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Treading the line between homage and originality

Ultimate Guitar has an editorial titled 8 Reasons Why Steve Morse Was the Perfect Deep Purple Guitarist. Of course, all of us (okay, okay, most of us) have known these reasons for decades.

An era has ended this July, when Steve Morse announced his permanent departure from Deep Purple so that he could be by his wife Janine’s side through her battles with cancer.

Over the past 28 years, the Morse has done what probably no other player could – he has successfully filled in Ritchie Blackmore’s shoes while serving as an ever-giving well of creativity that saw Deep Purple through seven studio albums and countless live shows.

And yet, his contribution to the legendary hard rock has largely been understated for the better part of those 28 years, even if Morse himself was a well-respected member of the global guitar-playing community. As a means of going at least a little way in righting that wrong and honoring Morse’s legacy, below are only some of the things which made Steve Morse a perfect guitarist for Deep Purple.

He was Deep Purple’s longest-serving guitarist

For many people out there, Ritchie Blackmore will always be the definitive Purple axman – which is largely understandable given his instrumental role in the band’s rise to greatness – but it was Steve Morse who had stuck with the band for the longest time.

Morse joined the band one year after Blackmore’s dramatic departure in the middle of 1993’s “The Battle Rages On…” tour, and would spend the next 28 years with the legendary hard rock band. Although Morse wasn’t Purple’s first pick (that would be Joe Satriani, who filled in for Blackmore for the remainder of the aforementioned tour but had to turn down the offer to join the band for good due to personal obligations), he’d certainly prove to be the right one.

With Morse, the band found one hell of a guitarist perfectly equipped for the demanding role, but without any of the tensions that marked practically every Blackmore era. Morse would go on to record seven studio albums with the band, slowly weaving his guitar magic into Purple’s DNA – but more importantly, the enhanced sense of camaraderie and easygoing Morse helped re-establish (and maintain) could be felt in recorded material and live shows alike.

Take a look at any live footage from the Morse era, and you can clearly see a band having fun playing together – and what would sadly turn out to be Steve’s last gig with Purple is no exception. You can check it out below.

Continue reading in Ultimate Guitar.



42 Comments to “Treading the line between homage and originality”:

  1. 1
    sidroman says:

    I hope they release that last show with Steve as a legacy in Purple’s history.

  2. 2
    Kidpurple says:

    Awesome as always!!!
    Thank you Steve Morse- guitarist with the best Band in the world!!

  3. 3
    Uwe Hornung says:

    A fitting commemoration of the era under the Morse code. It’s a stellar body of work and a huge part of Purple’s history. The humble and genial kid from the colonies did well.

    Was Steve “perfect” for Purple? No – he just did a bloody good and very consistent (not Ritchie’s most prominent trait …) job -, but then who ever was? Ritchie was a brilliant force with the band for years, but he wasn’t perfect either. Gifted as he was, he could also regularly stifle other people’s contributions and creativity and/or act like a dickhead.

    Steve could never provide that brooding Englishness to Purple – Ritchie’s guitar playing was a bit like a gothic Hammer movie. Essentially, that is what Blackmore devotees have always held against Steve, but when Purple went looking for a replacement for Ritchie, emulating the man in black’s darkish and stern influence/hold on the band (which, make no mistake, had been pivotal in creating several classic albums) was not part of the job description. Purple wanted someone radically different with a fresh perspective. Which was actually a very brave move given that they had tried the same trick once before with Tommy Bolin and we all know how that turned out fatefully.

  4. 4
    MacGregor says:

    The word ‘perfect’ is not really what this is about. What or who is perfect? Also the headline is misleading as it should say ‘the correct choice post Ritchie Blackmore’. Anyway nit picking aside Steve Morse deserves all the accolades he gets in regards to his musical abilities & positive attitude. A difficult position to be in & on a hiding to nothing in some ways. However in his true positive attitude to joining DP he gets on with it. Good luck to him. By the way that opening riff to Ted the Mechanic is almost identical to a instrumental riff from his Introduction album of 1984. As soon as that song started when I purchased Purpendicular & pressed play on the hifi back in 1995 I thought, heard that riff before.
    A stonking riff it is. Cheers.

  5. 5
    Mark says:

    Uwe – your comments are always well constructed and a pleasure to read.
    What I liked about the Morse era was that it was a fresh start for DP from the outset (Perpendicular), creating a new sound enjoyable to the end (Turning to Crime). By ’93 we had grown tired of the Gillan/Blackmore friction which was always passed off as being necessary to create great music. Yet DP still made great music with Morse and always came across as a happy band either in the live setting or in interviews.
    It’s been 50 plus years from which DP established a rich heritage. I feel very content that the Morse era DP occupies a large portion of that heritage.

  6. 6
    Joseph Smith says:

    The best guitar player that deep purple ever had hard to fill those shoes and Ritchie Blackmore but he did. Really really nice guy too I got to meet him and be friends with him and then I’m on 2004 at the TLA on South Street in Philadelphia but he ended up the chat his tour manager had to basically pull them away from me and said let’s go because he like talking to me very nice person my prayers my thoughts and my healing go out to his wife although I never met her I’m sure she’s as nice as Steve love and prayers from Joe had a security TLA South Street.

  7. 7
    DeeperPurps says:

    I have great respect for Steve Morse’s stellar guitar playing and his very good nature / human touch. I met him outside the venue after Deep Purple’s 2010 Singapore show – he was / is a true gentleman – approachable, good-humoured, and obliging to fans. He breathed new life into a struggling band and helped them move forward in positive and enjoyable fashion to this day – that is a very impressive legacy.

  8. 8
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Things are often clearer from a distance. These days it’s hard to find anyone who knows how to spell d-e-e-p-p-u-r-p-l-e who does not think that Come Taste the Band has stood the test of time well. But man did that album get clobbered by DP diehards when it came out in October 1975 and for years afterwards. I long believed to be in a minority of one when I said that I liked both CTTB and Last Concert in Japan (with all its inherent limitations) in 1976/77 and onwards. These days the room of people appreciating Deep Tommy is kinda crowded! ; – )

    In a decade or so from now, when even Purple won’t be gigging anymore, people will flock around albums like Purpendicular and Whoosh! in hushed voices, marvelling how great, yet unsung at the time they were.

  9. 9
    Adel Faragalla says:

    Hi Guys,
    I respect all you views about Steve Morse Era but to be honest it’s not fair to say that he was not a perfect fit.
    When you replace someone like Blackmore ( and he wasn’t really replacing Satriani) you have to accept that it’s not fair to get someone who plays or sounds like him because that will be asking for trouble in the long run as the amount of length that Ian Gillan went for to make the fans accept Steve and forget about Blackmore was immense and colossal.
    Steve is an amazing player and I love all his work with DP and if it wasn’t for a poor judgement in selecting a producer like Micheal Bradford we could have had a cracking two albums in Bannans and Rapture of the deep.
    I think the extensive crazy touring schedule really would have destroyed so many guitar player but he held it very well.
    The last show is not easy on the eyes or the ears as it was after a long 2 year break from Covid so I refuse to watch this show as it’s not fair on the memory or the history of Steve Morse Era.
    Peace ✌️

  10. 10
    Andy says:

    The encore of Green Onions->Hush->Black Night is a highlight for me and I’m glad I was able to see it live. The interplay between Steve and Don is a fun listen. The version on Live at Montreux 2011 is one of my favorites. Since it’s been 28 years, how do we get Steve added/inducted to the RRHOF with DP?

  11. 11
    Dr. Bob says:

    I have to admit that it took me a while to think of Steve as more than an adequate new guy. But the string of albums from What Now?! through Turning to Crime made me realise how great a player he is and appreciate his songwriting.

    I was fortunate to see him in his pentultimate performance with Deep Purple in Tampa. The band is scheduled to be in FL next Feb near where Steve lives. I don’t believe that he has played his last gig with Deep Purple yet.

  12. 12
    Arkady says:

    Just a guitarist with no vision. Since he in DP there is no really good songs that touch you. Blackmore is the best for DP and one the best guitarist in the world. Too bad that he left and since there is no deep purple. But now they are old and now it’s too late.

  13. 13
    AnthonyC says:

    #10 Steve is in the RRHOF with DP.

  14. 14
    Adel Faragalla says:

    Arkady @12
    I don’t like to rude but I would call you ignorant because if you listen to the catalogue of Steve Morse Era songs with DP you can be more educated with your comments.
    I love ‘Perpendicular’ and I would urge you to listen to it from start to finish to appreciate how ignorant you comments can go down.
    Respect is easy to show when you are less ignorant.
    No offence taken
    Peace ✌️

  15. 15
    Andrew says:

    No really good songs? Sometimes I feel like screaming seems to fulfil the description of a really good song in my view.

  16. 16
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Not according to the RRHOF itself, lieber Anthony:

    https://www.rockhall.com/inductees/deep-purple

    Just all of Mark II, the Mark III new boys and the lost and never found Rod Evans. No Simper (for no explicable reason), Bolin (a cheap shot not to include him), Turner (I wouldn’t have minded him being there), Morse or Airey (both did not meet formal qualifications in 2015 – never mind how the RRHOF has dispensed with those in the past with other bands).

    PS: My name is Carole Stevens, Blackmore Productions, Minstrel Hall Music, PO Box 735, Nesconset, NY 11767. Mnstrelhal@aol.com. Fax: 631-979-6987, and I herewith endorse Vassal Arkady’s message @12.

    : – )

  17. 17
    MacGregor says:

    Didn’t Rob Trujillo get in with the metal lickers? How long was he in that band, not very long it seems. I may be wrong, but I thought I noticed that years go, not that I am a Metallica aficionado in any way. Different strokes for different folks me thinks. Cheers.

  18. 18
    Morsecode says:

    @12

    It is so sad to see people just stuck in time. When I fell in love with DP I was 15 years old listening to Highway Star – hormones were a big part of it. When I heard Purpendicular I was 40. No hormones but a wiser man. If Purpendicular came out when I was 15 it would have been engraved in every organ of my body. But at 40 I realized this guy is unique and dare I say more musical and varied than Blackmore. Blackmore at 15 was perfect. Blackmore at 40 not so muck. Morse was the perfect guitarist at the right time for me

  19. 19
    sidroman says:

    I doubt Arkady has any Deep Purple albums other than Machine Head.

  20. 20
    Schmiddi says:

    @16 Liebe Frau Stevens,
    I always wondered who you really are but now I know 😀

  21. 21
    Adel Faragalla says:

    Sidriman@19
    Totally agree 👍
    But I think some people like to talk garbage to get attention so the more we talk about it the better they feel.
    Also my grandmother used to say to me ‘dont waste your time educating donkeys because they wake up the next day exactly the same’
    Peace ✌️

  22. 22
    Svante Axbacke says:

    @21: Or: “Never attempt to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig.” 🙂

  23. 23
    Uwe Hornung says:

    I guess Svante‘s argument is not totally unfounded …

    https://youtu.be/YsBrAjh1v-0

  24. 24
    MacGregor says:

    @ 21 – or maybe the donkey’s are smarter than we humans think. After all it isn’t the donkey’s that have stuffed everything is it? Food for thought. Cheers

  25. 25
    Svante Axbacke says:

    @23: LOL!

  26. 26
    MacGregor says:

    @ 23 – Uwe where do you dig up these clips from? Cheers.

  27. 27
    Rev. Harry Longfallis says:

    Uwe # 8, great points! Except I bought Last Concert in Japan when it first came out, & I hated it. Even Glenn Hughes hated it! But I loved CTTB since day one, you’re right, it’s one of the most underrated albums ever, by any artist! I first heard DP when In Rock came out, later went back & got all of the Mk. I albums, and of course everything after that. All great stuff with a couple of rare exceptions. Even “Deep Rainbow” has a few great songs. Now, when I want to hear DP, it’s almost always something from the Morse era.

  28. 28
    Rev. Harry Longfallis says:

    Arkady # 12, why are you even looking at this website? How can anyone so full of hate even claim to be a DP fan?

  29. 29
    Rost says:

    The legacy that Morse left in Purple is huge and great.
    From 8 records with him only Abandon one of the worst in Purple history, all the others of Morse era are great and few even could be considered as a perfect.
    But a live….I am sorry, he failed to fill Ritchie shoes. He ruined a lot of Purple classics with his guitar style and I never like him a live. He is too predictable and boring…almost playing the same solos all the time.

  30. 30
    Adel Faragalla says:

    Sorry if I offended any Donkeys or animals among us. After all they all have feelings.
    Peace ✌️

  31. 31
    Adel Faragalla says:

    Rost @29
    Respect your opinion but you are a minority.
    You can clam the same about Don Airey but they are both amazing fit.
    Why can’t some people realise that getting someone that sounds like Ritchie to replace him is just a pure waste of time.
    People need to evolve rather than copy each other.
    Peace ✌️

  32. 32
    sidroman says:

    Rost’s argument is ridiculous. Ritchie was an improvisor, while Steve would play the solos pretty much note for note from the way the songs were recorded. Apples and Oranges, although Steve could improvise as well, and I miss the guitar riff raff before SOTW, like he played in the early 2000’s. I remember at one show, he took the band from Whole Lotta Love to All Right Now, and finally into Won’t Get Fooled Again, with Big Ian doing Roger Daltrey’s scream at the end and it was awesome!

  33. 33
    Uwe Hornung says:

    MacGregor @26: Easy, I just do whatever my Viking Lord Svante tells me!

  34. 34
    Rock Voorne says:

    “Why can’t some people realise that getting someone that sounds like Ritchie to replace him is just a pure waste of time.”

    Don is trying hard to compensate for the lack of Ritchie by trying to sound as Lordy as possible. He really went for the Hammond.

    THATS why no one is ever having this endless debates about Don .

  35. 35
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Aside from perhaps Hendrix, I cannot think of another major league, mainstream (yes, Purple were mainstream in their heyday, Rainbow only tried to be, but failed) commercially successful guitarist who took as many freedoms deviating from his studio solos as Blackers did – that was just him. Remember that Ritchie didn’t even have his trademark Highway Star solo down rehearsed when the Machine Head songs were first performed (just´think of the BBC in Concert and the Live in Denmark recordings). Blackmore always said impishly that he couldn’t remember his own stuff and was thus forced to impovise – my guess is that he was simply too lazy and easily bored to replicate his own solos note for note, plus he liked the challenge (and knew he could meet it most of the time).

    Blackmore’s improvisational talent was much of 70ies’ Purple’s charm – it didn’t work always though, I’m sure most of us have witnessed gigs were Blackmore was mundane, bored and, consequently, an angered noise merchant, he was often his toughest critic.

    Steve OTOH would have never played anything on stage that he was not sure of getting right, like an athlete the man prepared, rehearsed and laid out what he was going to play. Very American once again. Of course Steve could improvise, but he wasn’t reckless and mischievous (like Blackmore) doing it.

    Steve was talented, musicianly & studious on guitar, Ritchie a gifted, yet unpredictable smart-alec diva, that sums both of them up

    But let’s not just talk lead guitar soloing. When it came to intricate rhythm parts that were orchestral, smart, unusual, yet not cluttered, Steve could play circles around Ritchie who was often lackadaisical in hís rhythm guitar approach. Much like with Eddie van Halen, people fail to recognize in Steve the utterly brilliant rhythm guitarist behind the soloist. Unlike Blackmore, he had extensive trio experience (Steve Morse Group) and therefore was always aware that his rhythm parts needed to be more than just meat & potatoes.

  36. 36
    MacGregor says:

    @ 33 -I know how you feel. I keep trying to ascend to the great Halls of Valhalla only to keep getting thrown back down here all the time. It’s a hard journey indeed for us mortals. Cheers.

  37. 37
    MacGregor says:

    I can relate to what Rost @ 29 is saying in regards to Morse’s guitar solo’s & approach to certain songs. He does have that repetitive technique style that is predictable at times. He was also rather similar back with Kansas in the mid 80’s. His forte is definitely his instrumental music. However he has played some scintillating solo’s at times within certain songs with both bands, just too predictable on many other occasions.. Cheers.

  38. 38
    MacGregor says:

    Regarding Blackmore & his ‘rhythm’ guitar playing. He would have to be the most uninteresting in that department that I have heard, or at least one of the most limiting. However that is what made DP so interesting in many ways & even Rainbow to a degree.
    I guess we can’t have everything. What I have noticed though throughout the decades of following rock music in general, is that most interesting guitarists do have their limitations & they also belong to the keyboard driven bands, excepting a few dual guitar bands of course. Having that extra element & especially if the keyboard players are busy & explorative, let the guitarist have a rest occasionally, for want of a better description. In a three piece rock band the guitarist has to work much harder. Cue back to the ‘Baby Face’ idea, that would have never worked. Cheers.

  39. 39
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Because, truth of the matter is, Ritchie is a lazy bum! He plays guitar like he plays football/soccer, always waiting for the right moment to poach a ball and not putting in too much work. Ingenious lazy bum, let’s get this correct, it’s part of his charm.

    The Honorable Rock Voorne is on to something here:

    “Don is trying hard to compensate for the lack of Ritchie by trying to sound as Lordy as possible. He really went for the Hammond.

    THAT’S why no one is ever having these endless debates about Don.”

    True. Don never emulated Jon’s style of playing BUT he took to heart Jon’s all-important sonic role in Purple and therefore adopted the Hammond much more into his playing; it became – as with Jon – his home instrument. He wasn’t really a Hammond player in the Rainbow and Ozzy days of yore, but he certainly is now. He’s also become a lot looser and improvisational in his DP tenure – he was always technically very adept, but Jon had the edge on him with his “Keith Richards of Hammond”-vibe of always fitting elegantly, yet idiosyncratically in. These days, Don is as fluid and groovy as Jon, albeit in a more edgy way. Took him a couple of years of touring with Purple.

    Steve otoh never tried to emulate Ritchie’s sonics, he has a very processed, compressed and effects-laden sound. It’s totally his sound and he knows how to work it to great effect, but I know what people mean when they say they miss Ritchie’s more no-frills “bass & treble & nothing in between” signature sound played with that Buccaneering swagger of his.

    You’ll have more of that with Herr McBride I think. Give him some time.

  40. 40
    Rock Voorne says:

    @ 39

    I m getting too old for this shit.
    As a matter of fact I probably have been for years now.
    ROTD tour was my last DP show.

  41. 41
    Bo Olsson says:

    Has anyone got the odds for a return by Ritchie Blackmore? A million to one?

  42. 42
    MacGregor says:

    @ 41 -I will take those odds gladly, where do I deposit my one dollar. although that would be an Australian dollar, I had better get the Euro rate to transfer or is that the US dollar? Anyway all good for a quick cash grab & as Ritchie said on that video recently regarding his or their youtube channel, ‘send in lots of money’ or something along those lines! Cheers.

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