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

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:

YES Release Fly From Here – Return Trip featuring Trevor Horn on Vocals on 25th March

On 25th March prog icons, YES, will release a brand-new mix of their album Fly From Here – Return Trip, featuring the Drama line-up and new lead vocals by Trevor Horn, to coincide with their 50th Anniversary celebrations.

Fly From Here – Return Trip can be pre-ordered via Pledge Music here:

https://yesthedramalineup.pmstores.co/

The original 2011 release of Fly From Here featured the band members who appeared on Drama: Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Alan White, Geoff Downes, plus Benoit David on lead vocals with Trevor Horn in the role of Producer.

The addition of Trevor’s lead vocals has produced a genuine sequel to Drama. Fly From Here – Return Trip was developed as a labour of love for all involved and the new vocals were recorded over the last two years amidst other commitments. Trevor began re-recording the lead vocals the day after he guested with YES at the Royal Albert Hall in 2016 and within 24 hours the rest of the band had joined him at his studio. Additional overdubs by other members have also been added.

In addition to remixing parts of the album, Trevor has added personal liner notes and the sleeve design features the painting by Roger Dean originally used on the inside of the 2011 edition.

Trevor Horn says: “I really enjoyed listening to Alan and Chris playing together again. Finishing off the album was a labour of love.”

Fly From Here – Return Trip also contains a previously unreleased song, ‘Don’t Take No for an Answer’ recorded in 2011, with Steve Howe on lead vocals. Additionally, the full-length version of ‘Hour of Need’ is included. This has previously only been included as a Japanese bonus track.

“It is great to have the original Drama line up playing Fly From Here plus several other songs Trevor had a big part in writing.” Comments Steve Howe.

Geoff Downes adds: “It’s quite amazing what Trevor has done with the album and the way it has turned out. It is most refreshing and adds a whole new dimension to the original recordings from 2011. I think the fans will appreciate it as a genuine sequel to the Drama album, and embrace it as a valuable part of our YES50 celebrations.”

Track Listing:-

Fly From Here – Overture

Fly From Here Pt 1 – We Can Fly

Fly From Here Pt 2 – Sad Night at the Airfield

Fly From Here Pt 3 – Madman at the Screens

Fly From Here Pt 4 – Bumpy Ride

Fly From Here Pt 5 – We Can Fly (Reprise)

The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be

Life on a Film Set

Hour of Need (full length version)

Solitaire

Don’t Take No for an Answer

Into the Storm

The album is a long-awaited treat for all YES fans and following Chris Squire’s passing in 2015, represents the last chance for fans to hear a follow-up to the classic YES release Drama which reached number 2 in the UK album charts in 1980.

The album is available to pre-order now exclusively via Pledge Music, plus some extra Roger Dean images and Pledge offers, and fans will be able to collect their orders, or buy direct for the first time, when YES attends the 50th Anniversary Fan Convention at the London Palladium on 25th March 2018 as part of their eagerly anticipated March 2018 UK tour. Trevor Horn will be guesting with Yes at the London Palladium [both shows] and Paris. Please see the tour dates below.

MARCH 2018 (UK & Europe)

 

Tues 13th Bristol            Colston Hall
Wed 14th    Sheffield       City Hall
Fri 16th        Glasgow       SEC Armadillo
Sat 17th        Manchester   Bridgewater Hall
Sun 18th       Gateshead    Sage
Tues 20th      Birmingham  Symphony Hall
Wed 21st    Brighton       Centre
Fri 23rd        Liverpool       Philharmonic Hall
Sat 24th        London       Palladium
Sun 25th        London       Palladium
Tue 27th        Tilburg       013
Wed 28th      Antwerp       De Roma
Fri 30th         Paris       Olympia

 

UK Tickets available from BookingsDirect.com 24hr Ticket Hotline 0844 249 2222 (subject to fees). Also available from venue box offices and select authorised ticket agencies.
Front row, Meet & Greet & VIP packages are available from YESWORLD.com
There is no support.   Please see ticket for start time.

 

Review – Virgil & Steve Howe – Nexus – by James R. Turner

Nexus: noun 1) a connection or series of connections linking two or more things, 2) a central or focal point.

Now I don’t normally start reviews with quotes from the dictionary, but it seemed apt here to draw the music to the title, thoughts which I shall return to.

I have always been a great believer that those musicians who are flesh and blood, kith and kin have a unique bond that no musician in band can ever emulate.

Siblings like the Everley Brothers, the Wilson brothers from the Beach Boys, and then familial musical units like the mercurial Waterson:Carthy (father Martin Carthy, mother Norma Waterson and daughter Eliza Carthy) or the majestic Thompson family, Richard and former wife Linda at the top with son Teddy, daughters Muna and Kami and grandson Jack Hobbs, not necessarily proof that the families who play together stay together, but proof of an intrinsic knowledge and interplay that is based far more on the gene than the group.

Again heading closer to home, having seen Rick and Adam Wakeman together in action, familial musicians can second guess the other, there’s a shared bond, a shared connection and a lot of soul going into collaborating together, and it reflects in the tightness of the music played, and the enjoyment the listener gets from hearing it.

Sadly on this album, the joy of the playing, and the magic contained within is bittersweet, as most of you will be aware that multi-instrumentalist Virgil Howe sadly passed away on 11th September, so this album stands as full stop instead of a new chapter, a story ending.

This fact does colour the perception of the record sadly, and the overall feeling throughout is one of loss, not from the music, which I’ll come onto later, but the loss of one hell of a talented individual with so much more to contribute. (he was 41 years old, just short of 2 years older than me when he passed away, brings your own mortality into sharp contrast). The Howe family could, in their grief over such a massive loss, sat on this album, and it’s to their credit that they are letting this album out as planned, as a perfect musical tribute to a beloved son, brother and it goes without saying that all of our thoughts are with them during their time of grief.

Virgil Howe first came to my attention back in 2003 when he gave some of the Yes back catalogue an inspired overhaul on the ‘Yes Remixes’ album, which, after ‘Open Your Eyes’ is probably the most divisive Yes release. I thought it was bloody marvellous how he’d taken older songs and put a fresh spin on them with style and without losing any of the original charm.

As a drummer, which is how he plied his trade, he was ever present in Little Barrie and also for the FSOL Amourphous Androgynous tour, working with artists as diverse as his father and the Pet Shop Boys as well as forging as big a reputation as his father, but in a completely different musical sphere.

Here, ‘Nexus’ is the meeting of two musical minds, where Steve Howe lets his guitar doing all the talking (performing on acoustic/electric and steel guitars) and Virgil does everything else (keyboard,piano, synth, bass and drums) in the press release for this record Steve states that “We started to work together in 2016 by selecting about nine tunes from his ‘stockpile’ of piano based music that he’d periodically sent Jan & I each time he’d written and recorded a new idea. I began adding guitars to them, then I’d play them to Virgil. He’d then surprise me by bringing up other channels of instrumentation which I’d never heard. The tunes went from straightforward ‘duets’ to something bigger & better, more of a complete picture than a mere shape.”

This inventive playfulness is at the heart of this record, and being a canny musician and producer Virgil is well aware that when you have Steve Howe playing guitars you don’t mess about.

The opener and title track eases us straight in with some of that instantly recognizable guitar work, before Virgil cleverly builds the song around it, his piano work providing a brilliant counterpoint to the guitar as both soar until all that is stripped away leaving a sublime Howe guitar solo and drum beat, that builds into a shimmering climax.

Hidden Planet flips it on it’s head being all skittering beats, descending piano chords and elements of drum and bass sneaking in, showing Virgil’s background, as amidst the funk he weaves through some astonishing guitar work, that just fits perfectly.

There are examples of both of their musical abilities that shine throughout this album, the haunting piano and guitar duet on Leaving Aurora for instance or the heartbreaking musical poignancy in Nick’s Star (a tribute from Virgil to his best friend Nick Hirsh who had passed away). Astral Plane comes closest to the most traditionally progressive sound on here, an instrumental of the sort that would fit on any Yes album of the last 20 years, whilst Infinite Space is an absolute belter of a song, encapsulating the album into one 2 minute piece.

There isn’t a bad track on this all instrumental album, and what Virgil ever so carefully, and cleverly does, is take the best of his Steves guitar work (which is exemplary here, he is sounding relaxed, sounding powerful and above all, sounding like he is having an absolute blast) whilst doing something ever so slightly different with what you would expect.

This twist moves this away from the traditional prog sound that you would expect from Steve, and into new, and exciting territory.

As a complete record it brings both generations together, pulling Steve’s experience as one of prog’s finest guitarists, and Virgil’s experience as a contemporary rock drummer and skilled DJ into one coherent whole, where the contradictory styles create a well produced and performed musical concept. It’s spans generations, genres and disciplines to create an album that is as timeless as it is genre-less, and that is Virgil’s skill on here, he coaxes the best out of Steve, and then sympathetically and cleverly works round the riffs to create musical duets, taking the guitar lines as living breathing things to be shaped and moulded. Which is why it works so well on so many levels, he’s not taking Steve’s work as sacrosant and not playing with it, however there’s also that familial intuition at work, where he knows instinctively what will work well where, and it shows both of them, world class musicians at the top of their game.

This album could have worked as the start of fruitful and exciting familial collaboration (would have been really interesting to see Virgil, Steve and Dylan Howe working together) but sadly it isn’t to be. Instead this diamond of a release is one to be celebrated and enjoyed as a living breathing record, performed by a Father and Son who sound like they are taking great delight in doing what both of them do best, and that is how we should enjoy it, as a celebration of life, of art and of the power of music to unite us in both sorrow and joy.

Released 17th November 2017

Order ‘Nexus’ from InsideOut Music