Steve Howe’s Homebrew series of albums has been an interestingly curious collection of demos and tracks from Steve’s own home archive. It is fair to say that over the previous six releases the tracks have been uneven in quality, but they’ve always maintained an interest for those seeking to hear how Steve’s work developed on tunes for Yes, Asia, ABWH, GTR or solo albums. In the year that marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first Homebrew album, Homebrew 7 takes a different approach to the others as none of the tracks has been released in any form before and there are no plans for any of them to be rerecorded in the future. As Steve explains; “Many are things I’ve enjoyed saving until the right moment, and the Homebrew series allows this. Some tracks have matured with my nurturing but others have been recently rediscovered.”
That is not to say that you won’t hear familiar themes. On Half Way we are presented with the original version of While Rome’s Burning from the solo album Turbulence, released in 1991, on this occasion a song rather than a instrumental. It might cause those familiar with While Rome’s Burning to do a double take upon hearing this version but the track works well as a song.
In all there are twenty-one tracks on this album, and it is intriguing to try and work out which project of Steve’s could have developed each one into a song. Each of the tunes is dated and accompanied by Steves background notes which gives details of instrumentation. For the most part these are solo recordings by Steve, but there are contributions from both Dylan Howe and Virgil Howe on drums while Phil Spalding pops up on bass guitar on Half Way. Indeed, Dylan is only about fourteen years old on one track. A colourful booklet includes the lyrics of the four songs in the collection, and is decorated with some of Steve’s characterful photographic images that reflects the atmosphere of the tunes.
Homebrew 7 is, perhaps, the most cohesive of the series, in that it feels like an album rather than a collection of diverse songs. The tracks also present a good impression of Steve’s varied skills in differing styles. There’s the obvious rock edge in Half Way, the guitar improvisations, the troubadour side on the acoustic led song From Another Day, the exploration of electric guitar on several tracks, the interaction of different instruments such as the electric guitar and the bass on the proggy Safe Haven, and the player-with-sound on the synth experiments on Space Void. Unusually for Steve, you can also hear the influence of the blues on A Matter Of Fact and The Only One. There’s even a chance for a doff of the cap to friend and artist Roger Dean on Deanscape.
The full array of Steve’s instruments is on display, and as you might expect it is a mighty arsenal. There’s his favourite electric guitar, the GibsonES175D, Fender Stratocasters, steel guitar, a variety of acoustic guitars, electric mandolin, synth guitars, an array of keyboards and effects.
Over all then, this is an enjoyable listen and a real highlight of the Homebrew series. Steve’s tasteful, thoughtful, precise and clean playing is on full display. It is the overall effect of the album that dominates your thoughts though, an eclectic run through a musician’s moods and thought processes as he works on his art. An imaginative and friendly listen.
1. The Glider (2015) Time: 1.37
2. October (1998) 1.56
3. Half Way (1997, 2009 & 2015) 3.49
4. The Only One (2013) 1.26
5. In One Life (1982) 2.41
6. Outstanding Deal (1982) 3.21
7. Be Natural (2013) 1.47
8. Cold Winds (1983) 2.38
9. Deanscape (1982) 2.21
10. Tender Hooks (2015) 2.06
11. A Lady She Is (1982) 4.12
12. Two Sided (2013) 1.45
13. Strange Wayfarer (2016) 3.00
14. Devon Girl (1983) 2.42
15. Safe Haven (2015) 1.31
16. A Matter Of Fact 1986)
17. Touchstone (2015)1.58
18. From Another Day (1979) 1.47
19. Foregone Conclusion (2015) 1.58
20. Space Void (1978) 1.05
21. From The Get-Go (2015) 1.49
Steve Howe – electric and acoustic guitars, bass, electric mandolin, keyboards, synths
Dylan Howe – drums
Virgil Howe – drums
Phil Spalding – bass
Release Date: on 30th July, 2021
Pre-order Homebrew 7 here: https://cargorecordsdirect.co.uk/products/steve-howe-homebrew-7
Twitter – @SteveHoweOne