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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Steve Hackett

Tokyo Tapes

Review by Gary Hill

I like this set a lot. It’s classy. First we get the two CD set. That’s great in and of itself. They added a new studio recording. Two studio tracks were included on earlier editions of this, and those are both here, but there’s another new one. The entire live set is great. I love how sometimes the renditions of songs from Genesis, King Crimson and Asia (John Wetton is singing here and there is even a nod to his solo career) are sometimes quite faithful and other times break from the original quite a bit. The studio songs are also good. If they’d stopped there this would be a great set. But, they didn’t stop there. We also get a bonus DVD. This box set is great and comes highly recommended.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Watcher Of The Skies
As the lush keyboard sounds open this, it’s obvious we’re about to embark on a great musical journey. This Genesis classic gets a pretty faithful showing here. The vocals even call to mind Gabriel quite a bit. There are some lush musical moments and a little more modern sound on the rhythm section. I really love this version. I have to say that at times I prefer Wetton’s vocals to the original ones.
Riding the Colossus
As this opens it almost makes me think of Mike and the Mechanics a bit. It has that same kind of mainstream rock vibe. It works to more of a fusion element as they continue through this instrumental jam, though.
Firth Of Fifth
And here we get another Genesis classic. They change this one up quite a bit. The early sections are pretty faithful. Then it gets turned towards a more organic and symphonic sound. Some rather fusion-like moments emerge later. When it works out closer to the original version there is a bit more of a powerful bass line going on and the guitar seems a little crunchier.
Battlelines
Space rock and fusion seem to merge on the extended introduction here. Then it drops to piano for the first vocals. The cut builds out from there in a great rock ballad style. When this does power up more fully, it’s sort of a mainstream AOR progressive rock sound. This is basically a progressive rock power ballad. It’s got some great instrumental work and some dramatic and powerful evocative passages.
Camino Royale
This energetic jam has a lot of twists and turns. It is, for all intents and purposes a classically driven jazz song. The vocals sort of bring a bluesy jazz element to this. There are some moments that feel a little like Red era King Crimson. There’s a smoking hot harmonica solo section here, too, lending more blues. Some funk emerges at points, too. Some of the guitar soloing later really gets intense and it does work to a more mainstream prog section later.
The Court of the Crimson King
Speaking of King Crimson, here they turn their attention to one of the classic early Crimson tunes. This is a fairly faithful rendition and a good one at that.
Horizons
This pretty acoustic guitar solo works well in this position. It’s a reasonably short one.
Walking Away From Rainbows
This instrumental is fairly short, too. It’s also atmospheric and pretty.
Heat Of The Moment
Here the show turns to Wetton’s original Asia tenure. This classic Asia song gets reworked as an acoustic tune.
Disc 2
In that Quiet Earth
This classic Genesis piece gets served up in an arrangement that preserves the original melodies while lending a bit of a fusion sound it it.
Vampyre with a Healthy Appetite
Noisy, but quite tasteful, guitar soloing opens this piece. Then a little bit of electronic prog takes it as linking structure. From there a cool groove is heard for a short time. It drops to more pure electronic music for some processed vocals. The rocking groove returns after the vocals. The cut continues with various sections getting revisited and rethought. This is playful, quite modernistic and a bit weird.
I Talk to the Wind
Another early King Crimson track, they do a great rendition of this. It’s pretty true to the original Crimson version. Still, it seems a little more intense in some ways, too.
Shadow of the Hierophant
Ambient and almost robotic, yet melodic, sounds start this off. It grows up from there with dramatic atmospheric elements climbing upward. It has some dramatic melodic moments during this building process. Then the drums take a pretty intense solo. I’d have to say that for my ears, though, this solo lasts too long. Of course, it should be said that I’m not a big fan of drum solos. That solo takes it into the next tune.
Los Endos
As the drums continue to open it, the bass joins. Then guitar rises up and the familiar Genesis sounds emerge. They turn this out into quite a hard rocking fusion jam as they continue it. It works towards some seriously freeform Rock In Opposition type sounds before resolving out to the more standard Genesis arrangement. Even then, some jazz is still in the mix at times.
Black Light
This is an acoustic guitar solo that’s quite expressive. .
The Steppes
Flute starts this piece. That holds it for a time, but then stops. Then drums enter and keyboards over the top. After a short time the cut gets an infusion of powerful world music sound in the mix. It grows outward from there. This instrumental keeps shifting growing and changing. It’s powerful and pretty.
I Know What I Like
This starts off funky here. As it builds out it has the general Genesis trappings familiar with the tune, but it’s a much more modern kind of arrangement with a lot of funk and other sounds in the mix.
Firewall (studio recording)
This studio recording is powerful and pretty. It has a great transition from mellower to more rocking and then back down again. It’s quite a fusion based instrumental excursion.
The Dealer (studio recording)
I dig this jam a lot. There’s almost a Southern rock groove to it, but with progressive rock and fusion sounds driving it.
All Along the Watchtower (new studio recording)
I love this Bob Dylan cover. It’s powerful and soaring in terms of the instrumental work. John Wetton’s vocals are great. There are definitely nods to the Hendrix version here. Although, when you’ve got an electric guitar version of this song, how could there not be?
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