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Neal Morse - ? [Aka: Question Mark] CD (album) cover


Neal Morse


Symphonic Prog

4.19 | 632 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

5 stars Overall, this is a very impressive album. From start to finish, there is no let-up in good music. What is somewhat unique is that the whole album is really just one song, with twelve distinct "segments." But the music flows non-stop and is one cohesive unit, making for an outstanding conceptual piece from Neal Morse. As has been stated in previous reviews, Morse relies on the skills of Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Alan Morse (Spock's Beard), Roine Stolt (Flower Kings), Randy George (Ajalon) and Steve Hackett in the making of this album.

Segment 1: The Temple of the Living God

The main theme floats in over the sounds of a wind-swept scape and begins to build into some excellent progressive runs using a piano/keyboard and then is joined by a nasty saxophone. The opening lyrics tell of a necessary quest to find the temple of the living God. Morse lays the lyrical foundation for the album by declaring that a sacrifice is necessary in order to successfully find the temple of the living God.

Segment 2: Another World

The music subtly changes as the quest begins by "stepping into another world." This is the world of the Biblical Old Testament, where the Israelites communed with God through the Mosaic tabernacle. This is a short segment but has a wonderful chorus with some intricate chord changes that are eyebrow raising the first five times you hear it and are mesmerizing after you become familiar with where the music is going. Great stuff packed into this segment which finishes with a solitary acoustic guitar to lead into...

Segment 3: The Outsider

Morse tells of someone looking into the world of the Mosaic tabernacle and the priests who were responsible for making sacrifices to appease God and to make atonement for the wrongs of the Israelites. Lyrically, this segment paints a nice picture of "a no one hiding outside" looking into the goings-on of God's people. The music begins quietly and adds some majestic bells which builds into...

Segment 4: Sweet Elation

The presence of God is sweet elation and is described as being "a cloud of secrets fills the air as the lines are blurred between here and there." The music continues to crescendo with stunning acoustic guitar work and a huge emphasis on the bass. This segment will appeal to many to the catchy pop chorus and the lengthy solos which will put a hard-core progger in hysterics. The solos take over to bring a close to this segment.

Segment 5: In the Fire

Morse begins this track with some Wah-Wah "talking" guitar that leads into an amazing vocal display as Neal layers numerous vocal harmonies into a great sounding melody. This segment starts off fairly innocent, but then starts building quickly and before you know it, Morse is yelling "BURN IT DOWN!" This scream is followed by a dizzying array of solos, first keyboard, then some drums and bass, then a guitar (sounds like that kooky Alan Morse cutting the solo) and then some more keyboard and then...well, let's just say one solo leads into another for an intense build-up of sound. Morse's sticky sweet vocals come back in attempting to keep this song on topic, which is the need for a sacrifice to appease a holy and righteous God. The vocal arrangements start to trade punches with some of the instrumental solos and the momentum keeps building and never really slows down while leading right into...

Segment 6: Solid As The Sun

This is probably my favorite portion of the album. The rhythm section really drives this segment which is culminated in a wonderful bass solo which should tickle the fancy of any musician. Some great music here with some repeated refrains from the previous segment. There is a musical climax as the first half of the album comes to a close.

Segment 7: The Glory of the Lord

This segment is other-worldly in its heavenly choir sound. Many have complained of its brevity, but Morse seems to just use this as a quick intermission between the first half of the album and the second half which begins with...

Segment 8: Outside Looking In

This tune is easily the most accessible song on the album and is gut-wrenching in its sorrowful lyrics and quest for hope. It is a slower ballad which lays the foundation for the subsequent segments to build and to offer a solution to the lyrical anguish expressed in this song.

Segment 9: 12

This song is a highlight reel which begins somewhat inauspiciously with a repeated theme of the Biblical significance of the number 12. Then when Steve Hackett's solo hits your ears, your jaw may just drop to the floor. I hate using the same tired clichés when described good music, but I must succumb to the temptation and state that Hackett's solo truly is a mind-blower.

Segment 10: Entrance

Hackett's solo kicked things into a higher gear in the last song and things continue to build during this segment which I consider to be my second-favorite of the album. There are lots of wonderful things going on here with obvious bells being rung when "the gates are being opened." This song also reaches a stunning climax in musical intensity which will leave some listeners out of breath (but wanting more!).

Segment 11: Inside His Presence

Entrance ended with a bang and now this song comes with a little less emphasis but quickly grows and ends with some powerful lyrics and wonderful music to boot.

Segment 12: The Temple of the Living God

The journey ends where it began and let me tell you, it really was a fun and exhilarating journey.


Obviously, I enjoy this album and Morse's music in general. If you enjoyed his previous efforts, I would be very surprised if you did not fall in love with this album. Great songwriting, great lyrics, great performances from the all-star lineup and a fun musical journey make this an "essential" album in my opinion.

Lofcaudio | 5/5 |


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