Steve Hackett, ‘Genesis Revisited II,’ – Album Review
Ever since vocalist Peter Gabriel abandoned Genesis‘ classic quintet line-up in 1975, following the release of the double-album concept-epic ‘The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway,’ the band’s ’70s purists have pined for a full-prog reunion.
The closest we’ve come was in 1999, when all five members (Gabriel, drummer-vocalist Phil Collins, bassist Mike Rutherford, keyboardist Tony Banks, guitarist Steve Hackett) joined forces for a stylish re-interpretation of ‘Lamb’ highlight ‘The Carpet Crawlers,’ released on the compilation ‘Turn it on Again: The Hits.’ But in 2012, it appears that dream is dead: Gabriel’s far too focused on his solo career and humanitarian efforts, while Collins — saddled from drumming by a debilitating spinal injury — announced his retirement last year.
Throughout it all, Hackett has always embraced the material from Genesis’ peak-prog period, reflecting fondly in interviews, constantly expressing his interest in a possible reunion (which is sad considering he was left out of the 2007 trio reunion), and playing the ’70s classics on-stage. His critics (and even his former bandmates) seem to feel Hackett’s stuck in the past — but he clearly still loves interpreting these songs, adding new textures and flourishes as the years go by.
The double-disc ‘Genesis Revisited II’ is Hackett’s second collection of updated Genesis tunes, and it’s a far more cohesive and inventive set than 1996’s ‘Watcher of the Skies.’ Utilizing the same basic format as that album, ‘Revisited II’ is almost entirely comprised of Genesis material, balanced out by a handful of solo Hackett tunes, most of which were originally rehearsed by Genesis in the ’70s.
As with any ‘Revisited’-style album, it’s tough to know where to draw the line. What’s the point of a note-for-note cover (especially since the early albums have been remastered)? On the other hand, is diverging from the source material prog-rock blasphemy? Hackett strikes a mostly successful balance: adding a few new intros, expanding a few Guitar Hero-style solos, and taking some bold liberties with his taste in singers, all-the-while keeping the songs’ core mysticism in-tact.
‘Lamb”s ‘The Chamber of 32 Doors’ is given a glistening classical guitar intro, while vocalist Nad Sylvan nails the nuance of Gabriel’s theatrical vocal; Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson adds warmth and color to ‘Foxtrot”s overlooked ‘Can Utility and the Coastliners,’ which is augmented by live orchestrations; ‘Wind & Wuthering’ highlight ‘Blood on the Rooftops’ perked up by some excellent soprano sax. The album’s true highlight is, unsurprisingly, the 23-minute epic ‘Supper’s Ready.’ Hackett utilizes several vocalists, none of whom — at least on paper – -seem logical singing on the same track: Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt belts passionately; Simon Collins echoes the smooth delivery of his dad, and …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead’s Conrad Keely adds a punk edge to the track’s ripping mid-section. Hackett adds extra guitar flourishes throughout, ending with a furious finger-tapped solo.
There are numerous reasons why Hackett’s ‘Revisited’ project works so well. One is that he joined forces with some of prog-rock’s finest players and singers; another is that he never views the material through a nostalgic lens. ‘Revisited II’ has an urgency most ‘tribute albums’ don’t, mostly because Hackett’s so liberal about letting the songs go to some often strange new places.
Sometimes, though, the risks don’t pay off — mostly due to some awkward vocalist choices: Gary O’Toole is distractingly macho on ‘Broadway Melody of 1974′; Amanda Lehmann’s throaty vibrato is distracting amid the swirl of ‘Ripples” tender acoustics; meanwhile, Nik Kershaw’s more straightforward, sleepy vocal interpretation on ‘The Lamia’ feels out of place given the track’s absurd lyrics.
But without taking a few gambles, the project wouldn’t feel so vital. Warts and all, ‘Revisited II’ is the stuff diehards dream about — and in 2012, it’s about as close to in-the-flesh classic Genesis as it gets.