sally Oldfield (sister of Mike Oldfield) use her stunningly beautiful voice. Her voice reaches the highest notes with seemingly little effort. The instrumentation is a blend of mellotron and electric guitar for the non vocal parts, and acoustic for the main part, which overall gives a very powerful and "important" feel to the song. The outro, as already mentioned, is six minutes long, and consists of the same riff repeated over and over, in lieu of The Beatles' I Want You (She's So Heavy). It gets louder and louder until eventually fading away towards the end. While this is certainly a grandiose exit, one can't help but notice that the riff doesn't feel quite right. In other words, whilst being a very good riff, it's not quite as satisfying as, say, the Würm segment of Starship Trooper. On the remastered CD, there is a 17 minute extended studio version of this song, which essentially extends the outro to 11 minutes, as well as increase the volume of Collins' drumming. If you're quite the fan of the outro, then this will be a huge bonus, but otherwise, there is hardly any reason to listen to this version.

Kim Poor was the artist responsible for the beautiful yet disturbing paintings on the cover and in the gatefold. The CD remaster is extremely good, as it not only includes both paintings, but actually extends the gatefold painting to it's full size, essentially giving us more than the vinyl sleeve. Hackett and Poor would marry, and she would do all his artwork, following a trend that Robert Wyatt and Alfreda Benge had set. Also included on the CD is a live version of Ace Of Wands which is vastly inferior to the studio version, but a nice touch all the same. This is a worthy purchase for all fans of Genesis, who'd like to see Steve Hackett in a different light.

baz91 | 4/5 |


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