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Neal Morse - Sola Scriptura CD (album) cover


Neal Morse


Symphonic Prog

4.18 | 543 ratings

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The Progmatist
3 stars Don't get me wrong: this is an awesome album, and anyone who is not yet familiar with NEAL MORSE will likely find it to be an excellent introduction to his solo stuff. But despite its awesomeness, I can't seem to detach my attitude toward this work from the context of Neal's other releases, and it is in this context that I'm forced to issue this three-star rating. Plain and simple, SOLA SCRIPTURA just sounds too much like Neal's previous three releases. This ordinarily wouldn't be a problem. After all, anyone familiar with Neal's work certainly recognizes the fact that he tends to stick with a distinctive style. The problem here, though, is that the formula just doesn't seem to work as well as it used to. Whereas Morse's signature piano/synth work and climactic buildups fit perfectly in classics like SPOCK'S BEARD's SNOW and his own ? (QUESTION MARK), the tried now not only sounds tired but also a bit out of place in an album that begs to be regarded as no-holds-barred hard rock. Where his climactic developments made sense in his past three prog epics, they come across as a bit forced in this bass- driven rock album. This is especially true in the 16+ minute "The Conclusion," which seems to flounder between concluding and developing as Neal tries to make sure that he ends his musical-conceptual story in a "big finish."

Again, it would be very difficult to call this a bad album, especially when considering the contributions of some of Neal's band members. Portnoy offers some of his most technically complex and heart-pounding drumming to date, George provides a kicking bass foundation throughout, and guest Paul Gilbert lays down some unbelievably awesome guitar solos. If there is anything that may be considered truly "bad" here, though, it is "Heaven in my Heart." If you've been waiting to hear a truly mediocre NEAL MORSE song, look no further than the third track on SOLA SCRIPTURA. Almost invariably skip-worthy, this song features cheesy Christian-rock lyrics, almost no surprises, and little palpable energy.

And speaking of lyrics, this may very well be the first Morse release where I sometimes find myself cringing at what Neal has written. I've always been one to defend Morse when the anti-religious come out of the woodwork for an opportunity to blast Neal's Christian-oriented concepts, but I'm almost forced to step aside and let the piranhas swarm in for the kill here. "Heaven in my Heart" is one big piece of Christian cheese, but Neal also makes some questionable insinuations throughout the album. He seems to challenge modern Catholicism when he sings, "Not just from the Mother but the daughters of the harlot; Everything that comes from her it must be left behind." Most importantly, Neal seems to want to deify a man in Martin Luther who has been accused of being a public anti-Semite in his own day. Regardless of what Luther did for the Christian church, is this a man you want to devote an epic album to?

In short, this is certainly a competent musical work, but I have to leave it at that. Neal's reliance on a formula and questionable lyrics hold the album from excellence. As much as I enjoy SOLA SCRIPTURA along with his other solo releases, I now wonder whether Morse should work again with TRANSATLANTIC or SPOCK'S BEARD for the sake of freshness. I know Neal's got more in him; I'm just not sure whether the self- constructed confines of his solo career can elicit it right now.

The Progmatist | 3/5 |


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