Steve Hackett - Wolflight
How often is Steve Hackett labelled as ‘The ex- Genesis guitarist’? It’s true of course, yet consider the evidence. Steve was in Genesis from 1971-1977, so a total of six years out of a career which spans another thirty six years since his departure from the prog giants which sent them down a different path and Hackett on his own musical journey of many roads. And a more diverse path you couldn’t ask for as his electric/rock/acoustic/nylon guitar proficiency has lent itself to a vast number of his own solo projects as well as appearing as an esteemed guest on many others over the years.
Back in the world of Genesis, 2014’s poorly received Sum Of the Parts/Together & Apart documentary with its blatant imbalance plus the appallingly titled R-Kive CD compilation of the same old material left many Genesis (and related Gabriel/Hackett/Collins etc) fans a little cold. However, every cloud…etc, and it’s been Hackett himself who has flown the flag and taken out on tour the music which many consider to be from the classic Genesis period, ie, when he was in the band. The ‘Genesis Revisited’ and ‘Genesis Extended’ tours of the last couple of years have shown Hackett to be the one member of Genesis who stills seems to hold the music of their early days in the same esteem as the fans.
Enough about Genesis though, as Hackett now seems to have scratched that itch sufficiently enough to resume of his own solo career. His last album, Beyond The Shrouded Horizon from 2011 had been acknowledged as not so much a return to form, but a classic example of exhibiting the diversity and excellence you’d expect from a Hackett album. Indeed, to some ears, the painfully short Prairie Angel had a melody to match his peerless Spectral Mornings from 1979.
Piecing together the music for Wolflight has taken the best part of two years; the breaks in Genesis related activity providing a chance to steer musical thoughts back onto the Hackett rails with a product ready to go when the Genesis well has been well and truly mined. Hackett has talked about Wolflight in terms of breaking the rules and of the album being the one he has always wanted to make. It might be paying lip service to a common vision to which all musicians strive, yet it seems very much like the Hackett modus operandi, the sort of thing he’s been doing already for decades. His vision of the guitar as an orchestra, his embracing of word music, the cinematic qualities and the idea of opposites complementing one another have been themes of Steve Hackett’s work for so many years that it’s not a particular surprise to hear him talk of the music and its dynamics becoming a journey into dreams and nightmares.
[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KLnVcWg3nw[/embed] Following the opening overture which is Out Of The Body, the pairing of the title track and the unsurprisingly Hackett sounding Love Song To A Vampire, each weighing in at a healthy 8/9 minutes, go through the whole gamut of styles and emotions which are encompassed in Wolflight. The title track emerges with a touch of Eastern mysticism combined with a phrase or two which would fit a Harry Potter soundtrack, before the introduction of the Hackett voice, a recurring guitar phrase and bursts of rolling and tumbling nylon guitar. The latter is a similar concoction which sees several styles merging. Dreamy and atmospheric and shifting between it builds before launching into a twisting and turning path of cinematic glory and guitar histrionics
A couple of tracks in and already the music has started to fully realise the album title. being the name given to the hour before the dawn and bringing to musical life the sort of altered state in a world and a time which is closer to the world of dreams.
Elsewhere, there’s the childhood memory of Battersea Funfair providing the inspiration for The Wheel’s Turning and Hackett turns to Greek myths, his fascination with slavery and the sounds of North Africa and the vast expanses of the desert to fuel the rest of the album. Loving Sea is something of a departure for Hackett, being an acoustic strum with a slight nod to some mid sixties Beatles doodling with some backwards sounding effects but again returns to a time and a place which has been the constant source inspiration to Hackett’s music. In turn he closes out with Heart Song perhaps his most heartfelt and overtly written love song since 1981’s Turn Back Time, and of course dedicated to his wife
It also rounds off what is quite some ride and while there are many musicians who feel that their music takes the listener on a journey of some sort, very few accomplish that with the aplomb with which Steve Hackett does, regularly. In fact, and at the risk of doing the corny thing and quoting the title of his first solo venture some forty years ago, it’s been one long voyage, visiting musical places which have been varied and divergent. Simply add Wolflight to the list.
The only shame is that the fans won’t see an exclusively Hackett show come October. It’s forty years since the release of his first solo outing, Voyage Of The Acolyte and fitting perfectly with the From Acolyte To Wolflight tour slogan (heck, it even rhymes!) would have given a ideal opportunity to celebrate the full Hackett solo catalogue. However, there have been indications that Genesis music will still continue to play quite a role in the live show – still proving that it’s a hard label to shake off.
Words: Mike Ainscoe