GTR were a special, and sadly short-lived, super group between guitarists Steve Howe (Yes, Asia) and Steve Hackett (Genesis). Additional members were Max Bacon on vocals, Phil Spalding (Toyah, Mike Oldfield) on bass guitar and Jonathan Mover (Marillion) on drums. Additional keyboards and synthesizers were provided by Hackett and Howe. The original GTR album was released back in 1986.
This year Esoteric Recordings released a special 2-disc edition. The first CD contains the original album, including three bonus tracks, all digitally remastered. The second CD contains a recording of the band performing live in Los Angeles in July 1986. I'm a big Genesis-, Steve Hackett- and Yes-fan, and I had no idea that Steve Hackett and Steve Howe made an album together. This made me extra curious, because two amazing guitarists playing on one album would probably be double fantastic! I really love the fold out album sleeve, it's black with bright pink and green neon colours. The booklet is fun to read. It contains the story on how the band came together and worked on the album (told by the original band members) and snippets from magazines/posters. Sadly it does not contain the lyrics of the songs.
The music on the album is what I call 'typical' 80s classic, AOR and progressive rock, and I don't mean 'typical' in a bad way. If you love powerful rock-ballads, sharp guitar solos and rock songs with a touch of prog, then this is the album you must have in your collection. Despite the digital remastering it still sounds all very '80s' to me. I'm not a fan of gated drums and too much reverb. Still, I sing along with the choruses from several tracks and play air-guitar during the guitar solos.
The album starts with When The Heart Rules The Mind. You can immediately hear that Max Bacon is a very good singer. The chorus is quite catchy. Second song The Hunter is written by the producer Geoffrey Downes (Yes, Asia). The quite haunting intro makes way for a lighter 'feel good' tune that contains some powerful guitar chords. Here I Wait is a powerful track, Max is really showing what he can do with his voice. Sketches In The Sun is, in contrast to Here I Wait, a very serene song. It is a lovely guitar piece played and written by Steve Howe. It's only two and a half minutes long. Jekyll And Hyde is quite an up-tempo track. The drums are a bit too plain according to me, they could have been played with more feel and theme changes. The guitar solos are luckily very good. You Can Still Get Through is a real feel good song that has a good rhythm. It reminds me of the music Yes made in the 80s, I think it's also because of the vocal choirs in the chorus. I also love the fretless bass part during the outro of the song. Reach Out (Never Say No) actually reminds me of music from the band Saga. It contains some nice guitar bits and pieces and vivacious theme changes. Toe The Line starts with a sweet acoustic guitar intro. This song is a real ballad that also contains a short but powerful guitar solo in the outro. Hackett To Bits is actually very similar to the track Please Don't Touch from Hackett's second solo album, also named Please Don't Touch (1978). It has a different approach and intro, but it's quite the same. I don't mind because I also love the original track from Hackett's album. Imagining is the longest track on the album. It starts with a beautiful acoustic guitar intro but soon a heavy song fades in along with the powerful voice of Max. I really like the Spanish guitar-like solos in the outro, sadly it only lasts for half a minute. The last three tracks on the album are the bonus tracks, which I mentioned earlier. The bonus tracks are a special mix of the song The Hunter and the single version of The Hunter and When The Heart Rules The Mind.
The additional live album is a nice extra that also sounds very good, but I think I won't listen to it much. I'm more a fan of live DVDs so you can see the band perform as well. What I do love about the live CD is that the band also plays Yes, Genesis, Steve Hackett and Steve Howe solo songs during their live performance. I'm sure a lot of people who like both Howe and Hackett will like this album. This is music you play in your car while driving to your destination. Don't forget to use your steering wheel as a drum kit!
****+ Iris Hidding (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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