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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Steve Hackett

To Watch the Storms

Review by Steve Alspach

Steve Hackett's first studio in four years shows that he hasn't lost a step in creating albums that go in different directions yet still manage to maintain a sense of coherence. To Watch The Storms is typical Steve Hackett - exploring as many moods as possible, from rock to folk to classical.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Strutton Ground:
This is a curiously understated opening to the album. The arrangement is rather simple, though the backwards rhythm track gives the song a little twist.
Circus of Becoming
Hackett in a nutshell, the song features the optigan, a nostalgic-sounding instrument, but the chorus features a church organ and a short-yet-pounding rhythmic line. Like a circus, there's much to satisfy the palate, and all in 3:48.
The Devil is an Englishman
In a rare cover, Hackett tackles Thomas Dolby's composition. You can tell that Hackett is having wicked fun with the vocals on this one.
Frozen Statues
There is a rather airy arrangement on this moody track featuring Rob Townsend's jazz-tinged trumpet and Roger King's piano as the only instruments.
Mechanical Bride
Hackett's homage to "21st Century Schizoid Man," perhaps? All the signs are there: the heavy metal verses (the lyrics have almost the same meter as "Schizoid Man"), the chaotic soloing, the stop-start riffing, and all are done with quite a dash of flair.
Wind, Sand and Stars
Hackett pulls a 180 here from the previous song. The cut is in two parts: the first part is him on nylon-string guitar, and the second part is Roger King on piano and synthesizer before ending in a swirling peal of church bells. This instrumental shows Hackett's more romantic-era side.
Brand New
Hackett's opening line on nylon-string is a wonder in itself - ever think a nylon-string guitar could rock? If there is a single off the album, this would be it. Ian McDonald's sax work is rather inventive in its multi-layered effects.
This World
Back to the romanticism, this is a slow, rather simple tune, laden with Roger King's keyboards.
Rebecca
A nod to Steve's literary leanings, this song is a take on the Daphne Du Maurier novel of the same name. There is a strangely upbeat instrumental section in the middle of the song.
The Silk Road
This is an interesting instrumental experiment. The melody and percussion give an eastern feel to the track.
Come Away
Hackett has an interest in eastern European folk, and this song allows him to indulge his whimsy. It is described as a mazurka, a 6/8 rhythmic pattern.
The Moon Under Water
He's Steve Hackett. Of course he's going to record a classical guitar piece! And, of course, the playing is impeccable.
Serpentine Song
This is an easy-going, relaxed piece to reflect its subject - London's Hyde Park on a Sunday afternoon. John Hackett is featured on flute and Ian McDonald's soprano saxophone solo closes the album. Steve keeps a low profile, adding nice vocal harmonies and occasional classical guitar. Gary O'Toole's drumwork is also quite effective in adding a jazz flavor.
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