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Steve Morse Band - Split Decision CD (album) cover

SPLIT DECISION

Steve Morse Band

 

Eclectic Prog

3.81 | 28 ratings

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big_room
5 stars Even by Steve Morse standards, "Split Decision" is an impressive guitar album -- and that's high praise.

If it were possible for one thing to be more unique than others, Steve Morse would certainly have a more unique guitar voice than almost anybody else out there. He's a staggeringly gifted player with a seemingly endless technical range --his style fuses rock, pop, blues, country, folk, jazz, classical, and more-- and a harmonic/melodic sense that sounds like nobody else. As a founding member of the legendary Dixie Dregs, as a solo artist, and as a member of classic bands like Kansas and Deep Purple, Morse has established himself as an astonishing talent. "Split Decision" is a worthy showcase for his gifts, with all three players on the instrumental set --Morse on guitar, Dave LaRue on bass, and Van Romaine on drums-- turning in emotional, consistently dazzling performances.

The stated concept for the album is that the beginning (first 7 tracks) would be more heavy/upbeat, and the end (last 5 tracks) would be more mellow. Nonetheless, listeners don't get a nonstop metallic blaze at the outset. With the spacious, sophisticated playing of Morse and LaRue, the songs come close to outright balladry in places; and even when the group plays hard, they're not afraid to leave space for atmosphere in their performances. As a result, the first tracks are dynamic and expressive in their energy, but not especially heavy or uptempo. Sure, there are some screamers (the chugging "Mechanical Frenzy" is a standout), but some have a middle-of-the-road feel by Dixie Dregs standards, like the classical-influenced sweetness of "Busybodies" and the beautiful sections of "Heightened Awareness" and "Marching Orders."

As advertised, the real ballads start later, and as gorgeous as "Heightened Awareness" (track 1) was, "Moment's Comfort" (track 8) is even more so; other highlights from the mellow side include the sweet "Clear Memories" and the lightly folk-funky "Back Porch." Even more impressively, the shift from rockers to ballads doesn't destroy the coherence or energy of the album; the beautiful instrumental voices of Morse and his band keep the set unified and strong.

All Morse albums can be counted on for sizzling performances; on "Split Decision," the songwriting rises to match, and fans of instrumental rock could hardly hope for more. With its instantly engaging melodies and enduringly impacting musical depth, "Split Decision" is enormously rewarding for any open-minded fan of instrumental music (rock, jazz, prog, whatever). For newcomers to Morse, it is well worth repeated listens, and for longtime fans, it might not leave your CD player for quite some time.

| 5/5 |

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