“Steve Morse makes every note count,” Guitar Player Magazine writer Jas Obrecht observed in 1982. “One moment he soars across the fingerboard with amazing speed, and in the next lulls his listeners with slow, poignant phrases.”
“Stylistically,” Obrecht added, “he creates lush crossbreeds of diverse elements, delivering heavy metal, Baroque/classical, freeform jazz/rock, bluegrass, chicken pickin’ country, Irish jigs, and breakdowns with equal energy and finesse.”
It’s that very versatility that makes Morse hard to define musically. Suffice it to say that the Ohio-born guitar wiz is blessed with the kind of ability that gets your attention — and then some.
(photo courtesy of Reuters Media)
Morse has recorded 40 albums over his career, either as a solo artist, with his own band, or with the Dixie Dregs, Kansas and Deep Purple, with whom he still plays. He’s also appeared on 23 other albums, sitting in with performers as varied as Liza Minelli and the Canadian power-rock trio, Triumph.
Morse got his start with the Dregs in 1975, going on to record 14 albums with the band while establishing himself as one of the premier guitar players of the era. The Dregs ultimately fizzled in 1983 — although they briefly reunited years later.
He didn’t rest for long, forming the Steve Morse Band after the Dregs’ demise. In all, there would be 11 albums with his band or as a solo artist. In 1986, he joined the lineup of a reformed Kansas, replacing Kerry Livgren in the 1970s progressive rock band. The Morse-led Kansas recorded two albums, with another two compiliation albums to follow in the future.
While continuing to records with his band and as a solo artist, Morse’s future began to take shape elsewhere. In 1993, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore walked away from a reunited Deep Purple. Joe Satriani briefly stepped in for the legendary metal group, but had no longterm ambitions to remain. Instead, Purple turned to Morse in 1994. He continues with them to this day.
Morse has continued with other projects, including Living Loud, which he formed in 2003.
And he remains in elite company: He was voted Best Overall Guitarist by Guitar Player Magazine for five consecutive years, earning him Hall of Fame honors by the magazine. That put him in the company of Yes’ Steve Howe and master guitar player Eric Johnson.
But as his fans know, Morse is pretty much in a class by himself.
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(NOTE: This is part of my ongoing series of reports on guitar players who fly under the mainstream radar. Keep checking The Listening Room for future installments of guitar players you should know – JF)