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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Steve Morse

Stressfest

Review by Larry Toering

After Steve Morse found himself in Deep Purple by way of Joe Satriani's rather swift exit due to contractual obligations, or so the story goes, this was one of his opportunities to continue in the fiery direction he was going in on his solo albums with Dave LaRue on bass and Van Romaine on drums. The previous album Structural Damage was just a precursor to the energy displayed here, as this certainly stepped up his profile as well as joining a band with such a universally well known legacy behind them had. Of all the SMB recordings I find this to be a solid contender for their best output. Morse is many things as a guitar player, and it can all pretty much be found on this release. The version reviewed here is the Japanese import with a hot bonus track, a cover of the classic “Speed King.” High Street Records did their best in representing Morse on this, one of the best examples of his virtuosity to be found.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Stressfest

With barely any hesitation things are flying at the speed of light, and Morse proves what he was born to do. This track fits its title so well. That’s a true testament of any instrumental artist. I suppose the Deep Purple and Morse/Dixie Dregs fans who've heard this met with the utmost respect for what he was musically involved in at the time. It is a killer opener!

Rising Power

This starts off with a light jazzy motif and then proceeds to go wild in areas, accompanied by some outstanding bass lines. It’s a nice way to keep the groove going so early on, and this album shows Morse can maintain a groove without losing the virtuosity.

Eyes Of A Child

By now things are really cooking, as this is up there with some of the best tunes in the fairly extensive Morse catalog. A simply wonderful gem, this is based on a laid back lyrical riff. It is magnificent in every way imaginable. The riffing is so familiar. Joe Satriani comes closest to mind here, in terms of comparisons.

Nightwalk

More dominating bass is included, as this time LaRue takes on a lead approach while Morse just widdles away, as he does so well. There are a ton of tempo  changes and killer runs and fills throughout this great number. Morse really shines here but in a humble way that really brings out the best in him. Romaine also gets to stretch out here on percussion, which really rounds out the powerful rhythm section.

Brave New World

This is something like a mixture of the previous two numbers, and once again both Morse and his brilliant rhythm section contrast one another so beautifully. It's like some kind of sheer magic. Morse lets it rip with various sounds and mild effects that help him shine. Each track so far holds a different but somehow equal weight.

4 Minutes To Live

A nice little piano motif opens this, and is maintained throughout, accompanied by the melody itself before it comes to a quick ending. The sound of a heartbeat is heard after that closing.

The Easy Way

This is back to business as usual, but more laid back while they're at it. It contains an infectious riff that simply won't quit. More beefy bass lines and spot on drums make it the little slice of perfection that it is.

Glad to Be

The tempo doesn't change much here, but it's somehow significantly more satisfying, so a tad better than the previous cut.

Delicate Balance

Now they get into some more intricate territory to help balance things, and it does the trick. This is a super lightweight acoustic number with a killer, but very subtle, backing atmosphere.

Live To Ride

Things come to a close with a very southern fried approach, and although very unfitting in style compared to the rest of the disc, it's massively infectious. Morse has a chance to add some crazy pinched harmonics to the arrangement.

Speed King (bonus track)

In keeping with his currently new found hard rock dominated territory, it only seems natural that Morse would give an old Purple track a working. I never thought of this track in any non-vocal capacity, but it's a very well done version, Morsified just enough to put a unique stamp on what is a Purple favorite. This was a very brave move, especially concerning his short time with the band at this point. There really is no other way to describe this but “awesome!”

You'll find an audio interview of this artist in the Music Street Journal members area.
 
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