Hmm… I’m in a bit of a quandary here. Classic Genesis is my favorite progressive rock music. Albums like Foxtrot, Trick of the Tail, and Selling England by the Pound remain amongst the all-time great albums in my massive collection. I thoroughly enjoy Steve Hackett’s first four solo albums up to Defector(all recently re-mastered by the way), but never purchased anything after that until recently when I found Genesis Revisited (1996) in my local used CD shop. I then bought Darktown (1999) and now have the newest release, Wild Orchids in front of me for review. I’m not entirely pleased with the direction Hackett has taken his music with these last two albums.
Don’t get me wrong, there is much to like on Wild Orchids. There is Mr. Hackett playing licks on his guitar that would make Allan Holdsworth swoon with envy. As a matter of fact, Steve Hackett’s mastery over his instrument has grown leaps and bounds over his time spent with Banks and the boys. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that this is the same guitarist that played so delicately on songs such as “Time Table” and “Entangled.”
There are some wonderful orchestral passages, where The Underworld Orchestra is used. There are songs reminiscent of the early solo albums like “Set Your Compass,” “To A Close” and “She Moves In Memories.” This is a song I could play my classical music loving wife and she would enjoy. It’s an instrumental that fondly recalls the classic, “Spectral Mournings.”
Then there are the more odd songs. “Man In The Long Black Coat” is aptly named, for it sounds almost like Johnny Cash singing an Irish lullaby. “Down Street” has Hackett speaking over some interesting music. It reminds me of a TV detective theme song, with excellent guitar work. Truthfully, the guitar work on this album is unparalleled. There is a good song called “Ego And Id.” The title could almost be an analogy for this CD, with mildly disturbing music juxtaposed against beautiful orchestral music. Sometimes even within the same song.
I think my biggest problem with this direction is Hackett’s decision to handle all the lead vocals on his own. I really miss the guest vocalists he used on the early records like Steve Walsh, Ritchie Havens, Sally Oldfield or Phil Collins. Pete Hicks would be a welcome return to Hackett’s band, if he would be willing. Hackett’s vocals are serviceable, but nothing more.
In closing, I do like this CD. The problems I have with it are minimal and I truly appreciate Hackett moving forward with his music. I will continue to purchase his solo recordings, as songs like “Girl Called Linda,” “Fundamentals of Brainwashing” and some of those previously mentioned still move me. As they say, “this one’s a grower.”
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on October 6th, 2006