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Hackett, Steve: Wild Orchids

Following the success of the rock-based To Watch the Storms and the classical Metamorpheus, Steve Hackett has decided to marry these two albums in order create a powerful synthesis. Mind you, Wild Orchids is no where near as cohesive and homogeneous as its two successors, but to make up for his over-eclectism, Hackett has created one of his most musically satisfying works in years.

Wild Orchids features a wide array of instruments, blending the strongest sides of classical music and rock, and also exploring bits and pieces of world music. The opening song "A Dark Night in Toytown" immediately signifies the importance of Hackett's new experiment, bringing to fore the beautifully arranged string sounds strung across enormous drum beats. The attentive listener will also notice that the song is underpinned by a vague electronic keyboard patch towards the end. Indian percussion and upbeat Eastern elements permeate "Waters of the Wild", a great song with gentle flute and electric sitar sounds. Hackett branches out even further when he injects some folk elements into the acoustic "Set Your Compass" before one of the album's weirdest songs kicks in. At over seven minutes, "Down Street" is highlighted by an ever-present narration amidst unconventional rhythms which are almost industrial sounding. A myriad of instruments collide in order to deepen the chaos: thick, pulsing drums blend into strange melodies and soaring synth lines. The piece seems to calm down during Hackett's wonderful solo, only to pick up momentum with the arrival of an insane saxophone and accordion duel. This is eventually replaced by a cool piano coda that wouldn't seem out of place on an obscure movie soundtrack.

Gary O'Toole's drumming deserves special mention. This album has a full and excellent drum sound through and through. As a matter of fact, so laser-precise is the timing on the song "Wolfwork" that it could be mistaken for a drum machine. The tone is fresh and organic and complements The Underworld Orchestra's performance brilliantly. Hackett's vocals on this piece vary from processed bits to clean, fragile segments. The slightly industrial feel makes itself audible on this track as well, and unlike the other songs, this one also contains a somewhat agile guitar solo by Hackett. One of the most unique songs on the album, it travels from one passage to another, the tranquil section when the samples are filtered through melodic threads being the most striking.

The album's most moving songs are the predominantly acoustic ballad "To a Close", where Hackett sings in a low tone as if he is whispering a lullaby into the listener's ear (and he's later joined by great female backing harmonies); and the classical instrumental "She Moves in Memories", a song track featuring cello, oboe, and enchanting acoustic guitars. Hackett plays plenty of guitar solos on the album, his work on the aforementioned "To a Close" being incredible. So few notes, yet so so much expression. Similarly, on "Man in the Long Black Coat", Hackett proves that he is out of this world. Though a Bob Dylan cover, Hackett really adds his own spin to this piece. Every note, every break, and every little nuance has an absolute purpose in this solo and gives me goosebumps. Also, his voice is sort of like Nick Cave's, but he it could be just me.

While I've heard from many a Genesis/Hackett fan that they dislike the artwork of this album, I think Kim Poor's work is excellent. Actually I happen to think all Steve Hackett albums have incredible artwork and Wild Orchids is no exception. This is one of the most diverse albums Hackett has produced. I wonder if he can get more eclectic than this. One moment he digs deep into Irish folk and then it's a gentle classical piece and then he touches on world music. There is no way his fans will be disappointed.

Track Listing

  1. A Dark Night in Toytown
  2. Waters of the Wild
  3. Set Your Compass
  4. Down Street
  5. A Girl Called Linda
  6. To a Close
  7. Ego & Id
  8. Man in the Long Black Coat
  9. Wolfwork
  10. Why
  11. She Moves in Memories
  12. The Fundamentals of Brainwashing
  13. Howl

Added: September 11th 2006
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: Steve Hackett website
Hits: 4648
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Hackett, Steve: Wild Orchids
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-09-11 20:12:55
My Score:

Guitar legend Steve Hackett explores rock, jazz, classical, and World Music on his latest solo album Wild Orchids. Recently, the former Genesis axe-master tackled a full-on rock release with 2003's To Watch the Storms, and went the classical route on 2005's Metamorpheus, so as you would come to expect from the cagey veteran, Wild Orchids once again sees a stylistic change. Utilizing many ethnic instruments and flavors, the sounds here are extremely warm and engaging, but fear not, there's still plenty of compelling Hackett fretwork to be heard on both acoustic and electric guitar.

"Waters of the Wild" is a real neat piece featuring Hacket's wonderful electric sitar and plenty of Middle Eastern sounding percussion from Gary O'Toole. A special mention needs to be made for The Underground Orchestra, who add a nice element to the album with violin, viola, cello, double bass, trumpet, oboe, and Cor Anglais, again adding that ethnic World Music flavor to many of the songs. The quirky & dark piece "Down Street" features Hackett's vocals with plenty of effects added, but it's a song that is fairly reminiscent of To Watch the Storms. Other highlights include the gorgeous "To a Close", complete with sumptuous flute, acoustic guitar, and keyboards, the hard rock guitar piece "Ego and Id" (which has a very Peter Gabriel-esque lead vocal), the Beatles influenced pop number "Wolfwork", and the atmospheric 'Howl".

Steve Hackett just continues to pile up one strong release after another, showing that he is one of the most diverse musician to come from the 70's progressive rock scene. Wild Orchids may not be to everyone's tastes, but if you are a true follower of Hackett's work, you will no doubt be very pleased by the amount of variety and musical genius captured here.

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