STEVE HACKETT – The Night Siren (2017)
Guitar master and Rock legend STEVE HACKETT (formerly of Genesis) releases his latest album “The Night Siren” on 24th March 2017 through InsideOut Music (Sony). As implied in the title, “The Night Siren” is a wake-up call… the warning of a siren sounding in this era of strife and division, all wrapped by wonderful progressive music.
The term “living legend” is used all too loosely these days, but few would argue that Steve Hackett is deserving of this description. But, living legend that he is, none can deny that Hackett is fearless.
Hackett worked with a multicultural cast of musicians on the album – and he says bringing people from all over the world together was vital in creating this new opus.
“The Night Siren” showcases Steve’s incredible guitar as strongly as ever, along with musicians from several different countries who Steve invited to join him in celebrating multicultural diversity and unity. This includes singers from Israel and Palestine, who both actively campaign to bring Jewish and Arabic people together.
There are also musicians from the USA and Iraq, and of course all his own band whom have been together for long time.
Cultural diversity aside, the allure of Hackett’s guitar-playing remains peerless, and it is comforting to know that it is always there, ready to rescue the purists if the international experimentation becomes in any way tiresome.
There is a strong theme (the historical plight of refugees and the hope for a more unified world), there is an orchestra, there is a choir, there is (most of) Hackett’s amazing band, there is Flamenco guitar, there is flute and mandolin, there is Prog, there is Rock, there is a mixture of styles.
And yet, there is always Hackett’s unmistakable electric guitar.
“Behind the Smoke” starts the album gently with an acoustic intro but soon turns into a massive grinding riff that suddenly, mid-song, reveals Hackett’s intention to expose his world music proclivities, with an Eastern-sounding interlude. Soon enough, though, the massive wailing Hackett electric guitar that we know and love, returns to end the song.
The second track, “Martian Sea” is a quick-paced, pop ditty that relies on Gary O’Toole’s cheerful and up-beat drumming. It has a catchy hook and a nice guitar solo.
“Fifty Miles From the North Pole” is a slow and solid track with a James Bond-themed guitar sound. 007’s presence notwithstanding, the song conjures images of icy, arctic travel undergone by our poor protagonist, without the resources of “M”, nor indeed anyone else, behind him. The solo is typical Hackett, which stamps his authority and could have been found on an early Genesis record.
“Anything but Love” might end up being pure world music, but inexplicably, a typical Hackett acoustic guitar solo then gives way to a pure and simple pop song that could be a top ten hit with its hook. It even has a harmonica solo, and definitely sounds like BOC’s Don’t Fear the Reaper. It’s not GTR, but it’s a great pop song.
“In the Skeleton Gallery”, while it is not an obvious “single” (does such a thing exist in Prog anyway?), it seems at the start to be one of the more accessible songs, but don’t be fooled. Slow and intense, it has a pleasing initial melody, but expect a dark, Eastern-sounding woodwind interlude, and a quirky change of direction led by keyboardist Roger King. It then leads into a heavy Prog instrumental arrangement built around that quirky keyboard riff that also comprises the ending. King’s influence is strong on this one.
“West to East” is another story of international alienation and the need for the world to unite. While the instrumentation is suitably precise and excellent, up to the standards expected of a musician like Hackett, this song is all about the message. If you are opposed the exit of Great Britain from the Union, or certain immigration policies recently implemented by the US, expect to identify with these lyrics.
Although not as immediately accessible as his most recent releases times due to the many directions taken, as well as the many world music influences introduced, “The Night Siren” is still a Steve Hackett album, and it is one worth investing in.
An album with substance and an urgent message. Expect to be transported to the East (or Middle East) from time to time, but expect your Prog hunger to be satiated as well.
Perhaps Steve Hackett’s darkest work, it still reminds us we simply cannot ignore the fact that Steve Hackett is indeed a living legend.
01 – Behind The Smoke
02 – Martian Sea
03 – Fifty Miles From The North Pole
04 – El Nino
05 – Other Side Of The Wall
06 – Anything But Love
07 – Inca Terra
08 – In Another Life
09 – In The Skeleton Gallery
10 – West To East
11 – The Gift
Steve Hackett – guitars, sitar, harmonica, vocals (1 – 11)
Amanda Lehmann – vocals (1,2,3,6,7,8,9,10)
Mira Awad, Kobi Farhi, Jo Hackett – vocals (10)
Roger King – keyboards and programming (1 – 10)
Christine Townsend – violin, viola (3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10)
Rob Townsend – sax, flute, flageolet, bass clarinet (1, 4, 7, 9)
Gary O’Toole – drums (3, 4, 10)
Nick D’Virgilio – drums (2)
Gulli Briem – drums, cajon, percussion (7,9)
Leslie-Miriam Bennett – keyboards (11)
Troy Donockley – Uilleann pipes (8)
Dick Driver – Double bass (3,4,5,7)
Benedict Fenner – keyboards and programming (11)
John Hackett – flute (2,10)
Ferenc Kovács – trumpet (3)
Sara Kovács – didgeridoo (3)
Malik Mansurov – tar (1)
thanks to Prog Nick