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Neal Morse

 

Symphonic Prog

4.20 | 479 ratings

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LiquidEternity
Prog Reviewer
5 stars This is my favorite solo album from Neal Morse to date, and (or possibly because it is) it is also his most progressive and creative release.

? should not be viewed as twelve songs, I don't think. To me, this is clearly one 56 minute epic suite, made to be listened to in its entirety. And that sounds progressive, right? An hour long song? Well, there is actually the danger that it might not be, though thankfully Neal pulls out some of the prettiest stops seen this side of the new millennium.

First off, there is the quality of the guest musicians. Now, guest musicians do not guarantee quality, no matter who the guests. But I know few fans of prog music who wouldn't get excited in some measure by hearing that this album features Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater, Steve Hackett of Genesis, Roine Stolt of the Flower Kings, Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater, and so forth. Big names, and it sounds like the album would end up being rather busy. Well, it is, when it needs to be (even featuring a final duet over the music by Roine and Spock's Beard guitarist Alan Morse), or the trade-off solo between (I'm pretty sure this is correct, but there's no actual listing in the CD case) Jordan Rudess and Alan Morse.

Either way, an hour long song sounds like a very risky idea. And it usually is. Too many ideas seem to go into the mix, and the end result isn't a song but just some loosely connected series of songs. Here, however, it's definitely able to stand on its own. It even has a chorus that reappears a number of times throughout its length, in different ways some of the time, but its quite clearly the main theme and chorus. Recurring bits of music string together throughout, tying the ends and the middles and everywhere else together without being redundant or uninspired.

The lyrics still seem to be quite capable of turning people off, but I still feel like Neal is holding back from becoming the straight-up preacher type. In truth, the lyrics take a back seat most of the time to the wild musical strains powering through the speakers.

In all, though this is not Neal's easiest album to swallow, it is certainly the best one he has composed of yet, and I would recommend it to any fan of Spock's Beard or Transatlantic.

LiquidEternity | 5/5 |

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