The Tokyo Tapes
(Original Masters)

STEVE HACKETT: The Tokyo Tapes (Original Masters)Steve Hackett has been making solo records for almost 20 years now. While none of them have brought him the kind of success that he had as the guitarist in Genesis, he's always maintained a loyal fan base in the progressive rock circles. In late 1996, Hackett decided to try something a little different. Along with a few friends--John Wetton on bass, guitar and vocals; Ian McDonald on keyboards, guitars and flute; Julian Colbeck on sax; Chester Thompson on drums--Hackett and company hit the stage for two inspired shows in Tokyo. They played a wide variety of songs, ranging from solo Hackett tunes to Genesis, plus a few King Crimson and Asia tracks.

The shows started off with an excellent (if fairly straight) reading of the Genesis classic, "Watcher of the Skies," featuring Wetton on vocals. "Firth of Fifth" is the next big highlight, featuring an ominous new midsection. Hackett turns in an excellent solo on the track, and Thompson's drumming here is outstanding as usual. Everyone in the band gets a chance to stretch out a bit in "Camino Royale," followed by a great version of the King Crimson namesake, "The Court of the Crimson King." The Crimsons wish they sounded this good.

This brings us to the acoustic portion of the show. After two short instrumental tunes, Wetton takes the stage again for an acoustic take on the Asia hit, "Heat of the Moment." Up next are three tracks that aren't listed for some reason. The first is an updated rendition of "In That Quiet Earth," and then an extended "Vampyre With a Healthy Appetite." This particular track, from his Guitar Noir album, really gives Hackett a chance to show off his prowess on the electric guitar. The last unlisted song is "I Talk to the Wind." Crimson fans will be thrilled that they played this song, but it's a bit of a set killer here. Great performance, but it would better if it fell in a different place in the set.

The second disc kicks off with a short version of "Shadow of the Hierophant," with a solo from Thompson, which eventually segues into my personal favorite here, "Los Endos." Like "Firth of Fifth," the midsection of this song has been radically reworked. The only thing bad about this show is when Hackett tries to sing. "I Know What I Like" is the perfect example. The music is good, but the vocals on the verses are awful. Wetton handles the vocals on the choruses. The audio portion of this CD concludes with two new instrumental studio tracks--"Firewall" and "The Dealer." Neither one are anything spectacular, although "The Dealer" is the better of the two.

In addition to audio portion of this 2CD set, the second disc also boasts a wide assortment of video goodies. There are full length videos for "Watcher of the Skies," "Heat of the Moment" and "Los Endos" as well as bios on each of the band members, stage setups, photos, and more. At this point in time, it doesn't look like we'll be hearing anything new from Genesis anytime soon; and if we do, you can bet that it won't be anywhere near as good as this. Hackett and the rest of the group have given these classic tunes a fresh new perspective, and in several cases, actually improved upon them. Hackett called these shows "an affectionate backward glance." Prog fans will just call it a great album.

© 2000 Steve Marshall

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