Steve Hackett - The Night Siren
Steve Hackett - The Night Siren
Words: Anthony Firmin
In music, the term “progressive” is banded about far too freely these days. As an adjective the definition is “happening or developing gradually or in stages”, a description that fits Steve Hackett’s music perfectly.
I feel I need to lay my cards out here – I am a HUGE Steve Hackett fan. Starting back in 1978 with Please Don’t Touch I have “bought the albums, been to the gigs, bought the t-shirts” so reviewing this album is going to be a labour of love as I have listened and watched Mr H. progress over the last 39 years, an ongoing public development.
The Night Siren is his 25th solo studio album, coming just two years after Wolflight and 42 years since his debut release Voyage Of The Acolyte, yet still sees musical exploration that openly branches out around the world. To be fair, this is something he has done all the time with his regular use of a Japanese Koto (check out The Red Flower Of Tachai Blooms Everywhere on Spectral Mornings) and Brazilian drummers on Till We Have Faces as a couple of examples. And on this album we hear an Icelandic drummer, Israeli and Arabic singers, an Azerbaijan tar player and a Hungarian trumpeter whose daughter also appears playing digeridoo.
Album opener Behind The Smoke has a Led Zep Kashmir feel to it, close your eyes and you can smell the aromatic smoke drifting around this piece. And so the tour of world wide sounds starts wonderfully, the big strings work superbly building to one of Hackett’s solos. Phil Collins said of Genesis’ Squonk that it was their answer to Kashmir, especially on the drumming; I wonder if Hackett had been given more leeway in the writing of the music it would have sounded even more so? This piece certainly gives us a clue.
Martian Sea bounces along with some nice sitar and an uncharacteristic solo from Hackett where he really lets rip whereas Fifty Miles From The North Pole along with it’s catchy chorus is an interesting development on a blues riff which develops into quite a heavy tune.
The dramatic opening to El Nino, with some fierce drumming, allows Hackett lots of room to develop a mash up of his Defector and Guitar Noir guitar sounds painting a dark, musical landscape; it is both brutal and exhausting. Dropping into Other Side Of the Wall gives us some acoustic respite, but it is short lived.
The castanets and Spanish guitar open Anything But Love and they lead into a straightforward rock song with anything but a straightforward guitar solo – again! Inca Terra features the prog Vamirate Nad Sylvan, Hackett’s touring Genesis singer and is a song which develops into the classic Genesis sound which he helped evolve and features the digeridoo.
In The Skeleton Gallery is a serious nod to his Please Don’t Touch era whereas West To East has some serious Genesis leanings. The Gift closes out the album; a short piece with some fine emotional electric playing from Hackett set against a synth and string backdrop.
Several things stand out from this release: the quality of the songwriting, that his singing continues to improve and impress, but it is the breadth, depth and originality of his guitar playing and soloing that are astonishing, even after 25 solo studio albums.
Oh how I would dearly love to hear this all played live.