Steve Hackett

Steve Hackett and the Underworld Orchestra: Metamorpheus

One of the things I absolutely love about Steve Hackett is that you can hold your breath between recordings; Hackett is at a point in his career where he’s coming up with more stuff than ever. And I hope he continues!

Metamorpheus is the natural follow-up to 1997’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. An orchestra and Steve Hackett on classical guitar, how can you go wrong? That’s a rhetorical question of course.

Fifteen tracks follow through a memorable journey, one you don’t get tired of hearing. Hauntingly beautiful, never letting you down, this album is a must for everyone who enjoys great music.

With titles like To Earth Like Rain and The Dancing Ground or Charon’s Call and Cerberus at Peace, one can only delight in the intricate adventure awaiting. An adventure through classical mythology which used to be a standard in the seventies but which has been almost completely forgotten today.

Brush up on your classical literature if you must, but get ready for an unforgettable adventure!

Hackett’s my favorite guitarist because you can feel every single note he plays. You always understand what’s going through his mind as he plays. This one is certainly no exception. Although Steve Hackett always has some classical pieces on his albums, I hope it won’t take eight years for a third part in this orchestral saga.

Once Above a Time

A new DVD from Steve Hackett. And a great one too. I believe this one to be Hackett’s best video for several reason.

First off, and because many people have complained about the visual quality of his previous DVDs (although I personally always found them satisfactory), the video quality of this one is much higher. Also, the camera angles are much nicer than on his previous DVDs. Note that this concert, in Budapest, was originally filmed for TV, so kudos to the television crew.

Next thing to notice is the track list. A beautiful mix of the new and the old. Probably the best from his latest album To Watch the Storms, although missing the wonderful instrumental piece Wind, Sand and Stars.

Add to that some rarely played pieces, such as Valley of the Kings and Fly on a Windshield, a return to older solo works, such as Please Don’t Touch, Ace of Wands and Clocks, among others and a magnificent version of the old Genesis track Blood on the Rooftops. In my opinion, it is worth getting the DVD if only for this song. With Gary O’Toole (drums) on lead vocals and the beautiful winds of Rob Townsend, it makes for a much better version than the original Genesis one. And O’Toole is a much better singer than Phil Collins will ever be.

I’m glad that Hackett is still playing with this band and they work incredibly well together and I hope to see much more of them in the future.

To Watch the Storms

A new offering from Steve Hackett is always a great pleasure. Especially since this is his first non-classical offering of new material since the incredible Darktown.

So what’s new with this fabulous artist? Plenty! Actually, plenty of new mixed in with plenty of old. This is kind of a return for Steve into his older seventies and eighties solo albums, but sounding much more 21st century.

Strutton Ground sounds like something from Voyage of the Acolyte, but is also reminiscent of Darktown as far as the production is concerned. Circus of Becoming reminds one of the fabulous Please Don’t Touch. Mechanical Bride and The Devil is an Englishman are along the lines of his good old Vampire With a Healthy Appetite. For those of us who were lucky to catch Steve on tour last year, Mechanical Bride is the song he opened up the shows with. I still find that it brings back to mind King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man. Then there’s The Silk Road, a very Genesis-like song.

The guitar work? As usual, beautifully creative… spellbinding… absolutely amazing. The classical work on Wind, Sand and Stars is breathtaking and this is perhaps his most beautiful classical piece to date. Something new in it: it is picked up, halfway in, by piano, keyboards and flute, while the guitar still plays. The album would be worth buying even if it only had this one song. Certainly a piece which would have been quite at home on Darktown. Brand New, the following track on the album, is also a gem and the perfect follow-up song. It combines both classical guitar and electric guitar. This is something incredibly difficult to do and I’ve rarely heard it done well. But Hackett manages it every single time. Here again.

But the last song, Serpentine Song, is the real treat. I admit that upon my first listen, it did not quite catch my attention. Everything changed after that. Definitely one of Steve’s most beautiful songs ever. A beautiful combination of guitars and wind instruments. Incredibly well-thought, thought-provoking lyrics, all in a relaxed mood that picks you up. A major tour-de-force.

Another element that gives the album its seventies aura is the cover, a beautiful painting by Kim Poor, which is quite reminiscent of the covers she did for him way back when.

Now, there’s Roger King’s engineering… King engineered Darktown. The work he does here, by itself, is enough to give the whole thing a modern sound. Roger King is easily one of the most gifted people you can get behind a console and his work is again quite amazing!

Also of note, are all the great musicians working with Steve on this album, including a guest spot by Ian McDonald (not on Mechanical Bride).

Can you tell that I like this album? And another thing, the more you listen the better it gets. And like most of Hackett’s album’s, once you start listening, you can’t stop. A word of caution: it’s highly addicitive!

Need I say it? This is Steve Hackett, of course you need it.

Steve Hackett in Trois-Rivières

Hackett to bits or pieces; an incredible evening of music

I went to l’International de l’art vocal de Trois-Rivières to see Steve Hackett. Before the show, I spoke to several of the organizers and the recurring word about him was: generosity.

The show itself was absolutely outstanding. The whole band was top-notch and the songs weren’t a simple rehash of old material as some veteran rockers will do. New arrangements, going into material that hadn’t been performed in a long while and a band that simply worked well together.

It’s simply incredible to see Hackett perform. The things this guy does with a guitar… He’s not simply a fast guitarist with technique, his sound is very emotional, it delivers his true feelings, making the audience follow him through each corner of his universe.

I was particularly astounded to hear two songs from Darktown (the title track and In Memoriam, in memory of John Entwistle). Darktown is such an elaborate and sophisticated album that I didn’t think it was possible to perform any of it live. But it worked quite well and, to me, these were the highlights of the show.

For two hours, the band played on, giving all they had. Each member of the band was obviously quite appreciated by the public. From Watcher of the Skies to Darktown, going through The Steppes and Camino Royale and so much more, this was an experience to remember.

I had the honor of meeting the great man after the show. He came out still properly dressed and drinking from a can of cola. A firm handshake and the impression that he’s happy to meet his fans. He apologized profusely for the technical error (his mic wasn’t working for the first song). To us, it was no big deal, to him it kept him from delivering a perfect performance. Anyway, after chatting with us, he stepped out and started an autograph session. Truly a class act! And the organizers were right: the word generosity suits him quite well.

Live Archive

Never one to sit back and relax, Steve Hackett releases a new box set containing four live albums.

The first two CDs make up the first show, recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1979. The band was a one-off, but the show sounds great!

An excellent selection of songs, but this can be said of all three shows. There’s a bit of a return to Genesis with an excellent version of I Know What I Like (which also includes the original Star Trek theme!) and, of course, Horizons. The rest is all Hackett’s material from his seventies albums with a lot of material from Please Don’t Touch, one of my personal favorite Hackett albums.

The third CD was recorded at Castel Sant’ Angelo in Rome in 1981. Although close in time to the previous show, the material here is quite different, as is the band. Here Steve does all the lead vocals (which is quite nice).

Nick Magnus and Steve’s brother John are also featured in this lineup, so there is a continuity, while it’s not a stagnation.

The last CD was recorded in 1993 at the Grand Theatre in London. This one is a little closer to other live Hackett albums, but still not the same.

Overall, that’s one of the best parts of this box set, you won’t find endless repetitions of material from his other live albums.

All the shows feature the most recent releases of the time, yet they also span his solo career. As always, the guitar craft is perfect. The musicians accompanying him are flawless. The music is from one of the last of the true artists.

The sound is flawless on each CD, these are all board recordings. The audience has also been nicely recorded. The box set contains a 48-page booklet consisting mainly of an abundance of photos from all three shows and humorous comments from Steve. Also in it is a complete list of all the shows Steve has played since Genesis.

I’m not someone who is generally crazy about live albums, but this is something definitely apart from the average live album. A very good selection of pieces from a great career. Definitely a box set you’ll want in your collection. The first one thousand copies are signed by Mr. Hackett himself. Makes a great Christmas gift!

Steve Hackett with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

This is an album which was recorded in 1997 as Steve was invited to do a show with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The music was all composed by Steve Hackett.

The album was originally released by EMI Classical, but sold out rapidly. It has been unavailable for years.

Camino, Steve’s own company have now made this recording available once again.

Hearing Steve Hackett play the classical guitar is always great. Hearing him play the classical guitar, while being accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is incredible! This album is a must for everyone who enjoys the classical guitar. Hackett’s particular style is unique throughout the guitar world. As much as he innovates on the electric guitar, he does, also, on the classical.

The guitar doesn’t overshadow the orchestra, nor does it overshadow the guitar.

The album is based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. According to Steve: “I found it impossible to encapsulate all that the play evokes but one thing was sure, the text was crying out for beautiful orchestration. The wonderful Royal Philharmonic Orchestra enthusiastically collaborated and with their help the style of the work became more ‘Heroic’. Emphasizing Shakespeare’s original ancient Greek setting (rather than the Elizabethan England more usually envisaged)”.

The booklet includes a paragraph on every one of the 18 songs to situate the listener in the play. It is also ornate with beautiful paintings by Kim Poor.

One will notice a recurring theme throughout the album. A few bars which come into play as the center theme of track 17, Celebration.

You can hear some of these pieces, to put you in the mood and have your ears crying for more, at . Also, the album is a CD ROM. Place it into your computer to hear MP3’s of many of Camino records artists, and some goodies are also included.

Sketches of Satie

For the amateur of Classical music. Eric Satie is one of those lesser-known composers who has one particular melody that we all know without knowing who it’s by. In this case it’s Gymnopédie No. 1. Which was also the basis for the album.

Steve and his brother, John, had wanted to do a classical collaboration for a while (John plays flute). Gymnopédie No. 1 was the song that prompted this work. They studied and transcribed Satie’s Gymnopédies, his Gnossiennes, his Pièces Froides, his Avant Dernières Pensées and his Nocturnes, to come up with 20 beautifully interpreted pieces.

It is a nice occasion to familiarize oneself with Satie’s music. Of course, Gymnopédie No. 1 is still the piece that retains the most attention.

A nice relaxing album where neither the flute nor the guitar becomes predominant, but where they, instead, complete each other masterfully. Personally, as much as I enjoy listening to Steve Hackett’s electric guitar, he always has a way to draw me in with his classical. It seems to have a language all its own. With the added flute of brother John, a delightful experience indeed!

Feedback ’86

Why a new album called Feedback ’86? This album was originally recorded back in 1986 when Hackett was still signed with Chrysalis records. It was dumped by the company and had been sitting on the shelves all this time. A great find for many of us!

This album includes such collaborators as Chris Thompson (Manfred Mann’s Earth Band), Pete Trewavas and Ian Mosley (Marilion), Bonnie Tyler and Brian May (Queen).

It’s very interesting to hear the different styles of these two great guitarists (Cassandra, Slot Machine). Chris Thompson’s voice mixes very agreeably with Bonnie Tyler’s in Prizefighters. Several songs could have been hits at the time, which makes Chrysalis’ decision to drop the album seem rather odd. On the other hand, since then Hackett has given us many pleasurable albums with his own label (Camino Records), which might not have been so extensive under a major label.

The guitar work, as usual, is awesome. Oh, How I Love You features Hackett on classical guitar and Nick Magnus on piano, while Chris Thompson adds a gentle vocal counterpoint. Follows Notre Dame Des Fleurs, a gentle classical piece of Hackett’s composition.

Overall, quite recommendable as it features a combination of several of Hackett’s periods and shows amply the direction in which he was going at the time.

Of note, the album is also a CD-Rom. As an added bonus, it features 20 MP3’s. Some are Hackett’s from various albums, but there are also tracks by Nick Magnus, Chester Thompson and Ian MacDonald. As well as a clip from The Tokyo Tapes.

The Tokyo Tapes

What do you get when you put together musicians from Genesis, King Crimson, Asia, Weather Report and more together on stage for a night?

In this wonderful video, Steve Hackett (Genesis) is on guitar and vocals, John Wetton (Asia) on bass and vocals, Ian McDonald (King Crimson) on guitar, keyboard and flutes, Julian Colbeck (Weather Report) plays keyboards and Chester Thompson (Genesis) plays drums.

Five musicians of this caliber can make you expect to see a lot of egos floating around. This is not the case. The chemistry between the musicians is obvious. These are great musicians who have left their egos at home and are enjoying the moment.

The song list is impressive. From Genesis (Watcher of the Skies, Firth of Fifth, I Know What I Like), to King Crimson (I Talk to the Wind and perhaps the most impressive version of In the Court of the Crimson King), going by Asia (Heat of the Moment) and John Wetton (Battlelines) to Steve Hackett’s solo material (Vampire with a Healthy Appetite, Camino Royale), this is one spectacle you will want to see.

Everyone displays their full talent, without turning it into a display. What they do, they do because they are obviously enjoying it. If you want to see a guitarist who ignores what a pick is, but who will try almost anything on a guitar – and make it work – watch this video.

Unfortunately, only two shows, both in Japan, were played by this ensemble, following the release of Hackett’s album Watcher of the Skies/Genesis Revisited.

Apparently the chemistry between the members was so good that they wanted to turn this into a permanent band. Unfortunately, their busy schedules would not allow it. Pity!


This album was a bit of a shock to me. The sleeve is very dark in it’s tones of green and its photo of a cemetery. What sold me was:

“More revealing than ever before and firmly autobiographical, DARKTOWN is as personal a Hackett album as you’re likely to see.”

Darktown is truly a window into the soul of a great artist. Recorded over an eight-year period, this album sounds very orchestral although most of the sounds you hear are done using guitars and the magic of the studio.

Apparently you either love or hate this album. Personally, I find it to be the album I possess which gives me the greatest pleasure, and grief, to listen to. Yet I cannot stay away from it for more than a few days at a time.

From the almost dance rhythms of Omega Metallicus and Darktown and Darktown Riot to the dreamy classical Man Overboard. From the nostalgia of Jane Austen’s Door and Days of Long Ago to the awful story described (the story is awful, not the description of it) in The Golden Age of Steam. Hackett takes us into many twists and turns through a story which really isn’t one. Yet you will listen to the album from the first song to the last, welcoming the pauses of such pieces as Twice Around the Sun.

Words are very little to describe this masterpiece. Let me just say that if my place caught fire, this is the one CD I’d save.