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Steve Howe - Natural Timbre CD (album) cover


Steve Howe


Crossover Prog

3.54 | 52 ratings

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4 stars Natural Timbre is Steve Howe's all acoustic follow-up to the previous all electric Quantum Guitar and I see the two as twin albums where he explores his respective interests and influences. In fact, it is his first all acoustic album ever. As usual, he plays a cornucopia of different instruments and styles. Since Howe is a guitarist's guitarist, he always tells us what instrument is used on what track. In this case, that comprises 22 different guitars and other acoustic instruments including koto, autoharp, mandolin, mandocello, mandolo, bass, 12-strings, six-strings, and classical guitars including an 1836 or 1834 model (there is conflicting information). This is the kind of information that guitarists such as myself salivate over (and dream about). Accompanying him on some of the tracks is his son Dylan on drums, Anna Palm on violin, and Andrew Jackman on recorder, piano, and glockenspiel, but most of the tracks are just Steve, and many are solo pieces.

If you like such tunes as Mood for a Day, Surface Tension, or his acoustic segment on The Ancient (three of y favorites) and want to hear more of that, this is the place to come to. Howe's playing is lyrical and impeccable. This being an all acoustic album, there is little grandstanding with rapid runs and fierce chords. That is not to say all the music is slow, because that is not the case. It is the case, however, that the music overall is pretty mellow. This is an all acoustic offering, you know. It does get dynamic on occasion. Each piece has its own characteristic, yet in the long run, it is difficult to remember one from the other. Only careful listening and noting of titles, along with what is being played, can one distinguish each song. Personally, I find the album absolutely wonderful. The Yes fan will instantly recognize the last three songs, which are adaptations of Your Move, Disillusion, and To Be Over. The production on these songs is a step above the rest of the album, so when Your Move begins it is bright and lively, rich in tone, especially after the distinctly soft preceding piece. Steve even explains a little how he re-arranged these songs for guitar. The careful listener will recognize an uncredited guest playing mandolin on Your Move. Fortunately, he is partially identified as Chris. Now who might that be? To Be Over is a song designed to end an album with. It worked perfectly on Relayer and it works perfectly here. The delicate melody, the rising dynamism, the increasing complexity, and the lyrical cap are all included here, yet it is entirely instrumental. For those who dislike Howe's voice, and there are many of us, the fact this is all instrumental is a blessing. Steve speaks his vision best through his fingers and strings.

Steve Howe's solo work is a mixed bag when taken all together, but I consider Natural Timbre one of his best releases. I always thought of him more as an acoustic guitarist anyway, and he even says he writes most of his music acoustically. If you enjoy the softer side of Prog, or even if you merely enjoy acoustic guitars, I highly recommend you check this one out.

Progosopher | 4/5 |


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