Steve Hackett
Genesis Revisited Band & Orchestra: Live
2CD + Blu-Ray digipak; 2CD + DVD Multibox; 2CD + Blu-Ray + DVD (US)
For Steve Hackett, his 26th studio album (a remarkable statistic of itself) is far more than merely a collection of quality tracks. It goes a lot deeper than this.
“I love experimenting with sounds and ethnic instruments, and thereby taking my ideas into other musical territories, to go where I have not artistically been before. This is essentially British music but it's being developed in foreign soil, as it were.”
'At The Edge Of Light' represents the master guitarist's commitment and passion for a global perspective on the music he writes and performs.
“It feels here like I have finally connected properly to world music,” he explains. “In the past there have been a few tracks where I have skirted around that type of genre. But now, it's the entire album that fits into this style.”
But it goes far beyond a dedication to musical aspirations that drives Hackett this time. He is acutely aware of the way in which the world is seeping towards a dangerous viewpoint that may have already gone too far.
“We are in an era where the far right is making worrying inroads in so many countries. And we have to be aware that while many thankfully believe this is a bankrupt philosophy, we have to take steps to prevent this from taking hold, as it appears to be doing at the moment. There is a frightening sense in which we could retreat to our own countries, forget about the welfare of others and hide once more in caves. If that is allowed to happen, then we become isolated from one another in a way that means the whole future of humanity is put at risk.
“I have always wanted to reach out as an artist to anyone from anywhere. I love the whole global perspective that means it never matters where you are from. If you are good enough, then that's all people should be concerned about. Not what country you're from.
“I tackle this issue here on the song called 'Beasts In Our Time', which is a play on the phrase 'Peace In Our Time' that harks back to what Neville Chamberlain misguidedly said just before the outbreak of the Second World War. There are malevolent forces at work right now, dragging the world again to the brink of disaster.”
Yet, for all the darkness into which the planet could descend, Hackett maintains a cautious optimism on the album.
“I suppose the title sums up pretty much where we stand. We are right at that boundary between light and dark. But if you listen to the final three songs here – 'Descent', 'Conflict', 'Peace' – then they lock together as a trilogy, and the fact we end with 'Peace' shows that I still have hopes for where we are going, and that we shall pull back from the precipice.”
Such a massive and vital subject deserves to be enveloped in a brave, far reaching musical flow. And Hackett has achieved this by reaching out far beyond the confines of the traditional band set up. In the process embracing so many differing and diverse styles.
“Is it a concept album? That is the sort of phrase other people might use. All I would say is that there is a flow of core energy here. I have used atmospheric sections as bridges between tracks, which gives it a more orchestral approach. The track 'Those Golden Wings', for instance, is one that I use to set the scene. And this is a device that crops up a few times throughout the album.
“There are also no acoustic moments here, which is very unusual for me. What that means is that it is more of a rock album than people might have expected from me. But I mean that in the broadest sense of the term 'rock'.”
In all, it took Hackett and his ensemble something approaching 18 months of steadfast work and imagination to complete 'At The Edge Of Light'. And he has brought in some major talents to augment and expand the sounds here. There's a sitar (“A real sitar, played by Sheema Mukherjee in India”), a didgeridoo (played by Paul Stillwell), tar (played by Malik Mansurov), duduk (played by Rob Townsend), and no less than four drummers. In all, the album features a remarkable array of consummate, unified creative forces. These include Nick D'Virgilio, Simon Phillips, Gary O'Toole and Jonas Reingold, to name just a few.
“I have also got my brother John playing flute, while when it came to the writing phase, I had a team with me that included my wife Jo and also Roger King. I am also especially proud of the vocals you'll hear. They range from solo, to harmonies to gospel to a full choir. These are so varied, and capture the emotions of the compositions so well. For that, I am indebted to Durga and Loreley McBroom, the sisters who have worked with the likes of Pink Floyd in the past.
“I could never have hoped to come up with an album like this without all of this invaluable input.”
Much of the recording was done at Hackett's own studio, with King playing a key role in the orchestral arrangements, while further work was done at stops around the world.
“I feel this to be an imaginative album, one of which I am extremely proud. You know, if I heard this album for the first time, then I'd want to know who was responsible for it. What I was aiming to do here, as I always do, was to make music that I don't hear anywhere else.
“The great bands throughout history might have a couple of tracks on any album that stand out as being classics. But that was never what I wanted for this record. I set out to ensure every song, each note means something, and that the overall result was something very strong and consistent. I'd like to think I've done that, and know there's much here that needs to be heard on many levels.”
The album is to be released in various formats. There will be a Mediabook CD with an extra DVD with a 5.1 surround sound mix and behind the scenes footage, double vinyl LP and CD, jewel case CD and digital version. Hackett is especially delighted with the DVD design from regular collaborator Ray Shulman.
“Ray has excelled himself this time, with the menu on the DVD. Because he has got the cover artwork (created by Maurizio and Angela Vicedomini of Iconphoto, who were also responsible for 'The Night Siren') to move in slow motion, and I can imagine that listening to the music while watching this happen will be very exhilarating.”
'At The Edge Of Light' is an album that connects to Hackett's previous album, 2017's 'The Night Siren'. But he believes he has taken everything to a fresh level.
“Yes, I suppose that is true. There has been a natural development from what I did on the previous album. What I have done is challenge myself, and I really believe in this album. Maybe I am being overly enthusiastic about what you'll hear. But this is genuinely how I feel. I am very much looking forward to the reaction of fans around the world to an album that excites me.”