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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Steve Hackett

Voyage of the Acolyte

Review by Steve Alspach

After the sprawl of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, the subsequent 102-date tour, and Peter Gabriel's departure from Genesis, one could understand the band's willingness to go on a prolonged vacation and take stock of their future. Fortunately, they didn't exactly sit still all that time. Steve Hackett took the time to record his first solo album. It was a wise move. Not only was it an indication that Genesis was more than a lead singer and four backing musicians, it was in indication of Hackett's contribution to the band, and served as an extremely solid bridge between The Lamb? and A Trick of the Tail. The Hackett trademark of encompassing a wide range of musical moods is displayed here as styles run the gamut from neo-baroque to fusion rock. Some 27 years after its release, the album still holds its own as one of the best in the Genesis family catalog.

The personnel for this album is: Steve Hackett, acoustic and electric guitars, mellotron, harmonium, bells, autoharp, vocal, and effects; John Hackett, flute, ARP synthesizer, and bells; Mike Rutherford, bass guitar, bass pedals, and fuzz 12-string; Phil Collins, drums, vibes, percussion, and vocals; John Acock, Elka Rhapsody, mellotron, harmonium, and piano; Sally Oldfield, vocal; Robin Miller, Oboe and cor anglais; Nigel Warren-Green, cello; Percy Jones, bass; and Johnny Gustafson, bass.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Ace of Wands
This powerful bit of fusion gets the album off to a galloping start. The song switches quickly between moments of hard rock in 7/4 and acoustic playing. Hackett uses a tumbling guitar riff to excellent effect during the first half of the song. The second half goes into another hard 4/4 rock mode, Hackett's guitar taking the melodic lead.
Hands of the Priestess, Part I
This is a wonderful, romantic piece with acoustic guitar, flutes, and mellotron. The flute takes the first melody, while an acoustic guitar almost replicates a harpsichord. An electric guitar offers a response melody to the flute.
A Tower Struck Down
The mood turns dark in a hurry on this number. A menacing, plodding riff runs throughout. Towards the end chaos ensues - a nightmarish synthesizer, a moment of random noise, and the sounds of a Nazi rally before "The Tower" collapses in a wall of sound. A mellotron plays dirge-like chords, and a guitar lays down a simple, echoing lament.
Hands of the Priestess, Part II
Apparently all is well in the land again. The original theme appears again and Hackett closes out with a solo on electric guitar that maintains a hint of melancholy.
The Hermit
Hackett makes his singing debut here, and to good effect. This song has a simple arrangement, anchored by acoustic guitar and cello.
Star of Sirius
Phil Collins sings lead on this piece. The arrangement on the opening is very autumnal, with oboe, acoustic guitar, and mellotron all used to good effect. The chorus kicks into a lively rock mode, and Hackett uses this manner to close out the song.
The Lovers
"The Lovers" is a short ambient instrumental piece. It starts with a delicate nylon-string guitar piece, and ends with backwards-taped movement that still maintains its melodicism.
Shadow of the Hierophant
This sprawling piece has two parts to it. In the first section, there is a tug-of-war between a powerful, gothic-like "chorus" and a light-as-air verse structure. Using Sally Oldfield to sing the verses is a stroke of genius, and the result sounds something like a small chamber orchestra with the acoustic guitar and flutes. Then, boom! The "response", with Collins' emphatic drums and Hackett's bending guitar lines, jolt the listener. The second segment of the composition, after an instrumental bridge, starts with nothing more than a glockenspiel in a slow 3/4. Then Hackett joins in ever so quietly, playing the same lead line, but it soon becomes apparently that he's not alone - he brings in bass, keyboards, and drums, and the result is an emphatic finale to the album.
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