“Broken skies and other stories” - The latest Steve Hackett box set: Broken Skies - Outspread Wings reviewed by Alan Hewitt.

It seems to be the norm these days for record companies to repackage albums incessantly and in the case of most artists of Steve’s generation that isn’t really surprising as all that is left to them is “catalogue” rather than any prospect of new material. Steve, of course, as we all know, is the exception that proves this rule with a string of albums to his name and another one due early next year. So, why release yet another box set of older material?

Existing fans will already have the albums contained within this box set and the more devout among the brethren may even have the Japanese and Special Editions which graced several of them with their ubiquitous bonus tracks. If you are one of the latter, then this set has nothing to offer you by way of unheard material apart from the 2018 re-recording of GTR’s When The Heart Rules The Mind.

I don’t think, however, that this set is actually aimed at the more diehard element of Steve’s fan base. Instead, it is aimed squarely at those fans who for whatever reason missed these albums and the extras that are associated with them. And as such, the set achieves a solid goal of just about wrapping up the period from 1984 to 2006 a period which saw Steve almost retire from the music business altogether before returning with his own record label and releasing the first in a series of albums which have seen his profile and success, both artistically and commercially, go from strength to strength.

Here then are such gems as 1993’s Guitar Noir album, to my mind at least, one of the most important albums in his entire catalogue. Here Steve first found his own “voice” when it came to talking about things which were of concern to him.

That trend was continued with 1999’s darkly Gothic Darktown and 2003’s To Watch The Storms both of which are represented in all their glory here along with the various extra tracks which drove us collectors mad chasing them down. Some fare better than others and for me, Flame and Coming Home To The Blues from Darktown are equally as enjoyable as their album counterparts (and more so in a case of a couple of them!). Same goes for the acoustic delights of The Moon Under Water and If Only You Knew from To Watch The Storms.

Neither 1984’s Till We Have Faces or Feedback ‘86 have really fared too well since their initial releases in 1984 and 2000 respectively and they are here, I suspect, more for completeness’ sake than for any other reason.

The set is completed by the presence of 2006’s Wild Orchids another criminally overlooked album in Steve’s canon and one which has stood the test of time remarkably well.

The presence of the 2001 DVD Somewhere In South America may delight fans who didn’t manage to obtain it before it was deleted and collectors have something to enjoy here too with the inclusion on the surround sound disc of live performances from 2009, 11 and 17 respectively.

As a retrospective of Steve’s latterday rock work, this one nicely fills in any gaps you may have in your collections and is well presented in a slipcase with a new artwork design by Roger Dean whose work also graced the 2015 Premonitions box set. And as such, it does exactly what it says on the box.

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Steve Hackett - Broken Skies - Outspread Wings. Inside Out 19075877732.