My Record Collection 124

Steve Hackett – Early Years.  The guitarist in the classical Genesis.  Peter Gabriel was in the process of leaving and during touring for ‘The lamb Lies Down’ Steve passed his time composing random pieces of music.  After Peter left he discovered that the remaining trio had grown closer and the songs for the next two Genesis albums tended to exclude his efforts.   Not that there was ever much acrimony, in fact Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins both played on Steve’s debut solo album Voyage Of the Acolyte (1975), which was released a full years before Steve decided to leave the band.  The random pieces were polished up into an album; Steve choosing to name each track after Tarot Cards, which of course bore no resemblance to the songs (well, it was the Seventies).  Anyway, the album was a surprise hit with the public, reaching 26 in the album charts.  Maybe this was because the sound harked back to the Genesis sound of Foxtrot and Nursery Crime.  Anyway, as an avid Genesis fan, I bought the album.  And was delighted; mostly instrumental because Steve was conscious that he had never sung on a Genesis album, even backing vocals.  Standout track is ‘Shadow of the Heirophant’ with it’s imfectious and gorgeous melody, shifts in pace and superb vocals by Sally Oldfield.  But in fact the whole album is superb.  It makes you think that really Steve Hackett was maybe the soul of Genesis, overshadowed as he was by Peter Gabriel’s vocals.  Other notable tracks are ‘Ace of Wands’ and ‘Hands of the Priestess’.  What a great debut album. 

Well, three years later and Steve had left Genesis and produced his second solo album Please Don’t Touch.  And what an album, really my favourite of all his records. Every track is different and brilliant.  And three different guest vocalists present the songs in such a gorgeous light.   Randy Crawford sings ‘Hoping Love Will Last’ a great soul track.  Richie Havens sings two songs, best of which is ‘How Can I’ possibly his finest composition – and oh that voice I remember so well from the film and album Woodstock.  But also some other great songs ‘Narnia’ and ‘Racing in A’, and a great instrumental; the title track itself.  Seriously, one of my very favourite records.   The following year he brought out Spectral Mornings, another great album.   No guest singers this time, though again Steve barely sang, leaving these duties to Pete Hicks.  He had formed a new touring band who recorded the album.  Some great songs – and again, such a variety, even in the same song; which was very Genesis.  Best songs ‘Every Day’, ‘Tigermoth’ (a WW1 tale) and ‘The Ballad Of The Decpmposing Man’, which is a comedy, almost throw-away track – but with an infectious melody and mock Northern vocals from Steve who also plays pipe organ and harmonica on the track.  There is also a Spanish Guitar track and a Japanese Koto instrumental and a superb guitar led title track to close the album; truly an accomplished record – but which somehow doesn’t quite have the warmth of its predecessor.   The following year saw Defector (1980).  Now, for whatever reason I never really liked this album, despite it being his best seller.  No accounting for taste of course, but I felt there were too many instrumentals and a harsher sound.  Still not so bad – best songs were ‘Time to get Out’ and. ‘Sentimental Institution’. 

Steve had toured continuously since joining Genesis and for three years as a solo artist and was exhausted.  He disbanded his backing group and took a three month break with his wife Kim Poor in her native Brazil.  Here he recovered and worked on songs with his keyboard player Nick Magnus for both a new album and a warmer more ‘Rock’ or even ‘Pop’ oriented style.  The resulting album’s title Cured (1981) says it all.  The album still retained a couple of heavier instrumental tracks , but more vocals, all by Steve himself now, and a gentle almost classical guitar track.  I much preferred it to Defector; it is warmer and the songs are better.  Favourites are opener ‘Hope I don’t wake up’, ‘Cradle of Swans’ and ‘Turn Back time’.   In 1983 Steve released Highly Strung.  Apparently he was having major difficulties with his record label Charisma, and the recording sessions were fraught.  However, the album is really good; a bit rockier than most and some good tunes.  Favourites are ‘Camino Royale’, ‘Cell 151’ and ‘Walking through Walls’.  Then after one more album I didn’t get Steve seems to have stopped recording for a few years, not sure why…I missed out on a couple but resumed in 1993

Spectral Mornings (Remastered 2005)

My Record Collection 123

Groove Armada   Introduced to me by my daughter Laura, who loves dance music. The record she bought me was Vertigo (1999)  , and I was immediately entranced; the band are really a duo, who are supplemented both in the studio and live by other musicians, and most notably vocalists.  Vertigo was actually their second album and very accomplished it is.  It features the singles ‘I See You Baby’ and ‘At The River’ (which has been used in many adverts and documentaries).  It is really quite varied too, with a handful of fast funky infectious tracks like ‘Chicago’ and some slower songs like the sublime ‘At the River’.  A lovely album; I especially love the use of the trumpet, sometimes muted and sometimes bleating.  The following year they brought out ‘Goodbye Country, Hello Nightclub’ – which was supposed to be a more clubby record, but there were still some bucolic tracks, in fact the last few tracks are all quite slow.  Best songs were the huge hit ‘Superstylin’ and the charming ‘My Friend’.  I must admit that the simply instrumental tracks left me wondering….just a groove with no direction home.  Next up is Black Light (2010).  It seems that Groove Armada were on half working time, barely producing anything new for a few years.  Black Light (2010) is my next album of theirs.  And a very disco-ish record it is, lots of female vocals (and even a track sung by Brian Ferry).  Very dancey but almost all the same beat throughout, almost as if it is the same song really. Best tracks – ‘Warsaw’ and ‘History’ – but nothing really like their earlier stuff.    I also have a double album 10 YR Story – which is basically remixes of some of their old songs.  Quite nice, especially disc 2 which is all slow stuff. ; a lovely long version of ‘Blue Skies’.  But probably only for hardcore fans.  And of course the obligatory Greatest Hits, which is sometimes all you need.  This record would be great for a dancey party, but listening on your own ?  Not so great.

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