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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Steve Hackett

Tokyo Tapes

Review by Steve Alspach

1999 was a busy year for Steve Hackett. He saw the Original Masters releases of "Guitar Noir," "There Are Many Sides to the Night," and this CD, a 2 disc set recorded from a 1996 concert in Tokyo. This collection contains selections from Steve's days with Genesis as well as his solo career along with some numbers from Asia and King Crimson. The band is a "who's who" of progressive rock music, guaranteeing a good performance. The second CD is an enhanced CD containing video footage of "Watcher of the Skies," "Heat of the Moment," and "Los Endos." There are also biographies of Hackett as well as a link to his web site. The video footage is quite good (even for my poor little Compaq). Unfortunately, it shows how little Hackett has aged over the years, damn him.

The personnel on this CD is: Steve Hackett, guitar and vocals; John Wetton, bass and vocals; Ian McDonald, keyboards, woodwinds, guitar, and vocals; Julian Colbeck, keyboards, and Chester Thompson, drums.

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

 

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Watcher of the Skies
If there was ever a song destined to lead off an album, this is it. This is a faithful rendition of the old Genesis classic.
Riding the Colossus
A mid-tempo instrumental piece, there is nothing special about this, but it is melodic.
Firth of Fifth
Another Genesis classic, Hackett takes some artistic liberty with this midway through, but the song returns to form for his wonderfully melodic solo. Wetton's vocals may actually be better suited on this song than Peter Gabriel's on the original.
Battlelines
To Hackett's credit, he didn't make this entire CD a Hackett-Genesis song collection. This is a soft yet powerful ballad, and a Wetton original (from Wetton's album of the same name, released in 1994). Wetton's vocals sound good on this, a song that needs a strong voice in the chorus.
Camino Royale
This number brings back memories for me because I had it stuck in my head when I went in for minor surgery back in 1983. On this one there are solos from Colbeck on keyboard, Hackett on harmonica, McDonald on sax, and Hackett on guitar. And as a lead vocalist, well, Hackett's quite a guitarist, isn't he?
The Court of the Crimson King
Written by McDonald and Peter Sinfield, this old King Crimson standard gets dusted off for this performance. The track ends right before the "Dance of the Puppets," but it's a faithful enough performance that you don't get cheated. Again, Wetton's vocals outstrip those of the original (in this case, Greg Lake).
Horizons
This is Hackett's little acoustic gem from Genesis' 1972 "Foxtrot" album. What's a Steve Hackett live album without "Horizons"?
Walking Away From Rainbows
This song is a slow, beautiful number and it features Hackett on guitar and Colbeck on synthesizer strings.
Heat of the Moment
I wasn't too thrilled when I saw this on the CD cover, but the song gets a much more intimate treatment than the Asia original. Hackett, Wetton and McDonald play acoustic guitars on this, and Chester Thompson sits this one out. The result shows what a beautiful melody this is.
In That Quiet Earth
Not listed on the album, this cut is from Genesis "Wind and Wuthering" album. This song changes direction after the opening theme to get in solos from Hackett, McDonald and Colbeck. The number then comes back to the original melody before ending rather quickly.
Vampire with a Healthy Appetite
Another non-listed track, this one is from 1993's Guitar Noir album. It starts off with an intense solo from Hackett, then goes into a dark little riff. Hackett's vocals are run through a flanger for a spooky effect. Hackett gets in a good harmonica solo here (has anyone noticed what a good harmonica player he is?) Bent keyboard chords and gunshot percussion all add to the mood.
I Talk To The Wind
Also unlisted, this is another McDonald-Sinfield composition from "In the Court of the Crimson King." McDonald sings lead on the verses and Wetton takes lead on the chorus so McDonald can play the familiar flute passages.
Disc 2
Shadow of the Hierophant
This one, off Hackett's first solo album ("Voyage of the Acolyte") gets a somewhat abbreviated treatment so that Thompson can get in a drum solo.
Fly
Hard Edged metal strains begin this one, and it begins to take on more mainstream textures. A bit Journeyish in places, this one gets progish, but is definitely a catchy hard rock/metal cut in overall nature. It does have a nice progish vocal break.
Los Endos
The drum solo from the previous cut leads into this number, and again Hackett takes the song into different directions before leading it back into the "Squonk" ending. McDonald gets in a flute solo at the end, which makes one wonder if Gabriel would have done the same thing had he still been in Genesis in 1976.
Black Light
Hackett delves into his past here, with snippets from old Genesis songs such as "Blood on the Rooftops," "Unquiet Slumbers for the SleepersĀ" and "Cuckoo Cocoon." This piece shows that, among rock guitarists, Hackett's classical technique is unsurpassed.
The Steppes
This is a rather dark number, the music conveying a sense of barrenness or a harsh, rugged landscape as indicated by the title. The song stays true to form from its original appearance on 1980's "Defector" album.
I Know What I Like
Finishing off the concert part of the CD, Hackett likes to toy around with this number (such as the swing version on his "Watcher of the Skies" compilation CD). On this rendition the band gets a little funky, adding a touch of reggae to the beat to good effect.
Firewall
This is a studio number, a rather complicated instrumental that is served well by the keyboards. It's a hard-rocking number, suitable for inclusion on an action film soundtrack.
The Dealer
Another studio instrumental number, this one is a bit funkier, and the song sounds like something The Dregs might come up wit. However, Hackett is content on long, bending notes in his solos and melody rather than flash and fury.
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