Steve Hackett

Live Archive: 70, 80, 90s

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Many long-lived rock artists (Emerson, Lake & Palmer and King Crimson, to name two) are starting to see the value in releasing live archival material. It's a way to thwart the bootleggers, plus it pleases longtime fans. Hackett joins in with this box set release of three shows, one from the 1970s (Hammersmith Odeon, London, June 30,1979), one from the 1980s (Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome, Sept. 13,1981), and one from the 1990s (The Grand Theatre, London, June 8,1993). It's a viable collection, coming complete with a photo-laden booklet which includes an intro to each show written by Hackett (or, Stefanovitch Von Hackenschimdt, as he signs one), a complete tour itinerary covering his solo career to 2000, and track-by-track comments on each song from the 1993 disc (but, strangely, not for the other two shows). A couple of drawbacks to the discs are the only-average sound quality of the 1979 and 1981 shows, and the fact that generally the songs don't stray too far from their studio versions. These faults are minimal, though, when taken in the context of the whole box. The musicianship by all the band members is excellent throughout, and most of Hackett's best-known songs are represented along with a smattering of more obscure tracks and some previously unreleased songs. The 1979 show is the most adventurous, featuring a skilled acoustic set, a dynamic version of the Genesis classic "I Know What I Like," and his live staple of the time, "The Optigan." Performed on the rare instrument of the same name, an optical disc-playing organ, Hackett creates an otherworldly introduction to "A Tower Struck Down." The 1981 show concentrates on songs from his then-current album Cured, while the 1993 show is largely songs from Guitar Noir (plus an interesting and energetic medley of songs from throughout his career). Also on the 1993 disc is a previously unreleased progressive rock/jazz fusion instrumental, "Always Somewhere Else," which fits in well. This collection is a tasteful addition to Hackett's catalog, giving a full view of his live work and supplementing nicely his previous live release, Timelapse. A companion bonus disc, available separately, showcases two other shows from the '70s.

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