Steve Morse & Sarah Spencer – Angelfire

January 01, 1970



multi-talented Steve Morse has more arrows in his quiver than the average guitarist…he
first came to our notice as the energetic frontman of mid-1970s instrumental
jazz-rock fusion band the Dixie Dregs. After recording better than a dozen
acclaimed albums with that band, he would go the solo route after forming the
Steve Morse Band in 1984. Further accolades for Morse’s fretwork would follow,
leading to his recruitment by American prog-rock royalty Kansas, where his
innovative instrumentation would breathe new fire into the band and help place
them back on the charts.


In further
testament to his skills, Morse was asked to join hard rock legends Deep Purple
in 1994, sitting in the Blackmore chair and adding his considerable talents to a
handful of live and studio albums. Sometime during all this activity, Morse has
managed to forge a significant solo body of work that, while it hasn’t made him
a household name, as earned him numerous industry accolades and the admiration
of a hardcore legion of fans. While Morse was racking up recording credentials
(44 albums to date and counting), young singer and songwriter Sarah Spencer was
learning to sing, and play the piano and guitar, preparing for the day when
she’d launch her own musical career.


It all
began when Spencer’s father asked Morse to listen to the singer’s demo tapes
and provide advice on maneuvering through the recording industry minefield.
Something funny happened along the way, however, as Morse fell in love with the
22-year-old singer’s amazing voice, and found himself writing material that, as
he states in the promotional materials for Angelfire,
would be “music that I would like to hear Sarah sing over.” In nearly
40 years in the business, Morse had never written for a vocalist before, but in
collaborating together, the two artists have come up with an enchanting
collection of material for Angelfire that mixes Morse’s jazz, rock, and classical influences with Spencer’s
“operatic pop” and folkish tendencies.    


From the
opening notes of “Far Gone Now,” listeners know that they’re in for
something special. Spencer’s voice floats high in the mix like a feather on the
wind, Morse’s gentle acoustic guitar creating an elegant texture that flies
close to meditative new age music territory. By contrast, the lively
“Everything To Live For” cleverly mixes ethereal pop with scraps of
country and bluegrass in the creation of something else entirely, the full
range of Spencer’s voice brought to the fore as Morse delivers an eclectic
backing soundtrack.


Much of
the rest of Angelfire follows a
similar tack; Spencer’s angelic vocals put into play on a complex blend of
material, from the Celtic-flavored folk-rock of “Get Away” to the
baroque pop of “Omnis Morse Aequat,” which takes on a spiritual veil
with Morse’s reverent guitarwork and Spencer’s lofty, church-choir vocals. The
lovely “Here Today” has Spencer providing her own gorgeous backing
vocals, her voice multi-tracked above Morse’s filigree classical-style guitar. The
lofty “Terrible Thing To Lose” is a multi-textured delight with
Spencer’s syncopated vocals playing against each other and Morse’s guitarplay
mixing Oriental strains with jazzy licks.


heard something special in Spencer’s voice, and the odds are that you will too,
Sarah Spencer reminding of the similar sort of magic that you can hear in the
vocals of Kate Bush or Sarah McLachlan. A singer of extraordinary beauty and
purity, in Steve Morse Spencer has found the perfect musical foil. While the
lofty singer-songwriter vibe and pop music roots of Angelfire may not appeal to fans of Morse’s harder-edged material,
there’s no doubting that Morse is inspired here, and he has never played
better. As for Spencer, the young lady has a bright future ahead of her, no
matter what musical direction she should choose to go.


DOWNLOAD: “Far Gone Now,” “Pleasant
Surprise,” “Terrible Thing To Lose” REV. KEITH A. GORDON


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