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Steve Howe — Quantum Guitar
(RPM CSA100, 1998, CD)

Quantum Guitar Cover art

Steve Howe is the only Yes member who has yet to deliver a duff solo album. His last effort (excluding live and archive releases), The Grand Scheme of Things, was the pinnacle of his solo career, better than anything Yes has done since Drama. It was also completely ignored. Well that was five years ago, but here on Quantum Guitar his signature sound and style are again everywhere intact, showing him still atop that pinnacle. Though there are no keyboards or vocals, much of the work seems rather in a song format, than instrumental pieces, but covers every facet of the man's staggering ability to wrench timeless poetry out of anything with strings attached. Unlike speed merchants Malmsteen etc., Howe's guitar is always employed solely in service of the music, evoking consistently a maturity that comes with the massive playing and writing experience he has had. Neither Fripp nor Holdsworth has ever arranged a song with the layers of overlapping and contrasting guitar parts, as Howe does, whereby each part fits into the greater compositional whole. There is simply no other player in the world I know of who does anything like this. I have always thought that if Yes could just harness Howe's inspired melodic knack, and marry it to Anderson's zest for adventure and the exotic, then Squire, Wakeman, and White could merely show up and bang along in their sleep and still a decent Yes album it would make (which is how Tales was made for all intents and purposes). Anyway, another winner for Steve. One wonders when Yes' bureaucracy will allow him to show what he's made of on a group recording. After all it was a (different) guitarist who dominated Yes in the 80's, right?. Though I highly recommend Quantum Guitar, I'd say feast your ears on Grand Scheme first if you get the chance; then come here for a very substantial dessert!

by Mike Ezzo, Published 1999-01-01

Steve Howe's solo albums are always a showcase of different guitars, styles, and instrumental dexterity. The man's career has been predicated as such with Yes, and Quantum Guitar delivers the goods as you might expect without any vocals. The disc offers a couple of updated and re-worked tributes to classic guitar rock instrumentals: the early 60s classics "Walk Don't Run" and "Sleepwalk" (also recently covered by the California Guitar Trio). The big track is #5, Suddenly, which goes through several changes and sounds to me like a possible out-take from the Keys to Ascension sessions (or something brought to those sessions). Eleven tracks clock in around three minutes which shows a focus on shorter pieces and a quicker approach at getting to the point. The album is a cross between Turbulence (1992) and the Steve Howe Album (1979) where Steve chooses combinations from his extensive palette of steel, acoustic, and electric guitars. Steve's a refiner; his approach is to take the best blending of stringed instruments and meld them into the context of his songs. A few tracks appear to be vocal pieces with only a backing track intact from unused sessions (e.g. "Light Walls" or "Southern Accent"). Others highlight Howe's penchant for bright melodic leads with a restrained flashiness in his later years. Plus there is a detailed diagram of what guitar is used on which song that re-enforces the map Steve follows to integrally build up the compositions. The wonderful album cover features a swirling guitar design from Steve's immaculate collection by the Gottleib Brothers (formerly of Yes Magazine). Quantum Guitar is another notch in the belt of a class guitarist aging with dignity and more chops than you'd expect intact.

by Jeff Melton, Published 1999-01-01

Steve Howe has always been a guitarist's guitarist, never flashy enough to stand in the public's eye as much as some of his peers from the 70s and yet revered by guitarists worldwide for his commitment to his craft and his instrument. Furthermore, he's always used his solo albums as a vehicle to display his versatility on different instruments as well as to showcase the guitars themselves. Quantum Guitar is no exception, the 17 tracks showcasing a total of 33 different types of stringed instruments! In some cases, as with the Gibson mando-cello, these are quite old and very rare. The defining characteristic of all of the pieces on Quantum Guitar (as has been the case with pretty much all of his solo output, going back to Beginnings in 1975) is the way in which Howe switches the lead instrument from one type of guitar to another. For example, a song might begin with the Spanish guitar taking the lead, then switching to the pedal steel, then to the Telecaster to rock it up a bit, then back to the steel, then on to a bit of Coral sitar guitar, and back to the Tele, etc. These are not strictly solo pieces (Steve's son Dylan sits in the drummer's chair) though they are all comprised of just guitars, bass, and drums. And, for those of you wondering, no, Steve does not sing (I can hear the collective sigh of relief). Besides, his guitar playing is so melodic and lyrical throughout that a vocal melody isn't usually necessary anyway. Although some of the songs on the CD are rockier ("Mainland”, “Totality") and some are more serene ("The Collector"), all are uniformly friendly and very approachable. Several ("Momenta") even remind us of Howe's ability, especially in his Yes work from the 70s, to mesmerize and enchant. Ultimately, Quantum Guitar is a must for serious students of the guitar and a fine addition to Steve Howe's canon of work.

by Paul Hightower, Published 1999-01-01

Filed under: New releases, Issue 16, 1998 releases

Related artist(s): Steve Howe


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