"We Are Not Alone" - The new John Hackett Band album reviewed by Alan Hewitt.
It has been a while since we have been grasced by an album by the John Hackett band, and there have been some changes to the lineup of said band too, as we shall see but what about the music, I hear you cry…
The album’s title would suggest that there may be songs about aliens and other such ethereal subjects but nothing could be further from the truth
The album gets under way with Take Control, a flute and guitar driven track with shades of Camel running throughout it, a brisk, paced opener with some fantastic rhythm guitar work from Nick Fletcher.
Never Gonna Make A Dime sees Mr Hackett snr make a guest appearance on harmonica, not surprising really as the song is a wistful look back at Steve and John’s childhood and the dreams they had at the time which have since true.
Blue Skies Of Marazion is an instrumental homage to a lovely part of Devon. Marazion Cove also holds special significance for me as it is the resting place of one of the most famous warships ever to serve in the Royal Navy: HMS Wasrpite, a suitably evocative description of a place which has many faces and many moods, all brilliantly depicted in the music here which reminds me of some of Anthony Phillips’ more descriptive pieces, and once again Nick Fletcher’s guitar work is simply stunning.
Summer Lightning is another wistful and reflective piece and it is followed by Queenie & Elmo’s Perfect Day, an instrumental workout for the entire band in which Jeremy Richardson’s bass work and Duncan Parsons’ drumming excel. This one owes more than a bit to both Camel and Brand X and is already a live favourite at the band’s gigs.
Castles too, has already been heard in the live context and indeed, can be heard on the live CD which accompanies this set (but more of that later) and here we see the band in a blues frame of mind and it works remarkably well - blues with a feeling indeed!
Ossian’s Lament is another instrumental drawing its inspirations from Irish myths and the poetic works of WB Yeats and once again, Nick Fletcher’s superb acoustic guitar work is a delight to hear, and when John joins him on flute, this one really soars. This is the kind of music I could listen to forever, it is simply beautiful.
Jericho is the only bona fide rock track on the album, with an infectious rock riff and angst ridden vocal from John whilst the rest of the band rock out in fine style.
The album is brought to a conclusion by another instrumental; Winds Of Change, another jazz-fusion driven number which as you would expect, goes through many changes of mood and atmosphere.
This deluxe edition comes replete with a second disc which captures the new band lineup at a gig at the Classic Rock Society back in May 2016. And as such, this one is a wonderful showcase for the material on both Checking Out Of London with tracks such as Whispers where Jeremy Richardson dies an excellent job on Tony Patterson’s vocal parts with sone equally impressive drumming from Duncan Parsons . Ego and Id is given an altogether heavier treatment here with some particularly fierce guitar work and a driving rock rhythm once again by Duncan.
Tracks such as Burnt Down Trees and Poison Town from what was then John’s latest album, Another Life are here present and coreect with the former displaying a funkier side to the band whlist the latter is altogether more slower and more reflective but equally enjoyable.
There are also showcases for several tracks that make their appearances on the new album such as the slightly eccentric muscal work out Queenie & Elmos’ Perfect Day and the more sedate and jazzy Castles both of which are extremely enjoyable.
What you have here is a genuine warts and all performance from a band of incredibly talented musicians, one which you should go and see if they grace a venue anywhere near you. One final thing, it was a nice touch that this recording was dedicated to the late Stephanie Kennedy, a lifelong champion of Steve and John’s music as well as Prog itself.
This album is a brave step from the band. It sees them step out of their comfort zone and explore areas of music which not only challenge them, but will also challenge their audience, and that is something which is to be applauded and the result is an album that will take you on adventures in music which you might not expect but the end result is always a fascinating one.
John Hackett Band - We Are Not Alone. Esoteric Antenna EANTCD 21067.