Spectral Mornings

Steve Hackett

Charisma Records, 1979




I sometimes wonder, "Why is it that at least fifty percent of all great guitarists in Rock are named Steve?". Steve Hackett from Genesis, Steve Howe from Yes, Steve Anscombe from Protos (who?), Steve Vai, the list seems endless. I was just pondering this amazing coincidence, which struck me anew during my travels on the murky waters of Usenet. Still … on to business.

Spectral Mornings counts as Hackett's third solo album, although some folks reckon his first, Voyage Of The Acolyte, is a Genesis album in all but name. It represents the output of a man who has, musically-speaking, come out from under the shadow of the band that made his name (even if his reputation as "the former Genesis guitarist" never left him). The variety of styles represented, and the consummately sure touch displayed, together present a mature talent and, along with his second album, Please Don't Touch, the pinnacle of his solo work.

The lively, bounding "Every Day" kicks us off. The tune feels catchy at first, but with introspective interludes giving the listener to pause. The guitar work is exquisite, especially with the later elaboration upon the initial theme. You clearly hear that uniquely Hackett haunting quality, and it might be here that you discover exactly what it is you loved about pre-1978 Genesis. A closer examination of the lyrics betrays a sombre side to the track - another Hackett trademark. I am given to understand that the song concerns itself with the folly of drug abuse, but the message is subtle.

The gentle "The Virgin And The Gypsy" follows. A sweetly lyrical song with that gorgeously smooth synth-like guitar that is unmistakably Hackett.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The instrumental, and distinctly oriental, "The Red Flower Of Tachai Blooms Everywhere" presents itself next, and it is as self-indulgent a piece as the length of its title suggests. The track itself is mercifully short. It might appeal to some, but it left me thinking "filler". You want me to lie to you?

"Clocks - The Angel Of Mons" is another instrumental, with fairly unrestrained guitar and driving drums interspersed with ticking clocks. The drum solo seems a little unnecessary, but all in all, an interesting song.

Hackett whimsy is evident in "The Ballad Of The Decomposing Man" - according to the artist, it's a George Formby parody, and I believe him, millions wouldn't. What listeners outside of the UK make of it, I cannot imagine. I quite enjoy its "Music Hall" quirkiness, which soon gives way to a bossa nova cum calypso type silliness. The aside comments made by the vocalist, whose name I haven't yet identified, betray a wit entirely in keeping with the utter tongue-in-cheekedness of this song. It's all too silly for serious fans of progressive rock, but who cares?

"Lost Time In Cordoba", another instrumental, allows Hackett to showcase his not inconsiderable acoustic guitar talents. A very pleasant classical guitar track, complete with flute accompaniment, if you like that sort of thing. Which I do - sort of.

Ominous growling noises introduce the rather strangely constructed song, "Tigermoth". Urgent, "in your face" guitar, booming bass, drums and cymbals announce a vaguely sinister intent that gives way to more abstract synth work. Back to guitar and drums in reprise, and then into a poignantly-related tale of aerial heroism from the First World War. Honestly. The lyrics are in doggerel form, and yet inexplicably touching. I found myself singing the verses at odd moments for weeks, and will doubtless be doing so again after this review. The end of the track features two acoustic guitars in counterpoint, together with (I believe) a xylophone, or synth equivalent. If ever there were a track of three completely incongruous parts, this is it. Still, it works for me.

The final track is breathtaking. It is "Spectral Mornings" and for me is one of the most perfect songs I have ever heard. Gorgeous free-flowing electric guitar is set against rhythmic hi-hat cymbal, and with organ and mellotron background. This track without fail raises the hairs on my arms, and induces in me the sincere, if unrealistic, desire to instantly learn the guitar in similar fashion. Jaw-droppingly beautiful, listening to this song is the shortest six and a half minutes I know how to spend. Does that make sense?

Genesis survived the loss of the highly charismatic Peter Gabriel after The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, against the expectations of many, including my own. Strangely, it was the more introspective talent of Hackett that Genesis has missed more keenly. Hackett's influence on the band was always readily apparent, but never more so than in the quality of his solo work in the mid to late 70's.

Rating: B+

User Rating: A-


© 1999 Loznik and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Charisma Records, and is used for informational purposes only.