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Steve Howe

Natural Timbre

Review by Gary Hill

This is Steve Howe’s first fully acoustic studio album. That presents a little bit of an issue in terms of the full listening experience. It makes it more of a subtle release in a lot of ways. It’s more the kind of thing that can drop into the background. It also lacks a lot of the peaks and valleys that help to differentiate pieces of music. For my money, that makes this one of his less successful solo albums. That said, it’s still pretty darned good. And you can never beat Howe in terms of guitar prowess. The guy really is the master of his instrument.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Distant Seas

There is a bit of a jazzy vibe to this mellow and quite pretty piece of music. It covers quite a bit of territory before eventually dropping down to a particularly sedate movement that eventually takes it to its closing.

Provence
This one opens with some very folk-like music before working towards more of that jazz sound. Those two musical elements seem to combine on this number.
Intersection Blues

Trademark Steve Howe, this merges his type of intricate folk guitar sounds with some blues elements. It’s a cool little jam that has some particularly complex instrumental work.

Family Tree

Somehow this one feels a little playful. It has more of that folk element on display, but some of the slide guitar and other sounds lend some bluegrass into the mix.

J's Theme

This acoustic guitar solo is quite sedate and pretty.

In the Course of the Day

Intricate and compelling, this is another cool acoustic guitar solo. It rocks a bit more than the previous tune did. Some strings add a different level of sound and emotion to the piece.

Dream River

Fairly complex acoustic guitar lines create a piece that seems to merge classical music and jazz.

Golden Years
There’s a real country and blue grass vibe in a bouncy folk-styled sound on the first minute or so of this. It rocks out a bit more after that and comparisons to something like The Beatles with those other elements merged into it wouldn’t be out of the question.
The Little Galliard
This is a short acoustic guitar solo that’s very classical in nature. It’s a gentle piece.
Up above Somewhere

Another gentle and sedate number, this is pretty. It’s got plenty of classical music in the mix.

Curls & Swirls

I love this. It’s a complex and compelling instrumental that is trademark Steve Howe. While it’s not all that different from a lot of the stuff here, it somehow just works better than the rest. Considering that nothing here is weak, that says a lot.

Pyramidology

This acoustic guitar solo is quite involved. It definitely has a lot of basis in classical music.

Lost for Words

Some of the guitar melodies here make me think of spaghetti westerns. That said, this is very much a classically tinged intricate piece of music.

Winter

There is almost a music box kind of feeling to some of this. Otherwise, though, it’s another that has a lot of classical music and some seriously intricate melody lines built into it.

Solar Winds

Folk music and mellow progressive rock merge with classical on this piece.

Your Move

I really like this instrumental rendition of a section of the Yes song “I’ve Seen All Good People.”

Disillusion

Another Yes section, this one from “Starship Trooper,” this takes on a cool folk meets country music aspect in this telling. It’s a lot of fun.

To Be Over
This time the source song comes from Yes’ Relayer album. I’ve always loved this passage of music and it works quite well here.
 
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