Squackett : A Life Within A Day

There has been a certain expectant rubbing of beards (both real and metaphorical) among the prog-rock fraternity since it was announced that Steve Hackett (Genesis) and Chris Squire (Yes) were collaborating on a new album. Now whatever your opinion of those two bands may be, there is no denying that A Life Within A Day is one of the most eagerly awaited prog rock releases for ages.

Obviously these are two guys who have nothing to prove to anyone, and that kind of shines through in the 9 tracks that make up this release. It’s a work without any capitulation to fad or fashion, and one that encapsulates 40 years of progressive rock tradition nigh on perfectly.

Proceedings are opened with A Life within a Day, which is, well Mr Hackett describes it thusly..

“It’s probably the most progressive of all the tracks. It has a bold, epic feel. Guitar, bass, keyboards and drums all play flat out in the middle section. It touches on the vastness of Earth and the universe beyond – an homage to the power of Nature”.

Oh, and flat out is relative :-D….

Next track Tall Ships has, for me, a slightly more modern feel that is in keeping with the overall vibe of the album as it takes you on a gentle journey, with a beautiful little guitar solo tucked away in the middle. On the crappy little speakers of a laptop it sounds good, but played on a decent sound system it’s full grandeur becomes apparent. The whole band (which includes Roger King on keyboard, Jeremy Stacey on drums and Amanda Lehmann providing backing vocals) play their parts to perfection.

And so the scene is set, dextrous guitars, deft keyboard touches and some amazing vocal harmonies pop up throughout this album without any “supergroup” ego tripping at all. There is no individual, competitive vying for your attention here, instead there is a harmony and a balance to the songs that is, in a word, sublime.

I love records that get better with successive listens as you start to mentally strip away the musical layers, and this one drops slap bang in the bullseye of that category.

Lyrically, it’s pretty much what you would expect, drawing inspiration from themes such as rising above adversity, hope and love. Oh, and Aliens (they’re only us from the future, apparently).

It’s a long time since I’ve heard such a well crafted, involving prog-rock release. Obviously if you’re familiar with the musical CVs of those involved you are prepared, in broad terms, for what you are about to hear. It just doesn’t quite prepare you for the detail, or for how good this actually is. A Life Within A Day is a perfect easy-to-listen-to album that I can’t imagine ever getting bored with, I know it’s certainly earned a permanent place on my iPod.

Immediate impressions ?? Well it’s certainly forced itself into the reckoning come end of year top 10 time, and that’s something entirely unexpected. It’s great to see that Messrs Hackett and Squire can still show the young pretenders to their throne a thing or two.