Genesis Revisited 2 – Steve Hackett and a cast of extreme musical finery
Well, having had a sneak preview of some of these reworked tracks at Steve’s home during a recent interview with Steve which will be published very soon on this website, I can tell you that the new adventure into the land of revisited is actually more magical than Steve’s first trip back in 1996.
Let me explain myself more clearly, whilst in 1996 Steve did indeed assemble an interstellar and in some cases more related to Genesis cast, some felt he had taken the music of Genesis too far in the sense of the pendulum swing. Yet here and now having had a glorious chance to hear a review copy and having visited it in more than one sitting I can assure you that Steve has swung that pendulum back and forth but in a less manical way.
The rich musical tapestry of those early Genesis songs remains rich, they are not defiled or defaced, shall we say – the experimentation is toned down a bit. Steve is more than a curator in a museum of his making, he is also a modern day interpreter. These are not clones but improvements, given that 21st century treatment without being dated by drum-machines or cheesy synthesizer keyboards. Also, all the while remaining intentionally unfaithful to the gear the originals were made with.
Whilst some of the 21st Century treatments may not be wholly organic they are tastefully applied but let me assure you it’s not a guitar hero album for the guitar hero playing generation. Other elements of each song are cleverly devised with a warmth or effect to help channel the thoughts of the mind closer to the original soundtrack to an unmade classical movie with the full aural Technicolor.
Whilst some of the following track choices are not what I would have chosen this is Steve’s dream, Steve’s vision therefore I shall sit down and receive each detailed description, But an opinion I will give so here follows.
The Chamber of 32 Doors (6:00)
An Acoustic guitar in a Spanish style opens the song followed by the electrical guitar work of someone who has added a bit more spice this time round!
Nad Sylvan announces each and every word perfectly but he is more than a Peter Gabriel mannequin, Nad is able and allowed to put a personal spin into each vocal delivery he sings this song with such a passion. The tubular bells go without a credit but the song has such a sonic presence and it’s been compressed purposely (and appropriately) to give it an aural affect which works so well, detail is rich in many places but you will have to listen more than once to locate it each time.
This song gives the listener a slight pointer as to how the rest of the Lamb Lies Down On Broadway could be reworked in the 21st Century rewarding style. (Hint to the Genesis guys)
A new spin on a piece that some may complain Steve has played to death throughout his career, but here recorded with a true Leslie Cabinet to give it an ethereal sound tastefully done and proof that there is life in a song you may have heard often. It is about time (like many others) that one of Steve’s staple set pieces be finally realised now on a record.
Supper’s Ready (23:35)
Twelve strings do sound far clearer in this new version of the story of Good verses Evil! Finger cymbals chime at a tasteful point and that’s just one of millions of parts that this detailed version of Supper’s Ready will bestow upon the ears and eyes of the mind.
With so many vocalists (Mikael Akerfeldt, Simon Collins, Conrad Keely, Steve Hackett, Francis Dunnery) I feel that the message of the song is lost somewhere maybe on the yellow brick road to OZ but they do come good in the end. Suffice to say elements of the vocal choices do indeed work – Steve’s eccentric Willow Farm works so well, it’s highly rewarding and funny! It adds to the characters in the piece without too much voice contorting by all involved.
John Hackett’s excellent work with the flute is so much more precise. Being a flautist he adds an elegance of gentleness to a rather bold body of work. Airy and necessary.
Apocalypse In 9/8 actually seems more powerful and gritty than the original, sadly I have to agree with another reviewer that Francis Dunnery’s excellent vocal work on As Sure As Eggs is Eggs (the as the river joins the ocean etc) is drowned a bit in the mix of electric guitar on my digital review copy. The vinyl version might not have it so buried, but TEJ have yet to hear it to compare.
I am not sure who to credit the old keyboard sounds/work to but whomever did so brought something magical a sort of foot in the past and a foot in the future which meant the song retains its Genesis feel.
This song is the true progressive rock yardstick and it still retains its prog credentials.
You know its magic when it doesn’t just chill the spine, bring goose bumps to the whole body but when you can shed a tear its hit a note – reviewer.
The Lamia (7:47)
Nik Kershaw’s voice is a very thoughtful choice here and he brings a wealth of experience with his vocals which is always perfectly balanced within the mix, the piano work is gorgeous and a delightful tribute to the original here Roger King has worked hard here to interpret the work of Tony Banks whilst sticking his own accent to it. This is another piece that has lifted well from the Lamb album.
Dancing With The Moonlit Knight (8:10)
An additional new prelude is gorgeous with Steve’s wonderful acoustic work on this classic piece servicing as a fitting preface to the vocal work of Francis Dunnery. Unfortunately, he tries hard on the first line to sound like Peter Gabriel before he relaxes and allows his own vocal talents to shine through to great splendour.
Some purists might bemoan the different and at times clear electric guitar work but lets face it this is a Genesis song reinterpreted by the Genesis lead guitarist who imagined his guitar parts all those years ago so he can reinvent it how he sees fit and he still keeps those spine tingling moments in for those that need it which include myself. This leads us to one of the debates we had here at TEJ about the album:
One of us agreed that if the person who wrote the line is the one still playing, it is their’s to see fit how it is played, however the other view was, was it a little too tidy? The guitar trill has been tidied up and the timing is more accurate now that Steve has matured, however some may find personally the original character of the notes has been lost in favour for accuracy and perfection. Whilst it could be seen as nitpicking it could be seen that the unique feel of the song has been diminished and the phrasing of the original recording has been sacrificed for perfect timing and tone. Just to bear that in mind. Again, we at TEJ failed to conclude on the point so thought we’d explain both sides of the argument.
The song still climbs up the musical hill of feeling and emotion, it’s mixed accordingly so nothing swamps anything else. Jeremy Stacey does very well on the drums here bringing something different than Steve’s regular drummer Gary but I can’t quite put my finger on it. The gentleness of the 12 strings and fine flute work by John Hackett add further depth and texture to this magnificent piece. This is something that is utilised as noted before on the album as a whole.
Fly On A Windshield (2:54)
Another piece from the Lamb which has been a part of Steve’s live repertoire on the last few electric tours. Gary O’Toole’s vocals come across refined and powerful. I imagine Gary did not have to sing and drum to this at the same time in the studio, hence more control over the vocals Gary delivers then richer and finer than I have ever heard previously.
Gary’s controlled yet energetic use of drums really drive the song along and give it that edge. Steve’s guitar work remains faithful in places whilst sounding more cleaner in the mix than ever.
Gary’s vocals narrate this piece so well sounding ever akin to observer. The lyrics talk about a skewed and distorted view on American counter culture and commercialism, then the vocal effect applied for the part that starts, “Ku Klux Klan serve hot soul food” is fantastic but better than that are the vocal effects applied to the line that begins, “Peach blossom and BITTER almond” the repeating Bitter is tastefully done and strikes a chord, the “Howard Hughes in Blue Suede Shoes” line could almost be Mick Hucknall style of soul singing in places. Gary does such a wonderful job to this piece bringing it to life whilst Steve remains quite faithful to the original in other respects. Our album highlight.
The Musical Box (10:57)
The Musical Box opens with a prelude which includes a well placed Musical box which fires into life and then stops. Nad Sylvan sings very well bringing his own personal touch to the song whilst sounding like Peter Gabriel and the backing vocals of Phil Collins but this isn’t a tribute band, this is Nad using elements of both Peter and Phil’s vocals whilst applying his own personal seal on it.
The flute work is again a joy for the ears and its mixed so that it can be appreciated rather than lost in the mix. Complex hi-hat work from Gary O’toole keeps the pace throughout the song.
Overall the song retains its vintage feel whilst visualised for the modern age the guitars are more precise and gritty driving the song along whilst Gary add’s some interesting percussive flourishes.
The strings sound so real, they must be! Having heard sampled strings and mellotron strings a few times in my lifetime the strings sound very real and if so they have been put to good use. We know that Steve used a lot of mix between mellotron sample strings, as well as processed live strings all layered together, as revealed in our upcoming interview.
The climatic bits are grand in scale and the gentle 12 string work before the “She’s a Lady” are warming and cosy. Nad Sylvan’s vocal work is inspiring especially the part were he harmonises with himself which adds more depth to the piece. The “Why don’t you touch me parts” and “ Now, now, now, now!!!” parts are powerful with some restrained mixing allowing Nad’s vocals to power through the electric guitar part fades in and is very clean sounding which is just what the piece needed a fitting end to a classic song.
Can-Utility And The Coastliners (5:50)
This is one of the Genesis songs I do not know well enough to review, sorry! It does sound quite nice regardless, however I can’t comment on it without feeling I’d not be forcing a review.
Please Don’t Touch (4:03)
Please Don’t Touch does not at first sound that dramatically different to the studio or various live versions that exist, but there is something extra from a rather normal start when the keyboards morphs into a distorted piano as it would do live.
Fine flute work again gives the piece extra dimension thanks to John Hackett. Energetic and inspired drumming with an added percussive element give this well worn live piece extra punch thanks to Gary O’Toole. My only moan is the piece becomes crowded towards the three quarter mark but then saves itself at the near end.
– Total: 73:20
Tracklisting Disc 2:
Blood On The Rooftops (6:56)
Starting the second disk with an extended nylon guitar introduction, this is a fairly faithful recreation to how Steve has performed this live with Gary O’Toole for many years. If anything it is elevated by the fact Gary has been able to sing this in a more controlled manner instead of behind the drum kit on the stage.
The added strings have the worn quality of the mellotron however they have the clarity of a real string section as well. The mixing on this is almost flawless; everything is exceptionally defined and clear. The soprano saxophone and flute (Rob Townsend) add so much more to the song because these were originally keyboard/mellotron on the original song.
It is great to finally have a studio version of Steve’s version of it. And it proves that the album isn’t just covers and copied versions. The subtle changes here work effectively and it fits well as the opening to the second disc. It feels refreshing.
The Return Of The Giant Hogweed (8:46)
The electric guitar work sounds beefier and brunter than the original almost as though its been compressed. Neal Morse tries hard to give this very wordy song a new life. Old organ sounds (perhaps Hammond c/o Sample Tank) add to the authentic feel of the original.
Neal Morse’s vocals do not lend well to Hogweed, feeling a little reserved and passionless. It is a shame though as a different song they would have worked well on.
This sounds more like a Steve Hackett solo piece rather than an adaptation of a Genesis song from A Trick of the Tail. There’s more bass in the thicker sounding vocal harmony, a bigger presence of rotary and resonating steel guitar and to top the end of the song off, a spookier vocal Theremin tone.
There is more going on underneath the entire track, however subtle and filling in gaps, yet perhaps maybe those gaps should have been left open at times – a question of debate.
This sounds a little Fleetwood Mac at times during the chorus, especially with Amanda sounding rather like Stevie Niks at times, which is gorgeous in my opinion and adds an interesting dimension to a song that had up until this point always been sung by a male voice.
Amanda makes this tale of getting old come to life with a really gorgeous vocal interpretation of this beautiful song.
Unquiet Slumbers For The Sleepers (2:12) and In That Quiet Earth (4:47)
There are exceptionally similar overall to their original counterparts. Maybe here I wish some of the Genesis Revisited 1 would have been employed. What is nice is the mix is full and balanced. They sound less ‘competing’ than the originals. Something that is odd for Steve, who could be accused of too much layering, here it feels much more appropriate and highlights the lead guitar and theremin type synth (on In That Quiet Earth). There are subtle differences but nothing drastically removed from the originals.
Whilst this is a beautiful song and its new interpretation isn’t that different from the original we just feel John Wetton could have been used better on something more meatier like Squonk which we feel suits his voice better rather than Afterglow and it would have been very lazy of us to suggest Simon Collins. Maybe Nik Kershaw could’ve had another airing on the album perhaps on this track.
A Tower Struck Down (4:45)
Originally on Voyage of the Acolyte and technically a non-Genesis song, it finds its place among this collection of songs well. Steve has opted for a braver rendition of the song, moving away from the synth and guitar heavy intro to a orchestral one. The opening starts with staccato strings, processed to sound in a small amp or radio, however it fades into the strings natural tone. However, personally it would have been nice to have conjoined from the radio strings, to the full band section without the fade to the natural strings. This would have had to mean the song would be shorter, nevertheless for the purpose of dramatic effect it would have been worth the cut. The song is overall fiercer, pummelling and distorted. Excuse the language, it sounds fucking great.
At the end it hints towards wooden bowed synths, sadly I am going to attempt to spoil the magic and reveal that I think it is probably an Apple Logic plug-in called ‘Scuplture’ that makes these wonderful noises as I believe I have stumbled upon the sound too. Regardless, a good touch to something from Steve’s repertoire.
Camino Royale (6:19)
Based on a disjointed dream that Steve had where he was back in Genesis and part of the writing team. Whilst part of the song includes a trip to New Orleans. Djabe add a Jazzier feel to the song which is finally realised and it really lifts this song with adventurous piano and brass arrangement.
Shadow Of The Hierophant (10:45)
Whilst not on a Genesis album, it was apparently shown to the guys, and Mike Rutherford holds a joint writing credit.
Appearing originally on Steve’s debut album, how has the 21st century treated it?
Well, it is faster for one.
Amanda Lehmann’s vocal and the change of guitar tone on the softer ‘verse’ sections makes the song less ‘metaphor for upper class countryside type sounding music…’ and more like Pentangle.
The overall production is different, layering reverbs under the drums and the overall song space. In fact, that could be said elsewhere for other songs. It gives it a Phil Spector feel at times, with the ‘Wall of Sound’. Not unpleasant, however I would have preferred a drier, closer song at times. The mix and compression of the song means that the quieter verses are also a lot louder than before. I hate comparing so brutally, but it really made the jar between the softer sections that much more apparent and yet blend beautifully so.
The flute on it by Rob Townsend has been made more apparent and again adds to the Pentangle edge. The ending segment doesn’t have the fuzziness of the original, instead relying more on Steve’s modern guitar tone. Different, yet complimentary.
– Total: 71:28
Further notes: Steve Hackett is releasing a compilation of the album in May with an additional track Carpet Crawlers with the main vocals performed by non other than Ray Wilson.
Carpet Crawlers (5:13)
Carpet Crawlers doesn’t go mad it is a rather faithful interpretation of the original but with Ray Wilson’s voice. The song opens with keyboards they sound like an Rmi electric organ perhaps taken from Sampletank? Steve’s ghostly spine chilling guitar is in the centre of the sound tastefully not what you would assume a guitarist would do! The way this has been produced Ray’s voice is the most prominent in the mix.
I swear there are Bass pedals on this track!
There is at least three voices in this towards the end we assume them to be Steve Hackett, Ray Wilson and maybe Nad Sylvan a fitting interpretation of this song and a nice addition to the gentle revisiting of this mighty catalogue of emotional postcards.
Overall the album highlights parts of the originals that are undernourished. What is a shame is maybe it lacks some of the experimentation on the original Genesis Revisited for fear of angering the ‘Purist’ mob. Also there always the unfortunate habit of the reviewer to be comparing them to the originals, however it is only natural to do so to justify the album at times. It is a shame, however if someone who has never heard the originals had reviewed the album it’d be a much more interesting review into the actual songs themselves. Nevertheless, you do what you can.
The album is tastefully mixed and arranged with little additions that are very ‘Hackettsian’ but rewarding.