If you love quality rock music, then you will certainly have heard Steve Hackett’s work on some of the greatest songs of the past four decades. Whether with Genesis, GTR or on his solo output, the man has been a giant of the prog genre.
His guitar style and range has been both innovative and inspirational and he’s most definitely among the greats on the instrument, as you can tell by listening back to Genesis classics like ‘Firth Of Fifth’, ‘Supper’s Ready’ or ‘The Musical Box’. His sense of drama and diversity was accentuated by a desire to try different ideas, something that’s still true. In fact, he used the famed finger tapping technique a few years before Eddie Van Halen, which was readily acknowledged by the latter.
“It was a way of playing guitar fast and keeping up with keyboard players,” he laughs, recalling how finger tapping began for him when trying to play Bach’s ‘Toccata And Fugue In D Minor’.
The success he enjoyed with Genesis on six acclaimed studio albums allowed Hackett to subsequently become a consummate and powerful artist in his own right. All you have to do is check out the breadth and depth of the music on his solo records to appreciate that the man has grasped the opportunity to be in control of his own destiny. To create impassioned music that has never become rooted in clichés or stuck in a rut.
And Hackett, a master songwriter as well as being a supreme musician, has also worked smoothly with other top names. He teamed up with guitarist Steve Howe of Yes fame in GTR, releasing one self-titled album that was a big seller. He’s also continued a Yes connection by recently forming Squackett, with bassist Chris Squire.
From classical to jazz to rock to world music, Hackett has spanned the spectrum of what’s possible, in the process proving to be a big influence on Brian May, Eddie Van Halen and Rush’s Alex Lifeson to name but three. And, over the past few years, he’s enjoyed a purple passage of creativity, leading to the release of some of the finest albums in his distinguished career.
His latest album basks in the title of ‘Genesis Revisited II’. A follow-up to 1996’s ‘Genesis Revisited’, as the title suggests, it sees the guitarist reinterpreting the golden era of the great band – one in which he was crucially involved – while also remaining true to the original spirit which produced such a remarkable string of timeless songs.
“This time around, I’ve tried to satisfy what everyone wants, including myself. Initially, I was thinking of just going for the best songs not featured on the first album. But then people thought I should do those tracks where the guitar was emphasized. So, I’ve done both. I’ve also included four songs, which have Genesis connections, where the song was written originally for the band, or rehearsed by them. For instance, there’s ‘Please Don’t Touch’, which I wrote for Genesis, but eventually ended up recording myself.”
This will be a double CD, as well as a quadruple set on vinyl, when released in October. That’s nearly 150 minutes of music – “It’s a project of Wagnerian proportions!” he says. “For the most part I’ve followed the arrangements we had first time around. But each vocalist has added their own character.”
The vocalists include Steven Wilson, Mikael Akerfeldt, Simon Collins (Phil Collins’ son), Conrad Keely, Francis Dunnery, Neal Morse, John Wetton, Nad Sylvan and Nik Kershaw. There are also two other guitarists apart from Hackett, namely Steve Rothery of Marillion and Roine Stolt of The Flower Kings and Transatlantic. In all, you’ll hear around 35 guests.
“What I’m doing is celebrating music without prejudice, which was what Genesis stood for back then. We really had no limits, everything was possible. You could have short songs, long songs, loud bits, quiet moments, boys’ own adventures, pantomime, humour, big band sounds, jazz, classical music...there was no barrier to what we were doing.”
And next year Hackett will take the ‘Genesis Revisited’ concept out on the road.
“I won’t be doing everything from the two albums, otherwise I’d be onstage forever. It’ll be about a two hour set.”
Steve Hackett – a man who can celebrate his illustrious past by making it relevant to the present and the future. Now that’s progressive.