“Blues with a feeling” - Steve Hackett gets bitten somewhere nasty by the blues. Review by Bill Brink.
On his latest album Steve Hackett has opened another door on another musical style. Steve has gone back to some of his earliest musical influences and has produced a solid testament to the blues. Given the energy level on this album, one gets the feeling that this was a recording that he just plain HAD TO MAKE!
There are twelve tracks in all - a little over 46 minutes. The line up has Steve on vocals, guitar and harmonica, Julian Colbeck on keyboards; Doug Sinclair on bass and Hugo Degenhardt playing the drums. Dave Ball makes an appearance on two tracks and Jerry Peal plays organ on one. Then there are Matt Dunkley, John Lee; Peter Long and John Chapman - the “Kew Horns” who play on three tracks. They all perform strikingly well, with my hat coming off to Hugo for a brilliant job.
The record spans a wide variety of blues styles, there are pieces like Love Of Another Kind where you can scarcely tell the harmonica from the guitar to the title track where the guitar has that old traditional almost hollow-body sound to it. Occasionally, as on Footloose, the music cuts loose into a free for all and that has a Johnny Winter feel to it and sounds like it was almost recorded live. Then there are tunes which, to quote the sleeve… “move on to the hard stuff…” Jazz of course, but don’t say I didn’t warn you! A Blue Part of Town and Tombstone Roller are downright fusion-jazzish, sometimes reminiscent of Jeff Beck.
On Way Down South you get walkin’ blues with a slow steady bass line that just takes you down the road and Big Dallas Sky has Steve delivering a pensive Robbie Robertson-type monologue, rather like In The Heart of The City but more natural. There is, of course, a track that follows that older than water traditional blues line that has been used in such classics like Sweet Home Chicago. The Thirteenth Floor (which rumour had as a potential title for the album) probably hits closer to the ol’ blues bone than any other track, simply because it is a familiar form.
All in all, Steve makes a very good showing of it. You can hear Paul Butterfield’s influence on his harmonica playing and Steve’s vocal style gets around nicely. On the last track, Solid Ground, he even cuts loose into yelling in the old Southern blues style. I came away from this recording thinking; “here’s a guy that’s having a really good time!” I think a lot of people who are relatively unfamiliar with blues music but have always liked Steve’s work would be doing themselves a disservice by not hearing this recording. You never know when the blues are gonna catch up with ya!