Steve Hackett - Under a Mediterranean Sky album cover

If tasked with deciding which member of Genesis had the most prolific career outside of the band, it would be hard to argue that Steve Hackett is not the guy.

With over two dozen solo albums and countless appearances with other musicians, he has never limited himself to just one style. From his first solo album where he outprogged Genesis, to his darker experimental albums like the apropos Darktown, to 80s pop-rock with GTR, to A Midsummer’s Nights Dream which is much more subdued and vastly different style, with Steve Hackett you never know what you’re going to get aside from top-notch music.

Such a fruitful career can be a blessing and a curse. Hardly spontaneous in his execution, as a fan you have to be a bit willing to drop any pretenses when you hear Steve Hackett is going to release new music. It’s usually a pleasant surprise but he always runs the risk of fans, the vast majority of whom are so because of his time in Genesis, finding it hard to wrap their heads around. Under a Mediterranean Sky is just such an album.

Having read nothing about the direction of the new album, I assumed (correctly) that it was to be rather one note, aside from thousands of beautiful notes he plays. While the album starts off to a bit of a thunderous introduction with “Mdina, The Walled City,” with orchestrations accompanying his southern European style of guitar, it doesn’t last and doesn’t build to a huge epic song about centuries of battles. Instead it leads to the beautiful Adriatic Blue, showcasing Hackett’s amazing chameleon-like musicianship. In spite of years of playing long selections through loud amps, Hackett just relies on him and his guitar.

Next he decided to bring back some very subtle orchestrations to compliment his guitar with percussion providing some much desired rhythm. I say this because while I love “world music,” it is not something that I will actively seek out to listen to, unless I’m using it for background noise. Perhaps it’s the fact that my own musical training is minimal that I understand and respect everything Hackett is doing, but can’t quite enjoy it like more classical oriented listeners. Regardless, Sirocco did cause me to perk up a bit and really begin to immerse myself in the songs.

Joie de Vevre is next, and essentially goes back to the more naked style, yet as with any eccentric musician playing this music, Hackett is doing things with his hands that make it sound as if there are more guitarists than just him that are playing. In fact, at times I think I hear more, very quiet, orchestration, only to realize it is just Steve mimicking that with his near-perfect guitar sound.

Steve Hackett playing guitar

The Memory of Myth treats us to a bit of violin and more orchestration, reaching an almost transcendental style which keeps this album from being a one trick pony, even though the parts more than just Steve and his guitar are very minimal. There are even songs like Casa del Fauno where Steve takes a bit of a backseat to the flute, once again preventing the album from approaching monotonous Taking it a step further, and recognizing that the Mediterranean Sea is huge and extends well into the Middle East, The Dervish and the Djin gives a very unique and mystical flare to accompany the more westernly music we’ve heard up to this point.

The album rounds out with more songs that sound like the first half, as if we journeyed back along the coastline to our starting destination. With the final notes of The Call of the Sea playing, I was able to, for a short time, imagine myself not in the middle of the United States, suffering through nearly two weeks of snow and ice storms. Come to think of it, it is actually quite cruel to release such an album in January. I guess this can be listened to therapeutically for some people needing to imagine warmer days. For me, I actually love the winter but not the solid foot of ice that the vacillating midwest weather has left for me and my bad back to slowly chip away at in my driveway.

An objective music critic would never hold that against an artist so I certainly won’t, but with that said, it isn’t just during the harsh winter months that I prefer Steve Hackett’s more aggressive and progressive music. This album I will find myself not returning to much which says absolutely nothing of the amazing quality of the songs and what Steve, an Englishman, has accomplished by transporting himself and the listener to places much closer to the equator. I can never begrudge him for expanding and showcasing his enormous talents but I do have to say, I hope for the next album Steve goes back to his more traditional form. Until then, maybe I should take this as a sign that I should relax, listen to the album again, and start planning for a trip to the Mediterranean since things might return back to normal this year…or next year…or within the next decade.

I hope.

Steve Hackett – Under a Mediterranean Sky rating B+

Bernard Romero is a history teacher by day and a movie and film fanatic by night. While he truly does love winter, and his winter trip to Iceland was cancelled due to COVID, the Mediterranean is sounding pretty damn good about now.

The album will be released on January 22nd, 2021 through InsideOut Music. You can pre-order it here.

Steve Hackett - Under a Mediterranean Sky album cover

Tracklisting:

  1. Mdina (The Walled City) 08:45
  2. Adriatic Blue 04:51
  3. Sirocco 05:13
  4. Joie de Vivre 03:42
  5. The Memory Of Myth 03:29
  6. Scarlatti Sonata 03:40
  7. Casa del Fauno 03:51
  8. The Dervish And The Djin 04:57
  9. Lorato 02:29
  10. Andalusian Heart 05:34
  11. The Call Of the Sea 04:44

Line-Up:
Steve Hackett – nylon, steel string & twelve string guitars, charango, Iraqi oud (1 – 11)
John Hackett – flute (7)
Roger King – keyboards, programming & orchestral arrangements (1 – 11)
Malik Mansurov – tar (3, 8)
Arsen Petrosyan – duduk (8)
Christine Townsend – violin (5, 10)
Rob Townsend – soprano sax (8)

Official website: http://www.hackettsongs.com
Official webstore: https://store.hackettsongs.com/
All upcoming shows & ticket links: http://www.hackettsongs.com/tour.html
Label: https://www.insideoutmusic.com/
Shop: https://centurymedia.store/store

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