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Neal Morse - Sola Scriptura and Beyond CD (album) cover


Neal Morse


Symphonic Prog

4.36 | 95 ratings

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4 stars I noticed the expression 'Christian prog (rock)' just recently but this style wasn't new for me because during my teenage years, back in the 70s, I attended a cluster of gigs in churches and temples and those amateur bands that displayed then worked mainly in the prog-related lines, maybe due to the use of keyboards, flute, acoustic guitars and soft vocals those bands were driven into a more proggish approach. Some songs have a kind of heavenly tenderness and were the favorites to be covered, like ELP's 'Jerusalem' (I mean, their version), PFM's 'Appena un p˛', O Teršo's 'Tributo ao sorriso' (very uplifting lyrics, indeed), amidst some others. While some friends (both genders) preferred something more danceable, I must confess that having a prog-heart these covers delighted me and I didn't care too much about the intended holy message or the intrinsic proselytism - I liked the music and that was enough.

However, I find the expression 'Christian prog', a bit disturbing; are those doing music with this label the only ones who embrace the said religion? Are they the only ones that have faith? Are all other acts, not labeled so, doomed to the fires of inferno? To avoid confusion maybe a new tag should be thought for labeling those songs and musicians attached to the religious dominion. Well, at least for the progressive realm, they continue to trail those genres we all are used to identify: symphonic, neo, metal, and so on.

That said, it's time to review Neal Morse's DVD titled "Sola Scriptura & Beyond" which is primarily a symphonic-prog production based mainly upon his 2007 "Sola Scriptura" album but containing additional stuff from other albums and also from his Transatlantic & Spock's Beard time that are able to amuse musically the average hearer, being the latter, spiritually gifted or not. While lyrically Neal Morse runs in a particular lane marked by his personal experiences with the divine, musically he keeps a way close to that of Spock's Beard soft side, adding bits of gospel and pop-rock and significant doses of poignancy. Checking how this blend work in a live show is an interesting deal.

Neal appeared very enthusiastic, excited, emotive, energetic. and this posture soon wrapped up his entire staff, mainly the technical people and the supporting band. Considering that the core of this DVD was recorded in The Netherlands, it's not a surprise that the majority of Neal Morse's crew members are Dutch and consequently the audience too. The accompanying musicians are pretty young but showed a high level of professionalism and while a bit shy initially they soon joined Morse's liveliness.

The initial part of Disc 1 containing the "Sola Scriptura" tracks shows Morse & band very concerned for a few participative audience, which is explainable since the songs weren't too much known then - even so the result is beyond fair due to the musicians' skills. The 'Question Mark Medley' and 'Testimedley' sections open the gates for a more warm response from the audience that makes the overall atmosphere to grow intensely. The two final songs 'We all need some light' and 'Wind at my back' from Morse's Transatlantic and Spock's Beard years close the disc grabbing entirely the viewers (there or at home). A classical ender for this fine production.

The bonus material dubbed as Disc 2 brings some amusing and enjoyable musical parts especially those rooted on the "Question Mark" album and where we may catch all progressive influences over Neal Morse. Non-musical and behind the scene parts in this disc are pretty funny and sometimes interesting but add few to the general content.

Not being an expert on cinematography, I may tell that camera positioning (both discs) and movie cuts are impressive and well-crafted putting the hearer/viewer inside the action most of the times. I also heard this DVD as plain CD and while the recording is of the finest extraction it's clear that with a few exceptions the musical stuff is pretty average but the inclusion of images and movement donated a plus that makes this DVD an excellent addition to any progressive collection.

Atkingani | 4/5 |


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