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Steve Howe - The Steve Howe Album CD (album) cover

THE STEVE HOWE ALBUM

Steve Howe

 

Crossover Prog

3.41 | 98 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Whoa! This is a really good album! Honestly, I wasn't expecting a lot from this album, given that Steve's solo debut had been so unappealing and that Tormato, the last Yes album before this one, hadn't exactly captured Steve at a high point. This is better than Beginnings or Tormato by an incredible amount, though, and while it becomes clear as the album goes on that Steve Howe doesn't have quite the same potential as a solo artist as, say, Steve Hackett did, this album nonetheless shows that he was perfectly capable of making a good album on his own. Plus, I kinda admire the cajones required to draw parallels to one of Yes' best albums with the album title; this works every bit as well as a statement of purpose for Steve as The Yes Album did as a statement of purpose for his new band in 1971.

The biggest improvement for this album over the last one, without a question, is that Steve is almost silent as a singer, except for some understated, quiet vocals near the end of "All's a Chord," where they're almost an afterthought. In fact, the only other track with vocals is the side-one closer "Look Over Your Shoulder," where Steve employs the services of one Claire Hamill, who sounds so much here like Annie Haslam (of Renaissance fame) that I was convinced it was actually her the first few times I listened to this (until I looked it up and found out it wasn't). The track is a major highlight, by the way, with Claire giving a nice vocal part to an atmospheric rocker full of varied guitar work (the main theme of the album), pulsating bass (also done by Steve) and some powerful drumming from Alan White.

The rest of the album (all instrumental, except for the aforementioned snippet of Howe vocals) is all about showcasing all of the different guitar types and musical styles that struck Steve's fancy, and it's a major breath of fresh air after Tormato had him not sounding his very best (and after Beginnings tried so hard to be prog that it forgot to be good). My personal preference out of the lot is towards the opening "Pennants" (funny that I'd instinctually gravitate towards the tracks with White on drums even before I knew for sure it was him) which starts off on such a rocking note and with such a great guitar tone that I find myself utterly perplexed as to why he couldn't have had a sound like that on Tormato. The song's center is a rock one, held down by White's steady drumming and solid riffage, but it's a great showcase of ideas and themes for guitar and keys, and the variety of guitar sounds pulled out in this track is just fascinating. The variety peak, though, is definitely in the previously mentioned "All's a Chord" (with Moraz on keys and Bruford on drums) where Steve plays eight different kinds (!!) of guitar (to be fair, one is bass, but still) and creates something that works as much more than just a technique demonstration.

The rest of the album is a little background music-y, but I quite like it. The first half (all of the tracks so far mentioned are in the first half) is rounded out by "Cactus Boogie," a fun mix of banjo, Les Paul and pedal steel, and "Diary of a Man Who Vanished" is either really upbeat for a slightly sad number or really mournful for a cheerful number, but a winner either way. In the second half, I find my attention drifting some, but taken track by track, things here are fine. I would say that, if there's a clear mistake, it was in putting the 8-minute "Double Rondo," a decent mix of guitar meanderings with a string arrangement right before the closing cover of the 2nd movement of Vivaldi's "Concerto in D," only because the Vivaldi piece is soooo much better than what comes before it. Of the remaining three tracks, "Meadow Rag" is a fun bit of acoustic rag (I wouldn't want to hear a whole album of this kind of music necessarily, but having one an album is fine by me), "The Continental" is kinda jazzy and bluesgrassy (I guess), and "Surface Tension" is a good bit of acoustic Spanish guitar. Again, not essential listening, but all very nice.

Look, this may not quite be a great album, but it's definitely a very good album, and it's easily in the upper tier of Yes solo albums. Heck, I like it more than Fish Out of Water, and I'm pretty sure that puts me in a minority among fans who care about both. Anybody who's a fan of Steve as a guitarist (and really, why else would people be a fan of him?) should seek this out at some point.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |

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