Rush are a band that have cultivated a diehard fanbase. Using their supreme prog-rock skills, the Canadian trio triumphed as one of the most dynamic and well-skilled bands around. As decades passed, those fans became even more steadfast in their adoration for the group. While Neil Peart, the band’s mercurial drummer and Geddy Lee, the group’s juggernaut bassist, may take the public plaudits for their rise to prominence, it is Alex Lifeson’s incredible guitar playing that truly set the band apart from the rest.
The rhythm section of any group is always essential, but where Lee and Peart provided a foundation from which to build on, Lifeson set about creating sonic structures to make Gaudi blush. Lifeson has remained largely out of the spotlight for a lead guitarist, but that only speaks more highly of his supreme skill, that he was able to front the band while remaining publicly quiet. However, given the opportunity to speak about his favourite subject, Lifeson never turned away. Naturally, that favourite subject, more often than not, is music. More specifically; guitars.
With a guitarist like Lifeson, so instrumental in his field of prog-rock, it can be hard to imagine him having a guitar hero of his own. But, like all of his fans, Lifeson is a lover of music, just like everybody else. But while many people would pick the great and impressive artists before him, like Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and countless others, Lifeson opts for a more leftfield option.
“I’ve come across many players over the years, and I’ve learned a lot from a lot of players,” recalled Lifeson when speaking to Music Radar about his ultimate guitar hero. Clearly unwilling to fall into the above traps of picking known idols, Lifeson picks someone he feels deserves more credit, “I think one of the most underrated players — and he’s respected, but he just didn’t get the recognition he deserved — is Steve Morse.”
Morse, an American guitarist and composer, is best known as the founder of Dixie Dregs, picking up a spot in Deep Purple in the early nineties and being in Kansas for a brief moment in the eighties. During the eighties, following the break up of Dregs, Lifeson would see Morse in action. “I remember when we were playing with The Steve Morse band, and he’d be there when we were there at soundcheck,” continued Lifeson, “at three or four o’clock in the afternoon, and I’d just watch him, and he’d be wandering around the hall playing and warming up.
“They’d always play a different song every night for their soundcheck and he was just such an amazing player. He has such an amazing ability.” Coming from Lifeson, that is some compliment indeed, he continued to effuse about Morse: “I always thought that he should have been huge in whatever he did. He was definitely successful in whatever bands he worked in, but I don’t think that he ever had the kind of recognition that he so deserved. So I’d have to say, Steve Morse.”
If there’s one thing we relish more than discovering bands or artists on our own, it is when a hero of the genre provides their own best-kept secret to follow up on. So, when a star of guitar playing like Rush’s Alex Lifeson picks his favourite guitarist of all time, you have to pay attention.