Cymbalick Music 2020
Sacramento master of progressive arts takes stock of what he’s done up to now before gearing up for the next adventure.
A musician and a scholar, Tim Morse’s reputation is solid, although his output is intermittent, with bursts of creativity set years apart, which may make it difficult for a non-aficionado to perceive the full picture of the Californian’s oeuvre: a situation he decided to remedy with the release of this compilation that spans the last fifteen years – all the time of his recording career. There’s no previously concealed conceptuality in the current flow the chronologically laid pieces, but their mutual, inner-album repositioning and the addition of fresh cuts, to up the disc’s value for the initiated, shift the entire image toward the unknown.
Harking back to Tim’s first-ever song yet properly crystallized especially to open this compilation, “Guitar Etude 1” is hardly a number a Morse fan came to expect from him, so a delicate strum of nylon strings must briefly, in under half a minute, reveal a new, if still baroque-tinctured, aspect to the American artist’s talent, while “Apocalyptic Visions” from his 2005 debut “Transformation” unfolds a multi-faceted cinematic panorama. Its abstract passages alternately thicken into organ waves and get rippled with piano and Mark Dean’s guitar riffs until clear tunes are let out in the air and vocals begin to shape the story, and the performer’s armory deployed here can’t fail to impress. Diverse keyboards and vibes stress the breadth of Tim’s stylistic reach – from hard rock to prog to fusion and beyond – only the aforementioned epic will be pacified for “Adrift” to highlight Morse’s handling of fragile, folk-informed balladry, the swapping of these two tracks from their original order reversing the entire “calm before the storm” dynamic.
Moving to 2012’s “Fathscience” with “Rome” where his pop edge is exposed against heavy backdrop and an almost hidden hoedown, the maestro allows “Voyager” not deliver on its grandiose intent, yet renders “Afterword” transparently romantic – not unlike the cheerful “200 Yards” from THE MANGOES’s self-titled offering that saw Tim team up with axe-slinger Bret Bingham for a series of rather humorous cuts, and the pair of like-minded spirits make “My Ally” off 2018’s “III” seem to be even more summery and sweet. The soundscape “Inertia” didn’t land there but now this swelling improv should serve as a great intro to “The Mary Celeste”: arguably Morse’s most accomplished dive into the lore of legends, violin elevating the ivories-driven drama in a way his highly individual, harmonies-filled, recent cover of PINK FLOYD’s “Dogs” wouldn’t dare to go for, and the glimpse of “The Corners” – the compilation’s finale – would.
There’s no sense of completion on “Archaeology” – and rightly so, for this artist’s journey is far from being over – but the sense of adventure is firmly in place here.