Alan Morse

Since the departure of his brother Neal, Alan Morse has shaped the guitar sound of progressive rock band Spock’s Beard and in the process delivered three impressive albums since then. With his first solo album he realised a long harboured ambition to do something as a solo artist and to express himself passionately. Supporting Morse on his debut solo outing are his Beard band mates, brother Neal, a line up of brilliant studio musicians and violinist Jerry Goodman who has performed with (amongst others) Mahavishnu Orchestra.

“Usually Spock’s Beard songs are quite structured and there is very little room for improvisations, that’s why I thought I deserved much more on my own record”, says Alan Morse. “So I was able to play more extended solos wherever I wanted. Naturally, I love the Spock’s stuff but it’s nice when you can stretch yourself out without getting in the way of someone else”.

Although these improvisations occur throughout the album, some of which have come directly from the demos, the pieces on “4 o’clock & Hysteria” are essentially pure songs. Apart from a few tracks where Neal Morse helped out (he also co-produced the album), Alan Morse wrote the material himself and in doing so allowed plenty of room for his guest musicians to enjoy themselves. Everything flows extremely well and despite the instrumental direction the music always has something to say. The opener “Cold Fusion” is a good example of this – a crunchy jamband piece with wonderfully phrased riffs, catchy melodies and interchanging guitar and keyboard solos. “Return To Forever” showcases the guitar as the main driving melody taking over from where a vocal line would normally be. This flows very naturally until the bass delivers a killer riff as an opening for Jerry Goodman, who dashes off with his electric violin and carries the piece away. Morse was obviously thrilled to have Goodman appear on his album as he elaborates, “Since the times of Mahavishnu, Jerry has been one of my heroes. It was great fun to record his parts. They were just so perfect that I sometimes had to burst out laughing. Jerry did exactly what I wanted; he just pulled it out of a hat”.

Apart from the ‘Beards’, “4 O’clock & Hysteria” also featured a number of studio musicians so that Morse in fact worked with two bands. “As great as Spock’s Beard are, I still wanted to have different people playing on some of the songs. In some sense, I didn’t want the record to become another Beard album, and using other people allowed me to work on the record at times when the other Beard guys didn’t have time for it. As such, the studio freaks were really perfect and they did a great job. Nevertheless I didn’t completely want to do without the Beard guys as we just work so well together. For example ‘The Rite Of Left’ was recorded with them because we had already played this song together and it just worked so well”.

“The Rite Of Left” is perhaps the wildest track on the album, a real hard rock, riff oriented piece with a guitar solo that is quite literally wild, and is celebrated without any accompaniment. The album is balanced out with variety of styles such as the country shuffle (“Drive In Shuffle”), relaxed blues rock with jazzy organ (“R Bluz”), buoyant funk (“First Funk” and “Jungle Cruz”), a siesta with mandolin under almond trees (“Spanish Steppes”), a fine acoustic based AOR track (“Major Buzz”) and the country piano guitar ballad “Home”. It’s quite possible that some of these numbers may see the light of day on the forthcoming Spock’s Beard tour in May, which is also another reason to look forward to it.

Latest Release

Alan Morse
4 O'clock & Hysteria