Steve Hackett – Live Rails

As a general rule, I don’t care much for live albums, even if they are by artists I really care about. More often than not, I find that bands simply reprise their performances as heard on the studio recording, and especially in a day and age where the studio is about as important an instrument as any other in some music, many live albums come across as being muddied renditions of music best heard the way it was originally recorded. Of course, much of this narrows down to how an artist chooses to record the concert experience, as well as the material he, or they choose to play for it. I am not into live albums, but Steve Hackett quickly catches my attention with the double live album ‘Rails’. Taken from concerts across three cities, the former Genesis guitarist simply gets the concept of a live album right , and through a mixture of great recording sound, organic performance and varied setlist, Hackett’s live album is one of the few I’ve heard in the past couple of years I would not only wholeheartedly recommend to a fan, but also revisit.

In terms of playing and performance, there should be no doubt by this point that Steve Hackett is an incredible guitarist, both on stage and off. From his early days in Genesis, he has proven to be one of the best talents with the guitar, not necessarily through mathematical technical ability, but moreso his ability to evoke a feeling through the instrument, which is something I personally regard leagues above any everyday shredder. What makes ‘Rails’ even more powerful on a performance level though is the talent of the other musicians here, who all come up to bat and work exceptionally well. The vocal harmonies here are done with incredible precision, and the saxophone work of Rob Townsend adds a new dimension to some of the old classics, including the highlight of the concert ‘Fifth Of Firth’.

Another great thing here may not be so easily picked up upon by someone not as averted to live albums, but the mixing here is incredibly well done. On more than a couple of live albums, the recording tends to become a noisy mess due to the overbearing influence of a highly mixed, voluminous, and quite likely drunken audience. While cheers of the crowd can be heard here, they are only really heard during the applause, and are turned down for the rest. This gives both the vicarious concert experience a live album is meant to bestow, as well as a clean listening experience that is not deterred. In fact, it could be argued that the live atmosphere only adds to parts of the music, as the chemistry between instruments is heard beautifully during many of the instrumental passages.

A fairly long concert, it may have been nice a few more tracks here with the beautiful vocal work and one or two more classic Genesis tunes, but Steve Hackett’s ‘Rails’ has struck lucky with a brilliant live record here.

Tracklist:

CD1
1. Intro
2. Every Day
3. Fire On The Moon
4. Emerald & Ash
5. Ghost In The Glass
6. Ace Of Wands
7. Pollution C
8. The Steppes
9. Slogans
10. Serpentine
11. Tubehead

CD2
1. Spectral Mornings
2. Firth Of Fifth
3. Blood On The Rooftops
4. Fly On A Windshield
5. Broadway Melody Of 1974
6. Sleepers
7. Still Waters
8. Los Endos
9. Clocks

Line-up:

* Steve Hackett – guitars, vocals
* Roger King – keyboards
* Amanda Lehmann – guitar, vocals
* Gary O’Toole – drums, percussion, vocals
* Nick Beggs – bass, Chapman stick, Taurus pedals, vocals
* Rob Townsend – saxophone, woodwind, percussion, vocals

Links:

http://www.hackettsongs.com/

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