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Howe, Steve: Spectrum

Given that I recently read a statement from Steve Howe that said: "I have tried to capture to the greatest extent possible, different styles from around me and bring them into a format which fits my guitar instrumentals.", Spectrum is certainly a very fitting title to his new solo album. It covers a wide array of musical styles that are meticulously worked into Howe's clever songwriting style which exhibits versatile compositions, cohesive musical structure and eclectic musicianship.

Accompanied by his sons Dylan on drums and Virgil on keyboards, Steve Howe also enlisted the services of bass god Tony Levin whose chiming bass arpeggios are priceless and Oliver Wakeman of Ayreon and Wakeman-Nolan fame to present us with the highly optimistic-sounding music on Spectrum. Throughout the whole album which easily spans over an hour of running time, Howe plays happy melodies that express feelings of "self-confidence, a freshness and a feeling of 'being above'" as the InsideOut press info documents. Most of the songs on the album are wonderfully easy to enjoy, often played on Howe's trademark acoustic guitar with a lush sound to them. Oliver Wakeman and his son Virgil Howe provide the sweeping moog sounds on tracks like "Without Doubt", "Hour of Need" and "Free Rein" over which Howe lays down delicate segments of acoustic guitar notes that are enhanced by various world music elements including sitar and tabla. "Band of Light" and "Ragga of Our Time" are two cuts that seem to come from Howe's love for Latin-inflected jazz that is also reminiscent of Santana a bit. The Latin groove of the former track is especially haunting when it's matched up with glorious cymbal work by Dylan Howe.

The most progressive outing on the album has got to be "Realm Thirteen", which at face value, may seem rather bland, but repeated listens reveal its numerous time changes and memorable melodies. "Fools Gold" sees Howe going back to explore some more blues-jazz-rock styled songwriting where Tony Levin's bass shines like never before and proves why Levin was the best choice for the position on this record.

Given Howe's long career with Yes, Asia, GTR and a good number of solo releases, it would be hard to say Spectrum is an essential release. However, it will certainly have more appeal value for those interested in Howe's instrumental side mixed with his not-so-progressive-but-utterly-cohesive attitude to songwriting.

Track Listing

  1. Tigers Den (3:46)
  2. Labyrinth (3:57)
  3. Band of Light (3:34)
  4. Ultra Definition (3:39)
  5. Ragga of Our Times (4:12)
  6. Ebb and Flow (4:03)
  7. Realm Thirteen (4:27)
  8. Without Doubt (3:45)
  9. Highly Strung (4:30)
  10. Hour of Need (5:13)
  11. Fools Gold (4:05)
  12. Where Words Fail (4:16)
  13. In the Skyway (3:13)
  14. Livelihood (3:34)
  15. Free Rein (3:52)

Added: July 6th 2005
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: Steve Howe
Hits: 4499
Language: english

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