"Highly Cured" - The final Steve Hackett remastered albums reviewed by Alan Hewitt.
It has ceratinly been a long time coming, but here at last are the final pieces in the jigsaw of Steve Hackett's back catalogue. Realising that when these albums originally came out I still had a full head of hair and it was all the natural colour makes me realise how fast time has flown and how much fun has been had in the intervening period.
Cured emerged in the summer of 1981 and in its way was every bit as much of a culture shock to Steve's fans as Abacab had been too those of Genesis. No, I didn't make a frisbee out of this album, but it was a pretty close call, I can tell you! First hearing Cured was like having a bucket of cold water poured over you after a hearty meal - rather shocking!
However, the years have been kinder to this album than many others of a similar age and having the ablum given the treatment as its predecessors by Steve and Ben Fenner certainly brings and added vibrancy to the proceedings. As an album of potentially commercial songs, Cured sees Steve trying to broaden his own character. Hearing him sing for the first time was quite surprising, but as we all know, Steve has harnessed his vocal talents and adapted them into something which both he and we, his audience are now familiar and comfortable with. Back in 1981, this was quite a thing to take on, but on these new version of the album you can see where it works and on occasions where it doesn't.
Funiily enough, the 'pop' songs such as Hope I Don't Wake and Picture Postcard work really well, Steve's voice does not sound out of place, and when lookeed at in hindsight now, what is strange is that the album was not more successful at the time. The album's only outright 'rocker', Overnight Sleeper is as good as ever but really does not fit in this new 'commercial' context. Sonically, the album has not needed as much work as the early ones but it is as clean and pristine as you would expect from the expert work of Ben Fenner.
Steve's next album took a further eighteen months to arive but was well worth the wait. No longer was he 'Cured', but now he was 'Highly Strung'. Fans were beginning to really wonder about Steve's health! Of course, the title is nothing more than a clever pun on aspects of Steve's favourite instrument.
The album saw a welcome return to rock music although, as you would expect from Steve the music was not straight ahead and simple. Camino Royale and Cell 151 were the most direct representatives of rock, the latter ironically even giving Steve and minor 'hit' single in the spring of 1983. Others such as Weightless (the story of Steve's first hang-gliding experience) and Group Therapy - not as you may expect, a trip by Steve to the psychiatrists' couch but merely a chance for his new look band to ladder their tights on an instrumental workout. The album took Steve's love of experimentation even further and is certainly his most adventurous to date and the remastered version brings all the extra nuances of Steve's fondness for soundscapes to the fore.
Once again, each album has extras although in this case, they are somewhat disappointing in scope. I was surprised to see the extended US album version of Walking Through Walls on highly Strung and the studio version of what was known as 'Hackett's Bogie' on the subsequent tour - it makes me wonder what else may be lurking in the Charisma archives (wherever they may be?). This is a minor quibble really, and the albums are the final pieces in Steve's solo jigsaw and as such are essential additions to and Hacketteer's collection - well done to all involved!