This confident and assured album sees Hackett exploring various styles, and seemingly having a lot of fun in the process, after being liberated from Genesis. There's a few straightforward pop songs, such as "How Can I" and "Hoping Love Will Last". These are rather 70's sounding and maybe not to prog listeners' taste, but are well-written all the same. Steve Walsh (Kansas) and Richie Havens guest on vocals. Although "Narnia" is a bit cheesy - the throwaway lyrics and over-sincere singing would have made this suitable for the theme of a "Cities Of Gold"-style anime adaptation of the C.S.Lewis stories! "Carry On Up The Vicarage" is interestingly odd, with a twisted helium vocal.
About half of the album is made up of instrumentals which are as inventively arranged as ever, with Hackett playing a variety of guitars from nylon to soaring leads. The pinnacle is reached with the instrumental title track, which bursts in and moves forward with a restless dynamic energy. This was apparently vetoed from Genesis's "Wind And Wuthering" - shame! Although "Icarus Ascending" does have echoes of "Afterglow", the stodgy final track of that album.
December 14, 2003