Out Of The Tunnel's Mouth

Steve Hackett

Steve Hackett is a guitarist we hear from too infrequently (then again with guys like Hackett, Martin Barre, David Gilmour, I'd be happy to hear new music from them monthly!) His new one Out Of The Tunnel's Mouth is a mélange (can I use that word in mixed company?) of styles, trills, tricks and trappings from a man who is as masterful on electric guitar as he is on classical.

Beginning with the melancholy "Fire On The Moon," the guitarist sings (there's a slight effect to his vocals throughout the CD) over a toy piano backing, creating a childlike ambience quickly dispatched when the choruses kick in with their deeply dramatic drawl. The time-honored drama of prog is evident from the get-go.

We're quickly into a different vibe though with Hackett’s more-than-masterful classical guitar work during “Nomads.” Take note, these first two feature Yes bassist Chris Squire (Hackett and Squire have another project in the works). Hackett also had the good sense (or fortune) to invite the man he replaced in Genesis, Anthony 'Ant' Phillips, to play 12-string on “Emerald And Ash.” This is a well-written piece with a sweet opening featuring Ant's 12-string and a drastic change at the end that allows Hackett to wail.

This sets things up perfectly for "Tubehead" and Hackett's first real foray into guitar pyrotechnics. Even at his loudest, he can never be mistaken for a shredder; his phrasing is simply too stylized with carefully chosen notes even when he is playing blistering fast through this instrumental. “Sleepies,” a heartbreakingly strong song, follows with a lush bit of Hackett's classical guitar, Christine Townsend's violin and viola and the doubled bow bass of Dick Driver. Well into the track, Roger King offers up some wild drumming while more guitar comes wailing over the top of what sounds at times like a movie soundtrack.

Yet another example of Hackett's maturity as a real good songwriter, though to be fair, this one is a collaboration with three other writers. There’s more acoustic guitar to open them instrumental “Ghost In The Glass.” This one more than any other showcases Hackett's signature electric sound with what might be one of the most expressive leads in the whole tunnel. If I have any complaint it is that it is simply too short.

There's the blues roll of "Still Waters," probably the most commercial song of the eight here, with spot-on backing vocals from Jo Lehmann, Amanda Lehmann and Lauren King. If anything, Hackett reminds me of David Gilmour, with his vocals and blues intonations (as Hackett suggests, “Pulse of New Orleans”). When he plays a lead, comparisons to other guitar players (even one like Gilmore) go south.

“Last Train To Istanbul” ends the CD, and it is unlike everything before it. Embellished with Middle-Eastern flavorings and "frenetic whirling dervishes" (as Hackett refers to them calls them), the guitarist sings around the spooky guitar flourishes in the full tapestry of the mix. What can I say about this collection? Out Of The Tunnel's Mouth has a mouth-watering range of styles, top-shelf playing and solid songwriting. This is a must-have for guitar fans, Genesis fans, and, of course, Steve Hackett fans.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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