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Steve Hackett

Out of the Tunnel's Mouth

Review by Gary Hill

This is the two CD edition of Steve Hackett’s Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth. The first disc is the studio album and the second is a live disc that features two Hackett solo works. The remaining tracks on the live set are Hackett’s band’s takes on Genesis numbers. Of course, Hackett is probably best known for his time in Genesis, but his solo work, as this album shows, is very strong. The live versions of the Genesis tracks will not be mistaken as Genesis renditions, mostly due to the vocals. To my ear the vocals sound like John Wetton, and that’s a good thing. Of course, Genesis purists might not be happy about that, but really, this isn’t Genesis, but rather Steve Hackett solo.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Fire On The Moon

Starting gentle and intricate, this powers out into a symphonic sort of inspiration from there. In some ways it reminds me a bit of early King Crimson (think “In the Court of the Crimson King”). It is a dramatic and powerful piece of music that works very well as an album opener. A little before the three minute mark it works out into some harder rocking music and Hackett solos overhead. The three varying patterns of the song are repeated to create the bulk of the piece, but with some minor variations. Yes’ Chris Squire guests on bass.

Nomads
Latin styled acoustic guitar opens this. Then it wanders out into a delicate and rather moody sound for the vocal performance. Chris Squire is back here. It doesn’t change much until a bit before the three minute mark when it goes to a full on flamenco treatment. From there it shifts gear to a fast paced rocker, still laced with that Latin sound. It gets quite symphonic just before a quick burst of sound (with vocals) ends it.
Emerald And Ash
Symphonic instrumentation opens this in a flourish. Then it drops to a slow moving, but still quite classically oriented, sound for the first vocals. This one is understated, but also intricate and quite classical in nature. Later in the cut it shifts out to something that’s much harder rocking and very much in a modern King Crimson type of sound. This is one of the most dynamic (and coolest) cuts on show here. It drops to ambient, symphonic elements to eventually end.
Tubehead
An instrumental this is a hard edged screamer that’s one part good old rock and roll and one part King Crimson. Of course, it’s all delivered in Steve Hackett style.
Sleepers
A stark contrast to the previous number, intricate and gentle acoustic guitar leads this off and holds it. Symphonic strings join as the track continues in this sedate manner. While remaining mellow, the cut moves in some different directions after the two minute mark. It becomes a gentle, rather old world leaning ballad as the vocals enter past the two and a half minute mark. Shortly before the five minute mark it powers out to a rocking motif. Again, I’m reminded a bit of King Crimson and there seems to be some backwards tracked stuff here, but it could be oddly processed, too. Either way, it works. There’s some killer soloing on this. It wanders into some purely symphonic stuff for a few moments, then turns out to more hard edged prog. They alternate between these two motifs in something a lot like King Crimson. Then, though, it’s taken to an almost King’s X meets Beatles kind of progression.  A little before the eight minute mark it drops back to gentle elements that take the track out about a minute later.
Ghost In The Glass
Mellow jazz meets world sounds start this off and grow gradually. Around the one minute mark an almost bluesy guitar line rises up and takes the track into a more pure fusion direction. This is powerful and dramatic and has a lot of layers of sound built upon it. The number is an instrumental that is less than three minutes in length.
Still Waters
Take a bluesy hard rock arrangement and bring it into modern King Crimson territory. That encompasses the introduction and verse, but the chorus has a more traditional progressive rock sound. Hackett seriously rocks on this tune, putting in some scorching lead guitar work. There’s a bit of a soulful element here and some textures that call to mind Pink Floyd at times.
Last Train To Istanbul
The nearly symphonic musical elements that open this have a very symphonic texture and (suitably) a lot of Eastern musical elements. This is a dramatic and powerful song that builds on that concept. Comparisons to Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” are obvious, but while the two share some musical territory, this is far more progressive rock meets symphonic in nature. There are some great bits here. I’m a sucker for Eastern modes, so this one lands as one of my favorites on the set. It gets some more powered up sounds at times in the arrangement, but overall this stays more towards the melodic, and not hard rocking, end of the spectrum.
Disc 2
Blood On The Rooftops
Hackett and company put in a live performance of this classic Genesis song. As Hackett starts it on acoustic guitar it feels more classical than the Genesis rendition. The vocals remind me a bit of John Wetton’s work in King Crimson. In fact, this arrangement feels like King Crimson or UK more than it does like Genesis, at least early on. The truth is, this isn’t Genesis, but a Steve Hackett band performance and it shouldn’t be expected to resemble the Genesis version. They power it out around the two minute mark and it is closer to a Genesis arrangement, but the vocals are still very Wetton-like. Of course, that’s a good thing in my book.
A Tower Struck Down
Take a King Crimson type vibe and turn it towards pure jazz. This is a real screaming hot prog jam that’s an instrumental. It really wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to believe that this had been recorded by some version of King Crimson.
Firth Of Fifth
Here’s another Hackett rendition of a Genesis song. Always a powerful piece of music, this arrangement is far closer to the Genesis rendition. The vocals again, take it into different directions, feeling more like John Wetton here, too. Of course, a big chunk of this piece is purely instrumental and they put in a smoking hot rendition, at times rocking out a bit more than the Genesis version did.
Fly On A Windshield
Another track originally performed with Genesis, this is powerful and dramatic in its arrangement. It rocks out fairly hard here, but the keyboards lend a real electronic symphonic nature. This leads straight into the next number.
Broadway Melody Of 1974
This cut, with the Wetton-like vocals, calls to mind UK in this arrangement. It’s a short cut that’s runs less than two minutes. Of course, it’s another that was originally recorded by Genesis.
Every Star In The Night Sky
Starting with intricate acoustic guitar, that instrument holds the number by itself for almost a minute and a half. Then it shifts to something more akin to Genesis sounds, although this is actually a Hackett solo piece. The vocals come in with a cool processed effect. This track builds out with some killer layers of sound creating real drama and power. Around the three and a half minute mark it drops back to a percussion dominated movement, but then Hackett solos over the top of this arrangement and they turn out into a scorching progressive rock jam from there. Later a harmonica solo brings in a little taste of the blues. This is quite a dynamic and powerful piece of music.
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