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He plays the transverse flute professionally. He also plays guitar, bass pedals (with his hands), some keyboards, and recently he has taken up singing. Since the early 70s he could be heard on studio albums and on stage with a broad range of music. He performs with Steve Hackett (as a duo, a trio and with his band) and he also plays with Anthony Phillips, Hackett’s predecessor in Genesis, the English Flute Quartet, Symbiosis and others, too. When he does not do that he earns his living teaching the flute and writing school books.


Meanwhile he has turned 50 and “Hackett minor”, as Steve Hackett’s band used to call him, has also stepped out the shadows. He has already released Sketches of Satie with his brother. Velvet Afternoon is an album full of easily accessible music for flute and piano that the wrote himself. Now John Hackett surprises us with his rock debut.

John wrote all twelve songs on this album himself (except for DNA, which the wrote with Nick Clabburn). The lyrics were provided by Nick Clabburn (except for Dust). To record the material, John put together a top-flight crew. It is obvious that brother Steve would be on some songs, Steve’s long-time partner-in-crime Nick Magnus is the co-producer, keyboarder and, surprisingly, drummer on all songs. Tony Patterson, singer with British Genesis coverband ReGenesis, sings lead vocals for three songs and backing vocals everywhere. John himself plays bass and most of the electric and acoustic guitar parts. He sings on nine of the songs and also plays the odd bit on the keyboards.

Checking Out Of London CoverYou would have suspected that Checking Out Of London would sound a bit like Steve Hackett’s material, and there are similarities indeed. The mood of the album resembles the multi-layered dreamy atmosphere of quiet Steve Hackett songs on Darktown or To Watch The Storms. John voice, too, is quite similar to his brother’s at times, but it is warmer and is better developed. The album dispenses with instrumentals or extensive instrumental passages that we typically find on Steve’s releases. The formal and stylistic variety fo the songs is much smaller than on any of his brother’s albums. While Steve plays the guitar on every one of his songs, John surprises us because not once does he play his main instrument, the flute. The album would not have been marred by some virtuoso flute passages as integral parts of the songs (not to show off). But if we would compare John’s album to the efforts of his brother, we would do him wrong.

The music could by compared to many other groups and artists. John himself cites Genesis, Pink Floyd, Moody Blues and Jony Mitchell as influences on the music on this album. Even while you listen to the album for the first time you will be pleased to note the biggest source of the music: Checking Out Of London sounds first and foremost like John Hackett.

All twelve songs on this record are very rhythmic and show a pleasant variety in their arrangement. They are also very idiosyncratic and exhibit a certain melancholy that is not unfamiliar in the Genesis camp. There is, however a depth in the songs that may go unnoticed during the first listen. It expresses itself in the musical details that sneak into one’s consciousness only by and by and in the lyrics that evoke images and feelings even if one does not pay much attention to the words.

BandNot only the guest musicians perform outstandingly well. John himself proves to be a well-adjusted singer and tasteful guitarist from A to Z. Of course one notices immediately when the lead guitar is played by Steve. He does it on four songs and that is a good reason for all of his fans not to ignore this CD. Steve also plays a cute solo on the mouth organ. Tony Patterson sings two rock numbers with a smoky voice and a very calm ballad to boot. Nick Magnus lays a solid foundation for the music. He and John co-produced the album. The result is a transparent sound with lots of space. The guitar parts in particular are placed in a brilliant light.

We would like to mention some outstanding songs: Late Trains is a fantastic piece with its accomplished dramatic development, exciting harmonies and a surprise solo by John on fretless bass. The Hallway And The Pram is a very atmospheric fast song with complex harmonies and Steve’s solo on the mouth organ. Ego & Id is the song with the most peculiar title. It also is the rockiest number on the album. The dark and angry qualities of Ego & Id make for a good contrast to the peaceful Dreamtown and the almost fragmentary etherial title song.  The songs that were just mentioned mark the stylistic range of the album. It is a highly remarkable debut rock album by a highly versatile musician. Plus – the artist himself did lots of the work on this album himself. How many artists can claim that today? This album is definitely worth buying. A multitalent like John Hackett will certainly delight us with more gems like this one in the future.

by Andreas Lauer
translated by Martin Klinkhardt

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