Steve Hackett’s first acoustic solo album since Tribute (2008); Under A Mediterranean Sky, will be released 22nd January 2021. The album is available in various formats.
“A lot of acoustic ideas had been forming over the years, and it felt like the perfect time to create this album,” notes Hackett, “a time to contemplate the places we’ve visited around the Mediterranean with the kind of music which evolved from the world of imagination.” The current state of the world and the pandemic currently unfolding are unavoidable, and it seems almost obvious that in a situation where touring with a full band is impossible. Instead, Steve has turned to the warmth, bright sun and brilliant blues to explore memories of his travels and captured them in eleven tracks weaving through the notes the varied evocative sounds that can be heard on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. On his journey, he is joined by an array of instruments and has collaborated with many musicians including his brother John on Flute. His long-time musical partner Roger King took on the recording and mixing duties as well as keyboards, programming and orchestrating (“Roger and I recorded together, at a social distance in a well-ventilated room!”).
The album continues his exploration of world music, found on his latest studio albums, The Night Siren (2017) and At The Edge Of Light (2019).
Bluesdoodles thoughts on Under A Mediterranean Sky
Bluesdoodles recommends, that you sit with distractions, mute and hide your phone and for fifty-seven minutes allow the eleven tracks to take you on a melodic journey of aural wonder. The album is simply delicious and will ignite your imagination.
The album opens classical symphonic power. Hackett’s magic weaves in tales of the Arabian Nights and guitar chords shaped to reflect the gypsy’s fireside. Transported you are walking through the walled city Mdina. The night is warm and sultry the music evokes the sea lapping at the edges of the Isle surrounded by salty, beguiling water. The Med laps the Island as the tempo cascades with hot temper then fades away.
We move gently in the search for the perfect shade of blue, here found in the Adriatic. With five minutes of guitar work that is sublime, Hackett’s skill in caressing every tonal shade from the instrument is pure listening pleasure while you revel in his artful brilliance.
Now the wind blows – dragging in the sand, heat and dryness across the Med with a powerful force and underlying menace. Captured on the third track as Malik Mansurov on the tar adds mystery, a feeling of something dangerous hovering just out of view. The music grows in force and splendour with hints of Laurence of Arabia. The notes set the scene for your imagination to build a solid visual picture from the combination of notes, instrumentation and composition. This combination is achieved cleverly across the album.
The tempo rolls joyfully, as you would expect on Joie de Vivre, you feel the pleasure of fingers playing the strings with dexterous ease. The number is controlled in its buoyancy; this is manic unsustainable happiness that is often a trickster so often bringing tears on the downside. Here the music captures the essence of wellness, the boundless energy of pure joy, the perfect antidote for these dark times.
Christine Townsend’s violin has a bittersweet quality as she opens The Memory Of Myth. Joined by Steve on guitar the music flows with an underlying pathos. There is sadness as memories are unpeeled like an onion as layers of tonal caprices beguile and entertain as the myth is explored, what is true? What are the reworkings of truth? – that make so many of our sweetest memories.
Then we step into the world of Baroque with Scarlatti Sonata, the harpsichord is replaced by the guitar for the exercise in finding the perfect blending of rhythm, form and tone. Captured in a few minutes of harmonious sound the antidote to the troubled noisy world we are at this moment in time struggling to find a safe pathway through.
Soothing lyrical chords introduce us to Naples and The House of The Faun. Step inside, explore, hear how the flute of John Hackett picks up the sumptuous themes as you dally and wonder amidst the aural beauty cascading down from the vaulted ceiling above. Cleansing purity is found in the sweet music of this Casa.
Starting quietly deeper tones building, as the tar pulls you deep into its Middle Eastern mysteries. The calmness is hiding something, the beat picks up a sandstorm is approaching the deeper notes hint at change. The track builds each instrument adding to the sound poem with polytonal layers, none out competing each other but are being heard in the Dervish and the Djin.
Lorato returns us the European Mediterranean with familiar tones that soothes, leading us into Andalusian Heart, the penultimate number. The Spanish melting pot where religions and cultures clashed and absorbed each other’s power. Knowledge was exchanged. The violin and oud demonstrate this as the sounds meld and contrast.
Closing out this gem of an album is The Call of The Sea, we have journeyed with Steve and his musicians, now the sea is calling us home or to explore further… until the next musical journey with Steve Hackett this on repeat will be a constant pleasure and perfect virtual travelling companion as we are locked into our tiny landscapes we find ourselves in at the moment. The music enables our minds to expand and imagine and grow stronger in its presence.
Secrets are hidden deep in the music. Every track has a tale to be found, what you find will be your own as the music will inspire, unravel truths and stir old memories and longings. Listen and they are there to be found and you will be entranced savouring every note sweet as honey, soothing as myrrh, sweet scent as Frankincense this album is pure gold.
Bluesdoodles rating: A perfect 5 doodle paws
Mdina (The Walled City)
Joi de Vivre
The Memory of Myth
Casa del Fauno
The Dervish And The Djin
The Call Of The Sea
Steve Hackett – nylon, steel string & twelve-string guitars, charango, Iraqi oud (1 – 11)
John Hackett – flute (7)
Roger King – keyboards, programming & orchestral arrangements (1 – 11)
Malik Mansurov – tar (3, 8)
Arsen Petrosyan – duduk (8)
Christine Townsend – violin (5, 10)
Rob Townsend – soprano sax (8)