It’s hard to believe that the Steve Morse Band is nearly 20 years old. Formed in the wake of the Dixie Dregs’ 1983 breakup, the SMB has long served as a forum for Steve’s guitar virtuosity, showcasing a heavier rock sound than the more genteel fusion of the Dregs.
This, their sixth album, is essentially two albums in one – the first half is in a hard-rock style, and the other lighter, and featuring more acoustic guitar and guitar-synthesizer parts
The album kicks off with a number of classic Morse barnburners, including “Heightened Awareness” and the Bach-inspired rocker, “Busybodies.” Of special note is “Mechanical Frenzy” which features one of the killer guitar licks of the year (the intro riff is a technical tour-de-force).
“Gentle Flower, Hidden Beast” shows more of the band’s versatility, starting with a soft, lilting jam before Morse rips into fast chromatic lines and gnarly low-end riffs. “Moment’s Comfort” is quieter still, a stately anthem in the tradition of the Dregs’ epics like “Light Meets Night” and “Hereafter.” And the restrained “Clear Memories” is a fascinating display of six-string melodic invention. Clearly, the SMB is more than just a heavy-rock power trio.
While Split Decision features a fair amount of acoustic guitar, it isn’t the “great Morse acoustic album” that fans have been craving for years. Still, it is another solid chapter in the career of this extraordinary guitarist. It also ably plays up the talents of LaRue and Romaine, as talented a rhythm section as you’ll find anywhere. But then again, to keep up with the mighty Morse, they’d better be.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s May ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.