Steve Hackett - Surrender Of Silence

One way or another I seem to have listened to a fair amount of prog rock over the years, and just as a general overview I'd say that much of it is technically brilliant but rather arid stuff, easier to admire than to love. One of the shining exceptions to this rule is Steve Hackett, late of Genesis, whose work continues to combine a generous quota of his virtuoso - and often fiendishly complicated - guitar stylings with an impeccable ear for the musical hook. He's in it for the listener, in other words, not just for himself. Now hard on the heels of his acoustic album earlier in the year comes Hackett's full-throttle Surrender of Silence. You should treat yourself to a copy immediately. It seems odd to say it, but nearly fifty years after his greatest popular success, Hackett seems gloriously to be hitting his full creative stride.

Like anything that's any good in the arts, Surrender of Silence works on several different levels. There's the sheer virtuosity of the playing, of course, but there's also that less definable quality of mood and atmosphere involved. They're all contributory ingredients to the album as a whole, which includes some of Hackett's best songwriting yet. I offer in evidence 'The Devil's Cathedral', with its insinuating brew of gothic jazz and wonderfully melodramatic Phantom of the Opera organ, and the seductively Russophile 'Natalia', which swerves daringly between Prokofiev and its author's trademark swooping guitar sound - trust me, it grows on you with each listen. And what of 'Relaxation Music for Sharks', which surely deserves a Grammy nod for its title alone? Hackett and his stellar band effortlessly conjure up the requisite Jaws-like thudding and keep building the tension from there; it's like a cinema show, as it were, for the ear, full of glorious over-the-top virtuosity which never loses sight of its primary mission to entertain the audience.

I admit it: I'm an early Genesis fan, and few of us would have thought it possible for any individual member of the group ever to surpass the charms of Selling England by the Pound and the rest. Yet Hackett creates a true fusion of sounds on Surrender of Silence, brilliantly executed by him and his band, and we should all be thankful for the results. He is a master craftsman who may just be making the best music of his life.