Sunday, May 27, 2018

Steve Hackett - 1980 [1989] "Defector"

Defector is the fourth solo album from former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett. It was released in 1980 on the Charisma label.

In 2005, Defector was remastered and re-released on Virgin Records. The new edition features updated liner notes and five bonus tracks. A surround upmix of the album is included in Premonitions: The Charisma Recordings 1975-1983 [10-CD/4-DVD Boxed Set] (2015).

Steve Hackett had exited from success a few years prior by leaving the band Genesis. A band who had unexpectedly grown in popularity since the departure of their lead singer Peter Gabriel. Hackett felt that there was more music in him than was being allowed to shine in the band and his creativity was being stifled. He had released his first solo record (Voyage of the Acolyte) while still in the band, and that had caused a bit of dissension from some of the others. It was time for him to leave after the tour to support 1976’s Wind and Wuthering, and Defector is his third solo effort after the departure from Genesis. This showed him to actually be more prolific than Genesis!
Hackett had assembled a band to support 1978’s Please Don’t Touch on tour, and was so pleased with the arrangement he used them for the following record Spectral Mornings and this one Defector. It was on these last two records that Hackett really found the clarification of his sound, with a crack band backing him, moving towards a more progressive area than his former band was at the time and becoming even more proficient as a guitarist. Heavy metal shredders were using Hackett as an influence, even though he was not playing anything close to hard rock here.

Defector opens with the heavy and ominous “The Steppes,” to begin the proceedings. This leads to “Time To Get Out” with its bright, sprightly beat and slightly dissonant vocal harmonies. The album is a mixture of smart instrumentals and pleasant vocal pieces featuring Pete Hicks as lead vocalist, though Steve himself would take the odd vocal now and then. A foretelling of the future, as he would find himself more comfortable with his voice on future recordings.

Steve makes excellent use of the Roland GR500 guitar synthesizer, which gives the impression at times of several guitarists playing in harmony like the twin guitar leads of Thin Lizzy or Wishbone Ash. He can also mellow out on songs like “Two Vamps As Guests” and “Hammer In the Sand,” the latter featuring lovely piano work by Nick Magnus.

Favorite cuts of mine here are the powerful instrumental “Jacuzzi,” the easy and sleepy “The Toast,” and the wonderful and bass heavy synth-rocker “The Show.” There is also a witty and clever ode to the 1940’s big band era, “Sentimental Institution.”

Defector is Steve Hackett’s last really good album for quite a while, and although not quite as strong as the previous three, it is well worth having in anyone’s Genesis-centric collection.

Former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett stepped out on his own in the late '70s with several solo releases, including Defector. The 1980 release doesn't stray far musically from early Genesis, containing a healthy (or unhealthy, depending on your tastes) dose of progressive rock. Five flute- and keyboard-heavy instrumentals appear, as well as five vocal numbers with Hackett taking the singing chores. Of the vocal numbers, "The Toast" sounds a bit like Pink Floyd.

Many Hackett fans consider "Defector" to be the last album from his classic solo period. The album is another solid effort from Hackett featuring a nice mix of vocal and instrumental songs. The emphasis here is still on progressive rock in the classic 70's style, but you also hear the beginning of some more adventurous experimentation which would permeate Hackett's later releases. "Defector" would be the last Hackett album to feature someone other than himself on lead vocals. The guitar is the main instrumental focus on much of this album, as it should be, and Hackett pulls of some really nice work throughout the disc. The album opener "The Steppes" has become a live classic with other tracks like "Slogans", "Time To Get Out"; "Leaving" and "The Toast" are all strong ones. Hackett even takes a stab at a rocking commercial single with "The Show" which is almost funk / disco in nature, and actually works much better than you might think it would. The album closes with a novelty 1920's style ditty called "Sentimental Institution" which reminds me of some of the stuff Freddy Mercury used to do with Queen. Overall I don't think this is Hackett's best album, but it is another solid release from a guitarist who has been sadly overlooked by the mainstream over the years.

Track listing:

1. The Steppes (6:04)
2. Time To Get Out (4:11)
3. Slogans (3:42)
4. Leaving (3:18)
5. Two Vamps As Guests (1:58)
6. Jacuzzi (4:35)
7. Hammer In The Sand (3:09)
8. The Toast (3:41)
9. The Show (3:40)
10. Sentimental Institution (2:32)

Total Time: 36:50


Steve Hackett – guitar, vocal, optigan, roland GR500
Nick Magnus – keyboards
John Hackett – concert and alto flute
Pete Hicks – vocal
John Shearer – drums and percussion
Dik Cadbury – bass, vocal

Vocal Credits:
"Time To Get Out" and "The Toast" are sung by Pete, Dik & Steve together. "Leaving" and "The Show" are sung by Pete with the others adding harmonies. "Sentimental Institution" and the bonus track "Hercules Unchained" are sung by Pete alone. This is the only Steve Hackett album with vocals on which none of the lead vocals are by Hackett himself.