The return of the deacon of rock

By Sergio Ariza

Before the Lights Go Out is the seventh solo album in the career of the legendary session musician Steve Hunter, the deacon of rock. The man behind some of the best remembered solos in the careers of Lou Reed (for example, the fabulous introduction of Sweet Jane), Alice Cooper and Peter Gabriel, returns with a largely instrumental album, allowing us to enjoy the touch of a unique guitarist. This is despite the serious illness that has left him practically blind; from where comes the record’s title.  

The album kicks off with two great tracks, On the Edge of Uncertainty and Mojo Man, where he is accompanied by Joe Satriani who is responsible for the first solo. Lovers of Hunter from the times of Lou Reed, Alice Cooper and his outstanding first solo album, Swept Away, will welcome it, as in these songs, together with Softail Deuce, he shows us why he is a rock hero.

Using a Jeff Beck Signature Stratocaster with a pickguard with EMG David Gilmour pick-ups built-in as main guitar, Hunter also has time to play a Gretsch Black Falcon through a 1965 Fender Twin Reverb Re-issue amplifier. The acoustic sounds arrive with a Godin Variac with nylon strings and a Taylor 410 plugged into a Fishman Aura. It is with these latter tools that he shows his mastery with a blues acoustic on Cinderblock.

But the record is very varied, as Under the Bodhi Tree shows; a song that starts with a psychedelic exploration of Indian music, with sitar included, and continues for nearly two minutes until Hunter’s guitar enters to give it a touch of blues rock, slide included. His elegant and expressive way of playing can be appreciated, but the song then returns to its Oriental roots, with a lovely acoustic section that becomes a roaring blues rock number on his guitar; until the end, when the two parts seem to merge into one. It is without doubt one of the best moments on the album.


However, perhaps, the true heart of this album is to be found on one of the slowest songs, such as Summer's Eve and Tienes Mi Corazón (You Have My Heart) where Steve demonstrates that he has real soul in his fingertips. Beyond his tremendous skill with the six strings he has a real love of playing, avoiding unnecessary exhibitionist parts and playing with a lot of feeling - from the start where his electric guitar shines until the end, where he shows his expertise with the acoustic. In this same tone the record closes with the 'jazzy' Happy Trails that also has a lovely vocal contribution from his wife Karen.

(Photo credit: ©Mark Maryanovich)