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Steve Hackett - Highly Strung CD (album) cover


Steve Hackett


Eclectic Prog

2.95 | 296 ratings

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Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars After the severe disappointment that was Cured, Steve Hackett went back to the drawing board and came back with this vast improvement. Although it doesn't compare to the efforts before Cured, it certainly has its own strengths and weaknesses. Now there are a few differences in the lineup of this album from the lineup of the last album is this: Ian Mosley (of future Marillion fame) plays drums, unlike the sequenced and programmed drums of the last album and John Hackett is absent. Other than that, the core lineup of Hackett and Magnus remains. What you'll find on this album is a mixture of arena rock with some more experimental overtones, some great instrumental bits, and some great guitar stylings (as usual with Hackett).

The album opens with the rollicking Camino Royale, which from the opening seconds you can already hear the improvement over Cured. The drumming on this track is quick, complex, and intricate, with expansive and high energy guitar and some nicely paced keyboards. The entire song itself is better than essentially anything on Cured. Cell 151 is nothing but arena rock, complete with cheesy overblown vocals and a main beat that doesn't really go anywhere and doesn't really evolve. There's some good soloing, though, and a snippet reprisal of the main motif to Camino Royale. Always Somewhere Else is an instrumental piece that makes good use of the 7/8 time signature. Ian Mosley is incredible on this track, with fast paced and incredibly intricate drumming. Hackett is also incredible on this track with a breathtaking solo. Walking Through Walls is another extremely arena rock rooted song, with generic drumming and some dated keyboards, as well as some over the top vocals from Hackett (who has improved immensely since Cured).

Give it Away continues the arena rock feel, but I quite like the rhythm and the vocals on this track. It's very upbeat, and Hackett's guitar is great. Weightless yet again continues the same trend as the rest of the album, sounding similar to Walking Through Walls, although the drumming is more dynamic on this track. Group Therapy has some great bass and drum interplay as well as some intuitive Hackett soloing. Nick Magnus and Hackett also have a great keyboard/guitar duel in the middle, with some great soloing from Magnus. Some creative alternating 12/8 then 11/8 riffing comes in towards the end and really gives the song a great final kick. India Rubber Man is a gentle piano led piece that has some nice mutli layered Hackett vocals and some very somber orchestrations in the background. Hackett to Pieces has become a synonymous instrumental piece with Steve Hackett (which would often find a place in his medley). It begins with a reprisal of the Camino Royale main riff, but then becomes a wailing guitar piece that really ends the album on a high note (literally).

In the end, Highly Strung is a vast improvement over Cured, but it still pales in comparison with the previous four studio albums. Fans of Asia and other arena rock groups may find something to like about this album, and fans of Hackett will like this return to form. It's a good album, but by no means essential. 3/5.

Cygnus X-2 | 3/5 |


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