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On The Rooftops, Wailing… Steve Hackett’s THE NIGHT SIREN Reviewed

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The Night Siren by Steve Hackett.

Special Edition CD/Blu-Ray Mediabook featuring 5.1 surround sound mix & making of documentary: 88985410452
Standard Jewel case CD: 88985410462
Gatefold black 2LP vinyl + CD: 88985410471
Digital Download

Steve Hackett is very concerned about the state of the world. Me too. But what you gonna do about it? Hackett’s response is to fill the lyrics of his 25th (and, he claims, best yet) solo album, The Night Siren, with pleas for peace, love and understanding (after all, what’s so funny about that?) while stuffing its grooves with an embarrassment of eclectic musical traditions, recruiting collaborators worldwide and blending their efforts seamlessly into his signature sound. As you do.

Opener Behind The Smoke juxtaposes a juddering riff against stirring Indian strings in a way that can’t help but make you think of Zeppelin’s Kashmir. Martian Sea yokes sitars to psychedelia in an organic manner that neatly side-steps the clichés of countless previous plastic hippy anthems. Fifty Miles From The North Pole sounds like Steve Miller pitching for a Bond theme, employing Hank Marvinesque guitar before more Indian strings, a children’s choir and Miles-like muted, snarling trumpet are thrown into the ever mutating mix. El Nino is Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds underpinned by Riverdance style drumming before signature Hackett guitar heroics, heavy on the whammy bar, before Other Side Of The Wall cleanses the palate with simple acoustic guitar, strings and vocal harmonies. Anything But Love kicks off with a flamenco flourish before settling into a West Coast groove, with Hackett’s vocals channeling Gerry Rafferty while Amanda Lehmann does her best Stevie Nix harmony bit… there was a time when this kind of thing would have been considered a sure-fire hit single. Inca Terra weds Gilmour pastoral to the Gabrielesque tones of Nad Sylvan before segueing into “CSN&Y do El Condor Pasa”, resolving itself in a classic Genesis coda. Troy Donockley of Nightwish contributes Uilleann pipes to the Celtic-flavoured In Another Life before Hackett’s guitar ignites once more. Those stirring Indian strings are back for In The Skeleton Gallery before the album climaxes with West To East, a hymn for peace on which Palestinian Mira Awad and Israeli Kobi Farhi add backing vocals over an Afterglow-ish chord progression. The Gift concludes matters in Frippy fashion, with some lyrical soloing over a strings soundscape.

Did I mention that this album is eclectic? It’s as deep as it’s wide, the densely layered production by Hackett and right hand man Roger King impressing even on the mp3 version I’ve heard so far. One imagines the 5.1 variant that’s getting a simultaneous Blu-ray release will be a wonder to behold. The World Music leanings of this material are such that you could imagine much of it being performed at WOMAD. A collaboration with Peter Gabriel has always seemed more likely than those two reuniting with Genesis and anyway, what useful purpose would the latter scenario serve for Steve Hackett? The Night Siren confirms what we already knew, that after their 1977 divorce Messrs Collins, Banks and Rutherford grabbed the brand (and put it to lucrative use) but it was Hackett who walked off with the music.

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The Night Siren is released on 24th March, courtesy of InsideOut Music (Sony). Steve embarks upon his 15 date Genesis Revisited With Classic Hackett tour (celebrating forty years of Wind and Wuthering) on 26th April, culminating at the London Palladium on 19th May.

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