“Listening to the small orchestra” - Steve Hackett’s recent CD re-issues reviewd by Alan Hewitt.

Since the initial issue of Bay of Kings (1983), Till We Have Faces (1984) and Momentum (1988), all three have been the source of much discussion among Steve Hackett fans. The former came as a surprise because of its solely acoustic nature, Till We Have Faces took Steve’s fans off on a road that he hasn’t travelled down since then and Momentum was a second helping of acoustic delight. More recently, however, these albums and the subsequently released live album; Time Lapse (1990) have been much sought after because in the case of the studio albums they were initially released on the now defunct Lamborghini Records label (a subsidiary of PRT) and in the case of the live album only released in Holland on the Crisis label. Copies of the originals are now collectors items and can command high prices - if you can find them, that is! This then, is the rationale behind the re-issue of these albums - to bring them to as many fans as possible as well as making them an attractive proposition to those fans who may already have them by the addition of newer material as well as updated sound and improved packaging.

Listening to Bay Of Kings now in its remastered form it is amazing to hear the crystal clear sound on every track - it almost makes listening to it as good as the first time round. The title track is absolutely fantastic with an added dimension given to it by the remastering. It is very difficult to select any track for special praise because each and every one is special in some way or another. The added bonus of several previously unreleased tracks that appeared in their original form as single B sides such as Tales Of The Riverbank is a nice touch and yes, I am old enough to remember G P and Hammy The Hamster! Steve’s rendition of The Skye Boat Song is another beautiful moment. All in all, this album is a MUST for all fans of Steve’s work.

I approached Till We Have Faces with a certain degree of misgiving. I admit that I didn’t like the album on its initial release in 1984 but ten years on, older and possibly wiser (?) and with the advent of World Music since then this has meant that I approached the re-issue with a considerably more open mind and as a result, I was pleasantly surprised. The sheer rhythmic quality of the Brazilian musicians was a revelation and I fully agree with Billy Budis’s remarks in the sleeve notes that this was perhaps the very first album of World Music. I also think that the re-arrangement of the running order on the album makes it a better version than the original. The re-working of Matilda Smith-Williams … is far better than the original. On this album, Steve has also opted to include a couple of tracks from the elusive and as yet unreleased, Feedback album in the form of The Gulf and Stadiums Of The Damned both of which are excellent tracks that contribute greatly to the improved feel of the album. This is still not an album that would be my first choice as a Hackett fan but it is one that certainly deserves a better press than it received back in 1984!

I have always considered Momentum to be one of Steve’s finest albums and the new version only served to confirm that opinion. Once again, it is not hard to see where the work has gone into making these beautiful pieces sound even better if that were possible - and it sure is! I was particularly amazed by Cavalcanti, Concert For Munich and Momentum itself, all of which sounded so much clearer and crisper on this album. It was originally planned to include some “unplugged” versions of previous classics by Steve, played by just him and John Hackett on flute, but John’s recent car accident has put paid to this. However, we are more than adequate compensated by the inclusion of three new pieces instead. I use the term “new” loosely here, because in two of the three cases, the piece is not exactly new. Bouree certainly rates as the oldest pieces that Steve has ever recorded, having originally been written by J S Bach and more recently having featured in the live set by vintage rockers; Jethro Tull. Steve’s version is a marvellous rendition. It is followed by a previously unreleased track from the Momentum sessions; An Open Window, although once again, some fans may remember it from the Momentum tour where it was played as one of the two encores. Of course, I am wondering what happened to the other piece, the intriguingly titled Carrot That Killed My Sister?! The final track; The Vigil is another wonderful piece and all of these additions fit so well that you cannot see the join, so to speak.

Time Lapse was originally issued in Holland on the Crisis label and as a live recording takes the best of both worlds by combining two separate shows, one in New York in 1981 and the other from a TV show that Steve did in Nottingham in 1990. The spread of material is indicative of Steve’s live work and as such, fills a gap in the collection quite nicely.

Not only are these albums excellent value in terms of the additional material on the studio albums, but the extra photographs and sleeve notes give a fuller feel to the otherwise Spartan packaging of discs these days. At a price around £9 they represent excellent value by anyone’s standards!

Note : we would like to correct a statement in the last edition of TWR concerning START Records, who originally released Momentum back in 1988. Reader Paul Gibbon has kindly pointed out that START (which is run by his father, Brian Gibbon) are still in business although they now concentrate their efforts towards the compilation and video markets. Our thanks to Paul for pointing this out, and apologies to START for this mistake!