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Old 09-24-2011, 10:01 AM   #292 (permalink)
Trollheart
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GTR --- GTR --- 1986 (Arista)


What do you get when you put Yes/Asia's Steve Howe and Genesis' Steve Hackett together? Well, they're both guitarists, and songwriters, but primarily guitarists, so you get GTR, short for guitar, a short-lived “supergroup” from the late eighties who released only the one studio album, their self-titled debut. It did well, but tended to polarise opinion in both Yes and Genesis fans, and there were conflicts within the band itself. As a result, GTR disbanded a year later and went their separate ways.

Opener “When the heart rules the mind” was the first single from the album, and is very reminiscent of Asia's “Heat of the moment”. Although there are no keyboards on the album, the keyboard sound is recreated by the use of guitar synths, which both the Steves used. People have criticised vocalist Max Bacon's voice, but I see nothing wrong with it. Although both Hackett and Howe came from progressive rock backgrounds, this is not really a prog rock album, more like an AOR record. The opener is good, punchy and with a great melody, great backing vocals but strangely for a band whose name is GTR and which features two guitarists, both experts in their field, it's very keyboard-heavy (I know they're guitar synths, but even so), with little in the way of true guitar solos, which surely you would expect from these two?

All the songs are written either by one or both of the Steves, or in collaboration with others, apart from the second track, “The hunter”, which is a Geoff Downes composition. Downes, Howe's bandmate in both Asia and Yes, produced this album but he didn't play on it, strangely. “The hunter” has definite touches of Yes, and almost to try to accommodate this it would seem, Bacon tries to sing like Jon Anderson. It doesn't really work, but at least there's more guitar in this song.

“Here I wait” is a Hackett/Howe composition, and it's far rockier than either of the first two tracks, with a good solid beat and some nice angry guitars. “Sketches in the sun”, a Hackett original, is far more introspective, reflecting the ex-Genesis man's nature and musical style. It's an instrumental, and to be honest, goes a long way towards adding a real touch of class to the album, which it's kind of lacked up to now. Back to the hard rock then for “Jekyll and Hyde”, a powerful little track that allows the guys to stretch themselves on guitar, and features some pretty nifty backing vocals. This is the only song on which vocalist Max Bacon contibutes to the writing. Like most of the others that have gone before though, you can't help but be reminded of Yes, though Hackett's guitar playing does bring a certain flavour of mid-seventies Genesis to proceedings.

It's very repetitive though, with the same line mostly sung throughout, between bursts of guitar solos from the guys. The Yes clones continue with “You can still get through”, and at this point if you fell asleep (not totally unlikely: it's hardly a gripping album!) you might think, when you woke up, that you were listening to a Yes album. It's that similar. Very unoriginal, for a so-called supergroup. At least “Toe the line” is a little different, though I can still hear Anderson's voice singing this. Nice little ballad though, a step away from the dross they've been putting out up to now. At last we get a decent solo worthy of these two uber-guitarists! It's the first track apart from Steve Hackett's instrumental that I've actually enjoyed listening to, and we're near the end of the album!

Speaking of Hackett, it's another of his solo-penned songs next, in stark contrast to his gentle “Sketches in the sun”, although also an instrumental, “Hackett to bits” is more hard rock than folk ballad, and this really shows him to be the accomplished guitarist he is. It's a different sort of piece entirely to his other on the album, but stands out in the same way that one did, and in the same way the rest of the tracks fail to manage to. Closer “Imagining” is very Genesisesque in its opening, but then becomes another sub-Yes song to finish off what is essentially, and sadly, a sub-par album.

When there are bands like Yes and Genesis already around, doing this sort of thing much better, there seems no reason why two ex-members of those bands would try to recreate that sound on what is supposed to be their album, with their new group. It just doesn't make sense, and shows a lack of originality, commitment and ideas. It's frankly not surprising there was no follow-up. Perhaps if Yes and Genesis disbanded completely, there might be a market for this album, but as it stands, then and now, if you're a Yes fan you'll buy Yes records. If you're a Genesis fan you'll buy Genesis albums.

No true fan of either would bother buying this. One reviewer famously wrote the most succinct and yet appropriate review of the album, when he wrote “GTR: SHT”. Kind of says it all really.

TRACKLISTING

1. When the heart rules the mind
2. The hunter
3. Here I wait
4. Sketches in the sun
5. Jekyll and Hyde
6. You can still get through
7. Reach out (never say no)
8. Toe the line
9. Hackett to bits
10. Imagining
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Last edited by Trollheart; 06-01-2013 at 05:20 AM.
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