CD 1: Hammersmith Odeon - London 30/06/79
Intro (2:00), Please Donít Touch (5:46), Tigermoth (3:37), Every Day (7:29), Narnia (4:36), The Red Flower of Tai Chi (4:03), Ace Of Wands (7:23), Carry On Up The Vicarage (3:33), Etude in A min (0:37), Blood On The Rooftops (0:18), Horizons (1:58), Kim (2:36), The Optigan (1:29), A Tower Struck Down (3:30), Spectral Mornings (6:57)
I am aware of the fact that most prog-fans only know Steve Hackett from his work with Genesis. If this is the case with you, you have the opportunity with this box-set -spanning 3 decades- to fill a hiatus in your prog-collection. Steve Hackett has been out of Genesis three times longer than he has ever been in that group and he has made quite some prog-classics in his own right since then.
The first two discs consist of a 1979 concert in London. At the time, Hackett had released three solo albums and it's no surprise most of the material in the set is his own. Some pointed out to me that the sound on these discs (and the third one) is not perfect, but I still think the sound is very good considering the fact that these are no professional multitrack-recordings. Especially the drums by John Shearer and Hackett's guitars are very clear. They're in any case honest recordings with lots of atmosphere.
The concert kicks in with a 'slightly rearranged' Please Don't Touch, a haunting instrumental with a interesting combination of howling guitars and flute. Most tracks on the live albums have undergone some slight changes, which makes it even more interesting to listen to these recordings several times. It takes away any complaint about duplicate versions of some tracks in the box-set.
One of the tracks that underwent some changes is Tigermoth, which certainly is a fierce and intense track. The contrast with the romantic nature of Every Day is quite big. The harmonies of Hackett and singer Peter Hicks work very well. The extended guitar-solo at the end is simply stunning.
The following track, Narnia, was originally sung by Kansas' Steve Walsh on Please Don't Touch, but Hicks handles it very well in this version as well. I always found the album a bit inconsistent, as result of the many singers and different styles. Fortunately, in the live version, all the tracks fit together very well. Even the Chinese sounds of The Red Flower, beautifully recreated by John Hackett on flute and Nick Magnus on keyboards, are no dissonant. A fast version of Ace Of Wands is one of the highlights of this disc. The great bass-line, played by Dik Cadbury comes out very clear. Because of it's directness, I think I prefer this version to the original.
After the rather weird Carry Up On The Vicarage, a piece of classical music shows a side of Hackett that was to be explored on later albums like Bay of Kings and Momentum. Etude in A minor leads into two short acoustic snippets of Genesis-songs, Blood on the Rooftops and Horizons. This acoustic block is finished with Kim, a beautiful love-tune for his wife.
A strange improvisation on an instrument called The Optigan gives room for some audience participation, leading directly into the loud and powerful A Tower Struck Down, which initial rhythm-structure vaguely reminds me of Apocalyps in 9/8. The following is very hectic and not suitable for mothers and girlfriends.
The beautiful, romantic Spectral Mornings (speaking about contrasts!) is the last track of this disc. Together with Ace of Wands and Every Day, this is one of the highlights of this CD.
CD 2: Hammersmith Odeon - London 30/06/79
Star Of Sirius (10:16),
Shadow Of The Hierophant (9:35),
I Know What I Like (8:50),
Wardrobe Boogie (5:02),
Racing In A (10:15),
Racing In A Coda (2:06).
After the Introduction of the band, the beautiful harmonies of the Star of Sirius show the strength of this line-up. This 10-minute long epic of Voyage of The Acolyte, originally with Collins and Rutherford, comes closest to Hackett's work with Genesis. It takes us along different atmospheres, with nice verses and long instrumental passages and I could imagine it having a place on Wind and Wuthering.
The same is the case with Shadow of the Hierophant. A great track with variations, ranging from melodic to more psychedelic sections.
Hand-clapping accompanies the intro of Clocks, another example of mr. Hackett's more ferocious musical sides. Low synth and bass-parts mingle with howling guitar-parts. John Shearer kicks the h*ll out of his drums towards the end of the song, with a great drum-solo. A great climax to the show.
Since Hackett left in the original applause, it takes about 2 minutes, before the start of I Know What I like, the first encore. This version is, at the beginning, quite loyal to the original. As with Genesis, the stretched end is used for improvisations, among this a nice duet of flute and guitar. All in all, the band takes it to almost 9 minutes with this jam. The second part of this jam is labeled Wardrobe Boogie. This boogie is built around the guitar-solo of I Know What I like.
Regrettably it takes another 3 minutes for the second encore. Although the audience is really enthusiastic, this is not really something you'll love to hear at home.
The final track(s) of the CD (and of the concert) are Racing in A and Racing in A coda, which is a stretched, repeated part of the track. Personally, I don't think these are the best tracks of the album. They're not as tightly played as the other songs and in this case I do miss Steve Walsh's vocals in the first part. Also I think there's not really enough material in this 5 minute song to make it almost 14 minutes altogether, even if there are extra bits of songs and solos added. But I do understand this works in a concert-situation as an encore. It's good they've put the whole gig on CD.
CD 3: Castel Sant' Angelo - Rome 13/09/81
The Air Conditioned Nightmare (5:00),
Funny Feeling (5:07),
Ace Of Wands (7:47),
Picture Postcard (5:18),
The Steppes (6:50),
Every Day (6:28),
Overnight Sleeper (4:28),
Hope I Donít Wake (4:25),
A Tower Struck Down (3:26),
Spectral Mornings (5:39),
The Show (3:52),
Although the 3rd disc of the box has been taken of a concert only 2 years later, there's lots of new material available. Hackett recorded Defector and Cured in the meantime and no less than 9 of the 14 tracks are off those two albums. Ian Mosley and Chas Cronk have taken over the drum and bass-spot respectively and singer Peter Hicks also left the stage.
Interesting thing about the concert is that's it's an open-air gig. Despite this, the sound is quite good. Personally, I am glad to hear songs like the opening The Air Conditioned Nightmare played with a full band, since I never liked the drum-machine dominated sound of the Cured-album, which was a co-operation of just Hackett and Magnus.
Jacuzzi is one of my favorite Hackett-tracks, since it features a wonderful combination of melodic flute parts and psychedelic guitar-parts. It's interesting to hear the audience applaud politely, not only during this song, but almost after every solo. This adds to the atmosphere and gives this disc a different feel than the others. Hackett introduces Magnus in his best (?) Italian and then Mosley kicks off with a short drum-solo for Funny Feeling, an upbeat song with nice harmonies. Regrettably, these sound a bit distant.
Five songs (Ace of Wands, Every Day, A Tower Struck, Spectral Mornings and Clocks) on this disc were already present on the first two discs, so I won't get into detail about them here again. Besides Every Day, with its splendid guitar-tapping-work, Ace of Wands, although slightly changed, remains one of my favorites and especially Mosley's work is very detailed and interesting. Hackett gives him much more opportunity to shine than his later employers in Marillion.
Picture Postcard has an on-going bass-line, which gives the track a lovely drive. Hackett takes care of the vocals himself, and although he's no Caruso or Pavarotti, he manages very well with the help of Chas Cronk on backing vocals. Even the Vocoder can be heard on this song.
Hackett has worked with oriental sounds and melodies in several compositions and The Steppes is one of them. A slow song, with repetitive guitar-lines and a lot of tension.
Two more songs from Cured, Overnight Sleeper and Hope I Don't Wake are presented here. Overnight Sleeper is has a short acoustic intro, followed by a keyboard-part on top of a heavy bass-line. In between the verses there's a flute melody. Hope I Don't Wake has a great a cappella intro. Although nice songs, both don't reach the level of the following material.
Slogans, from Defector, is very different from the previous two song-based tracks. This one is heavy, fast, nerve-breaking with lots of guitar-soloing. Ian Mosley is featured in the middle with a drum-solo, while the second part has just as many, strange sound-effects as the studio-version.
The final new song on this disc is The Show, also from Defector, an upbeat track, with the well-known harmony-singing as Hackett's trademark. As far as I'm concerned a much better result of the songwriting approach Hackett wanted to try, than the Cured-material. A very tight and bright version of Clocks appears to be a very effective closer of the disc. It's aggressive, but with all attention for details. The finishing sirens are not for people with heart-conditions. What a mess!
CD 4: The Grand Theatre - London 08/06/93
Ace Of Wands/
Hackett to Pieces (4:46),
Vampyre With A Healthy Appetite (6:13),
Sierra Quemada (4:20),
Take These Pearls (4:56),
In The Heart Of The City (5:32),
Walking Away From Rainbows (3:38),
There Are Many Sides To The Night (5:20),
Dark As the Grave (5:26),
Always Somewhere Else (6:17),
Lost In Your Eyes (5:02),
Medley: Spectral Mornings/Firth of Fifth/Clocks (8:13),
Cinema Paradiso (3:16),
In That Quiet Earth (5:20).
The 4th disc leaps no less than 12 years forward. These recordings are taken from the Guitar Noir tour and no less than 8 tracks of that album are present. Two medleys, Kim (also present on disc 1) and the Genesis-track In That Quiet Earth leave very few space for other material. In fact, there's only very little material included from the period between '81-'92 (albums like Highly Strung and Till We Have Faces or even GTR). The only things present from that era Always Somewhere Else from Highly Strung and some small snippets of Hackett to Pieces, Myopia and Imagining in the first medley. No trace of Camino Royale or Cell 151.
The opening medley is an instrumental guitar-voyage through Hackett's back-catalogue, including a visit to Genesis Los Endos and GTR's Imagining. Listening to it over and over again you keep discovering new things. The new band, with Hugo Degenhardt on drums, Julian Colbeck on keyboards and Doug Sinclair on bass, certainly knows how to rock.
The venomous Vampyre With A Healthy Appetite has a great descending guitar-riff, which is the basis of the song. Although it suits the theme of this song, I am not so fond of the special-effects on Steve's voice. I know (this disc 3 of this box serves as a proof) that Hackett is a much better singer than he's ready to admit. He doesn't need the effects he uses on Guitar Noir and, more recently, Darktown.
Sierra Quemada is a very warm track with a Latin flavor in the drums and the overall-sound (pan-flutes). The same goes for Take These Pearls, which has an electronic loop with all kind of keyboard- and guitar-effects on top of it. There are some beautiful verses in this song and instrumental passages function as choruses.
In The Heart Of The City also features this special guitar-sound, which almost sound like a synth-solo. This track is performed very well, with much feeling and a great drive. The keyboard-work for some reason reminds me of Tony Banks solo-stuff. It almost makes me wonder: "what if these two men would..."
At this point rest of the band leaves the stage and Hackett and Colbeck continue for a section of acoustic tracks, much in the way as featured on the There Are Many Sides To The Night live-album. Walking Away From Rainbows is a very fragile song, with just some (sampled) strings in the back-ground. Just turn the lights down and cry. There Are Many Sides To The Night starts with a harmonica solo, which makes this version different from the original. The first part of the lyrics is read, which almost makes this track more a poem than a song. Kim, with brother John on the guest-spot playing flute, is as beautiful as ever.
Latin rhythms, played with great subtlety by Degenhardt, introduce the return of the band for Dark As The Grave. This composition combines a latin atmosphere with dark and spooky moods one would expect on a cemetery. Colbeck, the 'one man orchestra' creates complete choir-sounds. The end is almost swinging with a long guitar-solo. Doug Sinclair and Hugo Degenhardt have a great solo (or better: duet) at the beginning of Always Somewhere Else. This really is an awesome part of an almost Crimson-esque nature. The rest of the track is quite good as well.
Lost In Your Eyes, with the harmonica in the lead role, starts as a very bluesy ballad. The heavy, steady beat, changes it into a blues-rocker with Soutern American trademarks. Part of the lyrics are spoken in a way the German's call 'Sprechgesang". Looking back on these 8 tracks from Guitar Noir, I think many prog-fans overlooked a great album in 1993. This box-set sets things right.
The second medley on this disc opens with an almost swinging part of Spectral Mornings, followed by the legendary guitar-solo from Firth of Fifth, which is, in my eyes, the best solo ever written. As with the other gigs in this box, Clocks is the finishing touch (or, more suitable: smash) of the official set.
The encore consists of an acoustic version of Ennio Morricone's Cinema Paradiso, much in the same style as Hackett's own Walking Away From Rainbows and a Genesis-classic. In That Quiet Earth, its fast drums, and brilliant bass-part, is a marvelous way to end this disc with. Hackett, as he always does with his songs, takes some room for extra improvisations. As Hackett writes in the liner notes 'there's nothing quiet about old fave'
CD 5: Newcastle City Hall - 26/10/79 & Hammersmith Odeon London - 30/10/78 [bonus-disc]
Please Don't Touch (7:53),
Every Day (7:26),
The Steppes (5:52),
The Red Flower of Tai Chi (3:02),
Sentimental Institution (2:38),
Star Of Sirius (9:39),
Spectral Mornings (6:42),
Ace Of Wands (5:05),
Hands Of The Priestess (6:04),
Racing In A (7:51).
When you order this disc at Camino Records [via Hackett-site], there's a possibility to order an additional fifth disc to this set. Taken from 1979 and 1978 recordings this disc consists mainly of the same songs present on the first two discs. I could go into detail about the exact differences of the recordings, but I don't think that would be very interesting.
In general, I can say that I like this 5th disc very much. The band is very tight and the sound is quite good. The three last songs on this disc are from a 1978 recording, which makes them the oldest recordings in the set.
But what else would be a reason to buy this extra disc? First off all, I think this is the best 'single' disc of the album, from a track-list point of view. With tracks like Please Don't Touch, Every Day, Ace of Wands, Star Of Sirius and Spectral Mornings on one single disc, this comes very close to a 'best of' in my opinion.
Another reason would be the tracks Hands Of The Priestess, Sentimental Institution and The Steppes. The first two are only featured on this disc, the last two are try-out versions. Sentimental Institution and The Steppes were tried out live at the end of 1979, before the release of Defector in 1980.
The early version of The Steppes seems a bit insecure, and not as ferocious as on the 3rd disc, but it already shows all elements of the track, including all the dramatic dynamics.
Sentimental Institution is one of those weird tracks you're likely to find on any Hackett-album. But if you manage to pass the 'what the heck is this?' point, you'll discover many interesting ingredients in this "pre-WO II sounding" track, like the versatility of Hicks' voice and the use of an instrument called The Optigan. This was an interesting kind of keyboards with -for the time- extraordinary possibilities. Hackett is rumored to use it again in the near future, more than 20 years after these recordings.
The instrumental Hands Of The Priestess is presented here in a single format, unlike the original on Voyage Of The Acolyte, which was a 2-piece composition. This means all but 2 tracks from Hackett's debut album are present in this box-set. The romantic flute-solo at the beginning of the song is one of the most beautiful things John Hackett has done with his brother. The mellotron-sounds could be taken of Genesis' Foxtrot-album directly.
You could say this 5th disc is an album for completists, and in a way this is true, but the material on it is simply too to put a 'for completists only' label on it. Since it fits in the box so perfectly, I'd order it together with the rest.
With Live Archive Steve Hackett opened his vaults and released some of his most interesting material from his best periods. One could argue that these kind of live-sets are for the dedicated fans only, but this is not the case with this box. This is essential music for prog-fans in general. Of course, I could advise you to buy Voyage Of The Acolyte (1975), Please Don't Touch (1978), Spectral Mornings (1979), Defector (1980) and Guitar Noir (1993) first, but these albums (except for the last one) still wait for a decent, remastered re-release with proper booklets. Besides, this box set delivers the best tracks of those albums and more. In fact, I like some of the songs (especially the Cured-material) better in their live version, since Hackett is a man who plays with with lots of virtuosity, feeling and emotion.
In my view it was a wise decision to put complete gigs on CD, or -in the case of discs 3 and 4- to use only the material of one gig per CD. This does much more justice to the respective line-ups and the gigs as 'a happening' than 'compiled' live-CDs. I really hated the way Genesis put together their second archive box, for example. This is how it should be done in my view, even if this results in duplicate versions of (a mere) 6 songs (not counting the 5th disc).
Apart from the great musical material I should mention the booklet here, including lots of live-shots and some tongue-in-cheek anecdotes by a man called 'Stefanovich Von Hackenschmidt'. Finally, the price is quite reasonable: I saw the 4-CD set (with an average of almost 70 mins per CD!) in shops for around 40 Euro.
Conclusion: 9- out of 10
by: Jan-Jaap de Haan