Although it might sometimes feel overproduced and lack the emotional touch I still think that he pulls it off quite nicely. The material and the production is what makes Highly Strung a lesser release for me. Let's face it, the pop-songs featured here are bad. Luckily there are a few instrumentals and rock-tracks that are good enough to keep this album from a complete disaster.
It was actually a nice surprise considering that I had the lowest Album) expectations before hearing this album. The s are firmly in tow but tracks like "Camino Royale", the surprise hit "Cell ", "Always Somewhere Else" and "Hackett to Pieces" renew his rock credentials while perpetuating his melodic muse.
The quotient of ambient ballads is reduced, but "Indian Rubber Man" would qualify. For those who did like "Cured", "Give it Away" is a sunny pop number with his usual rich acoustics and increasingly confident vocals, with a particularly fine middle section, and "Weightless" perpetuates his "Picture Postcard" persona. Personally, I enjoy these, but many might turn away. Another consistent disk that showcases the man's broad interests, "Highly Strung" might make one nervous about the future of prog, but it's nothing a chill pill and an ear for good music couldn't overcome.
As expected, there is some nice material, and even some very strong tunes here and there like the opener Casino Royale. Nice melodies and all, ok. Some really bad songs too Walking Through Walls is definitly one.
The guitar is a little subdue in several parts here, but is sitll very good anyway. Not bad for a guy who never even sang backing vocals while on Genesis!
In the end a quite interesting, if dated, album. If you like his guitar playing then you should check it out, as long as you have his other essential works meaning everything he did before Cured and do not expect anything too great.
Rating: 2. Once again, Steve seems to be more concerned with keeping the releases coming, than on spending sufficient time on them to come up with something truly exceptional. This would be his final album for Charisma records, so perhaps it can be seen as a contractual obligation release.
On the plus side, Steve retains the services of keyboard player Nick Magnus, while calling upon future Marillion member Ian Mosley to contribute drums. The line up is rounded out by three other performers, including John Ackock on keyboards. Hackett rather ill-advisedly once again retains vocal duties. Another positive is that here Steve tempers the pop influences which drowned "Cured" with a more creative approach on some of the tracks. The opening bars of "Camino royale" are actually rather old Genesis like, with Banks style organ and Hackett's trademark guitar.
The vocals are adequate but no more, had a guest singer been brought in this and other songs might have been transformed. The long version is by far the better, as it features a wonderfully eclectic instrumental passage. The LP tracks which made up the second side of the album when it was first released are not generally as strong as those on side one. The pop influences remain to the fore for the rather echoey "Give it away" and the echo box is left switched on for the equally banal "Weightless".
While the instrumental "Group therapy" at least explores a more adventurous direction, it is at best an orthodox but rather anonymous guitar led improvisation. The strength of the song lies in its simplicity.
The album closes with the appallingly named "Hackett to pieces", a guitar piece which Steve would resurrect on the "GTR" album a few years later. In all, a much improved album when compared to its predecessor, but still something of a parsons egg in the Hackett discography.
There is certainly plenty to enjoy here, but I can't help but feel that with a bit more time and effort, a number of the tracks here could have been developed into genuine Steve Hackett masterpieces. The remastered CD version includes 3 bonus tracks, the brief "Nutrocker" type fun number "Guitar boogie", a single edit of "Walking through walls" which is longer than the album version!
It's too bad, then, that a large chunk of the album really isn't that good. The first two instrumentals are a letdown on the whole the third, "Hackett to Pieces," is basically just a reprise of ideas from earlier in the album ; they each have some nice guitar work, of course, and they have multiple ideas combined with each other, but these are pieces where I hear a lot less in the way of inspiration and atmosphere than I've gotten used to with Hackett instrumentals.
For all of the craft and professionalism contained within these, I end up treating them as muzak, and that's not a label I like to attach to music from Hackett. The synths get pretty overbearing, too, especially in "Group Therapy. The actual songs have some low points among them, too. I will admit, it's kinda hard for me to make a strong defense for "Walking Through Walls" when I don't like either of the tracks that come after it, but even if it's driven forward by the most primitive of beats, it also has that great keyboard tone, and I genuinely like Steve's singing here.
What can I say, when judging generic 80s tracks, sometimes things come down to relatively minor details. Don't forget about the extended single version in the bonus tracks, either. The opening "Camino Royale," as would be revealed years later, actually has a loose Genesis connection; it has its roots in a dream Steve had where Genesis was singing a song with this song's chorus.
Mind you, the chorus is probably the worst part; "Only the fool learns to get through" strikes me as a silly phrase, and Steve's voice, on its own, isn't quite up to the task of giving the phrase any resonance. Then again, the music of the chorus both the chord sequence and the vocal melody itself is quite nice, and it makes for a good balance to the music of the rest of the song. The opening instrumental passage would have fit in perfectly on Yes' a year later, and I mean that as a compliment; the inspired though clearly 80s guitar playing, the strong keyboards with tones hearkening back a few years and the mildly tricky rhythms would feel perfectly at home next to "It Can Happen" or "Changes.
For what it's worth, Steve once went on record as saying this is his best song, and while I don't quite agree with this, I can see the argument. The other two tracks couldn't really be much more different, but they're each quite nice.
Plus, I rather like the extended instrumental coda which, granted, largely borrows ideas from "Camino Royale" ; there's definitely more drive and power here than in the purely instrumental tracks. And kudos to Steve for managing to get a minor hit single out of this; for all of the elements that don't jump out of their way to make the track accessible to a large audience, the track still works as a pop song. And finally, there's a lovely gem tucked into the second half, Album), the quiet, borderline ambient, blink-and-you-might-miss-it "India Rubber Man.
Plus, Steve breaks out his harmonica once again, and the effect is magical in much the same way that, say, the harmonica bits in "Cabinessence" yup, the Beach Boys song were magical. Basically, there's about half of a really good album on here, and about half of a pretty bad one too. I slightly lean in a positive direction when putting all of them on the ledger, if only because the instrumental tracks from the worse half are completely listenable, but I definitely can't give this a strong recommendation.
If you can get the best tracks from here without getting the entire album, try to do so. I'm sorry to day, I turned my back on Steve Hackett's solo work after "Cured", and ignored this album, having become much more interested in improvisation and rock forms that incorporated the same; it didn't help that Genesis had gone off the deep end with pop music.
Why do I have to rate this three stars Wow, I mean, this could have been one monster of an album. As it is, it's still a great entry and, in my not so humble opinion, ranks as one of Steve Hackett's best a One of his more consistant albums, even if the highs aren't as high as some of his best songs no "Every Day", "Virgin and the Gypsy" or 'Narnia" here.
Every track has something of interest, whether it's a memorable melody and lyric "only the fool learns to get through" from "Camino Royale" I would have to say that "Highly Strung" is my favorite recording by Steve Hackett. He does more solo guitar work on this than on any of his previous releases. It is cool and original as aways.
I have to agree with some of the people above, this is a very underrated album. It's a much better improvement from "Cured".
It brings Steve's focus back to rock from the poppy border he was on in "Cured". Also, having the Marillion man behind the kit is awesome. He does a really good job fo With "Highly Strung" and its predecessor "Cured", it seemed at the time that Steve or his record company were trying to court a wider and more commercial audience. The troubl This is a album you can listen to the whole way through, with killer instrumentals like Group Therapy and som One of the more underated albums ever put out by Steve.
You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not. Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker. As for the music, we are not back to standard but this album fares so much better the previous one.
Only one track ever stuck in my memory and apparently in many other's and was a concert regular: Camino Royale, which will soon give Steve's record company a name. But the climb back up after such a disastrous album as Cured and a very unfavourable music industry will be still long for he had fallen real hard after some excellent Spectral Mornings?
And let's not forget this is the 80's and his former colleagues are not faring any better aesthetically at the time. Latest members reviews I'm sorry to day, I turned my back on Steve Hackett's solo work after "Cured", and ignored this album, having become much more interested in improvisation and rock forms that incorporated the same; it didn't help that Genesis had gone off the deep end with pop music.
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