Hackett, Steve - Watcher Of The Skies: Genesis Revisited

Year of Release: 1996
Label: Guardian Records
Catalog Number: 7243-8-21943-2-3
Format: CD
Total Time: 76:43:00

Recently, I found myself on the business end of a very happy coincidence. I had read John Bollenberg's review of Steve Hackett's Feedback '86, and several days later, came across two "recent" Hackett releases at my local Borders. Based on BoBo's review, I resolved to buy both sets, but - needing to stick to my budget - chose to buy Watcher Of The Skies first. What made the coincidence so happy? Simply put - this cd is Brilliant!

Clearly, Watcher Of The Skies was a labor of love for Professor Hackett, and it shows, from the liner notes revealing Hackett's genuine affection for his Genesis bandmates and their songs to the impressive cast of progressive rock's elite assembled for the project. The production was capably handled by the Professor himself, and the resultant sound is marvelous: sometimes crystal clear and bright, other times murky (but never mired) and ominous, always atmospheric and appropriate. Kudos to Roger King and Billy Budis & Gerry O'Riordan for their excellent mixes.

Now, I hadn't listened to anything Steve Hackett has done in a lot of years, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Suffice to say that - by the end of the first track - any expectations I might have had were blown completely away. "Watcher of the Skies" (possibly the definitive Genesis track) opens the set with unearthly power and beauty. Mellotron and orchestra combine to create a foreboding sense of the interstellar void, while John Wetton's vocals effectively invoke the loneliness and isolation of the title character. "Dance On A Volcano" abruptly shifts direction into a neck-snapping fusion workout (thanks, no doubt, to the presence of Chester Thompson and Alphonso Johnson), which then segues into the very Arabic-sounding "Valley Of The Kings." "D?j? Vu" changes the direction yet again, moving away from power-prog to touching prog-pop, with strong vocals from Paul Carrack. "Firth Of Fifth" gets a wonderful new arrangement best described as BIG. Xylophone and orchestra replace the piano for the prelude, then everyone gets into the act: rock quartet, orchestra, solo harp, and Hackett's masterful classical guitar take turns within the massive framework, before the solo piano returns to carry the listener out to sea, nicely reflecting the song's riverine theme.

"For Absent Friends" slows things down, combining Colin Blunstone's plaintive vocals with the orchestra in a sweet and somber ballad. Then it's straight into my favourite track here, the sublime "Your Own Special Way." I normally hate programming, but Aron Friedman's superb re-arrangement transcends its technological trappings to make "Your Own Special Way" an instant AOR classic. Carrack's vocals, Hackett's guitars, and Friedman's programming combine to create an emotional whirlpool that engulfs the listener, evoking a deep sense of warmth and affection. Looking for that oh-so-important-first-dance-at-the-wedding-reception-song? Look no further; "Your Own Special Way" is That Good! Right...back down to earth, and it's "Fountain of Salmacis," "a mini-opera given the wide screen treatment," according to the liner notes. Once again, BIG is the word: vocals carry the narrative over a loping quartet arrangement, which gives way to more fusion offset by wonderful orchestral movements. Hackett's vocals are especially excellent here, effectively portraying all characters involved. "Waiting Room Only" is a sound collage based on "The Waiting Room" from The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. A combination of atonal riffing, orchestral maneuvers, and sound bites, this one is best described as fun - don't try to dance to it! "I Know What I Like" gets a goofy new arrangement that balances reggae-style pop with cocktail lounge jazz and an idling lawnmower, but doesn't quite match the comedic strength of the original. Appropriately closing the set is "Los Endos", and it's a BIG closer that includes Hackett's (favourite?) guitar passages from "Battle With The Moonlight Knight." Oddly, the song ends too quickly (can I say that about a song that's nine minutes long?), fading away while Roger King is making the best of his synthesizer solo. Another minute or two would've been nice....

But, Hey! I can't complain...this is the best progressive album I've heard in years, handily rendered by one of the genre's true masters. Granted, Watcher Of The Skies is five years old, but the performances and production are so fresh, it sounds like it should be on next week's new release list. If you love Steve Hackett, Genesis, or progressive rock in general, then I happily recommend Watcher Of The Skies. Cr?me de la cr?me!

Watcher Of The Skies (8:40) / Dance On A Volcano (7:28) / Valley Of The Kings (6:29) / D?J? Vu (5:53) / Firth Of Fifth (9:39) / For Absent Friends (3:02) / Your Own Special Way (4:18) / Fountain Of Salmacis (9:53) / Waiting Room Only (6:53) / I Know What I Like (5:37) / Los Endos (8:51)

Steve Hackett - vocals, guitars, percussion, harmonica, orchestration
John Wetton - vocals, bass
Bill Bruford - drums
Tony Levin - bass
Chester Thompson - drums
Ian McDonald - saxophone, flute
Paul Carrack - vocals
Colin Blunstone - vocals
Alphonso Johnson - bass
John Hackett - flute
Pino Palladino - bass
Julian Colbeck - keyboards
Aron Friedman - keyboards, orchestration, programming
Hugo Degenhardt - drums
Nick Magnus - keyboards, programming
Will Bates - saxophone
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Sanchez/Montoya Chorale
Roger King - keyboards, vibraphone, orchestration, programming
Jerry Peal - keyboards, programming
Ben Fenner - keyboards, orchestration, programming

Genesis - Nursery Crime (1971)
Genesis - Foxtrot (1972)
Genesis - Live (1973)
Genesis - Selling England By The Pound (1973)
Genesis - Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (1974)
Voyage Of The Acolyte (1975)
Genesis - Wind And Wuthering (1976)
Genesis - Trick Of The Tail (1976)
Genesis - Seconds Out (1977)
Please Don't Touch (1978)
Spectral Mornings (1979)
Defector (1980)
Cured (1981)
Highly Strung (1983)
Bay Of Kings (1983)
Til We Have Faces (1983)
GTR - GTR (1986)
Momentum (1988)
Genesis - Three Sides Live (1982)
Genesis - Genesis Archive 1967-75 (1988)
Time Lapse (1992)
The Unauthorised Biography (1992)
Guitar Noir (1994)
Blues With A Feeling (1994)
There Are Many Sides To The Night (1994)
A Midsummer's Night Dream (1997)
Watcher Of The Skies: Genesis Revisited (1997)
The Tokyo Tapes (1997)
Darktown (1999)
Genesis - Genesis - Turn It On Again (1999)
Sketches Of Satie (2000) (w/John Hackett)
Feedback '86 (2000)
Genesis - Genesis Archive #2 (2000)
Live Archive 70s 80s 90s (2001)
Live Archive - Newcastle (2001)
To Watch The Storms (2003)
Live Archive NEARfest (2003)
Live Archive 03 (2004)
Live Archive 04 (2004)
Genesis - The Platinum Collection (2004)
Metamorpheus (2005) (w/The Underworld Orchestra)
Live Archive 05 (2005)
Live Archive 83 (2006)
Wild Orchids (2006)
Tribute (2008)
Out Of The Tunnel's Mouth (2010)
Beyond The Shrouded Horizon (2011)
Genesis Revisited II (2012)

Steve Hackett Live (VHS) (1981)
The Tokyo Tapes (DVD) (1998)
Hungarian Horizons - Live In Budapest (DVD) (2003)
Somewhere In South America - Live In Buenos Aires (DVD) (2003)
Once Upon A Time (DVD) (2004)
Spectral Mornings (DVD) (rec 1978; rel 2005)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: January 9th 2001
Reviewer: David Cisco
Artist website: www.hackettsongs.com
Hits: 875
Language: english


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