"Blues With Another Feeling" - The Esoteric Records re-issue of Steve Hackett's Blues With A Feeling album. Review by Alan Hewitt. Photograph: Richard Mills.
Since its release back in 1994 - was it really that long ago? Blues With A Feeling has been the somewhat poor relation in Steve’s back catalogue. Steve has always worn his love of the blues on his sleeve and it was high time that he acknowledged that and when he finally did with this album the end result was immensely satisfying.
Sadly, that opinion wasnot shared by the vast majority of his fans. Prog and the blues don’t make easy bed fellows which is strange because without the latter we would not have the glories of the music we all love so much. The blues is where it all began and we owe it an enormous debt of gratitude.
OK, pontificating over. What does this reissue offer to us, the listener? Well, quite alit actually. First thing you will notice is the overwhelming sense of enthusiasm and fun which runs throughout the album. Born In Chicago, a classic slice of vintage blues gets things off to a superb start, wailing guitars and harmonica augmented by a rock solid back beat, boues at its room shaking best. The Stumble too, another vintage effort given the Hackett band treatment, and anyone who saw this short-lived band lineup during 1993-94 will tell you, just how good a band they were. The Stumble is classic jook joint blues played here with all the bravado you would expect. No wonder the blues is the form of choice for musicians the world over at sound checks and jams , it has no rules except that of having a blast which is evidently what the band were doing on this one!
So, can white men play the blues? Well, I think Peter Green, John Mayall and Eric Clapton among others proved that along time ago but can Hackett hack it , so to speak? Well, the first of Hackett’s own compositions on this album. Love of Another Kind will give you the answer. The great thing about the blues is that it is the spirit which is more important than musical finesse and this is a gutsy performance which I would love to see Steve include in his live shows. Way Down South is a great example of walkin’ blues, laid back and smoky but with just a hint of fire in the guitar refrain and A Blue Part of Town, which has featured in a truncated form at some of Steve’s shows, come the closest to being a jazz track, definitely one for a smoke filled nightclub, late at night when all of the patrons want something sad and sentimental to send them on their way home.
Of the other tracks, the mix between new compositions and established blues standards is accomplished so well that you cannot see the join so to speak and with a band this good that isn’t really surprising now, is it?
What about the new tracks? Well the first of these, On Cemetery Road opens with the same refrain as A Girl Called Linda from Steve’s Wild Orchids album, another example of Steve’s recycling musical themes but taken in an entirely different direction. I’m not sure if it is the blues but I like it! And the album concludes this time with Patch of Blue, Steve’s homage to Oscar Wilde and his Ballad Of Reading Gaol. Don’t; be deceived by the poetic reference though, this is a full-blooded stomp and it is difficult to believe that both of these were effectively recorded in Steve’s front room again - wonder what the neighbours thought?!
If you are not a blues aficionado, then this album will not convert you, but, if like me, you like to hear a good stomp from a bluesman once in a while, then this is an album you will enjoy immensely. The devil has all the best tunes so they say? Well, I disagree, as Mr Hackett has some of them right here on Blues With A Feeling!
Steve Hackett - Blues With A Feeling. Esoteric Records ECLEC 2553.