A few years back, Steve Howe released the highly recommended Anthology, covering much of his solo career. This second anthology is a sprawling, three-CD set that aims to fill in the gaps, covering nearly four decades of ensemble work via 56 tracks.
The box opens with mid-’60s pop, revealing a teenaged Howe in bands like the Syndicats, In Crowd, and Tomorrow. The first two are squarely in the Beat school with Chuck Berry licks ladled in – check out “Maybellene” from 1964, where a 16-year-old Steve solos with heavy echo. “Finger Poppin’” speaks to the raw British R&B of the Animals, Stones, and Kinks, and sports another fleet-fingered break. In contrast, Tomorrow’s “My White Bicycle” of 1967 is terrific Brit-psych, with his backwards-guitar effects and thematic octaves.
In pre-Yes groups like Canto and Bodast, Steve Howe’s patented staccato style began to emerge, fusing sharp modal licks of jazz and flamenco with country and rockabilly twang. The mix of electric, acoustic, and classical guitars on “Beyond Tomorrow” is already prophesying his complex work to come. Moving into the Yes epoch, we hear their breakthrough single “Roundabout,” but perhaps more interesting is “Montreux’s Theme” from 1977, an unreleased instrumental from the Going for the One sessions. Next are pop-prog Asia hits like “Heat Of The Moment” and “One Step Closer,” as well as songs from the bland GTR album with Steve Hackett in 1987.
Disc 2 covers Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman & Howe and the various re-formed Yes and Asia projects. This material is a mix of prog and radio-friendly pop, a far cry from the epic progressive-rock of Close to the Edge, but still yielding plenty of Steve’s ace guitarmanship. “Dangerous” and “Without Hope” are unreleased – and very good – backing tracks from the dismal Union record of 1991. As these cool tracks suggest, a decent Yes album may have lurked within that legendary trainwreck.
By 1997, Yes finally got their act together and started making serious new rock. “Bring Me To The Power” was prime prog, the band reenergized with Howe’s indefatigable guitar leading the charge. Check out “Sweet Thunder” from the Steve Howe Trio, his swingin’ outfit that paid homage to the jazzbox tones of Tal Farlow and Wes Montgomery.
The third disc here covers mostly ’80s and ’90s collaborations, some sounding dated with synth sequencers and electronic drums. Listen instead to Steve’s fun covers of “Time And A Word” (with Marillion frontman Fish), and a beautiful “Turn Of The Century” with Annie Haslam of Renaissance.
This article originally appeared in VG January 2018 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.