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Steve Hackett To Watch the Storms album cover
3.78 | 428 ratings | 44 reviews | 19% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2003

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Strutton Ground (3:05)
2. Circus of Becoming (3:49)
3. The Devil Is an Englishman (4:28)
4. Frozen Statues (2:59)
5. Mechanical Bride (6:40)
6. Wind, Sand and Stars (5:08)
7. Brand New (4:41)
8. This World (5:20)
9. Rebecca (4:21)
10. The Silk Road (5:25)
11. Pollution B (1:00) *
12. Fire Island (5:25) *
13. Marijuana Assassin of Youth (5:50) *
14. Come Away (3:13)
15. The Moon Under Water (2:14)
16. Serpentine Song (6:53)
17. If You Only Knew (2:25) *

* Bonus tracks on 2003 IOM special edition

Total Time 58:19 (standard edition) / 72:56 (special edition)

Line-up / Musicians

- Steve Hackett / vocals, guitar, harmonica, Optigan organ, koto, percussion

- Roger King / piano, organ, synth, vocoder, programming
- Terry Gregory / basses, bass pedals, vocals
- Gary O'Toole / acoustic & electric drums & percussion, vocals
- Rob Townsend / brass, woodwind, whistle
- John Hackett / flute (13)
- Ian McDonald / saxophone (7)
- Sarah Wilson / cello
- Howard Gott / violin
- Jeanne Downs / backing vocals

Releases information

Artwork: Kim Poor with Harry Pearce (design)

CD Inside Out Music ‎- IOMCD 127 (2003, Europe)
CD Inside Out Music ‎- IOMSECD 127 (2003, Europe) Special edition w/ 4 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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STEVE HACKETT To Watch the Storms ratings distribution

(428 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(19%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(53%)
Good, but non-essential (21%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

STEVE HACKETT To Watch the Storms reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Greger
3 stars Steve Hackett was one of my favorites in Genesis and his solo works has never let me down either. His first three solo albums "Voyage Of The Acolyte", "Please Don't Touch" and "Spectral Mornings" together with "Till We Have Faces" are all favorites in my record collection. His previous album "Darktown" never reached my collection, but I have heard it and it wasn't bad at all.

The new album "To Watch The Storms" is even better than "Darktown", especially the masterpiece "Mechanical Bride" which is one of the better songs Steve has ever recorded. Other highlights are "Strutton Ground", "Circus of Becoming", "The Devil Is An Englishman", "Wind, Sand, and Stars" and "Serpentine Song". He still has a lot of the Genesis sound in his music, but updated and more modern.

This is for sure one of the better albums ever from Steve Hackett, and I suggest you buy it immediately.

Review by loserboy
4 stars So where does Mr. HACKETT travel on "To Watch The Storms" you ask?... The answer is a bit of everywhere and the result is a thoroughly entertaining album drawing on a vast collage of musical styles, moods and themes. As usual HACKETT surrounds his voice and guitar with a collection of talented musicians including Roger King - keyboards, Rob Townsend - Brass, Woodwind, Terry Gregory - basses, vocals, Gary O'Toole - drums, vocals, John Hackett - flute and Ian McDonald - sax. HACKETT also brings in guest musicians with cello and violin accents. "To Watch The Storms" is typical Steve HACKETT and is another awesome addition to his musical discography. This album carries the originality of some of HACKETT's most beloved album with some bizarre little ditties and very unique songs writing.
Review by Hibou
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I was a bit skeptical about this album at first, it is so varied I was tempted to say it is 'uneven'. But a few listens sufficed to convince me of the contrary: every single track here bears the truest HACKETT mark, from the folksy opener "Strutton Ground" down to the "Momentum" flavoured closer piece "If You Only Knew". It's as if the man had combined just about every style he has ever previously tackled onto one album.

What strikes most about "To Watch the Storms" is its all-round perfect, flawless production. Some tracks will hit you right away such as the spooky "The Devil Is an Englishman", the high-pitched vocal "Brand New", the exquisite ballad "This World", "Fire Island" which is almost a "Let Me Count the Ways" clone, and "Serptentine Song", the finest lullaby I've ever heard. With others, I needed a little time to adjust; such was the case with the contorted, crimsonesque "Mechanical Bride" with its choppy, jazzy, guitar play; the classically tinged "Wind, Sand and Stars" and finally "Marijuana Assassin of Youth", a veritable pot-pourri of old American film scores, 50's rock'n roll Chuck Berry style, the theme from 'Batman', right down to the SAFARIS's "Wipeout". Wow! Talk about a musical roller-coaster!

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars If you ask the people who of the ex Genesis members has the most solid career, the POP fans will say Phil Collins, the prog' fans will mostly say Peter Gabriel, but I won't vote for none of them, I hate Collins music (so that option is not valid for me) and even though Peter's career is outstanding, Hackett is absolutely solid and coherent with his own style.

His atmospheric guitar was a trademark in his early years as a member of the amazing five and still is, then he added incredible acoustic sections not suitable for most Genesis albums, so he became one of the best guitar players (if not N° 1) , but there's still more, Steve showed everybody he had talent enough to be an excellent composer sadly wasted when he was part of the Genesis, one of the reasons why he left the band after Wind & Wuthering.

"To Watch the Storms" reminds me of "Voyage of the Acolyte" because both are very dark and mysterious albums and he mixes symphonic prog' with more aggressive styles. Both are powerful albums, even when I stay with this one because Steve is reaching his peak as the years pass.

My favorite tracks are:

"The Devil is an English Man" which sounds similar to "Vampire with a Healthy Appetite" because of the obscure thematic and the amazing guitar and bass work.

"Frozen Statues" blends some jazzy piano with a delicate brass section by Rob Townsend, much more simple than the previous but creates a piano bar atmosphere very soft and somehow sensual.

"Brand New" starts with a short acoustic guitar solo which explodes in one second towards a classic Hackett sound like in Voyage of the Acolyte, a few more abrupt changes and an electric guitar section with percussion in the middle prepare for another guitar solo and a an acoustic ending, IMHO this song represents what prog must be.

"Rebbeca" is a softer song with acoustic guitar and piano but completed with strong percussion and aggressive explosions of energy, the precise piano by Roger King deserves special attention.

The only song I have some troubles with is "Mechanical Bride" a sort of King Crimson playing "Waiting Room Only" (from Genesis Revisited), hard, cold and as the name tells too mechanical, not my cup of tea, but with an excellent bass work.

I almost forgot the beautiful "The Moon Under Water" a 100% acoustic guitar track that leaves no doubt Steve Hackett is a virtuoso musician.

I know it's hard to accept 5 stars rating, but being this album (IMHO) the best release of 2003 and an absolute masterpiece, deserves no less, so I wont be unfair to rate it with anything lower.

Review by richardh
4 stars An excellent collection of peices.This album has a romantic feeling to it with lots of warmth in songs like 'Rebecca' and 'Wind Sand and Stars'.The only weakness is Hackett's overly obvious homages to King Crimson on the Serpentine Song (I talk to the wind) and Mechanical Bride (21st Century Shizoid Man) which may grate on KC fans but otherwise the variation in moods and atmospheres makes this one of the best prog releases of recent years.
Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Steve Hacket music is a kind of magic to me. I know exactly that he is mediocre in singing - the quality of his voice is not excellent - sorry Steve, this is an honest statement. But I dunno why for some reason, his voice fits really well with the textures of his composition. Track 3 "The Devil is An Englishman" is a good example of this. On the positive side, Steve is the master that can create a wonderful compositions despite any barriers and/or limitations he has. It demonstrates how masterful he is!

"Strutton Ground" opens with an acoustic guitar and sampling sound augmented with a keyboard sound. It's an excellent opening track to my personal taste. The second track "Circus Of Becoming" starts with a simple keyboard followed with a circus-like music in a happy mood. It's not an unplugged track as there is drumming and organ part that accentuate the music. Melody-wise, it's a strong tune with excellent songwriting. The traditional Steve Hacket guitar touch is featured in this tune.

"The Devil Is An Englishman" is my all-time favorite with an interesting and catchy opening acoustic guitar fills. The song flows in a sampling textures with wonderful guitar effects mixed thinly at background. Steve's vocal line is delivered in low register with almost growling (?) style. Composition-wise, this is one of the strongest ones in this album, and . very enjoyable. I love the sound effects produced by electric guitar. Nuance-wise, this track reminds me to "The doll was made in Japan" from Steve's "Till We Have faces" album. Just the nuance, not the melody or the music.

"Frozen Statues" starts off with an atmospheric electric piano sound that accompany the vocal line augmented with trumpet sound at the background. This track is heavily influenced by old time jazz music, performed mellow. It's like a "midnight jazz" tune. But it does not stop here as this track serves really well to set the tone for next track: "Mechanical Bride". Yeah .. this track is really SUPERB man! It has an excellent blend of traditional music of Steve as well as the new sound (Dark Town's vein) with a complex and sometimes avant-garde elements. The jazzy part in the interlude demonstrating the distorted organ / keyboard sounds as well as guitar is really excellent piece of music! The bass line proves the jazzy style. The music then return to the kind of early King Crimson style especially during complex piece. Oh my GOD . this is my true favorite! It's an amazing music.

"Wind, Sand And Stars" is an acoustic piece that demonstrated the technical capability of Steve in playing his guitar. To me, this track is like the "Bay of Kings" part of this album. It serves a nice break; heavily influenced by classical music. The piano and keyboard parts at the ending have created symphonic and spacey nature of this creation. "Brand New" starts of with dynamic acoustic guitar and vocal line. The music enters in a rocking style with some breaks with acoustic guitar sound and vocal line. The interlude with saxophone works reminds me to Van der Graff Generator music. The guitar improvisation has made it different though. It's an amazing interlude. This track is probably the closest with early album of Steve. An excellent track with a very strong songwriting!

"This World" is a slow / medium tempo song with a straight forward melody, composed in a simple structure. It has no prog elements at all, but it's enjoyable. "Rebecca" is in the same vein as "This World". But the interlude has some intense prog elements with excellent solo and acoustic guitar work.

"The Silk Road" is the track where I have a big problem with. It's not with the composition as this track has been composed at its highest standards combining ethnical music available in the world. So, composition wise, it's a top notch song! So, what is my problem? My problem is with the sleeve note. My CD is a "Special Edition" one. For each song Steve has written the background of songwriting. He writes for this track: "Roger King really made this track possible by painstakingly constructing percussion scenarios - some 'electric' and some 'acoustic' - where Africa meets Brazil, India, Canton, Andalusia [my emphasis] and New Orleans .". When I listen to the music I am sure that what he meant by Andalusia is actually Indonesia, to be exact it's coming from Bali, part of Indonesia. The sound of gamelan Bali happens at minute 00:34 - 00:46, 01:10 - 02-08 (not continuous, some parts only) and also some passages in this track. Yes, it's a Balinese traditional music. Many composers have used this gamelan Bali in their composition, especially rock music, because the nature of this gamelan is suitable for rock music. Germany's composerEberhard Schoener has collaborated with Balinese gamelan through his album "Bali Agung" sometimes in the 70s. Also you can find in Discus 1st and " .. tot Licht!".

So Mr. Hackett, I think you should revise accordingly as the sound is really gamelan Bali of Indonesia and NOT Andalusia. Unless . the Andalusia music is similar with Balinese gamelan, then I'm wrong .But, please do check .

"Fire Island" is completely a straight forward blues outfit with no prog elements. "Marijuanna Assasin of Youth" is a rock'n'roll tune. "Come Away" is a mediocre track with some traditional music. "The Moon Under Water" is a "Bay of Kings" outfit. "Serpentine Song" is a spacey ballad. "If You Only Knew" is another Bay of Kings outfit again. The bonus tracks do not attract me at all. All are mediocre ones.

It's highly recommended. Rating: 4 out of 5. Keep on progging! - GW, Andalusia (ahem sorry .. I mean .. Indonesia).

Review by Muzikman
4 stars "To Watch The Storms" is the first Steve HACKETT album in four years. Although that seems like a long time between albums, it is not hard to imagine how quickly the years could fly by when you are involved with a multitude of projects such as HACKETT.

The new CD features HACKETT playing extraordinary guitar as well as numerous other instruments like the Rain Stick and Koto, which are not your common everyday instruments that come into play when recording a rock album. Certainly, this is not your ordinary rock album. The album focuses on one of the premier guitarists in the world making progressive artistic rock music that many high caliber musicians would find inconceivable or quite difficult to produce. Hackett very smartly brought onboard some supportive and diverse talent to help him reach his goals. Roger King (piano, organ, synthesizer), Rob Townsend (brass, woodwind, whistles), Terry Gregory (vocals, basses, pedals & thunder), Gary O' Toole (vocals, acoustics & electric drums, percussion), and various guests such as Ian McDonald, all contributed to the outcome of this successful recording.

From the decidedly uncommon progressive-pop sensibilities of "The Devil Is An Englishman," to the Far East flavor of "The Silk Road," there is nothing accidental or coincidental in the way Hackett conceives and follows through with a recording session. He is a very gifted individual that systematically approaches every track, making sure his audience gets the very best of him and as much variety of his artistic vision as possible.

After listening to the album, it certainly became more than apparent that the results harvested from the recording sessions of this album were well worth the wait for all of the followers of progressive rock as a whole and HACKETT's illustrious career. There is so much to this man and his music that every track offers new musical adventures. He can rock hard with biting and piercing guitar licks to satisfy the progressive rock enthusiast, or dazzle a jazz audience with a completely different sound by plucking a soft and tasteful acoustic number, giving a collective nod to past six-string magicians such as Segovia and Reinhardt. I think you will unearth more uniqueness and subtleties with each successive listen to this CD; in fact, I have no doubt that if you are a veteran prog-rock listener that you will be very pleased with this effort and will feel compelled to listen repeatedly to this masterstroke of musical accomplishments.

What is a span of four years when you can put out a quality album like this every time out? Many people would consider this as a career breakthrough album; HACKETT makes it look like a matter of course, another day at the office for an old pro. This is yet another convincing reason to believe he has been one of the most consistent musicians since his days with GENESIS.

Review by Hangedman
4 stars Its nice to see an old prog star be able to produce music that isnt desperatly trying to recapture thier old fame. 'Mechanical Bride' works out to become my favourite Hackett song, and the only moment that suffers is 'Marijuana, Assasin of Youth' and thats only on the special edition disk. I also think its worth the money just for the artwork that comes with the special edition, beautiful. Fans of old and new, this album is worth a spin. Every bit of the 4 stars is well earned.
Review by Tony R
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars This is a lovingly crafted, beautifully executed meisterwerk from one of Prog Rocks true giants.

As eclectic an album as he has ever produced and when I look back at Hackett's solo output this is probably at least on a par with anything he has ever released. I'm driven to declare that his solo output far exceeds anything Genesis have released since he left them.This is a heady mixture of Symphonic Prog and Art Rock,that only Rush have probably ever bettered.

Which leads me to the best track "Mechanical Bride". This track throws everything in bar the kitchen sink,hard rockin', tasteful jazz noodling and the ragged guitar/synth interplay that seems to echo the worst traits of of our beloveds...nag,nag nag!! Quite ingenious in its inception although reminiscent of the modern live version of La Villa Strangiato by Rush.Not a bad thing of course-one masterpiece referencing another

"Silk Road" is breathtaking too.The way it combines Eastern mystery with modern rock music is very uplifting and I particularly enjoy the Andalusian Percussion........

"Circus of Becoming" with its wonderful organ melody,"The Devil Is An Englishman" with its eccentric humour,"Frozen Statues" with its Jazz Club atmosphere and the happy,meandering"Serpentine Song" all utterly brilliant.I struggle to find anything that is average on this album.Maybe "Come Away" is weaker than some of the others and " The Moon Under Water" is the kind of "nice" acoustic track that Steve can write in his sleep.

I cannot praise this album too highly and in terms of consistency it is probably Hackett's best.

4 3/4 very shiny stars!

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Steve Hackett continues here to give the listener a product of high quality: I would even say that this record is among his best ones: a very mature record full of miscellaneous musical genres, containing at least as many acoustic guitar parts as electric ones: to give an overall description is almost impossible, since every track is unique. So, I think a description of each track alone would be more appropriate:

"Strutton ground" starts with excellent acoustic guitars with some reverse recording effects: a short song but pretty enjoyable.

"Circus of becoming" has a real circus ambience, reminding a bit the second part of his "Tigermoth" track on the Spectral Mornings album; the very end is REALLY weird, dark and mysterious!

"Devil is an Englishman" has a light techno keyboards ambience and some Ozric Tentacles-esque effects, but the diabolic & funny tenor male vocals really remain down to earth and I guess they must be charming & seductive for any female listener.

"Frozen statues" sounds very nostalgic with a cold and remote echoed piano plus many urban & jazzy trumpets a la Frank Sinatra;

"Wind, sand & stars" is among the best tracks here: it starts with Hackett's usual excellent & elaborated acoustic guitar; then, when the moving background keyboards and the fast piano enter, everything comes so majestic, graceful and poignant that you naturally listen to it totally in awe: it reminds me the earlier sentimental tracks like "Hammer in the sand" and "The Toast", on his Defector album.

"Brand new" starts again with his usual complex & catchy acoustic guitars, except that here you have addictive & very art rock refrains similar to the ones on the "Till we have faces" album; then, a modern volume variation effect gives some weirdness to the ensemble. The last 2 minutes are really interesting: the first part contains an excellent electric guitar solo like Hackett used to play in the late 70's, followed by strange but good discrete electric guitar notes a la Joe Satriani: the track ends with a beautiful acoustic guitar solo.

"This World" returns to the art rock style with a slower rhythm and repetitive drums; the track is really catchy.

"Rebecca" is a rather graceful, slightly sad & sentimental song, on which many different guitar sounds & effects occur: a pleasant experience for your ears!

"The silk road" shows Hackett's experience with the same kind of Latin percussions arrangements he used to produce on records like "Till we have faces": one can notice some similitudes with the Peter Gabriel's Passion album; this track here is however not the most memorable one.

"Come away" contains some reverse recordings, so typical to Hackett' sound; this track sounds a bit like his "Please don't touch" album: there are some pleasant rhythmic accordion arrangements and some unidentified wind instrument notes.

"The moon under water" is another graceful & elegant acoustic guitar solo that would perfectly fit on his "Bay of kings" album.

My favorite song still remains "The serpentine",: a WONDERFUL, GRACEFUL and SENTIMENTAL song, having some light art rock elements. There are rhythmic flute parts, and when the sentimental flute solos enter with the background floating keyboards and the acoustic guitars or the saxophone solo, then you really believe again that Hackett is a VERY sentimental guy: those flute/sax bits are even better than any flute parts on his "Voyage of the acolyte" album!

Review by chessman
4 stars This is one of my favourite Hackett albums. It is diverse, eclectic yet cohesive. 'Strutton Ground' is short and sweet, with nice melody (something which pervades the whole album) and simply plucked acoustic guitar. Steve sings this, as well as the other songs on the album, and his voice really has matured. 'Circus Of Becoming' is another short yet strong song. Nice electric guitar lines here, brief but effective, especially at the end. 'The Devil Is An Englishman' is one of Steve's quirkier offerings, his voice here hamming it up in the best tradition of the English theatre, almost Alan Rickman-like in its over-the- topness. Wonderful stuff. In fact, you wouldn't believe it was Hackett unless you were told first. (Nice girly backing chorus here too!) 'Frozen Statues' is very atmospheric indeed, short yet poignant, with nice sax and strong lyrics about hospital patients. Almost laid-back jazz at times. 'Mechanical Bride' is probably a lot of Hackett fans' favourite track on the album. It is probably my least favourite track, simply because it is too, well, King Crimson-like at times, and they are a band whose music I could never get into. Strong horn sounds, explosions of percussion, and stabbing guitar thrusts abound here. I don't dislike it, but it's, well, a little on the noisy side for me. 'Wind, Sand & Stars' is a lovely melodic instrumental, with gorgeous acoustic guitar work leading the orchestra. Very nice. 'Brand New' is a more traditional verse, chorus, verse song, and a good one at that. A slowish melody with acoustic guitar explodes into a drum inspired chorus with sharp electric guitar work again. Good singing and harmonies on the chorus too. 'This World' is a slower verse, chorus, verse track. Especially effective on the chorus with more good harmonies. 'Rebecca' is superbly atmospheric, with more acoustic guitar and an almost old- fashioned style verse. For me, it is one of the highlights on the album, and brings to my mind the days of The Brontes. Lovely. Another well sung track. 'The Silk Road' is an almost oriental instrumental, with guitar work that reminds me in a way of 'Please Don't Touch'. 'Come Away' is another clever song, with an almost country dance feel to it. I could imagine farmers, grass between their teeth, pouring ale from pottery jugs and dancing round wooden benches as evening approaches. Yes, it's that sort of song. Different, but good. 'The Moon Under Water' is a typical acoustic guitar piece, very well played and with the unmistakable stamp of Mr Hackett all over it. 'Serpentine Song' has the added bonus of brother John playing flute on it. It is a good way to end the album, with a mid paced gentle melody and nice harmonies again on both verse and chorus. Superb stuff! I have the special edition, with the four bonus tracks on it. 'Pollution B' is really just a bit of noise which acts as a bridge between songs. 'Fire Island' is one of Mr Hackett's rather fine blues tracks. 'Marijuana Assassin Of Youth' is very funny, bringing, as it does, old pieces of music together into a mini musical (including The Batman theme!) 'If You Only Knew' actually ends the special edition album, and is another lovely acoustic guitar track. A peaceful way to end a long, yet extremely enjoyable album. Four stars, but it could be worth five, only I don't want to abuse the option! (Most of Steve's cds are close to five in my book!)
Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Storm Clouds Rising

Steve Hackett's first studio album of the new millenium has him finding his feet and a steady lineup of musicians that help create a wonderful atmosphere of varying pieces that explore many different textures, moods, and atmospheres. And while it is no Darktown, To Watch the Storms really makes a strong impression on me, nearly everything about this album is excellent, right down to the packaging of the album itself.

Hackett is very diverse right from the get go. Tracks like The Devil is an Englishman (a cover of a song from Thomas Dolby) continue exploring the modulated vocal stylings that Vampyre with a Healthy Appetite first endeavoured nearly a decade prior. Frozen Statues combines jazzy piano with airy and ethereal guitar frills and sparse woodwinds/trumpets, and acted as a great opener during his live shows on this tour.

Mechanical Bride is one of the strongest pieces Hackett has written thus far, in my opinion. It's got a strong 21st Century Schizoid Man vibe, but there is so much more to the track. It has rapid-fire playing by all musicians (the bass performance on this track is impeccable) and Hackett unleashes some wicked solos in the process (not since Every Day has he had a guitar solo this nearly this spectacular).

Other particularly strong tracks include Circus of Becoming, which combines brooding circus organ with uplifting guitar leads from Hackett, creating an uneasy yet highly enjoyable atmosphere. Brand New is another uptempo number, and once again has Hackett burning up and down the fretboard, leaving just enough space for the other musicians to flesh out their performances as well.

The majestic Serpentine Song invokes thoughts of Voyage of the Acolyte, with its strong flute melodies and light guitar playing, giving a nostlagic feel to the piece as well as creating a particularly mellow atmosphere. The last song worth mentioning is Marijuana, Assassin of Youth, a number that combines key melodies of recognizable songs from the 50s and 60s, creating a medley of sorts.

Overall, To Watch the Storms continues a streak of strong albums released by Hackett that began with 1999's Darktown. As I said earlier, this album isn't Darktown (in the sense that Darktown was a masterpiece in my eyes), but it does offer something to the table Darktown didn't, and that something I can't truly describe in words, it's something you have to listen to to find out. Highly recommended.

Review by The T
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is the first Steve Hackett album I've ever heard, and even right now I haven't heard more than two (WILD ORCHIDS being the other one). So I will say, from the start, that I won't give any comment about the legendary guitarist's solo career, as it is practically unknown to me.

I will say a few words about that "other band" where Mr. Hackett had a chance to play some guitar, though. When Hackett left Genesis, more than two decades ago, he took with him most of the prog-magic that made that group's music one of a kind and arguably the most respected in all of prog-music history. Even though I personally love one of the Hackett-less albums made by the trio (ATTWThree), it's evident that without the master of the 6 strings, there would be no more "Fifth of Firth" or "Supper's Ready", and music in general suffered because of his absence. He embarked on a respectable solo career, and now the time has come for me to meet the man outside of that magic world of Gabriel, Banks, Rutherford and Collins.

Now, about this album. I won't give an overall comment about the record as a whole, as it's really difficult to categorize such a varied, diverse piece of art. All the tracks are so different, they offer to the listener the ticket to enter so many different music- parks, that I think I'll make my position on the album clear by doing a song by song review. Again, I'll opt for a more feeling-oriented description, as I think I can manage that better than a pure musical, theorical one, as a good friend wisely advised me long ago.

Strutton Ground (10/10) Wonderful, such a beautiful and simple piece of music I've yet to hear again. Acoustic guitar and a melancholic voice, the song seems like a picture, a picture of a man walking through the streets and parks of a British city thinking about the time when he walked the same streets with a woman he loved, all at that time of the afternoon when the light is more treacherous, when is not so dark that you can't see anything, but when it's so dark that you can get lost. What a beautiful piece of music! Circus Of Becoming (10/10) Some dark organ opens the track. Then a funny, yet ironical theme that reeks of sarcasm but also of foolish satisfaction. Comedy, sadness, but also longing. You actually long for sad times, because those were better times. Life is like that. Another success. The second section bares some resemblance to Genesis, but it lasts less than a minute. Beautiful music. And Hackett's voice, though nothing great, is so nostalgic, so emotional, so blue-ish. Great.

The Devil Is An Englishman (8/10) What a piece of pure genius the start of this song is! The playful-yet-dangerous acoustic theme is fantastic. It sounds like the melody of a nice-looking mature man who would appear harmless and amiable, but hides a dark, very dark secret within. The music gets more electronic-oriented, and that takes away a little from the rating of the song, as does the bland vocals, though we have to say, they work for the context of the song.

Frozen Statues (9.5/10) The start sounds like Debussy under water (that's almost a pun). Just quiet, drunken, 3 AM piano chords in some lost bar in the middle of a giant, gray, people-eating metropolis, with a man lying over the bar completely depressed, thinking on killing himself over a lady in purple who played with him. Just some echoes of a trumpet player in the background, that is all.

Mechanical Bride (8.5/10) Suddenly we enter a mechanized world, and then a pure hard-rock, even metallic riff unfolds. But it's stopped by an incredibly ridiculous piano figure. Another good track, so simplistic yet so meaningful. It's colder that the preceding tracks, but that's perfect for a song called "Mechanical Bride". An iron-cold song, with a swingy-jazzy section in the middle. The song is long and continues to develop into utter chaos. Exactly what you'd get of a mechanic, perfect yet in-human mechanical bride. It sounds a little like King Crimson, as cold and cerebral as the music from that band is.

Wind, Sand And Stars (9/10). Exactly what the title says: the noise of minuscule grains of sand flying carried by the wind amidst utter darkness, emptiness. Oddly enough, a flamenco guitar stops the voyage and starts delivering note after note of comfort, musical comfort, the comfort of emptiness being filled, of a void substituted with little falling stars cascading in the form of guitar strings. Near the end strings and keys join this celebration of the obvious, this chant to what's there, to what IS. Good piece.

Brand New (8/10) A decidedly Spanish-sounding guitar that reminds us of Rodrigo's or Granados' works starts the song. Hackett blue/purple voice sings to our ears before the track goes the rock way, and then the dreamy landscape returns. A happier, less nostalgic song than all the preceding ones, Hackett plays with the stereo in the studio, as he himself let us know in the album's booklet. Effects and distortion, a pure game of knob-management. Then a guitar solo. A good track, a little cold.

This World (9/10) One of the most beautiful moments in the album, the beginning of this song reminds me of Ennio Morricone's music. Then an incredibly sweet and seducing song follows. This is not a love-related tragedy, but just utter infatuation. The protagonist is happy, and even when he asks for his lover not to "take this world from" him, he doesn't sound too pessimistic. The vocal harmonies in the chorus remind me of Pink Floyd. The whole song has a certain PF aura to it, yet mysteriously romantic, which is not much in the vein of the band that Waters and Gilmour fronted. Very good track.

Rebecca (10/10) Another one of those songs that make this album a masterpiece. Guitar, just guitar, the tool that Hackett uses to build the most beautiful blocks of music. His voice over the guitar, the calling for a woman, some Spanish-like tremolos, the atmosphere is just poisoning, poisoning like any feeling where the heart overcomes the brain. A moment of insanity in the way of electronica with a wonderful solo by the master. Where's this situation taking us? Well, back to the beginning. To the superb 70's-sounding music of the start, the world of dedication.

The Silk Road (8/10) A mostly percussion-driven track, the title is perfect: this music speaks of a large enterprise where someone makes the wrong decision to try to reach the Silk Lands in the East without considering that though Silk lies in the future, the road is not made of silk. Good music, very descriptive.

In my version, (the special edition), the order of the songs is not the same as listed at the top.

Pollution B (?/10) Again, Hackett shows us he's not only good with a guitar, but with a pen when it comes to pick titles for his tracks. A very short track that's only noise, pollution. This one is forgettable but it's so short it doesn't hurt the album.

Fire Island (7/10) It was only time before a blues-flavored track in triple rhythm arrived, and as I said before, this is not my favorite style. Good dirty sounding vocals, a guitar that demands respect from a rather grotesque audience, some lousy organ in the background. The song lasts 5 minutes, not 2 as listed above. And to be honest, I'd prefer if it had lasted just 2. But Hackett is so good that even this track didn't damage my experience. Anyway, good bluesy track, not my cup of tea.

Marijuana, Assassin Of Youth (6/10) This one borders on atrocity though of course I guess it's the sought effect. It starts with a melody that sounds like some 40's movie music with black and white actors. Then some organ a la Bach (well, it IS Bach), and abruptly enough, the BATMAN melody strikes! Marijuana assassin of youth? Don't think so. Assassin of brain cells? You bet! A complete mess, chaotic piece with ridiculous vocals and the Tequila theme thrown in for good. But, as I said, just like with the oregano-looking herb, we can't demand coherence of someone who decided to treat himself with the wizard hiding in the green forest. As a piece of music, I abhor this. But let's set this straight: the perfect song for such a title, a title that, like Hackett says in the booklet, is inherently false, as is the absurdity and weirdness of this track.

Come Away (8/10) We travel England's countryside, we ride to a town in a wooden bike and dance in the central plaza with lots of unknown yet friendly people. And we're lost in the most complete and stupid happiness. What everybody's looking, really. This word will look weird here, but this is a "cute" track. The thing is to, once again, discover the genius behind the music.

The Moon Under Water (9/10) Joaquin Rodrigo comes back to illuminate Steve Hackett's playing. A beautiful instrumental piece, with just an acoustic guitar and some artistic brushes, shaped as human fingers.

Serpentine Song (8/10) A charming, irrelevant song. It sounds so old, so peaceful, not deserving of such an awful place like the world. As always, Hackett plays his guitar underneath a soft layer of musical grass. Flowers. Happy faces. This is music coming from a satisfied person.

If You Only Knew (7/10) Another short acoustic track, not as brilliant as the preceding one, this one lacks the drama, the beauty, the emotion. But it serves as yet another proof of Hackett's skill (yes, as if we needed it).

A truly excellent album that is marred by a couple weak tracks, TO WATCH THE STORMS would've been a perfect 5 if it had maintained the level of beauty of the first tracks.

This is atmospheric, descriptive music. Hackett is not a mere musician, but a painter, an artist whose canvas comes in the shape of a guitar. An artists that has given us some 17 paintings to look at and listen to. But, attention, this is not cold art. This is the art of painter with a heart, who draws melodies instead of lines, who fills his pictures with the colors of a thousand notes.


Not recommended for: Well, I don't know. Maybe fans of music without emotion. Maybe people that prefer noise. Maybe people that dislike painting and prefer their graphics to come in the shape of mundane comics.

Recommended for: Fans of atmospheric, descriptive, paint-like music. This album speaks of humanity.

.As long as you're sure you come from planet Earth, this is for YOU.

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

Well it seems that Hackett's career is actually enjoying an upwards swing from the pendulum as he regularly tours and records many projects since the release of the good Darktown in 99. Indeed, Steve seems to have another relatively stable group on which to rely to, even if Brother John and Roger King have been around for a while.

As usual, a good review of one of Hackett's album is relatively difficult, because of the wide spectrum of his music: the least we can say is that variety is not one of Steve's angst, which we can actually applaud aesthetically speaking. However this makes always a rather uneasy listening to an uneven album. Steve's most "advanced" musical ideas include to highly synthesised music with some of his old tricks such as vocoders (Devil Is An Englishmen or the rather poor Come away), but also make him sound like some new wave artist some 35 years later. However one must recognize that this album holds at least one or two instant classic and concert crowd pleasers such as Mechanical Bride (which brings us back to the Defector/Mornings days and involves hard Crimson, some Univers Zero ideas), Brand New (actually I'm not a real fan of this one as it filled with vocoder vocals again), Rebecca (actually quite an enjoyable surprise) and its follow-up Silk Road, which is a real improvised pot pourri from the whole planet.

Other tracks are leading us to his past works (Wind, Sands and Moon Under Water both sound taken from Bay Of Kings), while the opening Strutton Ground rings to our ears as déjā-entendu, and ditto for Serpentine's Song, which seems to come from ease Don't Touch album.

I can't help thinking that Hackett's music could also easily be released by the ECM label, which of course is a high compliment. As good as such a later Hackett album can be, I'm a little afraid it will never have the emotional charge that his early style-defining four albums will ever have, but for an old proghead, this is about as close as it's going to get.

Review by TGM: Orb
4 stars An album that just about earns five stars. If there had been one more 'weak' track, it would have been four.

People above have done justice to the music here, so I'll speak mostly about songs that I disagree with the consensus about, particularly love, or dislike for no real reason.

Disagreements: I think Mechanical Bride is fairly overrated by many of the reviewers above. I still love it, but it's too derivative (from Crimson's 21st Century Schizoid Man), and doesn't strike me as exceptional in the context of the album. It could have been a highlight on Darktown, however. The line 'wedded to remaining dumb' is fairly out of place with the rest of the lyrics and for no good reason annoys me.

Personal favourites: The Devil Is An Englishman - I didn't actually like this on the first listen, but the music and the sense of humour have grown on me. Quirky and a good frivolous moment to counter-balance the melancholy of much of the album.

Rebecca - Tragic, beautiful, and with a good, if a little out of place, instrumental section.

The Silk Road - I can't describe either how much or why I love this particular, mostly instrumental track. It develops from a couple of spoken lines to a vaguely world, yet prog, sounding instrumental.

Dislike: Come Away is simply in an Eastern European folk style that I personally don't like.


Overall Rating: 10/10 Favourite Track: The Silk Road

Edit: provisional drop to 4. A real review should follow.

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars This album is difficult to approach. It holds so many different styles that it sounds as a musical travel.

Truly symphonic moments aren't too many. But the early stages of this work holds two of them : Strtton Ground and "Circus Of Becoming" (but only partially) will bring you back in time (you know, the seventies...). If you are into KC, I guess that "Mechanical Bride" will please you, but it is on the hard and noisy edge. Not for me, I'm afraid.

One of his most bizarre song ever written might well be "The Devil Is An Englishman" (together with "Vampyre With A Healthy Appetite". Steve's vocals are quite dark If, on the contrary, you prefer the acoustic facet of the master, you will like the Spanish guitar during "Wind, Sand & Stars". He shows again his love for this type of music and have to say that it is a fine moment from this album.

His latest album to date ("Tribute", which was released in February 2008 is a tribute to a great Spanish musician. On his web-site Steve says, I quote : What can be said about Andrés Segovia that hasn't been said already? Let's just say on the nylon guitar his playing informs my every note! I wrote this as a tribute to his eternal influence. I guess that it says sufficient about his feelings. "The Moon Under Water" follows the same route.

A song as "Brand New" holds different themes : acoustic guitar to start with (as if it were a continuation of the previous track), melodic vocals, a pop and dynamic chorus, intricate sax, some AOR-ish parts with heavy drumming and even aerial keys-guitar interplay. One has even the impression to listen to the intro for "Baba O' Riley" ("The Who") just before the fourth minute. Too much for me.

The romantic (mellow?) ballad style is also present. "This World" features a pleasant melody combined with some great electric guitar notes. A bit too popish. A piece as "Rebecca" also mixes several identifiable sections (but mostly limited to the soft and light aspect of Steve's work, which I prefer).

I guess that it is all but normal that a song as "The Silk Road" is closely Oriental related in its initial phase. Lots of percussion and disjointed moments. It could have been interesting to get Phil on the drums command here.

The closing number also flirts with the nice symphonic style I praise so much. One general comments is that I feel that vocals are better than usual (but this applies to the whole vocal tracks here). I don't know whether he cried for help, but brother John plays a wonderful flute part here. What a pity that there aren't more of these magical moments on this good album. My favourite song from "Watch The Storms".

I believe that the diversity of this work doesn't play in favour of its consistency. It is a good album but not of the calibre of some of his (very) early works. But you might know which side of his work I like more.

The remastered edition holds four bonus tracks of which Fire Island should have fitted better on his album Blues With A Feeling. The orchestral Marijuana, Assasin Of Youth has a crooney style closer to Ferry's solo career than Steve's one. After a minute or so, it changed brutally from style to investigate in the pure rock'n'roll mood. Upbeat, extremely dynamic. And to close this long chapter, another gentle acoustic moment with If Only You Know.

These bonuses are just like the album. Going into totally different directions.

Three stars for these "Storms".

Review by fuxi
4 stars With this album Steve Hackett proved that, of all the legendary prog guitarists of the 1970s, he was the one who had the best ideas left. It's especially instructive to compare his situation with that of his old rival, Steve Howe, who keeps churning out album after album of mediocre instrumentals. I can't think of a single Steve Howe record that brings tears to my eyes, but TO WATCH THE STORMS certainly does. Furthermore, this is by far the most varied AND the most unified Steve Hackett album I have heard; it convinced me that, so many decades after leaving Genesis, Hackett is still developing artistically.

Not all this material is top-drawer. The first seven tracks are fascinating, but after that some of the songs sound a little cloying. Both 'This World' and 'Rebecca' would have benefited from less indifferent lyrics and stronger lead vocals. The gorgeous mazurka (!) 'Come Away', which features tin whistles and Steve himself (I think) playing the harmonica, cries out for a rousing (preferably female) singer. But 'Come Away' WILL put you in a good mood, and the two tracks following it (on which the album concludes) must be among the best Hackett has written.

So what are THE STORMS' highlights? Well, there are many:

- I especially enjoyed the dreamy, mainly acoustic opening track ('Strutton Ground');

- Also, the gorgeous church organ-and-lead-guitar outbursts in 'Circus of Becoming' (Rick W., eat your heart out!);

- 'Mechanical Bride', which sounds like a 21st century update of '21st Century Schizoid Man', without getting too derivative (I just LOVE all that controlled mayhem!);

- The thoroughly romantic 'Wind, Sand and Stars', which features some of Steve's loveliest classical guitar;

- The wonderfully exciting guitar rock of 'Brand New', which simply took my breath away;

- And finally, the closing track, 'Serpentine Song', the Hackett brothers' gorgeous tribute to their father, who sells paintings just outside Hyde Park, London (at least I hope he still does): a delicate melody, embellished with magnificent solos on classical guitar, flute and (finally) sax. Imagine having your sons perform such a song for you!

You may have doubts about symphonic prog as a genre, in which case this album is probably not going to convert you. But if you've ever enjoyed Hackett's or Genesis' music, the many colours of TO WATCH THE STORMS won't leave you unimpressed.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
4 stars To Watch The Storms might be Steve Hackett's best and most fully realized album, at least since Guitar Noir. Like on Guitar Noir, Steve is able to bring together a wide range of influences. From the classic prog rock of King Crimson and Genesis to Folk and World-music, jazz and classical. I get the feeling that this is the album Steve has been trying to make his whole life. And what a major improvement this is over the previous and disappointing Darktown album.

Thankfully, Steve handles all the lead vocals himself this time instead of having guest vocalists, something that I think has brought many of his previous albums down. And he sings as good as ever. The material on this album is very strong, among his strongest ever. The very 21th Century Schizoid Man-like Mechanical Bride is amazing, like a modern version of King Crimson really, but with Steve's own style and identity. Serpentine Song is also King Crimson-like, but influenced more by the softer aspects of Crimson's music. This song has excellent flute and a great acoustic guitar solo.

Brand New has excellent electric guitar work, and is another favourite of mine. This World is a soft melodic ballad, quite unlike Hackett's recent work. Rebecca is a wonderful folky ballad with a Genesis-like middle section. The Silk Road has Far-Eastern/Indian influences while Come Away is influenced by British Folk music - almost approaching Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span territory. Some tracks like Frozen Statues, Wind Sand And Stars and The Moon Under Water work as transitional pieces that might not be very impressive in their own right but that enhances the overall impression of the album as a diverse yet unified whole.

Everything sounds very modern on this album and the production is top notch. Steve's softer, acoustic side and his rock side have never been so well balanced and integrated on one and the same album before. In the past he usually went in one direction or another, making either an acoustic album or a rock album. Here he shows off all of his influences in one album.

Personally, I think that his previous album Darktown was a close to a disaster. It had horrible programmed drums and sequencing, almost as if it was a remix album rather than an original Steve Hackett album. Also, too many people were involved in making that album, including an inappropriate guest vocalist. The most important factor that makes To Watch The Storms so successful is the fact that Steve is backed by a real band this time. Indeed, this is not so much a "solo" project, as a "Steve Hackett-Band"- album.

The song that comes closest to the style of Darktown is The Devil Is An Englishman, which is better than anything from that album, yet probably my least favourite track here. It sounds a bit too much like it could have been on the soundtrack to a Tim Burton film (this would be even more true of several songs from his subsequent album Wild Orchids). But The Devil Is An Englishman fills the same role that Vampyre With A Healthy Appetite did on Guitar Noir and the title track did on Darktown.

To Watch The Storms is one of Steve Hackett's best albums. Not as personal and emotional as Guitar Noir but with even more diversity. Highly recommended!

Review by lazland
4 stars A marvellously eclectric mix of tracks from a true giant of true progessive music, this is a fantastic album which I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to this morning whilst having a rare hour to myself.

From the emotional beauty of Rebecca to the obvious Crimson influence of Mechanical Bride, this, alongside the best of Hackett's work, is not an easy or obvious listen for the first few times, but really has to be listened to regularly over a period of time in order to be fully appreciated.

The Crimson influences are strongest on Mechanical Bride and Serpentine Song, the former very much 21st Century Schizoid Man territory, whilst the latter is taken from the quieter moments on the same album, and the vocals on it are simply stunningly beautiful.

There are some wonderfully eccentric moments, the best for me being The Devil is an Englishman, which is simply a fun track in the middle of much of what is quite sad and melancholic.

Hackett also shows profound world music influences on The Silk Road. I love the percussive moments and Hackett's electric guitar, but am not too keen on the vocals on this. It would, of course, be very interesting to see him & Gabriel collaborate on a pure world music work.

In all phases of the album, be it the quieter or schizoid moments, Hackett's guitar playing is simply wonderful. The Moon Under Water is a great acoustic piece, which reminds me a bit of Blood on the Rooftops. The acoustic mood is also very strong on Strutton Ground, a lovely piece of music which takes us on a journey of discovery.

Hackett has also surrounded himself, again, with musicians of the highest quality.

This is not, by any means, the perfect 5 five star album, but it easily classifies itself as an excellent addition to any prog collection, certainly for those who have yet to explore the solo works of former Genesis members.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The 2003-release of To Watch The Storms marked my introduction marked my introduction to the later Steve Hackett albums. Until then I've only heard his work in Genesis and albums the '70s solo albums so I had completely blank expectations as to how Steve would sound in the 21st century.

When I first heard Strutton Ground it totally blew me away! Unfortunately once I started digging deeper into this release the material became less exciting. Compositions like The Devil Is An Englishman and Mechanical Bride made me completely alienated to Steve's new music direction. Have it not been for me giving his later albums a second chance with the purchase of the excellent Wild Orchids then I might have missed out on quite a lot of great material.

Since the previous album Darktown was an unexpected return to form by of one of our times greatest guitarists I might be too tough on this release but that first experience is still present with me up to this day. I recommend wouldn't recommend To Watch The Storms as an introduction to Steve's later year but it definitely might work as a follow-up purchase after hearing Wild Orchids and Darktown. A good, but non-essential release.

***** star songs: Strutton Ground (3:03)

**** star songs: Circus Of Becoming (3:47) Frozen Statues (2:57) This World (5:17) Come Away (0:57) The Moon Under Water (5:22) Serpentine Song (5:48)

*** star songs: The Devil Is An Englishman (4:26) Mechanical Bride (6:38) Wind, Sand And Stars (5:06) Brand New (4:39) Rebecca (4:18) The Silk Road (5:23)

Total Rating: 3,52

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars After the experimentalism of Darktown, Hackett returned to more familiar proggy pastures. With 74 minutes spread over 17 tracks it's a bit of Hackett overkill, but there's plenty to enjoy and little or no offputting material.

Highlights include the pastoral opening Strutton Ground, the playful psychedelic tune Circus of Becoming and the creepy gothic prog of The Devil is an Englishman, not only one of the best tracks of 2003 to come from an icon of the classic prog generation, but also a highly innovative piece, slightly reminiscent to King Crimson but still with a recognizable Hackett touch.

Frozen Statues is a gorgeous smoky jazz song. I'd dare to say Hackett beats David Sylvian at his game here. The next highlight is Mechanical Bride, another nod to King Crimson. Hardly believable this comes from a 53 year old rocker that had lived through a more then 30 years long career at that point. He sounds as wilful and inspired as any youngster.

Wind, Sand and Stars is a melancholic classical guitar piece, a familiar Hackett trait. Does he have one album without such beautiful little moments? Big was my disappointed when Brand New kicked off, an AOR rocker with uncalled for experimentalist excursions, sounding very much like something from a 53 year old that wants to sound young. Strange. Maybe, without the vocals the experimentation might have been more digestible.

The album is still stuck in a rut on the next track This World, a pop ballad. Rebecca is a more subtle ballad with a guitar solo spinning around a soft jungle techno beat in the middle. Shouldn't we suggest Hackett for the eclectic sub genre? Also The Silk Road is a great Hackett track.

With 35 excellent minutes out of 74, I end up with a 3.5 star album that feels too indulgent for 4 stars and too daring and original for 3.

Review by kenethlevine
3 stars I'm not sure when STEVE HACKETT became "cool". But at some point his material verged dangerously away from the substantive to the stylistic - heck he even quotes the STYLISTICS in "Brand New", but I digress. While the 1993 comeback "Guitar Noir" was a more than ample expose into the man's expansive musical lexicon, in recent recordings we find him rushing to parade out his bizarre array of influences, sound effects and time signatures on every 3 minute piece. Now I admit that I'm much more comfortable with Steve Hackett "cool" than PETER GABRIEL "chill", but can someone prescribe poor Stevie some ritalin, like now?

Luckily, this one grew on me to some extent, as I learned to navigate its hazardous corridors. "Strutton Ground" is a sedate opener with a lovely melody, while "Circus of Becoming" lends the title to the album and milks big top musicality to a T. "Wind Sand and Stars" is an instrumental with a mix of keys and orchestration, like an updated early GENESIS, while "Rebecca" is a lovely acoustic-cum-electric song with a slightly medieval meets new age flavour, and just the right amount of quirkiness. Possibly my favourite. The album closes with another throwback called "Serpentine Song", one of the more developed numbers here and closing with brother John's serpentine flute reminiscent of KING CRIMSON's "Cadence and Cascade".

But if that reference to KC was slightly nuanced, subtlety fairly crashes through the 5th floor window on the dreadful "Mechanical Bride", an uneasy rip-off of "21st Century Schizoid Man". The catchy central riff only underscores how inspirationally impoverished this is, and after recently witnessing it in the live set, I can assure you there is no proper setting. "The Devil is an Englishmen" is another nadir. The treated vocals that characterize most of the album can get wearisome, but when they don't even try to sing, and speak in a lugubrious accent, I have to hit next and let someone else gain benefit from the parable. Apart from these two huge missteps and the aforementioned highlights, most of the rest of the songs have strong and weak aspects. For instance, "The Silk Road" is a fascinating percussive exercise but reminds me of some folk festivals I used to attend, with their undue emphasis on education at the expense of entertainment value.

Like real life storms, this Hackett album can be alternately exhilarating and miserable, but within the eye of the storm is a calmly centered middle ground. Seek it out and you will find the real Steve Hackett.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars 3.5 stars. I like this better than "Wild Orchids" but not as much as the earlier "Darktown". Cool cover art on this one.

"Strutton Ground" reminds me of THE BEATLES. A mellow, acoustic track. "Circus Of Becoming" is interesting. Not sure if that's a jig-like rhythm but this song is kind of silly. "The Devil Is An Englishman" is something I think we all knew. Spoken vocals with a beat. Catchy stuff. Female backing vocals too. Some nice guitar after 1 1/2 minutes and later after 3 1/2 minutes. "Frozen Statues" opens with sparse piano before reserved vocals come in. Classy. "Mechanical Bride" kicks in quickly but not for long as it settles with vocals. Contrasts continue though. Cool tune.

"Wind, Sand And Stars" features classical guitar melodies throughout. "Brand New" opens with gentle guitar as reserved vocals join in. It kicks in before a minute but contrasts continue. Catchy. "This World" is mellow with vocals and a beat. It does get fuller later on. "Rebecca" has these intricate guitar melodies with vocals. An electronica vibe after 2 1/2 minutes then it returns to the earlier sound. I like this one. "The Silk Road" is led by percussion and atmosphere early on. Processed vocals join in. I like this. "Come Away" has a Celtic vibe to it. "The Moon Under Water" features acoustic guitar melodies throughout.

A good album but I don't feel inspired enough by it to want to listen to it any time soon.

Review by colorofmoney91
2 stars To Watch The Storms seems like sort of an experimental album for Steve Hackett. The overall sound is eclectic, featuring electronic beats, new-age synths, beautiful piano melodies, but for the most part this album is a combination of Hackett's classical guitar playing and his electric guitar playing. This album was enjoyable the first couple times through, but it eventually starts to sound like a compilation of many songs that weren't good enough for his other releases, although there are some beautiful gems on this album as well. Most of the tracks here are classical influenced new-age, but some goofy songs such as "Circus of Becoming" and "The Devil is an Englishman" also appear. The only songs that really stood out to me as being great are "Wind, Sand & Stars", "The Moon Under Water" and "If You Only Knew", which are all contemporary but fantastic classical guitar compositions.

I would recommend this to anyone looking for a decent sample of what Steve Hackett is all about (incredible guitar playing), but people who are already fans of his may find little here to enjoy. Keep in mind, though, that I'm a much bigger fan of Steve Hackett's classical works.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
3 stars Itīs a strange feeling I get with this album. Iīve been listening to it on and off for some months. I couldnīt really tell whatīs wrong with it, but I also not able to tell why it didnīt really move me either, untill recently. Like much of latter Steve Hackett stuff Iīve heard, To Watch The Storms doenīt show any real direction or purpose: it sounds like a bunch of diffrerent songs played randomly. Not that the tunes are bad, theyīre mostly good and obviously well performed, although the quality, style and genre of the songwriting varies wildly. There is something for everyone, from acoustic guitar pieces (The Moon Under The Water) to KC inspired experimentalisms (Mechanical Bride), to the inevitable whimsical number (The Devil Is An Englishman), Jazz (Frozen Statues) and even some real progressive parts (Circus Of Becoming, This World).

My copy was the special edition and included four extra tracks of which only the classical guitar instrumental If You Only Knew is of some interest, unless of course you like some straight 60īs blues, complete with a harmonica solo (Fire Island).

To Watch The Storms once again proves Steve Hackett as a quite good songwriter and excellent player: his guitar still shines all the way through. It is the obviously highlight of the CD. He is backed by equally skilled musicians. However, it needed some kind of unifying feeling to put those tracks in some kind of order. Sometimes I feel like hearing different bands playing. The variety of styles should be a demonstration of versatility, but ultimately it looked more like a lack of personality.

Good, but this is not much from such proven musician and prog legend like Hackett. Three stars.

Review by Matti
2 stars Hackett's main collaborator here is Roger King as was in Darktown. I took a look at the ratings of his later albums and to my surprise noticed that this one has slightly better rating than many others, although I personally have liked those other albums more. Well, there are no big differences anyway, since Guitar Noir from 1993. They all have some very fine compositions and a lot of mediocre stuff too, and perhaps as albums they are a little bit too similar with each other - compared to his earlier output.

This one was a disappointment, not so much as a collection of songs, which is at least almost up to the average Hackett standard, but as for its sound. Many songs I would have otherwise liked are ruined by the plastic-like treatment of vocals (ie. the use of vocoder). How I miss his old habit of using guest vocalists! For example 'Rebecca' (inspired by the Du Maurier novel and the Hitchcock film) suffers from that use of vocoder. Songs like 'Mechanical Bride' or 'Brand New' with its too repeated irritating chorus represent Hackett at his worst.

Two beautiful instrumentals, 'Wind, Sand and Stars' (inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupery's book of the same name) and 'The Moon Under Water' are the most succesful tracks. This department is something he never fails with. But I'm afraid there's not a single song that would become my personal classic such as 'In Memoriam' from Darktown. And I wonder why he chose to cover a silly Thomas Dolby song. Each track is introduced briefly by Steve below the lyrics (compare e.g. Out Of The Tunnel's Mouth), but I find those phrases quite vain. The music should be speaking for itself. For example, the pain of lost love ('This World') needs no underlining. OK, it's nice to learn that his dad sold paintings at the open air art fair every Sunday, but does it make 'Serpentine Song' sound any better?

I'd rate this three stars if there weren't those faults of plastic-like sounds. I know that two stars (mine is the first low rating actually) may look too rude for a professionally made album with several good things in it, but I let my rating reflect my disappointment.

Review by b_olariu
4 stars One of the most intristing Steve Hackett albums from most recent times, full of great ideas and inventive passages, thet made him a true legend. To watch the storms from 2003 is among his best works , being little behind after his masterpiece Spectral mornings and in same place with Defector for ex. Some crimsonesque attitude on Mechanica bride with his unique guitar tone, one of his better pieces for sure. Another highlight is The Devil is an Englishman a cover of Thomas Dolby from the movie Gothic, with electro progressive beats here with some intristing lyrics, definetly , at least in my view better then original. The great instrumental Wind, Sand and Stars, one of the instrumental from the album, the other being The Moon Under Water, both being very well performed and with nice arrangements aswell. Steve Hackett is on bariccades here, and this album for sure is not disappointing at all. I really like this To watch the storms, the cover art aswell, quite intristing and dark as some of the pieces from the album, but in the end is a truly great album that desearves from me 4 stars. I like a lot that Steve Hackett is not only a great guitar player , but is a damn great composer and songwritter aswell, knowing to pull all the intristing passages for the listner and creating a good album in this field.
Review by tarkus1980
4 stars For all of Steve's tendencies in his career to dump a big pile of ideas into his albums, he had somehow, at this late point in his career, never made the LP equivalent of a big messy double album. He'd made a couple of long-ish "regular" albums with Guitar Noir and Dark Town, but neither of them were very messy in the classic sense, and while Genesis Revisited was very long and full of bizarre ideas, it also only contained 11 tracks and, ultimately, was just a bunch of Genesis covers. Well, while the "primary" release of this album was 13 tracks and about 58 minutes, there was also a simultaneous "special" release with 17 tracks (4 bonus tracks mixed into the regular) that lasts a whopping 71 minutes, and the bizarre mixture of ideas combined with the length definitely qualifies the album as a messy double album. And you know what, the format clearly suited him, because this was Hackett's best album since at least Defector.

What fascinates me the most about this album is how nonsensical the ordering of tracks is. Most albums try to make some sort of bold statement at either their beginning or their end, but this album starts and ends in a very casual, laid-back manner that one would normally expect to hear in the middle of an album, and elsewhere there doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to how tracks are grouped together. It's almost as if Steve first determined which tracks he wanted to include on the album, then used a random number generator to determine the ordering of the material. This may sound like a complaint, but it's really not; the effect is so odd that it's actually quite delightful, and while this relative lack of framing is enough to help disqualify this as a potentially great album, it also, oddly enough, helps make it a more solidly good album. If that seems like a contradiction, then all the better.

Overall, for all of the messiness in the styles and sequencing, this is also a very even album, with only a few tracks that might be considered standouts but without anything that's unenjoyable. With a lot of thought, I can pick out a couple of tracks that I'd consider giving the title of best song, though I can name a few others that I like about as much. "Brand New" has some nice acoustic guitar in its brief verse, quickly builds into a nice anthemic chorus (with an odd watery effect on the vocals), then ends up seeing its instrumental parts go all sorts of places (before ending with the acoustic guitar parts), and the effect is really nice. I also really like the ballad "Rebecca," which has an odd tension in its seemingly mellow verse melodies, a tension that's at least somewhat released during the interesting instrumental break in the middle.

As I said, though, there are a lot of tracks that are quite likable. Some of them are really strange, but that should be expected on a Steve Hackett double album. "The Devil is an Englishman," a cover of a song by a guy named Thomas Dolby, features Steve speaking the lyrics in a low-pitched voice, but the effect is goofy rather than stupid this time, and I quite like the track, which almost sounds at times like something Prince would have done. Much stranger is the 6:40 "Mechanical Bride," which almost sounds like the 90s-00s King Crimson trying to play a cross between "21st Century Schizoid Man" and something from the Roxy Music album For Your Pleasure, and while it goes too long I don't especially mind it. Strangest and silliest of all, though, is "Marijuana Assasssin of Youth," which starts off sounding like a 40's Christmas carol, and then next thing you know it's turned into a medley of standards like "Wipeout," "Tequlia" and the theme to "Batman" before turning into a rocker about needing to grow up and give up rock music and drugs. It's totally hilarious and I couldn't imagine the album without it (it wasn't on the 13-track version, sadly).

The "normal" songs are quite nice on the whole as well. As I mentioned, the opening "Strutton Ground" is awfully laid back for an album opener, but it's very warm and pleasant and memorable, so I have no complaints. "Circus of Becoming" starts off with menacing rising organs, but it quickly changes into fun carnival music (with some nice guitar feedback as texture), eventually breaking into an all-too-brief anthemic guitar-led passage, before returning to the carnival, then returning to the anthemic, then ending on an uncertain note. "This World," sandwiched between "Brand New" and "Rebecca," doesn't quite impact me as much as those do, but I really like the "Please don't take this world from me" chorus, and the contrast between the quieter verses and the chorus, even if that's somewhat old hat for Steve, makes both parts seem better than they might actually be individually. Jumping to near the end of the album, there's a lovely throwback to the vibe of the gentler parts of Spectral Mornings in "Serpentine Song," which is basically a tender ballad at its core but turns into an atmospheric joyride in somewhat the same vein (more so in the last two minutes) as "The Virgin and the Gypsy," complete with busy flute parts from John Hackett (who doesn't appear on the rest of the album and hadn't been around for a while). It was actually the album closer in the original version (the special edition closes on an acoustic instrumental), but it definitely isn't an obvious choice for finishing an album.

There's quite a bit of other stuff on the album, from short instrumentals to atmospheric near- instrumentals (the slightly jazzy "Frozen Statues," the very Eastern-tinged "The Silk Road) to a swaying accordion-based number ("Come Away") to yet another fun blues exercise ("Fire Island"). These tracks, along with much of what came before, aren't anywhere near great, yet they work together to create a very enjoyable whole, and when an album can consistently hold my attention and make me feel pleasant over a long period of time, it's going to get a very good grade from me. If you're interested in getting into late-period Hackett, this is as reasonable a starting point as any, even if his albums in the next decade or so would somewhat surpass it.

Review by kev rowland
4 stars This is Steve's first studio album since 1999's 'Darktown', and to old Genesis fans like me who only own 'Acolyte' and 'Spectral Mornings' it is something of an ear opener. This shows that Steve has moved far away from the musician he used to be and is now a performer of great depth who is not content to stay within any particular musical style. There are songs that are percussion based (which if I had to pick an ex-Genesis member as the instigator I would probably opt for Gabriel) while there are gentle numbers, yet also others which are far more aggressive in outlook. 'The Silk Road' is dominated by the drums, yet there is room for rock guitar, Genesis-style guitar, acoustic guitar, clarinet and a myriad of other instruments. This is music that is remarkable for clarity of vision and a determination not to be fixed into any particular genre or box.

The album opens with 'Strutton Ground', and the gentle guitar and multi-layered vocals lets the older Hackett fan in gently ' this is the sort of music that one expects from Steve, clever and intricate yet also simple and beautiful. But then compare that to the rock bombast that is 'Mechanical Bride' which is driven along by sax before suddenly becoming a keyboard and string number, then back to the guitars.

This is an album that I have enjoyed immensely and it is exciting in that within each song, let alone from one song to the next, there is a lot of change that makes the music interesting and diverse. One to return to time and again. This release is on Inside Out but it has been licensed from Camino Records which is a UK label, and I see that they are going to be offering this album as a deluxe edition with a hardback book containing a 40 page booklet with Steve's notes on each song, plus extra tracks etc. Also, if you visit the site there is an internet-only single available.

Originally appeared in Feedback #74, Jun 03

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Steve Hackett's 16th studio album "To Watch the Storms" was released in 2003, 4 years after what many fans consider one of his masterpieces, "Darkroom". This album has quite a variety of styles and guests. It is definitely versatile, yet there is that feeling of cohesiveness for the most part.

Here is a quick review of the tracks. "Strutton Ground" is mostly light and acoustic with simple vocals and melody. "Circus of Becoming" is more upbeat, but keeps the same basic light sound, that is until the more appealing instrumental breaks that are progressive. "The Devil is an Englishman" is a cover of a song written by Thomas Dolby ("One of Our Submarines", "She Blinded Me with Science"). Hackett speaks in a dramatic and character driven vocal. This is an interesting track with an upbeat style with synths driving the music. "Frozen Statues" and "Mechanical Bride" are two very progressive songs with outbursts of guitar and orchestral sections, both very good tracks. The first is somewhat experimental where the 2nd is a prog-heads dream, actually getting chaotic at times with a lot of musical humor.

"Wind, Sand and Stars" begins with atmospheric sounds and is soon joined by a Spanish influenced acoustic guitar. This instrumental acoustic track showcases Steve's amazing guitar talent. Later, he is joined by piano and strings with various other sounds. This track is beautiful. "Brand New" features Ian McDonald (King Crimson) on sax. It starts with another acoustic introduction before vocals start and then the full band kicks in. This pattern repeats. Some cool effects, harmonized layers, guitar solo, multiple tempos and meters. "This World" is more straightforward and pleasant, like an Alan Parsons Project tune, except with a very emotional guitar solo towards the end. "Rebecca" is also a softer track with processed harmonized vocals, more complexity in this track than the previous one. There is a sudden change in the instrumental break as every instrument gets to make a statement against a suddenly upbeat background before returning to the original theme. "The Silk Road" utilizes traditional instruments and rhythm elements with Latin and Eastern influences. The vocals are a little odd, but the rest of the track is very engaging. The track is very progressive with ever changing sounds, instruments and etc.

At this point, the special edition has three extra tracks starting with the short and atmospheric "Pollution B". "Fire Island" is definitely very bluesy starting with guitar and organ. Hackett gives his best Clapton vocal impersonation. Nice track anyway with a great guitar solo as expected. No prog influences here, but I love me some blues! "Marijuana Assassin of Youth" begins with orchestra effects and sax and kooky lyrics and harmonized vocals. Church organ. Suddenly, it becomes heavy with a rockabilly riff while they make fun of the Batman theme and throw in various rock n roll themes. Vocals sound almost like Mark Knopfler.

Now, we return to the track list of the original release with "Come Away". Processed layered harmonies against a folk-ish track with flutes, accordion and acoustic guitars and maybe a synthesized saw. "The Moon Under Water" has a nice baroque-era vibe to the acoustic guitar solo that you might accidentally credit to Steve Howe if you aren't paying attention. "Serpentine Song" features more processed harmony against an orchestral effect. The flute on this one is performed by Steve's brother John Hackett. Again, this has an Alan Parsons Project vibe to it. Or, if you have heard Brian Eno and John Cale's collaboration, it also sounds similar to that, at least as far as the harmonies go. Then there is Hackett's beautiful guitar work that sets it apart and a sax solo at the end. The special edition then throws in another bonus track called "If You Only Knew". This is an acoustic guitar solo, slow and lovely, almost hymn like.

I know people who would complain about the many styles of music on this album, that it isn't cohesive, but the variety is what I love about it all. Yes, Hackett gets to shine many times on this album, but he allows his collaborators and guests to shine also. There are so many varied styles here, some songs have a lot of progressive traits while others have hardly any at all. But all the while, the music is well done, with only a few weak tracks here and there, but not enough to really take away from the enjoyment of the album. Alas, it doesn't quite make 5 stars, but it is still one of my favorite albums from this amazing musician.

Latest members reviews

4 stars A very solid album with balance between accessibility, compositional qualities and progressive rock elements. It cements the sound set by "Darktown" - updated pop/rock/acoustic elements with influences from the 70's and occasional contemporary elements such as electronica or electronic drums. ... (read more)

Report this review (#2339118) | Posted by sgtpepper | Friday, February 28, 2020 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Since he left GENESIS, Steve Hackett has created more than a few albums of great musical quality. Always experimenting with sounds and voices, always mixing heavy prog sounds, with classical movements, and instrumental sections. To Watch the Storms is a sample of the style I adore from Hackett ... (read more)

Report this review (#1019652) | Posted by Memo_anathemo | Friday, August 16, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Clearly Darkness, dissonance and harmony. From the initial three magnificent minutes "Strutton Ground" to the pastoral and emotional delight "Serpentine Song" (dedicated to his father), there is not a minute wasted, no filler. I have not the special edition with bonus. Incredibly, although mas ... (read more)

Report this review (#998891) | Posted by sinslice | Monday, July 15, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Steve Hackett is the kind of artist who seems to improve over time, instead of falling into mediocrity (well, actually, so your records include the 1980's and early 1990 were mediocre, but I have not heard any of his albums of this period in order to assert such a thing). Before hearing "To w ... (read more)

Report this review (#474194) | Posted by voliveira | Saturday, July 2, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars On a frantic mission to catch up with Hackett's material having picked up nothing since the early nineties. I've not been chronological so far going from 'Out of the Tunnel's Mouth' , back to 'Guitar Noir' then to this. I find this album has a warm and whimsical charm (dare I say in the same ... (read more)

Report this review (#303899) | Posted by oldcrow | Thursday, October 14, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Yet another fine album from Steve, following 1999's Darktown. In this album Steve manages to feature avant garde jazz ("Statues") world music ("Silk Road"), heavy metal with a disturbing edge ("Mechanical Bride"), Pure acoustic classical guitar ("The Moon Under Water"), Eastern European Folk ... (read more)

Report this review (#242499) | Posted by Leonardo | Friday, October 2, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Yep, a good one from Steve. Don't like The Devil Is An Englishman and not too keen on the Marijuana track. That aside, there are many good things on offer. My favourite is the energising The Silk Road, it has real class. As a CD it's not quite as good as Wild Orchids, the album that came after i ... (read more)

Report this review (#152796) | Posted by memark | Monday, November 26, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars After a series of genre exercises and tentative returns to form (Guitar Noir, Darktown) Hackett goes all in with a very personal batch of songs, some of which his best ever. Recording for the first time with the band that had been setting fire to stages on 2 or 3 continents in the last couple ye ... (read more)

Report this review (#120319) | Posted by BobShort | Tuesday, May 1, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars If the spirit of Trespass resides in Anthony Phillips work, then the spirit of Wind and Wuthering can be found in this surprisingly beautiful album. As others have mentioned, it is an ecletic mix but I note that the style and feel of Blood on the Rooftops can be found on some of these tracks and ... (read more)

Report this review (#58444) | Posted by | Monday, November 28, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This release is the amzing review made by Hackett himself to his musical career full of richness. I give four stars just because to be a five stars album the things could be more strong in somes songs, but in an artistically speech I think hackett belongs to another dimension of musicians. the ... (read more)

Report this review (#46097) | Posted by Queno | Friday, September 9, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Steve Hackett achieves a perfect balance with this album. Melancholy without being sentimental. Transcendent, diaphanous, contemplative and dream-like but never "new- agey". Classical but not clicheed. Progressive yet not anachronistic. Dark in places, but not depressing, with occasional touch ... (read more)

Report this review (#26276) | Posted by EMinkovitch | Wednesday, March 16, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars "To Watch The Storms" is a beautifully conceived and constructed quilt of moods from ex- Genesis guitar hero Steve Hackett. Hackett commands a staggering range of sonic colours: lilting British folk; flamenco; chamber music; atmospheric psychedelia; surrealistic electronica; edgy, Queenly pomp; ... (read more)

Report this review (#26271) | Posted by | Saturday, July 31, 2004 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Good but not essential. I cannot compare it to Steve's previous albums because I haven't heard many of them. But this one is enjoyable. My favourites are: Circus Of Becoming, Frozen Statues, Wind Sand & Stars, Rebecca, The Silk Road and The Serpentine Song, but most is good too. Come Away conj ... (read more)

Report this review (#26269) | Posted by | Monday, May 31, 2004 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Nothing short of exquisite!!! Musicmanship, as well as studio work--stunning. Sometimes definite influences of King Crimson, especially in Mechanical Bride--well, does this sound as a letdown and who wasn't influenced by KC? One word for this album--addictive!!! No more superlatives--just great work ... (read more)

Report this review (#26260) | Posted by lz1dp1 | Friday, April 23, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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