|Steve Morse Band: The Introduction (1984)|
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Ah, 1984...the year I graduated high school, the year I went away to college, and the year I was introduced to an amazing guitar player named Steve Morse. That year also happened to be the year Mr. Morse released his first solo album after the breakup of the Dixie Dregs, called The Introduction. Combining elements of fusion, bluegrass, hard rock, prog, and classical themes, Morse, fellow Dregs alumni Rod Morgenstein on drums, and bassist Jerry Peek, created an amazing stew of instrumental flavors that pushed the envelope as far as musicality goes.
Who can top a song like "Cruise Missile", better yet have a more impressive statement to kick off an album? Morse and his searing guitar licks kick things off only to allow Peek and Morgenstein to jump in for some insane unison lines. Steve lays down flurry's of notes, long on melody and technique, with a decidedly southern edge, while Peek pops some kiler bass grooves. The band manages to keep the listener guessing whether the song will turn into a metal shred fest, a fusion exploration, or a southern boogie romp. Really, it combines all of these, and quite effectively. "General Lee" switches gears altogether, and allows Morse to display his country twang with some serious pickin'. This is a style that made an appearance on practically every Dregs record, although here he doesn't have Allen Sloan's violin to play off of, and takes the full weight on his shoulders. Using clean and distorted tones, Morse proves that there can be shredding in a country format.
Hard rock and prog themes can be heard on the anthemic title track "The Introduction." Featuring a driving opening riff, the guitarist then drifts into some complex chord structures before blasting forth with one of his most emotional guitar solos ever that ends with an amazing flurry of notes. The band then comes crashing back in with the main theme, and Morgenstein especially plays his ass off. "V.H.F. (Vertical Hair Factor)" is one of the albums more diverse tracks. Sounding very much like something the Dregs would record, this tune mixes classical themes with driving rock, and features another blistering solo from Morse, complete with lightning fast runs and screaming harmonics. Hard rock and metal fans will love "On the Pipe", a raging rocker that begins with Morse's complex melodies before the power chords come in backed up by a heavy beat from Rod and Jerry. Steve's tone is wicked throughout this tune, and the solo is a thing of unbridled, savage beauty. As far as sheer technique and class goes, there's few players who can match Morse, and his solo on this tune covers all the bases.
The next two songs, "The Whistle" and "Mountain Waltz" are wild southern hoedowns, throwing in elements of swing and bluegrass, yet still allowing for Morse's multi-tectured guitar work to take center stage. The last track is a moody, atmospheric number called "Huron River Blues", and sectioned into three parts. Steve starts things off with some bluesy lead breaks, full of emotion and smooth vibrato, and then layers in some dissonant chord changes with more blues laden wailings.
The Introduction marked the emergence of Steve Morse as a guitar force to be reckoned with, even though that direction was started while creating groundbreaking fusion with the Dixie Dregs. Full of a variety of styles and textures, it paved the way for many more influential albums from this impressive world class musician.