Review – Virgil & Steve Howe – Lunar Mist

On the 11th of September 2017 a tragic event rocked the home of Steve Howe and his family when his 41 year old son Virgil died of a sudden unexpected heart attack. Virgil and Steve had produced an album together earlier in that year, called ‘Nexus’, this was an instrumental album that brought Virgil’s drums and keyboards together with Steve’s lyrical guitar lines and tones to great effect. Well, after Virgil’s death Steve found an unused and unreleased track, Lunar Mist, that became the starting point for this album in which Steve has completed musical sketches, ideas and concepts and has added bass and guitar to complete an entirely new album. One that not only is a tribute to his son but, one that allows his legacy to continue. Again, this is fully instrumental in sound but in its fourteen tracks lie some beautifully crafted sound scapes and paintings.

The album opens with the title track, Lunar Mist, that starts with single piano notes before a lumbering tone evokes a mist rolling across the landscape. This is a very simple but effective number with lots happening musically. The drumbeat is steady and the bass and guitars lock into the rhythm as Virgil’s keyboard sound evokes the mist, I really like this track, simple yet captivating. More Than You Know features Steve on acoustic nylon string guitar, where his tone is warm and delicate, showing once again why he is so highly regarded as a master guitarist and composer/musician and its gentle nature really makes a fine impression. Plexus sees Steve laying down some suitably fluid pedal steel lines over a delicate piano track. Again, this is another masterful piece and, at seventy-five years of age, Steve Howe continues to make valid musical statements.

This is a generally laid back, mid-tempo album but within all that is the creativity and also the close connection the two had and that Steve continues to hold dear and that shows in this music.

Mariah’s Theme is another commanding piece of music that begins with what sounds like vibes and a delicate synth along with what sounds like either ring modulation or bells. Steve’s guitar is then introduced, alongside a middle eastern sound, it’s all very exotic but, once again, very effective. This is followed by the excellent A Month In The Sun, which allows Steve some space for some inventive guitar parts. The track has a lumbering, swaggering sound that is very effective. This is an album that improves with familiarity as its hidden depths are unravelled. As If Between is less successful and is more throwaway to these ears but it is only a short track so it doesn’t ruin the album. Never Less is more on point for me with a fine blend of Virgil’s piano and Steve’s nylon strung guitar making wonderful music.

Lothian’s Way is another shorter track that has more of Steve’s delicate acoustic guitar offset among a plethora of swirling keyboards. There is a bit of a Celtic effect attempted but it doesn’t really succeed to my ears, even so, it is still a strong and enjoyable piece. Free Spirit is an engaging track that is very reminiscent of those Windam Hill albums of the late 90’s as this ploughs a similar path but ,with Steve’s distinctive guitar tones, this is a definite winner of a track! Eternal opens with strong piano lines leading the music, in fact Steve’s guitar is largely absent in this track and this is a great piece even without it. Dirama is next and is another strong track with very well defined guitar lines from Steve and strong keyboards from Virgil, another brief track but it is a very worthy one.

This album has a variety of moods and tones, all of which, taken together, make for a very pleasing listening experience and you can appreciate the crafting that has turned these ideas into reality in such a gracious and worthwhile manner.

The shorter track Pinnacle is next with short bursts of guitar from Steve offset against expansive keyboards in a concise statement of intent. Pagoda sounds like it should be Oriental sounding but, sadly, is a missed opportunity perhaps? Final track Martian Mood is suitably spacey sounding with lost of ascending and descending synth lines and some great angular guitar interjections.

This concludes an album consisting of some excellent tracks in the main, along with a couple that fail to make much headway and some that could have gone in a different direction, maybe to produce better results. Either way, it’s an interesting album and one that’s definitely worth hearing in memory of Virgil. The cover is by Virgil’s daughter Zuni and very striking it is too.

Released 23rd September, 2022.

Order the album here:

Virgil & Steve Howe – Plexus (

Virgil & Steve Howe – announce release of new album “Lunar Mist”, launch title track 

Steve Howe, legendary guitarist with Yes, is pleased to announce the release of ‘Lunar Mist’ – the second collaboration with his late son Virgil Howe who tragically passed away in 2017. Continuing his journey that is fueled by the love and energies he draws from his wife Jan and their family, a passion for the guitar, and of course, the never-ending drive to create and perform music, ‘Lunar Mist’ will be launched on the 23rd September 2022. Watch the video for the album’s title track here: 

Crafted using Virgil’s unreleased material that had a connection in spirit to their debut collaboration ‘Nexus’, Steve compiled everything together in January 2021 to start work. Stemming from an unreleased bonus track, titled ‘Lunar Mist’, from their debut album, Steve worked at expanding on Virgil’s musical ideas. As Steve explains: “I started by writing chord charts for all the other tunes, before adding guitars and bass guitars to embellish them and bring them to completion. In the most part I kept them as he’d written them but sometimes I expanded them with further ideas and improvisation.”

The result is an album that is unique in both musicians body of work. “Virgil shows some different musical characteristics here that were such a joy to play on. There’s more of his great drumming and a broader inventiveness in his compositions” says Steve.

The album will be available on Limited CD Digipak, 180g Black LP + CD & Digitally, all adorned with a front cover painting by Virgil’s daughter Zuni. Pre-order the album here: 

1.         Lunar Mist 03:52

2.         More Than You Know 03:05

3.         Plexus 04:09

4.         Mariah’s Theme 03:16

5.         A Month In The Sun 04:39

6.         As If Between 02:43

7.         Never Less 02:55

8.         Lothian’s Way 03:06

9.         Free Spirit 02:45

10.       Eternal 03:09

11.       Dirama 02:38

12.       Pinnacle 02:02

13.       Pagoda 02:19

14.       Martian Mood 03:59

Music has been a constant in Steve Howe’s life. In the sixties, he made a name for himself as guitarist of psychedelic pioneers Tomorrow. Joining Yes in the seventies, he helped propel that band to progressive rock superstardom. The eighties found Steve at the top the charts once again as a founding member of supergroup Asia, and later, GTR. Concurrently, Steve developed a brilliant solo career, performing and honing his skills as a producer, releasing more than twenty albums. Together with wife Jan, he’s raised a family, and steered side projects with son Dylan in The Steve Howe Trio.

Steve Howe’s creative passion has put him on a lifelong journey on pathways, ranging from jazz, blues and classical, to folk, bluegrass and rock. His prolific solo career defies easy categorization, making each new album a venture into genre-bending territory that always bears his inimitable imprimatur. Always pushing forward with studio craft and virtuosity, each of his albums reflects the insights he has gathered along the way.

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