Review Summary: Steve Morse can do no wrong
Steve Morse is a man that is infamous in the world of six strings, known for his incredibly diverse palette of music as well as his virtuosity. Throughout his illustrious career he’s delved into various genres of music and has always been accompanied by some of the finest musicians those genres can offer. One thing that has been consistent with Steve is the quality of his compositions, and the ease with which he understands the nuances of music.
Normally there’s a good balance between the more aggressive hard rock songs and the mellower soothing songs on Steve’s albums. One album which was more influenced by the latter style of songs was High Tension Wires
, which was released in 1989. However he hasn’t exclusively dedicated a whole album to one particular approach in the past. Enter Angelfire
. I couldn’t help but remember High Tension Wires
as I was listening to this album as the mood is very similar. Here though Steve’s calming melodies are accompanied by the relaxing voice of young Sarah Spencer. Steve was introduced to Sarah by her father, and it wouldn’t have been a very difficult task as all he had to do was walk to the adjacent house and knock on the door.
Sarah’s voice is very reminiscent of Sarah McLachlan's, but she does have a good range given that she was trained by a classical vocal trainer. Her vocal melodies are mostly pretty catchy, and on numerous songs multiple layers are added, very much in the vein of Enya. At times though her age does show in her voice, and she comes off sounding like an adolescent pop star, which can be off-putting at times. It’s difficult to pigeonhole the music into one genre with there being elements of folk, pop, classical, new age, and jazz. Well it is Steve Morse, did you expect anything less? The album never feels awkward with all the genres being synthesized seamlessly. Overall the music is pretty low key, with the acoustic guitar featuring quite heavily, and I have absolutely no qualms with that given the man behind the instrument. There’s a reasonable mix of tempo amongst the songs in an attempt to keep the music interesting. Atmosphere is one of the main strengths of this album, with the catchy melodies being complimented by the lush sonic scenery.
Intricate melodies are present to a certain extent as would be anticipated, and they may take a little while to get accustomed to, but once you digest them they’re not easily forgotten. There are no technical excursions here, and both musicians have blended their styles very adeptly. Of course Steve’s presence on any album he takes part in is obvious as it is here, but it’s not overbearing. That provides the album with a good balance. Unfortunately though, even with all the styles on offer the music can seem too similar by the end of the album. This is where the album is let down. Perhaps they could have brought in some guest musicians to change things up, or even bring in some more unfamiliar influences.
The duo are supported by the ever so brilliant Dave LaRue on bass and Van Romaine on the drums to provide that solid foundation. Production on an album of this nature needs to be sublime to be able to translate all the emotions to the listener, and Steve Morse doesn’t disappoint on this front. All the instruments sound crisp, and the mix ensures everyone is highlighted evenly.
It’s great to hear more of Steve’s mellower songwriting, and he’s complimented well by Sarah. He proves yet again that he's up for a different challenge. I would hope to hear more experimentation with this style on his future records.