Steve Hackett – Broken Skies, Outspread Wings Collection

After a phenomenally successful stint with the Peter Gabriel-led Genesis, Steve Hackett went on to release a long string of solo albums. This collection delivers remastered, expanded versions of 6 of them, alongside 2 DVD’s (including the Somewhere In South America live show), and a book full of rarities.

Opening with Hackett’s 1984 album ‘Till We Have Faces’, the collection is kicked off in style. Highlights include Hackett’s short version of ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’, famed for its use in Disney films, and the epic opener ‘Duel’ which practically forces to you to view life as a montage for its 5-minute duration. The record also shows off Hackett’s world music influence, with the frontman playing the Koto and Etruscan guitar and his then-wife Kim Poor (who also created the cover art for the album) providing vocals on ‘A Doll That’s Made In Japan’.

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‘Guitar Noir’ marked a shift away from the often upbeat, jangly performance Hackett was known for on his earlier releases, and into a darker sound (possible hence the ‘noir’ of the title). The remaster of this album helps to bring the darkness of his tone to the forefront, such as on ‘Dark As The Grave’, while showing off the delicacies of the more classical inspired tracks, such as ‘There Are Many Sides To The Night’. The unlisted US bonus track ‘Cassandra’, which featured Brain May, doesn’t feature on this part of the compilation.

‘Darktown’ sees Hackett take on a wide range of instruments, including a 12-string bass guitar. The grumbling bass opening to ‘Omega Metallicus’ helps to create what is essentially a dance track, with its funky drumming and sampled vocal lines. The remaster shines on this album, with the huge amount of interesting guitar effects, sfx and atmospheric production being enlivened. One songwriting highlight comes in the ballad ‘Days Of Long Ago’, where swelling strings and an archaic choir compliment Hackett’s often underappreciated voice.

The 2000 album, ‘Feedback 86’ was a very poorly received collection which includes tracks from the cancelled second GTR (Hackett/Howe) album, and an odd choice for inclusion on such a celebration. The abandonment of Hackett’s prog roots may have something to do with the albums reception, as it really is missing most of the charm and complexity Hackett fans are seeking, instead delivering mostly soulless pop-rock tunes. That being said, collaborations between Hackett and Brian May (particularly ‘Cassandra’, appearing as the opener here instead of a ‘Darktown’ bonus track) shine through, as does the unexpected but actually quite brilliant Bonnie Tyler-led ‘Prizefighters’.

Returning to his more appreciated prog roots after a 4-year break, ‘To Watch The Storm’ was full of weird and wonderful moments, from the genuinely creepy Thomas Dolby cover ‘The Devil Is An Englishman’, to the half classical ballad/half funky Kate Bush track ‘Rebecca’, and the experimental minute of ‘Pollution B’. The success of the release led to ‘Metamorpheus’ (omitted from this collection) the next year, and ‘Wild Orchids’.

His 18th album (‘Wild Orchids’), released in 2006, followed on in a similarly proggy style. Highlights come in the form of Bob Dylan cover ‘Man In The Long Black Coat’, the stunning combination of darkness and vigorous catchiness found in ‘She Moves In Memories’, and the string heavy ‘To A Compass’, which fills the stereo field on this new mix, impressing audiophiles and Hackett fans alike.

This collection brings together 5 of Hackett’s finest work, alongside 1 strange choice which will divide audiences. The remaster (often used as a cash grab) works wonders here, enlivening each track in its own way, with the accompanying DVD’s and book sure to excite even the most casual fan.

Hackett brings his ‘Genesis Revisited’ tour to the UK in October. 

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