"Re-visiting the Guitar Noir" - Steve Hackett's most recent album reviewed in a slightly biased manner. Review by Alan Hewitt.

Re-mastering or re-editing of albums usually leaves me cold. However, this is far from the case with the recently re-issued "Guitar Noir" album by Steve. One major criticism of this album when it was released in 1993 was that its running order was wrong. With the new album, I can see that the perceptive souls who thought so, had a point!

The album now opens with the searingly up beat "Sierra Quemada" which, in my opinion, is a much more suitable opener. Following that is the album's original opener, "Take These Pearls", which simply gets better with age. Contrasting the shimmering musicality of the former with the sombre and almost funereal "There Are Many Sides To The Night", only serves to show the many sides of Steve Hackett.

The urban angst of "In The Heart Of The City" follows, and still manages to send a thrill up my spine when I hear it. Steve's concession to AOR rock follows with the dynamics of "Lost In Your Eyes" and "Little America", either of which could (and should in my opinion) have been released as a single.

One of Steve's finest moments follows; "Like An Arrow" is still as close to a hymn of triumph that you are ever likely to hear from a rock performer today; still utterly brilliant! The first of the additional tracks appears next in the shape of "Theatre Of Sleep" which is a delightfully dreamy little number, a welcome respite from the previous tracks' workouts.

"Walking Away From Rainbows" still encapsulates something I have grown to love about Steve's music, and to place it before his love song for Kim, "Paint Your Picture", demonstrates fully the lyrical and musical talents that have always made Steve's albums special.

We then go from the sublime to the ridiculous in the shape of another of those "left of centre" outings which Steve is so fond of. "A Vampyre With A Healthy Appetite" is still the most bizarre track that Steve has ever committed to record, aided and abetted later on by an even more outrageous demo version! The album proper is rounded off as it was originally, by the elegiac beauty of "Tristesse" before we are taken into the "alternate" world of "Guitar Noir" with demo and rough mixes of "Sierra Quemada", "In The Heart of The City", "Take These Pearls" and "A Vampyre With A Healthy Appetite" all of which give us an additional glimpse into the world of Steve Hackett and certainly make this album a worthy addition to any fan's collection. But, why, oh why was there no place on the album for "Cassandra", which still sadly remains unheard unless you have the US edition of the original album?!

When the news broke that Steve had finally given in to the urge to revisit the Genesis era, I was fascinated, wondering exactly what material he would play? Frustratingly the album was originally issued only in Japan however, that has now been rectified, and fans in Europe and the UK and US can now hear Steve's interpretation of "Genesis '97". What does this have in store for us? Well, we shall see...

Once again, the album opens with the awesome "Watcher Of The Skies", which has been greatly augmented by the use of the orchestra and a truly magnificent Mellotron part which almost manages to convince you that you are in the presence of unearthly visitors. John Wetton certainly captures the essence of the song and his vocal performance here is truly magnificent! A brilliant way to open the album!

"Your Own Special Way" comes next; an underrated song which has been given a marvellous re-working here, and the soulful vocals of Paul Carrack lend themselves perfectly to the orchestral backdrop and Steve's guitar solo really nails the track for me. I think it could (and indeed should) be a single.

The "Genesis Revisited" Sleeve Art

The hard driving rock power of "Dance On A Volcano" follows, grips you by the neck and leaves you breathless and hoping for a respite, which doesn't come because the first of the new tracks which Steve has chosen to sandwich in between the Genesis classics comes next: "Valley Of The Kings", is a percussion powered romp through the Middle East which would not have sounded out of place on Peter Gabriel's "Passion" album. While on the subject of Peter, the next track: "Déjà Vu" harks back to the days when he was still in the band and Steve had Peter's permission to finish the track and he has done so with obvious loving care. An excellent example of what "might have been".

Steve has chosen to include several tracks from the Genesis canon that have, for one reason or another, been sadly undervalued, and his new version of "For Absent Friends" is a delight; slowed down to an old fashioned waltz tempo, it really works well; especially with the plaintive vocals of Colin Bluntstone which create the right atmosphere of wistful sadness necessary to deliver the song well.

A beautiful acoustic melody lulls us into a false sense of security before the familiar introduction to "Fountain Of Salmacis" emerges, picked out on flute and keyboards, before Steve's menacing vocals lead us through the tale of doom-laden Hermaphroditus. "The Waiting Room Only" paraphrases moments of the atonal "jam" that bears its name from "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" and is a deliciously frightening version; one to play with the lights ON! This is followed by a completely off the wall version of "I Know What I Like" in which pride of place must go to the sound effects department!

"Firth Of Fifth" is prefaced by a bemused Steve asking if the tape is still running! What follows is a truly delightful interpretation of one of Tony's finest moments, including the full orchestra and a whole school of percussion. Finally, "Los Endos" which now weighs in at almost nine minutes, and manages to incorporate many themes from both Genesis tracks as well as several reminders of his own work, and the end result is a stunning work out for both the musicians and the listener, and a magnificent high point on which to end the album.

The Japanese "Genesis Revisited" Sleeve Art

As an album of "covers" this one has the bonus of so many of the musicians being involved with one incarnation of Genesis or another. As such, it cannot and does not fail to delight the fans. What impressed me the most was the sheer sense of fun that infuses each track and if you listen to the album with that sense of fun foremost in your mind, then this is an album that will delight you for years to come!