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Thread: Featured Album: Steve Hackett - Spectral Mornings

  1. #1
    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    Featured Album: Steve Hackett - Spectral Mornings

    http://www.progarchives.com/progress...32652016_r.jpg


    Probably my last FA for a while - since this will be an open feature.
    Thanks to those that participated



    Steve Hackett - Spectral Mornings

    hackett.jpg

    Tracks Listing:
    1. Every Day (6:14)
    2. The Virgin and the Gypsy (4:28)
    3. The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere (2:05)
    4. Clocks (The Angel of Mons) (4:16)
    5. The Ballad of the Decomposing Man (featuring "The Office Party") (3:48)
    6. Lost Time in Cordoba (4:03)
    7. Tigermoth (7:35)
    8. Spectral Mornings (6:32)

    Line-up :
    - Steve Hackett / lead vocals (1,5) & harmonies (2), guitars & Roland GR500 guitar synth, koto (cantonese), harmonica, extras, co-producer
    - Pete Hicks / lead vocals (2,7) & harmonies (1,7)
    - Nick Magnus / keyboards, synthesizers (Novatron, RMI, MiniMoog, Roland String & SH-2000, Vox String Thing), harpsichord, clavinet, Fender Rhodes electric piano
    - John Hackett / flutes (concert and chinese bamboo), bass pedals
    - Dik Cadbury / bass, bass pedals, violin, vocal harmonies (1,2,7) & vocal arrangements
    - John Shearer / drums, percussion

    thus spake Sean Trane (AKA Yours Truly) on ProgArchives
    With his first two (uneven) albums as reference points, Steve Hackett set out to form his own group (although it will never be really stable in terms of line-up) and recorded his third album Spectral Mornings, which remains his best (and certainly my fave) even some three decades later. It is no coincidence that a good deal of today's shows is from this album, and a few more from the albums surrounding it. Graced with one of his wife's drawing of him (and similar to the next album's artwork, which causes many fans to link the two albums), this is one of Hackett's most even/consistent of his long solo career. Where the previous PDT was a very unfocused affair with plenty of all star guests (like the usual solo albums are generally), this album has a group feel even if there are glaring weaknesses like the lack of a good singer and maybe a second writer to help him out. But I am nitpicking here.

    So from the opening lines of Every Day (obviously lifted from Beethoven's Ninth and the part of Hymn to the joy) to the last lines of the title track, this album is a pure joy, and a sort of revenge for Genesis fans that were completely distraught by their first album without him and good ol'Steve taunts the fans with some melodies that he had previously used with his former group (this is evident in the opener once more). I think that Steve was partly out to prove something to his former mates, the fans and also to himself. But as mentioned above, the vocals are the main weak point of the album: both the first tracks are hindered by this especially Virgin (which like its succeeding track Red Flower are both Far East-influenced), but the next few tracks are instrumentals. And once the album plunges into the formidable Clocks (Angel Of Mons), the listener is definitely won over. Clocks is probably Hackett's best track ever written and often still pops up in concert. This track is certainly worthy of W&W; although I am sure Collins would've handled the drum interlude a bit more subtly.

    The second side starts with the very strange Decomposing Man, which takes us back to previous weirdies like Grand Parade Of Lifeless Packaging lunacy, although lacking the pure genius of that track. In this song, we get one of the first Brazilian music influences (see the Cured album) and subtitled The Office Party. Lost Time is mainly an acoustic guitar affair. And then out comes of another of Hackett's mythical number, the excellent (and longuest) Tigermoth, and the signing here reminds me of Klaatu's Hope album (out the same year) and Spectral Mornings close the album in the finest of mellotronic fashion.

    So as much as I'd wish to be a total fan of this album (and therefore getting a revenge from ATTWT) , honesty forces me to say that apart from the vocals, a second writer to help make his excellent ideas become outstanding ones. Even if most of his sidemen do not compare with his former bandmates, the band manages fine, with Magnus and Steve's brother being long time collab for the future. Steve's best album (but it does take its time - Clocks - before really getting started ;-), but I have a hard time calling this essential prog music (essential Hackett certainly), because it is a flawed album (like all of them, honestly), but it has many endearing qualities and a few (4) excellent tracks. So I will round it up to the upper star, making it four, as well.




    Last edited by Trane; 06-23-2021 at 10:19 AM.
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  2. #2
    I tend to agree with your review. I need to revisit that album with fresh ears, but to me it feels like every other Hackett rock album I've heard, i.e. a mix of wonderful moments of music and some less compelling pieces, leaving me with a slight frustration ( recurring thoughts "He could have done something better with these ideas, maybe with a more collaborative work").
    On this one the overall quality level is high and there is magic in the air.

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    Member Piskie's Avatar
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    A fine effort - but to my ears he never managed to repeat the sheer magic of The Voyage Of the Acolyte.

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    After Steve Hackett recorded his two previous solo records with changing guest musicians, he put together a permanent band for "Spectral Mornings" (and its successor "Defector"). Still, "Spectral Mornings" sounds somehow torn and leaves a somewhat unsatisfactory impression at times. In contrast to Please Don't Touch! the album, which also has a wide range of styles, there are also some less successful pieces on it. This includes the overly cheesy "The Virgin and the Gypsy" and the poppy "Every Day" - at least the latter improves significantly towards the end.
    In addition to the grandiose title track, the highlights include, above all, "Clocks" and "Tigermoth", which with their gloomy mood are reminiscent of the title track of the previous album. I also find the acoustic "Lost Time in Córdoba" very successful. In my humble opinion, this is not one of the essential Mr Hackett works. But, after all, there are some really great versions of the title track on various live releases.

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    I believe this was the first solo album of his I heard and I am still very fond of it. IMHO it has some of his very best tracks. 'Every Day', 'Clocks' and the title track are long-time fan/stage favourites for good reason. I like all of it- even '...Decomposing Man (which I used to skip past) has a certain silly, whimsical charm.

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    I prefer his first two albums but it's pretty solid effort.
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    Still a big fan of this one. One of his best for sure.

  8. #8
    Jazzbo manqué Mister Triscuits's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trane View Post
    With his first two (uneven) albums as reference points
    Voyage of the Acolyte, uneven? I can't go along with that at all; I think it's not just a solid album, but one of the finest things to come out of the Genesis camp outside of the classic Gabriel-era band run. Please Don't Touch I don't think is exactly uneven, but is a bit all over the place in style/sound. I've always disliked Kansas, so I did have a bit of trouble with the Steve Walsh vocals on that one, but it doesn't bother me now like it did when it came out. Still another great album. Putting together a fixed band for this one and the similarly excellent Defector was a good move, though.

  9. #9
    Insect Overlord Progatron's Avatar
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    I much prefer this one to Please Don't Touch, which despite its wonderful cover art has never done a lot for me, title track notwithstanding.
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  10. #10
    I love this entire album “The Ballad of the Decomposing Man” is a delightful treasure in my book. Quirky and bizarre, a true favorite of mine. “Everyday” and “Clocks” are favorites too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Progatron View Post
    I much prefer this one to Please Don't Touch, which despite its wonderful cover art has never done a lot for me, title track notwithstanding.
    I now enjoy most of Please Don't Touch to varying degrees but I admit it doesn't flow that well as an album. I was indeed slightly underwhelmed by it at first, as I'd already heard the albums either side of it. It has excellent guest vocalists, but contrarily, perhaps this is why little from it ever gets played beyond the title track.

    Spectral Mornings is undoubtedly a more unified, consistent album.

  12. #12
    My favorite Hackett solo album, followed pretty closely by Voyage of the Acolyte.

    For me, Spectral Mornings is just about perfect. While the vocals aren't a highlight, I don't cringe when I hear them like I do with Howe's solo stuff, and I think in the studio Hackett is able to deliver a serviceable performance. Musically, I think this is one of his most consistent, and consistently excellent albums, though again Voyage is right up there as well. I'm not certain why I like Spectral more, just something about the mood and feel, and while the vocals aren't outstanding, I think many of the lyrics actually are, so that is a big plus. I know many knock "Ballad of the Decomposing Man," but I think it's brilliant, capturing that sleazy, boozy, 70s leisure suit proto-corpo culture in a uniquely English way. "Tigermoth" is the same for me, just very evocative of that English perspective, while simultaneously turning it on its head.

    Anyway, great album that I always love when I spin it. I so wish his more recent solo material had even a whiff of the greatness displayed here, but that ship sailed a long time ago.

    Bill

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    Quote Originally Posted by Piskie View Post
    A fine effort - but to my ears he never managed to repeat the sheer magic of The Voyage Of the Acolyte.

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    I've tried to like Spectral Mornings on many occasions but it is still hard for me to sit through the whole thing. The title track is one of the best things Steve's ever written, and Clocks/AoM is worthy of being on Acolyte. Otherwise, IMHO, the album is an incoherent mess of tracks that are ok on their own but do not fit together at all. I understand our mileages vary on this.

  15. #15
    While I agree that this is not as good as "Voyage...", it certainly is great.

    And since I tend to rate an album by the quality of its best tracks, and tend not to downgrade an album by its weak tracks, I couldn't care less that this has a couple of weak tracks on it.
    And if there were a god, I think it very unlikely that he would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence - Russell

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    Member Paulrus's Avatar
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    Considering this is still the template for 90% of his solo albums I'd say it's been a success! Too bad it wasn't commercially so at the time, but then again an album like this was meant for 1973-4, not 1979.
    I'm holding out for the Wilson-mixed 5.1 super-duper walletbuster special anniversary extra adjectives edition.

  17. #17
    Would be perfect but-------The Ballad of the Decomposing Man kinda ruins it

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paulrus View Post
    Too bad it wasn't commercially so at the time, but then again an album like this was meant for 1973-4, not 1979.
    Well, it sold well enough in the UK. And its successors did better still, so he had a solid following here for a good few years.

  19. #19
    I liked Pete Hicks' vocals on this one. Though overall, the album has always felt uneven to me. Same with Please Don't Touch and Defector. But I really like "Everyday" in particular; that's a great opener.

  20. #20
    Member since March 2004 mozo-pg's Avatar
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    This is truly an excellent album. I could have imagined how great Genesis could have been with this type of musical input. Everyday was a radio staple at this time and I played the hell out of it on my tape deck in my car at the time. Clocks is one of my all time favourite Hackett tunes. Spectral Mornings is obviously a great tune - great guitar playing and the melodies are memorable. I like pretty well everything about this album, including the artwork.
    What can this strange device be? When I touch it, it brings forth a sound.

  21. #21
    Really? Everyone thinks Steve peaked way back then?

    Am I the only one who thinks that he has (gradually, unevenly) gotten better since these days? I mean, no lie, I love this album, but albums like To Watch the Storms and Wolflight do a much better job (in my opinion) of developing his ideas. Not to mention the acoustic albums; I adore A Midsummer Night's Dream.

    Still: this thread is about Spectral Mornings, and it is certainly worthy of praise. I haven't noticed any mention of "The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere", which is actually my favorite track on the album...
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  22. #22
    Member Paulrus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JJ88 View Post
    Well, it sold well enough in the UK. And its successors did better still, so he had a solid following here for a good few years.
    You're right. No 22 in the charts (Defector actually made it to No 9!), which wasn't bad and frankly surprises me given the struggle other prog-oriented bands were having at the time. And I have to believe Hackett's music wasn't met with much love by the UK music press.
    I'm holding out for the Wilson-mixed 5.1 super-duper walletbuster special anniversary extra adjectives edition.

  23. #23
    The instrumentals here are fantastic, but the vocal numbers are...well, less satisfactory, for my tastes. Everyday is a pretty good song, especially if you know who it's about (his first wife, I believe). But the others...yick. Decomposing Man is kind of like a dance hall/vaudeville type thing, like he was trying to compete with Freddie Mercury or something. I believe there was another song or two like this on Defector.

    But I still the first two, especially Voyage Of The Acolyte, which feels like a "lost Genesis" album to me. Ya know, like "What if Tony Banks just buggered off for a couple weeks, and the other three made an album with Steve writing all the material", and the upshot would be Voyage Of The Acolyte.

  24. #24
    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paulrus View Post
    You're right. No 22 in the charts (Defector actually made it to No 9!), which wasn't bad and frankly surprises me given the struggle other prog-oriented bands were having at the time. And I have to believe Hackett's music wasn't met with much love by the UK music press.
    Yup, it's actually difficult to believe Hackett sold that much in that early 80's era in the then-current background. (comparatively, I don't think Banks and Rutherford solo albums moved many copies bacvk then)

    I don't know he sold of the next album, the much-maligned Cured may have appealed to another crowd

    Later, GTR (with Howe) sold a fair amount, and he wrote that TV show themen, which brought him decent revenues for years

    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarGeek View Post
    The instrumentals here are fantastic, but the vocal numbers are...well, less satisfactory, for my tastes. Everyday is a pretty good song, especially if you know who it's about (his first wife, I believe). But the others...yick. Decomposing Man is kind of like a dance hall/vaudeville type thing, like he was trying to compete with Freddie Mercury or something. I believe there was another song or two like this on Defector.
    TBH, I don't aporeciate much Defector. Take away The Steppes (which sounfds like it was a Mornings sessions tracks), the rest of the album is odd at best, downright weird in a lot of cases (the would-be decomposing Man tracks).

    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarGeek View Post
    But I still the first two, especially Voyage Of The Acolyte, which feels like a "lost Genesis" album to me. Ya know, like "What if Tony Banks just buggered off for a couple weeks, and the other three made an album with Steve writing all the material", and the upshot would be Voyage Of The Acolyte.
    Like most, PDT is too much all-over the place to appeal much to me. But unlike hs other early solo album, this one fits the "solo album" definition slot better, because of the high-profile guests on it.
    Acolyte, for some reasons never resonated all that much with me (I like it OK, but don't understand the raving & drooling over it), maybe because Banks and The Gabe are missing on it.
    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from drug-addicts to complete nutcases.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trane View Post
    Yup, it's actually difficult to believe Hackett sold that much in that early 80's era in the then-current background. (comparatively, I don't think Banks and Rutherford solo albums moved many copies bacvk then)
    Yes, I suspect Hackett probably sold more copies than Banks and Rutherford's first solo albums did. Or indeed Brand X. Banks and Rutherford's probably appealed to the faithful in the first week or so but then dropped off. I remember Banks himself saying something like that in the Chapter And Verse book RE; A Curious Feeling.

    Obviously Collins and (in the Mechanics) Rutherford caught up and then some...Banks didn't!

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