Some people under-rate this album, but I do think it has very nice spots on it. It cannot be compared fairly to Voyage of the Acolyte, because as we know, that one is "the best Genesis album they never released". I'll do a song by song review: “Narnia”: Kansas' Steve Walsh lends a hand here (and Phil Ehart too, probably). I think he is a great singer in is early days, and this performance is no different. A "happy" song like Kansas' "It takes a woman's love (to make a man)", with more beautiful guitar work (of course). “Carry on up the Vicarage”: This is a tribute to Agatha Christie (one of my favorite writers too). This is ILLARIOUS! There are two vocals (all sung be Steve) with an effect that makes you think that little buddies from Mars are singing this tune! My favorite track on this album. Worth its price! “Racing in A”: Walsh (and Ehart probably) are back again. Another happy song, not very impressive, but nice. “Kim”: Nice instrumental song. If you like Hackett guitar playing, you'll like this one. “How Can I”: Richie Havens sings on this very beautiful track. His strong voice gets really nice alongside Hackett's guitars. “Hoping Love Will Last”: AWFULL! Worse than the worst Roxette tune! Arghhhh! “Land of a Thousand Autumns”: Very nice instrumental. It prepares you for the title track, and the passage from one to the other is quite nice too: no sound for some seconds, then: “Please Don't Touch”: Follow Hackett's recommendation and listen to this one very loud, with as much bass as your sound equipment can provide. This is a warm and fierce instrumental. Really gets me excited. “The Voice of Necam”: Nice one. Nothing exceptional here... "Icarus Ascending": Havens is back again to close the album with this tune. It follows the ingredients of "How can I", with beautifull guitars in it. Rating: If you are not a Hackett fan, you only need Voyage of the Acolyte (the review on this site is very good). BUT, if you are a prog fan, a Genesis/Hackett fan, you'll probably want this one. "Carry on up the vicarage" is a gem. It makes me laugh! I've listened to it 10 times or more in three days!!! I'll give it 6 on a 10 star rating. Paulo, from Brazil.
As a classically trained guitarist, I felt the need to defend this fine record in light of some criticism that has been posted. After listening to both the LP and the CD issues of Please Don't Touch, I must recommend that anyone who has access to the vinyl LP listen to the original product. The CD abruptly breaks the tracks: “Land of a Thousand Autumns” and “Please Don't Touch” with disastrous results.
This album requires repeated listening in order to truly appreciate the subtle gems of sound and musicianship that elude the casual hearing. It also pays to study Hackett's lyrics carefully to discover the depth of this artist's intuition. If I must point to a weakness, it is the lack of a strong chorus or "hook" in “Narnia": If you are going to write a Pop tune, you need a strong hook that will ring in listener's heads after a first listening. On the other hand, all the songs show impeccable craftsmanship and deeply satisfying progressions.
"Carry On Up The Vicarage" has been accused of exposing Steve Hackett's insecurity as a singer. I disagree. The altered voices are not only groundbreaking but provide the perfect shock effect for this dark tribute to Agatha Christie. The dominant-seventh riff on the twelve-string guitar is a perfect touch creating a sense of being on the edge of insanity.
"Racing In A" gets a lot of criticism as being a hodgepodge of poorly connected ideas but a deep analysis by any modestly competent theoretician will prove otherwise. The piece is profoundly original, yet totally Hackett. Steve is known for his love of leisure and this is his anthem. The classical guitar solo at the end shows that the composer has mastered eighteenth-century two voice counterpoint and has the polish of Bach, yet sounds very modern and reminds me of South American syncopation. The flashy run in thirty-second notes shown that Steve has the technical ability to play burning-fast scales, yet he puts music first and uses the flash wisely. The final reprise of the opening themes connects the solo to the rest of the song making it an organic masterpiece. I suspect that Steve Hackett wrote the solo first and then built the rest around it.
"Kim" is a somewhat saccharine rehash of Eric Satie's Trois Gymnopedies but provides some "ear candy" for those who need an accessible break. This is perhaps my least favorite piece, but I am somewhat jaded when it comes to this kind of music. In the seventy's this still sounded relatively fresh.
"How Can I?" is elusive in its apparent simplicity. The lyrics begin as a generic "trying to make a phone call" song and gradually develop into wonderful insights into human fallibility and hope of renewal. I wonder why Hackett wrote such an American song? Listen carefully to the twelve-string harmonies for a real treat! Craftsmanship at it's best.
”Hoping Love Will Last” is best appreciated if you read the lyrics as a love poem before listening to the song. This is by far the most "lounge lizard" sounding song but the melody is elegantly written and the voice of Randy Crawford grows on you once you get past the Las Vegas first impression.
”Land of a Thousand Autums” is simply a prelude to “Please Don't Touch”. The vinyl LP has no break between this track and the title track. Virgin Records should have respected the original format but somebody decided to cut a break of silence between the tracks, essentially killing excitement that the prelude was supposed to create.
”Please Don't Touch” is one of the most creative pieces of music I have heard. The contrast between super-weird synth-guitar howls and harpsichord classical riffs is truly the mark of a musical genius.
”The Voice of Necam” (the computer) is profound. The residual theme of the previous track is mocked in a mechanistic machinelike manner, possibly symbolizing the lower pragmatic mind which is soon overwhelmed by an angelic chorus of electronic voices. If there is music representing a mystical state, this has to be it! The guitar solo is one of the most inspired and creative pieces I have heard. Simple, yet utopian.
”Icarus Ascending” starts out rather rudely, startling the listener out of the previous state of transcendence and pounding down with discontent and sour lyrics like: "There are many things that I would rather do" I suspect that this abrupt transition ticked listeners off. I was upset the first time I heard it. On it's own merit however, the song is excellent and the lyrics are deep. The ending is a display of Hackett's versatility with some more "lounge lizard" moments. The final repeating triads outlining seventh chords is memorable and serves as a healing ointment after the shocking intro.
I wholeheartedly recommend this album, though the CD formatting ruins one of the best transitions in the record.
(All Album Reviews by def)
Again, most of you already know of this, Steve Hackett's first release after leaving Genesis. Remastered, bonus tracks and extended album notes. Bonus tracks are the 45 version of “Narnia”, because Steve Walsh's (Kansas) record company wouldn't allow his version on a 45. The live version of “Land Of A Thousand Autumns” / “Please Don't Touch” is available on other live releases, though not this particular one. Lastly, an alternate take of “Narnia”, with Steve Walsh on vocals. Bonus tracks are really for completists. This booklet has 5 pages of new liner notes, along with the lyrics and all the slides that were on the original LP’s dust sleeve.