Ascend

Greg Howe

Shrapnel Records, 1999

http://www.greghowe.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/29/2000

Greg Howe seems like he's always been waiting in the wings to be the next guitar god. He's slugged it out for over a decade, releasing album after album of guitar-oriented music, but for some reason or another, he's never made it to the levels of someone like Joe Satriani. (I'd be remiss if I even pretended to know everything about Howe's career; I haven't followed him that closely over the years.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But his 1999 release Ascend seems to feature Howe just playing for the sake of playing with other virtuosos -- and in that release, he has found the freedom to make the kind of album that should get other people to stand up and take notice. That is, if people even bother to give him a chance -- and I'm afraid many people aren't willing to make that big of a leap of faith.

Howe handles all guitar and bass work on this disc (except for the closing track "Full Throttle," which also features guitarist Prashant Aswani), and even tackles the guitar synthesizer to provide all instrumentation on "Her Dance". Rounding out the band are keyboardist Vitalij Kuprig (whose debut album featured Howe's guitar work and inspired him to do this album) and drummer Jon Doman, two musicians who are more than capable of keeping up with the technical wizardry that Howe possesses.

Musically, it does take some time for things to really get warmed up on Ascend. The opening tracks, "Unlocked" and "Tales Told," are decent enough efforts, but they don't have the magic that would normally lock me into a disc like this. Instead, that magic peeks its head out on "Garden Of Harmony" -- and from then on, it's all clear sailing for Howe.

Especially worthy of praise is his accurate cover of Rush's "La Villa Strangiato," a track which gives all three members of the band plenty of room to shine (especially when it comes to hearing Howe's bass work, eerily reminiscent of Geddy Lee). And though I wish the track had been longer, "Her Dance" is absolute wizardry.

Howe proves on Ascend that he deserves the chance to run with the big dogs -- but even if he never gets that opportunity, he can easily look back on this album and proudly consider it a killer effort.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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