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About a musician, Steve Morse (Part 2)

The first part covered the early years of Steve's career, but in this second part, I’ll start with the times when he took a break from the music industry to work as a co-pilot for a commercial airline, and then came back with the new members of Steve Morse Band / Dixie Dregs which read to his brilliant career of world-renowned guitar legend. 


In terms of age, it was his 30s and 40s which are generally the time when people are both physically and mentally fulfilled and can be the most creative. Steve at this time was also pretty active in many fields, producing many wonderful works and entertaining fans all over the world.


【Table of Contents】

1. Formation of Dixie Dregs (1975, age 21)

2. Solo career and formation of the Steve Morse Band (1983, age 29)

3. Participation in Kansas (1986, age 32)


Part 2: New Steve Morse Band, Deep Purple and more

6. Pursuit of diversity (2000s, late 40s)


Part 3: Flying Colors and original Dixie Dregs reunion

7. Formation of Flying Colors (2011, age 57)

8. Reunion of the original Dixie Dregs (2018, age 64)

9. Withdrawal from Deep Purple and return to roots (2022, age 68)



4. Steve Morse Band/Dixie Dregs restart (1988, age 34)

From the late 1987 to early 1988, Steve temporarily left the music industry to work as a co-pilot for a commercial airline, but in 1988, he restarted the Steve Morse Band/Dixie Dregs with a very talented bassist Dave LaRue who is still active in the Steve Morse Band. 


The details of how Dave joined Dixie Dregs during this period can be found in his interview


This is a memorable live recording that was held on August 25, 1988, which can be said to be the basis of the second generation of Dixie Dregs with a new bassist. This is a quartet version of Dixie Dregs without a violin, it may be a valuable recording that cannot be heard anywhere else.


Dixie Dregs, New Haven (1988) (1988, age 34) *Audio only


[Aside]

Dave is also a graduate of Berklee College of Music, and when I was at the college, I purchased his instructional book “On the Record: Songs From The Dixie Dregs, The Steve Morse Band, And Hub City Kid” from his online store. When I made a purchase, there was a slight problem with payment and I received a direct message from him. 


After the problem was resolved, I wrote to him like “I'm currently studying bass at Berklee College of Music, and I'm a huge fan of you and Steve. The biggest surprise for me was to find out you play the bass line and chords at the same time for “Runaway Train” by tapping all notes.” I still remember the warm response I received from him, something like “When I saw the address, I thought you were a student at Berklee. If you practice hard, eventually you'll be able to play it, so do your best!”


In 1989, Steve released his first solo album, “High Tension Wires”. This is a quiet album with mainly acoustic and clean-tone guitars, but it includes songs such as “Tumeni Notes”, a hard rock song with a fully picked distortion guitar, which was later became one of standard numbers when Steve Morse Band performs live. 


The album also includes a rearrangement of his earliest work, “Leprechaun Promenade”, which also appeared on 1975's “The Great Spectacular”.


Also in 1989, he released his first instructional video. One of Steve's unique solo phrasing techniques is the use of string skipping to construct multiple lines simultaneously on different strings while playing fast. On this video he explained it with the expression “playing a scale polyphonically”.


This idea of incorporating classical guitar contrapuntal techniques into rock guitar solos was probably established around this time, and can be clearly heard in the second half of the solo in “Tumeni Notes” mentioned above. 


By the way, Dream Theater's John Petrucci, who is a big Steve fan, used similar technique for the lick in the second half of the unison solo of their early signature song “Metropolis, Pt. 1: The Miracle And The Sleeper”, I guess maybe he took idea from Steve’s polyphonic scale play.


Steve Morse - Power Lines (1989, 35 years old)


This is the classical guitar solo part in the live performance. I think this is one of Steve's best video shots as a classical guitar player.


Steve Morse Solo Acoustic 9-26-90 RIFF RAFF + More (1990, 36 years old)


This is the earliest full concert video of the current Steve Morse Band by Steve, Dave, and drummer Van Romaine, recorded live in Baden-Baden, Germany in March 1990.


After that, the Steve Morse Band with this new member released six albums: “Southern Steel” (1991), “Coast to Coast” (1991), “Structural Damage” (1995), “StressFest” (1996), “Split Decision” (2002) and “Out Standing in Their Field” (2009).


The new Steve Morse Band features classical guitar + electric bass duo songs on every album except "Split Decision." At the live show, many of these duo songs and rearranged songs of Dixie Dregs' songs will be performed as a trio, allowing you to enjoy a diverse repertoire.


Steve Morse Band - Live 1990; Full Concert (1990, 36 years old)


This is the full concert video of the live performance in Toronto on October 14th of the same year.


Steve Morse October 14th 1990 Toronto (1990, 36 years old)


This seems to be a video from a TV show appearance in 1991. This is a rare ensemble video for the Steve Morse Band, with Van participating only on the snare drum. 


Rare Steve Morse stuff - part 2 (1991, 37 years old)


This is “Ice Cakes” by Dixie Dregs performed by the Steve Morse Band, which was included in the second of two instructional videos/books released by DCI in 1991.


The calm down section in the middle, Steve Morse Band's own arrangement, is impressive and this wonderful performance could be considered a model for a rock guitar trio.


The volume playing technique that can be heard here with the additional strings guitar-synth can be said to be one of his trademarks.


Steve Morse (1991, 37 years old)


This is a live show at Bottom Line in NY, probably 1991 judging from the set list, where five songs are performed in: “The Introduction”, “Twiggs Approved”, “Tumuli Notes”, “Point Counterpoint”, and “Cruise Missile”.


STEVE MORSE BAND/Live At The Bottom Line (1991?, 37 years old)


This is a live performance of Steve's solo classical guitar, a duo with Dave, and a trio with Dixie Dregs keyboardist T. Ravitz.


In this video you can enjoy Steve's classical guitar performance in high sound and image quality, and this was also included on a commercially available DVD. 


After the first song, “Northern Lights”, there is a cut that shows a woman in the audience crying with emotion, which is impressive. The original arrangement of the third track, J.S.Bach's “Jesus Joy of Man's Desiring” can be heard in the 1983 recording; the arrangement that uses reverb in the B section is interesting.


Steve Morse Band - Live in New York 1992 (1992, 38 years old)


This is an interview video, probably from around 1993, that opens with Steve playing the guitar with his newborn son on his lap.


Hot Guitarist Video Magazine, Episode 3; Steve Morse, Scott Henderson, Akira Takasaki (1993, 39 years old)



5. Participation in Deep Purple (1994, age 40)

In 1994, Steve joined Deep Purple, replacing original guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, who had left the band.


When he first came to Japan as DP's guitarist in 1996, I immediately went to see them in Kawaguchi Lilia Hall, but at that time, perhaps due to the change of the main guitarist, I remember that the seats on the second floor were almost empty. Back then, security was still very lenient, so I waited for Steve at the exit of the hall after the performance, and I cherish the photo I got his autograph on. It's still carefully displayed in my study after 30 years.


Steve's splited reputation as a DP guitarist seems to have continued until he left the band in 2022, but by listening to some of DP's new songs Steve brought in, such as “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming” that can be heard in this video, I think it was a great achievement to create many new styles of standards that had never been heard before in the band.


Deep Purple - Total Abandon (Australia 1999) (1999, 45 years old)



6. Pursuit of diversity (2000s, late 40s)

From the mid-1990s onwards, new movements were seen in Dixie Dregs. Jerry Goodman, formerly of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, replaced Allen Sloan as violinist.


This “third generation” of Dixie Dregs released their first new album in 12 years, which was “Full Circle” in 1994, and their second live album, “California Screamin'” in 1999.


The third generation Dixie Dregs continued to actively perform live until the mid-2000s, and 2001's “Live In Connecticut” was also sold as a DVD and CD.


Steve Morse & Dixie Dregs “Live In Connecticut” 2001 (2001, 47 years old)



Co-starring with Manuel Barrueco

There are many guest appearances by Steve, but I would like to mention “Wolvesville” from the album “Nylon & Steel” released in 2001 by Cuban classical guitarist Manuel Barrueco.


This is a unique initiative in which Steve performs an impromptu rock guitar-style solo over Villa-Lobos' famous piece “Etude No.1 in E Minor” played by Manuel.


Wolvesville (An Improvisation On Etude No. 1 By Villa-Lobos) (2001, 47 years old)



“Major Impacts” series

One of Steve's new activities in the 2000s is “Major Impacts” (2000) and “Major Impacts 2” (2004). Although Dave and Van participate in the rhythm section, this album is a collection of pieces with a different kind of tastes from the Steve Morse Band.


Among them, “Air on a 6 String”, which combines rock guitar fast-playing techniques with classical guitar counterpoint, is probably one of the most ambitious works in electric guitar history.


Solo guitar pieces are common in classical music, jazz, and flamenco, but this is an unusual solo rock guitar piece, or perhaps it would be better to say a classical piece composed for solo rock guitar. 


Unfortunately, there are almost no videos of this song being performed, but you can watch an excerpt of the performance in the video below. It's interesting that the right hand moves like in a rock guitar style and the left hand moves like in a classical guitar style.


Steve Morse Air On A Six String (excerpt) (2005, 51 years old)


This is a live performance by Steve Morse Band and Dixie Dregs held on the same day and at the same venue. This is a valuable video in the sense that you can watch two bands live in full concert at the same time.


Recently, Steve's live shows have been held with the Steve Morse Band opening for Dixie Dregs. When I was studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston in 2005-2006, Their live performance, which was the only live show of theirs I saw at this point, was also in that format.


Unfortunately I don't remember the details, but I assume the live show I was able to see back then was similar to this one.


In addition, keyboardist T. Ravitz, who has been participating since “Dregs of the Earth” in 1980, released a work called “School of the Arts” in 2007, which also featured Steve and Jerry. He passed away at the young age of 54, and unfortunately Dixie Dregs' activities since then have become rare again.


Steve Morse Band - (TLA) Philadelphia,Pa 4.7.05 (Complete Show) (2005, 51 years old)


Dixie Dregs - (TLA) Philadelphia,Pa 4.7.05 (Complete Show) (2005, 51 years old)


This is one of my favorite videos, about a heartwarming story of Steve. After a Deep Purple concert in Slovakia, he was suddenly invited to a wedding reception that was being held at the hotel where he was staying, and he performed for the bride and groom, got a gift of sweets and left.


Steve Morse at slovak wedding (2005, 52 years old)


This was a Kansas show from 2009, and Steve guested on a few songs.


Kansas There's Know Place Like Home - Full Concert Live 2009 HD (2009, 55 years old)



Living Loud

In 2003, Steve joined Jimmy Barnes (vocals), Bob Daisley (bass), Lee Kerslake (ds.) and Deep Purple bandmate Don Airey. (Don Airey, Key.) formed Living Loud, a band that mainly plays cover songs by the Ozzy Osbourne Band from the Randy Rhoads era, along with some original songs, and released an album and a live DVD. 


This is a video from that DVD, in the first song “In The Name Of God” you can listen to Steve's electric sitar performance, which is very rare.


LIVING LOUD-In The Name Of God, Last Chance, Flying High Again, Pushed Me Too Hard. (2009, 55 years old)



Angelfire

Angelfire was a short-term project that lasted for only three years starting in 2007, but its greatness is condensed into the only album released, “Angelfire” (2010).


The vocalist was Sarah Spencer, a 16-year-old newcomer at the time. Steve was consulted by a local friend who was a doctor and played the guitar as a hobby about the future of his daughter, who was an aspiring singer, and after listening to her demo tape Steve was so impressed that they decided to write a song together. 


Looking back over the past 34 years of Steve's musical career, this is the only collaboration with a female vocalist to date.


In addition, Steve Morse Band members Dave and Van participated in the backing band when recording the album “Angelfire”. When this album was released in 2010, Angelfire opened for several Steve Morse Band shows in California and Florida. 


Sarah is currently active as a singer-songwriter, and her wonderful singing voice is still alive and well.



By the way, the first song “Far Gone Now” seems to be based on the solo classical guitar song “Indian Summer” originally released in 1997.


Angelfire - Steve Morse e Sarah Spencer (2010) (2010, 56 years old)



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