Since his departure from Genesis in 1977, Steve Hackett has consistently produced some of the finest progressive music this side of ... well ... vintage Genesis.
While the individual members of Genesis (and even the band itself during the later period) eschewed the grandiose elements of progressive rock, scaling back the band's extended compositions while simultaneously crafting solo careers with an eye toward accessible mainstream songwriting - Hackett forged ahead following the abstract blueprint of musical freedom first established by British progressive rock pioneers, composing complex and challenging music. Music which would easily have fit into the Genesis repertoire during the "Trespass" through "Wind And Wuthering" era.
No member of Genesis relished that creative period between 1970 and 1977 more than Steve Hackett.
Interviews from the 2014 documentaries "Together And Apart" and "Genesis: Sum Of The Parts" would lead one to believe Genesis alumni Banks, Collins, and Rutherford sheepish dismiss that period as a passing fancy and prefer to steer the conversation toward the eventual progression of Genesis from struggling cult prog/rock band to the successful phenomenon they evolved into. A change that cemented their eventual induction into the Rock And Roll Fall Of Fame.
Hackett seemed to be the only former member still enamored with those early classic albums. And to prove the point he made it his mission to reacquaint old fans as well as introduce new listeners to the early magic of Genesis with his "Genesis Revisited" albums and World Tour. And it was during that whirlwind tour that the bulk of material for Steve Hackett's latest album "Wolflight" was composed.
While traveling through some twenty countries inspiration came to him during that period of time he refers to as Wolf Light - "the hour before dawn, when I'm in that state between waking and sleeping whilst logic is still on a short holiday and daylight takes over".
"Wolflight" is a very grand scale cinematic album, awash in layers of lush orchestrations, amazing vocal harmonies, and Hackett's brilliant guitar work peppered throughout. And while it's a collection of unrelated tunes and not a concept album per se, there is a cohesion in Hackett's compositions on "Wolflight" that gives the CD the connective scope of an epic tale.
As is the case with most Hackett albums the compositions run the gambit from hard-edged rockers, progressive masterpieces, instrumental acoustic guitar interludes, to beautiful ballads that tug at the heartstrings. Yet the compositions and presentation are unmistakably Steve Hackett. With some 24 solo albums under his belt, the patented vocal styling of Hackett and Company are now as identifiable as YES, The Moody Blues, and The Beach Boys.
Highlights include: "Out Of The Body", "The Wheel's Turning", and "Black Thunder" representing Hackett's hard-edged compositions - think "Darktown" and "Mechanical Bride". "Wolflight" is Hackett's thunderous epic tale of heroism and adventure presented in wide-screen Cinemascope for the mind. "Earthshine" is a sedate acoustic guitar instrumental showcasing Hackett as prog/rock's premiere guitar virtuoso. "Loving Seas" is reminiscent of the tight harmonies and folk songs of Crosby Stills & Nash or America. And "Love Song To A Vampire" is an eerie erotic ballad of undying love for the Anne Rice and Twilight crowd. Beautiful song.
"Wolflight" really grows on you with each new listen.
Musicians on "Wolflight" include: Steve Hackett (guitar, banjo, oud, tipple, harmonica, percussion, vocals), Nick Beggs (bass, Chapman stick), Hugo Degenhardt (drums), Jo Hackett (vocals), Roger King (keyboards, programming), Sara Kovacs (didgeridoo), Amanda Lehmann (vocals), Malik Mansurov (tar), Chris Squire (bass), Gary O'Toole (drums), Christine Townsend (violin, viola), Rob Townsend (sax, duduk).
I'm partial to his early albums "Voyage Of The Acolyte", "Please Don't Touch", "Highly Strung", "Cured", Defector", and "Spectral Mornings" as well as the more recent "Darktown" and "To Watch The Storms" - but after a few more listens I think "Wolflight" might find a spot on my regular rotation.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on May 17th, 2015