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Neal Morse - One CD (album) cover


Neal Morse


Symphonic Prog

4.11 | 484 ratings

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4 stars It is one thing to express one's own personal religious conversion as a musical concept, as Morse did brilliantly on "Testimony." However, it can be dangerous to take on the weighty and controversial concepts of creation, salvation and redemption in a more general way, as Morse does here. It would be easy to get bogged down in doctrine, or simply become either "preachy" or maudlin - or both. That Morse avoids this - and is able to convey the general idea in a broadly digestible way - shows that, contrary to what at least one PA member believes, people of faith do not have a "flawed brain." Indeed, Morse's genius has never been so clear and present as it is on "One," which I find both musically and otherwise more satisfying than "Testimony" (as excellent as that album is).

The album opens with "The Creation," a suite comprising four compositions. The intro to this suite is among the best, most exciting, even riveting progressive jams I have ever heard. Indeed, with Morse giving Petrucci a serious run for his money, and Portnoy playing as well as he has ever played, parts of the intro rival anything on Metropolis for sheer complex progressive excellence. And the suite as a whole is among the best extended progressive compositions in the entire genre.

"The Man's Gone" is a short, poignant ballad, well-suited as a "separator" between "The Creation" and "Author of Confusion," a stunning composition that is worth the entire price of admission. Opening with another radical, ultra-progressive jam, the composition moves into contrapuntal a cappella harmonies a la Gentle Giant. [N.B. The last time you hear these harmonies, accompanied by instruments, Morse uses a very Minnear-ish keyboard sound and a very Green-ish guitar sound to deliberately underscore the GG influence.] The rest of the composition is equally excellent, and ranks among the best prog compositions by any artist.

This is followed by another four-song suite, "The Separated Man." Not quite as cohesive as "The Creation," it is nevertheless excellent, and has a number of neat prog bits. The quasi-Middle Eastern guitar part and overall effect of "I am the Man" is wonderful, and the instrumental mid-section of "The Man's Gone" is yet another spectacular progressive jam.

"Cradle to the Grave" is a beautiful and unapologetically faith-based ballad, "Help Me - The Spirit and the Flesh" is a solid composition with yet more excellent prog jam bits, and "Father of Forgiveness" is another gorgeous faith-based ballad.

This brings us to the closing three-song suite, "Reunion," which is more straightforward, but serves to bring the total concept of the album to a satisfying, even perfect, conclusion. [Interestingly, unless my CD player is wacko, the album is created so that when the third song, "Make Us One," ends, the CD begins playing the beginning of the first track of this suite, "No Separation," again.]

As with "Testimony," the musicianship on this album is nothing short of impossible. As noted, Morse's guitar work rivals almost anyone in the genre - especially for diversity of styles - and his keyboard work runs the gamut from simple but effective piano to almost Wakeman-like organ and synth solos. Unless I am way out of the loop, bassist Randy George seems to have sprung full-grown from the head of Zeus: he is a monster bass player who, among other things, definitely does not look like how he plays, but rivals any of the best prog bassists out there. As for Portnoy, having listened to him on a number of DT albums, and now on "Testimony" and One," I get the sense that Morse's music gives him far more "freedom" than he feels with DT: his drumming sounds much "looser" and even "happier" here, while retaining a level of technique and complexity that is second to none.

Although I gave them equal ratings, I believe that "One" is, on the whole, a slightly better album than "Testimony." However, you won't go wrong with either of them. Because whatever your belief or non-belief, Neal Morse is simply among the greatest, most important - and even fun - progressive composers out there.

maani | 4/5 |


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