September 11, 2022

Anyone coming to this album who knew nothing about Steve Howe, and listened to this album of short instrumental pieces encompassing a variety of styles, would be amazed to learn he’s a prog rock guitarist of considerable renown, voted Prog God in 2018, and also contributing mightily to Yes and Asia… all of which highlights the amazing versatility of the man. He has a considerable hinterland beyond prog, however, and has been prolific in releasing solo albums – more than twenty at the last count – which are always eclectic in nature, though they nearly always tend to veer towards melodic rather than rock.

Virgil & Steve Howe completed their album Nexus in August 2017 but, tragically, Virgil died the following month, though Steve still released the album two months later as a tribute to his son. However, there was one completed track, Lunar Mist, which remained unreleased, which Steve thought was ‘a fantastic track’, as well as other small pieces of music, so, he explained, ‘for the most part I kept them as he’d written them but, sometimes, I expanded them with further ideas and improvisations. Virgil showed some different musical characteristics here, which were such a joy to play on’.

As per Nexus, this is an album of mainly very short pieces of instrumental music, with the longest track, A Month In The Sun, only four and a half minutes and, alongside Plexus, the only track on which Howe stretches himself on electric guitar (and, with lyrics added, could be something Asia might be interested in recording). The pieces of music are usually just basic melody lines with very little deviation as the tune proceeds, mostly with minimal backing, and all are performed as you’d expect from such a master craftsman. All throughout the album, Steve Howe plays both electric and acoustic guitar and demonstrates he’s a no-effort virtuoso on both instruments, playing with style and injecting feeling into what he plays and, while on some tracks his guitar work is less than on others, what he does play is often exquisite.

Having said this, there are some quite achingly beautiful pieces on Lunar Mist, notably Lothian’s Way and More Than You Know, while title track Lunar Mist is a delightful intro to the album and has a slight feel of Lunatic Soul about it. Closing track Martian Mood however is very different from the rest of the album, with its electronic spacey opening notes and usage of synths and distorted guitars throughout the track.

Few guitarists in rock have a resume like Steve Howe. He can play prog with the best of them, but can also play jazz, country and classical. He can rock out with coruscating leads but is also capable of moments of ethereal beauty. Steve Howe’s more than earned the right to do what he wants, and if this includes keeping alive the musical memory of Virgil Howe, few can complain.