(All Album Reviews by progfellow)
When Yes called their third album The Yes Album, it was probably because that's when they really hit their stride and formed a distinct sound. The songs from the first two albums were soon even phased out of live performances. I wonder if by calling his second solo release The Steve Howe Album, Howe is trying to convey the same message. Not that his first album was without merit, but all but three tracks are marred by his unsettling voice. Here his voice is only heard for a mere 50 seconds or so on but one of the 10 tracks.
The real success of The Steve Howe Album is in it's variety. There is a great mixture of solos, duets and layered pieces as well as a range from the lively to the serene. There are plenty of guest musicians to liven things up, including three Yes members or alumni, an orchestra and a string ensemble, as well as a solo violin, female vocalist and so on.
The two highlights for me on this album are, first of all, the multilayered "All's a Chord". Here Steve mixes a great variety sounds from electric and acoustic guitars and bass, as well as a touch of piano and drums from Moraz and Bruford. The track builds from beautiful to urgent and then eases the tension, something Howe is a master at. My other favorite is "Look Over Your Shoulder", which features a beautiful vocal melody sung by Clair Hamill. The chord progressions on this one are wonderful. Alan White comes in halfway into the song and helps propel it into a moving finish.
Another one of the more layered tracks is the opener, which, though not quite as emotional as the aforementioned, is nevertheless a fun, lively number with some great noodly Howe-styled soloing on electric and one of his better bass parts. A few of the tracks are on the western side of things, the thought of which might be enough to send most proggers running. However, these tracks are no Garth Brooks fare- no sappy lyrics- or vocals for that matter. There's enough in these pieces that would get most Shedaisy fans booing rather quickly. Look at it this way, if you like "Clap" and the acoustic guitar section of "Disillusion" from "Starship Trooper", both off of The Yes Album, then you'll be perfectly happy here (as I am).
Quite different from these tracks, and as long as all of them put together, is "Double Rhondo". Melodic and emotional, this orchestrated piece features Steve on his Les Paul playing a very organic and beautiful tune. Meanwhile, the orchestra broadens the sounds and, at the perfect times, disappears to let the guitar shine. The final track follows this and ends the album on a calm and serene note with Vivaldi's "Concerto in D (Second Movement)". This has long been a favorite classical piece of mine and I was delighted that Steve chose to add it to his album.
A lost Yes album? Perhaps not. For the most part it doesn't have the mysticism and magnitude that one might desire from such. A great album? Absolutely. This is one I come back to time and time again and always enjoy a great deal. A must have for fans of Howe-driven Yes.