[Review] Steve Howe: Beginnings (1975)

Eh, Steve Hackett couldn’t sing either, and some of his albums were awesome. This one is pretty good.

Kronomyth 1.0: Dwarves of sleep.

It takes more than a great guitarist to make a great album, but a good album? Oh, Beginnings is that and a little more. As Howe was one of the principal architects of Yes, it’ll come as no surprise that the songs on Beginnings recall that band more than anything. In fact, Alan White, Bill Bruford and Patrick Moraz even lend a hand in the proceedings. The surprise is that Steve Howe sings. A lot. More than he should have, really. Suffice to say that his vocal range dwarfs in comparison to Jon Anderson, as the words “sleepy” and “bashful” come to mind in describing it. (It must be something about English prog guitarists, as Howe, Hackett, Hillage and Andy Latimer all sounded like they’d just quaffed half a bottle of Nyquil.)

Despite some inspired passages, the songs on Beginnings suffer from the too-quick transition from one idea to another, which may be a carryover from the more-is-more aesthetic of Tales From Topographic Oceans. And so Beginnings is an album made by a sleepy-voiced progressive rock guitarist who throws a lot of ideas at the wall hoping some will stick. A few do, none stickier than “Lost Symphony,” which might be the cutest Yes solo song this side of “Don’t Forget (Nostalgia).” Then there’s the pastoral classical piece (“Beginnings”) that reminds me of The Snow Goose, an instrumental featuring members of Gryphon (“The Nature of the Sea”) and a second dose of The Clap (“Ram”), all of it good and none of it featuring Steve Howe’s voice. Which isn’t to say that he’s an awful vocalist, but we Yes fans are a jaded lot after Jon Anderson, and Beginnings only offers the spacey lyrics without the celestial voice.

If you enjoy music that works on a conceptual level, better to begin with Olias, Six Wives, Flash or Story of I. You’ll get around to Beginnings (and Fish Out of Water) eventually because of what they are: an alternate route through the land of legendary high adventure known as Yes.

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Original LP Version

A1. Doors of Sleep (Steve Howe/Alice Meynell) (4:06)
A2. Australia (Steve Howe) (4:14)
A3. The Nature of the Sea (Steve Howe) (3:54)
A4. Lost Symphony (Steve Howe/Jan Howe) (4:38)
B1. Beginnings (Steve Howe) (7:29)
B2. Will o’ the Wisp (Steve Howe/Jan Howe) (5:59)
B3. Ram (Steve Howe) (1:52)
B4. Pleasure Stole The Night (Steve Howe/Jan Howe) (2:53)
B5. Break Away From It All (Steve Howe) (4:20)

The Players

Steve Howe (guitars, banjo, bass, dobro guitar, harpsichord, Moog, organ, pedal steel, vocals, washboard), Alan White (drums) with Malcolm Bennett (bass on A3, flute on B4), Gwyd Brooke (bassoon on B1), Bill Bruford (drums & percussion on B4/B5), Colin Gibson (bass on B4), James Gregory (flute & piccolo on B1), Patrick Halling (violin on B1), Peter Halling (cello on B1), Chris Laurence (bass on b1, double string on B4), John Meek (viola on B1), Patrick Moraz (grand piano, harpsichord, mellotron, Moog, piano & orchestration on A4/B1/B2), David Oberle (drums on A3), William Reid (violin on B1), Sidney Sutcliffe (oboe on B1), Graeme Taylor (guitar on A3). Produced by Steve Howe and Eddie Offord; engineered by Eddie Offord, Paul Northfield, Declan O’Doherty, Jeremey Stenham.

The Pictures

Artwork by Roger Dean. Photography by Martyn Dean. Inside cover photograph by Steve Howe.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, 8-track and cassette in November 1975 in the UK (Atlantic, K50151), the US (Atlantic, SD/TP/CS-18154), Brazil (Atlantic, 404037), France, Germany and the Netherlands (Atlantic, ATL-50151), Italy (Atlantic, W 50151) and Japan (Atlantic, P-10041A) with gatefold cover; reached #22 on the UK charts and #63 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (Atlantic, P-6529A).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in 1990 on Japan (Atlantic, AMCY-17).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc in Japan (Atlantic, AMCY-4047).
  4. Re-released on remastered compact disc on May 14, 1994 in the US (Atlantic, 80319-2).

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