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Steve Howe tells us what ‘Love Is’ all about – 442

Produced by Jeffrey Crecelius, Wayne Hall, Preston Frazier and Bill Govier

After a few technical hitches, we managed to speak to legendary Yes guitarist, Steve Howe, about his brand new solo album, ‘Love Is’. It features his son and recent YMP interviewee, Dylan Howe, on drums and Steve’s fellow Yes member, Jon Davison, on backing vocals and bass guitar.

If you like Steve’s solo work, you’ll absolutely love this new album, which is packed full of his trademark multi-guitar work and contains half instrumental tracks and half songs. Steve is pleased with his lead vocals and we can see why!

  • Does Steve enjoy writing, producing, engineering and performing?
  • How does Steve choose from his incredible collection of guitars?
  • Are there any clues to future Yes happenings?
(Photo by Will Ireland/Prog Magazine)
Portrait of English progressive rock musician Steve Howe, taken on February 3, 2020. (Photo by Will Ireland/Prog Magazine)

Here’s the Press Release:

Legendary Yes guitarist Steve Howe has announced he is to release Love Is on 31st July through BMG Records. Love Is is Howe’s first solo album since the all-instrumental Time in 2011 and has a balance of five instrumental tracks and five songs. 

The album will be available as CD – gatefold digi-sleeve with 12 page booklet and LP – Black vinyl 180gm with gatefold sleeve, liner notes and lyrics. 

Link to Steve Howe Official store pre-orders:  https://SteveHowe.lnk.to/D2CPR

Link to Amazon pre-orders: https://SteveHowe.lnk.to/LoveIsPR

Steve Howe sings lead vocals and plays electric, acoustic and steel guitars, keyboards, percussion and bass guitar on the instrumentals while Yes vocalist Jon Davison provides vocal harmonies and plays bass guitar on the vocal tracks. The album also features Dylan Howe on drums.

Many years in the making, Love Is brings together a consistently strong and polished listening experience, forging the very best from the writing and playing throughout the album. This may well be considered the real ‘stand out’ album of Howe’s solo career. The instrumentals keep a highly progressive rock guitar style to the fore, with songs that explore stories of lives lived and lives only just begun. Love Is A River is the central longer song with several textural shifts, featuring a theme played on 12 string and steel guitars.

I called the album Love Is because it hints at the central idea that that love is important but also love of the universe and the ecology of the world is very important,” says Steve Howe. Alexander Humboldt went around the world and recognised we are destroying the planet but that was 200 years ago! We are still destroying the planet and, I suppose, my songs show the yearning I have for the love of nature and how beauty, art and music all stem from nature. There is a theme about those things, love, beauty, ecology, nature and wonderful people.

Love Is A River just seemed a very important track to me, a sort of quintessential track with lots of moods, lots of interesting things going on with steel guitars and acoustic guitars.  Further tracks grew from time spent writing in my studio.

See Me Through looks at the idea that we get through life by not driving ourselves that hard but attempting to achieve things with people who help you along the way and Imagination is dedicated to my granddaughter Zuni. It’s about how I see some of the things she’s experienced in her short seven years.”

I invited Jon Davison to sing harmonies with me and add bass on the songs. If he was singing on the songs I thought why doesn’t he play bass as well and it turned out nice. He’s been with Yes for seven or eight years and he’s a great guy, great performer and a great interpreter of Yes songs.

I’ve been singing for years, mainly in harmony but I’ve sung lead on lots of my own albums before and I feel that, as I’ve got older, I’ve got a grip on that and, hopefully, it’s improved over the years.

The album includes many distinctive Steve Howe signatures among the instrumental tracks from the delicate beauty of Fulcrum, Beyond The Call and Pause For Thought to upbeat rock, The Headlands, and the jazz-tinged Sound Picture.

The instrumentals are like a mood, a place I went to one day, thought this is nice and then I develop that to a point where it’s a finished track. There might be key ingredients that I thought about using musically that I like, that I’m drawn to, and then developing them into something.

Love Is was written, engineered and produced by Steve Howe with further engineering and mixing by Curtis Schwartz. “I write in my own studio and then go to see Curtis in his studio,” Howe explains. “We expand the tracks and put them on Pro Tools and everything starts to be possible. At some point, probably around 2 years ago, Dylan came down to Curtis’s studio and we recorded the drums on some of the tracks. I could see a balance of five instrumental tracks and five songs and there was a feeling that it was an album, sitting there, looking at me.”

The track listing for Steve Howe’s Love Is album is:

1 Fulcrum (instrumental)

2 See Me Through

3 Beyond The Call (instrumental)

4 Love Is A River

5 Sound Picture (instrumental)

6 It Ain’t Easy

7 Pause For Thought (instrumental)

8 Imagination

9 The Headlands (instrumental)

10 On The Balcony

Listen to the episode and let us know what you think!

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Show notes and links:

YMP Patrons:

Producers:

  • Jeffrey Crecelius
  • Preston Frazier
  • Bill Govier and
  • Wayne Hall

Patrons:

Aaron Steelman

Dave Owen

Mark James Lang

Paul Tomei

Joost Maglev

David Heyden

Martin Kjellberg

Paul Wilson

Bob Martilotta

Lind

Michael O’Connor

William Hayes
Brian Sullivan

David Pannell

Miguel Falcão

Lobate Scarp

Chris Bandini

David Watkinson

Neal Kaforey

Rachel Hadaway

Craig Estenes

Dem

Paul Hailes

Mark ‘Zarkol’ Baggs

Doug Curran

Robert Nasir

Fergus Cubbage

Scott Colombo

Fred Barringer

Scott Smith
Geoff Bailie

Simon Barrow
Geoffrey Mason

Stephen Lambe

Guy R DeRome

Steve Dill

Henrik Antonsson

Steve Perry

Hogne Bø Pettersen

Steve Rode

IanNB

Steve Scott

Jamie McQuinn

Steven Roehr

Ken Fuller

Terence Sadler

Michael Handerhan

Tim Stannard

Jim

Todd Dudley

John Cowan

Tony Handley

John Holden

Joseph Cottrell

John Parry

Keith Hoisington

John Thomson

Barry Gorsky


Robert and David

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Theme music

The music I use is the last movement of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. This has been used as introduction music at many Yes concerts. My theme music is not take from a live concert – I put it together from the following two creative commons sources: thanvannispen and archive.org

4 replies on “Steve Howe tells us what ‘Love Is’ all about – 442”

That was interesting. It was good that you got Steve to talk in a little more depth about his overall process with a solo album these days, and his increasing involvement in engineering and production, in particular. I confess that I have struggled considerably with his lead singing on past occasions – both live and in the studio. But you have to admire his persistence and single-mindedness about this, when it comes to his signature projects. He wants to be an all-round performer and (in a sense) ‘the complete musician’, and that’s admirable.

It’s interesting that he brings up Bob Dylan (rather than Mario Lanza!) in this regard. There is a man whose voice fits perfectly with his musical mission… though as someone brought up on the purity, precision and pitch-perfection of classical singing, I still find him virtually unlistenable! But there’s an analogy with what Steve is doing with his voice on ‘Love Is’ and in other places… trying to put something across with a limited range and modality, with expressiveness as very much the key. The blending of his vocals with Jon Davison, who has a very cultured and rounded voice within its type, will be especially interesting. I’m really hoping I like that side of the album better this time.

Of course I always love Steve’s guitar playing. He’s lost a little speed and fire as he has aged (understandably), but he has retained variety and colour with added reflectiveness, and his ‘sound’ across a spectrum of styles is still very much alive.

What was particularly great to hear in this interview was Steve’s obvious energy and enthusiasm. You brought that out well with questions which he evidently enjoyed, and which allowed him to expand a little. That’s a rare gift – routine questioning usually leads to routine answers, and is mostly what gets deployed in rock journalism. This was a little different.

Then there is Yes and its future, of course. Well, you got a promise of an announcement of some type, some time ahead. But there was considerable agnosticism on a new album, and only a speck of possible light in relation to anything online. That’s to be anticipated I suppose. Expect the unexpected with Yes… whatever the unexpected might be!

So well done guys. Here, in conclusion, and for anyone who might be interested, is the link to my long read about Steve Howe’s biography, ‘All My Yesterdays’. https://yessolidmentalgrace.com/2020/04/23/howe-it-goes-in-and-beyond-yes/

Simon has summed up my thoughts above (although I am a Dylan fan and find him very listenable – but prob need to have my ears cleaned!). His passion does come through and while I’m sure it was hard to get the interview up and running it didn’t take him much to say what he thought with your good questions and was a good listen.
Well done!

Oh, Dylan is one of the most important musical figures of our times. Immense. I fully recognise that, John, and that others have discovered his depths in a way that I haven’t quite been able to. But they’re there, for sure. (Finding him ‘virtually unlistenable’ is finally a comment on me, not him…).

It’s all about how you use the voice you’ve got, and the extent to which you can or do cultivate it. In Dylan’s case, he’s made his very distinctive one work perfectly with what he has to say, lyrically and musically. The same challenge faces Steve Howe, who nobly recognises his limits and tries both to push them and work with them. I admire him greatly for that, and have my fingers crossed for the vocal tracks on ‘Love Is’. But for me, not Steve!

Thank you Kevin and Mark for the excellent interview with Steve Howe. You asked interesting questions that seemed to stimulate Mr. Howe into very thorough answers. His energy level is very impressive.
It occurred to me how lucky we are at this time to have legendary progressive rock guitar players Steve Howe, Steve Hackett, and Robert Fripp, all at the top of their game, all being creative, and all engaging with fans through this COVID ordeal. They are all inspiring.

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