Morse Code, the Canadian band from Quebec, may have only released this one album in an AOR style, but these guys had been around for ages, playing progressive rock in another life years before.
Written by: gdmonline
ARTIST: Morse Code
ALBUM: Code Breaker
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Canada
LINEUP: Daniel May – vocals, guitars, flute * Mike Valley – vocals, bass * Marc Leach – keyboards * Yves Boisvert – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Still On My Mind * 02 Help The Man * 03 Finders Keepers * 04 My Turn * 05 Modern Problems * 06 Tough Times * 07 I’m Not That Kind * 08 Never Grow Old * 09 Hall Of Mirrors
Morse Code, the Canadian band from Quebec, may have only released this one album in an AOR style, but these guys had been around for ages, playing progressive rock in another life years before. Originally starting in 1968 as Les Maitres, the band, who were singing in their native French Canadian language, scored a deal with RCA for an English speaking album.
They then changed their name to Morse Code Transmission and played from the late 60’s right through the 70’s. The band released many albums, mostly a combination of British influenced prog (Genesis, Yes etc) and French styled pop. During the latter part of the 70’s, their label at the time Capitol, asked the band to submit the occasional disco single.
However, the band couldn’t settle on any one style, and this, combined with the tidal wave of disco happening in 1977 effectively swamped the band, forcing them to break up at that point. The key members during this period were keyboardist Christian Simard (who since moved on to become a significant player in Canadian politics), guitarist Daniel Lemay and bassist Michel Vallee.
The latter two would reform the band in 1983 (shortened to Morse Code), and would change their names in the process. The band were signed to April Wine’s label Aquarius (an offshoot of Capitol), but did not have the kind of success of their label mates.
Morse Code mix up a bunch of styles and reference points. Everything from Supertramp to Toto can all be heard here. But perhaps the biggest similarity for me is the band Strange Advance, themselves fellow Canadians with a huge bent for using keyboards and synths to maximum effect.
Throughout the album, you can tell these guys have been playing for years. The arrangements and musicianship is top notch. Musically, ‘Code Breaker’ brings together their prog and pop influences. Consider 1983, there was a heap of synth based pop artists out there doing their thing.
One can only assume that Morse Code saw an opportunity to return to the public-eye as their style of music was now widely accepted. The intro track ‘Still On My Mind’ is quite a mild start. The prominent sax and stabbing wurlitzer piano lines are the key to this song.
Sequenced keyboards and an overall pompy arrangement dominate ‘Help The Man’ suggesting comparisons to Cannata. ‘Finders Keeper’ on the other hand is completely different. An urgent dramatic fast paced affair which sits comfortably for fans of The Box or Haywire.
‘My Turn’ is a very smooth slice of AOR, which is followed by ‘Modern Problems’ – a track that brings all their previous years of experience to the fore. Much of it is prog but with a funky edge. Without doubt, ‘Tough Times’ is their most AOR effort here, while ‘I’m Not That Kind’ has a smooth funkiness that reminded me a lot of Pablo Cruise‘s ‘Whatcha Gonna Do (When She Says Goodbye)’.
‘Never Grow Old’ is very commercial, not unlike Genesis through this particular era. Big keyboards prevail on the closer ‘Hall Of Mirrors’.. like a fusion of Strange Advance and FM (Canada). Very hi-tech and prog oriented with a searing violin sounding lead throughout.
The album was produced by Ed Stasium. A well-known producer it must be said, but not a guy who has dabbled in AOR too much, though he did work with British artist Brian Spence on one of his solo albums. During 1983, Morse Code were the support band for Asia on their ‘Alpha’ tour throughout Canada.
As a parallel, Morse Code follow a path similarly to fellow Canadians Jato. A band which started life in a completely different direction, for one reason or another they moved into melodic rock-AOR, then without any success occurring in that genre they opted out to return to their former life many years later.
Morse Code indeed did return to the public-eye years after ‘Code Breaker’, with a 1995 French language only album entitled ‘D’un Autre Monde’. An interesting band with a lengthy biography, and perhaps if one was to hover around the many Prog Rock blogspot sites out there, you might be able to pick up one of their earlier albums.