Steve Hackett – Live Rails

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I’ve been an occasional listener of Steve Hackett’s solo albums over the last… 30 years?  Time flies.  Hackett was the lead guitarist for Genesis from 1970 through 1977.  I’ve always been a fan of progressive rock, and Genesis continues to appeal to me today due, in part, to Hackett’s great solos.

Live Rails offered a chance to sample Hackett as he plays today, while at the same time serving as a sampler for much of his solo work through the years.  Summary: Despite some awesome guitar solos, this set did Steve Hackett Live Rails Album Covernothing to move my appreciation of his work beyond his Genesis days – not that I wouldn’t love to see him in concert.  It’s just that the songs aren’t as good.

The CD begins with “Every Day,” burdened with a pedestrian riff that finally yields past uninteresting vocals to, as expected, an ear candy guitar solo.  This is a recurring observation throughout the double CD.  Sure, he’s keeping current with Vai/Satriani pyrotechnics (“Tubehead”), and it sounds like he’s even included a bit of Steve Morse.  Challenges and growth are good, and it makes for a great show.

But his solo songs lack the extra melodic sense that was brought by Genesis’ keyboardist Tony Banks, never mind the musical transitions required for featuring each.  Hackett only contributed to two CDs after Peter Gabriel left the band, and one can only wonder how well the band and he would have benefited in the era beyond Gabriel’s nonsensical lyrics.

For what it is, though, it’s well executed.  The inclusion of a saxophone as a pseudo replacement to Tony Banks works very well, both in cover songs and his originals (“Serpentine,” “Sleepers,” “Firth of Fifth”).

The vocals by committee highlight that none can carry a full set, but they’re basically placeholders in the song structures anyway.  “Still Waters” is a success, and they’re never bad.  The only real detriment to the music is Gary O’Toole’s drums, a pounding influence to be sure, but as unimaginative as you’ll find in progressive rock music.  His frenetic drum solo in “Clocks” fares well when measured in calories, but it never gains a bit of interest musically, which is a particularly poor way to end a concert.

Overall, it’s a great CD for fans of Hackett and for those who hang on every guitar note.

Recommended Songs: “Firth of Fifth” (always…), “Still Waters,” “Serpentine”

3 of 5 STARS



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