Esoteric Antenna 2017
Moving away from classical tapestries, acclaimed art-rock acolyte outlines collective vision.
John Hackett is one of a few artists who perennially retain the ability to surprise their listener while staying within a stylistically traditional paradigm. Being perceived as a progressive rock proponent, though, may imply paradigm is bound to shift in a perpetual way, and that’s what happens here, on an album where such concepts get thrown to the wind from the very beginning. To the wind – and to the woodwind, because Hackett’s flutes sound more energetic than elegiac now, which is understandable given this album’s title, alluding not only to the sense of unification so desperately needed in our times but also to the artist fully embracing a band format.
As a result “Winds Of Change” is a fitting, fusion-flecked finale to the record whose creator doesn’t burden himself with setting genre-defined borders as far as mood is concerned, and an aural slice of autobiography in “Never Gonna Make A Dime” – featuring John’s brother Steve, the boy he’s singing about, on mean harmonica – successfully marries worrisome blues to careless, piano-propelled pop, a turn that “Jericho” will add a shameless, reggae-tinged groove to. Still, never a stranger to drama, younger Hackett could assert his epic approach to composition in two-part opener “Take Control” if only it wasn’t arrestingly light, despite rather heavy riffs that carry, helped by reeds, the piece’s emotional weight. Yet further down the road, Nick Fletcher’s guitar waves take it to the stratosphere to delicately ripple through “Blue Skies Of Marazion” and unfold acoustic serenity over the event horizon for “Ossian’s Lament” to reflect its folk influence – keeping romanticism encapsulated along the way.
Bottling the same season, “Summer Lightning” weaves a reflection of intense sensuality into breezy jazziness, while Jeremy Richardson’s bass rumble ups the playfulness of “Queenie And Elmo’s Perfect Day” until the shimmering “Castles” emerges – painted in thick blue colors. They’re there, on the album’s cover: a background to the lighthouse of Hackett’s music. It’s that alluring; the listener can’t resist its call. More so, it translates gloriously to the stage, as demonstrated on the second disc of this edition, where a couple of new tracks enrich a great cross-section of the veteran’s solo catalogue, proving John is a great artist in his own right now.
Read the composer’s account of the record’s background here.