Live shots of Steven Wilson at The Grand Opera House in Wilmington, Delaware

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Steve Hackett – Beyond the Shrouded Horizon 

Review by Mike Flavin

There are many superlatives one can use to describe Steve Hackett’s work over the decades – marvelous, majestic, magnificent – and all of them apply to his latest masterpiece, Beyond the Shrouded Horizon.

CD CoverThere is so much to admire about his music, and it’s all here from the opening track to the final notes of the second CD. The soaring electric guitar contrasted with delicate acoustics, the sweeping melodies and picturesque lyrics, and his legendary classically influenced compositional style. Few artists develop such a singular style that they become instantly recognizable after only a few notes, and Steve Hackett is not only such an artist, he manages do so without becoming his own cliché. Chris Squire and Simon Phillips contribute guest appearances alongside longtime Hackett band members John Hackett and Roger King.

To single out any individual tracks is not only difficult, it would lead to the incorrect conclusion that some tracks are ‘better’ or that others are not up to par. Not so, but I will have to say that one of the album’s highlights is “A Place Called Freedom”. It’s a truly stunning track that features one of his strongest vocal performances and a tale of finding new life in a new land. In a word, beautiful.

One of the more intriguing tracks would have to be “Waking to Life”, which features vocalist Amanda Lehmann over a hypnotic middle-eastern groove. Fascinating in that it wouldn’t sound out of place in a trendy dance club but is also a terrific addition to this album. It’s – dare I say – sexy? Part of being ‘progressive’ is to take chances and to my ears this one work very well.

It’s almost unfair to skip over so much incredible music, but moving ahead to the 2nd CD, we are treated to mostly instrumental pieces, which is certainly not a disappointment. The multi-part “Four Winds (North, South, East, & West) is Hackett at his classically influenced best, and “Reconditioned Nightmare” is a pleasing update of “Air Conditioned Nightmare” that appeared on 1981’s Cured.

There really isn’t enough I can say about how enjoyable Beyond the Shrouded Horizon is. It shows a guitarist with decades of playing under his fingers still performing at a stratospheric level, pushing his music to new heights of technical prowess and pure emotional musicality. It’s as close to perfect a listening experience as an album can be.

Steve Hackett official website

 Personnel (Main CD)

Nick Beggs - bass, chapman stick, pink ukulele

Dick Driver - double bass John Hackett – flute, vocals

Steve Hackett - guitars, vocals, harmonica

Roger King - keyboards, programming

Amanda Lehmann – vocals, guitar

Gary O'Toole – drums, vocals

Simon Phillips - drums

Chris Squire - bass

Richard Stewart - cello

 Christine Townsend - violin, viola

Rob Townsend - sax, whistle, bass clarinet

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