Steve Hackett’s latest offering, “Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth”, reaffirms an artist who simply cannot be tied down to one genre or another. Yet the album is another level of musicianship in the face of adversity.
Steve and his long time musical cohort Roger King have recorded and mixed most of the album in Steve’s front room. In fact the album was mainly recorded onto an Apple G5 with Roger King using Apple’s “Logic” recording software.
The album itself is similar to the two previous eclectic rock album’s Steve released in recent years such as the 2003 release “To Watch The Storms” and the 2006 release “Wild Orchids” although they’re are also elements of the 1999 release “Dark Town”.
From the moment you listen to the album, the amount of changes from an Electric six string guitar to an Acoustic six string, subsequently morphing into a 12 string – all within the same song – is staggering. Steve also couldn’t resist throwing in some backwards guitar and an electric sitar on the album as well.
You can expect so many influences from Spanish Flamenco roots to Middle Eastern scales. Personally I feel this keeps it fresh and more appealing to the listener, than say a generic beat over some soppy lyrics that seem to make up the majority of all “rock” albums churned out today.
I CAN ONLY PERSCRIBE REPEATED PLAYING OF THE ALBUM.
Judging from comments I have read in various interviews this album should be a lot easier for Steve to play live unlike a lot of “Wild Orchids” which at one point has over 212 tracks of instruments to make one song which would be vastly hard and expensive to reproduce live.
There is a theme of Railways/Tube trains with the title of some of the songs and the tour but it is a loose theme so don’t expect to hear songs about The Flying Scotsman or the Mallard, The name of the album is more to do with Steve seeing the light of the tunnel after quite an emotionally dark period of his life.
FIRE ON MOON
An interrupted scream and that musical box which was used in “A Dark Night in Toy Town” (Wild Orchids) with Steve singing, “I feel like I’ve been the finest fool” followed by echoed cries of “War!” dragging us with him into the chorus. Oodles of aggression shines through in the instruments a bit like a modern day version of his stage classic “Clocks”.
Steve shows off his skills with the acoustic guitar and Roger shows his talents as a producer, I believe former members of “The Underworld” Orchestra make an appearance, and then the song turns into a Flamenco Frenzy before turning into a Rock Rhythmic assault complete with Steve giving his long time fans the full Sustain treatment, and Latin percussion sort adding to the frenzy jumble of genres before turning a bit sinister thanks to the Orchestra. However the change in styles isn’t an irritant, instead Steve is able to elegantly fashion them together.
EMERALD AND ASH
“Sugar Plum Fairies” and “Smiling Dolls Wield the Sharpest Blade” seem to haunt the opening of the song, this could be another Anti drug song which Steve seems to quite good at or another element of his marital breakdown “She staked her claim to the Lions share”. The percussive element of the song pushes the listener onwards on an aural conveyor belt until the song turns into a sinister fragment, it then returns to that pushing rhythm and some more lyrics, which are unsettling. With some lovely sustained guitar taking central stage, this song really pushes the listener into the menacingly manic “Tubehead”.
This song is not about the Tube. I suspect it’s more geared towards Valve Amps. This is in fact a good reason to stretch out Steve’s playing and the range of usage of guitar effects and pedals along with Gary O’toole’s drumming and Nick Beggs on Chapman Stick. Starting with a screeching sustain, the bass and guitar riffs kick in. On a runaway train, pummelling down a track, the song is reminiscent of Buckethead’s style, especially the section about 1minute 17 seconds in that uses a kill switch and phaser pedal to modulate. Crazy tapping and a variety of metal/rock styles all blended into a sheer chaotic song. Head Bangers try first.
An acoustic guitar is played with shimmering strings on the opening of the track, the strings seem to become more involved in the mix it initially sounds like a piece from Steve’s Metamorphous and Tribute albums, then the song changes with a pitch change and electric guitar just for effect though it isn’t domineering as the acoustic guitar is still quite clear in the mix. Think Ok Computer meets Trains by Porcupine Tree.
I believe Steve received a text message from his Brother John’s long time lyricist (Nick Clabburn) “All the sleepers send you their dreams” which inspired Steve to write this song.
Backwards/swelling guitar with furiously reverb drumming with a manic Steve singing and then a gong, then the Sustain comes along to colour the song with muted trumpets quite an assault on the senses. “Sleepers” is not asleep!
GHOST IN THE GLASS
This sets a calming mood at first with almost pastoral acoustic guitar and birds singing, all seems to drift along nicely then brushes seem to spring to life with an electric guitar providing sustain here which soars along with an orchestra and the occasional cymbal flourish.
Steve’s stab at Blues with a touch of Rock, this is the hauntingly brilliant “Still Waters”. Stamping his own voice on the proceedings rather than the tribute he gave to Johnny Cash on the song “Man in a Long Black Coat” which appeared on the Wild Orchids album.
The female harmonising on this is brilliant too again reminding us at what a catch Roger King is as a producer.
Steve continues to impress the listener with tasteful electric guitar work, although I think he has been multi tracked a little on this.
LAST TRAIN TO INSTANBUL
Steve managed to transport us from the swamps of the Louisiana to the most Eastern side of Europe here is a very ethically charged journey through Turkey.
Excellent Sitar playing on this which gives it a rather authentic feel, add the violin or fiddle amongst other instruments all of which weave the aural tapestry.
Steve has done it again he has avoided any chance of being pigeon holed whilst providing the listener with a stunning album. When you consider it all came together in his living room the amazement at what Steve and Roger King and their team of recruits came up with is a testament to the quality of the production.
BONUS Disc 2
LIVE Spring 2009 Italian tour
Blood On The Rooftops
Gary O’Toole’s singing has improved a lot since his first outing with this fantastic Genesis classic; here again Steve and his band bring faithful life to this classic
A Tower Struck Down
Just how Steve manages to top himself is unknown; this version is actually better than the live version that appeared on his Live album from 2003! Bass Pedals to number Eleven!!!!!
Firth Of Fifth
Roger King shines here with a full Piano intro here at long last, truly faultless! Here Gary actually sings the whole lot too! Genesis fans truly spoiled!
Fly On A Windshield
A Blistering start to this track, with some interesting bass clearly audible in the song a different spin than the live version Steve recorded back in 2004!
Broadway Melody of 1974
Gary O’Toole simply hits every right note and feel on this, as Steve mentioned in an interview with me he really likes the way that Gary sings the line “There’s Howard Hughes in Blue Suede SHOEEEZZZAAA! Like Blues Singer! Whilst drumming!
Bonus Studio track
Every Star In The Night Sky
This gem starts with Steve playing acoustic guitar, perhaps a nylon strung affair, to what sounds like a amphitheatre on his own, alas the mood changes as though Steve summons up the Gods and it transforms into an Electric guitar and elements of the album appear as though it is a dream. Some of its pleasant moments and other bits are stark and dark at times they become too much for the dream then it becomes all good and calm but not before a romp through Steve’s guitar playing all in all its an excellent piece that I return to time and time again. This is an album that captures a reenergised Steve Hackett! There is no dud track on here!
For more information please visit the official Steve Hackett site where you can also order the new album and this version with the Bonus Disc.www.hackettsongs.com