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4.22 | 12 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 2011

Filed under Non-Metal


Disc One
Part 6
No. Title Length
1. "Mercy Street" 5:12
2. "Overture No. 4" 5:26
3. "Time Changer" 6:08
4. "Jayda" 6:05
Total length: 22:51
Part 7
1. "Nighttime Collectors" 4:26
2. "Time Has Come Today" 4:55
3. "Jesus' Blood" 5:27
4. "The Truth Will Set You Free" 8:07
Total length: 22:55
Part 8
1. "Chance of a Lifetime" 7:02
2. "Jesus Bring Me Home" 4:59
3. "Road Dog Blues" 3:07
4. "It's for You" 5:42
5. "Crossing Over/Mercy Street (Reprise)" 11:46
Total length: 32:36

Disc Two
1. "Absolute Beginner" 4:41
2. "Supernatural" 6:12
3. "Seeds of Gold" 25:59
Total length: 36:52


- Neal Morse / Guitars, synth, piano, organ, vocals
- Mike Portnoy / drums
- Randy George / bass

Guest Musicians:
- Steve Morse / guitar solo on "Seeds Of Gold"
- Paul Bielatowicz / guitar solo on "Overture No. 4" and "It's For You"
- Matthew Ward / background vocals and soulful wailing
- Debbie Bressee, April Zachary, Mark Pogue, Mita Pogue / Choir, background vocals
- Jim Hoke / saxophones
- Mark Leniger / solo saxophone
- Kenny Barnd / violin on "Jesus Bring Me Home"
- Chris Carmichael / violin, viola and cello
- Eric Brenton / electric violin solo on "Time Changer"
- Nick D'Virgilio, Alan Morse, Dave Meros / vocals on "Time Changer"

About this release

InsideOut Music CD May 23, 2011

Special edition includes Third Disc, a "Making of" DVD which runs over 60 minutes

Thanks to andyman1125 for the addition


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Testimony 2, like the original Testimony album, is a prog-oriented solo release by Neal Morse which comes at an interesting point in his career. The original Testimony wasn't quite his solo debut - he'd put out some non-prog singer-songwriter stuff before that - but it was the first prog material he'd put out since his departure from Spock's Beard, and was essential in establishing Neal as a viable solo artist who could still speak to the prog fanbase he'd cultivated despite his shift into overtly religious subject matter.

This turned out to be unusually successful, because whilst Neal might have felt a religious calling to do more music about his spiritual perspective, he hadn't given up on his former musical and lyrical approach so much as he'd evolved it. In particular, most of Neal's prog solo albums from Testimony to Testimony 2 would be unabashed concept albums, tackling meaty subjects like autobiography, Christian parables, Old Testament Scripture, and Church history. Of course, promoting a particular religious viewpoint and hyping up Christ was part of the deal, but the albums were never simplistic collections of praise songs or unsubtle, repetitive calls to conversion. (Neal would put out his Worship Sessions series of more conventionally Christian-themed music, of course, but they aren't prog releases and don't pretend to be.)

However, I found that his 2008 release, Lifeline, found the prog side of his work slipping; unusually for his prog solo releases, it wasn't a concept album, just a collection of songs about how awesome God is, and as well as lyrically slipping back towards his worship music output it musically speaking kept drifting in a fairly generic Christian rock direction. It felt like Neal's prog batteries were low - and then came the surprising twist of his return to Transatlantic, which he'd left at the same time as his departure from Spock's Beard, with the new album The Whirlwind being a good step up from Lifeline (perhaps benefitting from a wider range of compositional hands at the helm).

If the first Testimony was Neal explaining his perspective of things at the time when he'd just given up on being part of his various band projects, then, Testimony 2 finds him giving an autobiographical snapshot of where he's at immediately after he'd not only come back to one of those bands, but taken up the keyboard player's duties in another project (Flying Colors). Inevitably, this involves going over some territory again - he's not stopped being keen on Jesus, after all - but in some respects this is a good thing, because it allows Neal to touch on subject matter which he had avoided on the previous album.

On the first Testimony, and in public, Neal's departure from his various band projects was presented as solely being about him wanting to put more of a focus on religious music, and not wanting to drag those projects in that direction. (Notably, whilst his reunion album with Transatlantic isn't without mild religious themes, these are nowhere near as front-and-centre as they are in his solo work.) Privately, however, Neal's family was undergoing a crisis: his daughter Jayda had been born with a heart condition, but thankfully it seemed to spontaneously resolve itself.

It's understandable why Neal might have felt he owed God a thing or two after that - and doubly understandable why he would want to take more control of his schedule, stepping away from the Spock's Beard and Transatlantic touring grind so as to spend as much time as possible with his family, and triply understandable why he wouldn't have wanted to make a big deal of that on the first Testimony - both because the matter was so raw at the time, and because the classy thing to do when you've got a song about someone's birth condition is to wait until they're a little older and can form views on whether they want their medical history turned into a song!

Happily, Jayda's recovery appears to have stuck - and so Testimony 2 includes Jayda, a song focused on her story; this is perhaps the simplest and most direct song on the album, a heartfelt tune vividly describing the agony the family were going through and their joy at her recovery - all the sort of thing you can get behind and enjoy whether or not you subscribe to Neal's particular religious conclusions, because regardless of that there's still an interesting autobiographical story being told here. This added dimension to the story means that Testimony 2 doesn't feel redundant next to Testimony so much as it's giving a different slant on the same story, which both makes Testimony 2 a richer album by itself and helps put a new spin on the original album in retrospect.

So much for the lyrical themes: what about the music? Well, thankfully Neal's back on top after the misstep of Lifeline; it's not that his approach is radically different from the sort of work he's done since the early Spock's Beard (his prog songwriting has always been gradually evolving rather than undergoing sudden revolutions), but there's a pep to the music's step which wasn't there on Lifeline. You've got big Broadway musical moments, torch songs, Gentle Giant-esque intertwined vocal harmonies, Pink Floyd-inspired guitar work, and all sorts of prog treats crammed into 100-odd minutes of music.

Notably, though, only 70-ish of those minutes relate to the main concept - the second CD has two shorter, self-contained songs and a nice self-contained prog epic, Seeds of Gold. Interestingly, all three songs can absolutely be interpreted from a religious perspective, or could be secular songs about love and peace - much as was the case with Transatlantic's The Whirlwind - suggesting that as well as being open to working in more secular band projects (Flying Colors is not overtly Jesus-y, for instance) and in addition to playing covers of secular songs, Neal was now open to broadening the lyrical scope of his solo compositions.

Look, this deep into his solo career Neal Morse has told us exactly who he is and what he's about; if anything, he did that on the original Testimony, so despite his sensible decision to keep some of the most personal and painful aspects of that story quiet until this release you can at least say he was open and honest about the parts he did lay out. There's not a whole lot that's going on with Testimony 2 which is enormously new - indeed, even the core musical team of Neal, Mike Portnoy, and Randy George is the same trio that's been the backbone of his pro solo albums since One - but when it comes to examples of what Neal does on his prog solo albums, Testimony 2 is right there in the top tier next to Sola Scriptura.
Testimony 2 is a 2011 album release from American musician Neal Morse (ex-Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic). His last two solo releases The River and Mighty to Save were a part of his ‘Worship Sessions’ series of Christian rock music, making Testimony 2 Neal’s first progressive rock album since 2008’s Lifeline, which was an album that I personally found to be a disappointment, especially since it had a tough act to follow in the metal inclined Sola Scriptura (2007). Testimony 2 is also a sequel to Neal’s first solo prog rock album, Testimony, which was released back in 2003. The album is a double disc affair, although only the first disc contains the conceptual material. There is also a limited edition that includes a making of DVD.

Musically Testimony 2, perhaps expectedly, harks back to Neal’s earliest prog solo work which includes the original Testimony album. That means symphonic styled progressive rock, which has a little bit more of a kick to it than some artists I’ve listened to, with Christian themed lyrics which are essentially three new chapters in an on-going musical biography of Neal’s life, specifically his conversion to the Christian faith. Personally speaking I can’t call myself a Christian, but such lyrics don’t bother me, so long as they aren’t Christian just for the sake of being Christian, if you get my meaning. By making a concept album the lyrics get a deeper meaning to them, which works very well for the creative genius that is Neal Morse. This is why Lifeline wasn’t so good for me. It had no concept, and the lyrics were Christian just for the sake of it. If I wanted that from Morse I’d listen to his Worship albums (I don’t, by the way). Fortunately with another concept album under his belt Neal Morse returns to form in style with Testimony 2.

There are two discs for the album. The first is essentially Testimony 2, while the second contains three additional unrelated tracks. You may consider them bonus tracks perhaps, although the third and final, Seeds of Gold, is actually one of Neal’s epics, with a running time only just shy of twenty-six minutes, and personally I’d call it one of the most essential tracks that the package offers us. This is certainly a man that knows how to write a lengthy epic the right way.

While most of the music is firmly in the progressive rock vein Neal also showcases those heavier tendencies from Sola Scriptura as well, mostly notably on the excellent instrumental Overture No. 4. Neal’s keyboards naturally play a large role in his music to give it its symphonic flavour, and the bass guitar of Randy George has a very prominent position in the mix on parts of the album. The album also features guest slots from Neal’s former Spock’s Beard band mates Nick D'Virgilio, Alan Morse and Dave Meros, who provide additional vocals on Time Changer, which is a nod to Neal’s time in the band is in a very similar style to some of Spock’s Beard’s work.

What really holds Testimony 2 back from being masterful though is that although it’s certainly a much more enjoyable effort from Neal than Lifeline, for an album of this length it does start to feel a little samey by the time you’re reaching the end of the second part of the main concept album, which is only just shy of eighty minutes of music in total with still over half an hour to go by this point. This is a good album all the same, but it’s that non-concept track Seeds of Gold that I mentioned earlier that really pushes my overall opinion of the album up for me.

So while Testimony 2 doesn’t quite stand up to Neal’s best works across his multiple projects for me, this is most certainly a solid and worthy addition to his sizeable discography that I think his fans are going to enjoy immensely.


(Originally written (in 2011) for Heavy Metal Haven:

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