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June 28, 2005
Inside Out Music
Pop/Rock, Prog-Rock

Album Review

True believers in the prog rock gospel don't really need to know anything about this disc beyond the fact that it's a solo album by Yes, Asia, and GTR alumnus Steve Howe. Prog rock agnostics will be a bit more wary, but may take comfort from the power-trio instrumentation and from the presence of bassist Tony Levin, who is the very Buddha of taste and professionalism. Between the stripped-down format and the presence of Levin, it would be reasonable to expect that things are going to stick pretty close to the rock & roll verities. And as it turns out, you'd be right. Too right, in fact. If Spectrum has a problem, it's not that Howe indulges himself in long, self-absorbed displays of pointless noodling -- on the contrary, he limits himself to pedestrian rock clichés. For the most part, this album is utterly pleasant and, if anything, too modest in its scope. Whether it's the pretty but unexciting "Labyrinth" or the equally unexceptional "Ultra Definition," Howe sounds as if he's basically just going through the motions here, spinning out melodies that appeal at a certain basic level but don't offer anything of substance or interest. There are exceptions to this rule, both good (the fun, jazzy blues of "Fools Gold") and bad (the bloated mess that is "In the Skyway") and one utter disaster: "Livelihood," on which his solos are so simplistic and clumsy that he sounds as if he's abdicated his guitar to a 16-year-old. But for the most part this album is completely inoffensive and will do fine for driving down the road on a late summer evening. Just don't expect it to get any parties started.
Rick Anderson, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Tigers Den
  2. Labyrinth
  3. Band of Light
  4. Ultra Definition
  5. Ragga of Our Times
  6. Ebb and Flow
  7. Realm Thirteen
  8. Without Doubt
  9. Highly Strung
  10. Hour of Need
  11. Fools Gold
  12. Where Words Fail
  13. In the Skyway
  14. Livelihood
  15. Free Rein