Review Summary: A great album, but great is not enough for Hackett and Squire. It doesn’t disappoint but I expected a bit more.)
“A Life Within A Day” is the only album of Squackett, a musical project of Chris Squire and Steve Hackett and which was released in 2012. The line up on the album is Chris Squire, Steve Hackett, Roger King, Jeremy Stacey and Amanda Lehmann. The album had also the collaboration of Christine Townsend, Richard Stuart and Dick Driver.
Chris Squire and Steve Hackett are both two music legends. They have been in the upper strata of the world’s most incredible musicians for over forty years. Each one, wrote, played and sung a challenging sort of music that has come to be known as prog, or fully, progressive rock. Both served time in huge and innovative bands. Squire in Yes and Hackett in Genesis. The pair has combined to recording an album that highlights the exact skills that have kept them employed and in the public eye for so many decades. With a nod, I’m assuming, to their very Englishness and the humour presumed within, they have chosen a rather awkward and perhaps silly name. A name I happen to like, but some may find disturbing, a name which means nothing more than a joke with the names of both, a hybrid name, really.
So Squackett, the collaboration that Steve and Chris had been working on for some years, finally surfaced after four years of collaboration. The two began working together after having actually met in the mid of the 80’s in the U.S A., when Chris Squire was working on his solo Christmas album “Chris Squire’s Swiss Choir” and needed some guitar parts. Squire was put in touch with Hackett, who contributed guitar to Squire’s album. The bassist returned the favour by playing on Hackett’s two solo releases, “Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth” and “Beyond The Shrouded Horizon”. As they worked together on those various projects, the nine songs on “A Life Within A Day” were born after those years.
The expectations in the progressive fans of Genesis and Yes were naturally high, though nobody ever said which would be the style of the album. “A Life Within A Day” is therefore basically the playground for two musical legends and not a place to stick a label on. While there are touches of Yes and Genesis via their trademark musical styles, this is not Yes or Genesis. All songs are under 7 minutes in duration while the whole album comes in at just over 46 minutes. “A Life Within A Day” is a great exhibition of two masters of the craft making music for the full enjoyment of it all. Free from the restraints of contractual obligations, they have created songs with live and breathe. They may sound straight forward on a superficial level, but they all possess depth in the way they have been constructed. The songs consisting of clever prog rock, jazzy parts, bombastic passages and many vocal parts. The sound of the entire album reminds me bands like Genesis, Yes, Conspiracy, Asia, Billy Sherwood and Steve Hackett, which isn’t properly a strange or even a bad thing.
About the tracks, the title track is the best track on the album. It has it all, that is, all that an outstanding prog rock song needs. This means great melodies, amazing hooks, fabulous guitar solos, bombastic rock passages and wonderful sounding vocals. I truly wished that the remainder of the album were as good as this one. “Tall Ships” is a rather funky Conspiracy like track dominated by Squire’s bass. The Hackett’s solo halfway the song is well played. This is a track with multi-textures and orchestral tones. “Divided Self” sounds rather mainstream, maybe a bit simple even. But, the chorus is extremely catchy, perhaps making it a radio-friendly single. “Aliens” kicks off in the vein of Asia, followed by some vocal harmonies. This piece sounds like a ballad mainly due to the semi-acoustic sound. “Sea Of Smiles” is a nicely song with a rich vocal treatment. It’s a song with some sweetest harmonies and with a hippie feeling. “The Summer Backwards” is a nice song with lush vocal harmonies and a catchy melody that sticks long in our memory. It has also some strong harmonies, a lovely melody and a choral backdrop giving it a psychedelic feel. “Storm Chaser”, which is a guitar driven Conspiracy/Yes’ like track, features one of Steve’s best guitar solos on the album. “Can’t Stop The Rain” is again a ballad-like slow song. You might even call it laid back or jazzy as the piano plays an important part in this song. The album ends nicely with “Perfect Love Song”, in which Steve’s guitar solo plays the leading part.
Conclusion: Despite all I said before, the quality of the album and especially because I gave to it a 4.00, all in all, I have to say that I’m a bit disappointed with it. “A Life Within A Day” kicks off in an amazing way, but the extremely high level of the first two songs couldn’t be maintained during the remainder of the album, which is sad but nonetheless true, for me. But don’t get me wrong. Of course this isn’t a bad album at all. But, it could have been so much better. Maybe I’m a little bit hard with two of my favourite progressive artists, but I really think they could have done a better job on here. Anyway, I’m perfectly convinced that “A Life Within A Day” is a fresh and simple album which must have given much pleasure to make for both artists. So, however and despite it isn’t a masterpiece, they made a great and decent job here.
Music was my first love.
John Miles (Rebel)