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Neal Morse - Testimony CD (album) cover


Neal Morse


Symphonic Prog

4.06 | 469 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars I honestly thought that after hearing the news in October 2002, that Neal MORSE of SPOCK'S BEARD had left, that it was the end of the band or, at least, their music would be much worse.

But after "Feel Euphoria" appeared in June of this year, it gradually became obvious that SPOCK'S BEARD was capable of continuing to make good music without their former front man.

I also thought that we wouldn't be able to expect any more prog-music from MORSE until "God" had converted. But nothing is less true. From a musical point of view, "Testimony" is the best album ever (until now) that Neal has made. Of course, the lyrics are mainly about Jesus, God and the discovery of "the divine way", but I'll be happy to accept that as the only "negative" point. One guy can sing about "The Love of Satan" and another can sing about "God", but what does it matter as long as the music is good? And believe me, this is good!!!

It was obvious that there was a change in the state of mind of Neal MORSE on the "Snow" (8/2002) album. We had thought that it was there that he had given the best of himself. The split of Neal and SPOCK'S BEARD was even suggested on the album cover, like our reviewer (Piet), had also noticed long before it was even common knowledge. How long had he been playing with the thought? Did the figure on the cover of "V" (out in 2000) know in which direction he was going (at least it did seem that he knew) even though he was going through a desert? And who has ever found himself in a desert? Maybe I'm stretching it a bit too far here, but still it's a brain teaser.

Weren't you satisfied with "Feel Euphoria"? The opinions over that album are divided. Did you miss the contribution of Neal MORSE, who lifted SPOCK'S BEARD to that higher level? Well, this is generously compensated on his solo album. This is just SPOCK'S BEARD, but without the name. Now we can assume that we're talking about two different bands, like at the time that FISH left MARILLION. The difference is that FISH really couldn't reach the same level of quality as before. Then, after a few albums, MARILLION ended up going in a completely different direction. Neal just continues where "Snow" stopped. Again, this is a double concept album.

It's the known complex compositions, orchestral parts and the harmonized singing that are so typical of SPOCK'S BEARD.

But there's more. On "Testimony", you definitely hear a relaxed Neal MORSE. This is noticeably obvious, especially on CD 2, quieter songs with fabulous arrangements. The grand piano sounds like it has never sounded before and the guitar pieces on this album are so beautiful with even more divinely sounding solos (like on the last part of the forgotten, and almost never live-played, but oh so beautiful first album, "The Water"). It's all a lot less exciting, therefore calmer. I'm not saying that there are no songs with balls. On the contrary, it's just a beautifully balanced CD. Even more, the drummer, Mike Portnoy (DREAM THEATER) gives his own input. And together with guest musician Kerry Livgren (KANSAS) ("Interlude", "Break of Day"), you can understand why this CD was so carefully composed.

What I need to say about the promo version isn't going to be easy. Somewhere, in every song, there was an interruption that lasted a few seconds (probably as a protection against illegal copying). This makes it distressing and incredibly bothersome. I really hope that this is a one time experiment that won't be repeated in the future. Besides, it doesn't offer any solution for the problem because any one who has a bit of technical experience can easily solve this "defect".

Starting with the first song, "The Land of Beginning Again", it seems that Neal's voice has progressed and that the instrumental "Overture No. 1" marks the start of setting forth the SPOCK'S BEARD tradition. It starts with orchestral pieces and continue with the typical and unique BEARD sound, a real masterpiece. The big difference here with SPOCK'S BEARD is that all the violins, arranged and directed by Chris Carmichael, the trumpets and the choir are real, replacing the use of synthesizers. And you can hear that. On the whole, that gives a much bigger dimension. All the songs are top quality, no exceptions. The everyday prog-lover is just going to feel pampered. Some songs, with those Spanish guitars, tend to lean towards the very first SPOCK'S BEARD CD ("Sleeping Jesus" and "The Promise"). There is no lack of those recognisable harmonious or multiple vocals. The difference with the first albums is that different themes now occur in separate songs whereas before they were processed in larger songs. It's easier to separate them, but actually, it's just one song because they all flow into each other, just like on "Snow".

In summary, it comes down to this: all resources have been exhausted in order to surpass all the former albums. In essence, Neal MORSE has passed with flying colours. Actually, the only question that remains is why he left SPOCK'S BEARD. And I don't think that any other member of the band would have objected to having made this album with him. Therefore it must be something else. but what? I've already listened to several different demos from Neal MORSE with his so called basic ideas, and have found that they were produced down to the very last detail. I wonder what input the other musicians could possibly have had. Neal is just an all-around pure bred musician who needs no one in order to do his thing and he has proven it here to this "witness"! Most people can, in the best of circumstances, repeat themselves, but it's the very few who are able to surpass themselves. Apparently, this man has no problem with that. Super fantastic CD!!!

>>> Review by: Jany (9,5/10) Translated by Jennifer Summer<<<

Clayreon | 5/5 |


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