2020 seems to be the year for early Yes members to release solo efforts. We’ve had Rick Wakeman’s revisit to his early solo style on the splendid The Red Planet and Jon Anderson releasing 1000 Hands in August, (reviews forthcoming). Now we cast an approving eye over the first Steve Howe solo release for 9 years, Love is, which includes instrumental pieces and songs with him taking the lead vocal role himself.
Release Date: 31st July 2020
Label: BMG Records
Formats: CD, vinyl
Steve Howe the only current member of Yes who appeared on The Yes Album, recorded in the early 1970s, has recorded some light instrumentals and highly listenable to songs on his new album Love Is which reveals not only his virtuoso guitar skills but also a competent vocal delivery of feelgood songs.
His light touch on both has given us some cheer to our summery listening which will also lighten your mood in the coming cooler months. Even if your prog preference is complex rhythms and even more incomprehensible lyrics,the quality of musicianship will leave you astounded and satisfied.
The instrumental opening to the album Fulcrum is a sweet-tempered, uncomplicated blending of a variety of guitar sounds. A tambourine backbeat develops into jazzy drum fills and warms us up nicely for the treats to come.
The lively See Me Through bounces along with harmonies from Jon Davidson (Yes’ current lead vocalist). The next instrumental, Beyond The Call, has an acoustic opening and leads us swiftly into a simple melody, blending acoustic interludes and repeats of the melody and military-style drum rhythms.
Love Is A River takes a mixture of interesting vocal and instrumental ideas and follows the pattern of an instrumental track followed by a song that runs through the album.
Sound Picture is definitely to be a throwback to 70’s Prog style but is in no way dated and thankfully, a pleasant reminder of why Prog appealed to me in the first place; fascinating guitar work, tumbling, twirling melodies and pacy drum beats.
The gentle Howe vocals are also prominent on It Ain’t Easy and although his range isn’t extensive it is adequate enough to deliver his message. In contrast Pause For Thought demonstrates that his repertoire of guitar sounds is elaborate even though his vocals aren’t and to be honest, they don’t need to be so he’s got it dead right in all areas.
Imagination, a song dedicated to his granddaughter, is followed by fuzz guitar and crystal clear guitar combined on a more upbeat The Headland.
The final track lulls into thinking there is another instrumental coming but a sudden change of pace when vocals come in with the backing is reminiscent of Perpetual Change which concluded the Yes Album. Is this more than a coincidence? I hope not. I hope its a clever musical joke!!
“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.
He certainly has put a lot of love into this album, taking responsibility for engineering and production as well as composition and guitar playing although mixing was carried out by Curtis Schwartz and the drumming by his son, Dylan. In short, his album is ear nectar.
Listen to Headlands here:
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