Live In Baden-Baden
Germany March 1990

The Steve Morse Band

Steve Morse' day job with Deep Purple takes up most of his time these days, but the guitarist has been known to moonlight when the mood strikes. Back in the 80s and early 90s, he balanced his time a little more precariously between the Dixie Dregs, Kansas and a solo career. Of the three, his solo albums provided the necessary outlet Morse needed to explore the nether regions of his dexterous abilities and craft. His approach took on an almost childlike curiosity and unbinding commitment to anyone but himself. Most of the ten albums he’s released over the past 20-odd years bear the Steve Morse Band moniker; with only a bass player and drummer in his corner, he covers a myriad of styles to suit his extraordinary fret finesse. Hearing and seeing are two different things and I'm pleased to say I've seen, as well as heard, the Steve Morse Band in concert a couple of times. But seeing them up close and in my face on the Live In Baden-Baden Germany March 1990 DVD is something you have to experience to fully appreciate. As for me, my appreciation for Steve Morse just went up a notch.

Amidst minimal staging and gimmickry, the Steve Morse Band blasts off with the title track from the first Steve Morse Band album, 1984’s The Introduction. As its title implies, this song serves as an appropriate introduction to the dynamics of Morse, bassist Dave La Rue, and drummer Van Romaine. From there, it’s a rollercoaster ride of flavors, be it the country picking of “General Lee,” the kaleidoscopic imagery of “Country Colors” from the cerebral 1989 album High Tension Wires, or the chunky groove laid down for “Sleaze Factor.” How, after this last number, Morse shifts into Celtic mode for the eloquent “Highland Wedding” then reverts back to the shred factor on “Tumeni Notes” defies any kind logic your average guiatr slinger could handle. Of course, Morse can smile and handle it all at the same time.

Just when you think the band has tackled every genre within the realm of possibility, they come up with “Point Counterpoint,” a classical duet between Morse and LaRue that pretty much cements their chemistry. They carry on in a similar fashion on “Night Meet Lights,” weaving lines and combining the verve of their instruments. The trio recovene and blaze down the home stretch with a surreal fusion piece called “Ice Cakes” and another chicken scratcher called “Pride Of The Farm” squeezed in between “Rock N’ Roll Park” and “Cruise Missile,” two hard-nosed rockers that probably helped Morse get the gig with Purple. The show may be over at this point, but the DVD has a few extra tunes from a 1984 appearance of the Steve Morse Band at the same venue. Partly backed by bassist John Peel and Dixie Dregs drummer Rod Morgenstein, Morse assumes control early on, masterfully brushing his fingers across an acoustic guitar at one point just to show how diverse he was back then. A music video of “Cruise Missile” is a bold attempt by the instrumental trio to blend in with the pop scenery of the early 80s. Looking back, the Steve Morse Band and their deep-seated musicality clearly outshine the era of spandex pants and poofy hair.

~ Shawn Perry

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