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What did they do next part 26b – Steve Howe – 507

Steve Howe by William Mulryne
Steve Howe by William Mulryne

Produced by Wayne Hall and Jeffrey Crecelius

In this second part of our look at what Steve Howe did next, Mark and I listen to his solo album, Spectrum.

It includes contributions from Tony Levin, Dylan Howe, Virgil Howe and Oliver Wakeman and features many fabulous examples of Steve’s virtuosity and versatility.

  • How does this rank among Steve’s solo albums?
  • What are the contributions of the ‘guests’ like?
  • Is that ‘Hour of Need’?

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


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Producers:

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  • Wayne Hall

Patrons:

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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: archive.org

One reply on “What did they do next part 26b – Steve Howe – 507”

A good, balanced review of ‘Spectrum’, containing fair and insightful comments. (Why on earth would anyone want to mix Tony Levin down, you could justifiably ask?!) In short, I think Steve Howe very much hears music through the filter of the guitarscape, if you will. Of course he’s absolutely entitled to do that on his own records, but I think this one might have benefitted from a little more instrumental balance and, as you say, less repetition of motifs and greater variety in form. A more creative, ‘thicker’ approach to the harmonic possibilities would have helped, too. That said, there’s some really good material and imaginative interplay on the album. It’s definitely worth a number of listens. Thanks for re-highlighting it for us.

I was also interested by your comments on instrumental records per se. I guess I come from the opposite end of the spectrum on this one. One of the reasons I listen to loads more jazz, experimental and classical than rock is that I tire of ‘song oriented’ music, and I’m not at all keen on most rock tenor voices. The clearer and purer sound of Yes vocals / harmonies, and the fact that they usually blend well with the chosen instrumental textures, kept my ears open to them when they first crossed my aural path. Also, I guess ‘memorable melody’ is less important to me. In the long run, I’m more drawn to the shape, tonal fabric, harmonic depth, dynamics, rhythmic variety and sonic range of music, all of which often gets tamed or flattened in rock in order to deliver the vocal treatment.

Bill Bruford has characterised Yes music as primarily rooted in “vocal entertainment”, which was not his main interest or concern and therefore led him to move on to Crimson and Earthworks as more natural homes for what he had to offer. I can totally identify with that. But the best Yes music still has those other qualities I mentioned above in different proportions, too – certainly from a listener’s perspective, if not always from a performer’s.

Anyway, great, as ever, to be encouraged to think of things from a different angle by YMP!

Lastly, returning to the mixing and instrumentation issue in relation to ‘The Quest’. Yup, I’d definitely like to have heard more of Geoff Downes’ keys on the album, for sure, and also to have Billy’s bass more prominent at times. That said, Steve and the engineer did a really good job overall. The new Yes album has grown on me very considerably.

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