Tim Morse

Independent release, 2018


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


For many years singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Tim Morse was the keyboard player in the terrific Yes tribute band Parallels. He also authored the book Yes Stories: Yes In Their Own Words. These are essential points of reference for an artist whose three albums of solo music frequently resemble classic Yes in sensibility and approach—warm, melodic, and adventurous prog-inflected tunes with a philosophical bent that feature assertive bass and abundant Moog and Mellotron.

Given this musical context, one imagines the reference in opening track “Wake Up” to “an ever-opening flower”—a direct quote from the Yes tune for which the aforementioned tribute band was named—is not a coincidence. In any case, the largely keys-and-bass-driven “Wake Up” (guest-starring Parallels bassist Jay Leek) begins as a lyrical sketch of a trip to India before blossoming into a travelogue of a journey less literal and more mystical. “So clearly you can see with your heart / The beauty in everything,” sings Morse, cueing a sunny synth figure.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

As you might expect from a writer whose primary instrument is keyboards, Morse’s songs tend to center on keyboard melodies. “Labyrinth” opens with assertive piano and bass in a rather jazzy, nearly funky dance. The strongest influence here feels like Alan Parsons, even as the rather straightforward opening segment crossfades into an athletic guitar-keys-bass-drums jam that builds to a wonky guitar solo by guest Mark Dean. There’s a hint of Spock’s Beard also in both the brightness of the melodies and the way Morse cycles back to a second forceful jam late in this extended suite.

Closing out “Side One” of this set, which Morse has organized like a vinyl LP, “The Marquis” is a rather Beatlesque piano-bass-drums-and-vocals character sketch that flies by quickly, something of a trifle on an album of meatier tracks, but a nice palate cleanser.

Opening side two, “The Path” features a rather 1977 Styx-ish prog-pop feel initially with sparkly guitars and burbling synths. As the nine-minute track unfolds, it reveals itself as the album’s lyrical linchpin, narrating a never-ending search for spiritual enlightenment. The epic-flavored middle and latter stages of the song feature airy digressions and a stratospheric guitar solo in which guest Kurt Shiflet adopts a rather Steve Hackett feel.

“The Mary Celeste” is a story-song about the famous ship of the same name, rather straightforward at first, until guest Olain Mcauley steps in for an evocative violin solo that brings inevitable echoes of Kansas, eventually moving into the background as Leek on bass, Jerry Jennings on guitar, and finally Morse on Hammond organ step up for concise, punchy solos.

Morse’s pop instincts come to the fore on “My Ally,” an earnest yet wistful 4:02 tune about a long-term friendship. Closing out the album, “Circle/Talisman” is indeed two songs in one, with gently meditative instrumental “Circle” flowing naturally into “Talisman,” which begins as a plaintive ballad before transitioning abruptly at 3:25 into a considerably heavier middle section.

The vibe throughout III is one of searching, seeking, and positivity, a combination that should feel familiar and welcoming to any Jon Anderson fan. Ultimately, Tim Morse’s III offers a seamless melding of classic prog and melodic pop sensibilities that’s full of intriguing moments and engaging flourishes, and well worth checking out.

Rating: B

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