What does it sound like?:
This three cd set is a companion piece to 2015’s Anthology release. That two cd album concentrated exclusively on Howe’s solo pieces, whereas this focuses on his work as part of a group or in collaboration with other artists.
Now three cds worth is an awful lot of Steve Howe, even for a Yes fan like myself, so this is one that is best appreciated over several sittings.
It starts in the mid sixties with various small time outfits he briefly played with, before moving on to his first ‘proper’ band Bodast. There are a handful of tracks from this pseudo early- proggy band but surprisingly not including Nether Street, which later became the basis for The Wurm section of the Yes classic Starship Trooper. To be honest, most of this early stuff is interesting to hear once, but it’s not really something you’d return to too often. We then move on to the Yes years, perhaps too predictably with Roundabout, but then not so predictably with the excellent Tempus Fugit from the still very underrated Drama album. Onward then to his time with Asia – a band I always felt I ought to like but I could never quite get into their prog-lite style despite my best efforts. Even their most well known song Heat Of The Moment sounds very dated now. The first cd ends with a couple of tracks from his much vaunted but short lived project with Steve Hackett, GTR, which promised much but singularly failed to deliver.
The second disc continues the chronological sequence with sadly just one AWBH track, followed by a couple of unreleased takes from The Union album by the reconstituted Yes. These are described as unreleased, which I suppose is technically correct, but they are in fact just the backing tracks he put together for the recordings. The Yes theme continues with a studio piece from Keys To Ascension vol 2 – even know I feel they threw away a good studio album by spreading all the new material they’d recorded over the two KTA ‘half studio/half live’ albums, where no-one seemed to pay it any attention whatsoever. There follow a few songs from the less well known/successful later period Yes albums – From The Balcony from the frankly poor Open Your Eyes, Nine Voices from the patchy The Ladder album and We Agree from Magnification, which remains the last studio album featuring Jon Anderson. We then move to Howe’s second spell with Asia with five largely pleasant but immediately forgettable songs, before returning to Yes, with a Japan only bonus track from Fly From Here, which doesn’t set the world on fire, and a mercifully edited track from the last Yes album, the truly dire Heaven and Earth.
Finally we reach disc number three. This starts promisingly with a collaboration with Billy Currie of Ultravox, and the Fish version of Time And A Word, which eventually saw the light of day on the reissue of Fish’s Songs From The Mirror cover versions set – an album I liked a lot, although it’s a long time since I last played it. There’s also a couple of ok pieces with Annie Haslam, including a cover of Turn Of The Century, and a good track with Oliver Wakeman – I’d like to have heard more of this, and I shall be looking up the album it’s taken from, The Three Ages Of Magick, for further listening. The rest of the disc is taken up with previously unreleased work with Keith West, who worked with Howe on his solo album The Grand Scheme Of Things, and Max West, presumably from the aborted post GTR project Neurotrend. Rather like the beginning of the first cd, these are interesting to listen to once or twice, but there’s not really much to draw you back again.
Inevitably perhaps, the album artwork is by Roger Dean, and there is a very interesting thirty-two booklet with lots of details on the origins of the music.
What does it all *mean*?
Despite this being a compilation, it’s not really one that will appeal to the casual fan with a vague interest in Howe’s work – 56 tracks over three cds is a lot to take on board even for the devotee. If you’re a completist though, you will no doubt love the wealth of unreleased material on this very comprehensive collection.
Goes well with…
An evening of prog, but best enjoyed in small doses.
Might suit people who like…
Howe’s solo work, Yes, prog, guitars.