Back in the ’70s the members of prog-rock giants Yes thought it wouldbe a good idea if they all made solo albums – yes, even the drummer. Well it was the ’70s, and even if the resulting albums were mostly pretty awful, the devoted fans still bought them.
Which is perhaps why Steve Howe, the band’s on and off guitarist for the last 30 years, has been putting out warehouse-loads of solo albums over the past decade. To be honest, this isn’t any better or worse than the rest of them, the only difference being that he’s enlisted his sons, Dylan and Virgil, to join him in a band called Remedy. To all intents and purposes, however, this is just another Steve Howe album.
There’s no doubting that Howe is an accomplished guitarist, and on this album he turns his hand to folk, classical, jazz and blues stylings with equal dexterity. Pacific Haze and Westwinds are pleasing jazz work-outs, with echoes of the early Yes albums, and the folky strains of A Drop In The Ocean makes for a suitably elegiac finale.
Considerably less convincing are the tracks where the band stumbles, and I use the word advisedly, into heavy rock territory. Rising Sun chugs along at a fair lick, propelled by ace sax man Gilad Atzmon’s florid flourishes, but Load Off My Mind is just plain horrible, and someone really ought to take Steve to one side and tell him to lay off the vocals.
Perhaps they should also point out that the template for this, and in fact all Howe’s multitudinous solo albums should be The Steve Howe Album, the guitarist’s second, and most convincing, lone effort, which was wholly instrumental and opted for real, organic instruments and string sections rather than the heavily synthesised backings that adorn, and mostly ruin, this album.
Yes fans will no doubt add this to their collection, especially as it’s graced by a suitably ethereal Roger Dean cover, but it’s hard to imagine anyone else taking the plunge. Don’t give up the day job Steve.