Sunday, August 7, 2016

Steve Hackett - 1978 [2016] "Please Don't Touch" (Deluxe 2 CD)

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. [Please Don't Touch! was released as a deluxe, two-CD, one-DVD set in 2016.]

Limited three disc (two CDs + NTSC/Region 0 DVD) edition of this 1978 album by the British guitar legend. Please Don't Touch was Steve Hackett's second solo album, his first following his departure from Genesis. The sessions saw Steve work with various guest musicians including drummer Chester Thompson (a member of Genesis for live concerts). Vocal duties were shared by Steve Walsh of the American band Kansas, Richie Havens and Randy Crawford. This deluxe edition includes new stereo and 5.1 surround sound mixes by Steven Wilson and also features the original stereo mix remastered. A further three bonus tracks are also included.

This album was recommended to me by a number of people who like progressive rock. I have to admit I bought it because Steve Walsh of Kansas sings on it. I was absolutely floored by the entire album - not a single bad track.
"Narnia" is the single most inspired vocal performance by Steve Walsh I have EVER heard. It was as though Steve Hackett wrote that song with Walsh in mind. It blends perfectly with his style, even though it is definitely more lighthearted than anything he ever did in Kansas. This album is worth buying just for this single song.
Richie Havens' Icarus Ascending is another soul-shaker - I didn't know what to expect from him having only heard his "Here Comes the Sun" previously. His voice is so profound - so moving, so deep - makes you yearn for more. I'm always sorry knowing there is no more at the end.
Randy Crawford's voice is like pure honey and light! So rich, so earnest. She was a magic choice for this album.
All in all, this is one of my favorite albums of all time - you MUST listen to it.

This release holds a lot of emotional value for me. I first heard this album in my friend's brother's basement room back in 1979 when I was the tender age of fifteen. He had a fantastic stereo system and cranked the title cut. I can still see the back of the album cover in my young hands as I read it while listening. During that memorable evening, I listened to the entire record (yes, record... music was mostly on vinyl back then) and vowed to purchase it, when I had the cash to do so. I was only a kid, at the time.

And I did, not very long after. I played that album to death, almost literally. I bought a second copy because I literally wore it out, over time. This album was one of the musically defining releases of my teen life. When I listen to it, I'm transported back in time to my own listening room, with its large Altec-style speakers and burgeoning record collection.

This particular release motivated me to take classical guitar in the early `80s. I started my education on the guitar taking classical, then moved to jazz a few years later. I recall playing for my teacher one of the short classical pieces on this record, which I had on tape in the car. He panned it, calling it a poorly contrived classical hack job. The respect I had for this teacher dropped several notches. I left his tutelage not long after.

Hackett takes all directions on this album, and it's a unique release for him due to all the guest appearances. The writing is first rate, guitar work innovative and captivating (fabulous use of the Roland guitar synth), and he never lost his progressive edge after leaving Genesis. Like most artists who follow their own creative direction, not the direction of external forces, Hackett's career has taken many twists and turns over the decades, some arguably good, others questionable. What he has never done is sat complacent. He's a true musician who remains true to his craft and to himself.

For anyone interested in exploring the early releases of Steve Hackett, Please Don't Touch is a must listen.

This album is like a master class in guitar orchestration. Every line and texture is incredibly well thought out, and not a note is waisted. But far from being just a "guitar album", Please Don't Touch really demonstrates Hackett's genius as a composer. Just terrific writing!! And while it's easy to describe the album as "eclectic", there are common threads that bring the pieces together and make it the perfect CD to listen to in it's entirety. A wonderful, wonderful album!

Tracks Listing:

CD 1
01. Narnia (4:06)
02. Carry On Up the Vicarage (A Musical Tribute To Agatha Christie) (3:11)
03. Racing In A (5:07)
04. Kim (2:14)
05. How Can I? (4:40)
06. Hoping Love Will Last (4:09)
07. Land of a Thousand Autumns (1:57)
08. Please Don't Touch (3:39)
09. The Voice of Necam (3:11)
10. Icarus Ascending (6:21)
11. Narnia (3:35)
12. Seven Of Cups (Alternative Version) (3:33)
13. Narnia (Alternative Version) (4:30)


CD 2
01. Narnia (4:11)
02. Carry on Up the Vicarage (3:12)
03. Racing in A (5:06)
04. Kim (2:13)
05. How Can I? (4:39)
06. Hoping Love Will Last (4:12)
07. Land of a Thousand Autumns (1:48)
08. Please Don't Touch (3:39)
09. The Voice of Necam (3:11)
10. Icarus Ascending (6:20)

Line-up / Musicians:

- Steve Hackett / electric, acoustic & Roland synth guitars, lead (2) & backing (1,3,9,10) vocals, keyboards (Mellotron), percussion, tape-loops, Fx, NECAM "The Computer", arranger & co-producer
With:
- Steve Walsh / vocals (1,3,13)
- Richie Havens / vocals (5,10), percussion
- Maria Bonvino / soprano vocals (6)
- Randy Crawford / vocals (6)
- Feydor / vocals (9)
- Dan Owen / alto vocals (10)
- Dale Newman / vocals (10)
- John Perry / vocals (11)
- John Hackett / flute, piccolo, bass pedals, keyboards
- Dave LeBolt / keyboards
- John Acock / keyboards, co-producer
- Tom Fowler / bass
- Chester Thompson / drums, percussion
- Phil Ehart / drums, percussion
- James Bradley / percussion
- Graham Smith / violin
- Hugh Malloy / cello

Sorry for not including the DVD, here's a link for purchase:

https://www.amazon.com/Please-Dont-Touch-STEVE-HACKETT/dp/B01B5GM1T0

10 comments:

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  2. Thank you for another awesome post!

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  6. Many Thanks for Steve Hackett

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