You could probably guess the sound and quality of this album with some 95% accuracy, even if you haven’t heard it. This is the height of prog – highly accessible songs with elegiac instrumental passages.

Label: Insideout Music
Time: 19 tracks / 138 mins

You could probably guess the sound and quality of this album with some 95% accuracy, even if you haven’t heard it.

Seconds Out: Hackett has spent a quarter century specialising in recreating the best of his former band Genesis’ songs, and doing so with unerring accuracy, as if they are perfect museum specimens looked after by specialists. And as this is a recreation of Genesis’ own best live album Seconds Out, stuffed full of classics, Hackett has already covered them many times. So very little will surprise anyone here.

But by the same token, Seconds Out boasts a wonderful tracklist. Genesis released this at their peak, the ‘classic’ line-up only having lost front-man Peter Gabriel for one album and with Hackett still in their ranks for the last time. So here every track (bar one) is an undroppable part of the set list. Sandwiched between the dreaminess of “Carpet Crawlers” and “Afterglow,” that oddball track is “Robbery, Assault and Battery,” the tale of a cockney criminal being caught red-handed. Despite its highlights (which all occur in its last three minutes) the space it takes up would have been better filled by something like “Entangled” from the same studio album. Perhaps they thought there was too much beauty and wanted something more basic.

The first disc ends with the majestic “Firth of Fifth,” but the second is full of tracks that could be set-closers: a reprise of “Musical Box,” which was the climax in the early days; “Cinema Show,” with its gorgeous keys solo over addictive rhythms (here with its “Aisle of Plenty” segment restored); regular encore “Los Endos” and the epic half-hour “Supper’s Ready.” Much of this is the height of prog – highly accessible songs with elegiac instrumental passages. But what makes it work so well is the complete interplay. The iconic synth solo in “Cinema Show” would not have the same effect without the drums-led rhythms underneath it. And take the solo in “Firth of Fifth” – it has rise and fall and sympathetic drum work that all accentuate the emotional points, while Flower King Jonas Reingold’s bubbling bass line complements the delicately soaring guitar work. In this version, Rob Townsend’s soprano sax takes the first synth part and adds a richer, more organic tone.

Townsend adds a fresh element to “I Know What I Like” too. The significant differences between this account and the original are the instrumentals. Townsend makes the first a beautiful piece of jazz soloing and it is a welcome addition. But the ending has changed. No longer does the closing instrumental include a reprise of the Trespass classic “Stagnation;” instead Hackett shows his strengths and weaknesses. His solo is somewhat second rate, losing the drive of the song’s inherent groove. It highlights how his best work is properly composed, which is why he normally works the tone of every line the precision of a brain surgeon.

Support Set: The warm up tracks opening the show display Hackett’s range and the wild disparity of pieces on the menu. The band enters the stage to “Apollo,” a minute of ambient sound interspersed with snatches of tracks like “Clocks,” Lamb Lies Down” and “Dance on a Volcano,” so acting as a prelude.

“Clocks” itself then follows – one of the most puzzling tracks to get a regular airing. Given the host of solo tracks available, it’s hard to believe that this one deserves such a privilege. It’s from his old ‘find a riff or fragment and flog it to death’ school of composing – maybe a relic of creating in a band context, where others filled in the gaps or developed his ideas. By contrast, the classic “Everyday” is ever-welcome. It starts off as a decent track and then explodes into moments of sonic exultation that grab the heart.

More satisfying, with its jamming vibe, where Hackett trades lines with other band members and shows off his range of sounds, is “Held in the Shadows” from his latest studio album Surrender of Silence. The same disc also gives rise to “The Devil’s Cathedral,” the weakest spot on this collection. Its faux Hammer Horror intro and bittiness thrust me to the skip button.

This section ends, predictably, with “Shadow of the Hierophant.” In times past, this has suffered from the ‘flog-it’ approach mentioned earlier, but here its eleven minutes feel beautifully-judged.

Having recreated this album, epic studio marvel Selling England by the Pound and – currently on tour – that release’s predecessor Foxtrot; having performed the classics with an orchestra, as well as several live tours-worth of compilation sets, on top of the original two Genesis Revisited studio albums, the only places left to go are to play the whole of Trick of the Tail and particularly the magnificent double album Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, so that tracks like “Riding the Scree” and “Colony of Slippermen” get a good airing.

Whatever Hackett touches shows immaculate attention to detail. Other guitarists might take to the stage with a raft of guitars behind them and shred for effect. He goes for the heart via the brain and only needs his golden Les Paul. That machine already has wonderful sustain, but the range of techniques he uses on it is impressive, his picking, tapping, vibrato, tremolo, feedback, swells and bending always the right choice in service to the song.

Hackett has also built a band in his own image. Multi-instrumentalist Townsend is flexible enough to add a fresh feel in so many ways, and here his flute has a richly sonorous tone, beating the sound of Peter Gabriel’s original work. Vocalist Nad Sylvan still manages to match the timbres of Gabriel and, particularly, Phil Collins. Keys player Roger King sticks to the best keys tones from the Genesis years (Tony Banks now losing his fluidity in some solos). Reingold is part of a small group of players that Hackett brings in for rhythm duties. His double-neck and Rickenbacker bass add do everything required of them and more.

Some might say that repetition makes this release unnecessary, but others will say that Hackett’s recreations, with their beautiful packaging and pristine production, will draw listeners away from the originals towards these new, fresh versions.

Derek Walker