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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Steve Howe

Pulling Strings

Review by Gary Hill

Without a doubt one of Steve Howe's biggest claims to fame is as the guitarist on the majority of Yes' albums. He has also had an intriguing solo career. His solo material covers a wide range of styles, from rockabilly to flamenco to classical to folk to hard rock to fusion to new age and of course prog. This album is a live one recorded in 1994 on his solo tour. The material on display is a good cross section of Howe's career, including several pieces of Yes-dom and one song from an earlier band of his, Tomorrow. Most of the material here is performed completely solo. Howe albums frequently have a weakness in the area of the vocals. Some of the material on this CD foregoes that shortcoming altogether because it does not include vocals. However, at many points on this release that do contain singing, Howe seems to put in a fairly competent performance. He is not truly a lead singer, but he can put in an attempt here and there.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound..

Track by Track Review
Sweet Thunder
Jazzy mellow stylings give way to an almost bluegrass sort of approach. This is a fun little piece that becomes an open, fairly freeform jazzy jam.
Diary of a Man Who Vanished
A bouncy folk-oriented track, this is a feel-good kind of number.
Excerpts From Close To The Edge
It is interesting to hear this material performed acoustically. The lower key range of Howe's voice makes for an intriguing change. Although, his vocals here are better than on other albums, they still do not come across as a lead singer's. This is an extremely shortened version, at only 4:33 versus the original's nearly 19 minutes, but quite entertaining.
Excerpts From Beginnings
This is an intricate, fairly dynamic piece. It gets both quite dramatic and evocative at times.
Pleasure Stole The Night
More "songish", this one is a folk sort of tune. It is alright, but suffers just a bit in the vocal department.
Sketches in the Sun
This dramatic piece is both strong and pretty.
Rare Birds
This song is actually the original version of the cut "Vultures" that Howe recorded with Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe. It always came across very well with that group, and is exceptionally strong as presented here. Howe's voice does this one justice.
Windy and Warm
Another from the fun and bouncy school, this one is very short at under 2 minutes.
Classical Gas
This cover piece comes across quite strong in Howe's treatment.
Excerpts From Turn of The Century
Always a beautiful guitar melody, Howe gives the vocals a shot here. The result vocal feels a bit like Bob Dylan meets David Bowie. This is such an effective composition.
Misty
Another cover, Howe delivers an intriguing processed rendition that calls to mind Robert Fripp's Frippertronics just a bit.
Excerpts From All's A Chord
This one is a take on an early Howe classic. The guitar playing is, as expected strong. The vocals are not.
Running the Human Race
One of the most rock and roll piece on the disc, this one has a solid rocking texture. It is really quite dramatic at times.
Every Time You Look Over Your Shoulder
The vocals on this cut work a bit better. It is a very dramatic piece.
Theme From The Gates of Delirium/Soon
The longest piece on the album, this one weighs in at nearly 7 minutes. At first it is nearly unrecognizable, but then certain familiarities of the Yes song arise, and the audience acknowledges it with applause. Howe's vocals work better here than just about any other place on the CD. It is quite strong.
Blinded By Science
A fun, fast paced rocking tune, this one comes across considerably strong here. The vocals are quite Dylanish. It is definitely one of the highlights of the album.
My White Bicycle
The quintessential Tomorrow number, the former Tomorrow guitarist puts in a scorching version to end the album. His vocals here are not bad, and the jamming/solo segment is especially strong.
 
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