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Steve Hackett - Darktown CD (album) cover


Steve Hackett


Eclectic Prog

3.79 | 309 ratings

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The Ace Face
5 stars One of Steve Hackett's best musical statements, right after Defector. the only thing this album lacks is a real drummer on all but one the songs. Having said that, he does make good use of the drum machine and makes it work, but real drums would have put this one above Defector. This album does succeed in recreating the nostalgic, shimmering mood of the old 70s albums like no other can.

Omega Metallicus: A dark, brooding intro with an evil groove on the bass accompanied by crazy leads by Hackett, this song would put off most first time listeners, but the patient let it grow on them.

Darktown: Great follower to Omega, the guitar sounds distant, and Hackett growls in the lowest vocal register possible, while Ian Macdonald Screechs with his saxophone. this song is scary, but enticing as well, with traumatic lyrics and some very odd guitar sounds indeed. the drum machine works well on this song as a slow march to doomsday, which is the overall feel of this album. the middle part has a great sax solo accompanied by what appears to be a synthesized orchestra blasting in at key moments. Combined with Omega, the mood of the album is set as reminiscent and evil.

Man Overboard: Nice acoustic intro, sounding sad and nostalgic. the vocals are gorgeous, accompanied by some marimbas and great acoustics.the keyboards do a nice job of mimicking the sound of a string section.

Golden Age of Steam: probably my favorite song on here, and one of the best songs I've ever heard, being both happy, and horribly sad at the same time, combining nice flute with dark strings and lyrics about children being involved in the Holocaust. it changes to a major key for the chorus, but the verses reveal the true nature of it all. A masterful bridge that tears you apart with its melodies is followed by a building outro with a radio transmission from something telling awful tales of people running in the streets and being killed.

Days of Long Ago: Pure ballad, beginning with a gorgeous choir and working its way into an acoustic ballad. Hackett does it SO well. the vocalist makes you feel like youre in the middle of a fantasy love story like no one else can.

Dreaming with Open Eyes: The bongos and interesting drum rhythms accompany some introspective lyrics delivered in that dreamy style that has become Hackett's signature vocal style. the acoustic playfulness is perfect, and the lyrics evoke such image as have never been thought of before. the bass is nice, waayyyy low down in the notes, and its great. the guitar/piano bridge is great, with the mellotron, electric guitar, vibraphone, and some instrument ive never heard before coming in at key moments. the middle is all shaker and acoustic, and the bass and bongos slowly come in to build it back up. there appears to be some harp in there too, although it might just be Steve being amazing, and the flute jumps in for its bit too. John Hackett is always a great touch to Steve's songs/albums. the strummed acoustic brings us back to the vocals. this song is really just too perfect for words. the outro is very interesting, using many sound effects.

Twice around the Sun: the one and only time in his career where Hackett takes a song as his chance to blow out his electric chops to the max. And what a solo. He brings these tones out of the guitar that I would never have thought possible. the drum machine is tastefully used here, with the mellotron adding a nice backdrop on which Hackett paints his masterpiece. The quiet bridge is gorgeous, and serves as a quick breath between electric attacks of ferocity. Hackett never gets this heavy with his solos, but it works very well. the second half of the solo is less distorted and goes much higher too, soaring to these notes that just kill you with genius. the outro is a note held so long, any singer would have crapped out not even a third of the way through.

Rise Again: so, how can Hackett follow these two epic masterpieces? Why, with a Power Anthem of course! the one song with drums, it starts with great singing and acoustic work, and builds into what could be considered a classic rock anthem, in my mind. the drums slowly build in, and they are perfect, driving this song to the top of the emotional peak reached on the last two songs. the vocals suddenly get harsh, and Hackett throws in some classic fills that make me think of the rolling stones a little on Sympathy for the Devil, but them he gets funky with the sounds. the whole time, the keyboard is throwing in some great arpeggios underneath it all. there is a moment when the guitar reprises the chorus of Days of long ago before launching into a stellar solo. ths song slowly slows down again, before blasting in with the drums and guitar for a powerful ending.

Jane Austen's Door: A ballad again, but with electric leads, making it a little more interesting than most. a nice follower to the powerful Rise Again, Hackett brings us memories of our childhoods in his lyrics and singing. the drum machine is rather simple, but after all, it is a ballad. theres a middle section with some undistorted electric that brings tears, along with Hackett singing, "Let it Down, Let it Go." it ends with a nice electric solo.

Darktown Riot: A combo reprise of the first two songs on the album, with some very strange sounds, sounding like evil vocals. the riffing here is superb, sounding like nothing else but Steve Hackett being himself. the soaring, Egyptian like leads reprise the theme of Darktown, and the drums are reminiscent of Omega Metallicus. the middle, where the drums are pushed far to the back ground and the guitar jumps forward, is stunning and brilliant. it ends with some dissonant piano chords and distant guitar notes.

In Memorium: A definite nod to King Crimson's Mellotron drenched first album, or at least the second half of it, this song wraps up the album in the best way possible. the drum machine shines here, creating a nice beat over which Hackett muses on life and "Skin-tight Jeans", and the mellotron winds slowly to an ending that cannot be best by any other album. The choir singing the chorus is great, as is the almost fuzz-synth on the lead part, jumping up the octave the second time. This song is one I usually choose to listen to just before going to sleep, as it puts me in the mood for drowsiness. The middle part goes into odd keys and the synth soars above the rest of the band, before dropping down into the main melody again.

Overall, on relistening, I have changed my mind. this album is better than Defector, even though my Defector review says otherwise. This album is so well done, I cannot even describe it. I would recommend it for anyone and everyone who loved Genesis back in their Heyday. Steve Hackett is ridiculously talented, and this album could not be better evidence of that.

The Ace Face | 5/5 |


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