Review – Steve Howe – Love Is – by John Wenlock-Smith

‘Love Is’, is the latest solo album from Yes guitarist Steve Howe. Steve has been the guitarist in Yes since the ‘Close To The Edge’ album in 1972 and in that time his guitar mastery has entranced millions of fans with his unique style and skill on both electric and acoustic guitars, his harmony vocals also playing a supporting role to the vocals that made Yes so famous. His incisive guitar work was also heard on the original brace of albums by Asia, especially on the huge radio hit Heat of The Moment, among many others

Asia were the group he revisited on several occasions over the years but this new solo album is a little different in that it features current Yes vocalist Jon Davison on the vocal tracks which comprise five of the albums ten tracks. Jon also provides bass guitar on these same five tracks. In reality  the album is all fairly laid back with only a few songs raising the pace but, somehow, this doesn’t really matter for what we have here is a master craftsman at work, still striving to push himself forward and make new music that is worthy and has merit.

This is certainly the case here, especially on the vocal tracks as these have a real edge to them delivered by Jon Davison. These songs also have a feel of Yes to them, even without the rest of the band onboard. Certainly one can see It Ain’t Easy finding a place on a Yes album and it being a highpoint of that, just as it is here. Also worth a mention is the delicate steel guitar on the instrumental Pause For Thought, which shows Steve’s nimble finger work off to great effect, its complex playing proving quite strident, making it one of the better tracks. This playing is quite lyrical really making this a song without words and sounding very good too!

Imagination also has that same strident feel to it, being the better for it too. The song has some fine playing from Steve. While his playing here is song cantered and is not focused on showing off on fiery solo’s, the solo’s that he does deliver are brief and fleeting, aimed to fit in with the tone of the songs or the moods of the pieces. In all honesty, this plays to the strength of the songs as an overall album and it is probably best appreciated as such.

This is a good album by a great musician and, while there is nothing here that makes you go wow!, if you let the music do the talking and you are prepared to listen to it, you will find snatches of real skill and moments of beauty. Like those found in The Headlands where Steve finally lets rip  with some sublime guitar lines backed by some fine acoustic guitar. This song is possibly my favourite on the album, although I also like See Me Through and Fulcrum, both of which are really satisfying to hear. The title track Love Is A River is also a stand out moment that shouldn’t be missed.

I do feel that it would have been good to hear more of Steve really cutting loose and tearing up his fretboard but, hey, at seventy odd he probably isn’t interested in doing that any more. Instead we’ll just have to be happy to settle for the amazing craft he brings to these pieces.   

The final track, On The Balcony, has the most rock orientated feel to it, with its chugging riff and rhythm moving it along nicely. This has a good use of dynamics to it really but, overall, I feel that many fans will simply not bother to listen to this album wanting the next Yes album instead, and that is very is sad as this disc has many moods to it and a hell of a lot to commend it.

Personally, I am very glad to have heard this and wish Steve all the best for this album’s success. He has created an album that rewards the diligent listener and, on that basis, I can highly recommend it to you. If your knowledge of Steve Howe is limited to key Yes albums and the Asia material then you really should give this album a try. Steve has released a lot of albums over the years, from his first ‘Beginnings’ and ‘The Steve Howe Album’, both in the mid 1970’s, to the more recent ‘Nexus’ (with son Virgil) and the Steve Howe Trio albums and, in my honest opinion, ‘Love Is’ stands comparison with the best of those.     

Released 31st July, 2020

Pre-order the album from Burning Shed here:

https://burningshed.com/store/stevehowe

Steve Howe, YES guitarist, releases his solo album LOVE IS on 31st July.

Legendary Yes guitarist Steve Howe has announced he is to release Love Is on 31st July through BMG Records. Love Is is Howe’s first solo album since the all-instrumental Time in 2011 and has a balance of five instrumental tracks and five songs. 

The album will be available as CD – gatefold digi-sleeve with 12 page booklet and LP – Black vinyl 180gm with gatefold sleeve, liner notes and lyrics. 

Link to Steve Howe Official store pre-orders: https://SteveHowe.lnk.to/D2CPR

Link to Amazon pre-orders:https://SteveHowe.lnk.to/LoveIsPR

Steve Howe sings lead vocals and plays electric, acoustic and steel guitars, keyboards, percussion and bass guitar on the instrumentals while Yes vocalist Jon Davison provides vocal harmonies and plays bass guitar on the vocal tracks. The album also features Dylan Howe on drums.

Many years in the making, Love Is brings together a consistently strong and polished listening experience, forging the very best from the writing and playing throughout the album. This may well be considered the real ‘stand out’ album of Howe’s solo career. The instrumentals keep a highly progressive rock guitar style to the fore, with songs that explore stories of lives lived and lives only just begun. Love Is A River is the central longer song with several textural shifts, featuring a theme played on 12 string and steel guitars.

Portrait of English progressive rock musician Steve Howe, taken on February 3, 2020. (Photo by Will Ireland/Prog Magazine)

I called the album Love Is because it hints at the central idea that that love is important but also love of the universe and the ecology of the world is very important,” says Steve Howe. “Alexander Humboldt went around the world and recognised we are destroying the planet but that was 200 years ago! We are still destroying the planet and, I suppose, my songs show the yearning I have for the love of nature and how beauty, art and music all stem from nature. There is a theme about those things, love, beauty, ecology, nature and wonderful people.

Love Is A River just seemed a very important track to me, a sort of quintessential track with lots of moods, lots of interesting things going on with steel guitars and acoustic guitars. Further tracks grew from time spent writing in my studio.

See Me Through looks at the idea that we get through life by not driving ourselves that hard but attempting to achieve things with people who help you along the way and Imagination is dedicated to my granddaughter Zuni. It’s about how I see some of the things she’s experienced in her short seven years.”

I invited Jon Davison to sing harmonies with me and add bass on the songs. If he was singing on the songs I thought why doesn’t he play bass as well and it turned out nice. He’s been with Yes for seven or eight years and he’s a great guy, great performer and a great interpreter of Yes songs.I’ve been singing for years, mainly in harmony but I’ve sung lead on lots of my own albums before and I feel that, as I’ve got older, I’ve got a grip on that and, hopefully, it’s improved over the years.

The album includes many distinctive Steve Howe signatures among the instrumental tracks from the delicate beauty of FulcrumBeyond The Call and Pause For Thought to upbeat rock, The Headlands, and the jazz-tinged Sound Picture.

The instrumentals are like a mood, a place I went to one day, thought this is nice and then I develop that to a point where it’s a finished track. There might be key ingredients that I thought about using musically that I like, that I’m drawn to, and then developing them into something.

Love Is was written, engineered and produced by Steve Howe with further engineering and mixing by Curtis Schwartz. “I write in my own studio and then go to see Curtis in his studio,” Howe explains. “We expand the tracks and put them on Pro Tools and everything starts to be possible. At some point, probably around 2 years ago, Dylan came down to Curtis’s studio and we recorded the drums on some of the tracks. I could see a balance of five instrumental tracks and five songs and there was a feeling that it was an album, sitting there, looking at me.”

The track listing for Steve Howe’s Love Is album is:

1 Fulcrum (instrumental)

2 See Me Through

3 Beyond The Call (instrumental)

4 Love Is A River

5 Sound Picture (instrumental)

6 It Ain’t Easy

7 Pause For Thought (instrumental)

8 Imagination

9 The Headlands (instrumental)

10 On The Balcony

Formats:

CD Catalogue No. 538608592 Gatefold digi leeve with 12 page booklet with liner notes by Steve Howe & lyrics

LP – Catalogue Number – 538608601180gm Black vinyl in Gatefold sleeve with liner notes by Steve Howe & lyrics

Release date: 31st July 2020


Link to Steve Howe Official store pre-orders: https://SteveHowe.lnk.to/D2CPLink to Amazon pre-orders: https://SteveHowe.lnk.to/LoveIsPR

YES Announces UK Tour The Album Series 2020

YES, one of the most innovative of all prog-rock bands, and true legends of the genre, have announced a 8-date UK tour for May and June of 2020. The Album Series 2020 Tour will feature their 1974 Relayer album in its entirety together with a selection of other classic YES favourites. An extensive European tour will be announced soon.

This tour follows their 2018 highly successful #YES50 Anniversary tour and again features the line-up of Steve Howe (guitars), Alan White (drums), Geoff Downes (keyboards), Billy Sherwood (bass guitar and backing vocals), Jon Davison (vocals) and Jay Schellen (additional drums and percussion).

The show will comprise two sets by the band with full production and a high definition video wall. The first will feature favourite classic tracks from YES’ extensive catalogue. The second will feature
Relayer, the seventh studio album by YES, and one of the band’s most distinctive. Relayer marked a slight change in direction as Patrick Moraz replaced Rick Wakeman on keyboards bringing an edgier, avant-garde feel to the album. This was perfect for the opening track Gates Of Delirium, almost 22minutes in length, with its battle scene featuring the keyboard of Moraz and Steve Howe’s guitar. The battle gives way to the beautiful closing ballad Soon, a prayer for peace and hope.

The album continues with Sound Chaser, a prog-rock-jazz fusion experiment heavily influenced by Moraz’s style and To Be Over, a calm and gentle conclusion to the album, based on a melody by Steve Howe.
Released in late 1974 on Atlantic Records, Relayer continued YES’ success reaching number 4 in the UK album chart and number 5 in the US Billboard chart.

“We are really looking forward to playing ALL of the Relayer album” says Steve Howe. “Having premiered The Gates Of Delirium this year, we continue by expanding our Album Series with all the tracks: The Gates Of Delirium, Sound Chaser and To Be Over.” Howe goes on to say: “During the first half of the evening we’ll be performing a refined selection from Yes’ enormous 50 year + repertoire. See you there!”

Alan White comments: “I always enjoy coming home to England so I’m especially looking forward to Yes’ upcoming “Album Series 2020” tour. “Relayer” I believe, is one of the most creative and interesting musical compilations in the bands repertoire. Challenging and extremely enjoyable to play, I’m happy to be bringing this music back to live stages throughout Europe. I hope all who attend our shows will enjoy these cuts as much as we like performing them for our audiences.”

UK dates are as follows:
Tuesday 26 May Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

Wednesday 27 May Nottingham Royal Concert Hall

Friday 29 May York Barbican

Saturday 30 May Gateshead The Sage

Sunday 31 May Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Tuesday 2 June Birmingham Symphony Hall

Wednesday 3 June Manchester Bridgewater Hall

Friday 5 June London Royal Albert Hall

Tickets go onsale at 10.00am Friday 11th October and are available from: 24hr Ticket Hotline: 0844 249 2222 bookingsdirect.com Meet & Greet packages available, for info go to yesworld.com Showtime is 8pm.
Roger Dean will attend every show on the UK and European dates, and will have an exhibition of his iconic art, will be available to chat with fans front of house and sign merch, plus will be in the VIP meet and greets.

ABOUT YES
Steve Howe: guitars, backing vocals (1970 – 1981, 1990- 1992, 1995 – present), Alan White: drums, percussion (1972 – present), Geoff Downes: keyboards (1980 – 1981, 2011 – present), Jon Davison: lead vocals, acoustic guitar (2012 – present)Billy Sherwood: guitar, backing vocals ((1994, 1997 – 2000), bass guitar, backing vocals (2015 – present)

Formed in 1968 by Jon Anderson and the late, and much-missed, Chris Squire, YES have been one of the most innovative, influential and best-loved bands in rock music history. Their 1970s albums The Yes Album, Fragile, Close To The Edge, Yessongs (a triple live album set), Tales From Topographic Oceans, Relayer and Going For The One were ground-breaking in musical style and content. Their music also became synonymous with artist Roger Dean whose distinctive YES logo design and artwork adorned the lavish gatefold presentation sleeves of many YES albums.With sales of over 50 million records, the Grammy-award winning YES were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2017 where they performed Roundabout from the album Fragile and the FM radio-friendly Owner Of A Lonely Heart from the 1985 album 90125.

UK www.yesworld.comwww.facebook.com/yesthebandwww.twitter.com/yesofficialwww.youtube.com/user/yesofficialwww.instagram.com/yesofficialsoundcloud.com/yesofficial

Review – Yes – Fly From Here: Return Trip (Actually by “Yes – The Drama Line-Up”) – by Roy Hunter

I’ve been a fan of Yes (in it’s many guises) since I bought their 1st album back in 1969… I discovered King Crimson at The Rolling Stones’ “free in the park” concert, July 5th 1969 – and avidly sought out any music in this new as yet unidentified genre we now lovingly call “Prog”… So the ‘Yes Album‘ (the black cover) was maybe my third or fourth proggy purchase…

Oh what a joy, nearly 50 years on, to get my hands on this “new” release from one of my much-loved bands!

So what do we get here? A revamp of the 2011 release – the much maligned “Fly From Here” issue – the one with Canadian Benoît David as lead singer. I’m not reviewing THAT album per se, but obviously one can’t help compare it with this new release.

‘Fly From Here: Return Trip’ – sees the return of Trevor Horn as lead vocalist. No, his voice doesn’t have the range of Jon Anderson, Benoît David or Jon Davison, but as he wrote most of the material, I defy anybody to say he shouldn’t be the lead singer on this album! He does a creditable job, you can hear every word, and the differences in the production actually make this the better album in my opinion.

The fact that Chris Squire (R.I.P) is a feature of this line-up brings a sense of continuity from that far off ’69 Yes album… And of course the much admired (and often denigrated) “Drama” album of 1980… This re-release of “Fly…” is almost like a Drama, part II

There has been some tweaking of the tunes here and there, the production has shortened some by a few seconds, and if you listen closely you’ll pick out the changed/upgraded moments throughout the “Fly…” suite.

Also included on the album is an extra track, but the highlight for me is the doubling in length of the piece called Hour Of Need… Originally 3 minutes 7 seconds, thin voiced and low production has metamorphosed into a full-on prog track of 6 minutes 44 seconds!! Once the vocal part concludes we get Steve Howe in a display of just how great a musician he is! Brilliant, and it makes the second half of the album march on… literally!!

The extra track?? Don’t Take No For An Answer… It is a good bonus track, but some weakness in the vocal does show up here. Am I being super critical? I don’t think so, as the tune itself is so much better than a lot of pulp we get thrown at us these days.

In conclusion, of the 2 albums, this is the superior release, and I would have bought it, in my hour of need, for the re-vamped Hour Of Need.

That aside, it is a completist’s delight!

Released 25th March 2018

Order ‘Fly From Here: Return Trip here

See Yes on BBC Breakfast: