10 November 2015

Steve Hackett - Wolflight


It was about 12 months ago when I watched a part of BBC4's biopic Genesis : Together And Apart, about the same time they were promoting their collective and solo retrospective R-Kive, which I believe I appraised (read the link here). It's where I could see that guitarist Steve Hackett might have had a case worth answering for when crying foul that virtually all his own solo material had been overlooked by Auntie. It's also a sharp irony that the emphasis of this great progressive band also seemed to rest on their formative years, for which Steve Hackett was a prominent member.

Perhaps then no surprise then, on release of his first solo album, he realised his own material was being underused, even minus Peter Gabriel. So cue a formative departure, and the forging of a path of some occasional changes in musical direction, plus a few albums under the his belt. I haven't kept track of how many he's recorded, I do know his first one, Voyage Of The Acolyte had some real tasty gems, but his music's alternated between progressive and blues and classical, all sadly gone largely unnoticed in my opinion. I first heard Steve Hackett as a soloist 10 years ago when he did a superb updated version of Genesis' Firth Of Fifth. I didn't know too much about him then, nor of how much of a vital contributor to the quintet (soon to be quartet) that he's been.


So much so that it was only a few weeks ago that he has indeed launched some material for 2015 and yet I never got a whiff of it even on his Facebook updates. First impressions of this new album, Wolflight, are of tones of a medieval Taliesin nature, slightly austere but very ethereal and sometimes rustic. Few progressive giants on here, such as Yes-man Chris Squire, sadly he would pass away a few weeks later, and Nick Beggs (remember the 1980s Kajagoogoo guy, living proof there is life after New Wave!). As may well expected after first look of the album cover and title, several wolf calls set the tone from the word go with Out Of The Body. Not the multi layered overture that I was expecting, it's largely his Gibson that leads the way, and maybe not the greatest introduction by a long shot.

Still, onwards and upwards with the title track, it's hook laden, alternating between some calm almost hushed chorals, and some dark overtones as well as nylon strings midway through. The percussion is a smart arrangement too, a fantastic scene setter, likewise the didgeridoo at the beginning. Following that is Love Song For A Vampire, it pursues the same criteria as the Wolflight track, soothed harmonies in the verses, even better in the chorus, but not as heavy until the guitar leads sign off. Track four is The Wheel's Turning, which is a Camel influenced song, consisting of fairground noises, and 'C' key arrangements on either side of his Gibson repertoire, granted it's not the dark heaven that the album seems to want to sell, uplifting I would say nevertheless.

So far, it's been an alternation of the ethereal, the sublime and the positive, and now it's onto Coryican Fire which employs an Asia Minor feel initially, it's not a surprise as Steve Hackett plays the oud, a stringed instrument from Turkey and the Arab regions. It's been a technical album so far, but the direction takes a more rustic turn with the instrumental Earthshine, largely acoustic, and straight after is Loving Sea, it reminds me of an Emerson, Lake and Palmer vocal effort whenever Keith rests up from the Moog. Sometimes we all need a break from the technical stuff.


Black Thunder feels a lot more intimate, it starts off with a Black Dog type vocals-leads-instrumentation format for a few minutes, then begins to get a little pacey until the clarinet closes the track. The whole of it sounds a bit too clinical and not very earthly until the last two minutes. Dust and Dreams has the resemblance of the Lawrence of Arabia theme, easy going rhythm, then his guitars, while having a suspicion of multi-layering are well complemented by a brief solo from Mr Hackett before it mixes into the curtain call in Heart Song, which I think is a slight disappointment as it runs on a Genesis theme after his departure.

A mixture of dark austere scene setting to the light guiding through the tunnel approach, Steve Hackett's best work for me is on the first half of the Wolflight album, The dark tones tied in with sharp acoustics and beautiful harmonies with a few twists in the loops are the high points here on this offering. Also the plethora of instruments in this fine prog piece are perfectly arranged and well employed , and the songwriting shows I have no doubt that where Genesis were finding themselves sullied and held down with their MOR constraints, Steve Hackett continued down the prog rock path, and still does to this day. I'm sure he doesn't miss Genesis, but Genesis misses his talents. Certainly this gets my vote for most underrated album 2015.

8 out of ten. Oh, now you have my attention, and maybe my money, time and heart.
Best track : Love Song For A Vampire.

Buy Wolflight here on Amazon
Listen to Wolflight here on Spotify
Listen to Wolflight here on Deezer
Official Steve Hackett Facebook page here
Official Steve Hackett website here

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