CD Review: Steve Howe - Anthology 1 & 2, "Solo Career Retrosective" and "Groups & Collaborations"

LOS ANGELES – In 2015, legendary Yes guitarist, Steve Howe, released the two-disc collection Anthology, A Solo Career Retrospective, a 33-track set taken from his vast archive of solo music. This was followed by the 2017 release of Anthology 2, Groups & Collaborations, a three-disc, 56-track collection covering material from the guitarist’s participation in bands, including songs from Yes, Asia, GTR, Tomorrow, and collaborations with other artists. Both collections also feature design and artwork from famed artist Roger Dean.

Review and photos by Joe Milliken

Anthology, A Solo Career Retrospective includes songs cherry-picked by Howe (and his late son, Virgil) and primarily draws from his solo work recorded between 1975 and 2011. As a solo artist, his range of styles are all over the musical map, and all are well-represented throughout this beautifully packaged collection. The tracks are pulled from several early solo albums, a 2008 compilation of re-recorded songs, two other compilation albums in which Howe participated, and two tracks from his Bob Dylan covers album, Portrait of Bob Dylan.

Several stellar musicians contributed to these songs including Bill Bruford, Patrick Moraz, Alan White, Geoff Downs, Howe’s sons Dylan and Virgil, as well as Rick Wakeman’s son, Oliver. Selected highlights from disc one include several mainstay Howe compositions from his early solo albums (1975-1998) including “Pennants,” “Surface Tension,” Sensitive Chaos,” “Desire Comes First,” “Maiden Voyage,” and “Walk Don’t Run,” as well as the aforementioned Dylan covers “Just Like A Woman” and “Buckets Of Rain.”

Disc two features more material from Howe’s later solo efforts, (2001-2011) including standout tracks such as “Curls & Swirls,” “Simplifications,” “Rising Sun,” “Ebb and Flow,” “Sketches in the Sun” and “Beginnings.” Two bonus tracks from the second disc include a symphonic version of the Yes classic “Mood For A Day” and then “Sharp On Attack,” which is taken from the 1988 IRS Records compilation Guitar Speak.

Anthology 2, Groups & Collaborations is a gorgeous, three-disc set packed with songs covering Howe’s entire career. Discs one and two cover the 10 bands in which the guitarist participated dating back to 1964, including The Syndicats, The In Crowd, Tomorrow, Canto, Bodast, Yes, Asia, GTR, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, and The Steve Howe Trio. Highlights from the first two discs include some relatively unknown tracks (to this fan, anyway) from bands that Howe briefly played with (The Syndicats, The In Crowd, Tomorrow and Bodast) in the mid-60s, as well as touching upon the bands that made him famous; Yes, Asia and GTR.

The third disc includes 19 tracks featuring Howe’s collaborations with other artists, 12 songs of which are previously unreleased. These artists include Fish, Billy Currie, Oliver Wakeman, Paul Sutin, Annie Haslam, Dean Dyson, Keith West, Max Bacom and Ray Fenwick. It is especially interesting to hear Howe’s collaborations of Yes songs, including “Time And A Word” with Fish, and “Turn Of The Century” with Annie Haslam.

Overall these are very well-rounded collections, but admittedly, this reviewer is a bit surprised that only three Yes songs were chosen for the Groups & Collaborations collection although, also understandably, Howe states in the liner notes that he only chose three (“Roundabout,” “Montreaux’s Theme,” and “Tempus Fugit”) because of the “high number of Yes re-releases” already available. Aside from that, these anthologies paint a bright, balanced picture between classic cuts, unreleased tracks and other cool obscurities. The packaging is pristine and the CD booklet's are packed with cool photos and informative liner notes. Yes, (pun intended) these anthologies are a must for every Steve Howe/Yes fan looking to enhance their collection!