After Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, Genesis did not know if they would be able to continue without their lead singer Peter Gabriel who had left after that tour. Looking for another creative outlet, Hackett focused his efforts into a solo album. If you are looking for that “spark” that was missing after Wind and Wuthering, this is it… The heart of Steve Hackett. Voyage of the Acolyte features Genesis members Michael Rutherford and Phil Collins (taking lead vocals on two songs a year before he would accept that spot with Genesis), Steve’s brother John on flute, Mike’s sister Sally Oldfield, and others. The real star is of course Hackett on guitar, mellotron and many other instruments.
“Ace of Wands” starts the proceedings powerfully with more aggression and jazz/fusion influences than we are used to hearing on any Genesis record. It then leads into some beautiful mellotron playing and symphonic flourishes. It feels sometimes like “Los Endos” on acid. Hackett’s electric guitar is much more prominent on Voyage of the Acolyte than we are used to seeing before. His fluid singing style of lead playing featured well throughout.
Both parts of “Hands of the Priestess” are lovely acoustic pieces, recalling the best of Genesis English pastoral stylings that Steve brought to the group. It also features John Hackett’s flute playing quite prominently as well. “A Tower Struck Down” feels almost like a soundtrack to a movie or television show. I especially like the arpeggiated keyboard riff that leads to the parrot and the cough at around 2:30. (Just take my word for it. You have to hear it. It comes out of left field.)
It’s not until the fifth track on the record that Hackett introduces vocals, a bold statement by Mr. Hackett for sure. Hackett himself sings the beautiful (but rather tame) “The Hermit.” Next up is a vocal by Phil Collins with “Star of Sirius,” using harmonies in a way that they were not using in their primary band at the time. This is very successful and without a doubt my favorite song on the record. A prescient calling to what the future would hold on albums like Trick of the Tail and Wind and Wuthering.
Closing with the Rutherford co-written track “Shadow of the Hierophant,” featuring Sally Oldfield taking lead vocal duties is wise. It is perhaps the closest instrumentally to what Genesis were doing then. It’s interesting to hear the signature finger-tapping technique around five minutes in that Steve used quite frequently and was later taken by most every metal guitarist including Eddie Van Halen and on.
Steve Hackett was having a bit of trouble getting his songs approved for inclusion on albums with his seminal band and the other strong-willed members in Genesis. Most of Voyage of the Acolyte is such a departure from their signature style (at times more Canterbury than Symphonic), it’s not surprising that Hackett chose to leave the band a short while later. His immense talent would need more room to breath.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on December 24th, 2010