Review – John Hackett – The Piper Plays His Tune – by John Wenlock-Smith

John Hackett is the flute wielding, multi-instrumentalist brother of Steve Hackett and the two share a musical, as well as a familial, bond. They have worked together on and off over the years with John popping up on Steve’s albums, alongside this John also is the leader of his own group The John Hackett Band and has released several albums over the years such as 2015’s ‘Another Life’ about a faltering relationship and 2017’s ‘We Are Not Alone’, which was a 2 disc set of the album and a live concert recording of a Classic Rock Society gig in Maltby in 2016 (which included tracks primarily from his ‘Checking Out in London’, ‘Another Life’ and a few pieces from the ‘We Are Not Alone’ album.

This new album is a little different in that a) It was recorded in Lockdown 2020 and b) John plays all the instruments that you hear and produced and mixed it all at home. The result is a rather mellow but seriously tuneful set of songs with progressive overtones and embellishments, which are all seriously fine pieces of music.

The album lasts for around 45 minutes but, within that, you will find some fabulous music, all very well realised and performed. Unsurprisingly, there is a fair amount of flute playing but also some very fine guitar playing, in the style of brother Steve. The drums are all from a program, not that it matters really.

The quality of the songs is high and they all have strong memorable melodies. Any solos are brief but fit the song and are not showboating in any manner. There are even bongos on the album but I will leave it to you to discover exactly where they appear. There are a lot of pop elements on show as John gets in touch with the 80’s vibe on a few tracks like In Love, which has a very jaunty beat to it, others have a more melancholy or subdued air about them.

Crying Shame has a brief but satisfying guitar solo, it’s worth remembering that John was originally a blues guitarist in his teens before seeing King Crimson and taking up the flute after being inspired by Ian MacDonald’s playing.  

Another pleasing aspect to this album is the sparseness of the arrangements and how John uses that spaciousness to work for him, this also allows his bass playing to really make its mark, anchoring each song solidly. You especially notice this on Broken Glass which is a phenomenal song, slow paced but full of melodic touches and great harmonies. It’s probably my favourite track here along with Julia and Too Late For Dreamers, which has a lovely summery feel to it with some fine sweeping guitar chords and rhythm driving it along. John is very proficient on each instrument, creating layers of sound to achieve a full sound on the album.

Julia is a song John wrote many years ago that now gets its first outing on this album. This is a great little song, very evocative, with a driving guitar riff and has great lyrics to it. Another song that works well for me is the closer, There You Go Again, with its jolly guitar lines and sympathetic keyboards. The track is a bit of a love song really and the chorus is upbeat and memorable and will stay with you long after the album has ended. It also has some jolly flute and acoustic guitar interchanges and a penny whistle solo, all very merry and fine sounding. This closes the album out in strong style and you are left with the option to simply press play and enjoy it all again. I know I certainly want to, this album is brim-full of strong songs, energetic playing and good lyrics.

For an album recorded under some difficult conditions, John has really crafted a fine low-key release here and one that is most certainly worthy of your time and listening. I really enjoyed it and it gets even better the more that you play it. Please buy it from John direct as, like all other musicians now, they need all the help they can get and every album counts. So why not splash the cash and support John at this time, you will get a great sounding album and John will appreciate your support. As Hot Chocolate once sang Everyone’s A Winner!

Released 18th November , 2021.

Order direct from the artists here:

The Piper Plays His Tune – Hacktrax

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