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John Hackett

John Hackett Band - We Are Not Alone

Review by Gary Hill

This is an interesting double-CD set. The first is a studio album from John Hackett. The second is a live album. I think that studio set works better than the live one. To a large degree that's because the live album suffers a bit when Jeremy Richardson takes the lead vocal role. He seems to wander off-key a bit, and it doesn't work all that well for me. Still, the musicianship on both discs is top-notch. I think this set is well worth having if you dig progressive rock with a lot of fusion in the mix.

 

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
CD One: We Are Not Alone
              
Take Control

Flute starts this. They work out to some cool prog stylings from there. There is a lot of fusion in the mix here. More traditional prog rock is also part of the concept. It's a fairly fast paced number with quite a few changes. There are some killer instrumental passages. Then again, this track is over ten minutes long, so there is plenty of room for that. Around the five minute mark it works out to a movement that leans toward bluesy rock, but with a Pink Floyd kind of angle to it. Don't get used to it, though because they keep reinventing this thing with all kinds of changes and different modes.

Never Gonna Make a Dime

There is a lot of bluesy rock built into this. It has plenty of prog rock in the mix, too. I like this one a lot. It should be noted that John Hackett's brother Steve guest here - on harmonica.

Blue Skies of Marazion

A gentle piece of music, I love the intricate acoustic guitar on this. Of course, the keyboards and the flute add a lot of beauty, too. This instrumental doesn't go very far, but it doesn't need to because it lives in such a nice place.

Summer Lightning

There are big chunks of Beatles-like sound in this as far as I'm concerned. I can make out more of that Pink Floyd things, too. Overall, this is an intriguing number that has some fusion, too.

Queenie and Elmo's Perfect Day
This instrumental is pretty intriguing. It has a lot of shifts and changes. There is a great contrast between more rocking and mellower sounds. To me it lands perhaps more fully in the fusion end of the spectrum than a lot of the rest here. There is some amazing guitar soloing. I think this might be my favorite piece of the whole first disc. It's just so strong.
Castles
Blues and fusion merge on this number. It is another that does a great balancing act between the harder edged and mellower stuff. The guitar solo section on this at times makes me think of Carlos Santana. This number is another of the highlights.
Ossian's Lament
This number features some particularly intricate guitar work. There are some old world musical stylings here. It's a gentle cut with some great lush sounds over the top. The flute really brings a lot of magic to this.
Jericho
If there's a song here that I'd skip, this is it. It's just sort of a straight-ahead rocker. It doesn't work all that well for me.
Winds of Change
They definitely redeem things here. This is has some great flute playing. It's an instrumental with some intriguing prog rock shifts and changes. The moods it creates are on the mellow side at the beginning, but work out through bursts of passion and fire, particularly from there guitar soloing. This is arguably another fusion piece. This extended instrumental is effective and makes me think of Al Di Meola to some degree. It really gets fiery before it ends with a flourish of flute.
CD Two: Another Live
               
Another Life

This comes in with a dramatic mellower sound. The first vocals come in over the top of that. After those vocals this jumps out to faster paced, more powered up stuff. This is an intriguing cut. I'm not crazy about the vocals on this, but they sure pack some amazing music into it. It gets into some powerful fast paced jamming later that is particularly fiery.

Look Up
Musically I don't like this one as much as the previous cut. The vocals work a bit better, though. It has a nice balance between the mellower and more rocking stuff.
Life in Reverse
Now, I like this better than either of the two previous pieces. The vocals work better. It has a mellow prog meets fusion ballad sound.
Whispers
This jumps right out of the gate into fast paced prog rock jamming. It has a driving energy and intriguing arrangement. Again, the vocals miss a bit for me. The music manages a nice balance between rocking and mellower stuff.
Castles
They put in a great performance of this bluesy rocker here. The vocals work better than on some of the rest. The guitar solo is purely on fire.
Burnt Down Trees

I dig the folk meets prog meets jazz vibe on this number. It works pretty well in this live rendition. There are even some things here that make me think of Steely Dan. Still, other things go more toward pure fusion.

Queenie and Elmo's Perfect Day
I really like this live version of the instrumental. It has some great musical moments. There are some great shifts and changes here.
Poison Town
A mellow and melodic piece, this is classy. It's one of the more effective ones here. It makes me think of Dire Straits to some degree, but with more of a proggy element at play.
Satellite
I can make out some Dire Straits here, too. This is another mellow number.
Ego and Id
Now, this comes in with some scorching hot hard rocking stuff. It reminds me of Led Zeppelin in a lot of ways. The vocals, though, are definitely not in line with that. They bring more of a punk rock edge to it.
Continental Quilt
This piece is a drum solo. It's a solid one, but I'm not a fan of drum solos.
Libertango

I love the bit of a Latin jazz vibe that they impart to this instrumental. I really dig the flute soloing on this. There is some killer guitar soloing on this, too. It's a great fusion piece, and one of the highlights.

Overnight Snow
Coming in gentle and pretty, that does sort of resemble overnight snow, doesn't it?
Stella

More of a mainstream pop rock song, this is not at the same level as some of the rest. The vocals are a bit awkward here, and the cut just doesn't manage to shine.

Forest

Another that's a bit like a fusion meets soft rock song, this is more effective. It reminds me just a bit of Al Stewart.

Headlights
This more of a straightforward rocker. It's not one of my favorites, but it does have some smoking hot guitar soloing.
Dreamtown
A mellower piece, this is pretty and one of the better numbers here.
Magazine

Another that's more balladic, this is one that misses a bit in my opinion. There is a bit of a punk edge to it. The guitar soloing really shines, though.

Red Hair
This instrumental is packed with a nice combination of classical music and hard rock. It's a killer that calls to mind Jethro Tull a bit.
 
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