Top positive review
58 people found this helpful
on 28 September 2003
I admit that I approached this album with some trepidation as the original Genesis tracks are wonderful in themselves.
However, I was more than pleasantly surprised by the treatment administered by Mr. Hackett.
To be honest, Steve should think twice about performing lead vocals on any song (sorry Steve), but his instrumental work and rearrangements of classic Genesis material is often spine tinglingly good.
The dazzling array of musicianship present on this album is thrilling. From Tony Levin and Bill Bruford through John Wetton, Alphonso Johnson, Chester Thompson and Paul Carrack to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the assembly is stunning in its breadth and skill - not forgetting Mr. Hackett himself, of course.
Even though I am a Genesis fan through and through, I would have to say that all of Mr. Hackett's reworkings have something to complement the originals.
"Watcher of the Skies", an already powerful piece, benefits from Wetton's rich vocals and the added orchestration.
"Dance on a Volcano", a terrifically exciting Genesis track, is very poorly vocalised by Steve, using some sort of distortion technique. However, a redemption is effected by the combined drum and bass of Chester Thompson and Alphonso Johnson.
"Valley of the Kings" is a new piece; an OK bow to Mr. Hackett's apparent belief in reincarnation.
"Deja Vu" is a tremendous completion by Steve of a Peter Gabriel song from the "Selling England ..." era. The song would stand alone under any circumstances. In this context, however, it resonates with a certain melancholy for days gone by - appropriate for this album.
"Firth of Fifth" is successfully reworked, from the celeste-style children's musical box intro, to the brazillian percussion and familiar, yet different, Hackett guitar solo.
Perhaps the biggest mistake on this album is the waltz-time "For Absent Friends". It feels and sounds like a bit of a hotch potch; as if there wasn't quite enough rehersal time before recording.
"Your own Special Way" is radically reinvented as a warm and affectionate love song, different from the melancholic original. The electric piano takes on a quite different feel and the whole song sounds more optimistic. Paul Carrack's vocals are particularly rich and relaxed.
Some of the instrumental interludes in "Fountain of Salmacis" seem artificially inserted. However, the whole piece is performed with a power and nobility which reminded me of why Genesis were great in the first place.
"Waiting Room Only" is a scherzo (a musical joke) rather than a replay of the piece from "The Lamb ..." It includes some of Hackett's favourite guitar riffs/effects and some funny cricket commentary by "Jonners" (trust me, you'll smirk when you recognise it).
"I Know What I Like" is a bit unusual, being performed in a sort of West Country swing time. However, it is an enjoyable riff on the original.
"Los Endos" is a tour de force, as it always was with Genesis. Under Mr. Hackett's guidance it includes yet more exciting Brazillian percussion
All in all, this album is a fine revisiting of some classic Genesis pieces. Given that there is little point mimicking what has already been accomplished (one of Mr. Hackett's reasons for leaving Genesis in the first place), he has impressively reinterpreted these pieces in a way which will delight long standing Genesis fans as well as those for whom the music is new.
My biggest surprise, as a dyed in the wool Genesis fan, was how little I missed either Gabriel or Collins on vocals. On the contrary, the singers assembled here contributed some fine performances which added to, rather than detracted from, the classic status of these works (save for Mr. Hackett's singing. I really am sorry Steve).
This album recaptures much of the magic which made Genesis music great from the early 70s onwards and which departed, along with Steve, in about 1978. Enjoy ...