Review Summary: Steve Hackett proves that he can compose music well with his great release 'Darktown.'
Atmosphere. It has become an extremely desirable object in music, and for a good reason. When a band successfully pulls off an ambient record, it surrounds the listener like an aura of power, giving them an out of this world experience where not only can you hear the music, you can touch it, feel it and taste it. Progressive rock band Genesis were very accomplished at this – albums like Selling England By The Pound
were chock-full of ether. Most fans of Genesis are very knowledgeable about the eventual dissolution of the band as we used to know it. Yet sprouting from this break-up, branched three very successful solo careers from former Genesis members – Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett. The Hackett of old – the one we saw shredding his way through tracks like ‘Firth of Fifth,’ and ‘Dancing with the Moonlight Knight,’ with searing conviction- cannot be compared to the one we see portrayed on Darktown
, as new musical ideologies take this record by the scruff of the neck and blast them into everyone’s faces.
The mood of this album is incredibly dark and gloomy, trudging along at a funeral-march pace whilst Hackett haunts the listener with his thick atmospheric song-writing. Unlike in some records, where bands get confused with the feelings they try to evoke, Hackett knows exactly what he is doing, as the deep and blackened tracks progress and flow into each other with brilliance as the melancholic environment provides the listener with one of the most interesting and unforgettable experiences they will ever have. The lyrics, for the most part, are incredibly bleak and tell tales of loss and desolation. Hackett takes you on a journey, a story, through doom and despair as he abandons his typical Nintendo-style shredding and adopts are more forlorn tone on the rare occasions he sets himself apart from the rest of the instruments. ‘Twice Around the Sun,’ coming in at track 7 is the first standout instance of Hackett performing an overdriven solo, where he performs a deep and melodious refrain over careful drum-beats and atmospheric choirs and keys. Yet the majority of the time his input is merely a haunting acoustic guitar melody, or subtle chords that suffocate the listener with their hidden presence, in the best way possible.
The instruments used on this album are extremely diverse. To get the full idea, one must read the actual number of members involved in the recording of this record.
- Steve Hackett / harmonica, piano, narrator, rainstick, sequencing, 12-string bass guitar, guitar technician
- John Wetton / bass samples
- John Hackett / flute, Pan pipes
- Roger King / drums, flageolet, keyboards, engineer, mixing, post production, wood, guitar engineer, rhythm coordination
- Ian McDonald / saxophone
- Jerry Peal / strings, bells, engineer, mixing, woodwind arrangement
- Doug Sinclair / bass
- Billy Budis / cello, engineer, mixing, management
- Hugo Degenhardt / drums
- Aron Friedman / piano, keyboards, drum producer
- Jim Diamond / vocals
- John Colbeck / keyboards
The combination of all of those instruments could have ended up poorly for Hackett’s LP Darktown
. Yet the tight musicianship and talent displayed by each respective instrumentalist who had a contribution into this release fuse together to manufacture one of the most technical yet masterful releases in an extremely unique genre.
Steve Hackett’s solo career has gone criminally unnoticed by the majority of the public, especially when factoring in how huge Genesis and all that branched off from it were. Darktown
, though a change to what some who have only appreciated Genesis’ work may be expecting, is still an amazing album. Although towards the end the eeriness of the album loses a sliver of its original touch, the sensation one gets whilst listening to this is beyond words – Hackett achieves everything he wanted with this LP, and more.