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Neal Morse - ? CD (album) cover

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Neal Morse

 

Symphonic Prog

4.20 | 469 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

J-Man
Prog Reviewer
5 stars ? is the third solo prog release from modern prog god Neal Morse. I am writing this review today to celebrate Neal's 49th birthday! Let's get one thing out of the way first: I am certainly very biased towards Neal Morse. From Spock's Beard to Transatlantic to all of his solo efforts; he has not produced anything that is flat-out bad, in my opinion. So by default, in my mind it's impossible for Neal to create something that isn't good. The only solo album of his that I find to be passable is Lifeline, but even that is a very good album.

Now that you know how and why I am so biased to Neal Morse's music, the question is what makes this one of his best releases? It is quite possibly Neal Morse's greatest album for many reasons explainable on paper and some reasons that can only be understood by listening to this flawless masterpiece. The reasons that I can explain right now is that this is the perfect blend between everything Neal Morse does well. It has some of his best softer religious songs, along with more hard rock songs, and songs full of emotion. Neal's trademark complex instrumental sections are also very present here.

I can't help but wonder why this album doesn't crack the top 100 prog albums ever released. This does have an excellent rating, but Neal Morse deserves more than what he gets. Don't get me wrong; 4.22 as an average rating is almost perfect, but it definitely should crack the top 100.

The lineup of musicians on this album is excellent as usual. It has Neal on vocals, keys and guitars, Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater on drums, and Randy George from Ajalon on bass. The guest musicians shine as well. Steve Hackett from Genesis helps out along with Jordan Rudess on keys Roine Stolt on guitar. This is an excellent lineup by any standards, and can only be matched by few.

Now that we have all of that out of the way I must explain some of the music here. ? is an ambitious concept album that Mr. Morse claimed to be one 56-minute epic rather than 12 separate tracks. The first song starts out with some nice guitars with melodic singing and is followed by what is basically an overture in the same track, and it really sets the mood for the rest of the album. There is a classic trick ending, and some beautiful songs like "Outside Looking In" and "Inside His Presence". My favorite track is probably "In the Fire", but don't EVER listen to just one track. This is really meant to be listened to as one song.

This is one of my favorite albums of all time and this review means absolutely nothing if you don't buy this. There are few flawless albums, and Neal pulled off another masterpiece with "?".

5/5 stars

J-Man | 5/5 |

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