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Neal Morse - One CD (album) cover

ONE

Neal Morse

 

Symphonic Prog

4.10 | 355 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Shakespeare
3 stars Neal Morse, ex-Spock's Beard leading man, would have a spiritual turn around while still a member of SB. He left Spock's Beard to expand on the possibilities with Christian themes and progressive music. In doing so, not only would he create many pieces of uplifting and pious proportions, but he would craft, with the precision of a true artist, a number of genius progressive rock concept albums. One is one such album.

When we think of modern progressive music, do we assume we will be hearing a stale and insipid attempt to resuscitate a bygone king? Perhaps, for some, but for many, the progressive rock genre (or community) is still thriving healthily. Neal Morse is one of the chief names in modern progressive rock music today. He has managed to create music of a complex nature, yet does not write music for complexity's sake (the curse which most progressive metal suffers from). His music is teeming with emotional and undeniably gorgeous melodies, repeated at key moments throughout the album for perfect emotional response.

A common complaint about Neal Morse's music is his repetition of familiar atmospheres and similar styles of music. This is a complaint I understand, but do not agree with whole-heartedly. There so many diverse facets to his music that it is easy to overlook a similar mood, and the music is so brilliantly written and so flawless executed that it is even easier to forgive this when true. Acoustic guitar solos over electric music, countless styles of synthesizers, organ and keyboard voices, and many different varieties of drums and percussion (courtesy of the legendary Mike Portnoy and Glenn Caruba) are only some of the methods Morse finds to add tasteful range to his music, and this album particular. (And to someone unfamiliar with Mr. Norse's music, this is a moot point.)

This album in particular is arguably Norse's magnum opus. The Creation begins the concept album with an otherworldly wave of ambient-like strings, and smoothly turns into a slow march, chanting the album's main theme - an extremely moving theme, whose beauty never seems to wear. This song is the start of the story of the relationship between man and God, and demonstrates how we were initially distanced. Things pick up, and very soon the song becomes a quick paced rocker with touches of metal influence. The atmosphere morphs into something new, and the dynamics of the song are all over the chart. It flows from superbly structured progressive segments, to slower jams, to the epic climax, and the serene release of tension.

After a short interlude (The Man's Gone) Norse goes as metal as ever with Author of Confusion. It begins really heavily with an extremely aggressive and catchy riff, but soon becomes more complex, and interested. In an abrupt change of pace, everything turns jazz, and then even more abruptly, a Gentle Giant vocal arrangement comes onto the stage. The song tunes down for a bit of silent jazz before rising again to full throttle and blowing out real hard. (This is a favourite Morse track among non-Christians).

The rest of the album follows in this fashion: many diverse atmospheres, all the while bearing gorgeous melodies, intense musicianship, and great oomph. Unfortunately, for those who are not Christians, it would be very understandable to shy from Neal Morse's music. The lyrical content is nearly completely explicitly spiritual, but sometimes can be interpreted in a different way. The Man's Gone, for example, is a very soft and touching song about man's distance from God, but the lyrics can very easily be seen for anything different, and appreciated by atheists. But please, regardless of your religious persuasion, do not miss this music, for many atheists themselves agree than Morse's music is not exclusive for the Christian community.

After the album passes through countless moods, many musical textures, yet more beautiful passages, and some softer tunes fit for a church setting (that means the lyrics and music are especially Christian), we come to Reunion, the album's climax. The storyline in a nutshell, after loosing intimacy with God in The Creation, we draw further away into the darkness, and eventually break down and cry out in Help Me/Spirit and the Flesh. Reunion begins with very upbeat, almost too cheerful trumpet stabs. The brass section along with the extremely joyful feel is quite odd, and takes a few listens to appreciate. It builds up, and Portnoy unleashes the hounds like never before in the small reprise of The Creation. After that, there is a much layered, and always beautiful section where many voices sing in their own way, but eventually all come together as one and sing collectively. It's extremely well orchestrated, and exceptionally moving, and closes the album perfectly.

One's strengths are its gorgeous and memorable melodies, which grow on the listener with each hearing, and the phenomenal musicianship and complexity. Do not let the subject matter scare you away: even atheists can appreciate this top-notch prog. However, Atheists will not appreciate the subject matter at all. One is an excellent album that may only be fully appreciated by Christians.

Shakespeare | 3/5 |

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