Steve Hackett
The Circus and the Nightwhale


4.5
superb

Review

by InfernalDeity CONTRIBUTOR (38 Reviews)
February 16th, 2024 | 20 replies


Release Date: 02/16/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Leave nostalgia at the door and enjoy.

Music is undeniably subjective. This has the unfortunate tendency of leaving plenty of room for bias. One particular bias, which I have been personally guilty of, is the bias of nostalgia. I have a severe prejudice against albums released late in an artist's career. I partly blame that on biological factors such as age. I think it is only natural that as our cognitive and physical abilities decline, so will our ability to play our instruments in a manner we were once able to do with ease. However, I don't think that has a substantial impact on my prejudice of later albums; simply because I don’t believe it typically hinders an artist's performance to such an extent that it would warrant this kind of response. My prejudice is primarily rooted in romanticizing the past. That does seem to be human nature. "Everything used to be better before" or "Those were the golden years." Of course, that isn't entirely true and I think we all know that deep down. The past is just comforting. We know what happened so there are no more surprises and most importantly, we survived to reflect and tell the tale. That is my primary quarrel as an amateur music reviewer. I constantly have to fight the urge to declare previous work superior de facto. Nevertheless, I have been able to largely separate my prejudices as of late. I have stumbled upon a few later releases that I find to be just as good as an artist's classic era, if not more. So, it begs the question, where does The Circus and The Nightwhale land in Hackett's extensive discography?

The title of the album tells you exactly what you're in for. The themes are forbidden wonder with a hint of danger behind every door. Hackett's guitar work here is nothing short of extraordinary and is rampant with emotion whether it be a heart-wrenching solo or a riff that crescendos with excitement, he does it all seamlessly. Furthermore, the beauty of this record cannot be understated, tracks such as Ghost Moon and Living Love are lovely even in their profound simplicity. However, these more simplistic tracks are strategically placed and by no means overstay their welcome. Hackett's experience in keeping the listener's interest is expertly displayed as evidenced by the following track, Circus Inferno, which sports some Middle Eastern guitar plucking that is followed by a luscious saxophone solo that changes the tempo set by Ghost Moon dramatically. We then transition into a medley of almost doom-laden riffery that is accentuated by entrancing female vocal melodies and powerful drum fills. Actually, that previous description encompasses not only Ghost Moon and Circus Inferno but Break Out and All at Sea. While each of these tracks has distinctive characteristics, Hackett somehow ties them all together into a central theme to great effect. The Circus and The Nightwhale is impressive and has a lot to offer. A listener likely won't be able to capture everything on the first go around, and luckily this album is good enough to warrant repeat listens. So, where does it stand amongst the extensive Hackett discography? I don’t know, and I don’t really care and you probably shouldn't either. This album, standing on its own, is wonderful and that’s enough for me.



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user ratings (20)
3.7
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
February 16th 2024


5844 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice, mind-pos'd!



After my first listen this morning, I was toying with reviewing this, so glad to see it got a writeup.



The guitar on here is fantastic, Hackett's still got it. All-around great vibes to this record.

InfernalDeity
Contributing Reviewer
February 16th 2024


597 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks Sunny. The atmosphere he created here is just brilliant

Sowing
Moderator
February 16th 2024


43943 Comments


Cool to see someone review this, Hackett doesn't seem to get much attention here. I am listening to it now and liking it a lot.

hel9000
February 16th 2024


1527 Comments


Nice review! Excited to check this, Hackett rules. Saw him play Foxtrot last year and he's still in great form.

InfernalDeity
Contributing Reviewer
February 16th 2024


597 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Its a super solid release. Second half of the album is where things get really interesting.

Veldin
February 17th 2024


5241 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I had A LOT of fun with this one. Gonna keep spinning over the weekend to see if it remains as enjoyable on repeated listens.

Sabrutin
February 17th 2024


9639 Comments


I want to check just because of the artwork

InfernalDeity
Contributing Reviewer
February 17th 2024


597 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Album artwork is dope

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
February 17th 2024


5844 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, not sure if the album art is exactly beautiful, but it captures that vintage vibe, feels like it could've come out in the '70s, which suits the music.



Really digging this after two listens - has that classic prog vibe while also flowing from track to track in this kind of easy-going, ramshackle way which works very well. The guitar solos on "Ghost Moon and Living Love" are so emotive.





InfernalDeity
Contributing Reviewer
February 17th 2024


597 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I think that is what impressed me the most. A lot of artists who try to capture their vintage sound just fail miserably and that isn't the case here. He also adds some more modern electronic sounds here too that fit rather nicely

manosg
Emeritus
February 17th 2024


12708 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Love the artwork and glad to see that this is so good. Will check soon.

Gyromania
February 18th 2024


37015 Comments


Excellent writing, that intro paragraph in particular is great and something I find myself pondering lately.

InfernalDeity
Contributing Reviewer
February 18th 2024


597 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thank you for the kind words gyro. It really is a major issue for me and I think it isn't fair to the listener or the artist.

sonictheplumber
February 18th 2024


17533 Comments


gotta jam this

sonictheplumber
February 18th 2024


17533 Comments


seen him live twice

e210013
February 19th 2024


5128 Comments


Another album I need to check from him.

DDDeftoneDDD
February 19th 2024


22106 Comments


2 portuguese acts on similar artists m/

Dreamflight
February 20th 2024


2199 Comments


Yeah I noticed that too. :D

zakalwe
March 9th 2024


38807 Comments


This is impressive

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
March 9th 2024


5844 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Indeed! I've been coming back to this one a lot.



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