The Steve Morse Band: Live in Baden-Baden, Germany, March 1990
(Eagle Eye Media)
I still have fond and vivid memories of the first time I ever saw Steve Morse play: It was on a late ’70s “showcase” tour by his instrumental group, the Dixie Dregs, maybe supporting their first or second album, at the relatively intimate Old Waldorf nightclub in San Francisco. I was, quite frankly, blown away. Here was a group that played with the same kind of manic speed, fire and precision of the great fusion pioneers Mahavishnu Orchestra (after whom they were modeled somewhat, down to the electric violin of Allen Sloan), but had more country and rock underpinnings mixed in with jazz, funk and other flavors. All five players were clearly virtuosos, but since I’m a guitar guy, Morse was my immediate favorite. He might have borrowed some of his approach from Mahavishnu leader John McLaughlin, but he was also clearly an original stylist who drew from many sources and combined it all into a recognizable musical personality that, at that time, I found very appealing. So much so that I went to see the Dregs on three successive tours, and was always impressed by the depth of their talent, even through some significant personnel changes. Morse and drummer extraordinaire Rod Morgenstein were the constant, stable presences in the various lineups, both before the group’s first dissolution in 1983, and in later incarnations. Morse was also the principal songwriter.