Steve Hackett's solo career began with a record revealing just how much he brought to the Genesis table ("Voyage of the Acolyte"), and is a record considered by many to be the first post-Gabriel Genesis record. His next three outings, "Please Don't Touch", "Spectral Mornings" and his masterpiece of this genre, "Defector", solidified a progressive rock style distinctly his own. Financial freedom courtesy of the Genesis meal ticket probably led him to explore a more diverse variety of styles and virtuosity with continued releases of the hit and miss variety, and even going back to revisit the music he is most usually associated with, Genesis, re-interpreted with other legendary musicians of that era, notably John Wetton and Ian McDonald.
But in between, came a few gems, such as this one, "Sketches of Satie", an ambitious and wildly successful re-interpretation of some of the works of turn of the century French composer Erik Satie. Satie's minimalist piano explorations coincided with the Impressionistic art movement of turn of the century Paris, and indeed reflected the ethics of this artistic evolutionary period, and the term "less is more" could singlehandedly be credited to the delicate, romantic, and contemplative pieces of music Satie gave the world.
For all his sumptuous, frenetic, and diverse output since leaving you-know-who, Hackett has also tackled some delicate projects like "Midsummer Night's Dream", and the many gentle acoustic guitar passages and pieces that find their way onto most of his releases. But this, "Sketches of Satie" stands out as probably his most inspired work, an homage that is obviously a labor of love. Lending itself easily to the simple interplay of acoustic guitar and flute, played masterfully by brother John Hackett, a frequent collaborator throughout his solo career, most pieces find Steve playing the left hand of the piano on guitar while John lovingly floats the right handed melodies. Whereas the many piano interpretations of Satie's music can be seen as depressingly beautiful and detached, this guitar and flute interpretation is peaceful and soothing music of golden meadows, warm summer days, and the joys of the first throes of love. Wonderful choices, including the no-brainer "Gymnopedies" and "Gnossiennes" are all there, as well as the "Nocturnes" and "Avant Dernieres Pensee"'s. Their mutual love of this music is obvious in the graceful arrangements and delicate performances.
Obscure and among the least bombastic entries in the Steve Hackett catalog, "Sketches of Satie" has been criminally underexposed and transcends the nostalgic cravings of Genesis fans. Discover this record, discover Satie, and discover one of the classiest releases from a progressive rock legend who has stayed true to his influences and followed an eclectic path that thankfully gave us "Sketches of Satie".