“With one eye on MTV and another on film soundtracks, big choruses with star-turn assists are go”: Steve Hackett’s Feedback ’86 and Till We Have Faces vinyl remasters

Released six years apart, the albums share some DNA – but one feels more of a curio than the other

Steve Hackett – Feedback '86 and Till We Have Faces
(Image: © InsideOut)

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Like the rest of prog’s old guard, Steve Hackett was acutely aware of the ‘adapt or die’ climate of the mid-80s. “Record companies would say, ‘I don’t hear a career song,’” the guitarist recalled in 2022, explaining his more mainstream direction on Feedback ’86.

Actually made between 1984 and 1987, first released in 2000, and echoing the AOR-style of GTR – Hackett’s short-lived supergroup with Steve Howe – the album had one eye on MTV and another on film soundtracks.

Big choruses with star-turn assists are go. Thus, Bonnie Tyler and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band singer Chris Thompson duet impressively on Prizefighters; and Brian May, Hackett and Thompson all sing on Slot Machine, wherein gambling is a metaphor for love’s vicissitudes.

Though other songs are more hamstrung by the clunky digital tech of the time (Don’t Fall), the LP sounds less scattershot than 1984’s Till We Have Faces, a work with which it shares some DNA.

Brazil inspires the greater part of Till We Have Faces… Again, Hackett was ahead of the game

Both records feature Stadiums Of The Damned and Gulf, the former an odd, sample-rich song about football-fan violence whose lyrics ‘If you stare at me, you will pay the price’ now seem a tad too heavy-handed. Gulf, meanwhile, is a flamenco guitar-imbued look at the Iran-Iraq War.

It’s Brazil, though, that inspires the greater part of Till We Have Faces. The LP was largely recorded in the country and features a number of Brazilian drummers and percussionists. Again, Hackett was ahead of the game, since Paul Simon’s The Rhythm Of The Saints didn’t appear until 1990.

But while Simon’s LP embraced Brazilian music fully, Till We Have Faces also features such sonic wildcards as the koto-imbued A Doll That’s Made In Japan and Hackett’s brief instrumental cover of the old Disney classic When You Wish Upon A Star.

The resultant effect is just a little unfocused, leaving Till We Have Faces more of a curio than an eclectic Hackett classic.

The 180g vinyl remasters of Feedback ’86 and Till We Have Faces reissues are out now.

James McNair

James McNair grew up in East Kilbride, Scotland, lived and worked in London for 30 years, and now resides in Whitley Bay, where life is less glamorous, but also cheaper and more breathable. He has written for Classic Rock, Prog, Mojo, Q, Planet Rock, The Independent, The Idler, The Times, and The Telegraph, among other outlets. His first foray into print was a review of Yum Yum Thai restaurant in Stoke Newington, and in many ways it’s been downhill ever since. His favourite Prog bands are Focus and Pavlov’s Dog and he only ever sits down to write atop a Persian rug gifted to him by a former ELP roadie.