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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Steve Howe

The Grand Scheme of Things

Review by Gary Hill

This is a pretty intriguing set. It’s more of a pure progressive rock release from Steve Howe, but it’s also got other sounds present. It’s less of a purely solo project as he’s joined by a number of musicians. Several of the more noteworthy people on the album are Dylan Howe (his son who handles the drums), Virgil Howe (also his son, playing keyboards including piano) and Keith West (Howe’s former Tomorrow bandmate who does harmony vocals and harmonica). Nick Begg plays bass and Stick. Anna Palm provides some female vocals along with her violin work. This is quite a cool album, all in all.

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
The Grand Scheme of Things

This starts out rather playfully. It grows out to a rather hard rocking progressive rock jam. The vocals are a bit distant, but work quite well. The guitar soloing is great, punctuating lines of singing. There are some intriguing changes and this is an awesome prog piece and a great way to start the disc. It has a lot of contrast and variety built into it.

Desire Comes First
The guitar sounds on this are much more tied to roots music. There is a bit of country element at play. That said, this is still decidedly a progressive rock piece. It’s got some cool shifts and changes. The arrangement makes great use of varied layers and there are some wonderful guitar lines at play.
Blinded by Science
Although the vocals would certainly be different, and that’s the weak point here, this feels like something that could have been a Yes song. I love the guitar soloing on this tune.
Beautiful Ideas
The vocals work better on this. Beyond that it comes across as another melodic progressive rock tune that would work well as a Yes song. There is a real dreamy kind of element at play here.
The Valley of Rocks
With the folk music kind of feeling that’s so common in Steve Howe acoustic solos, this is a great addition to his catalog of acoustic jams.
At the Gates of the New World
This is another decidedly progressive rock oriented cut, but it is a bit crunchier. I like it a lot.
Wayward Course
Even more purely progressive rock oriented, this is a dynamic and powerful cut. It’s melodic prog with a lot of shifts and turns. There are some moments where it moves toward classical music and overall this is a great piece. It drops to spacey sounds at times, even leaning a bit towards fusion.
Reaching the Point
There are some weird sped up and slowed down sound loops at the start of this. Then some waves of processed vocals come in for a time. Guitar takes it out from there with a cool processed riffing sound. This is quite proggy, but also rather stripped back and harder rocking in some ways. In some ways the vocals aren’t as strong as those on a couple of the other pieces, but the hook is somehow one of the most accessible here.
Common Ground
Piano features prominently in this short instrumental. It’s got guitar, too and is overall a pretty mellow little number. It’s dramatic, though.
Luck of the Draw
This bluesy rocker is a lot of fun. It has harmonica and some great guitar riffing. It’s just full of blues charm and character. It’s a short number.
The Fall of Civilization
Starting with some rather symphonic progressive rock, some of the vocals on this aren’t as good as others on the disc. The cut is one of the most dynamic of the set, though. It works out to harder rocking music for a time before dropping back down to really mellow, classically oriented sounds. Then it shifts to a folky kind of psychedelic vibe before returning to the main harder rocking segment. Some great guitar soloing is heard later and the song drops to an intricate mellow movement to end.
Passing Phase
Mellow and melodic progressive rock with a bit of a surf music and psychedelic vibe opens things here. This grows out from there. It gets quite involved and passionate later as the melodic progressive rock builds. The closing section really feels like it could have been on a Yes album.
Georgia's Theme
This starts as an acoustic guitar solo and that holds it unaccompanied for a time. Eventually other layers come in, but mostly as icing on the cake. This is a pretty and intricate piece that’s quite mellow.
Too Much Is Taken and Not Enough Given
There are some great melodic prog moments here. This just feels a bit disconnected sometimes. Still, it’s quite a good tune. It’s got some great guitar work. Then again, this is Steve Howe. What else would you expect? There is a bluesy rock section later that gives way to a symphonic prog movement to end the set.
Maiden Voyage
This prog instrumental features lots of classic Steve Howe soloing. It’s not a big surprise, but it’s very effective.
Road to One's Self
Asian music elements bring a world music vibe to this instrumental. It’s not really rock music at all, but it is quite intriguing. That said, it might not be the most satisfying cut for a closing track.
 
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