Steve Howe - Skyline - 2002


Star guitar player Steve Howe, for over 30 years involved in one of (if not) the greatest symphonic bands of the 20th century, Yes, is also frequently delivering solo albums. "Skyline" is again a cooperation with keyboard player Paul Sutin, with whom he made two earlier albums. This album is released as a solo album of Steve, because it features mainly guitar based instrumentals, where the keyboards only play a supporting role.


As the earlier albums with Paul Sutin this is again an album with more easy music, that some might categorize as "new age", although I prefer "new instrumental music". The album definitely is a showcase of Steve’s composition skills, more than his guitar playing craftsmanship. Nevertheless is it obvious that on this album you hear a guitarist with a great feeling for his instruments, melodies, sounds and arrangements. It is a pleasure to listen to the variety of musical pieces on this album, that all breathe a very relaxing atmosphere.

Track 1 "Small acts of human kindness" (4:20) is probably an exception, because it is more or less bombastic, but certainly a "grand opening". With the first tones you think that you hear the horn of a ship, but then some majestic guitar and keyboard chords set the mood for the rest of the song. A beautiful melody played by various guitars and even mandolins form a good introduction to the styles and sounds of Steve Howe. Track 2 "Meridian strings" (5:24) sets the mood for the rest of the album: a relaxing rhythm with bongos and other percussion instruments, flowing keyboard patterns and beautiful melodies played by a variety of electric (jazz) and acoustic guitars. Despite this variety there is absolutely no overkill: it al fits perfectly together. The 3rd track "Secret arrow" (4:22) has no rhythm instruments, but again the same pleasant atmosphere and enchanting melodies. "Moon song" (4:26) the 4th track of the album is more spiritual spacey song: spacey keyboards with a soft crying guitar melody. Track 5 "Shifting sand" (5:49) opens with a percussive rhythm on which a moody keyboard and acoustic guitar chords form the accompaniment of a beautiful melody with a typical Steve Howe guitar sound. Jazzy themes and sounds can be heard in track 6 "Avenue de Bel Air" (6:36), again with a thin and floating keyboard layer on a "walking" bass theme and with now and then some nice orchestral string parts. I very much like the direct sound of the guitars, that remind me of the sound of my favorite albums "The Yes Album" and "Fragile" (although the music is of course very different). Track 7 "Resonance" (5:24) is as track 6 rather jazzy with a staccato rhythm played by a bass guitar and with acoustic guitar chords and soft howling guitars. "The anchor" (2:48) is a sort of short intermezzo consisting of a repeated theme played by steel guitar, that is also present on track 9 "Moment in time" (6:47). Country music like, but very grave and easy listening. Track 10 "Simplification" (3:16) is even more grave with its keyboard waves and easy guitar chords. Track 11 "Camera Obscura" (6:28) is very easy listening soft jazz piece with some mandolin parts. The final (12th) track of the alum "Small acts" (3:49), is, as the title implies, a reprise of the opening track, although not as grand as this one, but more in the style of the rest of the album.


"Skyline" is in my opinion a very relaxing and enthralling album, that I listened to a lot and that perfectly fits the mood that hallmarks the time of the year in which I write this review, the dark days around Christmas. Beautiful melodies and warm arrangements make clear that Steve Howe is not only one of the best guitarists of the world, but also a great composer.

author - date - rating - label

Wim Verweij - December 2002 -   - Inside Out