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.
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