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Neal Morse - Sola Scriptura CD (album) cover

SOLA SCRIPTURA

Neal Morse

 

Symphonic Prog

4.18 | 469 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

infandous
4 stars What would Jesus do? I hope he would write more interesting and varied lyrics than Neal Morse.

Sorry, couldn't resist that. Unlike some, I have no problem with the Neal Morse patented prog formula. What he does, he does extremely well. Sure, if would be nice to hear him go into new musical directions, experiment and try new things. But with what he does do, you at least know you are going to like it, assuming you like his style to begin with.

This album is no different, except that I would say this is his best writing since the Spock's Beard "V" album. Or Transatlantic. At least the first two epic tracks anyway. There is more heaviness here than on previous albums, though they all had some. The first epic is classic Neal and the best of the album. A great overture with great crazy playing, especially from Portnoy (though you get the impression he could do this kind of thing in his sleep and probably does), good melody lines in the vocal sections, lots of time signature and key changes all over the place, and powerful symphonic climaxes and dynamic shifts. Great stuff. Of note is the sweet, but short, solo at the end by Paul Gilbert (who only plays 2 actual solos on the album, despite his billing above as the guitarist for the album........Neal still plays just about all the guitar parts himself).

The second epic is more of the same, but in a bit different format with more heaviness especially in the beginning (with the other blazing Gilbert solo) with a trademark Morse flamenco type section featuring Gilbert's final contribution of some scattered acoustic licks. Another great epic, and along with the first, the finest I've heard from Morse in a while.

Then we get the requisite cheesy, overblown ballad. And I think this one really tops his other cheesy and overblown ballads by quite a bit. This is not in any way a good thing, and I'm not someone who hates ballads either.......just this one. I will most likely have to skip this in future listens. This is also a good time to talk about the lyrics. Now, I don't have a problem really with someone expressing their beliefs in music. If I did, I would never buy a Neal Morse album. But I must say I am getting quite tired of the same lyrical sentiments about God and Jesus being repeated ad naseum on each consecutive album. At least the last album used actual verses of the old testament which made the lyrics far more interesting. But even then, Morse had to include the obligatory praise God and Jesus type lines. I respect his faith and desire to express it. But he's an artist. Can't he possibly do it in a more interesting and creative way? Other people have done this with their beliefs (like Yes, Flower Kings, Salem Hill, to name but a few). Not being a Christian myself, this sort of thing gets REALLY tedious for me. I'm not anti-Christian by any stretch, but this makes me not want to listen to his music. Surely this isn't the effect he is going for? Surely if he wants to spread the good word he should try to draw people in and not push them away? Anyway, I hope he comes up with something better in future albums, because I don't see myself being able to stomach this type of thing anymore (and remember, I'm not suggesting he stop writing lyrics that align with his beliefs, only that he start writing interesting and creative lyrics.......something he used to be quite good at).

The final song is where I start to hear retreads of Spock's Beard and Transatlantic riffs and melodies. And I'm not talking about things that remind of those, but blatant use of exact riffs and melodies with different lyrics. Still, the song is not bad and maintains the quality of the first two songs. But this one really is too derivative and I can agree with those who say he is repeating himself in this one instance.

So, well over half the album is great, even if a lot of the lyrics bore me to tears. Some of the lyrics work well though, especially in the first track and parts of the second. Despite my criticisms, the music on here is strong enough and appeals to me enough to go for a 4 star rating. Essential for Morse fans, even those who were not crazy about the last album, but really not essential for anyone else.

infandous | 4/5 |

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