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14 octobre 2005

The genesis of a guitarist

Steve Hackett expands on his early work with well-known band

By Jeff Miers, News Pop Music Critic, 10/14/2005

Countless guitarists claim Steve Hackett as an influence; still more progressive rock fans flock to watch tribute bands re-create Hackett's guitar parts note for note. Most listeners probably assumed it was a keyboard they were hearing.

After all, the early music of Genesis had an otherworldly quality and suggested some sort of dream state in which reality had been suspended. You never really tried to break it all down to the individual performances, preferring instead to passively let the music wash over you. This, after all, was the stuff which urged the christening of the term "headphone rock."

Steve Hackett's job in Genesis was to complement the classical harmonic structure of the music with crisp, taut, melodic figures, and to augment the music's dreamy drama with volume swells, arpeggios and crystalline legato phrases. He did the job so well that he all but disappeared into the gauzy fabric of mellotron, piano and organ that dominated the band's sound.

That is, until he broke loose with one of his complex, angular guitar solos, which suggested the aural equivalent of a swarm of bees gone mad in a Marshall amplifier factory. Bizarre and fascinating, Hackett's work with Genesis was the stuff of rock dreams. Countless guitarists claim the man as an influence; still more unvanquished '70s-era progressive rock fans flock to watch tribute bands recreate Hackett's guitar parts note for note, in clubs and concert halls from Buffalo to Bristol.

It's telling that Hackett's tenure with Genesis - which ended in 1977, when, after six years with the band, he embarked on a solo career - is still a matter of concern among serious musicians the world over. He's been a solo artist for more three times as long as he played with Genesis, but to this day, the bits of his live shows that draw the most enthusiastic responses from crowds involve instrumental recapitulations of famous Genesis melodies.

These days, Hackett is primarily an acoustic guitarist, with an emphasis on nylon string classical work. When he comes to the Town Ballroom at 7 tonight, he'll be performing largely solo, with augmentation from flute and keyboards during roughly half of the set.

Hackett won't be drawing material from his recently released classical album "Metamorpheus" - that album is fully orchestrated and would require a much larger ensemble. He will dig into his past for earlier solo tunes and Genesis nuggets, however. So you'll get an overview of the whole canon.

In preparation for the show, I've been rifling through my Hackett collection to compile a list of what I feel are his defining moments. Here's what I came up with.

"The Musical Box," from Genesis' "Nursery Crime" album (1971). This tells you almost all you need to know about Hackett, as he moves nimbly between 12-string acoustic beauty and electric mayhem, perfectly mirroring Peter Gabriel's bizarre tale of a young man trapped in an old man's body. As brilliant as it is weird.

"Supper's Ready," from Genesis' "Foxtrot" album (1972). Here, Hackett engages in what is essentially a fugue, as intricate parts are interwoven and build dramatically toward . . . well, we're never really sure what. But the journey is a bloody brilliant one. Musical storytelling at its finest.

"Los Endos," from Genesis' "A Trick of the Tail" album (1976). After Peter Gabriel's departure, Hackett remained in the fold for "Wind and Wuthering" and "Trick of the Tail," making himself as invaluable as ever. On "Los Endos," he gives new meaning to the phrase "lyrical guitar playing." Gorgeous.

"Carpet Crawlers," from Genesis' "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" album (1974). Again, Hackett offers otherworldly playing that perfectly complements Gabriel 's breathy, immaculate chorus, "You've gotta get in to get out." So subtle, and yet, so essential to the overall success of the composition. Hackett makes high art of underplaying.

Genesis, "Seconds Out," entire album (1977). Hackett peaked as a member of Genesis on this live set. My understanding is that this is actually a live recording, free of overdubs of any sort. I'll hazard a guess and say that, between eighth and 12th grade, I listened to this album in the area of 1,000 times. I was never able to spot Hackett making a mistake. And this stuff is close to impossible to play.

"Voyage of the Acolyte," Steve Hackett (1975). Hackett's solo debut is still his strongest record, and has withstood the test of time. In fact, this is the most Genesis-like of his solo efforts, probably because Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins helped out on its recording.

"Metamorpheus," Steve Hackett (2005). A pensive, graceful collection of meticulously performed musical vignettes.

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