Thank goodness Steve Howe doesn't sing too much on Skyline, his eighth album. There's a reason most of the world's best guitar players keep their mouths shut, and the past-and-present Yes guitarist proves why with his pained vocals on opening track, "Small Acts of Kindness," and its closing reprise, "Small Acts." Hence, Skyline is a mostly instrumental, ethereal and ambient affair. The disc features a dozen tracks of guitar music that borders on new age, classical and jazz - bearing little resemblance to Yes or Howe's other former bands, Asia and GTR. Although not as acoustic as Howe's last album, 2001's Natural Timbre, Skyline is much more improvisational, letting Howe and longtime collaborator Paul Sutin (keyboards and percussion, but not drums) add shade and hue to this material.
Among the prettiest pieces is "Moment in Time," a light, bouncy track that highlights the way Howe elegantly blends instruments - in this case, guitar and keys. On "Avenue De Bel Air," Howe plays both guitar and bass to subtly astonishing effect, while "Simplification" sounds almost mournful in its cinematic scope.
Skyline aims to reveal new sides of Howe's flawless playing, and its mellowness is fitting for a guy who is 55 years old. While never a player on the edge, Howe's as seasoned and reliable a guitarist as you're bound to find these days. Perhaps that's why Skyline is a tad disappointing; the man sounds too relaxed, and as a result, this disc - even at nearly an hour long - feels incomplete.