Steve Howe's second solo effort is his most essential recording. The Steve Howe Album contains many of Howe's strongest and most original compositions. Whereas some of his albums can be associated with the sound of the bands in which he's played, this release is unique. Howe places himself in a country/bluegrass setting on most of the compositions, and that is what makes this project so appealing -- he's a rock veteran venturing outside of his field. And with Graham Preskett playing violin on "The Continental," Howe turns in what sounds like a real hoedown. The first track, "Pennants," is a gem for the more rock-oriented fan. The cut opens with the sweet, resonant, rocking sounds of Howe's Fender Telecaster; he then adds mandolin and a pervasive twin-neck steel, while drummer Alan White keeps it all rhythmic. Half of the tracks are played by Howe alone, most notably "Surface Tension," his composition for solo Spanish guitar. Other cuts feature former Yes-mates White, Bill Bruford, and Patrick Moraz (all of whom participated on Howe's first solo album), and Claire Hamill, who sings beautifully on "Look Over Your Shoulder." Only one other cut includes vocals: "All's a Chord," on which Howe's singing is awkward but appealing. The song, comprised of several movements and musical styles (including classical), features Howe on eight different stringed instruments, including bass, pedal steel, sitar, banjo, mandolin, and his trademark deep-bodied electric-acoustic Gibson ES 175 D. The final two pieces are set apart from the rest of the recordings. On both compositions, equipped only with his Gibson Les Paul, Howe is accompanied by a string ensemble on his interpretation of Vivaldi's Concerto in D, Second Movement, and by a 59-piece orchestra on "Double Rondo." Andrew Jackman (who served as orchestrator and conductor on Chris Squire's Fish Out of Water several years earlier) conducts. The Steve Howe Album is a culmination of everything Howe represents, every genre of music he loves so dearly, exquisitely played and arranged. The inside cover colorfully depicts all the stringed instruments Howe used on the recordings, and Roger Dean's cover painting makes the package complete. The sound quality of the Japanese import compact disc is unsurpassed, incredibly sharp and vibrant.
AllMusic Review by David Ross Smith
feat: Alan White
feat: Clive Bunker
feat: Alan White
feat: Graham Preskett