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STEVE HOWE Time Warner Classics (2011)

Steve Howe

Steve Howe is currently waiting to tread the boards again with his band Yes but he has always produced consistently good solo albums.

For some Howe has always been a little jazzy and technical but this album may see him confound those sceptics and reach a wider audience especially as it is marketed on the Warner Classics imprint.

The album - a collaboration with keyboard player/producer Paul K.Joyce - is a showcase for Howe's diversity and eclecticism, taking in both acoustic, Spanish and electric guitar and is all instrumental.

From the opener Villa Lobos' 'Bachianas Brasileiras No.5 (Aria)' to Vivaldi's 'Concerto Grosso in D Minor' the emphasis is on Howe's idiosyncratic inflections and Joyce's empathic orchestrations. In places it sounds like incidental music to Inspector Morse, or some half-remembered TV soundtrack, but that shouldn't be construed as criticism. It's certainly an album to play whilst toasting nuts in front of a roaring fire.

Interestingly, Howe's distinctive thin legato style deployed on the Yes albums is only revealed on a couple of tracks including his son Virgil's sumptuous composition 'Kindred Spirits'. The result to these ears is a tad insipid.

In truth Jan Akkerman trailblazed the rock guitar/orchestra synthesis with 'Aranjuez' some 35 years ago but the feel of this album is actually closer to some of Gordon Giltrap's solo works.

The original pieces include the Spanish Guitar-led 'King's Ransom', the bouncy banjo of 'Orange', the sublime 'Purification', and attractive acoustic pieces 'Rose' and 'The 3rd Of March'.

A towering talent amongst his guitar-toting peers, a tasteful and studied performer, this release reaffirms both Steve Howe's durability and his unique voice.


Review by David Randall

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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