Dave Scott Morgan, has played with Steve Gibbons in the Uglies and The Balls and then Magnum and the Electric Light Orchestra. After that he has put out a number of albums and songs from a wide variety of styles. In Morgan’s ouevre, which at least for us is not yet fully comprehensible, there are rock and pop songs, folk songs that show the influence of Bob Dylan, uplifting religious songs and songs inspired by Celtic culture. (Our personal favourite is the musical obituary for Queen Elizabeth „Liz in my Heart“ with an opening which somehow reminds us of „Visions of Johanna“ by Bob Dylan).
In 2022, Morgan, who had just turned 80, released the CD „SignZ“ with his band Morganisation, which includes his wife Mandy Scott-Morgan (vocals, percussion), Alex Lowe (electric guitar, vocals), Martin Smith (electric guitar, bass), Jack Rosa (percussion) and Matt O’Malley (various instruments and studio engineering).
The album begins with the rhythm-heavy „Dancing to a Different Drum“, a song that probably also sums up the attitude with which Dave Scott Morgan makes music after a long career and in his ninth decade of life: he no longer has to prove anything to anyone and can do what he feels like.
That’s why he can afford to focus on his own analysis of the state of the world, which is not exactly exhilarating, in eleven songs on the album. The basic mood of the CD is probably best expressed in the opening lines of the reggae-influenced „Couldn`n make it up“. There it says:
Whats going on in our world?
Seems like the newsman isn`t happy until I àm scared
just as soon as one disaster is gone
he`s got another one prepared
„Times are changing, unfortunately not for the better“ could be the leitmotif over the record. Scott Morgan, however, does not take note of this in a panic or no-future way, but with a certain amount of distanced resignation and astonishment. And there is still hope. In the song „Only the rain“, the rain, of all things, is even the only one who knows the way to the sun. This is a similar basic idea as expressed in the Latin saying „Per aspera das astra“ („Through the rough to the stars“) or in the pragmatic motto “ Sleeves up, we’ve got to get through this now!“.
Musically, by the way, you can tell from this song that its author has also written songs for The Move. The harmonic background vocals could also come from a 1960s song by this other Birmingham band. Other songs, on the other hand, are reminiscent of Electric Light Orchestra in their development towards the oppulent and symphonic (such as „Waves“, where the lead guitarist gets the opportunity to set accents with well-tempered and sparse tones). But there are also straight rock songs on the CD, like „Crossing Jordan“, which convinces with a crisp guitar solo.
The songs deal with phenomena of modern life like the threat of surveillance technology (song line: „Got to keep Big Brother pleased“), about alienation and loneliness („Stuck inside a machine“), there is criticism of the amusement mentality and woke culture (e.g. in „City on the plain“ which features lines like „Just take the pill it’s gonna be fine, it’s party time … Rock my Cradle gently with fake news/have your heard/there are words that can’t be used/can’t be read/can`t be said“). There is also criticism of concrete political events, as in the song „Travellers from Canton“, which addresses the situation in Hong Kong. The question of who and which media can still be trusted („Tin Eye“) is raised and in „Squiggle“, which is described as an „encore“, the musical garb of a straight rock song addresses the restrictions on contact during the pandemic and the rift that went and still goes through society due to the division into those who were vaccinated and those who reject caccination, as well as those who were wearing masks and those who were against them.
In the song before, „Signz“, which also gave the album its title, the theme of a world that is not exactly changing for the better is taken up again. Among other things it says:
The future is not what it used to be
only sure of uncertainties
I guess this is how life is gonna be from hereon in
Here too, however, it is made clear that this situation is not driving Dave Scott Morgan into hopelessness. On the contrary, he, a professing Christian for decades, sees hope in God and in religion. It goes on to say namely:
„God is hidden in mysteries
that’s the place where magic lives
who can say that he don’t exist
and look around in every side
in every sound
there’s secret a waiting to be found“.
So these are the signs (SignZ) after which the whole album is named!
Some may now ask: A personal Christian confession of faith as a theme on a rock record? Why not ? In the history of rock music this is nothing new, as songs like „My Sweet Lord“ by George Harrison, „Jesus just alright“ by the Doobie Brothers, „I like the Christian life“ by the Byrds and some whole albums by Bob Dylan prove.
The album title „SignZ“ was probably originally a play on words, alluding to both signs and science. After the release of the CD, the gloomy outlook for the future has been intensified by the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine. This also gives the „Z“ at the end of the artificial word „SignZ“ an eerie prophetic flavour.
„SignZ“ is not only a sign that it is still possible to make appealing, powerful rock and pop records that refer to the events and moods of the time in their texts at the age of 80.
In adddition to that, the Morganisation has presented something that is becoming increasingly rare in times of streaming and isolated published single songs, namely an album, i.e. a self-contained release that is not only held together by common basic ideas in the songs, but in which even supposed details such as the order of the songs, but also the cover design (here a collage designed by Adam „Bear“ Davis from set pieces of newspaper headlines and a demonstrating crowd) make well-considered sense to the overall product.
SIGNZ is released by Grimm Dooo records in Birmingham, other releases by the Morgan organisation can be found here.