One Track Mind: Steve Hackett with Ray Wilson, “Carpet Crawlers” from Selection (2013)

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Guitarist Steve Hackett, with an assist from criminally underrated fellow Genesis alum Ray Wilson, has finally found the emotional centerpoint within one of their old band’s signature tunes, “Carpet Crawlers.”

Initially part of 1974’s The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, a farewell project by founding frontman Peter Gabriel, “Carpet Crawlers” has undergone a second revision as a new bonus track on the single-disc version of Hackett’s celebrated 2012 tribute set Genesis Revisited II — combining the talents of the group’s classic-era guitarist with its late-1990s singer.

Hackett’s sensitive tinkering leads to some startling revelations.

The original ending’s billowing vocal layers, for instance, provided some of the first true hints at the darker complexity that would mark Gabriel’s approach as a solo artist. But he’s still singing with a reedy edge, and the song’s production — it’s clear now — lacks a certain depth. (Stream it!: “Carpet Crawlers.”) Back then, it trickled along like a diaphanous rumination — with Hackett’s guitar only a ghostly presence, and Phil Collins sounding an oddly distant beat.

This new renovation has more in common, at least vocally, with a turn-of-the-millennium redo featuring the all-too-brief reunion of Genesis’ old five-man lineup — recorded as the tasty addendum to a greatest-hits package. By then, Gabriel’s voice had become a wonder of oaken intrigue. Unfortunately, the ’99 take was hampered by a distracting, overly mechanized rhythm signature — and Hackett is all but lost in the back wash.

The guitarist puts it all together on the version from Selection, nudging his soaring lines a little closer in, returning the song to its lithe original cadence, and adding a singer in Wilson who completely inhabits a raw and vulnerable place. Is it the best take yet? That’s a difficult position to hold for long, with the twin forces of memory and nostalgia at work on the other side of the argument. Still, to my ear, “Carpet Crawlers” feels more present, more direct, more enveloping, than it ever has.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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  • Perplexio

    For some reason “Lamb” has always left me flat. It’s easily the least listened to album from the Hackett era. I thought “A Trick of the Tail” and “Wind & Wuthering” were both superior to “Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” and don’t even get me started on “Foxtrot” or “Selling England By the Pound.”

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