“The Moonspinner and other tales” - John Hackett’s new album, Moonspinner reviewed by Alan Hewitt.

Having one member of a family renowned for their musical prowess is usually more than enough but the Hackett clan have always bucked the trend and Steve’s younger brother has been carving a niche for himself in the world of orchestral music for many years now. John has already released a string of musically excellent albums combining his talent on his instrument of choice; the flute and the guitar.

John’s new album continues this trend with a selection of fourteen self compositions and two “covers” of pieces by J S Bach and Claude Debussy, the latter being one of the pieces that the brothers performed as an encore during their acoustic tours a few years ago.

The album kicks off with a high spirited track; Witchfinder which (pardon the pun), reminds me of Ian Anderson’s flute playing style. A delightfully jaunty flute and guitar romp set the tone for the rest of the album. Appassionata follows, John’s flute and guitar here have more of an autumnal feel to them, leaves blown in the wind, and the scent of wood smoke are everywhere in this one.

Red Hair is another delightfully evocative sound picture, I assume that this is a tribute to somebody that John knows, perhaps his good lady wife; Katrin? Whoever the possessor of the red hair in question is, the resulting aural depiction is one of a feisty character possessed of self-confidence and charm in equal measures. Overnight Snow, is another of those tracks evidently inspired by Satie, the music moves in a stately fashion casting a magical pall over the listener, hushed and shimmering beautiful; just like its subject!

Moonspinner, the album’s title track is next and it warms us up after its somewhat frosty predecessor. Windhover reminds me a great deal of some of John’s work on the early albums by his brother; there are shadows of Hierophants and Priestesses all over this one. The guitar in particular is amazing in both its depth and how it has become the “small orchestra” that Steve has so often said is the special talent of the acoustic guitar.

Green Shoes is an altogether more lively track; a child’s dance in the nursery perhaps? Or a maiden’s steps in green fields? Beautifully observed and delightful to the ears. The Shepherd Wheel is equally charming and diverting, while No Going Back owes more to the Flamenco style than anything else, a driving guitar rhythm underpins a melancholy flute performance.

The Great Including opens with an expansive guitar phrasing before it is joined by an equally expansive (or should that be inclusive?) flute. A celebration of everything great and good in the world, this really should have lyrics although the music speaks volumes for itself!

Aftermath once again has shades of early Hackett on it. A quiet and restrained, almost stately dance takes place here between both instruments once again emphasising John’s command of both. Two Daughters meanwhile is a delightful observation of John’s own two daughters, a sentimental evocation that never descends into mawkishness - a father’s tribute to his children.

The Prince Of Morimont, not sure if this is a historical or fictional character, either way it is another beautiful sound picture of a character who seems to be full of joie de vivre. The Spanish influences are to the fore again particularly on the guitar which delivers a strident rhythm over which the flute glissades like the sun glistening off the polished silver buttons of this character’s equally brilliant waistcoat! *

Thoughts Turn Homeward opens with another Spanish-flavoured guitar phrase, wistful and enigmatic, joined by the flute for an equally thoughtful moment in the reverie. The tempo picks up slightly as our dreamer has happier thoughts perhaps. Melancholy and restrained but never truly sad, this is a marvellous album closer.

However, things aren’t over yet as John has a further couple of treats for us. First of all, the magnificent Andante by J S Bach in which he is joined by ReGenesis’ guitarist, Andy Gray for a truly delightful rendering of this classic piece before the album closes with the frosty beauty of Syrinx by Debussy in which John’s flute delivers the haunting music of the French master in fine style.

So there you have it, another album of excellent music in which the contemporary sound of John’s compositions is married to those of two past masters. As the press release for this album says; “I hope it goes some way to building a bridge between classical and progressive music”. As a fan of both genres, I can confidently state that this album does exactly that - marvellous stuff!

* According to John’s wife, Katrin, this track was inspired by a dog, draw your own conclusions!

The album can be purchased from John’s web site: www.hacktrax.co.uk