CD Reviews

Steve Hackett - 'Premonitions: The Charisma Recordings 1975-1983' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     December 04, 2015    
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Overall a package worthy of the man's talent.

While Steve Hackett has been extremely active since he left Genesis, it is arguable his profile hasn't been as high as it is at present since his first steps on the solo ladder in the late 1970s when he played sold out gigs at the U.K.'s major venues. His 'Genesis: Revisited' albums and extensive world tours that followed have certainly lifted him in the public consciousness.

Therefore, it can be no surprise that the copyright owners of his early albums have seen an opportunity of getting extra mileage out of their assets. Fortunately, this is no cynical, half-arsed, thrown-together collection but one that has clearly been given considerable thought and assembled with care. A substantial booklet and Roger Dean artwork, including many Armando Gallo photographs, certainly add to the feel of quality.

What do you get for your money? Ten CDs and four DVDs, the latter being 5.1 or Pseudo 5.1 Surround Sound mixes of Hackett's first four albums. These also appear on discs one to four which also contain his next two albums along with an extended version of the epic 'Shadow Of The Hierophant', 'Seven Of Cups' (an outtake from the 'Please Don't Touch' album sessions) and various single B-sides.

As an avid enthusiast, I already own all of this bar '...Cups' so the key aspects for me are discs five to nine which are early live recordings with the band he'd assembled for the purposes of touring. Selfishly, I wish there was a recording from his debut tour in 1978 because that holds such vivid memories. However, I can claim to have been at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane gig from November 1979 that is included here.

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There can be little doubt that Hackett is a man who truly embraced the Progressive tag and in 'Voyage Of The Acolyte', 'Please Don't Touch', 'Spectral Mornings' and 'Defector' he produced four bona fide classics of the genre with a wonderful variety of material from the acoustic beauty of 'Kim', 'Hands Of The Priestess' and 'Two Vamps As Guests' through beautiful ballads ('Hoping Love Will Last') and on to Proggy gems such as the evergreen 'Every Day', 'Spectral Mornings', 'The Steppes' and 'Star of Sirius' to name but a few. There's even whimsy and a wicked sense of humour with 'Carry On Up The Vicarage' and 'Sentimental Institution' plus a nod to Punk with 'Hercules Unchained', all of which highlight his skill as a writer and performer. As for his prowess as the creator of instrumentals, that's undeniable.

What this collection demonstrates is the journey undertaken by Hackett in those early solo years, and I can't help but wonder if he wasn't subject to some Label pressure to go in a more populist direction. The first four albums are Hackett at his diverse, Proggy best with many classic tracks that continue to be live favourites, but with 'Cured' there was a definite change in style.

Aside from Hackett, keyboardist/programmer Nick Magnus and Hackett's brother, John on flute, the band had gone with Hackett taking on the vocals (not his strongest suit) and the drums were programmed. Until you get to the fourth track, 'The Air-Conditioned Nightmare' and latterly 'Overnight Sleeper' you'd think he'd gone AOR, in some ways being a precursor to the GTR enterprise that was to follow a few years later. It's still a very listenable album with catchy songs and strong melodies but maybe not what one had come expect. 'Highly Strung' tilted the scales more towards the Prog direction and Ian Mosley (Marillion) brought real drums back on deck.

Overall a package worthy of the man's talent.

Gary Marshall

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