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Steve Howe - Paul Sutin & Steve Howe: Seraphim CD (album) cover

PAUL SUTIN & STEVE HOWE: SERAPHIM

Steve Howe

Crossover Prog


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Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars You want to buy my shop? Well OK, but only if you'll play on my pal's album

In 1988, Steve Howe and Alan White purchased a health food shop from a chap by the name of Terry Yallop. Yallop had ambitions in terms of the music industry, and had already set up a record label dedicated to new age music. He happened to introduce one of his artists, a Swiss musician by the name of Paul Sutin to Steve Howe. The two got talking about their mutual musical interests, and agreed to work together. Sutin was already working on an album at the time, and persuaded Howe to contribute to it, the resulting release "Serpahim" being credited equally to both. The duo was joined by keyboard player Carlo Bettini, who also receives a shared composition credit on the title track.

Sutin's style can be conveniently, if not entirely accurately, described as new age. Howe was keen to try his hand at a more relaxing, less abrasive style of music at the time, so the collaboration with Sutin immediately appealed to him. While on their second album together ("Voyagers"), the balance would be far more equal, here Sutin is noticeably the more dominant, if indeed it is possible to be dominant in a new age context!

The music here is certainly easy to listen to and totally relaxing. The new age tenets of simple repeating melodies and carefully selected sounds are very much in evidence, especially when Sutin is playing alone or accompanied only by Bettini. When Steve adds his subtle colours though, such as the pedal steel on the opening "A Venetian passage", the tracks begin to evolve into something altogether more rewarding. Howe's contributions tend to be less obtrusive than on "Voyagers", but even here they are highly relevant.

The 8 minute title track is probably the pick of the bunch from the album, Howe's gentle improvisations being backed by orchestral keyboards layers. The track sounds a bit like an extended coda to one of Yes' epic pieces. The closing number, "Marco's journey", features additional flute and sax played by Barry Schulmann, his contribution equalling the understated subtlety of Howe's.

In summary, a pleasantly relaxing album which, while primarily being of the new age type, does include some fine performances by the protagonists.

Report this review (#179568)
Posted Thursday, August 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
2 stars This can only be described as new age. It even commits both cardinal sins of new age triteness, sound effects of birds and water. And Steve Howe is more of a guest artist on this album. You can only tell that it's Howe playing on two tracks, Passione Magica and the title track, Seraphim.

Now I don't fault anyone for wanting to play this type of music, and Howe certainly has more than enough albums that cater towards my tastes, but I don't have to like it. But I suppose it could be worse. It could be a dismal as Eno's ambient albums.

Report this review (#267528)
Posted Monday, February 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
1 stars Steve's answer to Jon & Vangelis?

Seraphim is not a Steve Howe solo album per se, but a collaborative effort with a New-Age artist named Paul Sutin. This is not a Classical guitar album with a bit of keyboards in the background; rather, it is a New-Age album with a bit of (mostly) acoustic guitar in the background. There are even bird noises in the background on some tracks! Only occasionally does Steve come to the fore with a few barely recognizable acoustic or sometimes electric guitar notes, but never something "flashy". Soft keyboards dominate the proceedings and not Steve's guitar playing. The "other" Steve, Steve Hackett, did a similar thing on his collaboration with Gandalf, another New-Age artist.

This wholly instrumental music is extremely subtle and clearly designed for relaxation rather than attentive listening. It is the perfect kind of music to have in the background while reading things that require much attention. The arrangements are never complex and the sound is never anywhere near aggressive.

The quality of the recording is by no means poor, and the result cannot be described as anything but pleasant even if utterly unexciting. Still, this is a fine album of easy listening, but for Prog fans there is nothing of real interest here. Not even for Steve Howe's most ardent fans (like this reviewer) is there anything of particular interest. Maybe it is best seen as a Paul Sutin album full stop?

Report this review (#288640)
Posted Tuesday, June 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
1 stars This album fails on several levels. Let's review:

It fails as a Steve Howe album. He is only given partial credit for five of the nine tracks, because these are the only ones he plays on. And yet he is playing background accompaniment to the piano parts played by Sutin, sometimes with Carlo Bettini, who also gets some writing credit. When I buy a Steve Howe album I buy it for the guitar; the music must center around the guitar. There is no other reason to buy a Steve Howe album. Sure, there may be other stuff on it, but without the guitar it is not a Steve Howe album. Period. Said. Done. Howe's guitar is minimal on Seraphim. Really, this is Paul Sutin's album. He's composer and co-composer on all the tracks, he produced it, and it was apparently recorded in his recording studio. To Steve's credit, however, what he does contribute to the album is beautifully tasteful.

It also fails as a new age album. What was that? New age? Yes, that is what it is. Now, the new age movement in music began in the 70s. The idea was that certain tones and frequencies of sound correspond with the natural world, and that by listening to these tones and frequencies people would heal themselves. At the very least it would make them feel better. New age music is also supposed to be relaxing. Seraphim is not relaxing. Its boring. Sutin's insipid piano sound dominates the entire album. He does not uplift our spirits by his dulcet tones, he puts us to sleep with his lackluster pieces. The music is not spiritual, it is soporific. It is also sophomoric.

Lastly, it fails the integrity test. Steve Howe should not be given first billing on this album, nor even equal billing. To do so is simply a commercially minded act. We all know which name involved would generate the most butter. It is misleading. It is just like John Wayne getting star billing for the film The Longest Day, a three-hour snooze fest where he does not even fill five minutes of screen time. This is both disingenuous and dishonest. When this album first came out in 1988, Steve Howe seemed to have been at a crossroads in his life. Yes was in the past. So was Asia, and even GTR. What was he to look forward to? At least Seraphim is something different. But different does not always mean good. To make it an honest album, there needs to be more Steve than Paul here. I laud Steve Howe for going in a new direction, but did it have to be this drivel?

Seraphim is for completionists only. If you have every other Steve Howe album made, and this includes those not yet recorded, I recommend you make this the very last one to purchase. If you plan on completing your Howe collection at some time, don't search this one out. Wait to find it cheap. The dollar bin might be a good place for it.

Report this review (#293203)
Posted Monday, August 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
1 stars Not a kind of music Steve Howe fans would be normally pursuing, but as a part of exploration less favorably rated albums of his, this was an inevitable choice. I simply got to listen for myself what's so bad about it.

Well, nothing, if you are New Age fan. I am not, music for relaxation actually does the exact opposite of its intended effect - it makes me irritated and nervous. I don't know how to face it. But it gets worse. Steve's contribution is barely noticeable here. It can be played by any random musician, it's so generic NA that it makes me scream and wish it was all over.

1(-), no understanding here, big letdown.

Report this review (#555019)
Posted Saturday, October 22, 2011 | Review Permalink

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