Steve Hackett: Premonitions: The Charisma Recordings 1975-1983

Lavish look back at life after Genesis (and before Genesis Revisited).

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Some 40 years after his solo debut, released while he was still in Genesis, Steve Hackett’s career is in rude health. His latest, Wolflight, made the UK Top 30 and he is currently touring to rapt auditoria. This revival of fortunes has been prompted, in large part, by his risky decision to play the Genesis Revisited shows. Sure, many of us are eager to hear those tunes again, but if he’d messed things up he’d have tarnished both his reputation and our memories. However he and his exemplary musicians knocked it out of the park, revitalising the material while remaining faithful.

After Genesis he had a blank canvas, and painted vividly.

His cachet amongst Genesis diehards rocketed, to the point where some felt his contribution to the band was underplayed in the Together And Apart documentary. But if Hackett has done much for Genesis, Genesis did plenty for him too. Regardless, this comprehensive reissue project for his early solo work documents the manner in which he established his identity after leaving the band in ’77. Whereas there he came to feel restricted, here he had a blank canvas, and painted vividly.

The first six albums are gathered within a lovely Roger Dean-decorated box. Also present are a quartet of live albums from ’79 and ’81, most tracks unreleased. Add to this Seven Of Cups, from the Please Don’t Touch sessions, and rare B-sides. Then there are stereo and DVD 5.1 surround sound mixes of his two best-sellers from the era, Please Don’t Touch and Spectral Mornings, by the ubiquitous Steven Wilson (these two will get a separate release next year). Finally, there are DVD surround up-mixes of Voyage Of The Acolyte and Defector. Lost count? That’s 14 discs, plus a lavish 68-page book including photos by Armando Gallo.

It’s an aesthetically pleasing Hackett packet: you must decide for yourself how far your devotion extends. Certainly the music within confirms his strengths (lush guitars and soundscapes, brother John a near-constant) and weakness (vocals). Acolyte (with Collins and Rutherford) and Please (with Richie Havens and Randy Crawford co-opting the singing) are a Narnia of progressive pomp and glory, expressing his sense of liberation. Spectral Mornings and Defector had a settled band; Cured and Highly Strung try a more “modern” streamlined sound. Shadow Of The Hierophant and Icarus Ascending remain the showstoppers.

Ultimately Premonitions is a fitting monument to a major player. This is where he found his own space.

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.