What does it sound like?:
You know with Steve Howe the guitar tone will be exquisite, as will be be the playing. Awkward arty post-punk buggers like Keith Levene get it as much as involuntarily-celibate centre-parted Afghan-wearing (do they still exist?) teen progressive rock fans, and many men of a certain age (and their long-suffering wives). “Love Is” is Steve Howe’s latest solo album, and the initial tracks of “Fulcrum” and “See me Through” are recognisably Yes-ish (particularly as the latest vocals ringer, Jon Davison ( a more convincing Jon Anderson than their hard-working but ill-fated rebound vocalist, Benoit David) adds his lines and harmonies). Steve sings too; and he’s better than he was. Instrumentals and songs alternate, so you know you are never far from those lovely soaring and ringing lines.
It was nice to hear THOSE “harmonies”; again, and the ghost of Chris Squire is working his magic. Elsewhere, it can be a bit Mike Oldfield for me, but that will delight others. Lyrics, are not as sappy as if Jon Anderson was around, nor the music as wet as Jon’s became, but SH must keep an eye on getting too sweet a tooth in case it gives us cavities and sets off nerves. A propos this, the album is called “Love Is”, and his feelings for his loved ones are to the fore, as is his poetry and art, and love, art, and personal creation are all laudable. Steve Howe’s muse as well as his music is all over the new album; for some this will make a complete package, more earthbound others will smell sandalwood New Ageiness and try not to cringe. Album closer, “On the Balcony” starts off with almost a fusion riff that got me quite excited, but it then shifted into a bit of a plodder until the patented tuneful solo and return to the opening riff – when then song eschews 4:4 orthodoxy, it takes flight. There’s a lesson there, i think.
What does it all *mean*?
As Steve Howe’s autobiography noted, Yes were often compromised in the studio as record companies want them to try dubstep, or whatever is the latest “down with the kids” thing is (thereby completely missing their core market’s tastes and their musician’s instincts). This means it is in solo work where the record company is not so involved that you probably hear what they genuinely want to express. Hence it is no surprise that this is far better than “Union” or “Heaven or Earth”.
None of Steve’s solo albums are without merit, as he is intuitively musical. Now a 73-years young venerable older statesman of progressive music, Steve Howe remains a fantastic guitarist. It must be hard to be defined by a 10-year phase from almost half a century ago when, as a genuine musician (and Steve Howe is very much that), he keeps wanting to move forward and create. I think Steve Howe, like many great musicians, works better with good foils, and some of the players on the album here are very good. That said, to me, “Love Is” needs something more. Compared to the sympathetic and independently assertive Ross Stanley and Dylan Howe of the “Steve Howe Trio” (inspired by Wes Montgomery and Jimmy Smith, playing originals, early 60s jazz, and a few re-worked Yes numbers), “Love Is”, simply can’t be quite so satisfying. But it is a pleasant listen, wives will not complain, and with this in the background, long-haired teenage boys may get their first snog with a patchoulied and hennaed girlie (again, do they still exist?). Not sure if post-punk guitarists will enjoy it so much, though.
Goes well with…
Up-market vegetarian food, WholeFoods Markets, tasteful shops selling post-hippie tat in market towns.
Might suit people who like…
Yes, Mike Oldfield, Asia, Steve Hackett, Barclay James Harvest, Christian rock