Steve Hackett – Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth

January 01, 1970



Out Music)


Steve Hackett first came to prominence through his artistic efforts with proggers-turned-pop-stars
Genesis. A well-regarded session player before he joined the band in 1971 as a
replacement for the departing Anthony Phillips, Hackett’s unique guitar tone
and subdued, albeit powerful playing help shepherd Genesis from the band’s
Peter Gabriel/prog-rock roots through the later, Phil Collins-lead pop-rock commercial
ascendance. Hackett provided his talents to the core 1970s-era Genesis albums
that would forge the band’s legacy and popularity, from 1971’s Nursery Cryme through 1977’s live Seconds Out.


Hackett released
his first solo album, Voyage of the
, in 1975 to widespread critical acclaim. Recorded with the
assistance of his Genesis bandmates Collins and bassist Mike Rutherford, the
album journeyed across the same prog-rock direction as early Genesis. By the
time of his sophomore effort, 1978’s Please
Don’t Touch!
, Hackett had already begun to stray in search of exotic new
sounds; in the 30+ years since, his solo career has reflected a wide and
diverse range of music-making, the guitarist delivering better than two-dozen
albums of classical guitar, pop-rock, blues, re-imagined Genesis hits, even
recording with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.


Save for a
short mid-1980s stint with Yes guitarist Steve Howe in the
“supergroup” GTR, Hackett has found little commercial success in the
United States. He always seems to find his way back to the prog-rock sound of
his youth, however. Out Of The Tunnel’s
is Hackett’s first solo album in three years, since 2006’s Wild Orchids. Recorded, literally, in
his living room, Out Of The Tunnel’s
was originally available only through Hackett’s website until a
distribution deal with prog-rock label Inside Out Music put the album on the
street in the U.S. and U.K.


Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth offers a little old-fashioned
rock ‘n’ roll, with progressive overtones to be sure, but also strains of the
classical and Middle Eastern sounds that Hackett has been absorbing and
perfecting for decades. The gorgeous album-opening “Fire On The Moon”
begins with what is an almost sing-songy nursery rhyme intro, the melody and
initially wan vocals masking an underlying drone until an orchestral swell
barges in briefly, disappearing back into Hackett’s mesmerizing vocals until
they take us back to the mountaintop with Chris Squire’s heartbeat bass lines
and Roger King’s grand keyboard washes leading the sojourn until Hackett’s icy,
menacing guitar solo strikes like a cobra out of nowhere. It’s a real up-n-down
kind of thing, toying with our emotions but paying off when some of the most
beautiful, yet mind-blowing fretwork that you’ve ever heard comes dancing
through at the end.


And so it
goes, throughout Out Of The Tunnel’s
, you never know where you’re going until you’re looking back in the
rearview mirror. The haunting “Nomads” opens with a little Spanish
guitar before sliding deftly into an exotic, Gypsy-tinged tale of reckless
freedom, Hackett cutting loose with some fancy-fingered dancefloor raga, the
guitarist’s electric solos overshadowing the nylon-stringed acoustic rhythms,
both left behind by Nick Beggs’ madman turn on the Chapman stick, a percussive
stringed instrument favored by prog musos. Former Genesis guitarist Anthony
Phillips drops by to add a little enchanting 12-string guitar to the pastoral
balm of “Sleepers,” not quite dueling but rather intertwining with
Hackett’s instrument as Christine Townsend’s violin weeps in the background.
It’s a beautiful song, not quite prog, nowhere near rock, treading closer to
Kate Bush’s side of whimsy street.


scorching solo on “Ghost In The Glass” doesn’t shred or stomp, but
rather elegantly pushes aside the notion that one has to be loud and/or fast to
convey power with a guitar. His cutting tone and perfect placement of notes
stings like a hive of wasps…of course, a song later, with “Still
Waters,” Hackett stomps-and-stammers with the best dino-rockers of lore, his
bass-heavy guitar riffs and surgical solos assisted by Beggs’ Chapman stick in
creating a mastodonically-heavy bottom end to the song. If not for the gang
vocal harmonies, and the lack of manic percussion, the song would veer close to
the metal edge of prog-rock.


Train To Istanbul” is the album’s favorite, and thus your fave song, a
mind-bending semi-psychedelic bout of exotica that will tickle your medulla
oblongata and put your ears in a completely different space. Hackett displays
some of the Middle Eastern chops he’s picked up through the ages, melding them
with rock riffs and lord knows what else as violins drone and saxophones blast,
a maelstrom of chaos barely held in check.


For those
punters lucky enough to cough up the additional dinero for the
“deluxe” version of Out Of The
Tunnel’s Mouth
, you get a 30-minute bonus disc featuring live renditions of
a half-dozen Hackett tunes and Genesis covers. Two Genesis-era gems hail from
the ground-breaking 1974 The Lamb Lies
Down On Broadway
album (“Fly on a Windshield” and “Broadway
Melody of 1974”), the former an explosive, plodding prog construct with
wiry, free-flying guitar and martial rhythms, the latter vocals-and-percussion-driven
dirge with splashes of colorful fretwork. By a long-shot, though, the crowd
favorite here is the bombastic “A Tower Struck Down,” from Hackett’s
debut Voyage of the Acolyte. The
song’s edgy, syncopated rhythms, chaotic instrumentation, and devastatingly
HEAVY guitarplay striking a chord with the Italian audience, and it probably
will with you, too.


not what many would think of as a traditional “progressive rock”
album – there are no extended keyboard jams or synthesizers dominating the mix
here – everything about Out Of The
Tunnel’s Mouth
screams “progressive,” from Hackett’s subdued, but
diverse and powerful guitar playing to the skilled contributions of
collaborators like keyboardist Roger King and multi-instrumentalist Nick Beggs.
This is challenging music, but entertaining as well if your heart and mind are
ready for an adventurous experience.       


DOWNLOAD: “Last Train To Istanbul,”
“Sleepers,” “Fire On The Moon” REV. KEITH A. GORDON



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