Spectral Mornings

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Spectral Mornings
SpectralMornings.png
Studio album by
ReleasedMay 1979
RecordedJanuary–February 1979
StudioPhonogram Studios, Hilversum, The Netherlands
GenreProgressive rock
Length39:03
LabelCharisma, Chrysalis, Caroline
ProducerJohn Acock, Steve Hackett
Steve Hackett chronology
Please Don't Touch
(1978)
Spectral Mornings
(1979)
Defector
(1980)
Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
Allmusic3.5/5 stars[1]

Spectral Mornings is the third studio album by English guitarist and songwriter Steve Hackett, released in May 1979 on Charisma Records. It is his first to feature members of his touring band which many Hackett fans consisting them as the "classic line-up". The musicians are his brother John Hackett, Nick Magnus, Dik Cadbury, John Shearer, and Pete Hicks.

In 2005, Spectral Mornings was remastered and re-released on Virgin Records. The new edition features updated liner notes and bonus tracks. A new 5.1 surround mix of the album by Steven Wilson is included in Hackett's 2015 compilation box set Premonitions: The Charisma Recordings 1975–1983. In 2015, Hackett appeared on a re-recorded version, "Spectral Mornings 2015", with new lyrics written by David Longdon of Big Big Train, and sung by Longdon and Christina Booth of Magenta. Proceeds from the track on release went to Parkinson's Society UK.[2]

Background[edit]

After the release of his previous album, Please Don't Touch!, in 1978, Hackett wished to tour the material from the album along with material from his previous solo album, Voyage of the Acolyte.[3] This meant that he needed to assemble a touring band since the personnel on Please Don't Touch! had essentially consisted of guest musicians. The band that he created for this purpose became the band that he used in the studio for Spectral Mornings and the following album, 1980's Defector.

Recording[edit]

"Clocks - The Angel of Mons" and the title track were both written and performed live on the Please Don't Touch tour prior to the album's recording. Elements of the intro performed going into "Please Don't Touch" later became parts of "Tigermoth".

The album was recorded at Phonogram Studios in Hilversum in the Netherlands between January and February 1979. Hackett later remarked "It was 15 degrees below zero and all the lakes and canals were frozen... The weather was so bad that all we could do was apply ourselves to work. The studio was at Phonogram Records' headquarters and it felt as though it was in its own world. We played night and day and combined this activity with partying like crazy. The sessions were intense and the album was recorded with very little sleep. We all got a tremendous buzz from recording it as we felt that it would be well received. I was confident when I finally played the final masters to Tony Stratton-Smith at Charisma as I thought we'd done a great job."[4]

This is the second album for which Hackett used a Roland GR-500 Guitar Synthesizer. It can be heard on two tracks: "The Virgin and the Gypsy" and "Tigermoth".

Lead vocals on most of the album were provided by Pete Hicks, which were very often backed with harmonies by Steve Hackett and Dik Cadbury. Cadbury arranged the harmony vocals, having been trained as a counter tenor (falsetto) singer.[3] Hackett himself sings lead on "The Ballad of the Decomposing Man".

Songs[edit]

Side one[edit]

The album starts with "Everyday" which is an anti-drug song about Steve's own experiences of the drug culture when his first girlfriend fell victim to "Cleopatra's Needle", and it would become his signature song from his solo career with a guitar solo at the track's coda.

"The Virgin and the Gypsy" was inspired by the novella of the same name. It has an acoustic folk sound with vocal harmonies, twelve tracks of 12-string guitars mixed together, a guitar synthesizer solo, harpsichord and double-tracking flutes solos. Parts of the song were previously recorded in sessions for Please Don't Touch in an instrumental called "Seven of Cups".

"The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere" was inspired by east-Asian culture. Hackett plays a Cantonese koto on the track, accompanied by a Mellotron imitating a Japanese singer, flute and gong percussion.

"Clocks - The Angel of Mons" was considered for a horror movie soundtrack. Drummer John Shearer plays a long drum solo at the climax of the track, the power of which Hackett compared to sounding like "being trampled by elephants". John Hackett plays a Moog Taurus bass pedal synthesizer on this track using his hands as opposed to his feet.

"The Ballad of the Decomposing Man" is sung by Hackett in a tongue-in-cheek George Formby-style, in which Hackett displays a sense of humour like songs on the previous Genesis albums with Peter Gabriel such as "Harold the Barrel". Hackett also plays the harmonica for the first time on his albums in this track. The second half of the song, "The Office Party" was played in a calypso style with a lot of percussion, violin from bassist Dik Cadbury and comical speaking.

Side two[edit]

Side 2, opens with "Lost Time in Cordoba" which is a classical guitar and flute duet, in a similar style to "Horizons" and Hackett's future classical guitar albums such as Bay of Kings.

"Tigermoth" is a ghost story told from the perspectives of several pilots from the Second World War, shot down whilst flying planes of the same name. The first half of the track has a dramatic feel with jarring Mellotron chords, bass pedals and guitar synthesizer, before giving way to an acoustic second half, containing Hicks's vocals and lullaby ending.

The album finishes with the title track, which began life as a vocal piece. However, after Hackett played the vocal melody to his band on the guitar, Pete Hicks decided that the track sounded "great as it is", telling Hackett to "keep the piece as an instrumental", leading Hackett to joke later on that Hicks talked himself out of a job on the track. It has become his signature instrumental from his solo career. Many progressive rock guitarists consider this track to be an inspiration, such as Steve Rothery from Marillion.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Steve Hackett, except where indicated.

Side 1

  1. "Every Day" – 6:14
  2. "The Virgin and the Gypsy" – 4:27
  3. "The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere" – 2:05
  4. "Clocks – The Angel of Mons" – 4:17
  5. "The Ballad of the Decomposing Man" (featuring "The Office Party") – 3:49

Side 2

  1. "Lost Time in Córdoba" – 4:03
  2. "Tigermoth" – 7:35
  3. "Spectral Mornings" – 6:33

2005 remaster bonus tracks[edit]

  1. "Every Day" (Alternate Mix) – 7:08
  2. "The Virgin and the Gypsy" (Alternate Mix) – 4:29
  3. "Tigermoth" (Alternate Mix) – 3:19
  4. "The Ballad of the Decomposing Man" (Alternate Mix) – 4:23
  5. "Clocks" (12" Single Version) – 3:37
  6. "Live Acoustic Set" – 5:40 (Matteo Carcassi; arranged by Steve Hackett, John Hackett)
  7. "Tigermoth" (Live Version) – 3:58
  8. "The Janitor" – 1:41 (unlisted) (featuring Pete Hicks)[5]

Note: "The Janitor" was a hidden joke track that had appeared on some early CD copies of the album. It features the vocalist Pete Hicks, here as a studio cleaner, being angry with the musicians about the mess that they made working in the studio.

Personnel[edit]

  • Steve Hackett – electric and acoustic guitars, Roland guitar synthesizer, lead vocals on "The Ballad of the Decomposing Man", harmony/backing vocals on "Every Day" and "The Virgin and the Gypsy", koto on "The Red Flowers of Tachai Blooms Everywhere", harmonica on "The Ballad of the Decomposing Man"
  • John Hackett – flute, bamboo flute on "The Virgin and the Gypsy", Moog Taurus bass pedals on "Clocks - The Angel of Mons"
  • Dik Cadbury – bass guitar, harmony/backing vocals on "Every Day", "The Virgin and the Gypsy", and "Tigermoth", Moog Taurus bass pedals, violin on "The Ballad of the Decomposing Man"
  • Pete Hicks – lead vocals on "Every Day", "The Virgin and the Gypsy", and "Tigermoth"
  • Nick Magnus – keyboards, Vox String Thing, Novatron, clavinet, Fender Rhodes & RMI electric pianos, Minimoog, Mini-Korg 700, Roland String Synth RS-202 & SH-2000, harpsichord on "The Virgin and the Gypsy"
  • John Shearer – drums, percussion

Tour[edit]

Hackett toured the album with the same band in 1979. A recording of an entire show on this tour, performed at the Hammersmith Odeon, is found on Discs 1 and 2 of Live Archive 70s 80s 90s, released in 2001. The following day's show at the New Theatre, Oxford was also recorded, but that show's recording remained unreleased until 2015, when they were eventually released as part of the Premonitions: The Charisma Recordings 1975-1983 boxset.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Connolly, D. "Spectral Mornings – Steve Hackett | AllMusic". allmusic.com. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  2. ^ "Spectral Mornings 2015: Charity EP for Parkinson's Society UK". Cherry Red Records. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
  3. ^ a b Hackett, Steve, Spectral Mornings 2005 Remaster liner notes, 2005. EMI
  4. ^ a b Hackett, Steve, Premonitions: The Charisma Recordings 1975 – 1983 liner notes, 2015. Virgin Records
  5. ^ Sketches of Hackett: The Authorised Steve Hackett Biography, by Alan Hewitt, Wymer Publishing, ISBN 978-0-9557542-3-4