The dips, peaks and fas­ci­nat­ing con­tours of a 22-year jour­ney.

Prog - - Intro - SID SMITH

Lis­ten­ing to the work of an artist whose cat­a­logue spans sev­eral decades is al­ways a fas­ci­nat­ing un­der­tak­ing. Tak­ing the long view, cer­tain al­bums stand apart, ac­quir­ing dis­tinct char­ac­ter­is­tics wherein tran­si­tional points in the mu­si­cal process are per­ceived. Of course, some of these con­tours on the artis­tic jour­ney would have been ev­i­dent at the time while oth­ers are only now clearly dis­cernible with the ben­e­fit of hind­sight. If the pe­riod cov­ered by 2015’s Pre­mo­ni­tions boxed set, de­tail­ing Hackett’s ten­ure with the


Charisma la­bel, rep­re­sents some­thing of a re­li­ably clas­sic era for him, this lat­est col­lec­tion en­ters a new chap­ter, where the ground is de­cid­edly more un­even in places.

In­fused with an ex­oti­cism gen­er­ated by the in­clu­sion of Brazil­ian per­cus­sion, 1984’s Till We Have Faces demon­strates a will­ing­ness to push his ma­te­rial away from more ob­vi­ous paths. As a vo­cal­ist, Hackett sounds stronger and more dy­namic than ever be­fore, in­ject­ing an emo­tive ur­gency on the cross-cul­tural pop-ori­en­tated ad­ven­tures of A Doll That’s Made In Ja­pan, while Matilda Smith-Wil­liams Home For The Aged bris­tles with the kind of per­cus­sive en­ergy Paul Si­mon would co-opt on Rhythm Of The Saints six years later.

Hackett’s open ears and open-mind­ed­ness oc­ca­sion­ally let him down. Recorded in 1986 off the back of his GTR ven­ture with Steve Howe but not re­leased un­til 1990, Feed­back 86’s pro­duc­tion is quin­tes­sen­tial big-boom 80s, wherein drums are not so much played as det­o­nated. Yet even the fullthroated emot­ing from Bon­nie Tyler and Man­fred Mann’s Chris Thomp­son can’t en­liven the dreary Layla knock-off Cas­san­dra or the punch-drunk an­them Prize­fight­ers. In the ac­com­pa­ny­ing book­let, Hackett judges it to be “Well worth a lis­ten”, and while GTR fans may revel in the 2018 re­work­ing of the MTV-friendly When The Heart Rules The Mind, the reek of mis­placed AOR op­por­tunism re­mains off­putting.

From 1993’s Gui­tar Noir through to the pow­er­ful 2006 re­lease Wild Or­chids, Hackett sounds like he’s in con­trol and on a mis­sion. His abil­ity to take a sin­gle note and fash­ion it into an ex­pres­sion of nuanced depths and mean­ing has al­ways been one of his great strengths as an in­stru­men­tal­ist, a ca­pac­ity he uses to dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect. At the other end of the spec­trum, he’s never afraid to pep­per his work with a sense of hu­mour that often pricks any in­cli­na­tions to pom­pos­ity.

Though re­mas­tered and fea­tur­ing se­lected sur­round­sound mixes and in-con­cert video, the paucity of in-depth al­ter­na­tive stu­dio tracks, early sketches or out-takes that one ex­pects from to­day’s big boxes strikes a jar­ring chord in an oth­er­wise ex­em­plary col­lec­tion.

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