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Steve Hackett

Live Rails

Review by Larry Toering

What can be said about Steve Hackett that hasn't already been said? Well, I try my best to variate about such a thing but so many have already got him covered, that I have to ignore them to come up with my own original thoughts, because I have read my share concerning his career. One thing I know is that I am at the very least a distant fan of his, so I can't exactly express bias.  I can easily see why anyone would, as this is a rendering of the utmost quality to say the very least. It's worth it to your ears to give them a shot of Hackett's beautiful playing and excellent songwriting, and Live Rails is just the ticket for it.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Intro

This is the lovely intro to the show, just a very spacey bit of orchestration, really, but it eases nicely into the set.

Every Day
As a nice piano begins the proceedings, things go right into this very well received number. When Hackett soars on the guitar and spars with the keyboards, it's a natural thing of beauty. Right away you get the feeling that you want to be there. It's all just so spectacular. What a way to start the show.
Fire On The Moon
This is a very commanding and interesting performance, with great vocals and a lot of tempo changes without losing the groove. It's when he flies like only he can on the guitar solo, that excitement is ramped up. He plays like an angel, before a piano takes it out and the audience bursts into appropriate applause.
Emerald And Ash
Starting with a little horn piece, this quickly goes into the vocal section and the horn periodically returns for embellishment. Still, it's the vocals here that stand out the most. It all maintains the same tempo until three quarters of the way through the track, where once again the guitar shines like the sun. They even get a little keyboard interplay. The percussion also burns, oh so well, as it largely becomes a guitar piece, before the horn comes back and sails away to the finish. Another fine performance by all is delivered.
Ghost In The Glass
If there wasn't enough horn action in the previous track, this certainly makes up for it, as the horns dominate until about half way through. From there  Hackett matches the elegance with a spine tingling guitar solo. More magic is displayed here, in a nutshell.
Pollution C
As things get into full on prog mode, another amazing instrumental takes shape, and proceeds to fry the hair right off the head. This is a mesmerizing treat, with plenty of controlled energy from all. 
Ace Of Wands
This is one cool piece of music, which is rather hard to describe. It contains so much instrumentation that it makes it hard for me to nail who is playing what, but it sure is some interesting stuff.
The Steppes
Now there is a bit of a break in the action, as things slow way down and the horn wavers lightly in and out of the arrangement. The arrangement is complete with heavy percussion and moody bass lines. Everything keeps an interesting pace, and once again Hackett pulls off some searing guitar work. He is as good as ever here on this excellent piece of prog mastery.
Slogans
This has a sort of cyborg voicing through the synth, or so it sounds. It's yet another interesting and, at times, even energetic number. This is very wild.
Serpentine
There are vocals here that kick in right away, and it's quite different from anything to this point. That variety makes it all the more interesting, as a flute tends to appear a lot throughout. There is just something so honest and real about this that you can't dismiss it in any way if you're listening to the whole release in one sitting.
Tubehead
This starts with a very cool feedback factor to set up the definition of the title, but then it goes into a super freaky arrangement with all kinds of killer instrumentation and modern guitar leads. To this point it's the most enjoyable and even humorous track, almost like saving the best for last. This really rocks hard!
Disc 2
Spectral Mornings
I'm thinking Steve Morse, more than anything else here, and if he wasn't influenced somehow by Hackett, I would be surprised. They could even do a record together, if you ask me. By the time it's over I don't feel as much that way, but a Morse similarity has been coming on strongly the last few tracks. Morse should at least have a listen to this fine recording if he is unaware of it, as it seems to be right up his alley in many places.
Firth Of Fifth
A Hackett solo arrangement of the classic Genesis song, this is probably the most complex arrangement on the whole thing, as it can't seem to stay in one direction. That is a good thing, because it's one fantastic piece, and clocks in at over ten minutes, making it the longest track on here. I can listen to this over and over. It's that good, in fact that brilliant. Hackett must be proud of this, as it really does do the business.
Blood On The Rooftops
Another track Hackett originally created in his old band Genesis, this is a nice little piece of acoustic semi-folk wizardry, with a story telling approach to the vocals and lyrics. It's probably the best vocal of all on Rails. I think it sounds like Genesis meets ELP, or them with Greg Lake on vocals. I also love the use of horns here.
Fly On A Windshield
This is another one of those fine instrumentals (and another originally recorded with Genesis), but with this big bass drum beat flying through it, it almost adds a spooky quality to an otherwise very uplifting track. It's another fine piece of work, as every track here is worthy of inclusion in the set.
Broadway Melody
Speaking of Broadway,” this starts right off like they're on a Broadway stage, as it's a very theatrical number with very down to earth lyrics. Once again the vocals ring of Lake. It is, of course, a medley of music from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway disc by Genesis. 
Sleepers
This is something I wouldn't like to to accompany my sleep, as the title suggests something about it, because it goes off the charts toward the middle with occasional outbursts of mass energy. This is not exactly a sleeper, by any means, it's actually another excellent display of  every note for which it calls.
Still Waters
There seems to be nothing Hackett can't achieve. The same goes for the other musicians, as this is another all over the place arrangement, once again without losing the groove. Simply a pure magical performance is given by all.
Los Endos
Another originally from Hackett’s time in Genesis, this is a shuffle of the shredding kind, with an almost southern rock vibe to it, along with a funky intrusion that is highly welcome. It takes on different directions at every turn. It's not one of the best tracks here, but it still has plenty of the same appeal as everything else in the set.
Clocks
Ending the night, this has some very cool tick tock sounds before it takes off like a bat out of hell. Once again Hackett can do absolutely no wrong, and neither can the drummer, as this is his solo piece. It’s a killer performance, and soon it's over. If you haven't delved into the talents of Hackett, this is as good a place as any to start.
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