First of all, I think I can speak for all Deep Purple fans, when I say we respect, understand and support Steve’s decision to permanently leave the band in order to be close to his wife Janine as they battle her cancer together…our thoughts are with you both and we wish you the very best.
Much will be written about his time in Purple and how his presence revitalised a band that were beginning to stagnate and the conflicts were becoming (yet again) insurmountable. I was at the Birmingham concert in 1993 that was filmed for the ‘Come Hell or High-water’ release and, whilst it wasn’t as bad as some painted it, it was clear the end was nigh. The bootlegs of the Japanese concerts with Joe Satriani on guitar however, gave me pause for thought: maybe The Man In Black is replaceable after all.
Then the announcement that Steve Morse was to become the ‘official’ replacement hit the music press, to cries of “who’s he?” or, inevitably “no Blackmore, no Purple.” My own opinion was simply that it would be interesting to hear how his unique style(s) would weave together with the established Purple approach, because I already had a number of Steve’s records. Anyone who loved rock music would have been glued to their radio for Tommy Vance every Friday night and be welcomed by his signature tune, ‘Take It Off The Top’ by the Dixie Dregs.
I was also at Bristol for their first tour in support of Purpendicular and, if I’d had any doubts, they were well and truly dispersed by his performance that night and at the many concerts I’ve attended across his 28 year tenure.
I would therefore like to share the wider, lesser known and under-appreciated examples of genius that every track he is a part of sparkles with.
That snippet of ‘Take it Off The Top’ with the plectrum running across the strings and that riff was enough to kickstart my obsession with all things Steve…and it has cost me a fortune!
I bought all the Dregs output, then his Steve Morse Band, Kansas, Triumph, Living Loud, Angelfire and Flying Colors releases. I also started (and continue) to buy every guest appearance from Liza Minelli (yes, really) via Marcel Dadi through to the Merry Axemas album: the only Christmas music allowed in my house! Then come all of the ‘tribute’ albums such as Yes, Rush Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jason Becker. There are many, many more and all of them have Steve’s truly unique talent shining through regardless of genre. The only
The ultimate acquisition for me however was my Musicman Steve Morse signature guitar to sit alongside my Blackmore signature Stratocaster. Steve developed this new guitar with Ernie Ball to replace his “Frankentele.” Like his compositions, the guitar is elegant, has a superb tone and can, via a bewildering range of pick-up settings, sound like any genre you want it too. The downside? Despite buying one of his guitar tutorials, I am still crap! (the original signature model is no longer available but the less complicated (my words) Y2K signatures are.)
Making recommendations is immensely difficult as there so many…take a look at the list on Wiki to see the mammoth task I set myself! Here are a few suggestions should you wish to add some of the Morse legacy to your collection:
A bit of a cop-out, but any Dixie Dregs, Dregs or Steve Morse Band – my all time favourite being Stressfest.
Steve is a genius on acoustic too and, with the voice of an angel courtesy of Sarah Spencer, Angelfire is a very un-rock masterpiece.
Proggy rock with Kansas on Power or the first Flying Colors release.
Ozzy covers and new songs with Jimmy Barnes on vocals as Lee Kerslake and Bob Daisley make a valid and (later) justified point brilliantly.
A countrified and bewildering range of instrumentals from little known French-Tunisian guitarist and recluse, Marcel Dadi and a host of guests, is a must have even if it’s a double CD for the track Fingers Crossing, although it is all a blast. (Marcel sadly died on the TWA flight that exploded off the coast of Long Island.)
An appearance on a Purple tribute band’s first original release: tHis is the tHing #1 by Purpendicular!
A heartwarming guitar fest by many famous players as well as Steve on the Warmth in the Wilderness tribute to Jason Becker.
Guest spots for supreme interpretations of other composers on tributes to Rush, the Beatles, Zeppelin and Jeff Beck to name just a few.
Solo releases Major Impacts 1 and 2 are pure and inherent genius as he writes new instrumentals in the style of others: Derailleur Gears and Truth Ola for example show his vast knowledge of music as he interprets the styles of Cream and Jeff Beck.
So, instead of being saddened by his departure, look at it as an opportunity (unless you’re as daft as me and have all of these albums) to seek out this huge body of work and celebrate Steve’s time, not just in Deep Purple, but in all of the rewarding projects he has written and/or contributed to. Plus, with an efficient studio in his home, maybe we can look forward to more output from a true gentleman and a true professor of guitar excellence.
Tom Dixon | Now Spinning Magazine