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Neal Morse - ? CD (album) cover

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Neal Morse

 

Symphonic Prog

4.19 | 471 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Neal Morse Finds God... Again

Neal Morse has been on a hot streak of religiously themed albums ever since his departure from Spock's Beard. Testimony revealed his most emotional side, and One expanded upon that and also had some of his best and most creative music to date. That leads us to ?, a 56 minute epic spread out over 12 tracks. ? combines the musicality of One with the conceptual prowess of Testimony and creates an otherworldly experience that has all the frills, bells, whistles, and cliches that Neal Morse is known for.

What is impressive about this album is the array of guest musicians featured throughout. Aside from the reliable rhythm unit of Randy George and Mike Portnoy, respected guitarists Alan Morse, Roine Stolt, and the legendary Steve Hackett lend their talents along with keyboard wizard Jordan Rudess. While the guests contributions aren't always at the front of the sound, at key points in the album they add an element Morse himself couldn't even add.

Like One, the guitar is featured more prominently than one would think when they think of Neal Morse (who's more renowned for his keyboard work than guitar work anyway). However, Morse performs the core guitar work, ranging from melodic riffs and crunchy solos to mellow acoustics and somber melodies. The guest guitarists take up most of the guitar solo space, with Steve Hackett having the most memorable solo in the song 12, which captivates the listener with its many twists and turns.

Like all albums that feature Neal Morse, there are sections that are particularly mellow. The most notable song in this vein is Outside Looking In, which has a memorable and somber chorus as well as a passionate lead vocal from Morse. The acoustic work on this track is impeccable and has a bit of a Genesis vibe. The key part to this album is how Morse is able to have the sections flow coherently and have catchy hooks that segue the songs.

In the end, fans of Neal Morse won't be disappointed with this release, it's probably his most concise solo album thus far. However, I'm not so certain I could call this album a masterpiece, as it lacks a certain something to give it that quality. However, I can highly recommend this album, as there's not much to dislike. Hopefully Neal Morse's next album will be able to match the strength of this release.

Cygnus X-2 | 4/5 |

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