Steve Hackett revisits Genesis’s Selling England by the Pound and decades of solo work | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Steve Hackett revisits Genesis’s Selling England by the Pound and decades of solo work

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These days, record nerds seem keen to categorize the sounds of the past in newly minted genres such as “proto-metal,” “acid folk,” and “pastoral prog.” The terminally unhip Genesis—and especially their groundbreaking 1973 classic, Selling England by the Pound—might fit into any of these categories. No matter how anyone describes it, the album is one of the finest, most sophisticated rock records of that decade, with the heaviest vibes; I still find myself exploring its many layers far more often than I give the same treatment to Dark Side of the Moon or Who’s Next. One of Genesis’s secret weapons was multifarious guitarist Steve Hackett, who joined the band in 1971, and at this special gig, he’ll play Selling England in its entirety. The album laments the death of English folk culture and the Americanization of the UK (a theme that seems more relevant today than ever), and Hackett’s guitar stylings range from lilting acoustic strains to heavy riffage. He’ll also perform other faves from his Genesis years (he left in 1977) and a slew of tracks from his third solo LP, Spectral Mornings, which had its 40th anniversary in May. Though it doesn’t reach the heights of Hackett’s first LP, 1975’s Voyage of the Acolyte (where, to be fair, he had yet to cast off the influence of Genesis), Spectral Mornings features some epic soundscapes. They’re not unlike what fellow prog guitarists Robin Trower, Mike Oldfield, and Steve Howe were up to in those days, but Hackett complements his music with flowing keyboards and the then-new Roland GR-500 guitar synthesizer. The set will also include material from the brand-new At the Edge of Light, which subtly addresses current political horrors on tracks such as “Beast in Our Time,” a dark tune that pairs Hackett’s surprisingly plaintive, folky vocals with spacey Mellotron. Most of Hackett’s other new songs don’t impress as much, suffering from overproduced slickness and other conventional classic-rock moves—but let’s face it, most of us are coming for the golden-era classics anyway. Hackett hasn’t been part of any of Genesis’s minor reunions, so this show is a rare chance to hear a guitar legend coax the loveliest of tones from his trademark Les Paul.   v

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