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


Steve Hackett


Eclectic Prog

4.24 | 1362 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars With this solo album, his first, Steve Hackett set a pattern he would maintain throughout his career. Some tracks will annoy the listener, some leave him/her indifferent, some are so beautiful it hurts. To the first category belongs "A Tower Struck Down", to the second "The Hermit" and the much-vaunted instrumental climax of "Shadow of the Hierophant" (melodramatic, self-important film music which takes a lot of time getting you nowhere). With a bit of goodwill, we might conclude that the third and final category is the one that's best represented here. A good album, then, but not a great one.

To be more precise: the pastoral folk of "Hands of the Priestess" and "Hierophant" (at least the latter's vocal half, sung by Sally Oldfield) actually sounds very charming and refreshing. Hackett's fortissimo guitar-and-mellotron outburst on "Hierophant" may frighten the pants off you the first time you hear it; it clearly shows how much he was enthralled by King Crimson's "Epitaph", but it's no less effective for that. A shame, though, that Hackett (or Mike Rutherford - I don't know who was responsible for the lyrics) wouldn't let Miss Oldfield sing a simple love song, but decided to stick to fake-poetical nonsense. 'Veiling the night shade bright stalks a flower revealed / Nearing the hour make haste to their threshold concealed'? I don't think so...

Silly lyrics are also the one weak point of "Star of Sirius", but otherwise I don't want to hear a word against this particular song. It's one of the most ravishing melodies I've heard Phil Collins sing - easily as good as anything on TRICK OF THE TAIL (then as yet unreleased). To top it all, "Sirius" includes a mellow middle section for oboe and mellotron so achingly beautiful it makes me want to burst out in tears every time I play it. Hackett tends to write wonderful tunes for wind instruments; it's something I truly admire. He also has a great ear for analog synth sonorities. On the gorgeous instrumental "Ace of Wands", Moog synthesizers are employed to great effect (as well as twelve string guitar, mellotron, bells and of course Steve's mischievous electric lead guitar).

To sum up, VOYAGE OF THE ACOLYTE is worth hearing but not the masterpiece of symphonic prog some of Hackett's fans make it out to be. When pressed, I'd give it three and a half stars. (You may be interested to hear that the album's best two tracks are also included in the excellent compilation THE UNAUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY.) As for ACOLYTE's cover art, I'm afraid it's the kind of wishy-washy fairytale stuff that gives prog a bad name. (Unfortunately, on later releases the artist concerned was to prove she could do even worse.) Finally - any mixed feelings I may have about this recording cannot disguise that Steve Hackett's post-1975 career is much more fascinating than anything achieved by comparable figures like Steve Howe or Rick Wakeman. Whatever his defects, Hackett rarely runs out of ideas. Long may he continue to perplex and surprise us.

fuxi | 3/5 |


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