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Steve Howe - The Grand Scheme Of Things CD (album) cover

THE GRAND SCHEME OF THINGS

Steve Howe

 

Crossover Prog

2.95 | 27 ratings

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SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
4 stars As far as I'm concerned this is the most satisfying of all of Steve Howe's solo albums. While his first two solo albums had experimented with different guitar styles and his third album Turbulence had been entirely instrumental and more Jazz-Rock/Fusion oriented, this one is Steve's first (and only, at least until Elements was released in 2003) real rock album. And even if Steve plays most of the instruments himself, it does feel as if he had a real band behind him on the rockier tracks. And this is partly true with his two sons Dylan and Virgil on drums and keyboards respectively plus help from Nick Beggs on bass, Keith West on harmony vocals and harmonica as well as an Anna Palm on violin. The instruments played by Steve himself involve electric and acoustic guitars, steel guitars, mandolin, koto, flute and keyboards.

The Grand Scheme Of Things is also more Yes-like in its sound than any other Steve Howe solo album. Indeed, this is one of the most Yes-like solo albums by any Yes member, rivalled only by Chris Squire's Fish Out Of Water. You can almost imagine that if Jon added some vocals, and Rick added some more keyboards, and Chris some bass guitar, this could have been a Yes album! Not one of the better Yes albums of course, but it wouldn't have been entirely out of place following Union (an album I like a lot, by the way). Maybe The Grand Scheme Of Things can be seen as a hint of what Yes might have sounded like in the early 90's if Steve had stayed with the group after Union. It would have been better than Talk for sure (not implying that Talk is bad).

The balance between vocal numbers and instrumental guitar pieces is optimal on The Grand Scheme Of Things, with about equal space given to each. Also the mix between slower and rockier material is very well balanced. This is however, hardly a hard rock album, like the GTR album for example. Rather it has the same feeling and sound as some of the mellower songs from 90's Yes albums (excluding Talk on which Steve didn't play).

One criticism of this album is that it takes too much advantage of the abilities of the CD format. With 16 tracks and a running time of almost an hour, it tends to drag a little bit in the middle. This is not because any of the tracks are bad, or boring. But the material could maybe have been edited down to 45 or 50 minutes, thereby making it a somewhat stronger set. There is really no need to mention specific tracks because there are no real standout tracks here, that are better than the rest. But there are no low points either. It is a very even and consistent album with the same sound and quality throughout.

Steve's vocals are much, much better here than they were on his early albums and he even came up with memorable and melodious songs for this album. The lyrics also reflect a more mature Steve Howe and there is certainly no sign of the type of light weight lyrical themes present on most Asia songs.

The guitar work is wonderful as always with Steve and he uses a variety of stringed instruments - including some unusual ones as well giving some tracks a somewhat "exotic" and relaxed feeling, without ever going into New Age territory (as he would do later on during his collaborations with Paul Sutin).

The Grand Scheme Of Things is a great place to start if you want to discover Steve Howe's solo career. Highly recommended for serious Yes fans. Even people (like myself) who were a bit disappointed with previous Steve Howe albums should give this one chance.

SouthSideoftheSky | 4/5 |

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