There are some fans that just want to hear Steve Hackett play Genesis songs. And then there are those who fully support the solo music that this brilliant musician has been producing for forty plus years. The latter group will appreciate a song like Anything But Love from Steve Hackett’s recent studio album The Night Siren (2017).
Anything But Love could very easily have been a catchy three minute pop song. In Steve Hackett’s capable hands the song becomes so much more. Over the course of nearly six minutes Hackett delights the listener by showcasing his various musical abilities. The song opens with an example of Hackett’s masterful classical guitar playing. I really do not believe that he gets enough credit for his abilities on this instrument. Many fans look to Horizons and the introduction of Blood On The Rooftops as great examples of Hackett’s skill in this area. Both are fantastic songs, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. Those who are adventurous enough to delve deeper into Hackett’s catalog will discover a wealth of exceptional classical guitar compositions. One of Hackett’s abilities is his melding of classical guitar into rock music. After the brilliant introduction the classical guitar runs throughout the song.
Overall Anything But Love is a vocally driven song. Musically the song is quite upbeat and extremely melodic. This is the kind of song that will compel you to want to sing along. Lyrically the subject matter is not upbeat at all. The song deals with negative emotions in the aftermath of a dissolved romantic relationship. I suspect who the song is directed to, however I do not want to speculate. Vocally Hackett has never sounded better. I am a big fan of Steve Hackett as a vocalist. I applaud his dedication to his craft as he continues to push himself to the next level in all aspects of art. With the assistance of the lovely Amanda Lehmann, Hackett lays down one of his most confident vocal performances. The song benefits greatly from the vocals of Lehmann. She may not be a full time member of Steve Hackett’s band, live or in the studio. However, she has been an immense asset to Steve Hackett’s music over the last few years.
Just when you think you know where the song is going Hackett throws in a bit of a curve ball. After two verses and two choruses Hackett pulls out a harmonica solo. The harmonica was one of Hackett’s first instruments as a child. I can not say that I am a fan of the instrument, but I love the way that Steve Hackett plays it. I am amazed that his phrasing on the harmonica is the same as on the electric guitar. When Hackett plays the harmonica the notes carry his unique musical signature.
The structure of this song is so unusual, so Hackett. After the harmonica solo, there is a brief refine of the chorus. This is followed by a classical guitar interlude which leads into an extended guitar solo. Hackett spends nearly one quarter of the song’s running time on the guitar solo. The song ends in a flourish as Hackett passionately repeats the lyric Anything, Anything, Anything But Love. The final minute of the song is stacked with layer upon layer of musical bliss. There are several tracks of vocals by Hackett and Lehmann. Musically the classical guitar and an overdriven electric guitar hold down the rhythm, the harmonica returns along with some Chris Squire like bass playing. The finale is a flurry of strummed chords, lead notes from the harmonica and guitar, pulsating bass notes and a series of drum fills.
On the surface this may seem like a simple pop song, but Hackett makes it so much more. The song may not be classified as progressive rock, but Hackett’s approach is that of a progressively minded musician. Regardless of the genre that he is exploring he has always determined to strive beyond existing stagnant music forms.