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Steve Howe - Quantum Guitar CD (album) cover

QUANTUM GUITAR

Steve Howe

 

Crossover Prog

2.76 | 25 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
2 stars As a lifelong songwriter myself, I've always sought out different methods for coming up with tunes and melodies. When I first started out as a teen in the 60s I'd fiddle around with my hard body Silvertone 6-string and tinny Kent amp until an idea sprouted and then I'd turn on my trusty Radio Shack mono tape recorder so I wouldn't lose it. In the 70s I advanced to using a JVC sound-on- sound two track device and later to a TEAC 4-channel tape machine that would allow me to more efficiently construct a crude facsimile of a complete composition. The point I'm trying to make is that none of what I ended up with was fit to play for anyone except my bandmates who would savvy that I was merely trying to present them with potential material to possibly work on and develop. It was not for public consumption. In many cases only a tiny segment of one of my creations would be something worth trying to build on. That's why I'm rather shocked that the multi- talented Steve Howe would want to share his unrefined home demos with the world as he did on 1998's 'Quantum Guitar.' There's no questioning his exceptional skills on a wide variety of stringed instruments and his work with Yes in particular has often bordered on incredible so it's not like he's some wannabe running through a series of scales to show off here. But this is far from being the kind of stuff that any respectable progger would be drawn to. Frankly, I couldn't wait for it to be over.

Enlisting only the help of his son Dylan on drums, this is truly a Steve Howe do-it-yourselfer from top to bottom and therein lies its true weakness. Only a handful of artists can achieve greatness without collaborating with other musicians who'll give constructive criticism and guidance and Steve ain't one of them. He opens with a modern rendering of the Ventures' classic instrumental 'Walk Don't Run' and he wisely resists wandering too far from the original arrangement. In all fairness Howe adds some excitement where needed. 'The Collector' is a light ditty that relies heavily on his steel guitar acumen, 'Light Walls' is a bit more aggressive in nature yet quite poppy while 'Mosaic' is a short piece containing recognizable Yes-like overtones. The longest cut on the album is 'Suddenly' and, due to its length, I hoped it would be wildly proggy but it turns out to be pretty much of a contemporary guitar extravaganza that never generates any momentum. Although I don't cotton to C&W fare I've always been an admirer of decent pickin' and Steve displays that he has the chops for it on 'Country Viper' yet he discreetly doesn't overdo it, keeping this snippet at well under the two minute mark. On 'Mainland' I gotta hand it to Howe for designing an adventurous chord progression and for employing a myriad of guitar sounds but all in all it's way too tame to hold my interest. 'Knights of Carmelite' is a highlight. Its madrigal feel is refreshing at this juncture and the compositional structure is superb.

'Paradox' is next and I'm not sure what Steve was shooting for with the limiting marching beat that sets the tone but by now the tunes are starting to sound alike. 'Momenta' is an unimaginative variation on one of the oldest and most overused rock & roll patterns in history and I grew weary of it within seconds because he does so very little with it. Howe delivers another round of nostalgia with the old chestnut 'Sleep Walk' and he treats it with honorable respect sitting at his pedal steel guitar but he also avoids taking any chances. 'Sovereigns' is excellent. Its classical air is augmented by innumerable guitar overdubs that weave a nice tapestry. It's an engaging detour from the norm. 'Totality' sports an up-tempo rock beat that picks up the pace but it's no more than average filler. 'Solid Ground' is but another dose of the same directionless meandering that fails to take the listener anywhere special or memorable. He lays down a host of Spanish guitarisms for 'The Great Siege' and they're borderline thrilling but the instrumental comes off more as a dexterity exercise than an attempt on his part to mount the prog heights. 'Cacti Garden' is another undistinguished conglomerate of musical notions but the closer, 'Southern Accent,' turns out to be one of the more cohesive songs on the disc. However, it's a case of too little too late. It wasn't enough to curb my unstoppable yawning spree.

After Yes toured 'Relayer' in the mid-70s all of the group's members took time off to make a solo LP. Two of them, Jon Anderson and Chris Squire, delivered exemplary progressive specimens but Steve's was a disappointment. Evidently that didn't stop him from trying, though, because he's put a bunch of records out there ever since. I won't be acquiring any more of his albums because 'Quantum Guitar' is like watching somebody else's home movies. I'm sure he had a fun time and all but I don't really want to sit through his exploits. My thinking is that this is how Howe writes his material and I understand that hit and miss process completely. I just don't want to hear the ragged demos that resulted. Since he's a revered guitar wizard who's given me hours of ecstatic joy taking in his contributions to most of Yes' greatest albums I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and give this CD a 1.5 star rating. But just this once.

Chicapah | 2/5 |

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