Steve Howe’s Beginnings – 252

'Beginnings' by Steve Howe
‘Beginnings’ by Steve Howe

Produced by Preston Frazier

This week we have reached Steve Howe’s Beginnings in our survey of Yes members’ solo albums. We also have a slightly exasperating 2 Pence about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and an ARW review from Ken Fuller.

  • Steve Howe sings all the lead vocals – why?
  • Does this album hang together as a coherent whole?
  • What would happen to ARW and Yes if the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Yes this time?

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

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Preston Frazier

Joseph Cottrell
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Mark’s vinyl copy of Beginnings:

Show notes and links

Jon Anderson reading Dave Watkinson’s book, ‘Perpetual Change’

Jon Anderson reading Dave Watkinson's book, 'Perpetual Change'.

Miguel has spruced up his Our Song bass cover video from 90125

The Rabinesque blog post mentioned by Craig Tiren

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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
About the Author

Kevin

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20 thoughts on “Steve Howe’s Beginnings – 252

  1. Love your podcast and subscribe to it, you guys are very knowledgeable. My complaint is you guys seem to be “in the bag” for the current lineup of Yes and very critical of ARW. I just saw them in Boston(and met Trevor Rabin!) and they were great. I know you guys have to appease the Davison/Howe faction for interviews etc however that’s no reason to lose objectivity..otherwise great job and keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks for the comment Shane. Brilliant to know you enjoy the show. We are really supportive of both Yes and ARW. I’m going to see ARW next year and it was wonderful to interview Lou Molino who was a great guy. Until I actually see ARW, all my comments can only be based on the videos I have seen and the views of listeners like you who have been in their presence. I have a feeling I will love the concert and Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman are three of my all-time favourite musicians.
      So please do keep telling us we are wrong- your experience of ARW is much more reliable than ours. I’m very excited to hear that your concert experience was great – roll on my own experience!!

    2. Greetings Shane,
      Thank you for you comments and your support. We really appreciate it.
      I understand your view on the matter but I can tell you that I’m just as critical of Yes…in fact I’m not sure how far back you started to listen to us but their are numerous episodes with me being very hard on Geoff Downes and some of his playing of the classic material…as well as Alan White.
      So I’m guessing maybe you didn’t catch those episodes. I’ve been extremely excited about the formation of ARW ..especially since I’ve been a long time fan of Trevor Rabin. ..but I’m not one to turn a blind eye..especially being a musician myself for over 20 years. .and some of the ARW shows have been a little shakey. The more recent shows have greatly improved and I’m sure it will get even better. So yeah I’m just as critical of both bands…but there is no doubt that as of right now…Yes is the tighter of the 2 bands live.

      Mark Anthony K

  2. I thought I had Beginnings on iTunes, but I seemed to have lost the files for a few of the tracks. I found them on YouTube so I could play each as Kevin and Mark reviewed them.

    I bought the vinyl album a few years after its release, and my reaction was much the same as those of the YMP hosts. Steve Howe is not much of a singer, and his contributions to Yes up to that point were perhaps a little easier to identify after hearing his solo work on Beginnings. Howe’s guitar work is technically perfect, as I would expect, but sometimes his musical ideas seem tenuous, or at least poorly executed.

    Over the years, and especially after I listened to Light Walls, it occurred to me that Steve Howe might have, as a fan of Bob Dylan, given himself permission to sing on his records despite his difficulty with the craft. This doesn’t work for Howe the way it does with Dylan or, say, Pete Townshend. Their respective styles of composition and performance fit their vocal characteristics. Steve Howe’s voice doesn’t suit his music.

    Despite all that, I like the album. Some of the tracks sound, to my ear at least, influenced by his work with Yes (as one would expect), but I also hear specifically Squire-esque passages in the music and an Anderson-esque approach to lyric composition. I would have liked to have heard him record some of these tracks with Yes just to hear what they would have done with them.

  3. Great review Mark….totally enjoyed it! Steve’s singing has and will always be back up Never the lead.
    I agree Steve is a master on the strings with out any doubt…I think with the invention of Pro Tools I think Steve could be a great singer …….lol just kidding. Kevin’s review is much more forgiving for sure.Iv’e always had to digest Yes music over time even there hits the more I listen the more I find the meaning / understanding of the music.
    I wonder why Yes never Incorporated wind instruments in to there music because they all use them on there side projects. Magnification worked very well with wind instruments. RHOF is a joke I really don’t want Yes in that place why do they get to pick and choose band members.. Its a joke
    I believe Rolling Stone is to blame for this whole debacle.

    Great show gentleman as always

    Paul

  4. I love “Beginnings”… But first a preface:

    In early 1975, my friend, Bill, and I were introduced to Yes by way of Relayer. As I have said in the past, this will always be my favorite Yes album. Shortly after, we sought out and devoured anything by Yes we could find. Then, we waited… When it was announced that each member would be doing a solo album, we were worried and excited. If I recall correctly, “Beginnings” was the first solo album released.

    Kevin’s description of his first listen closely parallels my own experience. From the first notes I was intrigued. Of course I was initially taken aback by Steve’s vocals, but after repeated listens, I grew to have a great affection for his very personal take on this songs. Is he a “good” singer? No. But then I don’t think Bob Dylan or Neil Young are very “good” singers either… yet they are the right voices for their songs. I’m actually not a fan of Steve’s later solo albums, because I suppose I am not as interested in guitar instrumentals. I like songs better.

    Again, if I remember the genesis of the project correctly, these albums came about because each of the band members were developing musical ideas, but they felt not all were “Yes-like”. I would love to have seen some of these ideas fleshed out in the full Yes-mode.

    The title track, “Beginnings”, is a lovely piece of chamber music. In interviews at the time, Steve spoke of his affection for the works of Vivaldi. You can definitely hear that influence in the latter part of the piece when all the violins come together. This led me to seek out Vivaldi and have had a lifelong appreciation for his work ever since.

    Soon the other four solo works came out, and Bill and I were constantly ranking and re-ranking our order for favorite. Ultimately, of course, “Fish Out of Water” sat at the top, followed by “Olias”, but I still struggle with determining Third. I also love “The Story if I” so much. (Looking forward to your comments next week). While on my recent re-listen, I found I disliked “Ramshackled”far less than before, I have no problem with it sitting at the bottom of the list.

    So, because of when I heard it, in my early years of my introduction to Yes, I will always have an emotional attachment to this album. It always saddens me when I hear critics, and even Steve himself, speak poorly of it.

  5. Interesting discussion yet again chaps.

    It’s been decades since I last listened to Beginnings. I remember thinking that musically it was the closest to Yes of the solo albums but apart from a couple of songs rather forgettable. In the end I gave it away. While Howe isn’t a great singer, I think Mark’s remarks are a bit harsh given that he likes Rush and Kiss 🙂 .
    I remember when it came out there were a couple of the songs on The Old Grey Whistle Test, I think these must have been the videos you referred to in the album review. (I’m pretty sure that on that same show, they also showed video of two songs from Chris’s Fish out of water. )

    As regards the so called Hall of Fame, I hope Yes boycott that ridiculous self regarding bunch of Muppets. I agree with your disgust that they think they should select who of the band members should qualify for their pathetic award. If they do accept and perform live, I’d love it if they could recreate one of the massive stage sets from the classic period but instead of a Roger Dean creation, a huge middle finger rising up through the dry ice. That would be just perfect.

  6. For the second time in five years of listening to YMP, you Kevin, have forced me to re-evaluate and more importantly gain some real pleasure from albums I had previously confined to the “glad I listened to it in the past but not tonight Josephine” bin (the other album being Tormato).

    Had i listened to Marks review only, I think I’d have left well alone. Your comments, Mark, pretty much reflect what I thought some thirty five (!) years ago when I bought it. I came to it after buying “The Steve Howe Album” which I thought had some excellent stuff, but suffered from Steve’s vocals on “All’s a Chord”. With Beginnings, I just couldn’t get past the vocals. I must have listened to it a total of half a dozen times then forgotten about it.

    However, Kevin’s promise of something beyond the vocals made me listen again and dig deeper. There are real delights to be had. I remember thinking the title track was out of the ordinary for an orchestral piece on a rock album when i first heard it, but Kevin’s comments gave me the reason to explore this particular track again. There are a lot more ideas throughout the album going on than I recalled – you’re spot n, Kevin.

    I almost wish the album could be remixed with a different vocalist.

    There’s nothing “wrong” with Steve’s voice as such. He hits the notes OK, at least those within his limited range, and it’s not unpleasant. It just lacks character. I fully understand this as I have exactly the same problem. I was always passable at backing vocals but dreadful at lead – no character.

    Of course this was recorded when Yes were at their peak and almost certainly did not understand their limitations. Even the great Eddie Offord would probably have been given his marching orders if he’d dared to suggest Steve got another singer.

    I doubt i’ll be listening to this album frequently, but I will certainly be listening to it again. Thanks Guys.

        1. Hello Joseph,

          You hit the nail right on the head. .I do have a vast library of music. .and I love lots of bands and styles of music.
          Thanks for your comments.

          Mark Anthony K

      1. Hey Jeremy,

        Wow…you got a real problem with me liking Rush and Kiss..I don’t prefer them over Yes…frankly they are apples and oranges….especially Kiss.
        I have a vast collection of music and love lots of things. I’m not expecting us to agree on all things. ..you have your opinions and I have mine. In the grand scheme of things neither is right or wrong.
        But I will say this…if you honestly think Steve is a better singer then Geddy Lee (Rush) or Paul Stanley/Gene Simmons (Kiss)..I’ll have to start taking your comments with 2 huge fistfuls of salt.

        Mark Anthony K

        1. Of course I have no problem with you liking those two bands. We all have guilty pleasures. My comments were meant to be taken with a pinch of salt or even a shovelful, just having a bit of banter. I apologise unreservedly if I’ve caused anyone here offence.
          (To even things up, I don’t think much of Queen either hee hee)

          1. Now, now, calm down folks. Nobody’s getting banned…unless we stray into Country and Western or something… 😉

  7. I am one of those who don’t mind Steve’s signing. I think Mark is right that Howe should stay in his lower to mid-range. It only hurts when he tries to sing in his upper register! The difference between Steve and others that have been mentioned (Townsend, Neil Young, etc.) is that their voices have a certain character that Steve’s lacks. Kevin, I would love to hear what you think about how Howe’s voice works in the Yes choir.

    I hear the classical part of Australia reminds me more of the Leaves of Green part of The Ancient. The 1st electric solo in The Nature of the Sea sounds like some of his work on Fly from Here! Ram is like Clap Junior!

    As to the RRHOF, oy! I, like Jon, dream of a Union-esq reunion of Yeses. I suppose with all the possible permutations of Yes maybe the RRHOF didn’t have enough room? (ha, ha). “We dream as we dream, dream as one.”

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