Legendary YES guitarist Steve Howe will release "Love Is" on July 31 via BMG Records. "Love Is" marks Howe's first solo album since the all-instrumental "Time" in 2011 and has a balance of five instrumental tracks and five songs.
The album will be available as a CD in a gatefold digi-sleeve with a 12-page booklet, and a black vinyl 180-gram LP with a gatefold sleeve, liner notes and lyrics.
Howe sings lead vocals and plays electric, acoustic and steel guitars, keyboards, percussion and bass guitar on the instrumentals, while YES vocalist Jon Davison provides vocal harmonies and plays bass guitar on the vocal tracks. The album also features Dylan Howe on drums.
Many years in the making, "Love Is" brings together a consistently strong and polished listening experience, forging the very best from the writing and playing throughout the album. This may well be considered the real "standout" album of Howe's solo career. The instrumentals keep a highly progressive rock guitar style to the fore, with songs that explore stories of lives lived and lives only just begun. "Love Is A River" is the central longer song with several textural shifts, featuring a theme played on 12-string and steel guitars.
"I called the album 'Love Is' because it hints at the central idea that that love is important but also love of the universe and the ecology of the world is very important," says Howe. "Alexander Humboldt went around the world and recognized we are destroying the planet but that was 200 years ago. We are still destroying the planet and, I suppose, my songs show the yearning I have for the love of nature and how beauty, art and music all stem from nature. There is a theme about those things, love, beauty, ecology, nature and wonderful people.
"'Love Is A River' just seemed a very important track to me, a sort of quintessential track with lots of moods, lots of interesting things going on with steel guitars and acoustic guitars. Further tracks grew from time spent writing in my studio.
"'See Me Through' looks at the idea that we get through life by not driving ourselves that hard but attempting to achieve things with people who help you along the way, and 'Imagination' is dedicated to my granddaughter Zuni. It's about how I see some of the things she's experienced in her short seven years.
"I invited Jon Davison to sing harmonies with me and add bass on the songs. If he was singing on the songs I thought 'why doesn't he play bass' as well and it turned out nice. He's been with YES for seven or eight years and he's a great guy, great performer and a great interpreter of YES songs.
"I've been singing for years, mainly in harmony but I've sung lead on lots of my own albums before and I feel that, as I've got older, I've got a grip on that and, hopefully, it's improved over the years."
The album includes many distinctive Steve Howe signatures among the instrumental tracks from the delicate beauty of "Fulcrum", "Beyond The Call" and "Pause For Thought" to upbeat rock, "The Headlands", and the jazz-tinged "Sound Picture".
"The instrumentals are like a mood, a place I went to one day, thought this is nice and then I develop that to a point where it's a finished track," Howe explains. "There might be key ingredients that I thought about using musically that I like, that I'm drawn to, and then developing them into something."
"Love Is" was written, engineered and produced by Steve Howe with further engineering and mixing by Curtis Schwartz.
"I write in my own studio and then go to see Curtis in his studio," Howe explains. "We expand the tracks and put them on Pro Tools and everything starts to be possible. At some point, probably around two years ago, Dylan came down to Curtis's studio and we recorded the drums on some of the tracks. I could see a balance of five instrumental tracks and five songs and there was a feeling that it was an album, sitting there, looking at me."
"Love Is" track listing:
01. Fulcrum *
02. See Me Through
03. Beyond The Call *
04. Love Is A River
05. Sound Picture *
06. It Ain't Easy
07. Pause For Thought *
09. The Headlands *
10. On The Balcony