Steve Morse (born July 28, 1954) is an American guitarist and composer, best known as the founder of the Dixie Dregs; and since 1994, the guitar player of Deep Purple. Morse’s career has encompassed rock, country, funk, jazz, classical, and fusion of these musical genres. In addition to his successful solo career, he was briefly a member of Kansas in the mid-1980s. Most recently, Morse became a member of the supergroup Flying Colors alongside long-time bandmate Dave LaRue. (by wikipedia)
A solid effort from an outstanding trio – well worth a listen, especially for guitar enthusiasts!
I recently had the pleasure to see these guys on their brief 2009. It seems like Steve is so busy playing with Deep Purple and other acts that he rarely has a chance to tour with this trio. I was so blown away by their stellar performance that I decided to pick up this album (their most recent at this time). Although I’m a fan of Morse’s guitar playing, I preface this review by saying that I’m not that familiar with his previous Steve Morse Band albums. So, my opinions on this album are relatively uninfluenced by his previous works.
Overall, this is a spectacular album. I highly recommend it for fans of instrumental prog, particularly if you’re a fan of excellent guitar work and funky bass lines. For fans of Liquid Tension Experiment and Bozzio Levin Stevens, this is worth a listen. There are a lot of standout tracks on this album, with only a few tracks that are rather unmemorable. This album is highly recommended for road trips! Now on to the track-by-track:
1) Name Dropping – The album kicks off with solid, hard-driving riffing with a steady beat. A running eighth note melody is doubled on the guitar and bass which sets the foundation for Morse’s soaring guitar playing. Keep listening, because the mellow, spacey bridge adds nice contrast later in the song.
2) Brink of the Edge – Eclectic and dynamic, this piece combines heavy sections with softer passages in a true Steve Morse sound. Awesome guitar picking, as you’d expect from the master, which is complimented by La Rue’s prominent bass lines including the quintessential slap bass solo near the end (not the last one you’ll hear on this album).
3) Here And Now And Then – One of the best on the album and the first song to catch my attention. It starts out very mellow with nice use of syncopation and stays that way for a while. It eventually builds momentum and develops into a nice rock groove at the end with some great guitar work over top. The solo work at the end reminds me of John Petrucci (who, of course, was heavily influenced by Morse)? a plus for you Dream Theater fans out there (especially if you’re an early DT fan, like me).
4) Relentless Encroachment – Not the strongest song on the album, but worth a listen. The song starts out a bit weak, but gets better part way through. After some rather uninspired riffing, it switches to a softer section, which is then followed by some good ol’ riffing in the style of King’s X, followed by some good guitar work (no surprise there!).
5) John Deere Letter – OK, OK? cheesy name aside, this is a decent song, though not one of my favorites (I go for the heavier stuff). Morse fans will know what to expect from the title. For the rest of you, take a listen to better understand why these guys are classified as “eclectic prog.” The song showcases Morse’s signature “chicken-pickin”style as he trades 4’s and 8’s with La Rue, who pulls out some quick fingered solos of his own.
6) More to the Point – Another decent piece, but, again, not the most memorable on the album. Good use of syncopation in the main motif. Perhaps one of the better songs on the album for cranking up loud and driving down the highway.
7) Time Junction – This song is neat just for the fact that it includes featured guest Kevin Morse (Steve’s son, I presume?). In fact, the song is credited as being written by Kevin and Steve Morse (the only one on the album not credited solely to Steve). What’s more, this is a pretty awesome song. It starts off a bit weak, but takes off pretty quick. If this is the start of a rock dynasty, then I’m looking forward to hearing what’s to come!
8) Unnamed Sources – A rather uninspired offering on an otherwise outstanding album. This song starts rather pedestrian in tempo with so-so guitar and bass work. Just before the 3 minute mark it shows the potential to shine when they crank it up to a riff that’s reminiscent of Carrier on Wayward Son (makes sense with Morse’s connection to Kansas). But this shining moment is short lived. After about 15 seconds they put the breaks on and never pick it back up.
9) Flight Of The Osprey – Hands down, best song on the album. This song caught my attention right away. It starts out with a brief Baroque counterpoint section but quickly shifts to a driving rock that carries us through to the end. My only criticism of this song is that I wish it would last longer and perhaps include more soloing.
10) Baroque ‘N Dreams – An awesome piece that contrasts the rest of the album. This piece is bass and guitar only in a “classical” style that is at times dark, but always wonderful. Some nice flamenco-esque sounds find their way into the guitar line which is supported through much of the piece with a basso continuo from La Rue. No rock here, but awesome for fans of neo-classical (and good music in general).
11) Rising Power (live) – For those of you who couldn’t make it to their recent tour, here’s your 9 and a half minute consolation prize. This track is awesome and an excellent way to close out this album. You can really hear the energy they have on stage. This track has everything you would expect at a Steve Morse Band show: Romaine’s driving rock beat, La Rue’s funky slap bass fills (anyone who’s been to a show can attest to how essential these are? it seems like he spends half his time slapping!), and of course Morse’s versatile and precise guitar work. This song also showcases some great texture changes. Its got driving rock, spacey guitar-synth, bluesy breakdowns, the elongated buildup? not to mention great guitar and bass solos. If you can’t go to the show, this really is the next best thing. (by The Radiant Is)
Dave LaRue (bass)
Steve Morse (guitar)
Van Romaine (drums, percussion)
01. Name Dropping (S.Morse) 5.00
02. Brink Of The Edge (S.Morse) 4.44
03. Here And Now And Then (S.Morse) 5.08
04. Relentless Encroachment (S.Morse) 4.56
05. John Deere Letter (S.Morse) 4.44
06. More To The Point (S.Morse) 4.29
07. Time Junction (K.Morse) 5.16
08. Unnamed Sources (S.Morse) 4.31
09. Flight Of The Osprey (S.Morse) 3.21
10. Baroque `N Dreams (S.Morse) 3.16
11. Rising Power (live) (S.Morse) 9.28