A southpaw from the south, he emerged with a masterful band called The Dixie Dregs. In no time, word of Steve Morse’s unique guitar style traveled this country and beyond. It was a style borne out of an unflinching commitment to excellence. His execution, awe-inspiring as much in his choice of notes as in the cleanliness of his delivery, became a benchmark for aspiring guitarists to heed.
Long before Steve Morse began his relationship with Magna Carta Records, those aspiring guitarists, perhaps awestruck by Morse’s harmonic sense, tone, and articulation, were voting him tops in such publications as Guitar Player. Such unanimous endorsements point to Morse’s uncanny (and rare) ability to play the complex lines guitarists like to hear and make music.
Indeed, music is what you hear when you sample the various tracks on this compendium of seminal Steve Morse songs. In Magna Carta Records, Morse found the forum in which to display his dazzling diversity while contributing solid compositions. In fact, each of the Steve Morse songs found herein, while replete with guitar virtuosity, feature melodic lines that you will hum long after the CD stops spinning. And to hear those figures played so supremely clean is to dig at the root of Steve Morse’s artistry.
Take almost anything Morse does on these compositions, whether it’s the ever-darting, constantly modulating ostinato on “Heightened Awareness”, or the thematic line from “Busybodies”, or perhaps the dense layers of “Wooden Music”. You will notice that melody always takes precedence. Mind you, you’ll also get a good dose of speed and heightened articulation: Perhaps this is what happens when a left-handed player turns the guitar around and plays it the “right” way. It places his stronger hand on the neck, promoting dexterity—and adding a certain “meat” to the tone. Morse’s lines don’t whither or trail off. Of course, this is very much a conscious effort and has much to do with his right hand picking virtually every note—not a lot of slurring going on! Also key to his unique sound is the design of his instrument, one that has evolved from the early years when he employed multiple pickups to catch every string nuance.
Steve wears his southern influences on his sleeve. While his tone speaks of the blues greats, it also twangs of the country. Listen to the way he handles the Yes standard, “The Clap”. No question, Morse can hang with the likes of Albert Lee any day.
Aside from deep country and that Dixie funk, Morse exhibits a huge variety of guitar influences, from Steve Howe to John McLaughlin, the latter who seemed to define for a generation the proper ratio of jazz to rock. Then there’s this pervasive baroque thing, almost Mozart like in its staccato phrases and Bach like in its serenity—evidence, perhaps, of Steve’s classical studies in Florida (check out “Air on a 6-String” or the figure that begins around 00.50 on “Prognosis”). No wonder he used to typify his work as “modern chamber music”!
A fanatical practicer, Steve has admitted to risking life and limb on the freeway in the name of his instrument. Rather than waste time when heading his car to the airport, for example, he’d strap on the guitar (and, hopefully, his seatbelt) and pick away, manipulating the steering wheel with his knees. We can only hope that when he secured his pilot’s license he refrained from such multi-tasking!
At the time of this writing, Steve Morse was touring with Deep Purple, arguably dealing in a heavier sound as befits the music. A man possessed of clarity of vision and, seemingly, fitness of body, Steve Morse has fashioned himself for the span of decades, not the flavors of months.
Notes by T. Bruce Wittet, Muzik Etc magazine editor, Modern Drummer magazine writer, People Will Talk Media director.
released May 24, 2005
1) “Heightened Awareness” - 4:19 – Artist: The Steve Morse Band - Album: Split Decision – Steve Morse: Guitars; Dave LaRue: Bass; Van Romaine: Drums.
2) “Prognosis” – 6:01 – Artist: Steve Morse – Album: Major Impacts - Steve Morse: Guitars and Extraneous Overdubs; Dave LaRue: Bass; Van Romaine: Drums.
3) “La Villa Strangiato” – 9:26 – Album:Working Man (Tribute to Rush) – Steve Morse: Classical Guitar & Main Solo; Mike Portnoy:Drums; Billy Sheehan: Bass; Brendt Allman:Rhythm Guitar; James Murphy:Ending Guitar Solo; David Townson: Rhythm Guitar
4) “The Clap” – 3:09 - Album: Tales From Yesterday (Tribute To Yes) – Steve Morse: Acoustic Guitar.
5) “Quantum Soup” – 11:03 – Artist: Jordan Rudess - Album: Feeding The Wheel - Steve Morse:Guitar Solos; Jordan Rudess:All Keyboards; Terry Bozzio: All Drums and Percussion; John Petrucci:Guitar; Mark Wood:Electric Seven String Viper Violin.
6) “Busybodies” – 2:34 - Artist: The Steve Morse Band - Album: Split Decision – Steve Morse: Guitars; Dave LaRue: Bass; Van Romaine: Drums.
7) “Led On” – 6:31 - Artist: Vapourspace Remix of Steve Morse; Album: Sonic Residue From Vapourspace - Remixed and Produced by Mark Gage in Vapourspace; Steve Morse: Guitars; Dave LaRue: Bass; Van Romaine: Drums.
8) “Air On A 6 String” - 2:20 - Artist: Steve Morse – Album: Major Impacts 2 - Steve Morse: Guitars; Dave LaRue: Bass; Van Romaine: Drums.
9) “Wooden Music” - 4:56 - Artist: Steve Morse – Album: Major Impacts 2 - Steve Morse: Guitars; Dave LaRue: Bass; Van Romaine: Drums.
Executive Producers – Peter Morticelli & Mike Varney