It was well known that Steven Wilson's favourite Steve Hackett album is Please Don't Touch and he expressed a wish to remix it into 5.1 surround. His wish has been granted and though many thought that the album would be re-released with that mix, we didn't expect a huge 14 disc box set, celebrating Hackett's solo albums he recorded for Charisma. Well, thanks to Mark Powell fighting the cause, here it is. Overall it is a wonderful thing. As usual, I cannot comment about the surround mixes, as I don't have a surround system, but the stereo mixes of Please Don't Touch and Spectral Mornings are detailed with superb separation of instrumentation. Criminally, the multitracks of Voyage of the Acolyte and Defector were missing so Wilson had to do pseudo up-mixes of those from the original stereo masters. I mean, what is it about these record companies losing these precious multitracks? I would be so pissed off!
Though not clear, all albums have been remastered recently by Ben Fenner, who remastered these back in 2005. But these new masters sound much more natural and dynamic than the 2005 ones. I always felt they were ok, but sounded a bit too "processed". So, good job on those and the new mixes presented in stereo on CD and on DVD together with the surrounds. However, these are DVD video and not audio, so the options are DTS (24/96) or DD for the surround and LPCM (24/96) for the stereo. Also, there are no hi-res stereo options for Voyage or Defector which is a shame as those would be available, as I am sure that is what Wilson would have worked from.
The whole package is rounded off with some unreleased live recording found in the vaults and b-sides and an unreleased track from the Please Don't Touch sessions. The 66 page hardback book is very nice. Glossy, with lots of Armando Gallo's photos, most of which I haven't seen before, with notes by Mark Powell and Steve Hackett who gives brief annotations for each album. The discs have the Famous Charisma label reproduced in quality only equalled by those Japanese discs, though mounting them in slotted sleeves is questionable as a few discs were scuffed, though that didn't hinder the playback. The box is very sturdy and is a nice neat 10" x 10" size, with a lovely Roger Dean painting adorning the front, who also supplies all the lettering and the overall design is put together by the estimable Phil Smee.
Overall, this is a great package. Some may question spreading the albums across discs, rather than keeping them to individual albums, but that was to keep the disc count to a minimum. Others will question why no DVD audio or blu-ray so as to include lossless hi-res surround, but I assume Universal thought that more people have the ability to play DVD video, so keeping the release more mass market. I do think it was a mistake not to include hi-res stereo of Voyage and Defector to keep those discs in-line with the DVD's for Please Don't Touch and Spectral Mornings. For me that is the only gripe. Apart from that a splendid set indeed.