The quintessential Yes guitarist’s newly-released solo album yearns to be popped into your car CD player while driving at night. In this context, Steve Howe’s 12th solo album, Skyline, works wonders.
Skyline differs from Howe’s previous releases in it’s diversity of material. While always up to the task of mixing his prog rock with classical and tinges of country/western, on Skyline Howe leans heavy on jazz & new age statements. Turning down the treble & clicking on the neck pick up switch of his Gibson ES-175D, Howe explores more Wes Montgomery than ever before, but the lack of a live rhythm section & the addition of Paul Sutin’s keyboards separate the pieces from traditional jazz. Check out “Avenue De Bel Air” for a nice atmospheric slice of this jazz influenced pie. Howe has always been adept at melding disparate guitar sounds in a single track; the charm of his albums is to try & pick out the guitars he used for a particular sound. As usual, there’s plenty of opportunity on Skyline. “Camera Obscure” is a standout, with a Wes Montgomery meets Chet Atkins jazz guitar supported by Fender Pedal steel & the pulsing electric piano voiceings of Sutin--what an extraordinary track (there’s even some mandolin for additional texture). Skyline also features several odd hooks (which were possibly even too eccentric for Jon Anderson’s tastes to make it to a Yes album!); look toward “Resonance” for one such. “Simplification” is a piece that stands up well in this context, but may have also fared well at the end of one of Yes’s epics, as a sort of wrap up.
“Small Acts of Human Kindness” and “Small Acts” begin & open the disk respectively, and successfully feature Howe’s singular vocals in the correct context: mixed background style. Set back from the lead guitar lines, Howe’s vocal melodies are very pleasant (think: “I Get Up, I Get Down...”). It seems in these 12 albums, Steve Howe has not only learned to totally change up his genre, but has also adapted his vocal talents to maximum effect.