updated dvd review, with mp3 sound clips

'Cruise Control' from t2media is the European retail version of Thames Thompson's 2002 mail order only 'Sects Dregs & Rock'n'Roll' DVD. As well as having been retitled, it sports different packaging to 'Sects Dregs..', and comes with a twelve page booklet containing an overview of Steve's career.

There is also a difference in the contents of the DVD. T2 have concentrated on the two lengthy live performances, improving the sound performance of the Dixie Dregs show by introducing a stereo option. Most of the bonus video material has been dropped from the disc to make space, apart from 35 minutes of the 'Guitarshow Interview'.

It is an awesome dvd release. Not all of the footage is top grade quality-wise, but it's over three hours in length (fitted onto a single dvd!), and contains enough great material to delight any Steve Morse or Deep Purple fan.

We had the pre-release track listing online for some time before the original release appeared, but being a Purple fan who has never really explored Steve's career in any depth, it didn't mean a lot to me. Very little has been written about Steve's music from a Deep Purple perspective, so I feel it's worth going into some detail for 'Cruise Control'.

The contents are split between his Dixie Dregs and solo / Steve Morse Band career paths, both of which are still ongoing...

First up is a complete Dixie Dregs performance filmed at Toad's Place, New Haven, Connecticut, on 29th November 2001. The show was part of a reunion tour, very obviously done for the sheer pleasure of it.

The music is stunning throughout (and purely instrumental, as is all of the music on the dvd), which helps disguise that the footage is at best just ok. It's a mediocre looking three camera job, lacking decent close-ups. The sound is excellent however, with a choice between 5.1 surround sound and regular stereo . 'Sects, Dregs..' featured only 5.1, which without a surround sound system made the violin over-dominant in the mix. Thankfully that has now been rectified.

Now that I've got used to the music (some of it took two or three playings!) it simply blows me away. On a calmer note, it also provides a fascinating perspective into Steve's music, certainly more than he's been able to exhibit in Deep Purple since Abandon. Anyway, on to the tracks, (click the underlined titles to hear mp3 soundclips courtesy of TT / T2!)

• Bloodsucking Leeches....from Industry Standard (1982) kicks off the set in uncompromising fashion. It's a fast jazz-rock workout, reminiscent (to my ears) of Tommy Bolin on Billy Cobham's Spectrum album. The jammed mid-section brings Tommy to my thoughts again, it sounds like what Deep Purple were reaching for in their jams during Gettin' Tighter on the 75-76 tour.

• Country House Shuffle.....from The Great Spectacular (1976) doesn't drop the intensity, ploughing much the same heavy furrow as Take It From The Top. With T.Lavitz's excellent Hammond backing, the sound of Dutch prog rock greats Focus also comes to mind.

• Assembly Line....from Industry Standard (1982) is pure jazz, featuring rolling bass and drums underneath some neat piano work.

• Hereafter....from Dregs Of The Earth (1980) is tight and structured, with the guitar and violin 'singing' the tune in tandem. For someone who had heard very little Dixie Dregs previously, I finally picked out the expected hints of country music in this track.

• Justice....is an organ lead T.Lavitz track. For this tour, all of the band were encouraged to bring some of their outside work within the Dregs framework.

• Busy Bodies....from Steve's solo album Split Decision (2002) is his contribution, the newest track on the entire dvd. It's a very catchy Bach-like piece, which skips along much like the opening of Seventh Heaven, gradually getting busier as it progresses.

• Kat Food.....from Unsung Heroes (1981) is a Dregs classic. A catchy jazz riff leads into everyone having a solo space to really stretch out in. On this evidence Steve should really be given a go at Wring That Neck, a track designed for similar treatment.

• Sleeveless in Seattle (see video clip) ....from Full Circle (1994) is an incredible, penetrating riff which then settles to something very similar to Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming (recorded just a year later).

• Brick Chicken....from Levy/Goodman/Smith/Burb....Stranger's Hand (1999) is one of violinist Jerry Goodman's contributions, as is

• Dance of the Maya....from the Mahavishnu Orchestra....The Inner Mounting Flame (1972). Goodman played alongside Billy Cobham on the original recording. To my ears it's a tuneless racket, though I enjoy Brick Chicken, which sports a riff rather like Sail Away.

• The Bash....from Night Of The Living Dregs (1979) is a souped up country pickin' workout. Great fun, sounds like Junior Brown!

• Cruise Control.....from Free Fall (1977) is Steve's personal Smoke On The Water, a simple but immediate riff.

• Ionized....is from Full Circle (1994). A riff later donated to Abandon, being a wonderfully speeded up Evil Louie!

• Take It Off The Top....What If (1978). The one I knew! You can see why Steve was everyone in DP's no.1 to succeed Ritchie. The call and answer section is very similar in feel to Mr B's music.

Steve's solo work is represented by a 60 minute acoustic / electric show recorded in New York 1992 for Japanese TV. It's way more professional looking than the Dregs footage. The actual music is often jaw-droppingly good, especially the opening batch of unaccompanied acoustic performances..

Northern Lights....from The Dixie Dregs...Free Fall (1977) is unbelievably beautiful, and technically stunning, as is
• Picture This...(see video clip), from the Practicing Musicians Vol.2 compilation (1995) and

• Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desiring...a mesmerising version of the Bach piece also touched upon by Jon Lord on occasion (eg Live In London)

• Jammin’ ...(on electric guitar + pedals) is the layered guitar exercise used by Steve for his solo spot on the Purpendicular tour.

Steve Morse Band bassist Dave Larue is then introduced, firstly to accompany Steve's acoustic on a few quiet but very busy vworkouts:
• Point Counterpoint....from Steve Morse Band...'Southern Steel' (1991)
• Little Kids...from Dixie Dregs...What If (1978).
• Flat Baroque....from Steve Morse Band....'Coast To Coast' (1992)

Steve then swaps acoustic for electric:
• Ghostwind....solo....High Tension Wires (1989)
• Get It In Writing....Steve Morse Band....Coast To Coast (1992)
• Country Colours....solo....High Tension Wires (1989)
• Tumeni Notes....solo....High Tension Wires (1989) is a definite precursor of Deep Purple's latest instrumental 'The Well Dressed Guitar"!

Finally, keyboard player T.Lavitz comes onboard:
• Sparkle Plenty.....T.Lavitz....Storytime (1986)
• Rocky Top...(cover) orig. by The Osborne Brothers. The show ends with a feast of country pickin' to end a very attractive selection of music.

As a bonus there is a superb 35 minute long 'Guitarshow Interview', with Steve saying his piece on any number of career and guitar subjects. He is not the most lucid of speakers, but has a plugged-in electric guitar perched on his lap which is used regularly to illustrate his points. This makes it all very watchable (though I still don't know why he reproduces other people's riffs to absolute perfection, but insists on mangling 'Smoke On The Water'...)

The DVD stands as a very enjoyable and intensive introduction to Steve's music. For most Deep Purple fans (especially outside of the US), the work which Steve has produced outside of the band is still there to be discovered in all of its depth and diversity. 'Cruise Control' contains plenty of both. Treat yourself, I guarantee that within a few days of purchase you'll be singing 'Cruise Control' in the bath.

review: David Browne


Whereas T2's 'Cruise Control' concentrates on the two live performances, (particularly improving the sound performance of the Dixie Dregs show by introducing a stereo option), 'Sects Dregs & Rock'n'Roll' fills the disc out to a whopping 230 minutes with a number of extras. As well as a longer (60 minute) version of the 'Guitarshow Interview' there are a number of other bits and pieces of varying quality and substance..

• A blurry 1984 promo video for the deeply uncommercial 'Cruise Missile' is an odd piece of vintage Morse, showing an older incarnation of The Steve Morse Band including Rod Morgenstein on drums (he currently tours with The Dixie Dregs)..

• There is a Deep Purple section. It contains a 6 minute chat with Gillan and Glover discussing Steve's appointment to the band, along with Steve's solo spot from 'Total Abandon' as a token Purple artefact. It's unfortunate that nothing else could be used.

• 'Guitar Clinic & Interview' is a short Australian TV report (don't know if it was broadcast or not) which doesn't really add anything to the collection.

The picture quality varies. The sound is very good. There is an option for German audio & subtitles in the interview material, which is a great idea.

'Cruise Control' is Region 0 (all regions), and PAL only. 'Sects Dregs & Rock'n'Roll' is also Region 0, and is available by mail order as both PAL and NTSC.

For Further Reading:
Steve's official website

Steve Morse DVD

deep purple reviews