[Review] Stepps – Waltz For Tiger Joe (2022 Remaster)

Stepps was a band from the Australian 70s scene and closely related to the group Snakes Alive, who enjoyed success among collectors due to the fact that only 50 copies of the record were pressed. At the time, several bands managed to record their music but did not find a record deal for distribution, remaining published only as private pressings. As a result of collectors’ interest in Snakes Alive, the Stepps‘ record entitled “Waltz For Tiger Joe” was reissued on November 01, 2022 via the South Korean label Merry-Go-Round Records. Compared to the Snake Alive lineup, the sound evolved by incorporating elements of British Progressive Rock with marked references to the Canterbury Scene. The 1976 version contains 8 tracks, while the reissue adds 4 Bonus Tracks from the recordings of the previous lineup simply called Steps, entirely instrumental as Bernie Morgan had not yet joined the group. It should be noted that the most significant “Charred Ducks” was also included as a Bonus Track on the Snakes Alive album. The album opens with “Kolour Kode,” which immediately plunges us into the Canterbury-esque atmosphere of the band’s sound with elaborate textures intertwined with Bernie’s dynamic vocals. The song’s structure is complex, characterised by continuous tempo changes with frenetic accelerations and load-bearing bass lines on which melodies and keyboard phrasing are drawn. A very well-structured mixture of distinctly Jazzy Progressive traits, with all artists carving out their own space to enhance their individual technique put at the service of the band’s sound. Softer, deeper melodies and a more jazzy atmosphere characterise “If I Knew,” where from the very first bars Bernie’s sweet voice comes to the fore. Delicate arpeggios and a Jazz rhythm section create the structure of the song, which evolves into a continuous musical crescendo enriched by tempo changes and forays into the Fusion sounds of the 70s, with a Prog touch provided by the keyboards. A track that is both energetic and technical, alternating between sung passages and instrumental passages with virtuoso guitar and keyboard solo inserts. “Kryptonite” opens with percussion, lyrics and a deep bass line, moving slowly and creating an enveloping atmosphere with mystical traits. With a sudden change the track accelerates and returns to the band’s characteristic sounds with a Jazz Prog with Canterbury-esque traits loaded with groove and virtuoso keyboard solos that accompany us for most of the track. In the finale there is room for a bass solo that takes us to the finale. Pulled and intricately structured at times, “Make Me” features a killer bassline that gives body to the song. The drumming is pulled and elaborate and is enriched by continuous tempo changes, while the guitars and keyboards blend with Bernie‘s dynamic vocals. Solo inserts, virtuosity and more Progressive openings alternate with Jazz sounds and lead into Fusion, an energetic and engaging track and at the same time very elborated and technical. Sweet piano notes and a softer, more delicate vocal open “Flowers,” showing another facet of the band’s sound. A softer, dreamier-sounding track that softens the tone between the more intricate tracks that make up the tracklist. “End Of Play” returns to more sophisticated sounds by incorporating elements ranging between Fuzion and Canterbury, with the band’s unmistakable touch. The tempo changes are an added value to the song, which in the second half offers an extended solo section where guitar and keyboards alternate, accompanying us to the finale where the opening theme returns and closes. A deep bass line opens “Step Up Behind” to which vocals and keyboards are added, creating an enveloping atmosphere with dreamy overtones. Tempo changes allow for alternating frenetic accelerations and softer openings over which Bernie’s vocals stand out, a real added velour. A continuous musical crescendo that results in the finale in a prolonged solo of keyboards and guitars enriched by effects to conclude with the last vocal verse. The last piece in the original version, “Cumulus,” is a composition for classical guitar reminiscent of the instrument’s Mediterranean sounds. Very intense and technical, it offers an original interpretation with personal traits of said sounds, concluding pacevolemnte this first part of the disc. The first of the Bonus Tracks “Charred Ducks,” which was already on the Snakes Alive record, is an instrumental with intense phrasing between guitar and keyboards. The rhythm section is always very elaborate and full of tempo changes, resulting in a track with more Progressive connotations, always with that Jazz and markedly personal edge that will later be Stepps‘ trademark. “Floating” is the seond of the Bonus Tracks also instrumental, while elaborate and well crafted it presents a more ensemble sound with fewer solo passages. The melodies are more delicate, flowing nicely but sounding a bit less punchy than the previous ones. “Silly Song” traces in the first part the more ensemble sounds of the previous one, with enveloping melodies and a more linear sound. In the middle part with a change it develops with intense and elaborate solo keyboard phrasing that accompanies us to the finale, ending with a softer, softer section. The last of the Bonus Tracks “Wooly’s Song” concludes the album with a softer introductory part that slowly accompanies us to the more elaborate part of the composition. The intensity increases as the minutes go by, with a supporting bass line and valuable keyboard work both in the melodies and in the solo inserts to finish with a softer drop. A real jewel that is worth enhancing and spreading. A band that would have deserved greater exposure over the years especially at the time, as the compositions are very technical and sophisticated and are one of the rare examples of Canterbury sounds from Australia. Thanks to the Korean label Merry-Go-Round Records for reissuing this top notch record, enjoyable from start to finish and with a well built and developed tracklist. The tracks are enjoyable for the entire duration of the disc and enhance the individual technique of the artists involved, recalling the European bands of the scene, showing a perfect union of Canterbury, Jazz prog and forays into Fusion. A listening recommended to all lovers of the aforementioned sounds, a real hidden rarity that deserves to be disclosed now that it is available in a reissued version with the addition of Bonus Tracks. The original tracks of the disc are certainly more intense and engaging and contain the true essence of the band, while also remaining enjoyable even the Bonuses. I want to personally thank the record company for the opportunity they gave me to review this milestone of the 70’s Australian Underground.


01. Kolour Kode (6:46)
02. If I Knew (7:12)
03. Kryptonite (7:54)
04. Make Me (4:32)
05. Flowers (2:56)
06. End Of Play (6:35)
07. Step Up Behind (6:09)
08. Cumulus (8:02)
09. Charred Ducks (7:24) *
10. Floating (4:35) *
11. Silly Song (6:17) *
12. Wooly’s Song (6:25) *

* Bonus Tracks


Oleg Ditrich / Electric and Acoustic Piano, Synthesizers
Bernie Morgan / Vocals, Congas, Percussion
Ina Hildebrand / Electric and Classical Guitars
Michael Vidale / Bass
Ralph Cooper / Drums, Gongs

Engineered by Michael Vidale, Mastered by Ralph Cooper

Stepps |Spotify|

Merry-Go-Round Records |Bandcamp|Facebook Page|Instagram|YouTube Channel|

Author: Jacopo Vigezzi

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