“Tales From Another Life” - The new ablum by John Hackett reviewed by Alan Hewitt.
Cast your minds back dear readers to 2005 when Mr Hackett junior made his first foray into the world of solo rock with the semi-autobiographical album Checking Out Of London which garnered well deserved praise from fans and critics alike - even gaining “album of the month” status in one music magazine no less! Well, it has been a long time coming but at last, John is back with the follow- up album to that: Another Life. Does it measure up to its illustrious predecessor? Well, we shall see….
The album’s title track opens the show and gets things off to a suitably dramatic start with a tale of a chaotic life left behind in search of a better one. There are echoes of some classic music from the Sixties within this one to my ears but that is not necessarily a bad thing and the end result is a fine beginning with some surprisingly nifty bass work from young Mr Hackett in addition to the plethora of other instruments he plays on the album - oh, and he sings quite well too!
Look Up continues the harder rocking edge to the album with another tale of life gone wrong but this time there is a hint of hope to be gained from the chaos that is modern life. Once again, there are shades of John’s previous album in some of the phrasings in this one but the track is a lot more adventurous in feel, a clear sign that John’s confidence has grown commensurately since his first tentative effort and it is great to see him rock out more here.
Poison Town is more laid back and jazzy in feel with some wistful lyrics by Nick Clabburn and the end result is a paean to aspiration unfulfilled, a truly evocative and thought provoking effort and the same can be said of the next track; White Lines where the theme of travelling to escape from the straightjacket of life is vividly evoked once again and here, as elsewhere on the album John’s older brother, Steve makes his presence known with some suitably dramatic guitar work
Life In Reverse too is a brilliantly described tale of resignation and regret in which John’s voice really brings emotional resonance to the performance and his almost scat flute playing make this a firm favourite of mine. In fact, if there were any justice this should be a chart topping single to my mind!
Burnt Down Trees opens with a funky rhythm redolent of echoes of Peter Gabriel’s classic Sledgehammer cut but that is where the similarity ends as John ably assisted by his brother cut loose with some real rock rhythms again but the track falls somewhat flat to my ears. I think John was trying a bit too hard here but we can’t have a masterpiece every time can we?
The country-tinged Satellite works much better and it is marvellous to hear Anthony Phillips’s unmistakable twelve string sounds on this one. Combining that with a harmonica, ably wielded by Mr Hackett senior makes this another favourite and one in which all of the protagonists are evidently having real fun!
The rest of the album easily measures up to the standard set by its predecessor in terms of the quality of the music and the performance. OK, there are quite a few musical nods to Checking… throughout the album but so what? Lyrically, the album is much more dense than its predecessor and if there is an element of autobiography to be found in them, then perhaps it is Mr Clabburn’s story that is being told here? I don’t know but what I do know is that here once again is an album that is of a consistently high quality, oozing with a confidence that bodes well for John’s future work. With a supporting cast including Steve Hackett Anthony Phillips, Duncan Parsons and Nick Magnus who also did a superb job on the production, this is an album which I am sure will gain John a lot more fans and deservedly so. Now, about these ‘ere gigs, John….?
John Hackett: Another Life. Esoteric Antenna EANTCD 1053.