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Steve Hackett - Genesis Revisited CD (album) cover


Steve Hackett


Eclectic Prog

3.41 | 306 ratings

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3 stars While Steve hadn't quite shunned his Genesis roots to the same extent as Peter Gabriel had in his own solo career, he hadn't exactly allowed himself to revel in his past either. When the nostalgia bug finally bit him in the mid-90s, though, he didn't take half-measures; this album contains 8 covers of recognizable tracks from the band's 70s albums, plus a reinvention of "The Waiting Room" (which is so different from the original that it gets a new title, "Waiting Room Only"), as well as an unfinished obscurity from the Selling England sessions. Far from wanting to do a straight tribute album, though, Steve decided to put enough of his own personal stamp on the material that the album would clearly be a Steve Hackett album; aside from throwing on a totally new track (the instrumental "Valley of the Kings"), the songs are often dramatically transformed from their originals, featuring heavy rearrangements and a list of guest stars ranging from Bill Bruford and John Wetton to the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Honestly, the fact that the songs are transformed from the originals isn't especially surprising to me; let us not forget that one of the main reasons Steve left the band was that he was tired of doing tracks in the same way with the same limited set of instruments and performers, so it makes sense that he'd try to incorporate some variety and a cast of thousands into the mix once he got to put his own personal stamp on the material.

So how is it? Well, I'll start by stating the obvious: this is an easy album to hate if you're coming to it straight from Genesis without acquainting yourself with Steve Hackett's solo career first. The opening "Watcher of the Skies" (with Wetton on vocals, Bill Bruford on drums and Tony Levin on bass) is done pretty faithfully to the original, aside from adding some unexpected electronic bloops and some orchestral bits in the instrumental passages near the end, but there are a lot of changes made to the other tracks, and generally not for the better. The album's biggest overall fault is that, aside from "For Absent Friends" (which is doubled in length and given some heft in the orchestrations, but still isn't a great song) and the closing "Los Endos" (apparently done live and with great bits thrown in like a quote of "Dancing With the Moonlit Knight"), none of the songs on here surpass their counterparts on the original studio albums. At best, these tracks make for interesting alternate versions that can be turned to once in a while, and at worst they're versions that would almost certainly never be considered if one wanted to hear the track in question. In short, for an album clearly targeted at old Genesis fans, this isn't exactly very kind to old Genesis fans.

Personally, I think the album actually leans more heavily towards the first group than the second group. Of the nine familiar tracks, the only two that I would be fine never hearing again are "Waiting Room Only" (which makes for an interesting, noisy experiment but isn't something I can pretend I enjoy) and, surprisingly, "Your Own Special Way" (which reaches its full potential as a schlocky adult-contemporary ballad, and which it had avoided becoming during the Wind and Wuthering sessions). Otherwise, for instance, I can at least find some enjoyment in "I Know What I Like" becoming a lazy reggae-ish shuffle when it's so obvious that it's a bit of a joke (remember, it was performing this track over and over that helped push Steve out of the band), especially in the silly bits in the middle when Steve starts introducing members of his "band" such as "mellotron strings" and "toy piano." It's nowhere near the original, of course, but this track is perfectly enjoyable to me as a silly gag.

The remaining familiar tracks are "Dance on a Volcano," "Firth of Fifth" and "The Fountain of Salmacis," and while none of them boast all of the strengths of their original counterparts, they're all interesting enough for me to want to hear them once in a while. "Dance" sounds like a total mess at first, starting with a lengthy introduction with bluesy-then-shreddy guitar lines over ominous synths before going into the recognizable portion, and then the main portion features distorted vocals and prominent slap bass parts that are nothing like anything in the original. And yet, while I do miss Phil's vocals, I also feel like Phil's vocals weren't one of the great strengths of the original, so while the vocals are somewhat of a step down, they aren't enough to completely subvert the song (which adds interesting touches and sounds less bland in the ending "lava overflowing" parts than the original did with Tony Banks leading the way). "Firth of Fifth" tinkers with one of the most perfectly constructed and perfectly arranaged pieces in prog history, so of course the mid-section, which strips out the flute and adds some eyebrow-raising twists (the synth/percussion battle is a little silly and doesn't fit in perfectly), won't be as pristine as in the original. And yet, I kinda like replacing the flute with classical guitar, and I like the glockenspiel in place of the grand piano, and there's still great guitar (taking the original part and reworking it in various ways), and dang it getting to 70% of perfection is still ok by me. And as for "The Fountain of Salmacis," while Steve's vocals (distorted and not) are nowhere near what Peter's were in the original (or even Phil's in the Three Sides Live version), I find myself drawn by all of the dancing flute parts in the quieter moments, and I don't especially mind the increased presence of Steve's guitar, and I like that the baseball organ keyboards in one of the breaks (really the only thing in the track that I disliked in the original) are gone. Again, it's not quite up to snuff, but I like this about 75% as much as the original, so that makes for a perfectly pleasant addition to my listening collection.

If there's a significant weak point in the album beyond "Waiting Room Only," "Your Own Special Way" and some small details here and there in tracks I've mentioned, it's in the two "new" tracks. The Selling England-era rarity, "Deja Vu," was originally worked on by Peter and Steve, but it's pretty clear why it didn't make it onto England. Paul Carrack (who also does the "Special Way" vocals) does his best imitation of Genesis-era Peter, but there isn't much in the way of vocals to speak of, and the track goes through long stretches of guitar parts that aren't especially inspired (with various other tacky arrangements thrown in here and there). And finally, "Valley of the Kings" doesn't speak highly for Steve's ability with instrumentals during this period; one of the synth lines near the beginning could have made for a useful portion of a good instrumental, but the bulk of the track is a bunch of underinspired guitar and overly pompous synth parts over a robotic beat, which is a problem for a track that lasts 6:30. This track is one of my least favorite Hackett pieces ever, on par with the worst stuff from his 80s synth pop albums, and it definitely hurts the album.

Despite the various weaknesses the album may have, I can still give it a *** rating without too much difficulty. As I said earlier, there are no tracks here that I prefer to their originals (whereas on Genesis Revisited II there are a few instances where I prefer those versions to the originals), and if somebody wants to find a potentially crippling weakness in every track they can, but most of these tracks have so much goodness at their cores that I can't let deviation in relatively small details completely derail my enjoyment. I'd only recommend about half of the album, but if you can find it cheap it's definitely worth a listen. Just make sure your expectations are set appropriately.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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