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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to…Steve Hackett – Please Don’t Touch September 5, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Never been much of a fan of Genesis, indeed if there was one of their albums I actually liked it would probably be the barely repressed pop/histrionics of their eponymous album released in 1983, which I note in passing is said by Allmusic to be the album for people who hate Genesis. That figures. And while I get that their earlier stuff with Peter Gabriel wasn’t bad it’s never really moved me.

But an album I picked up years ago, which I’ve had on vinyl for near on 35 years is their early guitarist Steve Hackett’s second solo disc, Please Don’t Touch. It was one of those records that seemed to drift into view. A friend of mine had it and having borrowed it time and again I finally wound up buying a second hand copy for myself. Hackett managed to survived from 1971 to 1975 as a part of Genesis, which some might count as an achievement, but apparently feeling his work wasn’t getting a look in he headed for solo status. Interesting to read that his stock is high in that regard.

Please Don’t Touch is a fascinating record. Released in 1978 it is fair to say that in terms of style other musical developments trouble it not in the slightest. If there was a culling of the dinosaurs taking place he seems both unconcerned and unaware of it. He hardly sings on it – his voice was and remains an acquired taste. Instead he relies on a number of other vocalists including folk singer Richie Havens, singer Steve Walsh from the group Kansas and the ever interesting Randy Crawford (and by the by her cover of a Rainy Night in Georgia is a song I’m particularly fond of). It shouldn’t work, and some think the album inconsistent, but to me Hackett’s guitarwork and odd synth (for which read entirely prog inflected synths) somehow holds the whole thing together despite sharp changes in direction musically between and within songs. Indeed he’s a remarkably generous artist willing to allow the underlying strengths of the individual songs to be brought yet further into view by those who work with him.

As regards expressive tracks, I tend to think Crawford’s treatment of Hoping Love Will Last is a classic (some may have noticed that for the last two years overwhelmingly female led or part female groups have featured in my contributions to the This Weekend slot, and while this album isn’t a product of either that song is such a great piece of work it would almost suffice on its own), and Haven’s Icarus Ascending is there or thereabouts. To say Havens voice is remarkably emotive is to put it mildly. It is possible that the album as a pop/progressive fusion it works almost too well, by demonstrating the limits of that genre. There’s a lot to like, Narnia’s wistful prog nostalgia, the title track’s bombast, the air of melancholy that pervades the album. The synths, ah, the synths. Early days in that regard, but interesting nonetheless. And listening to Racing in A is a real curiosity, is it me or is that a sort of precursor of Rush’s Red Barchetta, at least in the vocal line? Hmmm…

One aspect of it that has bugged me for years is the CD/download approach to the album. On the vinyl version there was a certain couple of tracks which bled into one another. It was almost perfect, one finishing, the other arriving in a blast of sound, and timed so that the latter was entirely unexpected. When the CD was organised that surprise was completely botched, just two tracks that led one into the other.

That caveat aside I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to this over the years and it still resonates.

Icarus Ascending (with Richie Havens)

Please Don’t Touch

Hoping Love will Last (with Randy Crawford)

Racing in A – Steve Walsh

How Can I? Richie Havens

Narnia

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