For any one who has followed progressive rock over the past twenty-plus years, the name Tim Morse means something. Something very good. Something very special. Not only is Morse the author of one of the very best books ever published about Yes—Yes Stories: Yes In Their Own Words—but he’s a serious and truly gifted musician in his own right.
His latest cd, Tim Morse III, is nothing but a delight and a pleasure. Morse is, to put it at its most basic, classy. He has taste. A lot of it.
True to prog, he can jump from style to style as well, all with elegance and ease. Tim Morse III has hints of Yes, Big Big Train, Lifesigns, Genesis, Glass Hammer, Steely Dan, Dave Brubeck, and others. When he needs a keyboard jam, there’s a keyboard jam. When he needs a guitar to soar, the guitar soars. While his vocal range isn’t huge, it’s quite solid, and he knows how to use his voice to its best. Heck, he even gives us cow bell on track six, the wonderfully nostalgic “My Ally.”
Most importantly, though, it’s clear that Morse loves what he does. There’s an infectious optimism to his music that is absent in so much recent prog music. Without naming names, too many musicians have gone down the path of cynicism, outrage, and naval gazing. In short, they have become obsessed with their own worries and fears, calling their bloviatings about politics, art. It’s not, and it’s a sad moment in prog history.
Even when Morse is dark—such as on the second track, “Labyrinth,” or on the fifth track, “The Mary Celeste”—he doesn’t leave the listener there. We see the darkness, maybe even experience it, and, then, we move on. The themes of this album are not some unrelenting and unremitting tenebrous existence but but a life of joy, forgiveness, love, and redemption.
Frankly, having spent way too much time over the last six months watching the news cycle and the social media circus that devolves from it, I’m finding Tim Morse III a breath of alpine air, clear, cool, and wholesome.
Actually, to be even more blunt, Morse’s music makes me want to be a better father, a better professor, and a better writer.