I’ve received three 2007 releases for review from Inside Out Music that all stem from the same source: The era of classic electric instrumental rock fusion albums in the late 70’s and early 80’s where we saw great releases from people like Jeff Beck, Jean Luc Ponty, Allan Holdsworth, Al Di Meola, etc. How do these newer releases match up to these classics? Let’s look at Spock’s Beard guitarist Alan Morse’s Four O’Clock and Hysteria.
Even though members of Spock’s Beard play on a few cuts and former member/Alan’s brother Neal helped write, co-produce and played keys on Four O’Clock and Hysteria, it does not sound much like the mighty Beard. Gary Lunn on bass and Scott Williamson on drums play on most of the tracks. Jerry Goodman adds some violin here and there.
Throughout the CD Alan seems to be referencing the melodic styles of guitarists Jeff Beck (during the Blow By Blow/Wired period) and Larry Carlton’s first solo recording (“Room 335” anyone?). Very melodic and accessibile.
A few highlights include “Return to Whatever,” (great title!) that has a real Cosmic Messenger-era Jean Luc Ponty vibe going on. “The Rite of Left” rock and rolls evenly along until about a minute and a half in where Alan goes all Vanhalen on us with an awesome solo. Very cool.
The song “Spanish Steppes” has me thinking that Senor Velasco has returned, due to the many flamenco flourishes on this Spanish flavored cut. I definitely heard Goodman’s excellent violin playing come to the fore on “Major Buzz” and again felt a likeness to Jeff Beck on “Chroma,” with its funky groove. The disc ends with “Home,” a delicate, beautiful, melody over an acoustic backing that tugs at your heart strings.
Four O’Clock and Hysteria passes the test. It’s not really what I would have expected from this Spock’s Beard alum, but it’s superior quality all the same. If you are a fan of first-rate rock fusion, this is a good one to get. Even if you are not a fan of Alan’s other exploits.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on October 28th, 2007