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Steve Howe

Mothballs

Review by Gary Hill

This disc is included in the progressive rock section because of it being Steve Howe – not because the music fits that category. This is a collection of songs from Howe’s various musical endeavors before Yes. As such it runs the gamut from rockabilly, rock and roll and psychedelia, with only a few hints of progressive rock along the way. It’s certainly for the completists out there as much of this is sort of mediocre. Still, the Tomorrow and Bodast songs are quite good. Although, there’s a DJ talking at the start of most of the Tomorrow tracks.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Maybellene – Syndicats
This is a classic 1960s sounding interpretation of a Chuck Berry standard. The harmonica lends a cool texture to this. There is nothing Earth-shattering about this, but it's a fun rocker.
True To Me – Syndicats
A mellower old school rock and roll song, this one doesn’t do a lot for me. It’s never really been my kind of music and there’s no guitar solo or anything like that to save it.
Howlin' For My Baby – Syndicats
There’s more energy to this and I’d put it at about the same level as the disc’s opener.
What To Do – Syndicats
With some retro keyboards, there’s a lot more psychedelic texture to this song. We get some tasty guitar soloing and in some ways this reminds me of The Animals.
Leave My Kitten Alone – Syndicats
A bouncy little number, this is old school rock and roll – no question about it. It’s got more soloing by Mr. Howe than some of the other tracks by the Syndicats. 
Don't Know What To Do – Syndicats
I really don’t like the vocals on this track at all. Beyond that it’s a pretty standard old school rocker, much like the previous pieces here. It serves as an example of how a lot of punk rock was very retro – because this could have passed as a late 1970’s punk tune. I will say that Howe gives us some tasty guitar soloing. 
On The Horizon – Syndicats
A folky sort of number, this has a definite 1960’s hippie sort of texture. It’s also the coolest cut we’ve heard to this point. I like it a lot. We get some trademark Howe here, too – the first on the set.
Stop Wait A Minute – In Crowd
A old school rocker, this is good, but not very special. It has a lot of energy, though. 
You're On Your Own Dream – In Crowd
Here’s a less energized old school rocker. I’m again reminded of The Animals. 
Why Must They Criticise – In Crowd
This one’s not that different from the two that preceded it. It’s OK, but that’s about it.
I Don't Mind – In Crowd
Now, this is more like it. It’s a slow grind with a lot of character. The vocal performance is very much in keeping with something from the Animals, but this has such a powerful texture that it works better than most. Howe gets in some extremely tasty (if not overly trademark) guitar soloing. 
Finger Poppin' – In Crowd
More old school bluesy rock and roll, this is a step down from the last track, but a step up from the ones that directly preceded it. 
So Bad - Steve Howe
This instrumental has a definite 1960’s texture to it. One can just picture a lot of beautiful people grooving and dancing to it with flowers in their hair. It’s a tasty (if dated) piece of music.
Your Never Can Stay In One Place - Steve Howe
There’s a killer jazzy sort of upbeat texture to this track and it’s one that actually isn’t that far removed, in some ways, from some of the music of Yes. An instrumental, it’s a highlight of the set. 
Real Life Permanent Dream - Tomorrow
Feeling a little like early Who, this is a tasty cut. That said, it’s definitely dated in its textures and sounds. Still, I like it a lot and always have. There are a few proggy changes and Howe really shows off quite a bit on the track.
Am I Glad To See You – Tomorrow
Combining an old rock and roll element with some more psychedelic sounds, this is bouncy and rather tasty. It calls to mind early Rolling Stones a little. Howe provides some tasty psychedelic interludes.
Blow Up – Tomorrow
Rockabilly meets The Who on this little rocker. It’s not great, but it’s also not bad. 
Three Jolly Little Dwarfs – Tomorrow
The intro on this really feels like something from early Yes. They fire out from there into a bouncy little piece of psychedelia. Howe puts a lot of his flair into it. 
Revolution – Tomorrow
The opening on this is pretty weird, but the chorus is quite catchy and the track definitely has its moments. There’s some trademark Howe guitar work on this. 
The Kid Was A Killer – Keith West
The booklet has this song and the one that follows it reversed, but this is the order they actually run on my CD. This is a track that reminds me a lot of early Who. It’s high energy and quite creative and tasty. 
My White Bicycle – Tomorrow
With a lot of backwards masking, this is a classic piece of psychedelia and a great piece of music. 
Come Over Stranger – Canto
Here’s a bouncy bit of psychedelia. The track is somewhat mediocre, but the guitar solo segment is quite strong. 
Beyond Winter – Bodast
This is fairly prog like and quite psychedelic at the same time. It’s a good piece of music with a number of interesting changes and alterations. Howe really shines on the cut.
Nothing To Cry For – Bodast
A trademark Howe acoustic guitar solo opens this up. Then they fire out into a killer piece of psychedelia that has some tasty guitar work and intriguing twists and turns. It even gets a bit classical at times and there are sections that feel quite a bit like Yes. 
Nether Street – Bodast
Yes fans will recognize this as the introduction section (along with some other parts) was reworked and used in “Starship Trooper”. It’s another cool song, even if it feels a bit dated. It’s got some of the most potent Steve Howe guitar soloing of the whole set.
 
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