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Power Rock: Steve Morse, Jordan Rudess

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STEVE MORSE: Major Impacts 2 (CD on Magna Carta Records)

This release from 2004 offers 50 minutes of instrumental rock.

Joining Morse on this recording are Dave LaRue on bass guitars and Van Romain on drums.

Growling guitars dominate this music, wailing and searing and cooking with pep and slippery vigor. Other times, the guitars are soft and reverently delicate. Drums pound or pitter, depending on the temperament of the track, while basslines slither like molten honey through the mix. Keyboards are employed with flamboyant verve, generating a jubilant tone and achieving a waterfall propulsion.

While this CD can be considered a "tribute album", Morse has found a way to delve beyond the simple cover-version limitations and produce a wholly fresh sonic experience.

Liner notes analyze each song, revealing the scope of roots that have gone into the growth of Morse's music. These influences are quite evident in the tracks themselves, as in Morse's homage to the Who in the track "Where Are You?". This filtration system is enjoyable as Morse wanders through divergent styles from overt rock like Aerosmith, Deep Purple and ZZ Top to Celtic ballads to Cajun music.

Morse's compositions are thoroughly enjoyable as he strives to capture the familiar mood of his influences while retaining a spark of originality, making each track undeniably his. Setting aside the homage aspect of this music, though, the music remarkably stands on its own merits. The tunes are captivating and thrilling, resounding as driving melodies that often go leagues beyond their intended loyalty to accomplish dazzling fidelity on their own.

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JORDAN RUDESS: Rhythm of Time (CD on Magna Carta Records)

This release from 2004 offers 59 minutes of intense ecstasy.

Jordan Rudess is the keyboardist from the band Dream Theater. Joining him on this release are: Joe Satriani, Kip Winger, Rod Morgenstein, Steve Morse, Vinnie Moore, Dave Larue, and Greg Howe.

This music is forceful and frantic. Snarling guitars provide a electrifying and shimmering panorama of frenzied riffs. Hyperactive drums explode with relentless determination, achieving intricate rhythms of refined distinction. Bass rumbles and gushes with adhesive properties, bonding the mix into a fluid tide that refuses to be ignored. Two songs feature lyrics.

But keyboards are the mandate instrument here. A versatile bevy of nimble-fingered keys swoop and escalate, describing energized melodies of cerebral appeal and breathless vibrancy. Velocities of incredible proportion are accomplished, made all the more impressive by their resolute dedication to attention-grabbing tuneage. Whether exploring progressive sensibilities or pursuing a kick-ass rock demeanor, the keyboards cook with inventive style. Dense organs capture a pontifical aura, then xylophonic rolls inject a frolicsome edge. Energized synthesizers generate a cosmic climate only to be swiftly grounded by earthy tones that condense a big-band sound into a passage that breaks into an expansive approximation of a volcanic eruption of dazzling harmonics. Eerie moments slide into festive expressions of global unity. The rate of change is fantastic in this music, yet the melodies retain a firm loyalty to impressing the listener with non-stop pinnacles of astounding scale.

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