Howe, Steve - The Relativity Years,
It must be said that apart from Rick Wakeman, the solo careers of Yes members outside of bands has been a little hit and miss. Steve Howe of course found major success with Asia, and with GTR (although criminally not to the same extent), but his solo albums haven’t always been the outstanding success that one might imagine. Here, though, Gonzo have brought two of his best albums together in a single package which is an inviting proposition to anyone who doesn’t already own them. ‘Turbulence’ was released in 1991, and features Steve playing not only everything with strings, but also some keyboards and anything else he feels benefits the overall sound. His core band is based around Bill Bruford and Billy Currie (ex-Ultravox), although Nigel Glockner provides drums on three songs and Andrew Lucas organ on one. This is an instrumental album, but one that feels far more a band effort as opposed to as solo, one that makes musical sense as it goes through the ten different songs, with a style that is instantly recognisable to anyone who has followed Steve’s career. It is bright, it is exciting and invigorating with plenty of energy, and to my ears is the finest “solo” album of his career to date. There are details as what inspired each song, who played what instrument on each one, as well as further details of the actual guitars used by Steve.
Two years on from ‘Turbulence’ and Steve released ‘The Grand Scheme of Things’. Here he put together a band including two of his sons, plus the mighty Nick Beggs plus others. But, I only know this as I researched it as there is no information for this album in the booklet apart from a songs listing, a photo of Steve and a thanks list. I presume this is because the original contained very little information, but surely some minor research could have been done and that added to the booklet? Unlike the previous album, which was instrumental, half of these songs contain vocals from Steve himself, and while he hasn’t an unpleasant voice, I have always felt that it far better when he is using it to provide harmonies as opposed to taking the lead role himself. What saves this album is the sheer diversity of styles being displayed, so while he does at times return to what made him and his bands so famous, he shows that he is comfortable playing in multiple different genres, although always bending them so that they manage to fall within the prog field. Using Nick to provide Chapman Stick on some of the songs was also inspired, as the different sound and textures that provides enabled Steve to compose some interesting counter melodies and balances.
Overall this is definitely a release that any fan of Steve, or any band he has been involved with, should grab with both hands. All credit to Gonzo for making this set available at a good price.