"Listening to the Feedback" - Steve Hackett's not so new album, Feedback 86. Review by Alan Hewitt.
Having heard a bootleg (oops!) version of this album many years ago now, I was always curious as to why the album was never released at the time (1986) and now that I have had the chance to speak to Steve about the album (see interview elsewhere) I am all the more mystified. An album boasting the combined talents of Steve, Steve Howe, Brian May, Ian Mosley, Pete Trewavas, Nick Magnus, Bonnie Tyler, and Chris Thompson should surely have been a hit?! Anyway, better late than never so what does "Feedback" bring to Steve's repertoire? Well...
The album opens with the power rock of "Cassandra", who in legend was capable of foretelling the future but whose warnings were ignored. This is a rock classic featuring the glorious guitar work of both Steve Hackett and Brian May - a frightening combination - and when taken in combination with Chris Thompson's brilliant vocalisations, this is a sure fire, bona fide hit!
"Prizefighters" follows, a track which was originally intended for the second GTR album which sadly never saw the light of day, although the live version of it featured on the GTR Live album a couple of years ago. It is great to hear the original studio version including an impassioned vocal from Bonnie Tyler, without doubt one of the classic lost rock anthems of the eighties.
Of all the tracks on this album the one I was most looking forward to hearing is the track "Slot Machine", a tribute to the persistence of gamblers perhaps, but to me it is the Hackett rock track of the 1980's although the waltz introduction will take you by surprise before the guitar refrain rips the hairs off the back of your neck and Chris Thompson's vocals take rock arias to another dimension! If you know anyone who has any doubts that Steve can rock, play them this track and watch the reaction - it will work a miraculous conversion, I guarantee it: and if the final "comic" moment doesn’t bring a smile to their face, then check for a pulse because the listener has to be dead not to be amused!
Many fans will be familiar with the next track, "Stadiums Of The Damned", which has appeared previously on the CD reissue of "Till We Have Faces", but as they used to say in the movies "A good cast is worth repeating", and this one is another superb performance including what has to be one of Steve's best ever vocals in a suitably manic style - don't turn your back on this axeman!
"Don't Fall" has seen many incarnations including the glorious acoustic instrumental version "Don't Fall Away From Me" on 1991's "The Unauthorised Biography". This version however, is the full-on rock version with Steve's blues harp making what may well have been its first appearance on record, and another impassioned vocal performance from Chris Thompson and the gloriously atmopsheric keyboard work of Nick Magnus which compliments the vocals and guitar perfectly - as usual!
"Oh How I Love You", takes the pace down a few notches with a truly wonderful combination of acoustic guitar work, piano and the stirring vocals of Chris Thompson. Another classic love song from Steve and another potential single!
"Notre Dame Des Fleurs" will also be familiar to fans who saw Steve on his 1988 "Momentum" acoustic tour, where it featured in the live set. I have always been a fan Steve's acoustic work and this track is a delight. Listen to it, close your eyes and let the music take you to another time and place - bravo, maestro!
Rounding off the album is another melodramatic masterpiece "The Gulf" which has also appeared on the Camino CD reissue of "Till we Have Faces", it is restored to its rightful place here. This is definitely a film soundtrack in miniature and all of Steve's trademarks are there ably assisted by "Officer" Magnus a suitably dramatic close to the album.
Don't think that that is the end of the story however, because; thanks to the wonders of modern technology; there is still much more to see and hear on this album. If you play it in your computer, not only will you have a handy pocket biography [I can't fit my PC in my pocket... -TB] of Steve's albums including MP3 tracks from them, there are also sample tracks from the other artists on the Camino label and details about Kim Poor's artwork and exhibitions amongst other things. The whole thing serves as a nifty introduction to both Steve's music and the record company that brings it all to you.
So, there you have it. As an album this does not deserve to be passed over as an "archival" item although that is what it is. The music however, is far from that, being another great example of Steve's talents in so many areas and with a cast of musicians that would make many of today's bands weep! This project took a long time coming to fruition but the results are, I am sure you will agree, well worth the wait! Oh, and by the way in case you hadn't guessed, I am totally biased as far as this album is concerned, I genuinely think it is f*****g marvellous! Any more like this lurking in the archive, eh Steve?