The Squackett album was, somewhat misleadingly, advertised as "Genesis Meets Yes". I disagree. Firstly, as I have stated in other reviews, defining Steve Hackett as "like Genesis" or "the former Genesis guitarist" is both untrue and insulting to his vast bulk of work as a solo artist. Neither can Chris Squires contribution be classed as "like Yes" because, though his career is very much tied up in Yes apart from his two solo projects, without the other band members, his work does not always just sound like Yes. Both artists have their own unique styles and personalities which are not, and cannot be, defined by their past affiliations with specific bands or artists. That being said, there are one or two moments on the album that may remind fans of the two legendary prog bands.
Unfortunately for fans of Chris Squire, Steve Hackett very much dominates the album. I love Steves work but I appreciate that fans looking for Squires input may feel a little short changed. The music is invariably interesting and sophisticated and time has obviously been spent crafting and perfecting each one and having listened to this album many times over, I can confidently (and hopefully objectively, though it's up to you to decide if you trust me) say that I do not think there is a single bad track on the album. I apologise because I realise this review is long but I have tried, where possible and appropriate, to include references and comparisons for fans of both Steve Hackett and Chris Squire because they may not always overlap.
A Life Within A Day will remind Hackett fans of his latest album Beyond The Shrouded Horizon
and Steve Hackett very quickly takes control of this track. It's quite dark in tone with an interesting string accompaniment. This is the most "prog" song on the album with varying time signatures, extensive guitar solos and bizarre lyrics. It's also the longest at 6 minutes and 35 seconds which gives Steve Hackett plenty of time to shine with very characteristic guitar work. A Life Within A Day is essentially a Steve Hackett song.
Tall Ships is introduced with a short acoustic segment by Hackett but, from then on in, this is Chris Squires show. Squire delivers some uncharacteristically deep vocals and a very funky bass line. It's an eerie piece with a mantra-like chorus sung by Steve Hackett. A great track and quite beautiful. It has the "epic" feel of many of Steve Hacketts more recent songs and the contrast of the verses driving bass line and guitar work with the spiritual feel of the chorus is actually very moving.
Divided Self finds us back in Steve Hacketts territory and may remind some fans of the Highly Strung
album. After the last song, the sheer pop-ness of this track comes as a shock. If pressured I might say this was the weakest track on the album but still holds together with very catchy vocals and a great chorus. Apart from contributing to the harmonies on the chorus it's very difficult to find any trace of Chris Squire at all. So far, the music is brilliant but does not feel like a true merging of styles.
Aliens could almost be a missing track from Chris Squires Fish Out Of Water
album and, apart from the chorus, Chris Squire handles all the vocals. The music is absolutely beautiful with a stunning combination of keyboards, acoustic guitar and flute work that might remind some listeners of the work Steve Hacketts brother John contributed to the Voyage Of The Acolyte
album. Contrary to one of the other reviewers, I think this track is, musically, one of the strongest. It does sound like Chris Squire has taken lyric writing advice from Jon Anderson though and features such gems as "Aliens are only us, only us from the future" and "The day will come, we'll have passports to the sun".
Sea of Smiles is instantly enjoyable and easily my favourite song from this album. Chris Squire fans may be disappointed though as this has Hackett written all over it. Everything from the tinkling percussion to the synthesised harmonies and from the references to gypsies to the brilliant and joyous guitar solos bears Steve Hacketts signature. The lyrics are wonderful and feature Hacketts usual juxtaposition of the mystical and the mundane. Sea of Smiles is the happiest piece and Chris Squire can just about be made out in the harmonies.
The Summer Backwards is the shortest song. It's a nice acoustic piece with keyboard accompaniment. Despite the acoustic guitar from Steve this song feels decidedly Squacketty. The vocals are shared and Hacketts voice and Squires combine perfectly to create some of the most memorable and enjoyable vocal styles I've heard in a long time.The melody may remind Hackett fans of Serpentine Song
and Yes fans of songs from The Ladder
Stormchaser is the heaviest song and, like the last one, feels Squacketty. It features a great, driving bass line overlaid with Hacketts electric guitar. Another epic with plenty of layers but enough space to make this song feel HUGE. Steve Hackett takes lead vocals but may remind Chris Squire fans of Lucky Seven
though it is darker and heavier.
Can't Stop The Rain feels very much like Chris Squires song. Fans of Steve Hacketts recent work will instantly recognise Amanda Lehmanns vocals on the immediately memorable chorus but this track would not be out of place on the Magnification
album by Yes. The bass work makes me think particularly of "In the Presence of..." It's a fairly melancholy song and it's easy to imagine this developing from a jam session. Very catchy chorus
An extended instrumental section bridges Can't Stop The Rain with Perfect Love Song so the transition is barely noticeable. However, Steve Hackett becomes more recognisable on this song which brings back the Squacketty feeling from earlier. The vocals are shared with beautiful harmonies and both artists have left their mark on the lyrics. There's lots of space here for Steve Hackett to show off one last time before it fades out.
All in all, A Life Within A Day is a very enjoyable album with a variety of styles and moods. Fans of both artists will find something they like and recognise. The sound quality is very good and the musicianship is superb throughout. The lyrics are refreshingly intelligent and, while the music is not excessively long, every song is given space to breathe and be explored.
It's a grower and definitely one to play again and again. I sincerely hope Chris Squire can find time to tour this album with Steve. If they did, I would not want to miss it. Enjoy.