In some quarters, Scott Morgan is an unquestionable rock & roll hero, a lifer who survived any number of slings and arrows hurled his way, always operating on the fringe but as a matter of choice as much as necessity. Morgan made his bones in the Rationals, the pivotal Ann Arbor garage rockers who laid the groundwork for the Stooges and the MC5, and cut Otis Redding's "Respect" long before Aretha Franklin (thereby inspiring speculation the Detroit native may have been inspired to record her iconic version by these rockers), and Morgan remained a fixture in Southeastern Michigan, playing with Sonic's Rendezvous Band in the '70s, the Scott Morgan Band in the '80s, and Scots Pirates in the '90s, along with a bunch of other bands as he piled up a pretty confusing discography. Even if it samples from every era of his career, Easy Action's 2013 box set Three Chords and a Cloud of Dust doesn't attempt to sort out this byzantine catalog, but rather offers a rousing testament to Morgan's passion, a tremendous trawl through the vaults (as well as the private cassette stashes of collectors) that gets at the heart of why Morgan is beloved by a dedicated guitar army
Sequenced chronologically, the three-disc set illustrates that Morgan was remarkably adaptable for a true believer, embracing the various trends of the day before he settled into a rock & soul torch bearer in the new millennium. By piecing together the hits, high points, singles, live performances, and unheard gems, Three Chords and a Cloud of Dust follows all the peaks and valleys of Morgan's career, but in this context it all seems like peaks. Maybe the money never started rolling in, maybe there aren't so many people who know the name Scott Morgan, but this box -- produced by Carlton Sandercock and Geoff Ginsberg and annotated by the latter -- is constructed so it seems like the rocker never had a slip, that he was always cranking out high-octane rock & roll no matter how large or small his audience may be. This passion has a way of generating passion, but even those who don't count themselves among his cult will be knocked out by the consistency of Three Chords. Throughout, Morgan's dedication to old-fashioned rock & roll and R&B is apparent; it's still there in the late '70s and early '80s, when his signatures were amped up and streamlined in the chance they could crossover to a mainstream AOR audience. That they never did is a bit mystifying in terms of quality, but Ginsberg's notes illustrate the knotty path of Morgan's career, how bands simply faded away and some records never materialized, and that does make Three Chords and a Cloud of Dust all the more valuable because despite his prolific output, Morgan was never fully part of his time due entirely to business reasons. Isolated from music, as he is here, he sounds almost undeniable, a powerhouse singer and skilled writer who never lost sight of his strengths. Whether he's singing originals, covering classics, or interpreting the words of other writers, Morgan always performs with conviction and soul, pushing soul into rock & roll and vice-versa. Sometimes, the performances here are so molten you'll be surprised that they were recorded long after Morgan's supposed peak -- his '90s recordings with Scots Pirates, Motor Jam, the Hellacopters, and Hydromatics burn furiously bright, suggesting a band that's 20 years younger -- but that's the wonderful thing about this necessary box set: the only detectable shifts are through the inevitable passing of eras, and Scott Morgan remains the impassioned constant, a true believer to the very end. Three discs may seem like a lot to the uninitiated -- to the converted, it's too brief -- but Three Chords and a Cloud of Dust is a blazing, brilliant monument to Scott Morgan and all of the pure rock & soul he loves. It has everything you need but will leave you wanting more.