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Neal Morse - Jesus Christ The Exorcist CD (album) cover

JESUS CHRIST THE EXORCIST

Neal Morse

 

Symphonic Prog

3.75 | 137 ratings

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AlanB
5 stars Back in the 1970s there was Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell, but as far as I'm aware no one has written a rock opera based on the life of Jesus since then. Until now, when along comes Neal Morse with Jesus Christ The Exorcist, and in my opinion it stands up well beside its famous predecessors. Unfortunately it's unlikely to become as well-known, which is sadly the nature of things with modern prog. Still, for those of us who love Neal's music this is a must-have album.

Jesus Christ The Exorcist is unusual for a Neal Morse prog release for two reasons. First, Mike Portnoy isn't involved (due to other commitments) but Neal's regular guitarist Eric Gillette steps in to demonstrate that he is also a more than competent drummer. Secondly, Neal doesn't feature much vocally, instead he casts guest singers in the major roles. Notable amongst these are his two successors in Spock's Beard, Nick D'Virgilio and Ted Leonard as Judas Iscariot and Jesus respectively. However the award for best newcomer must go to a young girl from Nashville named Talon David, who excels as Mary Magdalene. Listen especially for her belting out the blues on "The Woman of Seven Devils", then following on by showing that she is equally at home performing a ballad like "Free At Last".

Musically the album is a mixture of prog, pop, metal and musical theatre. The second CD (Act 2) has considerably more of the latter than the first, which is more song-based. The story kicks off with Jesus' words on the cross before flashing back (via the obligatory overture) to John The Baptist preparing the way. The 10 minute "Jesus' Temptation" is a highlight, with Rick Florian making a convincing Devil. Following this we have the first of several "earworm" type songs, "There's A Highway", where Jesus invites all the rank outsiders and lonely losers to follow him. Two of the next three songs feature the casting out of demons which the album title refers to. I have already mentioned Talon David's performance as Mary Magdalene, but the second incident concerns the madman of the Gadarenes, who famously was possessed by a legion of devils. To illustrate this Morse uses one of his favourite techniques of multiple voices singing acapello against each other (think "Thoughts" or "Author of Confusion"). Then we have Neal and Nick singing a duet "Love Has Called My Name" which is another catchy pop type song. The CD ends with Peter's confession of Christ and then Jesus' determination to go to Jerusalem, leading to the Black Sabbath influenced "Get Behind Me Satan."

Act 2 begins with a Queen - like heavy song "He Must Go To The Cross" which leads into some more musical theatre type singing. A highlight for me here is Gethsemene, which features some great Hammond organ playing in the middle section. There is also "A Heart Full Of Holes" sung by Nick D'Virglio which is worth mentioning. After the crucifixion (a reprise of the first song on CD1) Talon David returns to sing the emotional "Mary At The Tomb" followed by "The Greatest Love Of All", a duet between Mary and Jesus. Finally the album ends with a reprise of "Love Has Called My Name."

This is another great album by Neal (how does he manage to be so prolific without losing quality?) and I would love to see it performed as a stage musical. Eat your heart out, Andrew Lloyd Webber.

AlanB | 5/5 |

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