GTR: GTR (Expanded Reissue)
You'll never guess what they did next!
Well, that was often the cry when people realised that the 1986 teaming up of ex Yes and Genesis guitarists Steve Howe and Steve Hackett respectively, wasn't a hoax. Having recently departed the smash hitting Asia, Howe was looking for a new project and his manager Brian Lane also knew that his other client, namely Hackett, was dangling at a loose end. That both had continued the success of their previous bands was beyond doubt, whether popular or critical. However to see two of the most mercurial talents of the prog scene strutting their stuff together in the MTV era was something of a shock - as was the classy pop sheen the music possessed.
Bringing Nightwing/Bronz frontman Max Bacon on board was an inspired move, as was the addition of drummer Jonathan Mover, who had already flirted with Marillion, Mike Oldfield and Howe; Toyah bassist Phil Spalding completing the crew. Amazingly GTR exploded onto the scene through the single "When The Heart Rules The Mind", a melodic rock masterpiece which reached number 14 in the US Hot 100. Hence the band's bar was set high. In fact too high. "The Hunter" followed, number 85 its highest position and unbelievably the bubble was burst, a slippery slope greased by the friction that having two separately successful guitarists on stage and vying for top billing could only guarantee. In truth the band's financial situation was a wreck, and had a follow up with Howe and Hackett been attempted it may well have ruined the pair, making it no surprise that the end was inevitable. Hackett grew restless and he was off, refusing to relinquish his rights on the band name as he went, causing his ex-GTR-mates to contemplate a name change to Nerotrend, as they brought guitarist Robert Berry into the fold in hope of battling on, while Nigel Glockler of Saxon replaced the departing Mover on drums. Some tracks were recorded and even the idea of the new version of GTR recording one side of an album as Hackett and whoever he fancied inviting to participate, recorded the other, was mooted. It was a pie in the sky idea that never, unsurprisingly, got off the ground.
The one album left as a legacy however was top notch, a mixture of classy AOR, hard hit of progressive instrumentals and some reasonably simple, if effective, rock proving even now an almost irresistible combination. Both Hackett and Howe are on stunning form, as "Imagining" allows them to trade acoustic picking, keen clear passages and pulsating riffs with a clear and expertly realised vision. While "Hackett To Bits" is as picky and uncompromising as its name suggests. Add in the rather beautiful melodious "Toe The Line", the Asia guitar strikes of "Reach Out (Never Say No)" and bright, flashy melodic rock of "Jekyll And Hyde", "The Hunter" and of course, "When The Heart Rules The Mind" and GTR is a forgotten melodic hard rock classic of an era which seemed to provide an album of that description every few minutes… and maybe that was the problem.
This Cherry Red reissue comes bursting with excellent liner notes featuring nearly all of the protagonists, where none pull their punches and all show more affection for GTR the band and album than might be expected. Three bonus cuts on the main disc (two more versions of "The Hunter" and one of "When The Heart…") add completist bonus marks. Disc two offers up the rather excellent King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents… 1986 live in Los Angeles release which originally saw the light of day in 1997. A mighty fine show it is too, the band illustrating the talent at it disposal and then some. Tellingly however, it's still the Yes classic "Roundabout" and Genesis mainstay "I Know What I Like In Your Wardrobe" which receive the loudest crowd responses by some distance. I know fans would possibly have preferred an official release for the Nerotrend material, rather than this previously available live outing, which does contain the song "Prize Fighters" which was introduced on the night as a 'new song'. However that doesn't stop both discs here being rather excellent.
GTR is an album thoroughly deserving of this long overdue reappraisal and coming as an excellently remastered edition and with all the original artwork restored alongside press clippings and pics from back in the day, this is the way to experience it.
1. WHEN THE HEART RULES THE MIND
2. THE HUNTER
3. HERE I WAIT
4. SKETCHES IN THE SUN
5. JEKYLL AND HYDE
6. YOU CAN STILL GET THROUGH
7. REACH OUT (NEVER SAY NO)
8. TOE THE LINE
9. HACKETT TO BITS
11. THE HUNTER (SPECIAL GTR MIX)
12. WHEN THE HEART RULES THE MIND (SINGLE VERSION)
13. THE HUNTER (SINGLE VERSION)
GTR: LIVE IN LOS ANGELES IN JULY 1986
1. JEKYLL AND HYDE
2. HERE I WAIT
5. HACKETT TO BITS
6. SPECTRAL MORNINGS
7. I KNOW WHAT I LIKE (IN YOUR WARDROBE)
8. SKETCHES IN THE SUN
11. THE HUNTER
12. YOU CAN STILL GET THROUGH
13. REACH OUT (NEVER SAY NO)
14. WHEN THE HEART RULES THE MIND
Added: September 24th 2015
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: GTR at Cherry Red
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