Release Date: August 10, 2010
Throughout Steve Morse’s memorable career he has written music that draws on hard rock, country, British fusion and baroque classical. Angelfire, the debut album from his latest project of the same name, finds Morse applying his gifts to yet another genre: acoustic vocal music.
Morse and his partner in Angelfire, the talented Sarah Spencer, share a powerful musical chemistry. Drawing on his experience with instrumental music, Morse creates compelling progressions for songs like ‘What Made You Think?’ that bring Spencer’s strong melodies to life. For her part, Spencer’s flowing delivery drives reflective songs like the excellent opener ‘Far Gone Now’ and adds a gentle insistence to groovier songs like ‘Terrible Thing To Lose.’
While a classical influence dominates the mesmerizing ‘Omnis Morse Aequat,’ and the album closer ‘Urban Decay’ draws on acoustic pop, most songs fuse the two styles with quiet elegance. Even in ‘Omnis Morse Aequat,’ which recalls the calmer compositions that often appear on Morse’s solo albums, the addition of Spencer’s harmonies allows the piece to become something ethereal. Likewise, the simplicity of ‘Urban Decay’ is supported by Morse’s skillful use of harmony – he keeps things interesting, but never so complicated as to become distracting.
Although Morse favors dynamic arpeggios over searing leads throughout the album, he does take tasteful acoustic solos during the affecting ‘Here Today’ and ‘Terrible Thing To Lose.’ Morse even breaks out the electric for a restrained but blazing outro solo during the prog-influenced ‘Take It Or Leave It.’
Angelfire’s production, handled by Morse himself, handles the balance between guitar and vocals nicely. Through layering and the judicious use of reverb, Morse and Spencer expand on the space created by Morse regulars Dave LaRue and Van Romaine on bass and drums. Aside from a few odd choices, such as the abrupt ending of ‘Everything To Live For,’ the airy production helps to create the soft atmosphere that the duo’s music suggests.
Angelfire is a soothing record, and an excellent companion for a quiet night alone. The album reveals satisfying depth upon repeat listens – in the beautifully balanced songwriting, the strong performances and the pleasant production. For Sarah Spencer, Angelfire is the promising debut of a talented young artist, and for Steve Morse, it is one more victory in a career built on personal and musical integrity.