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Steve Hackett - To Watch The Storms (special edition)

Steve Hackett - To Watch The Storms (special edition)It’s been approximately four years since Hackett’s last studio prog release, Darktown, and armed with a new band as seen on the Live in South America DVD (yes, we’ve had it for months now and still not reviewed it), To Watch The Storms has been awaited with much anticipation.  Would it be on par with his early albums?

Well, the answer is it’s different, as all new albums should be.  That said, the music contains the Hackett trademarks, which those with long memories will recognise.  There are the whimsical tracks, acoustic tracks, folk, prog, jazz and heavy rock tracks.  Quite a mix.  But there’s also a certain feel and sound to the production that harks back to early Hackett solo material giving an unexpected ‘Voyage’ touch.

This isn’t another Voyage of the Acolyte, Please Don’t Touch, Spectral Mornings or even Defector but is not without elements of these albums.  I have a tendency, as many do, to have unrealistically high expectations of new albums by favourite ‘old school’ artistes.  Consequently, I was disappointed when I first heard To Watch the Storms, expecting to hear more of the hard edge of the Hackett of old.  Subsequent plays turned that disappointment into pleasant surprise, finding the aforementioned elements and realising that this album has hidden depths and is not devoid of the occasional aggressiveness.

CDs spoil us.  In the days of vinyl, albums lasted on average 35 minutes making it easier to get ones head round the music as a whole.  Many CDs contain over 60 minutes of music, sometimes ‘because they can, sometimes because the music is relevant to the album.  The standard jewel cased version of this album consists of 13 tracks.  The special edition, which comes in the form of a 40 page hard back book with illustrations by Kim Poor and Hackett’s sleeve notes for every track, has four bonus tracks but strangely, they are merged in with the other tracks, not just tagged onto the end of the album begging the question ‘why?’.

Hackett’s band is pure class.  Being, as they are, jazz oriented musicians, Steve has sensibly allowed them a freer reign resulting a fluid and lively sound.  It is good to see John Hackett (flute) guesting on one track and Ian McDonald (sax) on another.  Time will tell if we will ever see a return of Steve Hackett on the (UK) provincial theatre circuit once again, but if sales for TWTS do it justice, maybe there’s an outside chance.  I can dream can’t I?!

Jem Jedrzejewski

Steve Hackett


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