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

VOYAGE OF THE ACOLYTE

Steve Hackett

 

Eclectic Prog

4.24 | 1386 ratings

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Psychedelic Paul
5 stars Legendary guitarist STEVE HACKETT (born 1950) is of course best-known for his GENESIS years as well as for his long and distinguished career as a solo artist. He recorded six albums with Genesis thoughout the 1970's:- "Nursery Cryme" (1971); "Foxtrot" (1972); "Selling England by the Pound" (1973); "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" (1974); "A Trick of the Tail" (1976); & "Wind & Wuthering" (1976). He left Genesis in 1977 due to the age-old band problem of "artistic differences", which led him to embark on a long solo career. Steve Hackett has recorded an incredible 26 solo albums to date, with his latest album "At the Edge of Light" released as recently as 2019. His first album, reviewed here, "Voyage of the Acolyte" (1975), was the only solo album Steve Hackett recorded whilst still a member of Genesis. It could be called the missing Genesis album, as it incorporated many of the ideas he wanted to include in the band. It almost IS a Genesis album in all but name, because "Voyage of the Acolyte" features Genesis members Mike Rutherford on bass and Phil Collins on drums. Steve recorded two more well-received solo albums at the tail-end of the 1970's:- "Please Don't Touch!" (1978) and "Spectral Mornings" (1979). He recorded six further albums during the 1980's which met with mixed receptions. More recently, he's released two critically acclaimed albums of "Genesis Revisited" songs. He was also part of the short-lived supergroup GTR who released one self-titled album in 1986. He collaborated with Chris Squire of YES in 2012 to record the album "A Life Within a Day", released under the cunningly-titled name of "Squackett". The original title of the "Voyage of the Acolyte" album was intended to be "Premonitions" but Steve Hackett's record label Charisma didn't like it and suggested the far better title of "Voyage of the Acolyte" which Steve was perfectly happy to accept. The album cover was painted by Brazilian artist Kim Poor, who later became Steve Hackett's wife and who went on to design many of Steve's future album covers.

"Voyage of the Acolyte" is a concept album based on a deck of Tarot cards and the first card drawn from the deck is "Ace of Wands". It's a Tarot card that represents fiery energy and this lively music is like a frenetic and energetic dance around the flames. It's a bright and sparkling proggy opening to the album that's positively glowing like a glittering prize. It's sure to delight fans of the Genesis sound, especially bearing in mind that the album has Mike Rutherford on bass and the unmistakably powerful drumming of Phil Collins. The music also features Steve Hackett's brother John on flute in some Prog- Folk fluty flights of fancy. There's enough key changes, chord progressions and staccato stop-start breaks in this 5-minute instrumental piece to keep even the most hardened of prog-heads happy. The second Tarot card drawn from the deck is "Hands of the Priestess, Part 1", a truly gorgeous flute and acoustic guitar piece. The High Priestess in the Tarot deck represents the duality of nature; masculine and feminine, good and evil, negative and positive, and although the music might have something of a melancholy air, it's a beautifully calming and pleasant piece of music that will carry you away on a sea of dreams, where you can marvel at those rippling blue waves of the topographic oceans ..... but that's another album entirely. The next turn of the cards is "A Tower Stricken Down". The Tower card which is shown being struck by lightning in the Tarot deck, represents disruption and potentially devastating change. This dramatic image is conjured up in the music, which is a strident and sonorous and somewhat discordant keyboard piece with the heavy pounding sound of Mike Rutherford's bass and with Phil Collins pounding away on the drums in a very offbeat and very proggy time signature. The music might sound harsh and full of dark and portentous doom and gloom, but it perfectly represents the sense of impending catastrophe in the stricken tower image. We hear a powerful sonic blast towards the end of the piece, which sounds like an atomic explosion, and then we hear the lonely voice of a Mellotron, representing a vast empty desert. Yes, it's all doom and gloom in this tale of a bleak dystopian future, but don't get too downhearted, as there now follows a brief reprise of the beautifully melodic "Hands of the Priestess", which is sure to lift up the spirits again. Next, we draw "The Hermit" card. It's a Tarot card representing spritual knowledge, accomplishment, development, and success. The music is a quietly introspective acoustic piece, featuring a cello, a flute, an oboe, and where we get to hear the dulcet tones of Steve Hackett for the very first time - and a very fine singer he is too. This is a sparklingly beautiful piece of music that glimmers like a bright shining crystal.

Opening Side Two now, you might recognise the voice on "Star of Sirius" because it's none other than Phil Collins. Not surprisingly then, this marvellous 7-minute piece of melodic prog sounds more like the classic sound of Genesis than anything heard on the album so far. As any amateur astronomer will know, Sirius is the brightest star in the northern hemisphere, and the playfully bright and uplifting melody very much reflects that. The Star Tarot card represents hope and optimism just as surely as the joyous and jubilant music in this emotionally-rich and exhilarating tune. The heavenly message contained within the stargazing lyrics is very uplifting too:- "Although the journey is still far from ended, You gaze at the sky, Above the cloudless night, Nebulous bright." ..... Returning to Earth now and we're in romantic mood for the Tarot card, "The Lovers". The card represents a naked man and a woman under the watchful protective eye of an angel in the legendary Garden of Eden. The delightful music is suitably angelic in tone too. It's a brief but beautiful acoustic guitar piece featuring the light echoey swirling synthesiser. This leads us into the final song and the real highlight of the album: "Shadow of the Hierophant". The Hierophant is a religious figure in the Tarot card depiction and the music is powerfully inspirational too and may even inspire religious devotion. This 12-minute masterpiece features the beautifully lilting tones of Sally Oldfield (Mike's sister). This is a spectacular grand finale to a magnificent album. Steve Hackett's masterful guitar really shines on this outstanding piece of musical magic. It wouldn't be overstating the case to say this music is as good as, if not better than, anything Genesis have ever done. This song features the full works, including crystal-clear vocals from Sally, the gorgeous floating sound of the Mellotron, a flighty flute, a sonorous bass, and powerful drumming. The song gradually builds up in intensity, emerging into a booming and bombastic wave of sound for the dramatic finale. No amount of superlatives in a review can do justice to the music though. In the words of King Crimson, this is a glorious and majestic "Cadence and Cascade" of music that you really have to hear to believe. You'll believe in the power of music to invigorate and revitalise the body and soul after hearing this. It's a powerful and dramatic piece of music with all of the opulent splendour and majesty of Buckingham Palace which will take you up the stairway to heaven and remain in the memory forever and ever, Amen! Okay, that's enough superlatives for now, because it's time for the album overview.

Steve Hackett makes a dramtic emergence onto the solo stage with "Voyage of the Acolyte" The album represents the spectacular beginning of a long and illustrious solo career. Steve takes us on a dramatic and powerful musical journey of wondrous stories with this tremendous opening album. It's sure to delight fans of melodic Progressive Rock everywhere, and should appeal equally to Genesis fans and non-Genesis fans alike. It's a moody and magnificent album of timeless appeal which has really stood the test of time.

Psychedelic Paul | 5/5 |

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