Steve Hackett – The Circus and The Nightwhale Album Review

Steve Hackett’s “The Circus And The Nightwhale”: A Journey Through Life’s Tapestry
Legendary rock guitarist Steve Hackett releases “The Circus And The Nightwhale,” his 30th solo release. Hackett’s new album is a concept piece that delves deep into the realms of personal and universal exploration. Released through Inside Out Music, part of the Sony Music Group, this album is a testament to Hackett’s enduring legacy and his ability to convey profound narratives through music.

“The Circus And The Nightwhale” is not just another concept album in Hackett’s extensive discography; it is a rite-of-passage story with a character named Travla at its heart. This character’s journey through life’s myriad experiences mirrors Hackett’s own, making the album deeply autobiographical. Hackett himself has expressed a particular fondness for this work, stating, “I love this album. It says the things I’ve been wanting to say for a very long time.”

Recorded between tours in 2022 and 2023 at Siren studio in the UK, the album features contributions from musicians around the globe, including Sweden, Austria, the US, Azerbaijan, and Denmark. The lineup boasts familiar faces and new collaborators alike, with Steve Hackett on electric and acoustic guitars, 12-string, mandolin, harmonica, percussion, bass, and vocals. The ensemble includes Roger King on keyboards and orchestral arrangements, Rob Townsend on sax, Jonas Reingold on bass, Nad Sylvan on vocals, Craig Blundell on drums, and Amanda Lehmann on vocals. Guest musicians such as Nick D’Virgilio and Hugo Degenhardt on drums, Benedict Fenner on keyboards, Malik Mansurov with the tar, and Steve’s brother, John Hackett, on flute, enrich the album’s sonic landscape.

The album kicks off with “People of the Smoke,” setting the scene in post-war London and taking listeners on a journey through Hackett’s life, from his early days to the present. Tracks like “These Passing Clouds” and “Taking You Down” showcase Hackett’s versatility, blending elements of Latin jazz, blues, and rock. “Ghost Moon and Living Love” features the ethereal vocals of Amanda Lehmann, highlighting the album’s thematic focus on love, loss, and hope.

“Enter the Ring” and “Ciro Inferno” delve into the mythical and the mystical, with Hackett’s guitar work leading the charge into these fantastical narratives. The album concludes with “Wherever You Are” and “White Dove,” offering a message of hope and resilience that resonates with listeners on a deeply personal level.

“The Circus And The Nightwhale” is a concept album in the truest sense, inviting listeners to immerse themselves in the story of Travla and, by extension, Steve Hackett himself. It is a journey through the smoke-filled streets of London to the ethereal realms of dreams and magic, underscored by Hackett’s unparalleled musicianship and storytelling prowess.

For fans of progressive rock and those who have followed Steve Hackett’s career, “The Circus And The Nightwhale” is an essential listen. It is a work that not only highlights Hackett’s skill as a guitarist and composer but also his ability to connect with the listener on an emotional and spiritual level. This album is a celebration of life’s journey, with all its highs and lows, and a reminder of the transformative power of music.

Personal Thoughts

I really feel this is one of Steve’s finest works to date. The universal themes and the way it mirrors the journey of life itself. Through tracks that blend theatrical soundscapes, aggressive guitar work, and emotive melodies, Steve crafts a story that, while deeply personal, invites listeners to find pieces of their own lives within its progression.

I was particularly moved by the album’s exploration of life’s highs and lows, noting how it addresses the universal experiences of love, loss, and the pursuit of happiness. The music has the ability to convey profound emotions without the need for words, showcasing Steve Hackett’s skill in translating the human condition into music. This connection is underscored by Steve’s own reflections on the album, where he discusses the role of music as a constant amidst life’s storms and the journey from a post-war London to a realm of creative exploration.

“The Circus and The Night Whale” is presented as a journey not just through Steve Hackett’s life but as a path that mirrors the listener’s own experiences. I found this approach both special and relatable, allowing the album to touch me on a very deep level. The whole album has a cohesive story, a message full of hope, and an ability to encapsulate a wide range of human emotions, from angst to joy.

“The Circus and The Night Whale” will be one of my top albums of 2024, it as a testament to the healing power of music and the enduring spirit of hope and love.

Phil Aston | Now Spinning Magazine

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