The steps to ultimate Genesis lead here. How can Hackett keep getting better, when there seems nowhere else to go? This one was always going to be special. I even got goosebumps watching the trailer.
Label: Inside Out
Time: 14 Tracks / CDs -114 mins, Blu-ray 184 mins
Hackett has been producing definitive versions of Genesis tracks for some years now, as if these are the ones that fans will treasure above the originals. He started with alternative arrangements – which proved controversial – and has now settled for gradual refinement, augmented by the sonic quality that today’s technology offers.
So to add orchestra must be the ultimate treatment for some of these classic tracks.
Dramatic opener “Dance on a Volcano” is as good as it could possibly be, with every gram of feeling drawn out of the guitar work (hear those ends of phrases) and the gated phrases near the end still pack a punch. This is a band up for a show!
The short Wolflight track “Out of the Body” is where the orchestra first comes into its own, playing as much a part as any band member – and they all give spot-on performances throughout.
After an extended soprano sax intro, the orchestra enriches “The Steppes,” with its Ravel’s Bolero feel. It also gives power to the climax as it echoes the lead guitar. Slow builders like this are Hackett’s stock in trade, so tracks like “Afterglow,” the slightly oriental “El Nino” and “Shadow of the Hierophant” work similarly well, the latter an obvious candidate for this treatment (if stretched marginally overlong).
The gorgeous “Firth of Fifth” has been a staple of the set for years, due to the soaring guitar solo (set against a delicate keys backing). The orchestra adds a third layer to the guitar and keys that – in places – raises it to another level. I have questions about whether the arrangement detracts from the guitar in other spots, but there are so many versions of this already that a different one can afford take a risk.
In the face of all these epics, the lovely, harmony-rich “Serpentine Song” adds a pleasing rest that uses the orchestra to bring warmth as well as depth. Hackett’s brother John appears on stage to play flute in this piece inspired by their father.
(Quite why “guitar solo” was give a track of its own, when it is only 19 seconds log and is a precursor to the acoustic intro to ”Blood on the Rooftops” baffles me.)
But there are three mighty tracks that could have their definitive versions here. “Dancing with the Moonlit Night,” because Nad Syvlan’s vocals have even more feeling than Peter Gabriel’s originals; “Musical Box” sounds stunning, irrespective of the orchestral part that mainly features in the final section, thanks not least to Townsend’s Celtic-sounding woodwind later in the instrumental, together with Jonas Reingold’s ferociously forceful guitar parts under the solo; and “Supper’s Ready,” where again, that 41-piece orchestra adds dramatic oomph to the already-powerful climax, making this a 28 minute version (including applause).
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The Blu-ray account of the show, at London’s Royal Festival Hall, is a crucial addition; with close-ups catching Hackett’s technique and clarifying who is playing what, when several layers are going on at once. It also adds Hackett’s between songs chat (although you’ll need to turn up the volume to catch it properly).
The Blu-ray digipak also includes a lengthy behind-the-scenes documentary, plus promotional videos for Under "The Eye Of The Sun," "Beasts In Our Time" and "Peace."
Even though the collection includes “Blood on the Rooftops” – a passable track that Hackett seems to significantly overvalue – it cannot take away from the fact that this truly exceptional set abounds in ecstatic moments and must be one of the best releases of the year (ahead of the guitarist’s Selling England tour that may be one of the best shows of the year).
This is spectacular. Absolutely recommended.