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Neal Morse - Testimony 2 CD (album) cover

TESTIMONY 2

Neal Morse

 

Symphonic Prog

4.02 | 464 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

m2thek
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Testimony 2 is an album I didn't think I would be reviewing. With so many to cover in 2011, and with this one being a long and daunting composition, I had reserved Neal Morse's latest to casual, fun listens rather than anything intensely concentrated. Over time though, I became way too engrossed with it not to give it the attention it deserves. I'm glad I did, because Testimony 2 is a wonderful album, and is surely one of the year's best.

Before we begin, let's get this out of the way right now. Unless you've never heard anything by Neal Morse, you've probably made up your mind about his music, and this album isn't going to change your mind. For Neal fans, you should already own this. For those who don't like him, you can move along safely. Now that that's done, let's actually talk about Testimony 2.

What an album Neal Morse has crafted. This is my first experience with one of his solo albums, but I'm familiar with his work with Spock's Beard and Transatlantic, so I felt right at home instantly. What I'd taken away from those other bands is that his strengths lie in composition and singing, both of which are just as good here. For me, Testimony 2 is like (Transatlantic's) The Whirlwind's little brother, which is a personal favorite of mine. It shares a lot of what made that album so good, while branching out in its instrumental variety, if not being quite as exciting without the other band's members.

What this album shares most with The Whirlwind and what makes it so good is its extremely well done composition and use of recurring themes. There are about a half a dozen themes used throughout the 13 songs, and each is reprised a number of times. Neal must know I'm a sucker for a good theme, and I can't remember when I've had so many goose bumps in 80 minutes. Besides the use of themes, there are a lot of changes in energy and dynamics, and exciting solos that keep the music entertaining throughout. While not every individual song is incredible, there are enough strong ones to make up for it, and make the whole piece great.

The instrumentation is just as solid as the composition, and Neal's usual bubbly synthesizers, organs, and guitars are present, in addition to a large number of guests. The string section, mostly violins, creates a few incredibly moving sections, and there are a handful of more unique passages, like an electric violin solo and a few saxophone lines. Neal's voice is, as always, consistently strong. He can have his corny moments, but the high points of his voice more than make up for them. Even if I just considered the vocal sections that I didn't like, they would still be stronger than the majority of singing on albums I've reviewed this year.

While in our favorite genre, lyrics usually get pretty abstract and out there, Neal's are really heart-felt and grounded in reality. The lyrical theme of Testimony 2 centers on his faith, and the struggle he went through transitioning from touring with Spock's Beard, to fully accepting God. Listening to this album is almost like getting a musical auto-biography, and if you're interested in Neal's life, the lyrics are really interesting to hear. The lyrics are also reflected in the music, changing from more rocky, energetic material when singing about being on tour, to somber and slow pieces when having internal struggles. The lyrics and music combine in a great way, and the cohesive story is a great element of the album.

Now, if Testimony 2 only included the main composition, I would be giving this four stars. Sure, for as much as I really like it, there is enough singing that I don't care for, and a couple low points in the middle act to keep it from being perfect. However, there is a short second disc that contains three unrelated tracks. The first two are actually not very good, with the first song seeming more like a Nickelodeon theme song. The final song though, Seeds of Gold, is an amazing epic that's just as good as the high points of the first CD. With the first disc already being quite strong, and an extra 25 great minutes on the second, the overall package is well deserving of the full five.

In the end, this lengthy review has been a justification of my rating. The main composition is a great cohesive piece, and I wouldn't be surprised if Seeds of Gold ended up being this year's strongest epic, but you probably have already decided whether or not to buy this. If for some reason you're on the fence and have any interest in Neal Morse's music, the answer is yes, go out and buy this right now.

m2thek | 5/5 |

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