Many of you may have been surprised not to see this Hackett album on my Top 10 of 2015 list a few weeks ago. There is a reason for this, and that excellent excuse is that I just didn’t have enough time with it yet. Well, I’ve devoting plenty of time to it since then, and, yes, it would probably have made my list. Hackett is consistent as hell, and always feels relevant to me. I literally never tire of his wonderful sound.
So, maybe you only know Hackett from his Genesis days, huh? That’s understandable. However, as under-appreciated as his contributions to that band were, you can certainly hear his amazing guitar tone and structure live on in all his solo works. His solo works, however, sound dissimilar to the Genesis sound. Instead, we get Hackett’s light, airy, melodic vocals along with his bold guitar work, great bass, and always a wide variety of world music. When I discovered his solo career, one of the most puzzling things for me was how keyboard-soaked his albums are. You’d think that a guitar genius would make guitar porn, but, instead, it’s pure beauty.
So, what of this new album, “Wolflight”? Well, let me join the crowd and say that, yes, the cover is awful. However, I’ve heard plenty other people saying that they simply don’t “get” this album. I have a theory about this. Most of the reviewers that don’t understand “Wolflight” have been from the UK, I have noticed. Well, alongside Hackett’s signature sound mentioned above, this album is, quite simply, American in its folksiness. That’s right: I feel like Hackett made an American folk album here. And there is a reason why, too.
“Wolflight”, in my view, is a celebration of the rebel, persecuted spirit. Songs like the title track or “Black Thunder” are obviously about American Indians or black slaves, respectively. In totem, I feel like “Wolflight” is a celebration of the unending hope, undying fight, and unfading relevance of these people groups, especially in relation to the materialistic whining of today’s generations. Now, to be sure, there are European elements and people groups in here, too, such as in “Corycian Fire” or even the Gothic sound of “Love Song to a Vampire”. The point is, however, that the majority of the album strikes me as American in tone.
So, does that make sense? Hackett made an American folk album—complete with carnival music, dark blues, and spiritual melodies—to honor the spirit of those that have been oppressed by Americana, or just persecuted in general. In fact, it could be said that these groups represent part of true Americana! The album, then, is quite tasty to my ears.
How about the songs, though? Can I make a generalized statement? I think the trio of “Wolflight”, “Love Song to a Vampire”, and “The Wheel’s Turning” could be one of the greatest blocs of music I’ve ever heard. All three songs are spectacular, unique, and performed wildly well. Yet, my favorite isn’t even among them. My favorite is the darkly bluesy “Black Thunder”, followed then by “Love Song…” and “Corycian Fire”. Every single song on this album is different from the others in drastic ways, and it’s never about how well Hackett can shred (if that’s even what he does), but about the rhythm and soul of the music.
I respect Hackett. He could simply cash in on Genesis and never make another album of new music again. But he doesn’t play like that. Hackett never disappoints for me, and “Wolflight” is yet another fine album from one of the prog greats.