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Neal Morse - The Dreamer - Joseph: Part One CD (album) cover


Neal Morse


Symphonic Prog

3.79 | 68 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Being a huge Neal Morse fan, it is with some trepidation that I even write this review, but I also don't want to (at least completely) pigeonholed as reviewing only material that I love. This album seems to be polarizing, but not in the usual, "I don't like the Christian themes" way--instead, I think this album is polarizing because of the music. Specifically, for a concept album, I personally don't think this album holds together particularly well. I'm only slightly familiar with Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, so I'd like to think I'm not particularly biased in any direction in that regard.

First off, when I think of what I like most about Neal's work, my favorite stuff is the grand instrumental themes, which, when teased and supported with other interesting bits that lead to a fantastic crescendo, can rank up there with my favorite musical experiences. Hitting the sweet spot with this approach has obvious potential flaws: too much reliance on repeating or only slightly altered themes, and too much instrumental widdly wankery before you get to the good parts. As you can infer from that, I don't listen to Neal as much for the lyrics, story or concept (although I can feel uplifted by some of the positive, God-affirming moments).

Given that, this album perhaps was not ever going to be for my ears. There are few extended instrumental moments, and the most prominent one (the overture) I would characterize as just mildly interested, and only somewhat melodically linked to what comes later, at best. There is a clear story, and characters, and I find myself thinking about what's happening in the story, and how similar or different a section is to Dreamcoat, rather than just getting lost in good music. Perhaps that part of the intent in Neal's effort here.

Highlights: Before the World Was, Gold Dust City, Ultraviolet Dreams. Aside from the sheer ambition involving numerous guest musicians and vocalists, strings, horns, and multipart vocal harmonies, this album does have some top-notch tunes. Before the World Was is the best of Neal's new gospel trend, and building up to the Steve Morse trademark solo is awesome. Gold Dust City perhaps most effectively merges traditionally good music with the guest vocal and chorus strategy. Finally, Ultraviolet Dreams is another great track, highlighted by some crunchy, memorable guitar from Neal. There are other clear highlights to be found as well, from Talon David's work in Slave Boy (though I don't feel comfortable actually singing this lyric myself, or to picture a young woman seducing much, much older man) to the mega-man harmonies of Heaven in Charge (upwards of 6-parts, perhaps?).

The Dreamer is a great buy, no hesitation, due to the ambition, creativity, and quality production found within. However, it is a story-based album first and foremost, which is certainly fine, but the concept is not strong enough to overcome the uneven quality of the music in the end. Let's see where Part Two goes from here...

Flucktrot | 3/5 |


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