Steve Hackett had exited from success a few years prior by leaving the band Genesis. A band who had unexpectedly grown in popularity since the departure of their lead singer Peter Gabriel. Hackett felt that there was more music in him than was being allowed to shine in the band and his creativity was being stifled. He had released his first solo record (Voyage of the Acolyte) while still in the band, and that had caused a bit of dissension from some of the others. It was time for him to leave after the tour to support 1976’s Wind and Wuthering, and Defector is his third solo effort after the departure from Genesis. This showed him to actually be more prolific than Genesis!
Hackett had assembled a band to support 1978’s Please Don’t Touch on tour, and was so pleased with the arrangement he used them for the following record Spectral Mornings and this one Defector. It was on these last two records that Hackett really found the clarification of his sound, with a crack band backing him, moving towards a more progressive area than his former band was at the time and becoming even more proficient as a guitarist. Heavy metal shredders were using Hackett as an influence, even though he was not playing anything close to hard rock here.
Defector opens with the heavy and ominous “The Steppes,” to begin the proceedings. This leads to “Time To Get Out” with its bright, sprightly beat and slightly dissonant vocal harmonies. The album is a mixture of smart instrumentals and pleasant vocal pieces featuring Pete Hicks as lead vocalist, though Steve himself would take the odd vocal now and then. A foretelling of the future, as he would find himself more comfortable with his voice on future recordings.
Steve makes excellent use of the Roland GR500 guitar synthesizer, which gives the impression at times of several guitarists playing in harmony like the twin guitar leads of Thin Lizzy or Wishbone Ash. He can also mellow out on songs like “Two Vamps As Guests” and “Hammer In the Sand,” the latter featuring lovely piano work by Nick Magnus.
Favorite cuts of mine here are the powerful instrumental “Jacuzzi,” the easy and sleepy “The Toast,” and the wonderful and bass heavy synth-rocker “The Show.” There is also a witty and clever ode to the 1940’s big band era, “Sentimental Institution.”
Defector is Steve Hackett’s last really good album for quite a while, and although not quite as strong as the previous three, it is well worth having in anyone’s Genesis-centric collection.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on January 8th, 2011