I was recently listening to some music from an obscure progressive band from the 1990s. During one of the instrumental breaks there was a flute solo, which is not uncommon in the context of progressive rock music. It got me to thinking of the great flute players in progressive rock. Of course the first two names that come to mind were Peter Gabriel and Ian Anderson. The third was a name that does not get enough mention, John Hackett, Steve Hackett’s younger brother.
John Hackett is an extremely talented flautist who just happens to like rock music. Steve Hackett’s first four albums would sound drastically different without John Hackett’s distinctive flute adding color and emotion to several of the early songs. And for a time he proved just as valuable in Steve Hackett’s live band, handling flute, rhythm guitar and bass pedals. Their musical association may have lessened over the years, but it has never ended. Both continue to perform on one another’s albums and still play together live, from time to time. They did record one full album together, Sketches Of Satie, released in 2000, which I would highly recommend it.
Steve Hackett has had a great career as a solo artist that continues presently. His musical artistry continues to evolve and progress. That being said, there is something extra special about his early run of albums: Voyage Of The Acolyte, Please Don’t Touch, Spectral Mornings and Defector. Part of what makes these four album so special is John Hackett. Listen to songs like The Steppes, Kim, Jacuzzi, Lost Time In Cordoba, Hands Of The Priestess (Part 1), Please Don’t Touch, The Virgin And The Gypsy, The Toast, etc and try to imagine how these great tracks would sound without John Hackett’s flute. Overall he only played on a handful of songs, but his performances are so impactful. To remove these songs would ruin the overall flow and feel of the albums. I believe this is most prominently displayed on what is arguably Steve Hackett’s best album, Spectral Morning.
Steve Hackett’s unique approach to the guitar adds a great deal of different textures to his music. The guitar is complimented by Nick Magnus’ strong keyboards. Add to this the wonderfully dreamlike and exotic sounds of John Hackett’s flute work and you are treated to music that truly stirs the emotions.
Over the course of his great career Steve Hackett has predominantly worked with three fantastic, and stylistically different keyboard players. Those three are Nick Magnus, Jilian Colbeck and Roger King. One of the truly remarkable things about Steve Hackett’s records are the vast amount of keyboards that are present. He is first and foremost a guitarist, but he allows so much room for keyboards. Obviously the combination of electric guitar, acoustic guitar, classical guitar and keyboards have helped to give his brand of progressive rock a unique touch. But the added flavor of John Hackett’s flute work, early on, was Steve Hackett’s secret weapon.