Lee Speaks About Music… #141

At The Edge Of Light – Steve Hackett



Released precisely a year ago now At The Edge Of Light is Steve Hackett’s 25th and latest studio album to date. It’s an album that continues very much in the same light as his previous two albums Wolflight & The Night Siren but perhaps more like the latter of the two with its diversity and the way that it was recorded mostly at his own home in Teddington. Once again, he has brought in some other additional musicians as well as retaining the ones that have been with him for quite a while and a few who appeared on his previous album.

In many respects you could say that these days Steve Hackett is going down the same road of Peter Gabriel regarding World Music. I would also say that this particular album is also verging more into the popular music side of things with its diversity and its wider range of musical styles. At The Edge Of Light may have PROGMATIC! and ROCK! elements about it, but he’s also introducing pop, blues and even gospel into the mix here along with the CINEMATICS! and DRAMATICS!

There is no doubt that through playing and visiting many other countries that Steve Hackett has broadened his musical palette so to speak and is presenting you something a bit different each time to keep things fresh. In many ways he is taking his music to new heights and in new directions with how he’s going about things and he is expanding upon them. But is this new direction really working? Well it certainly appears to be and before I go any deeper into how it is let’s first take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…


Just like his previous two album releases both discs come in a high quality thick cardboard Digipak Mediabook which is the same material used to make a hardback book. Clear plastic trays on the left and right of the inner panels hold the discs firmly in place and it comes with a 28-page fixed booklet with all the linear credit production notes and lyrics. It also comes with some high-resolution pictures that are associated with the albums tracks. I very much like the presentation the Mediabook presents and these things are the kings of Digipaks when it comes to genuine top quality.

The album was released in 4 media formats the cheapest of them being the Digital Download. A Double Vinyl LP. A CD only edition and a Mediabook that includes a CD & DVD. The Mediabook was my preferred choice and I purchased it from Amazon UK for £14.69 saving a few quid over its retail price. A Limited-Edition Double LP pressed that came with the CD was also released giving you the choice of black, white, blue, red and clear vinyl.



The artwork for the albums front cover and the photos for the Mediabook were done once again both Maurizio & Angéla Vicedomini. Much of the photos were used to represent each track on the album and were taken from many different countries. The layout and design were done by Thomas Ewerhard. The album cover represents the dark and light that pertains to the subject matter of the material written for the album and looks quite striking but nevertheless it does not quite grab me like some of Hackett’s earlier solo albums such as the artwork that was done for Voyage Of Acolyte, Please Don’t Touch and Highly Strung for example.

At The Edge Of Light Album In Review…

Steve Hackett’s 25th studio album At The Edge Of Light was released on the 25th January 2019. The album contains 10 tracks that span over and overall playing time of 53 minutes, 21 seconds and Hackett himself described the album as a companion to his previous album The Night Siren. It also shared the same success as his previous album also by reaching number 28 in the UK charts and once again did better in Germany and peaked at number 13 in the official German album charts.

2019 was a good year for Steve Hackett and a couple of months after the release of his new album in March of the same year he was awarded the best guitarist award by the Classic Rock Society. I am sure he was humbly honoured by the award and good on him to get it too, simply because there is no doubt, he is a very good guitarist and one of the many GREATS! out there.

Best Guitarist Award_Fotor

Speaking off his guitar playing I have always admired his work on the nylon and acoustic guitar more so than his playing on the electric, but he can without doubt play some GREAT! solos on the electric. Much of his better solo work on the electric does come for the past more than the present. For example, the solo he played on the Genesis song “Firth Of Fifth” I am sure many people will never forget but in reality he never played a great deal of guitar solos with Genesis. Sure, he played some fine lead lines on the electric for the band but that particular song is the only guitar solo that stands out.

A lot more of his electric stand out solos can be found on his earlier solo albums and the guitar solo he played on “Spectral Mornings” would certainly be another GREAT! stand out guitar solo. But more recently on his last couple of albums Wolflight and The Night Siren I have been paying attention to his solo work and it does appear to be standing out a bit once again. But on this latest album At The Edge Of Light is where I personally feel his guitar solo work has come out a lot more and is starting to shine once again and he really has put some GREAT! guitar work into this album.

Steve Hackett had no old material left and everything was written new from scratch for this album. The same methods were used to record and mix the album and was mostly done at his own house in Teddington with the other musicians recording their parts at their own homes or studios and sending them to Hackett for Roger King to mix. Most of the core musicians who have appeared on his previous albums are here along with a few others such as bassist Jonas Reingold and drummer Simon Phillips to name a couple. There is also a real sitar player on the album and McBroom sisters who are more known for their harmonic backing vocals with Pink Floyd also make an appearance.

The DVD.

S 1

I am not entirely sure why Hackett decided to use a DVD rather than a Blu Ray for the Mediabook like he had done with the two previous releases but I do not think you are really losing out on anything regarding the audio and even the picture of the albums cover looks a lot sharper and brighter than the album cover itself. I like how they used the whole of the picture too unlike the way they did the menu for The Night Siren. The stars in the sky also twinkle besides seeing the lighting flash every now and then.

Speaking of the menus they have been done differently in comparison to both Wolflight and The Night Siren and instead of using drop down menus for the options which are “Stereo Audio” and “5.1 Audio” it does have to load to another screen to show you the further options as you can see in the picture below.

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By clicking on any of the “Stereo Audio” and “5.1 Audio” options from the main menu it loads to another screen that gives you 3 further options of “Play Album”. “Track Select” and “Audio Select”. It’s certainly most unusual for the “Play Album” option not to be included on the main menu and you do have to navigate a bit more than the way they done things for Wolflight and The Night Siren and I felt the way they had gone about the layout and navigation for those two albums were a bit better.

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By clicking on the “Track Select” option another menu drops down displaying the albums tracks for you to choose from and the options to go “Back” to the previous menu or to the “Main menu” are also included as you can see from the picture above. Pretty much the same for the “Audio Select” as you can see in the picture below.

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The “Audio Select” gives you the choice of 3 audio soundtracks and by clicking on “Stereo” (not seen on this display picture) it will playback in stereo. The other 2 surround mixes can be seen in the display picture above and by default the audio is set to the DTS Master 5.1 mix. There is also a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and a LPCM Stereo mix. All 3 formats are in 24 bits & 48K.

S 5

Unlike both Wolflight and The Night Siren whilst listening to the album it displays the albums front cover for every track and the only thing that changes is the title of each track as it goes along. I have no idea why they never chose to follow suit by displaying a different picture for every track especially as the pictures in the Mediabook were designated to represent each track on the album.

The bonus material seems to be getting shorter too and the only bonus feature is the behind the scenes documentary entitled “Somewhere at The Edge of Light” well that’s at least how it is refereed to twice in the Mediabook but on the disc itself they call it a making of documentary. But basically, you get a 20-and-a-half-minute video shot and directed by Paul Gosling showing you how they went about recording the album and speaking about what it’s all about. The audio is in 48k 16 bit which is well adequate for this purpose and it provides some useful informative information.

The 5.1 Mix.

Once again, the 5.1 mix is all good and Roger King has done another very good job of it without going to overboard. There maybe a few places where he may of gone over the top for the effect on “The Eye of the Sun” for example, but overall he has done well with the placement and threw in some well good panned out parts across all the channels which do add to more of an exciting mix. Another example of that would be Hackett’s lead guitar solo on “Beasts of our Time“. I quite like how he’s panned the intro played on the dobro guitar on “Underground Railroad” in the rear left channel, and on that track, he has made well good use of separating the instrumentation throughout.

The 5.1 mix works wonders for much of the orchestration too in particular on “Beasts of our Time” and “Those Golden Wings“. The 5.1 mix does bring out much more than the stereo mix and once again like the 5.1 mix he did for The Night Siren album it’s a very satisfying and enjoyable mix and well worth of a rating of 8 out of 10.

Musicians & Credits…

2018 © Tina Korhonen/ www.tina-k.com

All tracks Produced by Steve Hackett & Roger King (except track 8 Produced by Steve Hackett & Benedict Fenner). All tracks Recorded & Mixed by Roger King at Siren (Except track 8 Recorded & Mixed by Benedict Fenner at The Paddock. Additional Engineering by Tamas Barabas (Track1). Johann Asmundsson (Track 3). Mark Hornsby (Track 5) and Benedict Fenner (Track 7).

All compositions written by Steve Hackett (except Tracks 2, 4 & 5 by Steve Hackett / Jo Hackett / Roger King. Tracks 3, 6 & 10 by Steve & Jo Hackett. Tracks 1 & 9 by Steve Hackett / Roger King. Mastered by Roger King at Siren. Design by Thomas Ewerhard. Photographic artwork by Maurizio and Angéla Vicedomini for Iconphoto. Blu Ray Authoring by Ray Shulman. 5.1 surround Mix by Roger King.


Steve Hackett: Vocals – Electric, Acoustic, 12 String & Dobro Guitars – Bass Guitar – Harmonica.
Roger King: Keyboards – Programming & Orchestral Arrangements (except on track 8).
Rob Townsend: Tenor Sax – Flute – Dudek – Bass Clarinet (Tracks 2 & 3).
Amanda Lehmann: Vocals (Tracks 3, 4, 5, 7 & 10).

Additional Musicians.

John Hackett: Flute (Tracks 2, 3, 5 & 9).
Jonas Reingold: Bass (Tracks 2, 3 & 7).
Dick Driver: Double Bass (Tracks 3 & 5).                                                                         Benedict Fenner: Keyboards & Programming (Tracks 7 & 8).
Christine Townsend: Violin & Viola (Track 5).
Gary O’Tool: Drums (Track 1).
Gulli Briem: Drums & Percussion (Track 3).
Nick D’Virgilio: Drums (Track 5).
Simon Phillips: Drums (Track 7).
Malik Mansurov: Tar (Track 1).
Paul Stillwell: Didgeridoo (Track 3).
Sheema Mukherjee: Sitar (Track 6).
Durga McBroom: Vocals (Track 4).
Lorelei McBroom: Vocals (Track 4).

The Album Tracks In Review…

One of the things that still remains in putting the album together is the synthetic aspect side of things. For example, even though there are 4 GREAT! drummers on the album they only get to play on one track each. So, most of the tracks the drums have very much been programmed. The orchestral arrangements are also still present for the dramatic side of things however, the fact that there is less of them I do feel this album works better for it especially in comparison to both Wolflight and The Night Siren.

Regarding the orchestral arrangements I really felt sorry for Christine Townsend simply because her violin & viola was being mixed and blended in with the other orchestral arrangements that Roger King had done with his keyboards. If you read my last review of The Night Siren I did note that the orchestral arrangements were not like listening to Jethro Tull where you can hear the orchestral elements played with real instruments, rather than having everything far too blown up to the grandeur scale of things for you to hear her parts stand out and say that she is even on the album.

Watching her playing her parts in the short documentaries that have come with the last 3 albums you can clearly hear the whole resonance that the violin and viola produce and it sounds way better than the end product where they have been mixed with synthetics. I can understand to a degree that they are trying to replicate a full blown out orchestra rather than a string quartet for example, but it does without doubt ruin the fine qualities the real instrument can produce and it no longer speaks the same language.

As a musician you want to be heard and I am sure if people bumped into Christine and said “you’re that person who played on Steve Hackett’s albums” she would most likely reply “Oh yes I am on there somewhere” :)))))). Strangely enough she does only appear on the one track on this album.

The other thing I feel works better on this album is that Steve Hackett is mainly sticking to his main instrument the guitar and he does utilise all of them to a great extent including the Dobro on one of the tracks.

Although At The Edge Of Light is not a concept album it very much starts off and ends off like one with how the material was written for some of the tracks to tailspin and link up with one another so let’s now take a look at the individual tracks.

Track 1. Fallen Walls and Pedestals.

T 1_Fotor

The album opens up in GREAT! style with an instrumental piece that is done in a way of an introduction to the dramatic piece that it is to follow it. This opening piece is the shortest track on the album and features Malik Mansurov on Tar who also played the instrument on the previous two albums only here the instrument is only used at the very beginning for all of about 7 seconds. It’s also one of the 4 tracks on the album that real drums have been used and features Hackett’s long time drummer Gary O’Tool who retired from playing with Hackett’s band back in October 2018 due to wanting to spend more time with his family and concentrate more on the school of music he set up in Denmark Street, London to teach others to play various instruments.

The title suggests something along the lines of the battle of Jericho and O’Tool’s drum ignite the spark for the piece to explode into action. Hackett plays some blustering solo on his electric guitar which reflects the power of the battle and the falling walls and Roger King provides the backdrop for him to run his lead lines over with the orchestral strings that have an eastern flavour and add to the dramatics. It really does get the album off to a flying start and it very nicely tailspins into the next track.

Track 2. Beasts in Our Time.

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The first of the vocal tracks on the album is quite an epic piece of drama that sort of pertains to the beasts of today stepping into new shoes of those from the past and reflects on the horror that still exists sort of thing. The song is put across in stages and is sort of like a horror story or nightmare and in a way like “The Wheels Turning” from his Wolflight album. It’s like going from a pleasant dream into a nightmare sort of thing as in the official video that made to promote the album.

Steve Hackett handles all the vocals and harmonies himself and also utilises his acoustic guitar very well into the opening verses of the song which is how the basis of the song was constructed. The song contains some fine progression and transitional changes and features a blistering sax solo from Rob Townsend besides some GREAT! solo work on the electric guitar by Hackett.

There is also some really GREAT! interplay between Rob Townsend on the bass clarinet and John Hackett on flute in sections too. Roger King handles all the orchestral duties and also and also provides some haunting vibes on the keys and it also features Jonas Reingold on bass. The “Beasts in Our Time” is my personal favourite track on the album and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 3. Under the Eye of the Sun.

T 3_Fotor

For this next song they drop most of the dramatics and orchestration and Roger King gets to play some synth work for a change. There is a string section in it and it features both Jonas Reingold and Dick Driver on bass though the latter of the two is playing the double bass with a bow which adds to the string section more in the way of a cello. It also features Gulli Briem on drums and percussion that drives it along very well and at some pace. Both Hackett and Amanda Lehmann are on vocal duties and the combination of their harmonies give it a bit of Yes presence, it reminds me a bit like “Into The Lens” from their 1980 album Drama blended in with a bit of GTR sort of thing.

It has quite a mystic come down section in the middle and features Paul Stillwell on didgeridoo to which Rob Townsend plays the dudek. He also contributes bass clarinet and sax too whilst John Hackett’s echoing flute brings us back into the light and the song bursts back into the action with Hackett flying along on his electric guitar and it gets rounded off nicely enough with another string section. Overall, it’s quite a good song and good to get a break from all the overblown orchestration all the time.

Track 4. Underground Railroad.

T 4_Fotor

Another of the songs on the album that gives us a bit more variation and lyrically it runs along the same lines as “Black Thunder” from his Wolflight album in that the lyrics are pertaining to the freedom of slavery and back in the days of pre-Civil War in America many of the slaves who were digging the tunnels for the underground railroad did get to escape. Musically the song runs along the lines of blues, gospel and rock and Hackett does a well tasty job on the Dobro guitar as well as the electric and acoustic. He also plays the old Gob Iron (harmonica and bass on it too and both Durga and Lorelei McBroom (more notorious for working with Pink Floyd) add the gospel touch to the song with their GREAT! vocals and harmonies.

The “Underground Railroad” is a really GREAT! track the way it’s been put together and how everything works its way into it. I also personally think it’s better than “Black Thunder” with how well everything slots into place like a glove. It’s another contender for albums TOP SPOT AWARD! and I do feel it’s one of the albums stronger tracks and it works particularly well in providing the album with some variety.

Track 5. Those Golden Wings.

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The CINEMATICS! and DRAMATICS! are back in BIG STYLE! and this is the longest track on the album weighing in at some 11 minutes 19 seconds. It’s an epic love song that means a lot to Hackett as its about his wife and it reflects what he himself describes as her personal journey to get to where they are in their relationship. The song itself goes through some twists and turns and captivates the romantic side of things and the dangerous voyage and quest it took to get there.

The way the song opens up with the orchestral side of things is like being at the movies watching something like “Gone with the Wind” or “My Fair Lady” sort of thing, but thankfully it’s only a short introduction and the 12 string comes into play to bring in the opening verse. Personally the 12 string and nylon work that Hackett plays on this song are my favourite parts about it.

The melody line he plays on the electric that first comes into play around the 3:18 mark and gets repeated in other parts of the song. For some strange reason has me singing the words “In a most delightful way” to it, which are the very last sentence of the chorus for “A Spoonful of Sugar” that Julie Andrews wrote for the film Mary Poppins. I am sure it’s nothing like that song but for the life of me I cannot get it out of my head every time I hear it :)))))).

The orchestra and choral sections project the grandeur scheme of things in BIGGING IT UP! sort of thing and once again Christine Townsend’s violin and viola and Dick Driver’s double bass lend support to the orchestration Roger King has provided for the piece. It works pretty well and Hackett rocks it up on his electric guitar which does lend a hand in breaking it up in sections, but there is quite a bit of repetitiveness that goes into stretching this one out. It also features Nick D’Virgilio on drums and John Hackett once again on flute.

I think for many they would see “Those Golden Wings” as the highlighted track of the album and their personal favourite. For me personally there are certain aspects I can like and dislike about it and there are times I can enjoy listening to it and others where I think it’s too overblown sort of thing. I do see it has a contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! regardless because quite a lot has been put into it.

Track 6. Shadow and Flame.

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This next song gives us another touch of an eastern flavour like we have seen on the past couple of Hackett’s albums only this time it features Sheema Mukherjee playing a real sitar. It was inspired by India and depicts the strong contrast of light and dark on the River Ganges, where life and death interplay within and at the water’s edge according to Hackett. Apart from the vocal side of things Hackett’s only other part in the song comes into play towards the end with his electric guitar and Roger King takes pretty much care of the rest.

The opening intro puts me in mind of Peter Gabriel’sExposure” but it soon goes off down another road and builds into a raga. Sheema Mukherjee does do a very good job on the sitar and there is a lot of heavy percussion thrown into the pot here. This sort of eastern music is not in particular to my taste but luckily enough it has not been dragged out and is only a 4-minute track.

Track 7. Hungry Years.

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The pop song of the album and this is quite a light and airy song and it sort of takes me back to 1981 with his 5th album Cured. The melody line in the verse section also is a bit along the same lines as the self-titled track from Camel’s 1978 album Breathless. It’s also a song where Amanda Lehmann gets to utilise her voice a lot more and it does work very well alongside with Hackett’s in particular with the harmonies too. It also features Simon Phillips on drums and Jonas Reingold on bass to which is bass line does stand out well during Hackett’s lead break on the guitar at the end. Overall “Hungary Years” is a very fine song and Benedict Fenner also gets to contribute some keyboards with Roger King on the track.

Track 8. Decent.

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Descent” is the first part of a sort of 3-piece suite that work in conjunction with one another to round off the album. The first couple of parts are instrumental pieces and this particular piece is something that Hackett did with Benedict Fenner and was originally intended as a bonus track for the album. Steve Hackett got his inspiration for the piece from Ravel’sBolero“. However, it also sounds like a combination between Holst’sMars the Bringer of War” from the Planets and “Apocalypse 9/8” from “Suppers Ready” by Genesis.

Track 9. Conflict.

T 9_Fotor

Spiralling out of the darkness of fear, the 2nd part of the suite represents a battle and sounds like something that you would associate with a spy or James Bond movie. It features Steve Hackett and Roger King and according to the credit notes John Hackett contributes flute to this piece also. Though you would be lucky to pick him out amongst the orchestration that King has provided. The piece winds itself down nicely to allow King to start the final part of the suite on the piano.

Track 10. Peace.

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A song of hope ends off the final part of the suite and the album very well and Amanda Lehmann returns to support Hackett on vocal duties and apart from his guitar on the track the rest is very much handled by Roger King. The chorus section of the song reminds me of Neil Young’sSouthern Man” and Hackett even has a bit of Brian May touch with the sound to it on the solo. “Peace” puts the album to bed very well and all 3 parts of the suite very well slot into one another and work very well to round off the album.


In summary Steve Hackett’s 25th studio album At The Edge Of Light I do feel it offers slightly more variety with the material that was written for it. The acoustic side things is also more present here in relation to his previous album The Night Siren. Though perhaps not quite as present with his 23rd album Wolflight. You could say that his last 3 albums have been moulded together in the same way, especially regarding the synthetic aspects with orchestral side of things. Though what wins this album over for me personally is that it does have less of the fuller blown out orchestration and the wider variety it offers like I mentioned.

The bonus material is very much on the slim side of things and I can only presume that the official video that was made for “Beasts in Our Time” would have been made after the DVD was finalized and rendered. But it was good to see that it was included on the Genesis Revisited Band & Orchestra live release. But the bonus content does appear to be getting shorter and shorter and they could have perhaps included the couple of bonus tracks that the Japanese release got. But I cannot really have any complaint as it does come with a very good 5.1 mix and that is the real bonus for me personally.


To round up my review of At The Edge Of Light by Steve Hackett and regarding if he is taking his music to new heights and in new directions with how he’s going about things and he is expanding upon them. I personally think regarding the PROGMATIC! side of things nothing has really changed and even by going along with more of a CINEMATIC! approach like he has over his last 3 albums could be seen as a newer approach to how he’s going about making his music these days.

But in all honesty Hackett has always had a certain amount of dramatization within his music since the day he started his solo career. His approach to writing has never really changed either and the one thing that has never changed is his own formidable style and approach to his music and that is what I have always admired about him. He’s very much stuck to his gun’s and give his fans from day one what they want and he’s still very much doing that with this GREAT! album despite some of the synthetic aspects that have been thrown into the pot along the way.

The Mediabook is well worth its price point and for surround FREAKS! like myself it’s well worth getting for the 5.1 mix. The bonus material is on the slim side but the documentary does give you some informative incite and is useful. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Beasts in Our Time“. “Underground Railroad“. and “Those Golden Wings“.

Journeys Of The Dancing Fool Underneath The Merciless Moon…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Fallen Walls and Pedestals. 2:17.
02. Beasts in Our Time. 6:30.
03. Under the Eye of the Sun. 7:06.
04. Underground Railroad. 6:22.
05. Those Golden Wings. 11:19.
06. Shadow and Flame. 4:24.
07. Hungry Years. 4:34.
08. Descent. 4:20.
09. Conflict. 2:36.
10. Peace. 5:03.

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

The Stereo Mix Rating Score. 10/10.

The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 8/10.

The Bonus Material Rating Score. 3/10.

The Album Rating Score. 8./10.

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