Thursday, October 15, 2015

Steve Hackett - 1978 "Please Don't Touch!"

Please Don't Touch! is the second solo album by English guitarist Steve Hackett, and his first after leaving Genesis in 1977.
The album featured several guests including R&B singer Randy Crawford on "Hoping Love Will Last", American folk icon Richie Havens on two songs, the drummer and vocalist for the progressive rock band Kansas (Phil Ehart and Steve Walsh respectively), Frank Zappa alumnus Tom Fowler, Genesis concert drummer Chester Thompson (also a Zappa alumnus), and Van der Graaf violinist Graham Smith.
This was also Hackett's first album to feature his pioneering use of the Roland GR-500 Guitar Synthesizer.

Please Don't Touch! was the first solo album that Hackett released after leaving Genesis during the mixing of the 1977 live album Seconds Out.
Hackett had previously released a solo album, Voyage of the Acolyte, while still a member of Genesis, but he was frustrated by the collaborative process of Genesis which left much of his creative work unreleased. He wrote a song, "Please Don't Touch", that Genesis rehearsed but ended up setting aside, partly because the other members of the band did not want to use it. He also wrote a second song, "Hoping Love Will Last", that he felt was appropriate only for a female singer, which was something that the band could not use. Eventually, the track Wot Gorilla? was decided on as the last track on the first side of Wind and Wuthering, and this decision sealed Hackett's decision to leave Genesis. Hackett quit Genesis and began to record the album Please Don't Touch, using the rejected Genesis song as the title track.

"Narnia" is based on the children's book "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis. Singer Steve Walsh and drummer Phil Ehart of the American rock band Kansas appear on the song. According to Hackett in the liner notes of the 2005 re-release, "Narnia" had been considered as a possible single. "Unfortunately," Hackett stated, "we weren't allowed to release the version featuring Steve on vocals as his record company objected. No-one at Charisma felt the alternative version [a version with vocalist John Perry and a bonus track on the 2005 remaster] was strong enough to release as a single without Steve's contribution."
"Carry On Up the Vicarage" is a musical tribute to Agatha Christie. It features vocals from Hackett himself. The vocals during most of the song consist of a double line of an artificially high pitched voice and an artificially low pitched one. Hackett has often used similar distorting effects on his vocals in his solo career.
"Racing in A" also features Steve Walsh on vocals. The song is electric for most of its duration, but the last 1:15 is a classical guitar piece which decreases in pace throughout, finishing on a relaxing note to set up for the fully acoustic instrumental track "Kim". Which consists of Steve Hackett on classical guitar with his brother John on flute, it was largely inspired by Erik Satie's "Gymnopédie No 1".
"How Can I?" is the last track on side one of the original vinyl. It is a slow song which features Richie Havens on vocals.

Side two of the vinyl consists of a suite of songs which flow directly into each other. It begins with "Hoping Love Will Last" with Randy Crawford on vocals. It has a heavy R&B/soul influence but with some classical style guitar parts as well as atmospheric sections featuring synthesisers. The second of these sections segues into "Land of a Thousand Autumns", an instrumental, atmospheric track which contains references to the main theme of the title track. A sudden drum fill leads into the next track.
"Please Don't Touch" itself is an instrumental track with many time signature changes that features prominent use of Hackett's Roland GR-500 Guitar Synthesiser. The track was originally offered by Hackett to Genesis for Wind and Wuthering, but was rejected by the rest of the band. This rejection contributed to Hackett's eventual decision to leave Genesis in 1977. The track was written as a variation on the main theme heard in the Wind and Wuthering track "Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers...". This theme was also eventually incorporated into the song "Hackett to Bits", which was included on the 1985 GTR album featuring Yes guitarist Steve Howe. Owing to the Genesis connection, Hackett included a re-recording of "Please Don't Touch" in his 2012 album Genesis Revisited II.
"Please Don't Touch" abruptly transitions into "The Voice of Necam". This track also features references to the "Please Don't Touch" theme at the beginning, but in the middle it becomes more of an ambient piece featuring a computer called Necam. The last 1:20 of the track is a classical guitar piece backed by the aforementioned computerised chords.
"Icarus Ascending" is the last track on the album and is sung by Richie Havens.

The cover was designed by the artist Kim Poor, as were many of Hackett's album covers. It shows a Victorian couple being attacked by automata in a toy shop. This became the inspiration for a scene in Blade Runner, where the character Rick Deckard (played by Harrison Ford) is attacked in a flat full of replicant toys.

Steve Hackett left Genesis in June 1977 (following the tour that would be documented on Seconds Out), and started his solo career in earnest with Please Don't Touch. Unlike Voyage of the Acolyte, which was a largely instrumental concept album steeped in the progressive rock idiom, this record is primarily a collection of songs featuring guest vocalists Richie Havens, Randy Crawford, and Kansas' Steve Walsh (their Phil Ehart also chips in here on drums). Although the sum effect is something of a patchwork, the individual pieces are often lovely. Over his career, Hackett has shown a propensity for extremes, in this case letting the jazzy and sentimental "Hoping Love Will Last" segue into the musical maelstrom of "Land of a Thousand Autumns" and "Please Don't Touch" (which will delight fans of Hackett's first record, although the Caroline CD inexplicably pauses too long between the two). In a nod to King Crimson (specifically Lizard), the title track is quickly cut off with the quirky carousel sounds of "The Voice of Necam," which itself dissolves into a mix of airy voices and acoustic guitar. The best tracks belong to Richie Havens: "How Can I?" ("Hackett"'s take on Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill") and the conclusive "Icarus Ascending." Hackett is no singer, so he wisely masks his voice in a "laughing gnome" effect on the delightful "Carry on Up the Vicarage" and hides behind Walsh's lead on "Narnia" and "Racing in A." Perhaps taking his cue from Gabriel (whose debut had appeared in 1977), Hackett seems eager to show his range as a songwriter. While he clearly has a closet full of good ideas and a genuine knack for interesting arrangements, Hackett is too much the eccentric Englishman to appeal to broad commercial tastes. Please Don't Touch remains a uniquely effective amalgam of progressive rock and pop; like his first album, he never made another one quite like it, perhaps because he again taps the concept's full potential here.

Track listing

All tracks written by Steve Hackett.

    "Narnia" – 4:05
    "Carry On Up the Vicarage" – 3:11
    "Racing in A" – 5:07
    "Kim" – 2:13
    "How Can I?" – 4:38
    "Hoping Love Will Last" – 4:23
    "Land of a Thousand Autumns" – 1:38
    "Please Don't Touch" – 3:39
    "The Voice of Necam" – 3:11
    "Icarus Ascending" – 6:27


    Steve Hackett – Electric guitar, acoustic guitar, Roland GR-500 Guitar Synthesizer, vocals (2), backing vocals (1, 3, 9, 10), keyboards, percussion
    John Hackett – flute, piccolo, bass pedals, keyboards
    John Acock – keyboards, engineer
    James Bradley – percussion
    Phil Ehart – drums, percussion
    Tom Fowler – bass
    Richie Havens – vocals (5, 10), percussion
    Dave Lebolt – keyboards
    Hugh Malloy – cello
    Graham Smith – violin
    Chester Thompson – drums, percussion
    Steve Walsh – vocals (1, 3)
    Maria Bonvino – guest female soprano (6)
    Randy Crawford – vocals (6)
    Feydor – vocals on "The Voice of Necam"
    Dan Owen, Dale Newman – guest vocals on "Icarus Ascending"

1 comment: