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Music Review: Squackett: A Life Within A Day (Esoteric/Cherry Red Records, CD)

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Squackett A Life Within a Day

If this album came out in, say, 1972, it would’ve instantly been on the cover of every rock magazine, and on the playlist of every FM rock station. In 2012, this collaboration between ex-Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett and founding Yes bassist Chris Squire may not be headline news, but it’s still a formidable release—even though it may not be what fans of these artists would expect.

Since his exit from Genesis in 1977, Hackett has had a distinguished, prolific solo career, putting out a series of excellent releases under his own name as noteworthy for his singing and songwriting as for his unmistakable guitar work. And it’s his recent solo albums that are the template for Squackett. That’s not a surprise—this CD was produced by longtime Hackett collaborator Roger King, who plays keyboards throughout and had a hand in the songwriting. And it’s Hackett who frequently takes the lead vocals here, with Squire providing harmonies and his unmistakable “lead bass”. Check out track two, “Tall Ships”, which is driven by Squire’s propulsive bass line. Squire does sing lead on “Aliens”, a trippy piece that offers the idea that “aliens are only us from the future” over music that sounds like an outtake from the 2011 Yes studio release Fly From Here. He also does a nice job singing the moody medley “Can’t Stop the Rain” and “Perfect Love Song” that close out the album.

Squackett (the name an amalgamation of Squire and Hackett, get it?) for the most part avoid the complicated progressive rock that their classic bands are known for, skewing towards a more mellow, harmony-drenched sound that fits their songwriting collaboration like a glove. Their blocks of harmony vocals often sound like Crosby, Stills & Nash—a very natural and ear-pleasing blend.

King produces with an assured hand, lending appropriate orchestration and giving the album a warmth and currency that lets you know it was recorded in the 2000s and not the 70s. And he gives plenty of space to Squire’s trebly bass and, of course, Hackett’s soaring guitar leads. No one plays guitar like Steve Hackett, and his solos (a vital component of the early, Peter Gabriel-led Genesis, my favorite era of that band) are a standout here. He can move you with a single held note in a way that 100 notes from a speedy “shredder” never could. Check out his lead lines all over “Storm Chaser”—still innovative, still endlessly creative and still unique. Any chance to hear Steve Hackett play is one worth taking, and with the sturdy low end held down by Squire, wonderfully melodic compositions, and pitch-performance instrumental and vocal performances all around, Squackett’s A Life Within a Day is a trip well worth taking over and over, with the hope that this potent collaboration will continue.
Buy Chris Squire & Steve Hackett: Life Within A Day on Amazon

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