STEVE HACKETT – The Circus and the Nightwhale (2024) *HQ*

STEVE HACKETT - The Circus and the Nightwhale (2024) *HQ* - full

Legendary rock guitarist STEVE HACKETT will release his new studio album “The Circus And The Nightwhale” on 16th February 2024 via InsideOut Music. Recorded between tours in 2022 and 2023 at Siren studio in the UK, “The Circus And The Nightwhale” includes some familiar faces alongside Steve on electric and acoustic guitars, 12-string, mandolin, harmonica, percussion, bass and vocals.
Jonas Reingold (bass), Nad Sylvan (vocals), Craig Blundell (drums), Roger King (keyboards, programming and orchestral arrangements), Rob Townsend (sax), and Amanda Lehmann on vocals. Nick D’Virgilio and Hugo Degenhardt return as guests on the drumstool, engineer extraordinaire Benedict Fenner appears on keyboards and Malik Mansurov is back with the tar. Finally, Steve’s brother John Hackett is present once more on flute. What a line up!
”The Circus and the Nightwhale” feels like something a brand-new artist would make, someone trying to leave their mark. It’s very ‘rocking‘ electric, still progressive, all time melodic. If you like ’80s Trevor Rabin YES, Tony MacAlpine, or even more heavier proggy, get this one now.

A rite-of-passage concept album with a young character called Travla at the centre of it, “The Circus And The Nightwhale”s 13 tracks have an autobiographical angle for the musician who says about his 30th solo release: “I love this album. It says the things I’ve been wanting to say for a very long time.”

Steve has long made albums that are towering and theatrical – music made for the live stage. Even though he is a guitarist, his albums are not egotistical statements of guitar skill. No, his works are diverse, multiethnic, thematic, meaningful records that feature different styles, tones, and moods.
Yes, they also include his incredible signature guitar fireworks, too, and here there’s aplenty.

For ”The Circus and the Nightwhale”, Steve’s writing is a little strange and malevolent, in the best of ways. The story is dark and very interesting, and often reminds me of Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. The music is appropriately varied, then, with gracious rock songs with great harmonies, searing instrumentals, quirky one-offs, and softer ballads.
You’ll hear bluesy portions, rocking numbers, circus themes, and lots more. The album as a whole feels like a menagerie of fascinating compositions sewn skillfully together into a unified piece.

After one single listen, I’m loving this record. It’s one of those albums that flows by and ends before you know it, even though it has 13 tracks.
There are longer pieces, and there are shorter tracks, but they are all so damn fascinating. So, you have songs like the opener “People of the Smoke”, which besides a scary baby cry that turns into a train whistle, is classic Steve Hackett with harmonious group singing and terrific guitars. You have tracks like the next one, “These Passing Clouds”, a short instrumental interlude that is still equally amazing. Then we get songs like “Taking You Down”, a jazzy piece with some epic guitar work that features echoing vocals from Nad Sylvan, and I absolutely love it.

The variety doesn’t end there. Steve really brings it on guitar on this album, but he also sings his heart out, too. “Found and Lost” is a short ballad that is absolutely beautiful with Steve sound melodic and personable. Then there are the zany tracks, like “Enter the Ring”, which sports circus themes and orchestral darkness. It’s so good.

I have some favorites. I really like “Get Me Out”, a sassy song with a sauntering gait and driving guitars. I love “Ghost Moon and Living Love”, the longest song on the album, which has some wonderful vocals from Steve and a nice, easy, peaceful tone. That is followed directly by my favorite on the album, “Circus Inferno”, which is a fiery, fierce track that feels bold and adventurous. It’s a pity that it only lasts a couple minutes.

The second half of the album tends to blow by quickly because there are multiple 1-2 minute tracks that are terrific instrumentals, but they mostly lead into another favorite, “Into the Nightwhale”. It is a beautiful piece that feels like hovering above the ocean at night, the stars burning above, and the waves splashing below. I love Steve’s vocals on that one, too.
The last couple tracks on the album are the vicious “Wherever You Are”, which sounds like it should be a love song or something, but it’s the monster, inventive guitar work that ends up being the main attraction. “White Dove” is a delicate and vulnerable closer that feels like an appropriate ending to this journey.

I don’t know how Steve still has more ideas, but this is one album that does not lack personality and diversity. ”The Circus and the Nightwhale” feels like something a brand-new artist would make, someone trying to leave their mark.
On the other hand, it feels like the work of a veteran, too, because of how calculated and controlled the chaos actually is, and because of the legendary guitar work.

Hackett fans will be pleased, and I hope new fans are made, too. If you don’t listen Steve Hackett for being ‘too much prog’, you better give ”The Circus and the Nightwhale” a chance: this album rocks, and quite hard at places.
HIGHLY Recommended


01 – People of the Smoke
02 – These Passing Clouds
03 – Taking You Down
04 – Found and Lost
05 – Enter the Ring
06 – Get Me Out
07 – Ghost Moon and Living Love
08 – Circo Inferno
09 – Breakout
10 – All at Sea
11 – Into the Nightwhale
12 – Wherever You Are
13 – White Dove

Amanda Lehmann – vocals (1,5,7,8,12)
Nad Sylvan – vocals (3)
Steve Hackett – guitars, mandolin, harmonica, percussion, bass, vocals (1-13)
Craig Blundell – drums (3,5,6,7,12)
Hugo Degenhardt – drums (9)
Benedict Fenner – keyboards (7,9)
John Hackett – flute (5)
Roger King – keyboards, programming & orchestral arrangements (1-13)
Malik Mansurov – tar (8)
Jonas Reingold – bass (1,3,6,12)
Rob Townsend – tenor sax, whistle (3,8)
Nick D’Virgilio – drums (1)


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1 Response

  1. melodified says:

    Best album of the year so far. Easy!

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