NEAL MORSE

Non-Metal / Metal Related • United States
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Neal Morse is a U.S.-based progressive rock musician. He is best known for being a founding member and ex-frontman of famed progressive rock band Spock's Beard. After being the band leader of Spock's Beard and a member of prog supergroup Transatlantic for many years, Neal became a born-again Christian in 2002. As a result of his personal faith, he left both bands and began writing Christian-themed lyrics for his solo career. Neal would later re-join Transatlantic and has further collaborated with Spock's Beard, but never re-joined as a full member. Flying Colors is another band to feature Morse as a member.

In 2003 Morse released Testimony, a double-concept album that further established his place in the progressive rock scene. In addition to many Worship Session CD’s, Neal released another religious-themed concept album in 2004 titled One. His other concept work includes ? in 2005 and Sola Scriptura in 2007 and
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NEAL MORSE Discography

NEAL MORSE albums / top albums

NEAL MORSE Neal Morse album cover 2.00 | 2 ratings
Neal Morse
Non-Metal 1999
NEAL MORSE It's Not Too Late album cover 2.96 | 4 ratings
It's Not Too Late
Non-Metal 2001
NEAL MORSE Testimony album cover 4.15 | 13 ratings
Testimony
Non-Metal 2003
NEAL MORSE One album cover 4.62 | 14 ratings
One
Metal Related 2004
NEAL MORSE God Won't Give Up album cover 2.67 | 2 ratings
God Won't Give Up
Non-Metal 2005
NEAL MORSE Lead Me Lord (Worship Sessions, Volume 1) album cover 2.42 | 2 ratings
Lead Me Lord (Worship Sessions, Volume 1)
Non-Metal 2005
NEAL MORSE ? album cover 4.08 | 20 ratings
?
Metal Related 2005
NEAL MORSE Send the Fire album cover 1.50 | 1 ratings
Send the Fire
Non-Metal 2006
NEAL MORSE Cover to Cover album cover 2.00 | 1 ratings
Cover to Cover
Non-Metal 2006
NEAL MORSE Sola Scriptura album cover 4.48 | 36 ratings
Sola Scriptura
Metal Related 2007
NEAL MORSE Songs From the Highway album cover 1.00 | 1 ratings
Songs From the Highway
Non-Metal 2007
NEAL MORSE Secret Place (Worship Sessions Volume 3) album cover 1.00 | 1 ratings
Secret Place (Worship Sessions Volume 3)
Non-Metal 2008
NEAL MORSE Lifeline album cover 3.80 | 10 ratings
Lifeline
Non-Metal 2008
NEAL MORSE The River - Worship Sessions Vol.4 album cover 1.50 | 1 ratings
The River - Worship Sessions Vol.4
Non-Metal 2009
NEAL MORSE Mighty to Save (Worship Sessions Volume 5) album cover 1.50 | 1 ratings
Mighty to Save (Worship Sessions Volume 5)
Non-Metal 2010
NEAL MORSE Testimony 2 album cover 4.22 | 12 ratings
Testimony 2
Non-Metal 2011
NEAL MORSE Momentum album cover 4.18 | 9 ratings
Momentum
Metal Related 2012
NEAL MORSE Cover 2 Cover album cover 2.00 | 1 ratings
Cover 2 Cover
Non-Metal 2012
NEAL MORSE Songs From November album cover 1.00 | 1 ratings
Songs From November
Non-Metal 2014
NEAL MORSE To God Be The Glory album cover 1.00 | 1 ratings
To God Be The Glory
Non-Metal 2016
NEAL MORSE Life & Times album cover 2.67 | 2 ratings
Life & Times
Non-Metal 2018
NEAL MORSE Jesus Christ the Exorcist album cover 3.47 | 6 ratings
Jesus Christ the Exorcist
Metal Related 2019
NEAL MORSE Cov3r To Cov3r album cover 2.25 | 2 ratings
Cov3r To Cov3r
Non-Metal 2020
NEAL MORSE Sola Gratia album cover 4.37 | 12 ratings
Sola Gratia
Metal Related 2020

NEAL MORSE EPs & splits

NEAL MORSE live albums

NEAL MORSE Two Separate Gorillas - Live In Europe - The 0.00 | 0 ratings
Two Separate Gorillas - Live In Europe - The "From The Vaults" Series Volume 2
Non-Metal 2000
NEAL MORSE ? Live album cover 4.00 | 1 ratings
? Live
Metal Related 2007
NEAL MORSE So Many Roads (Live in Europe) album cover 4.00 | 1 ratings
So Many Roads (Live in Europe)
Non-Metal 2009
NEAL MORSE Morsefest! 2014 album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Morsefest! 2014
Metal Related 2015
NEAL MORSE Morsefest! 5015 album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Morsefest! 5015
Metal Related 2017

NEAL MORSE demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

NEAL MORSE Merry Christmas From the Morse Family album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Merry Christmas From the Morse Family
Non-Metal 2000
NEAL MORSE Inner Circle CD #1 album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Inner Circle CD #1
Non-Metal 2005
NEAL MORSE Inner Circle CD #3 album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Inner Circle CD #3
Non-Metal 2005
NEAL MORSE Encores and New Songs album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Encores and New Songs
Non-Metal 2007

NEAL MORSE re-issues & compilations

NEAL MORSE The Transatlantic Demos album cover 3.50 | 1 ratings
The Transatlantic Demos
Non-Metal 2003

NEAL MORSE singles (0)

NEAL MORSE movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

.. Album Cover
5.00 | 1 ratings
Testimony Live
Non-Metal 2003
.. Album Cover
4.83 | 2 ratings
Sola Scriptura and Beyond
Metal Related 2008
.. Album Cover
5.00 | 1 ratings
Live Momentum
Metal Related 2013
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
Morsefest! 2014
Metal Related 2015
.. Album Cover
5.00 | 1 ratings
Morsefest! 5015
Metal Related 2017

NEAL MORSE Reviews

NEAL MORSE Sola Gratia

Album · 2020 · Metal Related
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Warthur
Whilst in his early solo career Neal Morse put out a fair few prog albums under his own name, for the last ten years or so he's actually been more sparing on that front. He's kept up the pace of his singer-songwriter releases and his "worship music" series of mainstream Christian faith music, but ever since his surprise return to Transatlantic for The Whirlwind it seems like he actively prefers to make prog in a band context - thus putting out less prog albums as "Neal Morse" and more as part of "The Neal Morse Band". (There was the Jesus Christ the Exorcist album, but that was a full cast prog-gospel rock opera, and so whilst it differed from the Neal Morse Band's approach, it also wasn't very much like Neal's earlier solo prog albums.)

And, in a way, Sola Gratia kind of is a Neal Morse Band album, because the gang is all here (or at least are present virtually - due to this being recorded in the early phases of the first COVID lockdown, all the participants recorded their parts separately and Neal assembled it all together).

At the same time, it's not presented as one, and for good reason. All the Neal Morse Band releases include extensive sharing of the songwriting duties. Sometimes the extent to which is the case has varied - their first album was very much a collaborative effort, since they deliberately went in the studio with nothing prepared, whereas on The Great Adventure, Neal already had demos of the entire thing worked out and the band's contribution largely came down to putting flesh on those bones.

For Sola Gratia, however, Neal composed everything and the band are really here simply to put his vision into effect - so it's credited to him, not the group as a whole. (They would go right back to a very band-oriented, collective approach on Innocence and Danger, which they'd release under the band name.)

It's a sort of thematic sequel to his earlier solo album, Sola Scriptura - in that both albums are based on major theological concepts in Protestant Christianity, and both of them are concept albums based around the stories of major figures in Christian history, Martin Luther in the case of Sola Scriptura and Saint Paul on this album.

What you get here, then, might not be all that surprising; designating this a "Neal Morse" album was apt. If you've taken in his solo prog work from Testimony to Momentum, you'll recognise a lot of the schticks and techniques he works in here - but he's also picked up a few new tricks up his sleeve. This might be the benefit of working more in a band context - not only does this help Neal pick up new ideas better than him doing all the songwriting work himself, but it also means that when it comes time to put together a solo album the "old way" he could come back to it with fresh eyes, making this one of the stronger releases in his discography under his own name.

NEAL MORSE Jesus Christ the Exorcist

Album · 2019 · Metal Related
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Warthur
Some parts of Neal Morse's solo discography are easier to pigeonhole than others. There's the prog albums - either under his own name or, as has tended to be the case since 2015, put out through the vehicle of the Neal Morse Band - there's the worship music albums of much more straightforward Christian music, there's a few singer-songwriter releases and collections of cover songs and so on. For the really hardcore fans, there's also his various fan club releases, including both demos recorded for solo and band projects and more obscure bits and pieces from his personal archives.

Jesus Christ the Exorcist, however, doesn't fit easily into any of these categories. For one thing, it's a musical, one which Morse first drafted in 2008 but was not performed in any form until 2018. Morse has written musicals before - one of the early Inner Circle Club releases was Hitman, presenting the songs from a musical he devised in the early 1990s (a music industry satire about a record company executive who bets one of his peers that he can make a band that doesn't exist world-famous) - but this is perhaps the first time such a project had come fully to fruition.

As the title might imply, it's based on the life of Jesus, so we're definitely in the realm of his more overtly religious material. At the same time, it's a rock opera, so there are some shades of his prog work here - but it's perhaps the first of his prog-leaning solo releases not to see Mike Portnoy behind the drumstool (though his regular sideman Randy George is there on bass).

The end result is something which doesn't quite sound like anything Neal has done before. There's certainly elements of his prog work here, but it's also shot through with flavours of classic musical theatre and worship music. Both of these are genres which Neal has injected into his prog work before, but usually for extra spice or gravitas where it was called for; here, those influences are more prominent, in effect forming the other two legs of the tripod on which the album rests.

Of all Neal's prog peers, perhaps the project this release can best be compared to is the work of Ayreon - not necessarily in terms of musical style, but in terms of presenting a rock opera with a full cast, with a host of singers portraying the different characters. Neal himself gives voice to a disciple, a demon, and the more ambiguous figure of Pontius Pilate himself, and I don't know whether that triple casting is simply reflecting a need to fill out the roles or a genuinely clever move which allows Neal to embody the mixture of saint, sinner, and confused man-in-the-middle that we all find ourselves being at different times in our lives.

Another fun twist with the casting comes with the involvement of Ted Leonard and Nick D'Virgilio, who play Jesus and Judas respectively; Nick took on the lead singer role in Spock's Beard after Neal left, and Ted picked up that spot when Nick left, so you end up here with the three major "voices" of the band all playing roles on the same project.

Giving such an important central role to Ted is a pretty strong statement of approval on Neal's part - even if you set aside the obvious gravitas necessary to play Jesus in a musical written from a reasonably sincere religious perspective, that's the starring role right there! - and perhaps that indicates just how much Neal respects Ted's work. (Neal would provide a guest appearance on Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep, the first Spock's Beard album to feature Ted on lead vocals, and it's notable that he avoided taking any vocals himself, yielding the spotlight to Ted to give him a clear run at it.) Leonard, for his part, certainly steps up to the plate, and does a fine job with the role.

Still, I can't quite get into this release; I respect what it's trying to do, but it's ultimately taking an approach which isn't entirely to my taste. It's a competent rendition of a story you likely already know very well, and it stands out in Morse's discography more as a result of being different from his usual fare rather than being a cut above his average standards.

NEAL MORSE Momentum

Album · 2012 · Metal Related
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Warthur
Of Neal Morse's prog-based solo albums (ie, not counting stuff like his Worship Sessions series and other stuff putting out conventional contemporary religious music, not stuff like his singer-songwriter albums he put out before leaving Spock's Beard, not cover albums), the vast majority have been concept releases. In fact, despite the fact that Momentum was his seventh prog-oriented solo release - marking the point he'd put out more prog albums as a solo artist than he'd made with Spock's Beard - it was only the second one which wasn't a concept release, but just a clutch of songs.

The other one, mind you, was Lifeline, which I thought was a bit of a misstep - musically he seemed a little uninspired, and lyrically he was getting into exactly the sort of rut Christian rock artists often get into and which his concept albums, by virtue of tackling more involved stories and themes than "praise Jesus!" and "accept Christ!" and "avoid sin!", managed to avoid.

However, after Lifeline an interesting thing happened: Neal not only returned to Transatlantic, but also joined a new band in the form of Flying Colors, as well as making a guest appearance with Spock's Beard at the High Voltage festival. Neal had originally stepped away from band work because he wanted to concentrate on overtly Christian material, and didn't want to force his band projects to go along the same route; evidently, he was now more open to appear on projects which were either more generically spiritual (Transatlantic's The Whirlwind refers to spirituality without being specifically and overtly Christian) or outright secular (Flying Colors), even as he continued to produce Christian material in his solo career.

Momentum is not a sudden thematic shift by Morse - he doesn't drop his Christian perspective suddenly at all - but it is certainly a lyrical evolution when it comes to his solo releases. At least one song - Thoughts Part V, a continuation of the sequence originally begun in the Spock's Beard days - has lyrics which don't overtly refer to God at all, and can be interpreted as a completely secular song. That's the low water mark - the other songs all have at least some spiritual content - but it is notable that Neal doesn't feel quite the same need to make his convictions on this point explicit that he does on so much of his solo material. It's not that the subject is no longer interesting to him - quite the opposite - so much as it seems like he trusts his audience to know where he's coming from, and perhaps feels a little less need to preach than before.

So much for the lyrical direction: what about the music? Well, once again Neal's with Randy George and Mike Portnoy, so we're dealing with the same core trio that have been at the heart of Neal's prog releases since One. There's still a few guest musicians here and there, but less than some of Neal's solo releases, so in some respects this is a back-to-basics release. In fact, it's structured much like Spock's Beard's Day For Night - a clutch of comparatively straightforward answers, and then an epic track to conclude which goes in for more compositional complexity and technical virtuosity. It was a good formula on that album, and it works fairly well here; I think I prefer World Without End, the epic, to much of the opening material, but the shorter songs aren't bad and World Without End accounts for more than half of the album's runtime.

On Lifeline, I thought Neal was getting exhausted and running out of ideas; Momentum, on the other hand, finds him sounding as comfortable and confident as he ever has. Lyrically, he's found a new balance between the spur to write about religious topics which has predominated for so much of his solo career and the different range of themes his pre-Snow work focused on - and he even seems to have realised that they don't have to counterbalance each other, but can in fact support each other, so the religious themes can provide a new slant on the worldly subject matter and the secular ideas can provide a different way of looking at the religious stuff. Musically, it's yet another further evolution of Neal Morse business as usual; if you can't stand his Spock's Beard stuff or his other solo prog albums, he's not going to win you over, but if you enjoy any of that then you'll likely appreciate this.

NEAL MORSE Testimony 2

Album · 2011 · Non-Metal
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Warthur
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.

NEAL MORSE Lifeline

Album · 2008 · Non-Metal
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Warthur
One of the strengths of Neal Morse's solo career is that he's managed to avoid getting stuck in the sort of very limited lyrical rut that much Christian rock tends to occupy. Less imaginative acts in that field would restrict themselves to a fairly limited set of themes ("accept Christ"/"renounce sin"/"praise God", rinse, repeat), but at least as far as his prog-oriented albums go, Neal largely avoids that. (He's also churned out numerous albums of straight-ahead worship music, but that's fine - in that case he's literally preaching to the choir, nobody who is not very keen on hearing that content is going to touch those albums to begin with.)

In fact, his early prog solo albums were all concept albums of one sort of another, allowing him to explore a range of themes, theology, and history which added a certain depth to proceedings which makes them artistically interesting even if you're not inclined to go along with his religious perspective. Testimony was an autobiographical piece about his conversion, One was an adaptation of the Prodigal Son story, "?" explored the Tabernacle In the Wilderness, whilst Sola Scriptura contemplated the theological revolution brought about by Martin Luther.

Lifeline, in fact, is his first prog-based solo album to not have a strong central concept adding a little extra weight to proceeding... or maybe the concept is that there is no concept, just a set of self-contained songs on exactly that sort of "accept Christ"/"renounce sin"/"praise God" clutch of themes I mentioned earlier.

In some respects this shouldn't be totally surprising - Neal had been fairly clearly telling us where his personal perspective was for years at this point. Nonetheless, the comparative simplicity of the lyrics seems to accompany a dip in the quality of the musical backing. It's not that it's out-and-out bad - but it's all very much Neal Morse business as usual, and the compositions are usually designed to reach this climactic moment where the song's message is hammered home through excessive repetition of a particular lyric. With the exception of Leviathan, which is pretty badass throughout, the songs all tend to either have these prog moments which fade away to be replaced with fairly generic Christian rock, or start out in that place to begin with and kind of stay there (God's Love being an example of the latter).

It's not the Christian content that bugs me here - I enjoyed all the four Christian-themed prog concept albums I named above, after all - so much as it's the sense of being preached at, which is stronger here than it was on any previous Neal Morse release. It's not that the music has become a complete afterthought next to the message - but the message is getting in the way of the music a bit more than it used to.

I have to wonder, listening to Lifeline, whether Neal's compositional well was starting to run dry at this point: as well as writing the vast majority of the first six Spock's Beard albums, he'd also penned almost all the songs on his first five prog solo albums and was also churning out albums in other genres at the same time. It's notable that his next prog project after this was getting Transatlantic back together and producing The Whirlwind, whose composition was credited to Transatlantic as a whole, and his next solo prog album (Testimony 2) wouldn't come out until 2011: perhaps he had, at long last, reached the point where he needed to slow down his prog output a bit and recharge his creative batteries.

As it stands, Lifeline is an alright Christian prog album from an artist whose standards are usually higher than this.

NEAL MORSE Movies Reviews

NEAL MORSE Morsefest! 5015

Movie · 2017 · Metal Related
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adg211288
Morsefest! 2015 is a live release by US musician Neal Morse. Morsefest! shows are without a doubt the most special Neal Morse shows that a fan could attend – a two day event with a different Neal Morse set each night. Morsefest! 2015 was released on either a 2x blu-ray or 4 x CD/2x DVD package in 2017. Strictly speaking it is The Neal Morse Band playing on the release – Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Randy George, Eric Gillette & Bill Hubauer – but Morsefest! 2015 was released under just Neal Morse's name likely due to the event's focus on his albums ? (2005) and Sola Scriptura (2007).

While the focus is indeed on those albums, with ? played in full on night one and Sola Scriptura in full on night two, the set is varied with various extra tracks. The Neal Morse Band had released their debut album The Grand Experiment earlier in 2015 and that album also gets a fair airing across the two nights, particularly in the first half of night one with The Call, the title track and the limited edition bonus track New Jerusalem gets played, while Waterfall was featured on night two complete with some instrument changes for various band members. Three Spock's Beard songs are also brought out, Go the Way You Go on night one and At the End of the Day and Wind at My Back on night two, the latter two featuring Nick D'Virgilio first on drums then co-lead vocals. An edited version of Transatlantic's near eighty minute whole album epic The Whirlwind closes the second night, with further guest vocals by D'Virgilio and guitar by Phil Keaggy, who also makes an appearance on night one and was the support act for the event. Finally the band brings to the live stage for the first time a lesser known Neal Morse epic called A Whole Nother Trip, which appeared on his first solo album while still a member of Spock's Beard amongst what was otherwise a bunch of pop songs. There is also a cover of the song MacArthur Park, originally released by Richard Harris, which has been given the prog treatment by Bill Hubauer on challenge from Mike Portnoy. Neal Morse hates the song apparently and always swore he'd never cover it, but there you go. Hubauer sings lead on it.

The main draw to the Morsefest! 2015 live release is of course the full performance of two of Neal Morse's best known albums. ? is basically one long song in and of itself and is treated like the crowning piece of what Morse describes as a night of epics – a fair description when the shortest song is about seven and a half minutes long. For me personally the performance of Sola Scriptura is the key focal point of the two night show though. That's my personal favourite Neal Morse album, not to mention the one that really got me into his music. It's also one of his heaviest and most metal works which along with various parts of The Neal Morse Band's music gives a metallic edge to those otherwise symphonic progressive rock fuelled double concert.

Morsefest! 2015 is one heck of a show if you're into progressive rock. The scope is tremendous not just through the double show but each night's set is over two hours a pop as well. The amount of musicians on stage at one time goes far beyond the core band – far too many to recite in a review. Suffice to say there's a lot of people involved to pull this off. The sound and picture quality of the blu-ray release is excellent and you certainly get a lot of music for your money. The only fault with the set is that one listed bonus feature called Prog Jeopardy is completely missing from the release. Not sure what the story is there, perhaps it was planned and had to be cut for some reason and they forget to change the inserts before going to the press, who knows? But you weren't buying this for the bonus features anyway right?

There are several of the Morsefest shows released by the time of writing this review in September 2020 so which one holds the most appeal to each fan will of course be different. 2015 was a no brainer for me due to my particular love of Sola Scriptura. Someone else may think 2014's focus on Testimony (2003) and One (2004) or 2017's Testimony 2 (2011) and The Similitude of a Dream (2016) to be better options for them. Regardless any Neal Morse fan owns it to themselves to pick up at least one of these releases for his most special and exclusive concerts.

NEAL MORSE Live Momentum

Movie · 2013 · Metal Related
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Kev Rowland
One of the disadvantages of living at the end of the world is that these days I get most of my promos as downloads, which generally isn’t too much of a pain but here I find myself reviewing a DVD set where I haven’t actually seen the DVDs! Okay, so this has been released as a double DVD (more than 4 hours), along with a triple CD set and it is the latter that I am reviewing. This recording took place on October 11th, 2012 at The High Line Ballroom, New York, and captures the band in incredible form. I have no idea how many live recordings of Neal there are in my collection, from duetting with NDV through Spock’s Beard and Transatlantic and of course his solo work, but there are one or two. I have seen him in concert with SB as well as on the ‘Testimony’ tour and have had the privilege of interviewing him a few times as well, so I guess you can say that I am a fan.

I greatly respect the way that he decided to stand up for what he believed in (even though I don’t share those beliefs), although I still regret that SB never had the chance to tour ‘Snow’ which is easily their finest work. I have never given anything that he has been involved with a bad review, and there is no reason at all to start now as this triple CD set (2 hours 45 minutes) is as close to perfection as one could hope to hear. When it came to choosing the musicians to form the band he brought in close friends Mike Portnoy and Randy George and then used YouTube for the audition process! He ought to do that more often, as during “Sing It High” he gets it right when he says that the guys are “Sick”. Adson Sodré (guitar, vocals), Eric Gillette (guitar, keyboards, percussion, vocals) and Bill Hubauer (keyboards, violin, sax, vocals) do a stunning job. Mind you, it’s handy when you have three multi-instrumentalists in a band as it does mean that you can spread the wings. Vocally they are all in fine voice as well, just listen to “Author Of Confusion” to see what I mean.

Both Adson and Eric really riff and shred as the need requires, and this is probably the heaviest that Neal has ever sounded as he works his way through material from throughout his career: this is much more than just a live rendition of the latest album. The suites from ‘Testimony’ and ‘?’ work incredibly well and it is the longer sections that really allow Neal and the guys to shine. There are four songs more than twenty minutes long and one more than thirty!

But, for me one of the major highlights sees Neal taking a back seat, literally. One of my favourite live albums that feature Neal is ‘One Night in New York City’ by Yellow Matter Custard. This was a band put together by Mike Portnoy to play Beatles’ numbers, and the line-up was completed by Neal, Paul Gilbert and Matt Bissonette. The whole purpose of that band was to provide a new take on classic numbers and have fun at the same time. Well, on “Crazy Horses” Neal takes over on drums while Mike becomes the frontman, and everyone has an absolute blast. Mike says that when he first heard the song when he was five years old that it was the heaviest song that he had ever heard, and the band certainly do it justice. I defy you to listen to this and not smile throughout. There are some people who don’t enjoy what Neal does, and feel that he hasn’t dramatically changed since he left SB, but I sincerely hope he keeps going in this vein for the rest of his very long career as I love it.

So there you have it, a five star review for a DVD set that I haven’t even seen. But to me they are just an added bonus as this triple CD set is just mindblowing. www.insideout.de

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