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

THE STEVE HOWE ALBUM

Steve Howe

 

Crossover Prog

3.45 | 146 ratings

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patrickq
Prog Reviewer
3 stars The Steve Howe Album is much as advertised. Four of the songs feature only Howe (I'm counting "Cactus Boogie" here - - Clive Bunker is credited with percussion but it's hard to make out), and on three others, he's backed only by an orchestra, string section, or solo violin.

But to me, the three best tracks are the ones with rock instrumentation. "All's a Chord" is played by Howe with former Yes members Bill Bruford on drums and Patrick Moraz on the piano. It's the only song Howe sings on The Steve Howe Album, and his vocals - - restricted to a one-minute span toward the end - - don't detract from the song. I won't say they're particularly strong, but they are endearing. Only two other songs include drums or keyboards: "Pennants," the album-opener, and "Look Over Your Shoulder." Here the organ and synthesizers are played by Ronnie Leahy and the drums by Yes drummer Alan White. "Look Over Your Shoulder," the other vocal song on the album, is sung very nicely by Claire Hammill. The other two songs on the first side of the vinyl, "Cactus Boogie" and "Diary of a Man Who Vanished," are also very good, making Side One the stronger of the two.

Side Two contains both of the album's solo-guitar pieces, "Meadow Rag" and "Surface Tension." While Howe is capable of composing and playing captivating guitar-only songs (e.g., "Clap," "Ram," "Masquerade"), these aren't among his stronger solo-guitar pieces. Similarly, Howe's arrangement of "The Continental," the Con Conrad - Herb Magidson song originally sung by Ginger Rogers in 1934, is inoffensive but nothing special, other than featuring some nice violin (or is that fiddle) playing.

The final fourteen-plus minutes of The Steve Howe Album is taken by two symphonic pieces, Howe's "Double Rondo" and Vivaldi's "Concerto in D, 2nd Movement." "Double Rondo" probably sounded like a good idea on paper - - a piece to establish Howe as a serious composer for the guitar, perhaps - - but in practice it drags on much too long. Unfortunately, this had already been a problem on "Beginnings," the centerpiece of Howe's previous album. If there was a lesson in Howe's failure to coax a 'mini-epic' out of "Beginnings," "Double Rondo" suggests Howe hadn't put it into practice until sometime after 1979. The Vivaldi piece, which nearly everyone will recognize as a famous lullaby, represents a very strange way to close this album. And while "strange" can be good - - like much of Howe's playing on Yes's Relayer, for example - - "Concerto in D, 2nd Movement" is stylistically disconnected from the rest of the album, even given its placement after the similarly mellow "Double Rondo."

But overall, while The Steve Howe Album is a must-have for fans of Howe and of Yes, it's also an album that many fans of symphonic or guitar-based prog will enjoy.

patrickq | 3/5 |

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