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Hackett, Steve: Beyond the Shrouded Horizon
Steve Hackett is my favorite progressive rock guitarist. This album takes us all over the world, from Scotland, to America, through the Middle East and then out in space. Steve Hackett's music is not only beautiful sounding; it is full of imagery and takes the listener with him on the journeys he provides through music.
Roger King is back on keyboards; Nick Beggs returns on bass and ukulele; Amanda Lehmann provides backing vocals; Rob Townsend provides several wind instruments; Gary O'Toole provides the drums and percussion; with guest performances from Chris Squire and Simon Phillips.
One of the best albums of 2011. This journey with Steve is just as good as the last one 'Out of the Tunnel's Mouth'. He takes us to some new places, including here to America. There is nothing missing on this album full of themes and images, concealed within rhythms and melody.
How do you capture all of the power and majesty of one of Scotland's most famous lakes, 'Loch Lomond'? Yes, the same lake of the famous Scottish song, "Oh, ye'll tak' the high road, and I'll tak' the low road, on the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond". If you do a search for the place on the Internet you'll see some magnificent pics, but hopefully you'll also read about its history as well. Steve does a great job capturing the spiritual nature of this mystical place. The keyboards and supporting drums also take the level of the song up a notch as Hackett rips and buzzes electric and acoustic chords. He opens with ripping heavy guitar, but later quiets the song with supporting strings accompanying his acoustic guitar work and vocals. "Since when were you on the shores of Loch Lomond?" Lehmann's supporting female vocals helps to add beauty to the overall atmosphere. A summons for all to return and take in this traditional location and appreciate it as a return home.
'The Phoenix Flown' picks up the power being generated at the end of Loch Lomond and fires it into the atmosphere with powerful launching Hackett chords, drums, and supporting keys. A heralding opening fit for a majestic bird. It ends quickly but delights at every note in creating that mystical guitar chord effect that makes Hackett one of the best ever.
'Wanderlust' is a beautiful acoustic melody resembling a traditional classical guitar piece. Then it winds its magnificent way through your mind setting up for my favorite song on the album…
'Til These Eyes' is full of feeling and is a real tear jerker. There is more feeling in this song than I have heard in a while from a Hackett song. The lyrics have a lot to do with the power and majesty of this song. "We're all toys of time up to the end. No one knows the night, meanwhile the river bends". "The clock is always ticking. The currency that lingers far heavier than gold". How many of us really take the time to ponder our life's journey and how much time we might have left? The acoustic guitar, supporting strings and orchestration along with the song's haunting melody will draw the tears from your eyes if you really take the time to feel the inner mood of the song.
'Prairie Angel' on the other hand, takes us away on a different journey, opening with launching guitars and strings, with free flowing keys following. The soft drums lay out the prairie at dawn, or by a campfire, providing another compelling vista of sound with which to paint a portrait via axe. The 'Jimmy Page' like blues riffs that follows the opening along with the harmonica break up the tranquility of a prairie fireside or dawn.
Hackett's guitar and vocal rhythms flow into 'A Place Called Freedom', as he continues to tell his story of a visit to the American west. An Indian maiden become Hackett's obsession as the guitars trim and grind their wonderful melody. Lehmann's supporting female vocals echo through the fields of grain. America's wild free youth, celebrated the way we all would like it to be remembered.
'Between the Sunset and the Coconut Palms' opens with soft guitar and Hackett's vocals weaving the mysterious story, "we're heading out of sight, beyond the walls of wrong or right". Then strings and violin eerily reminding you of an old movie from early Hollywood, set to a dreamy motion and wonderful piano with relaxing string orchestration.
'Waking to Life' is a full on sitar strum with backing percussion and keys. Lehmann handles vocals on this track providing a Middle Eastern flavor to this album that carries over from 'Out of the Tunnel's Mouth'. The guitar riffs and chords are a constant reminder of past works while at the same time weaving new mysterious journeys all their own. The supporting percussion is absolutely wonderful. Second best track on the album.
'Two Faces of Cairo' opens quietly and slow, providing one face, as the drums and percussion then transform the sound into a rocking Middle Eastern masterpiece of sound worthy of the pyramids they point to in reflection. The wind instrumentation and guitar work is top caliber as Hackett weaves through the desert memories with precision, taking us along for the ride.
'Looking for Fantasy' opens quietly, full of soft strings and instrumentation. Hackett sings, "She stops to remember a gentler time. She's only looking for fantasy". Lehmann's supporting female vocals help add to the illusion. Hackett has fun with the lyrics, "To this day she swears that Jack gave her the eye".
'Summer's Breath' is just what you want in a nice relaxing summer instrumental. Boats, birds and Hackett's intricately played acoustic, maybe rolling along the banks of Loch Lomond.
Don't get too comfortable yet, because Hackett's taking you to the 'Catwalk' next. This one is full of the bluster of drums and grinding blues guitar with Hackett ripping the axe for all it's got to give. Low down good rocking blues guitar set to powerful lyrics and bass. Yes, he still can rock!
'Turn this Island Earth' is a giant, 11:51 epic journey to close the first disc. It opens with eerie full bass and percussion sounds, before Hackett's acoustic cuts right through the middle of that big bad bass and orchestration. Then King's keys take you softly dancing through the atmosphere with Hackett's altered voice. Into space, before Hackett slides through with ripping space guitar supporting by strings and rocking percussion from all sides. Dreamy and spacey before the almost heavy metal like guitar pistons pick up tension and drive this mother forward. You can almost see the stars and planets fly by as the melody picks up and runs like the wind through space. An Electric Light Orchestra/Fantasia like fantasy launched with a decidedly Hackett twist. "The jewel and the crown of the universe. Mother earth steaming with all of her children inside her". Almost as good as going to an epic cinema presentation. This guy knows how to surround you with sound and images…always has.
The first four tracks on this disc are instrumentals:
'Four Winds: North' is a blistering guitar solo run wild. The north wind is always fierce and so is this hard rocker. Short and to the point. Direct and full of power.
'Four Winds: South' is softer and full of piano and soft acoustic guitar, just like a warm south wind that helps you drift off to sleep by the ocean.
'Four Winds: East' is slower and full of ancient wisdom. It's full of harder edge guitar with Santana like sounds from the bongos and wind chimes.
'Four Winds: West' is another warm and younger sounding breeze from the more recent, less experienced side of the world, where dreams, innovation and freedom lie.
'Pieds En L'Air', literally 'feet in the air'. Yes, it feels like that with the lovely strings and orchestration filling the chambers of your ears.
'She Said Maybe' opens with new sounding guitar chords and good soft percussion supporting. This track has a jazzier feel to it. The keys are wonderful and help fill in the gaps in the sound well.
'Enter the Night' opens with drum regalia and fans screaming before Hackett launches into a guitar chord from the past. This track has a pop feel to it. A rocking anthem full of good lyrics, a great beat with supporting keys and energy.
'Eruption: Tommy' is full of mystery, it opens slowly with jazzy keys and soft electric guitar cutting a pathway between the key notes before Hackett rips it open with launching guitar ala Carlos Santana.
'Reconditioned Nightmare' is a reinvention of his classic song from the album 'Cured', 'Air Conditioned Nightmare'. This track seems to have heavier drums, more cymbals, deeper bass sounds and more fluid lead electric. One of my favorite Hackett tracks of all time re – invented for 2011.
1. Loch Lomond
2. The Phoenix Flown
4. Til These Eyes
5. Prairie Angel
6. A Place Called Freedom
7. Between the Sunset and the Coconut Palms
8. Waking to Life
9. Two Faces of Cairo
10. Looking for Fantasy
11. Summer's Breath
13. Turn this Island Earth
1. Four Winds: North
2. Four Winds: South
3. Four Winds: East
4. Four Winds: West
5. Pieds En L'Air
6. She Said Maybe
7. Enter The Night
8. Eruption: Tommy
9. Reconditioned Nightmare
Added: August 28th 2011
Reviewer: Mark Johnson
Related Link: Hackett Songs.com
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