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The best guitarist according to Ken Scott

Legendary engineer and producer Ken Scott, who has worked with The Beatles, David Bowie, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jeff Beck, Pink Floyd, etc, etc, was interviewed on the Rockonteurs podcast. He was asked about the guitar players he has worked with, and this is what he had to say:

Steve Morse, as far as I’m concerned, is the best guitarist I’ve ever worked with. He could cover every style and he knew what was needed. Jeff Beck is great, but Jeff has a certain style which he is brilliant at, whereas Steve, he covers all styles, from classical, acoustic – there’s one track on one of the albums called ‘Little Kids’ which is him and just solo violin, which is brilliant.

He has perfect pitch. I did two albums with him and for the next couple of albums after that, I was having major tuning problems with the band. My sense of pitch had become so much closer to perfect pitch that when they were slightly out, it became painful.

Ken produced Dixe Dregs’ second album What If and the half&half live/studio followup Night of the Living Dregs.

Thanks to Guitar World for the quotes.



30 Comments to “The best guitarist according to Ken Scott”:

  1. 1
    James Steven Gemmell says:

    Steve is technically brilliant, and plays some really creative material. I prefer Ritchie Blackmore’s and Tommy Bolin’s styles for the most part, but there are some definite exceptions. The new guy filling in sounds pretty good, but not in their league yet.

  2. 2
    MacGregor says:

    No doubt about it, those early Dixie Dregs albums & that live in Montreux dvd are classics indeed. Not as heavy in places as later releases, however much more ‘chicken picking’ out there & also ‘experimental’. Allen Sloan on violin is great & Rod Morgenstein on drums (another leftie), wonderful he is. Cheers.

  3. 3
    Ivica says:

    Steve is most deserving of the fact that DP is still creatively alive despite their age. Talented multi-layered guitarist ..just for DP and “The Man” .I hope his wife is going for better .And to return to band, and record a new studio album

  4. 4
    Rob says:

    Never been much of a one to have top 3 or top 10 lists: why not just enjoy the artiste / band playing in front of you. It’s all music, not a league table. But that said… for me it’s Morse, Beck and Richard Thompson at the top!

  5. 5
    Rick says:

    ” Little Kids”…Morse’s Night?
    Very good though, first time hearing this.

  6. 6
    Uwe Hornung says:

    I won’t be shoveling coal on Newcastle mounds as regards Steve’s technical abilities and his breadth of vision and musical influences. He wasn’t voted best guitar player in Guitar Player three times in a row for nothing you know. And even beyond all the technical prowess and immaculate execution he has a readily identifiable playing style, very percussive and groovy. And while his technical flash has seen some health-impediments over the decades (he’s not as effortless anymore as he was in the mid-nineties), it is still plenty enough for Purple.

    What all those still longing for Ritchie miss in Steve’s playing is the somber, melancholic/elegiac and even a little dark strain that comes natural with the former Heathrow radio engineer. Steve can’t offer that, neither could Tommy Bolin (but I will always love him for his un-purplish happy-go-lucky swagger). It’s what truly defines Ritchie Blackmore/Professor Severus Snape and makes him one of a kind. We all fell in love with that musical trait of his and it made us Deep Purple fans.

    The new kid in the band otoh seems to be what it says on the tin: “gritty Irishman plays the Blues”. Grittier than Ritchie, Tommy, Joe or Steve for that matter. Let’s see where that journey goes. I’m looking forward to seeing him next week.

  7. 7
    maurane says:

    ritchie is the best guitarist with deep purple….

  8. 8
    TheoM says:

    #3 They have a writing session March 2023

  9. 9
    Rock Voorne says:

    How many Blackmorefans ignore this topic or left the building?

  10. 10
    Dr. Bob says:

    I am not a guitarist or play a melodic instrument. So it’s not for me to say who is more talented or has superior technique. I am most heavily influenced by the sound & tone of the guitarist and there composition of heavy riffs and solos that take you on a sonic journey. Having said that I’d have to put Blackmore & Iommi on the top followed by Page, Santana, Morse, and the duo of Hetfield & Hammett.

  11. 11
    janbl says:

    #7 Ritchie stopped to be at great Deep Purple guitarist in mid 80’es. He may be great in what ever it is that he is doing now, I have yet to listen to at full BN record (might never happen).
    IMO

  12. 12
    Uwe Hornung says:

    “Ritchie is the best guitarist with deep purple …”

    No, he’s not, but he defined an era of the band with his style, sense of drama and mystique. But on a lot of music that Purple have produced in the last quarter century, his playing frankly wouldn’t really fit (and he wouldn’t be happy playing it). Yet that part of their work exists and I wouldn’t want to miss it. And if I look at Ritchie’s output (with 90ies Rainbow or since then his missus) during that same quarter century, I don’t hear any tracks that I would be able to collate for, say, Machine Head II or Burn II. There I said it.

    To me Purple is the journey of an ensemble in varying configurations and it is great that after more than a half century they still haven’t reached a definite destination. Unlike Zep or Sabbath, they are not preserved in amber collecting dust in some rock museum shelf – I’m eternally grateful for their new music and the way their productivity has perked up since they have found Bob Ezrin.

    Ritchie remains an enigmatic hero of mine and he has a pedestal all of his own, but it’s a pedestal that was erected in the past. By his own wish – and I respect that – he decided to no longer be a creative force in rock music once he had reached middle-age. During the last 25 years he has become a better and more controlled player of a variety of acoustic stringed instruments, but other than that he has seen zilch musical development. And the off and on Rainbow excursions of the more recent past have been nostalgia fests of – at best – wavering quality that just showed that (doing some loaning from a Led Zep title here) ‘what was and what can never be again’. Case closed.

  13. 13
    AnthonyC says:

    #12
    Uwe, well said.

  14. 14
    Andy says:

    @12, I completely agree with you, very well said. I do understand why people would say Blackmore is the best guitarist with Purple. When I first became a fan of rock music, Blackmore, Morse and Beck where my favorite guitarists (and still are today). What If and Deepest Purple where two albums that I purchased very early on. I was hooked on both of those ablums. I always enjoyed the changing lineups and splinter groups of Purple. Almost every singer or musician they brought in was first class. Of course there would be no Deep Purple today without Blackmore, but also, Purpendicular is one of my favorite albums ever. I couldn’t say which of the three guitar players above is my favorite today. It depends on my mood and I feel very fortunate that all three have a large catalogue of excellent music.

  15. 15
    Relish says:

    #12 that’s an opinion, which you are entitled to, but it isn’t fact.

    Musicianship isn’t a competition so what does it matter how or what Ritchie does now so long as he’s happy and healthy? As someone who attended both Rainbow shows in Birmingham the “wavering quality” mattered to less than 1% of attendees, seeing him play those songs and enjoy it was enough. Being a part of something nostalgic was the essence of it.

    Factually Ritchie is more successful with Deep Purple than Steve. Musically they are both amazing.

  16. 16
    stoffer says:

    @12 “Purple is the journey of an ensemble in varying configurations”…EXACTLY!! Purple is an exciting journey and thankful to be along for the ride, having seen them 12 times w/5 MK’s. Ritchie is and was the best guitarist for DP in the 70’s and 80’s, and still larger than life in the history of the band, he’s earned that right! It’s now Steve’s turn and he has done an awesome job and with more to come. It’s not a matter of who’s best it is a matter of who was best at that time! btw just saw Santana last night (show was rescheduled 2x due to the virus but WOW he can play!!

  17. 17
    Petr says:

    12:
    You wrote “there would be no Purple today without Blackmore”. My point is other and its not contradiction: “there would be no Purple today WITH Blackmore.” and “there would be no Purple today without Morse.” All three sentences are true but they are all meant in different meaning. I suppose everyone can discover right meaning in all those statements. 🙂

  18. 18
    Uwe Hornung says:

    “As someone who attended both Rainbow shows in Birmingham the “wavering quality” mattered to less than 1% of attendees …”

    Well, it mattered to me, Relish! I wasn’t at one of the Birmingham gigs, but I was at the Glasgow SSE Hydro one, pretty much upfront, right hand side. As the post-BN Rainbow reunion gigs go (Loreley was definitely the worst, but I saw him two more times in Germany, the band was slightly better at those), that wasn’t the rustiest gig, but it was still a far cry from what Ritchie once was in terms of drama and dynamics (and Rainbow is pretty much all drama and dynamics, they’re not the Dire Straits and not Deep Purple either because the intra-band communication just isn’t at the same level).

    This from someone who stood about 5 yards from Blackmore at that legendary Munich gig in 1977 (I even grabbed a piece of his demolished Strat towards the end). I’ve seen him in his prime and can still remember it vividly. The deterioration in his ability to play rock convincingly and push a rock band forward in a live setting is unfortunately fact, not just opinion.

    Now there is nothing wrong with aging and Ritchie does it gracefully within the constraints of BN most of the time. But for the intensity that is part of Rainbow’s charm, he simply lacks the stamina and energy these days. He’s become a more adept semi-unplugged musician than a hard rock guitarist – simply for lack of live exercise in a rock environment, don’t underestimate how much of that DP Mk VIII still get on their long tours.

    And yes, Ritchie was once a rock god with Deep Purple and for a few years they ruled the world because they were THEN a contemporary band in tune with the times. A major part of that was down to him, but it wasn’t just his contribution as his failure to sustain that type of success with Rainbow showed (and he sure did try).

    In Germany at least, the current DP line-up has no reason to complain about lack of commercial success. They’re not the Rolling Stones, U2 or Bruce Springsteen, but they do very well.

    And people still go to Blackmore’s Night gigs as well (I among them!), those gigs have a smaller, more intimate scale because Ritchie likes it that way (the man has seen enough stadiums and arenas in his lifetime, let him), but BN’s drawing power cannot be compared to Mark VIII/IX.

  19. 19
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Mm-hmm, let’s see:

    Ritchie took

    – three studio albums and little more than a year to tire of Mk 1,

    – four studio albums and three-and-a-half years to be bored with Mk 2.1,

    – again less than two years and only two albums to not bear Mk 3 anymore,

    – just a couple of years and two albums to be disenchanted with Mk 2.2 and

    – less than a year and only one album to have enough of Mk 2.3.

    He’s also recorded eight albums with Rainbow where everyone else was a hired hand and with varying line-ups every time.

    Some people see his erratic band behavior as this selfless never-ending quest for quality, others as documenting psychological issues with stability and basic sense of trust (unless Candice is involved).

    Let’s get this straight, travelling back in time and having Ritchie not tear up his Japan work permit/visa in a tantrum in 1993 would have meant that

    – there would be no Ian Gillan fronting the band today, but possibly Joe Lynn Turner, Doogie White or Ronnie Romero, all with their legendary lyric writing acumen putting them fairly and squarely in Bob Dylan territory,

    – the band would be managed by Carol Stevens and feature her daughter on backing vocals, hey, it’s a family affair,

    – Ritchie would have still left several times in the meantime and/or kicked out other members. We would have seen a couple of more (partial) reunions, no doubt.

    Now do remind me again … what exactly would be so great about the above scenario?! ; – )

  20. 20
    Rock Voorne says:

    Uwe, whats your point?

    Btw, could you shorten your texts a bit? Its kinda off pulling to see large spaces filled by one person.

    Cheers.

  21. 21
    MacGregor says:

    Uwe @ 19 – Jeff Beck, Neil Young & Robert Fripp are just a few musicians I can think of at this moment, who have ‘hired hands’ in their pursuit of the ‘holy grail’. Nothing wrong with that excepting some personal differences perhaps with some individuals at certain times. However other musicians also have issues at times with other band members, for what ever reason. It is par for the course it seems. Also the reality of the scenario back in the 90’s would be Blackmore simply doing what he did when he loses interest, walking away from it. So trying to hypothetically predict a future DP with the lead vocalists you mentioned is rather pointless & also in hindsight, easy to do. I know you are attempting to point out a few ‘different’ scenarios for a reason, but that would never have occurred & never enters ones mind at all, knowing the history of Blackmore & rock music once the 90’s unfolded. I for one did not think about the band DP continuing on after Blackmore’s exit in 1993. Put it to bed I thought at the time & that would not have concerned me at all. It is the way of things. Cheers.

  22. 22
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Purple is larger than the sum of its parts. Whenever they pick themselves up, dust themselves off and continue, it intrigues me. Quitting is for losers.

    “Uwe, whats your point?”

    I was trying to be humorous, Rock Voorne, jawohl. German jokes are no laughing matter though, forgive me.

    I think the assumption that if Ritchie would have stayed with Purple they would have recorded lots and lots of more great albums and lived happily ever after is somewhat preposterous. There would be no DP today, had he continued with the band and we would have missed out on a lot of great music, simple as that.

    Just reached my word quota here, gotta stop!

  23. 23
    Uwe Hornung says:

    “I for one did not think about the band DP continuing on after Blackmore’s exit in 1993.”

    I saw Blackmore on that last tour both in Frankfurt and in Mannheim. Frankfurt was great, but by the Mannheim gig, only one or two weeks later, the bad vibes on stage were so palpable they practically oozed into the auditorium. Watching that gig I simply knew, the line-up wouldn’t last for longer than the tour, but I was wrong – it didn’t even make the tour.w

    But I never thought that Blackmore’s departure would be the end of DP, I took it more as the band having wrested control of its own destiny out of Ritchie’s hands back into its own hands by first having Joe Lynn Turner ousted and Gillan return plus subsequently sticking with Big Ian, never mind Ritchie’s bickering and disenchantment. Gillan’s and Glover’s supremacy was established (I believe both Jon and Little Ian could have put up with Ritchie’s antics and destructiveness a little longer), the band as a collective and management had the confidence to be able to preserve the international brand; it was also a business decision (nothing wrong with that).

    What did surprise me though was that a Yank ended up in their ranks (or even two, if you count in Satriani) – not after the Tommy Bolin experience. Ian Paice mentioned in a 1976 post-split interview in NME that Tommy being American in a very British band didn’t help matters: “It’s the way they grow up and we grow up, it’s two different worlds.”

    Steve Morse joining totally surprised me, I had expected a usual suspect such as Gary Moore, Michael Schenker, Uli Jon Roth, Yngwie Malmsteen or Glenn Tipton (Priest were at the time Halford-less and kicking their feet, Glenn was doing solo albums and I thought his very structured style and approach might go well with Purple; if you take away the spikes and leather, the classic Priest sound is not too far removed from DP).

  24. 24
    MacGregor says:

    I was just glad as many others would have been also, that Malmsteen didn’t get in there. Not that I thought he would, why would the Purps go after someone like that. I wasn’t surprised that Steve Morse was selected, he was a classical influenced player of sorts, among other genres as well. Plus he deserved a break & I was happy for him to get that & he is modest & down to earth, not an ego tripper like so many lead guitarists. I suppose initially with the Gillan departure in 1989 making me think, ‘here we go again’, I didn’t want another lead vocalist trying to fill that huge void at all. As we all know Gillan is irreplaceable. Then as the shock & dismay of JLT of all vocalists & previously being in Rainbow set in, well I just about gave up on the band DP. So when Blackmore left after the antics that were going on in ’93 I thought ‘put an end to this, please’. I purchased Purpendicular with much excitement & was into that album at that time & still enjoy it. With Blackmore cranking a new Rainbow album also, I thought it all ended up not too bad after all, at the time. Cheers.

  25. 25
    Uwe hornung says:

    I was happy for Steve too, he’s the archetypical gentle, open-minded American – think James Stewart playing (very well) guitar. Him joining Purple was also a validation of sorts – for the first time he was in a band with commercial clout and a faithful global live gigs audience.

    Having seen the new Irish kid in Bonn now, I can also attest to the fact that Steve’s busy and intricate, yet not overcrowding rhythm and riff playing has shaped Purple’s sound over the decades beyond measure. Simon is a much more rudimentary, less orchestral rhythm player and those who long for the days of Ritchie’s sparse rhythm playing should go see him, you will be elated how much closer to the originals the Mk II 70ies material now sounds. But at the same time, the Mk VIII songs in the set no longer sound as syncopated. Solo-wise, Simon is grittier and more gunslingerish than Steve’s cleaner guitar clinic(al) approach, he “rocks” more. He has no issues matching either Ritchie’s or Steve’s technical abilities and being the young man he is also shows a pleasantly cocky attitude. Imagine one of the good Thin Lizzy guitarists playing with Purple and you get the idea.

  26. 26
    MacGregor says:

    Thanks for the review of McBride’s guitar playing now that you have witnessed him live in concert. Don Airey would be busier than ever then I presume, if the sparser guitar rhythm sections are more open. A bit like in the older Lord & Blackmore days by the sound of that. Cheers.

  27. 27
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Don actually held back and did not take up the space Simon left. Don already plays a lot (and more than Jon ever did) as is! Jon could actually be quite sparse, he was just LOUD! And, of course, good ole Jon liked to throw dramatic shapes at the organ (Don doesn’t do that, he’s more like a nerdy music professor fingering constantly those playful little embellishments on his keys) which often made what he played LOOK more impressive than it technically was. That’s not a knock, I loved Jon for his showmanship and he had an inborn musicality in anything he played. But he also knew when to hold back and had no issues being simplistic when required.***

    I remember reading that Steve said it was quite an adjustment moving on from Jon to Don because Don was busier in his playing which led to arrangement collisions that had to be worked out in the first few years. Ironically, Jon said the same about Steve, but ever being the gentleman he didn’t of course criticize Steve but stated that he was thankful to Ritchie leaving him so much space in verses and choruses in the old days. This was in the era between the release of Abandon and his eventual departure. By the end of the Mk VII era, Jon’s live playing with DP had become quite a bit more restrained/laid-back.

    ***In an interview Ritchie once said that “there wasn’t much to play for Jon in Mistreated” (the riff is solely carried by the guitar) which made him (Ritchie) realize that the way forward for Purple might perhaps be less organ-centric. And I thought: “How wrong can you be, what Jon played in the Mistreated verses was never achieved by any of the Rainbow organists and kept that somewhat stodgy song actually from sounding all too dull.”

  28. 28
    Rock Voorne says:

    ” I think the assumption that if Ritchie would have stayed with Purple they would have recorded lots and lots of more great albums and lived happily ever after is somewhat preposterous. There would be no DP today, had he continued with the band and we would have missed out on a lot of great music, simple as that.”

    I dont recall having suggested that.

    We just dont know that.

    They easily could have picked a more suitable replacement and continue uptill now.

    Its just my opinion/feeling that within 50 years , or even less , after they are all dead, uncluding many of us newer generations will mainly regard the pre Morse era as REAL Deep Purple.

    That having said, I ve had some moments I was able to enjoy a Morse track/album/show but always got annoyed or depressed/sad after a while.

    I can still listen to older Blackmore stuff and it almost never fails to lift my spirits.

  29. 29
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Ritchie was/is special, no one in his right mind would doubt that. He has his own shrine in DP’s history.

    But so is/has Steve Morse – no other guitarist sounds like him. I don’t find him “unsuitable” at all, he’s left his own imprint on DP. Yes, he does not come from the British blues rock school of playing nor does he have Ritchie’s dark classical influence. He plays and sounds very American. Purple opted for someone radically different after Ritchie’s departure instead of getting, say, Janick Gers (who together with Yngwie Malmsteen is probably the guitarist most similar to Blackmore in style among the guitarists that have played in first and second generation split-off groups). I thought that was brave. They have never replaced leaving members with people that sound similar, why start with Blackmore and get a clone to replace him?

    I don’t know what ‘real Deep Purple’ is, it’s a thing in motion, unless you mean that short three-year-phase between late 1969 and early 1973 when Purple were contemporary and fresh and hence more successful than in any other era, but that phase of their history is irretrievably gone. Every line-up has recorded remarkable numbers, even Mark V. Mark I had psychedelic charm, Mark II forged a classic heavy rock sound, Mark III added funk, blues and soul to that, Mark IV was elevated by Tommy’s Wunderkind charm, Mark V showed that they can do AOR, Mark VII (Mark VI didn’t record) brought a new wealth of influences with Steve Morse, Mark VIII repeated the trick with Don’s progish influences, we’ll see what will happen with Mark IX. You might get your “more suitable” guy yet, who knows at this point?

    Deep Purple’s history is so prolific, what’s not to like? All Purple music uplifts my spirits, they’ve defined in my head how a “proper rock band” is supposed to sound. The one thing that all line-ups share is instrumental prowess. And as heavy rock bands go, Purple’s technical abilities and their sense of improvisation plus Paicey’s incredible swing is indeed a cut above the rest. Plus I prefer them changing (within the confines of their guitar/organ dual attack) to becoming stale. As long as each era has some stability (most did, Mk IV was cut short by drug issues and the emergence of punk, Mk V was a failed experiment and a sign of a schism in the band) and we’re not in Rainbow’s “Ten Little Indians” territory where no line-up had any longevity to evolve and develop as a unit.

  30. 30
    GAVIN MOFFAT says:

    No Steve Morse … no Deep Purple for the past 28 years (producing as they do, albums one would want to play again and again) Its as simple as that.

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