Steve Hackett The Night Siren
Now I’ll be honest the latest Steve Hackett album I have heard is 1994’s Blues With a Feeling, which is not your typical Hackett record, and whilst I have the premonitions set, with the lush 5.1 remastering of his early solo works, despite having heard him guest on other albums, and seen him live several times, cost and life getting in the way have stopped me getting some of his more contemporary work.
Still, he is the only former member of Genesis who is putting out new material on a regular basis, advancing and expanding his sound, and he is widely regarded as one of the greatest guitarist in prog, and this album, as it should be is a mighty impressive contemporary prog record.
The Night Siren is released on march 24th and features a whole host of regular collaborators like Roger King on keyboards and programming, drumming talents Gary O’Toole and Nick D’Virgilio guesting on Martian Sea, brother John and diverse musicians like Troy Donockley and Nad Sylvan (vocals on Ina Terra) are also joined by Amanda Lehman whose vocals are scattered throughout the record.
Over time Hackett has built a wider musical family, and it’s fantastic the number of talented and diverse musicans he can call on to fulfil his musical vision.
So what’s it all about then?
In Steves own words from the press release
‘This latest waxing represents a bird’s eye view of the world of a musical migrant ignoring borders and celebrating our common ancestry with a unity of spirit, featuring musicians, singers and instruments from all over the world. From territorial frontiers to walled up gateways, boundaries often hold back the tide. But while the night siren wails, music breaches all defences. To quote Plato ‘When the music changes, the walls of the city shake’
A pretty defiant statement then, and an admirable one, in these days of deep division and alt facts and entrenched positions based on ignorance and fear instead of tolerance and trust, what we all need is a common purpose, something to pull us all together, and music should be that unifying force.
Steve himself is a musical migrant, from his days in Genesis, to his Blues with a Feeling project, his multitude of collaborations and his work with Djabe, he’s never been afraid to do something new, something different to keep it fresh.
Yes, I know he also does a lot of Genesis Revisited shows, which people have criticised for him doing and not playing enough of his own stuff, but a) he’s playing Genesis stuff out there that none of the other former members are doing, and b) it pays the bills which enables him to go all out on making new records.
It’s a hard balance to make, keeping the old fans happy whilst still being relevant to produce new music of meaning, and I think it’s one Steve has pulled off time and again.
Blending Hacketts sublime guitar work, this features instruments as diverse as the Uillean Pipes, the digeridoo, the tar, the duduk as well as traditional rock instrumentation, and it’s this blend that creates some of the most memorable pieces on the album.
From the opening Behind the Smoke, with Steve’s brooding vocals, and an Eastern string effect, it does have a Kashmir esque sound, as well as some searing Hackett guitar work.
His trademark guitar is all over this album, which is as it should be, and with there’s some really great accessible tracks, the gorgeously rocky Martian Sea, with some lush soloing, mixed with a great sitar sound as well, bouncing off each other like a great musical duel.
The album is layered in dramatic strings, all of which provide stirring stuff and a powerful counterpart to Mr Hacketts guitar work, none more obvious than on the rousing instrumental El Nino, with it’s powerhouse drumming from Gary O’Toole.
Mixing it up is the flamenco inspired rousing and uplifting Anything but Love with some great vocals from Steve and Amanda Lehman.
In Another Life is another change of mood, with it being more of a folk rock epic with some guitar soloing that brings Mike Oldfields Celtic forays to mind before Troy Donockley Uillean pipes take over in a beautiful move.
West to East is a defiant musical statement, featuring as it does musicians from Israel and Palestine, and is an emotive symphonic piece that is probably my favourite piece on the album, with a superb choral chorus that is uplifting, moving and beautiful and will have you singing it after the track has long since finished playing, with musical references to the opening Behind the Smoke this is where the album and it’s ideas are pulled together in one fantastic piece of music.
Lush orchestration and symphonic sounds are all part of this albums rich tapestry and as they mingle with Steves amazing guitar work, and the dramatic Eastern strings, this is a momentous piece of music.
With the stirring musical epitaph of The Gift, this is an amazing album from one of the masters of progressive rock, Steve Hackett has shown, yet again why he is such a highly regarded guitar player, songwriter and vocalist and has pulled together an inclusive and incisive album.
Instead of listening to alt facts and the internet echo chamber, listen to this instead, it’s uplifting, moving and ultimately a celebration of all that is great in life, and that should be our aim going forward, celebrate not denigrate, love, not hate, and unity over division.
Music has the power to pull us together, and on this record that’s exactly what Steve Hackett has achieved. A superb album.