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Neal Morse - ? CD (album) cover

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Neal Morse

 

Symphonic Prog

4.21 | 478 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Scapler
4 stars When I started listening to Neal Morse, I did it backwards chronologically speaking. I listened to ? first, followed by One, then Testimony. ? definitely encouraged my to hear more of what Mr. Morse had to offer. The combination of Neal Morse on vocals, guitars, and keyboard (probably his best instrument), Mike Portnoy on drums, and Randy George on bass is an excellent mix. Morse's keyboards, though not as skillful as they were on One, are certainly worth looking at, and reveal his true skill at the instrument. Portnoy's hard-hitting drum style is VERY evident throughout the album, an excellent show of percussion skill that makes Portnoy one of my favorite drummers.

? is a concept album based on a search for the tabernacle, and Morse has been quoted as saying the whole album should be viewed as one long song (a point that becomes very evident when many songs contain the completion of songs that came before them-making every song part of the same, long epic). The album begins with a haunting (and very classically smooth sounding) piano intro, leading to an examination of God's kingdom on "The Temple of the Living God". "Another World" clearly is an introduction point to the tabernacle, setting up the rest of the album. "The Outsider" is the lament of an outcast who feels unloved and left out of God's glory (though God loved this outsider enough to give this track melodic guitar and a very nice, if short, Morse effect.) A theme that appears often throughout the whole album, "Sweet Elation" is probably best exemplified with all the parts of it featured in the other tracks of album, a very upbeat fell to a very up-beatly named song, full of highly perky keyboard. The first thing you notice when you hear the next son, "In the Fire", is the extreme wa-wa pedal, giving the song an excellent starting point to become one of the best songs on the album, a very rhythmic track that has a mesmerizing effect. "Solid as the Sun" trades off between Morse at his rocking best, and smooth, flowing keyboards, to create a flowing contrast that is very appropriate where it is on the album. Suddenly, you hit by a very, very unexpected choir in "The Glory of the Lord" but it really fits into the album after a few listens, and highlights the work, no matter how out of place the song seems the first time you hear the album. Again, the forlorn man returns in the emotionally charged "Outside Looking In", a man looking inward to God's kingdom, wishing for the happiness of all the people he sees there. "12" is a thought pretty much along the lines of-God really likes the number 12 doesn't he? That's a really weird coincidence (or not a coincidence as it my be), with the "Temple of the Living God" theme always lurking in the background, followed by a masterful instrumental of keyboard and guitar prevalence. My personal favorite of the album, "Entrance" is next, though not that much different from the rest of the album, it highlights "Sweet Elation", and the main Temple theme again. "Inside His Presence" begins with a major variation on the temple theme, it comes across as more of a worship song than a prog song, and is slightly out of place, though it works better than it should. The last track is also name "The Temple of the Living God", it is essentially the same song, with some differences, mostly in the attitude, instead of searching for the tabernacle, Morse stresses the fact that Jesus' temple is himself, and the search for the tabernacle ends with ones' self.

Neal Morse is the epitome of Christian prog, and ? is the epitome of Neal Morse, a first-rate album!

Scapler | 4/5 |

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