"Checking Out Of London" - The debut rock album by John Hackett reviewed by Alan Hewitt.

John Hackett really needs no introduction here but for those of you who may have been living in caves for the last thirty or so years; he is younger brother to Stephen Hackett esquire, master axeman and one time member of Genesis. John's instrument of choice was the flute however, he has foresaken that on this album to bring us another side of his musical talents.

"Checking Out Of London" is I suspect, semi-autobiographical in nature and makes fascinating listening on that level alone. However, what will probably be the most surprising thing about this album will be John's guitar playing and his vocals. Both of which are superb. Begs the question why he has taken so long to release an album like this!

There are many references to his work with Steve and The Hallway And The Pram is very reminiscent of some of Steve's earlier efforts and indeed; he appears on several tracks on this album including a stonking harmonica performance on this track. Ego And Id is certainly a prime slice of heavy rock with a menace-laden vocal and raw guitar work which I am sure will take many by surprise.

DNA is an altogether more sublime track with another superb vocal performance from John himself ably accompanied by several well known musicians including Nick Magnus. Whispers is a slightly manic song with a wittily cynical lyric delivered with just the right level of irony by Tony Patterson before the pace is calmed down again by Fantasy and John's velvet vocals an intriguing look behind the world of cyber relationships accompanied by a delightfully Floydian guitar and keyboard performance.

Headlights is delivered with a jaunty paced almost tango styled guitar phrase and John's vocals are hauntingly similar to some of Steve's vocalisations and indeed Steve does ladder his tights with the guitar parts on this one! Dreamtown is an altogether slower number in which Tony Patterson's vocals shimmer against the laid back accompaniment from John and Nick before the bitterly ironic More takes a swipe at society's evils with a rhythmic performance which is very reminiscent of Genesis' Illegal Alien in some ways.

The album's title track: Checking Out Of London certainly has the strongest vocal delivery on the album and absolutely the finest lyric on the entire album. Another bittersweet and obviously deeply personal song which certainly will be a delight to fans.

Dust features some amazing acoustic guitar work and an accomplished vocal, this is another personal favourite on this album before it is rounded off by Winter a delightfully evocative track bringing the album to a quiet but perfect resolution.

The album has obviously been a labour of love for John and he has been extremely lucky to have the talents of such fine musicians as Steve, Nick Magnus and Tony Patterson to breathe extra dimensions into the music and the wonderful lyrics of Nick Clabburn to broaden the picture even further . I have heard a great many "debut" albums in my time but seldom have I heard one from such an undoubtedly accomplished musician as John which has genuinely delighted me. This is a damn fine effort and one which will bring a great deal of pleasure to existing fans and new ones too and let's hope it isn't the last rock opus from John - on this showing I don't think it will be - superb stuff all round!

Click to enlarge
"John Hackett and some old friends" L-R: Pete Hicks, Steve Hackett, Nick Magnus, John Hackett and Dik Cadbury.
Photo: A Hewitt/TWR.