"Re-tuning the GTR" - The recent re-issue of the GTR album reviewed by Alan Hewitt.
GTR…. Are what you might call a Marmite/Vegemite band which means that you either like them or loathe them. Back in 1986 when the GTR project emerged kicking and screaming into the world, I was definitely among the latter. I have never been a fan of so-called “Supergroups” and GTR definitely fell into that category.
The experiment of putting two or more guitarists together to see what happens has been done so many times and I suppose, on paper, this looked like an incredibly exciting prospect. Both protagonists had established their credentials with two of the most revered bands from Prog’s golden age. However, we would do well to remember at the time, both of them were out in the cold as far as the music world was concerned. Hence the amalgamation of their enormous talents.
The resulting album which in addition to Messrs Hackett and Howe also featured several lesser know but equally talented alumni from the world of rock was a great example of corporate rock at its worst. A thin veneer of excellent quality material in the shape of the tracks which were destined to become singles: When the Heart Rules The Mind and The Hunter respectively, are classics of the AOR type which was the dominant force during the 1980’s. However, the remainder of the album barely attained the same heights and even the inclusion of two instrumentals from Hackett and Howe (Sketches In the Sun and Hackett To Bits respectively) did little to redeem it.
It has to be said the album was an enormous success in the USA where it topped the charts and generated enough interest for an extensive tour during the summer of 1986. However in Europe and the UK where jaded senses and memories of the likes of The Yardbirds were still relatively fresh, the album met with an altogether more muted reception.
And so, some 29 years later here we have the album repackaged and available once more so what does this new release bring to the table? It has to be said, the answer to that is surprisingly little. OK, so the second disc is the excellent quality King Biscuit Flower Hour live recording from the band’s show at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles which will more than satisfy the curiosity of those who wondered what GTR sounded like as a live unit and once again will expose the mediocrity of the GTR material as compared to the likes of Roundabout and Spectral mornings which feature in the medleys played by both protagonists. To collectors, the inclusion of the remixes and B sides from the singles will be of passing interest but little more.
Both protagonists subsequently distanced themselves from this project after it had ended in recriminations and legal disputes and eventually returned to what they were good at and so this release should realistically more or less be regarded as an interesting footnote in the careers of Messrs Hackett and Howe rather than a high point and perhaps an abject lesson in the dangers of letting the “suits” dictate to musicians who invariably know better anyway.