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Neal Morse - ? CD (album) cover

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Neal Morse

 

Symphonic Prog

4.18 | 486 ratings

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Flucktrot
Prog Reviewer
5 stars I realize that by giving this album five stars, I am "overrating" relative to many other reviewers, so I will try my best to explain why as concisely as possible. Being familiar with roughly half of Neal Morse's work (SB and Transatlantic included), it is clear that he has his own style, and this style is a bit derivative and repetitive. Therefore, I want to use high reviews for his work sparingly, and ? is the album for that five star rating for three reasons: it is a solid, coherent album, the musicianship is fantastic (though always a highlight on his albums), and this album has fewer of the major flaws of his other prog albums (the stand-alone praise song, too much focus on his voice, too much repetition of themes, etc). ? is simply one hour of rocking, well-produced, and interesting music.

Rather than focusing on each individual track, I'll just briefly list the highlights. I really enjoy the introduction, with the faint whispers, then the mysterious piano, and then the brief "theme" (which will be revisited for a majestic finale to close the album). Then a very cool percussion/keyboard kicks up the tempo: one of at least two times that my girlfriend (who can tune out ANY of my prog) remarked: "That's different". Indeed. The music continues to build in tempo and intensity through In the Fire and Solid as the Sun, to be brought down by the cataclysmic (and very cool) The Glory of the Lord. Once again, things start slow, only to build in intensity through to the album's conclusion. The instrumental section in 12 is one of my all-time favorites (that HAS to be Stolt, right?), and the guitar solo (s) to close the album (Inside His Presence and The Temple of the Living God) in my opinion are perfect examples of Neal's ability to music that builds in intensity without being repetitive, as well as finding excellent musicians who can bring his ideas to life.

Some may disagree, but I believe this to be the best ALBUM (not individual songs) that Neal Morse has to offer. Plenty of nice ideas, great instrumentation, lots of space for his talented guests to contribute (of course, this album would not have the same energy if Portnoy was not on drums), and I think interesting content (a much more mature treatment of biblical material than Arena, Songs from the Lion's Cage, for example). Given Neal's most recent output (Sola Scriptura), it appears that Neal is charging forward, and I for one am glad about that--Keep it up!

Flucktrot | 5/5 |

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