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Steve Hackett - Voyage of the Acolyte CD (album) cover


Steve Hackett


Eclectic Prog

4.25 | 1579 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars The waiting (to leave the band) room

Steve Hackett's first solo album is still held by many to be his best. It was in some ways an extension of his work with Genesis, even down to the "Trespass" like sleeve designed by his wife, Kim Poor. The album was recorded after Peter Gabriel had left Genesis, but prior to the release of "A trick of the tail". The other remaining Genesis members were reportedly uncomfortable with Hackett pursuing a solo project while still in the band, and consequently further solo releases by him were not forthcoming until after he left.

While "Voyage of the Acolyte" is very progressive, with many of the sounds which distinguished early Genesis albums, it is quite different in terms of composition. If the opening track "Ace of wands" is anything to go by, the influences are more in the way of King Crimson or Yes. Indeed, track 2, "Hands of the Priestess Part I" is reminiscent of "I talk to the wind" from King Crimson's first album.

There is a diversity to this album which tends to be lacking on subsequent Hackett releases. While he has explored many different styles through the years, each album has tended to focus on a particular aspect, whereas here he throws many of them into the same pot.

The Genesis sounds start to come to the fore on "A tower struck down" which borrows strongly from the "Apocalypse" section of "Supper's ready" (or is it "Grendel"!). The track also has a "Waiting room" ("Lamb lies down..") flavour, a track which Hackett clearly favours, since he also included it in his "Genesis revisited" project.

Just when it seems the album is to be entirely instrumental, vocals appear for the first time on "The Hermit". This "Blood on the rooftops" like song is comparable with the work of Camel, accentuated by the fact that Hackett and Andy Latimer have a similar vocal style. Hackett is clearly aware of his own limitations in the vocal department, they are adequate but no more than that. A couple of guest vocalists therefore appear on side two of the album. Phil Collins, who at the time was about to take on the lead vocalist role for Genesis, sings on "Star of Sirius". His performance is more like the multi tracked style of "Harlequin" ("Nursery Cryme") than the "Track of the tail" onwards albums, and is thus a bit rough at the edges. The track is quite pop, but has some fine instrumental work.

The feature track is "Shadow of the Hierophant" which is preceded by the brief "The lovers". In the same way as "Horizons" precedes "Supper's ready", "The lovers" should have been incorporated into "Shadow.." as an integral part of the song. The guest vocalist here is Sally Oldfield, sister of Mike and an accomplished singer in her own right. There's an "Epitaph"/"Fountain of Salmacis" feel to the opening section, which is transformed by Oldfield's supreme performance. A "Ripples" like link leads to a lengthy closing section which features a repeating theme building from delicate xylophone to a bombastic, majestic conclusion and fade. The piece is quite typical, perhaps derivative, of other prog pieces of the time but is nonetheless a magnificent opus.

With his first solo album, Steve Hackett showed that he had much to offer. In retrospect, it is easy to understand how he became frustrated with the constraints of working within the Genesis framework. Had Tony Banks not also been in his most productive period, Hackett would clearly have been able to carry Genesis to greater heights himself. Whether these particular songs were ever actually offered to the band, is a matter for speculation.

This is a highly accomplished work, recommended to all who enjoy the core prog of the early to mid 70's.

The recently released re-mastered CD version has an additional live version of "Ace of wands" and an absolutely essential 17 minute extended studio version of "Shadow of the Hierophant".

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


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