Broken Skies – Outspread Wings – 1984 to 2006 Boxset

Steve Hackett has dabbled with this box set format before with the release of Premonitions, focusing on his Charisma Records career era. This box set picks up from what happened next when Steve parted ways and he started his journey on the record label Lamborghini Records which was founded in England by Patrick Mimran.

Steve would go onto sign with a variety of record labels including Start and Permanent as well as Caroline in the USA, eventually forming Camino Records which is where the bulk of this material comes from in terms of period in time. Some of these albums have been rereleased on his current label Wolfwork, but this is the first time that they have been remastered and placed into a box set with bonus materials.

Before we get into the review, we had a very quick chat with Steve about this box set, kindly arranged by the lovely Jo!

TEJ:  Can you tell me why Bay Of Kings, Momentum, Sketches Of Satie, Metamorphous and Tribute are not included on this box set?

SH: These are different because they are classical albums and deserve a box set of their own at some point soon.

TEJ: Is there a reason why there is an absence of live audio material this time?

SH: There is live material with the video “Somewhere in South America”, a whole concert filmed in Argentina. There are also never seen before videos of three songs originally recorded during the era of the box set. But this is not a comprehensive live recordings box set. We’ll revisit live recordings from the era at another time.

TEJ: Will you be doing more Surround Sound work on this catalogue in the future?

SH: No plans at present but possibly down the line.

TEJ: What inspired you to commission Roger Dean to provide the unique art for this box set and previously Premonitions?

SH: I have always admired Roger Dean’s artwork. He has a sensitivity to the subject and his beautiful paintings are perfect for these retrospective box sets.

We left Steve and Jo to it as they were in the middle of a hectic tour, involving not only the regular electric band but also a 41 piece orchestra.

Broken Skies Outspread Wings is the second career spanning boxset from Steve Hackett

We have to declare that as avid fans of Steve, we have pretty much every album collated in this box set. Therefore our review will therefore look more closely at the Surround Sound material, the bonus material, the 60 page book and the additional concert from Argentina filmed in 2001.

The first thing to note is that all of the albums included here have been remastered this year (2018).

Disc: 1 – CD Til We Have Faces 

1. Duel
2. Matilda Smith-Williams Home For The Aged
3. Let Me Count The Ways
4. A Doll That’s Made In Japan
5. Myopia
6. What’s My Name
7. The Rio Connection
8. Taking The Easy Way Out
9. When You Wish Upon A Star

 

 

 

 

 

Sadly, Just The Bones from the vinyl single, A Doll That’s Made in Japan was not added because Steve feels that it’s an undeveloped piece. It’s a shame, but the reasoning is understandable.

Disc: 2 – CD Feedback 86 

1. Cassandra
2. Prizefighters
3. Slot Machine
4. Stadiums Of The Damned
5. Don’t Fall
6. Oh How I Love You
7. Notre Dame Des Fleurs
8. The Gulf
9. When The Heart Rules The Mind 2018

 

 

 

 

 

Disc: 3 – CD Guitar Noir – (Bonus material in bold)

1. Sierra Quemada
2. Take These Pearls
3. There Are Many Sides To The Night
4. In The Heart Of The City
5. Dark As The Grave
6. Lost In Your Eyes
7. Little America
8. Like An Arrow
9. Theatre Of Sleep
10. Walking Away From Rainbows
11. Paint Your Picture
12. Vampire With A Healthy Appetite
13. Tristesse
14. Sierra Quemada (Demo) 
15. Take These Pearls (Rough Mix) 
16. In The Heart Of The City (Original Version) 
17. Vampire With A Healthy Appetite (Demo)

Sierra Quemada demo is a such a delight even with the drum machine percussion you can see what Steve was trying to do and this is close to the finished version but more daring I would say. Vampire With A Healthy Appetite demo was great addition as the song has always been a personal favourite. This demo version is two whole minutes shorter than the album version. It feels like an earlier version of the song, but with slightly less bold but stiff guitar playing that would later be loosened up for the album version. The timing of the percussion is the same but clearly was reprogrammed and then dubbed with acoustic drums to add a more natural feel. The vocal effects on Steve’s voice are the same as the finished version. Some of the keyboard patches have changed or been deleted entirely and in some cases that’s not a bad thing, the changes work for the better on the album but it’s nice to hear how it progressed. Obviously these were released on the 1998 version of the album, but it’s nice to hear them again included on this box set.

Disc: 4 – CD Darktown –  (Bonus tracks in bold)

1. Omega Metallicus
2. Darktown
3. Man Overboard
4. The Golden Age Of Steam
5. Days Of Long Ago
6. Dreaming With Open Eyes
7. Twice Around The Sun
8. Rise Again
9. Jane Austen’s Door
10. Darktown Riot
11. In Memoriam
12. Flame 
13. Comin’ Home To The Blues 
14. Fast Flower 

 

 

Wow, what a surprise to hear Flame, Comin’ Home To The Blues and Fast Flower. Out of those three I would say that Comin’ Home To The Blues certainly should have been on an album but I am not sure Darktown would have been an ideal choice, hence why it was not on the European and North American versions, although Steve certainly writes and records a credible Blues song here. Fast Flower is brilliant at showing another side of Steve. Deceptively simple at first yet rewarding upon repeated listens. Concurrently I feel that Darktown was not a suitable home for it which could explain why it was not included on the European and North American versions. The bonus songs appeared on the 2013 reissue although Comin’ Home To The Blues was on the Japanese release in 1999. Sadly the bonus song then titled “Well At The Worlds End” has not made an appearance this time.

Disc: 5 – CD To Watch The Storms (Track in bold originally a Japan only track)

1. Strutton Ground
2. Circus Of Becoming
3. The Devil Is An Englishman
4. Frozen Statues
5. Mechanical Bride
6. Wind, Sand And Stars
7. Brand New
8. This World
9. Rebecca
10. The Silk Road
11. Pollution B
12. Fire Island
13. Marijuana Assassin Of Youth
14. Come Away
15. The Moon Under Water
16. Serpentine Song
17. Reconditioned Nightmare
18. If You Only Knew

Traditionally the bonus track Flame (featured on Darktown 2018) has appeared on the Japanese released To Watch The Storms, in its place is the rerecording of the song Air Conditioned Nightmare, titled Reconditioned Nightmare, although that actually appeared on the Japanese version of Wild Orchids. It is entirely possible that it was originally rerecorded in the same album sessions as To Watch The Storms.

Disc: 6 – CD Wild Orchids

1. Transylvanian Express
2. Waters Of The Wild
3. Set Your Compass
4. Down Street
5. A Girl Called Linda
6. Blue Child
7. To A Close
8. Ego And Id
9. Man In The Long Black Coat
10. Cedars Of Lebanon
11. Wolf Work
12. Why
13. She Moves In Memories
14. The Fundamentals Of Brainwashing
15. Howl
16. A Dark Night In Toytown
17. Until The Last Butterfly

 

The surround sound mix of the following songs really brings value to the box set, for those of us who pretty much have the stereo versions of the albums already.

Disc: 7 – DVD – 5.1 Audio

1. Wolfwork
2. Set Your Compass
3. Cedars Of Lebanon
4. Brand New
5. Serpentine Song
6. Circus Of Becoming
7. When the Heart Rules The Mind 2018

The surround sound treatment when applied to albums you have listened to many times, can provide the listener with a new extra dimension of being in the music so to speak. With studio songs I prefer surround sound to place me in the centre of the action, as though I was in the middle of a circle and the band were at the outer edges. Some surround work really brings this to life with plenty of rear channel action.

Serpentine Song, not only places the listener into the centre of the music and the sound, but somehow brings to life elements that were mixed far lower on the stereo original. The vocals now are clearer and take centre stage. There is distinctive percussion or percussion effects depending on whether Gary was let loose or Roger found some very good percussion samples out of the box. Furthermore there is a Mandolin which is now more prominent in the mix adding to the tranquil moments within the song.

Circus Of Becoming, follows the same mixing style as Serpentine, the listener is placed into the centre of the sound. With the now famous sample of an Optigan (latterly used by Paloma Faith – Upside Down) now more prominent in the mix, there is a reverb of sorts in the rear channels along with more audio.

Brand New, is the best nod to Queen that anyone has ever created. At first I thought my reviewing system was not toppy enough as in the treble was too low, when I made some comparison tweaks Brand New sounded great, although you would get the same effect if you turned your home cinema system up into a louder volume, but not too high! The mix of this song has some great placement and the effects, such as phasing on the vocals and backwards guitars are enhanced by the surround mixing. This song I felt was the best of the lot in terms of Surround mixes, despite the fact I am familiar with both To Watch The Storms and Wild Orchids.

I would say though that Roger seems to have been a bit conservative with the use of the rear channels for mixing, I personally prefer more rear channel action that gives the listener a more immersive experience. I personally think that there could have been an alternative list drawn up for the surround mixes with the following:

Down Street, Ego and ID, Mechanical Bride, Darktown, The Devil Is An Englishman, Waters Of The Wild, In Memoriam.

Bonus – Visual

8. Mechanical Bride (Paris 2009)
9. Rainbows (Cologne 2011)
10. Rise Again (Offenbach 2017)

Those visual bonus’ from Paris, Cologne and Offenbach are an excellent bonus in particular when you consider they were filmed by Volker and latterly edited by Michaela Ix. They bring a higher standard of visual element when compared to the Buenos Aires DVD. Mechanical Bride is always a worthy addition to Steve’s live set, a fan once remarked that it sounded like Steve’s take on King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man. It may well do, it’s a protest song and it’s nice to see it again. Rise Again is rarely performed live, seeing it in a different live setting compared to the officially released DVD, is another gem. Although one thing to note is that all three songs were located in private hands before Steve commissioned them onto this box set, so a real rare treat.

Disc: 8 – DVD – Live in Buenos Aires 2001

1. The Floating Seventh
2. Mechanical Bride
3. Medley
4. Serpentine Song
5. Watcher Of The Skies
6. Hairless Heart
7. Firth Of Fifth
8. Riding The Colossus
9. Pollution
10. The Steppes
11. Gnossienne #1
12. Walking Away From Rainbows
13. Sierra Quemada
14. The Wall Of Knives
15. Vampire With A Healthy Appetite
16. A Tower Struck Down
17. Lucridus
18. Darktown
19. Camino Royale
20. Intros
21. In Memoriam
22. Horizons
23. Los Endos

This is the concert DVD filmed at the Teatro Coliseo, Buenos Aires, Argentina on the 1st July 2001.

The concert DVD is a nice addition, whilst the band look lovely and youthful and the material certainly is more solo orientated, which is a treat in the Genesis Revisited live show age. The source material is very standard definition and sadly this shows. Although, the Italian documentary filmed during the July 2000 Italian electric tour, is of exceptional quality and this transferred over nicely. Unless I am mistaken it feels longer than the original release, again it was funny to see current band members as their younger selves, and a rare sighting of Phil Mulford and Ben Castle. On a final plus point it was lovely to see bassist Terry Gregory on stage during the Buenos Aires show, whom I personally have missed from Steve’s live shows.

Summing up

To summarise, this box set certainly suits those who are new to Steve’s solo work, or those who drifted away when the Charisma era ended in 1983 and who now might like to catch up with what Steve has done since. If you already have the included albums, aside from some of the bonus tracks on Guitar Noir, Darktown and To Watch The Storms. Or the Live in South America DVD then this might not be for you, even though the three additional live tracks filmed between 2009 and 2017 are a brilliant addition seen here for the first time. So its up to you the buyer! The Roger Dean artwork is in keeping with the theme from the previous box set Premonitions, whilst never before seen photographs from fans or newly commissioned for the booklet appear and add a complimentary touch. Sadly the booklet lacks much in the way of textual detail surrounding the albums or Steve’s memories of the sessions for each albums, a pity really. But the lyrics and writing credits are there in full.

Our special thanks to Steve and Jo Hackett for the mini interview at a busy time, Sharon Chevin for all things at The Publicity Connection.

To purchase the box set from Steve Hackett’s official webstore please click HERE

To purchase the box set from Amazon UK please click AMAZON

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