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Neal Morse - Sola Scriptura CD (album) cover


Neal Morse

Symphonic Prog

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5 stars FIFTH JEWEL IN A ROW!!! Mr. Morse (one of the best in the business) you did it again!!! 1.The Door: Opens with glorious keyboard, then an intrincate drum/guitar section that is a preview of what comes next. Voice enters at 5:04 in a very typical Morse-esque way. At around 8:20 a very nasty hammond solo shines. At 9:50 there is a section ripped of Wind At My Back, with a chorus a la ABBA? From 14:00 to 15:00 there is a heavy section with reminiscent of Liquid Tension. At 17:15 intrincate section with keyboard doing a catchy melody over the intrincate section shines a guitar solo with whammy emulating the sound of a violin. At 18:48 there is a bluesy passage with one very catchy Chorus: I don't wanna be the one, with vocal choir seems extracted from With A Little Help From My Friends by Joe Cocker. Here the mood becomes so paced and prepares us to an ending. When you think that the song is finished then returns with a awesome guitar solo full of soul courtesy of the mighty SpongeBob Squarepants... Kidding =) that is how I call the Guitar God Mr. PAUL GILBERT, because He is REALLY funny. Really breathtaking guitar solo.Period.

2.The Conflict: Begins with fireworking guitar, and voice work in a very 80's style. At 3:20 a tricky passage turns into a beautiful section with piano and percussion, really nice singing Mr. Morse!!!. At 6:15 a section reminds the glorious days of Spock's Beard with Morse. At 7:16 a rapid keyboard lead repeat, alternating with choral breaks and intrincate passages. At 9:46 a very calm ballad section begins, which turns into a beautiful acoustic guitar passage. At 12:55 a really latino-section begins, here only make lack the words: RUMBA!!! CALIENTE!!! SABROSO!!!, A really well developed latino section with excelent guitar work. At 16:30 Keyboard enters the heavy section again. At 17:58 a furious keyboard solo emphasizes. At 18:36 a chorus, typical from Morse christian-era lays over a nasty hammond. At 19:16 begins a section with a lead guitar in the Carlos Santana style with nice vocal work. At 23:33 returns a familiar melody and repeat until the end.

3.Heaven In My Heart: A very beautiful ballad with piano and strings. Very emotive

4.The Conclusion: Starts with an intrincate snare/bass filll that turns into a dizzy keyboard lead. At 1:50 the mood becomes really tragic. At 3:09 voice enters with catchy vocal line and piano, but a chorus copied from Long Time Suffering, yes the one from SNOW. At 6:25 a varianza of the intrincate drum/guitar section from the intro of the first song appears. BRILLIANT!!! At 8:17 an ambient that reminds White Russian from Clutching At Straws. At 10:12 The song turns very calm with beautiful melodies until the end. At 12:14 there is a beauty guitar lead.

Conclusion: Ok there are moments of self-plagiarism on this album, but remember that Neal Morse always will sound like Neal Morse. Today is really difficult to sound original, even the Great Beethoven in his time, borrowed riffs from Mozart!!! The drum fills from Mr. Portnoy sometimes are a bit repetitive.If you don't have problems with religious themes, buy this album.

Rate: 4.5 Stars

Report this review (#108898)
Posted Thursday, January 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Fantastic album and I rate it with five stars and that´s it. No seriously Neal Morse done it again. "Sola Scriptura" is a fantastic mix of various melodies, harmonies, rythm changes, mood changes, atmospheres, dramatic prog metal passages and smooth prog rock parts. The sound is very dynamic and whole combo sounds like one small orchestra. Almost 70 minutes of Portnoy´s drumm orgies with Gilbert´s fantastic guitar work and of course excellent bass parts with maestro´s typical keys. "Sola Scriptura" is definitively the peak in Morse´s musical career! Excellent and professional music and I´m sure will be one of the best CDs this year and think one of the best music in prog for last years.

5 stars.

Report this review (#109201)
Posted Sunday, January 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Yet another album by the prolific Neal Morse. After losing all his prog touch with his worship sessions, we can now thank god (ok bad pun, but intended) that he is back on track with a real prog album.

The album is titled "Sola Scriptura" which means "only the bible" (or something along those lines). And in the first song "The Door" it becomes apparent what he means by that. I'ts critisism towards the church as they sold "indulgences" in the the late Middle Ages. Obviously those indulgences where only a scheme to collect money from all god fearing people. This is not the only critisism that is expressed towards the church though.

It's not a god bash or anything though, Neal Morse is only trying to make clear that the belief is important and not the church around it. This song is really a song that says "Protestantism" is better than the other Christian faiths. Even as a non Christian I find this interesting. The other songs are faith reaffirming and a bit corny lyricwise.

The music as usual is great. It's bombastic, many many tempo changes excellent drumming by Portnoy and the keyboards are great as well. This album is less symphonic than we're used from Neal Morse though (at least that's how I experience it), it's a bit more prog metalish I'd say.

I think One is a better album, but this one surely is very interesting as well. If you like his other solo work (aside from the awful worship sessions albums) then you will surely like this.

Recommended to everyone, especially to Protestants (strict Catholics probably won't like this as they are somewhat getting bashed here).

4 stars from this pagan for Neal Morse and his latest work.

Report this review (#109242)
Posted Sunday, January 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars The initial overwhelming reaction to this album has puzzled me a bit, though it's understandable. For me personally, I enjoyed tremendously the first... ehem... "song" (29 minutes hehehe), and then it all began to feel more and more like a "been there, done that" affair. As I read somewhere, yes: Neal Morse will always sound like Neal Morse, but this time I think I'm beginning to feel a little tired. He has a style, a particular sound, which I've always enjoyed, but this thing started before going solo (you could cut pieces of Morse's solo albums and mix 'em in between songs from Snow or V and only the fans would notice), and by this time, for me it's becoming too familiar.

I listen to the melody go into a latin section and can't help going "ok, this was a novelty back in "The Light", but what the hell does it have to do in the middle of this ancient church times story???"... I hear Neal singing "long night's journey" in the exact same fashion and notes from Snow's "long time suffering", and there's no doubt these waters we've already been into.

"?" was Morse's solo masterpiece, I believe. "Testimony" ran for too long and was too rooted in his Christian adventures; "One" was great but somehow I find it hard to get back to listening to it, while "?" is a miracle that flows from the first to the last song with such a natural feel that you go "phew" when it's over.

"Sola Scriptura"? Well, of course, this is an early review and it will take many more listens, but so far, I only cruise through half the album before starting to feel I've listened to the same sound and style too many times. I might have focused this review on the "negative" aspects of the album, but it seemed irrelevant to rave about what others have already reviewed with enough detail. Check my rating for the final veredict: this IS a good, competent album, and the concept behind it might be the most interesting in its (ocasional) darkness... but it served for another purpose: me realizing I'm getting a little tired of Neal's bag-o-tricks.

Report this review (#112322)
Posted Friday, February 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Another strong one from Neal.

This time around, he uses the birth of the protestant church and Martin Luthers role as the conceptual story, and has written songs trying to reflect that story.

Each of the 4 songs on the album has a slightly different sound to them, a nice effect to underline the progression of the conceptual story.

The music as such is varied, dark and almost harsh when negative aspects of the story is told, uplifting and gospel-inspired in the more religious moments. Styles varying from 70's inspired prog to something not too far away from prog metal. More detailed descriptions is a hard thing, as there's just too much variation here.

No moments of pure brilliance here, but a generally strong, well crafted release. And clearly worth checking out.

Report this review (#112925)
Posted Tuesday, February 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Great and powerful album with the heaviest sound until now in the Neal Morse's oeuvre. Besides, two brilliant and complex epics and one beautiful song (the third). I think that Morse runs his own way in a magnificent mood. Good work on drums; excellent the bass player and terrific Paul Gilbert. After the last CD, a well constructed and conceptual album, Morse gives away us "an always changed" and an imaginative sequence of songs in a really creative musical structure.
Report this review (#113977)
Posted Thursday, March 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I got this album earlier this morning and have already listened to it twice; I've never been able to place it, but the overshadowing clouds Neal will always create through his albums are flowing greater than ever: the musicianship, the emotion, the heartfelt message, it's all so powerful that the only thing left to memorialize is Neal Morse himself and the wide range of vocalism he articulates here.

With his work, yes, it's Christian-based, and he has made more well known the Christian-progressive scene, but whether you agree with his message, his religion or Christianity at all, you can't judge his work based on this coarse objection; judge the man on his work as a musician, not as a Christian. It's amazing how juvenile people can be when it comes to listening to Neal Morse, because he's probably one of the most passionate musicians out there today, and the fact that nobody seems to understand that simply because his work is primarily lent toward the Christian movement... I don't know, it baffles me. His voice is magnificent and he proclaims his passion for what he loves to beautifully, that to know there are some who don't approve of him is just ridiculous.

Judge him on his music, or his voice or his ability to play what he loves; don't continually debase the man for simply singing and writing about what he loves and feels truly in his heart. For myself, being an atheist altogether, I still get thoroughly moved by his music because of how deep he is and how much he believes in it. You can witness the experience he feels every time you see him life and you can feel his message because of the tone of his voice, and thus album is no different.

Now, I'm not going to lecture people. Like what you want and listen to what agrees with your taste; but for all of me, I love this album and I think it has been the greatest release of his solo career yet... save for "One," because "One" is just a complete masterpiece. If he ever tops "One," I don't think I'd be able to survive because of how remarkable it'll be. But no, do what you want. This record has powerful guitar passages, endearing lyrics, impeccable drumming (by fellow Dream Theaterian, Mike Portnoy) and submissive bass ability by the one, Randy George. Oh, and a magical performance by Paul Gilbert.

For Neal Morse, though, I'd be especially proud of this album. As much as I love "One," I think Morse wears his emotions on his sleeve a lot more loosely on this record. You can almost channel his thoughts as he wrote his passage and verse, and it's beautiful, man... it's just beautiful.

In closing, furthermore, I'd like to apologize for such a short review. Perhaps another time, I can delve more thoroughly my experience whilst listening to this; for now, however, all I can say is this: "Only by scripture," indeed: this will quite possibly be the album of the year, the album of unbridled passion.

Report this review (#114607)
Posted Thursday, March 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Sola Scriptura is definately one my favourite prog albums. This album contains all interesting elements of music I do really appreciate. Shortly those elements are genious song writing, some heavy riffs combined with catchy melodies, skillful players and pleasant singing. What else I can expect for great album?

It is obvious that Sola Scriptura has many similarities to Transatlantic in addition to Mike Portnoy´s role. It is easy to notice that epics are long, melodic and partly complicated. But that does not bother me since I am a huge fan of Transatlantic as well.

I believe that this album would be liked by persons who don´t really like prog if they just would give time for this album and its long epics although this album is very accessible and full of catchy hooks which keep you awake to hear more. Personally, I have difficulties with closing my cd-player while listening to this album.

I recommend this album to everyone who likes good music. Neal has definately exceeded my expectations once again. Masterpiece of modern prog!

Report this review (#114658)
Posted Friday, March 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Again a great album of one the best musicians in the business (if not he best). Since 1996, then with Spocks Beard, he treats us with the most beautiful melodies added with breaks of high virtuosity. Together with Mike Portnoy and Randy George who are taking care of the rhythm section and Paul Gilbert on guitar, Neal takes us to Wittenberg, were Martin Luther puts his 95 thesises on the door of the church and marks the beginning of the protestant movement. I'm not a Christian, but if someone is preaching like this, I really don't have a problem. Again high standard prog from the master.
Report this review (#114934)
Posted Monday, March 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Neal Morse has divine inspiration that is the only reason that i find to describe the greatness of this music, is amazing how Neal Morse create 5 christian concept albums of five stars on the road, "Snow" (with Spock's Beard), "Testimony", "One", "?" and now "Sola Scriptura". I don't want to describe you the songs,because for me , the great experience of Sola Scriptura is discover and enjoy all the musical changes in the songs, but i can say to you that you can find in this album fast and beauty guitar solos (thanks to Paul Gilbert) and keyboard solos that sometimes reminds me to Keith Emerson,and in the rhythm section Randy George and Mike Portnoy make his best contribution ever with Neal Morse.

5 stars.

Report this review (#115075)
Posted Wednesday, March 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars 4.5 Stars

What can I say? Neal Morse has done it again!

Neal Morse has divided fans after his decision to leave Spock's Beard and Transatlantic, two modern prog bands that were highly respected by many. Afterwards, while he did not end up being very creative and progressive in his solo career, all of his solo albums (excuding the worship CDs) were mature, sophisticated, and professionally done, with plenty of hooks, melodies, and heartfelt vocals and lyrics always based on some christian theme, whether him accepting God, the relationship of Humanity and God, The tabarnacle, and now the controversial figure Martin Luther. Like the previous albums, he hired extremely talented musicians to play in his album, as he can't play all instruments and is not a virtuoso on the keyboard and guitar either. The result is a highly technical, melodic, accessible, and dynamic work of art that brings Martin Luther's actions to life with rock, pop, soft rock, heavy metal, prog, blues, gospel, latin, classical, jazz, and any other genre I might have forgotten.

The Door has everything any prog fan can ask for. It is really the prog fan's wet dream: a monstrous 30-minute long, multi-segmented epic full of feeling, melody, musicianship, and variety. This song, which starts with a heavy fashion (rarely explored by Morse) introduces an anthemic "In The Name of God You Must Die" section and what follows is full of twists and turns. You have something delicate, heaertfelt and gorgous as "All I Ask For" ... the unexpected musical explosion that follows his words "Look Out! What's coming for you!", the Vocal harmonies after Neal screams "How can I keep silent, when I know the truth!", mellotron, a wonderful guitar solo finale. I can go on and on about how magical this piece is. The sound is typical Neal Morse with a heavier edge, more prominent hammond organ and less complex and symphonic, verging on the Neo-Prog sound. The Conflict , while it doesn't top that masterpiece that opens the album, it maintains the high quality. This is a heavier and more bombastic piece, with one section going on a spectacular and desperate guitar/synth alternating with male chorals. This second epic also surprises with a classical acoustic guitar solo and even more with something that sounds like Cuban dance music combined with Santana. Heaven in My Heart is a breather that follows the two gigantic epics. It is Neal Morse with his piano and Orchestra, creating a simple ballad with its orchestra to add a bit of bombast and symphony so that the piece matches the style of the album. The Conclusion features a very heavy jam with mad synth soloing by the Morse himself. Overall, this piece requires a bit more patience as it is a bit drawn out and reprises past melodies, bringing the album to a satisfying conclusion.

I highly recommend this album. The only faults I can give about this album is that the conclusion could have been a bit shorter without losing meaning and that there's a bit of self-plagiarism around this disc which could be a turn off.

Bravo Neal!

Report this review (#115997)
Posted Wednesday, March 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars To get a little backround on me, I'm pretty new to modern-day prog. I'm a big fan of Spock's Beard and Transatlantic, but this was the first Neal Morse solo album I ever heard. And I hope his other solo work is as good as this.

For those familiar with Neal Morse's work, this album will, for the most part, come as pretty much more of the same. Major similarities in melody can be drawn between Spock's Beard and Transatlantic to this; not just in style, but in specific parts you can listen to it and say, 'oh, that's just like "Long Time Suffering", or that riff in "Stranger in Your Soul". Etc, etc.

Basically, if you're a fan of Neal Morse, this album won't dissapoint, though it will for the most part come off as more of the same. If you're new to him, you're in for a treat.

Report this review (#116132)
Posted Friday, March 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars If for any reason you've avoided partaking of Neal Morse's progressive music, with the release of "Sola Scriptura" you now officially have no legitimate excuse. Over the last year I've been collecting some of his work (both solo and with Spock's Beard) and have come to admire his impressive talent. Not only is he proficient on keyboards, guitar and vocals he's a gifted songwriter and arranger. But on this album he manages to surpass even himself in melding metal, hard rock and contemporary influences into a total package. He has an uncanny ability on epics like this to see the "big picture." By now the trio of Morse, Mike Portnoy and Randy George know each other so well as musicians they sound like a group that rehearses day in and day out even though they only get together to record specific projects like this one. Yet they've never been more cohesive than they are here.

The first movement, "The Door," begins with an exhilarating, spectacular overture. They waste no time plunging right into metal riffs with drummer Portnoy bedazzling your ears. Without even realizing it you've moved into the first song, "In the Name of God," a hard rock tune where Morse's voice has improved over the gravelly vocals he delivered on his previous album. The gist of the lyrics is that organized religion, no matter how spiritually pure at the beginning, becomes elitist and corrupted when it is left in the care of human beings. In Martin Luther's case the church had become just another political system that set up a hierarchy the common people had to bribe for salvation. And if they didn't go for that scam then the priests would inform them that "In the name of God you must die/All that's not our truth is a lie." Pretty harsh stuff. So ML felt compelled to do something about it. The song slips into some very intense metal riffs, then we get the noble "All I Ask For" which is a terrific song of praise. Here ML, in his devotion, only wants God's will to be done in his life. The chorale work is great, then Morse introduces a major musical theme that will reappear from time to time. Yet another hot metal passage takes you to "Mercy For Sale," a strong rock tune wherein the concept of the prophesized false teaching that has possessed the church is addressed with "If you think the whore is only history/Are there those who teach her lies?" The instrumental afterward is a showcase for Neal's impressive skill on guitar. Without a hitch you find yourself in "Keep Silent," a bluesy but trendy song that expresses ML's understandable dilemma of knowing things have to change yet "I don't wanna be the one/to bring the curtain down/I'd much rather stay at home/and keep what I have found." Morse uses a studio orchestra at the end and it's highly effective. Piano and strings play beneath the first two verses of "Upon the Door" that describes ML's famous, revolutionary act of heresy. The guest guitarist, Paul Gilbert, strikes like a bolt of lightning with some awesome shredding here, making the full-band final verse a fitting end to the first movement.

Part Two, "The Conflict," also begins with some serious prog metal riffing with Gilbert once again parting the sky with his licks. "Do You Know My Name?" has a devilish, sinister feel and it serves to illustrate the despicable egos of the church honchos with lines like "I'm your priest/I'm your king/I'm a saint/This 'love your enemies' thing's down the drain." Next comes a conversation between the elders and ML in "Party to the Lie" whereupon they threaten ML with "Father we must crush him/and he never will be found." It's straightforward rock that transitions into a tightly structured instrumental section where Mike Portnoy plays his buns off as they roar through intricate changes and accents. ML wisely lays low in "Underground," a calmer change of pace tune, then you hear some precise acoustic guitar from Neal that leads to a flamenco rhythm on "Two Down, One to Go." The words describe how ML's petition spreads like wildfire across the world. Morse's piano solo and Portnoy's amazing brush work (Yes, Mike can play anything!) are a delight. The church big shots are now in panic mode and they burn all the books in the rocker "The Vineyard" that spotlights Neal's keyboard expertise on a Hammond organ and synthesizer ride. You'll swear you'd somehow switched CDs to one by Santana when you hear Morse's guitar and the backing percussion at the start of "Already Home" but it soon settles into an easy blues tempo. Here ML expresses that even though "I stand accused/I'm beaten, used and tired" his unwavering faith comforts him, as if he's already home with his maker.

Part Three is just one short song, "Heaven In My Heart." Neal usually includes a pretty song or two on his albums and this one's a power ballad with plenty of huge orchestration. It's a well-composed reaffirmation tune (but I doubt he'll ever top his exquisite "Cradle to the Grave" from "One.") The fourth movement is aptly titled "The Conclusion" and it bursts out of the gate with "Randy's Jam" that "gives the bassist some" in a furiously paced instrumental interspersed with staccato lines and featuring a full-chord descending piano progression. Morse brings us back to the 21st century with the Tom Petty-ish sounding "Long Night's Journey," a catchy rocker with super orchestration. An instrumental where the theme recurs and Portnoy tears up his kit once again takes you to "Come Out of Her." Here Neal pleads for today's congregation to escape the hypocritical clutches of modern money-mad evangelists and "like Martin did before us/let the scripture be our guide." It has a slow rock feel and more of the brilliant chorale. "Clothed With the Sun" is a stately return to earlier moments including "All I Ask For" and it is a true emotional release for the listener. The counter melodies sung by the full chorale emphasize uplifting hope that the church will right itself once again. "In Closing" is just piano and vocal as Morse asks, "who will stand up for (God's) truth?" and adds, "Maybe it is you he's looking for."

I know. It's a long review. But, hey, there's an hour and sixteen minutes of quality prog here and I'm excited about it! I think it's Neal Morse's best so far and that's saying quite a lot since his previous music is nothing to scoff at. You will certainly get your money's worth, that's for sure. What makes this one stand out from the others is the incredible blend of styles that he presents seamlessly without one single glitch or awkward second. It gets straight A's across the board in every category.

Report this review (#116306)
Posted Saturday, March 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
Founding Moderator
4 stars Rather than going track by track (which others have done as elegantly and eloquently or more so than I might), I would like to offer just a few general comments.

Neal Morse continues to be a master at writing a certain unquestionably identifiable and enjoyable style of progressive rock music, combining often hyper-complex instrumental and/or vocal segments with often painfully beautiful melodies and choruses. And his ability to interweave his deep faith with his musical and technical prowess (as vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist) - especially in such a broadly palatable fashion, never condescending or making non-believers uncomfortable - is unique in prog, thus making him (if not his entire style) unique in prog as well.

I have only one quibble: that his style has a certain "sameness" after a while, in which themes and motifs "blend" together in a (admittedly brilliant) "pastiche" of classic prog bits, not simply from song to song on an album (after all, the repeated theme/motif is a critical element in extended prog compositions, as well as in classical music), but also from album to album. This is admittedly truest of the (admittedly brilliant) extended instrumental sections, but it is also revealed in some of the more "straightforward" melodies and songs.

Still, in the grand scheme of all things Morse, this is a minor quibble. As with all his solo work, this album is all but a must-have, with a slightly more "controversial" subject matter (i.e., the lamentable state of mainstream Christianity, with which I agree), and the continued masterful technical support of Mike Portnoy on drums and Randy George on bass (as well as the usual array of excellent guest musicians).

Given that this is Morse's fourth (arguably fifth) perfect or near-perfect "concept" album in a row, one gets the feeling that he will never write a bad album - and, indeed, that he will continue to be in the front of the pack in creating prog to be proud of, to own, and to enjoy.


Report this review (#116448)
Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I was originally going to rate this album as a 4 stars, as it didn't "grab" me in the same way that "?" did. But upon thinking of the album as a whole, while it's highs aren't quite as high as ?, it's lows aren't as low either. As a total package, the songs fit very well together, and there's no filler material in the entire 76 minutes. While heavier than any of his previous work, Neal sews the metal parts with the ballad parts seamlessly (for the most part--in The Door, his segway into All I Ask For is a bit abrupt).

I have probably only about two dozen songs in my life that I rate as "perfect" songs, and Neal has about 10 of them (Stranger in your Soul, At the End of the Day, The Doorway, Entrance, Open the Flood Gates, Wind at my Back, etc). This is especially hard to do in the 15-30 minute song format as there always seems to be at least one part of the song that isn't up to "perfection" levels. But Neal added another with The Conclusion (and a close call with The Conflict as well). The Conclusion is a perfect blend of progressive metal symphonic pop in this humble authors opinion and it sits well up there with his aforementioned perfect songs.

Just as with ?, if there was a selection, I'd give it 4.5 stars.

Report this review (#116881)
Posted Friday, March 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars What would Jesus do? I hope he would write more interesting and varied lyrics than Neal Morse.

Sorry, couldn't resist that. Unlike some, I have no problem with the Neal Morse patented prog formula. What he does, he does extremely well. Sure, if would be nice to hear him go into new musical directions, experiment and try new things. But with what he does do, you at least know you are going to like it, assuming you like his style to begin with.

This album is no different, except that I would say this is his best writing since the Spock's Beard "V" album. Or Transatlantic. At least the first two epic tracks anyway. There is more heaviness here than on previous albums, though they all had some. The first epic is classic Neal and the best of the album. A great overture with great crazy playing, especially from Portnoy (though you get the impression he could do this kind of thing in his sleep and probably does), good melody lines in the vocal sections, lots of time signature and key changes all over the place, and powerful symphonic climaxes and dynamic shifts. Great stuff. Of note is the sweet, but short, solo at the end by Paul Gilbert (who only plays 2 actual solos on the album, despite his billing above as the guitarist for the album........Neal still plays just about all the guitar parts himself).

The second epic is more of the same, but in a bit different format with more heaviness especially in the beginning (with the other blazing Gilbert solo) with a trademark Morse flamenco type section featuring Gilbert's final contribution of some scattered acoustic licks. Another great epic, and along with the first, the finest I've heard from Morse in a while.

Then we get the requisite cheesy, overblown ballad. And I think this one really tops his other cheesy and overblown ballads by quite a bit. This is not in any way a good thing, and I'm not someone who hates ballads either.......just this one. I will most likely have to skip this in future listens. This is also a good time to talk about the lyrics. Now, I don't have a problem really with someone expressing their beliefs in music. If I did, I would never buy a Neal Morse album. But I must say I am getting quite tired of the same lyrical sentiments about God and Jesus being repeated ad naseum on each consecutive album. At least the last album used actual verses of the old testament which made the lyrics far more interesting. But even then, Morse had to include the obligatory praise God and Jesus type lines. I respect his faith and desire to express it. But he's an artist. Can't he possibly do it in a more interesting and creative way? Other people have done this with their beliefs (like Yes, Flower Kings, Salem Hill, to name but a few). Not being a Christian myself, this sort of thing gets REALLY tedious for me. I'm not anti-Christian by any stretch, but this makes me not want to listen to his music. Surely this isn't the effect he is going for? Surely if he wants to spread the good word he should try to draw people in and not push them away? Anyway, I hope he comes up with something better in future albums, because I don't see myself being able to stomach this type of thing anymore (and remember, I'm not suggesting he stop writing lyrics that align with his beliefs, only that he start writing interesting and creative lyrics.......something he used to be quite good at).

The final song is where I start to hear retreads of Spock's Beard and Transatlantic riffs and melodies. And I'm not talking about things that remind of those, but blatant use of exact riffs and melodies with different lyrics. Still, the song is not bad and maintains the quality of the first two songs. But this one really is too derivative and I can agree with those who say he is repeating himself in this one instance.

So, well over half the album is great, even if a lot of the lyrics bore me to tears. Some of the lyrics work well though, especially in the first track and parts of the second. Despite my criticisms, the music on here is strong enough and appeals to me enough to go for a 4 star rating. Essential for Morse fans, even those who were not crazy about the last album, but really not essential for anyone else.

Report this review (#117159)
Posted Monday, April 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars All of this huh bub about Neal Morse's latest release. So many glorifying it, I almost thought Jesus sang on it. I checked the list of musicians. Nope. No Jesus. Still, there is a reputable lineup for Progressive Rock. I sat down with the CD and had my mandatory three honest listens before a written review. I think it is something we all should do prior to writing a review.

I am a big fan of Spock's Beard (both varieties) and Transatlantic. When listening to this release, I realized there is very little "NEW" material. Sorry fan boys. The reality is its a terrible thing to come to grips with when expectations are so high. Oh, it's new in the sense that it didn't exist in this structure previously, but the fact of the matter is that very little is new territory. The painted musical canvas is essentially SB and Transatlantic. The instrumentation is essentially the same. The hooks could fit nicely on already recorded material as out-takes for any of the aforementioned bands.

"The Door" is plan old disappointing for a first track, until the emergence of Paul Gilbert. Nicely done! Otherwise I felt like I was listening to "Snow" era SB.

The opening of "The Conflict" is exciting, (ooh! something new?) and much of the jamming works well at about the 9 minute mark. Then it gets boring as the groove simply drops off into a melancholy ode, with no interesting cohesion to the previous statement. The song should have ended and a new song begun, but instead they got pasted together.

"Heaven in My Heart" sounds like filler to me. Nice little ballad with a respectable key change going absolutely no where. The song ends flat although Morse's singing tries to revive it and then, fizzles. Should I get my check now and not finish the meal? So far there has been plenty to eat but this 4 course meal boasts little flavor.

Holding on for the last cut, again, I think I'm listening to SB. It starts out interesting then continues into Prog land and suddenly I realize I am getting Morse fatigue. Five minutes gone...can this song please end? comes the change. Oh, bummer, more of yesterday's rehash.

So the question is how to rate this? Truthfully, the music is not bad as the review sounds, but the album offers little I didn't already have. I didn't sense any growth or progress. In fact, outside of song length, the Progressive element is not that strong. I'll give it a three. Maybe if I listen to it another five times I'll be able to rate it 4 or better. Then gain, I'm thinking fat chance.

(Cracking open a beer.) Here's to hoping for a future Neal Morse release that gives us something actually new. Cheers!

Report this review (#117224)
Posted Tuesday, April 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Only once in a while a masterpiece as big as "?" can be brought to daylight, and Neal Morse is the one does is more often than many others. But it seems that even in his case it takes more than two years. He's new album is really, really good, but there's no way it could be compared to it's great short-named precursor. Sola Scriptura first strikes us with it's dark and somewhat scary cover, but once You give the CD a spin you'll be sure there was nothing to be afraid of. Actually overall nature is as soft and kind as it was in "?" (as for ProgRock of course). Main themes are nice, they appear in right proportions so that they don't get bored, yet they lack this kind of power of expression found on "?". To make long story short: it is a great peace of music but it lacks those special moments when You subconsciously take a deeper breath when certain parts of plot end in a magnificent finale. Instead one will find all kind of broad, unconventional solo passages, often supported by chorus, nice melodies, even moments of contemplation perhaps as there is also a multitude of subtle parts. Since it's very good release, consistent and enjoyable four stars fits it perfectly.
Report this review (#118941)
Posted Thursday, April 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Never been a fan of either SB, TFK or TRANSATLANTIC, but chanced to pick this one from a friend. We have EVERYTHING here, from METALLICA to gospels, from MARILLION and PINK FLOYD to latina grooves. Nice, but predictable as hell. I wouldn't complain that much if melodies were the same way good as they were in first 2 tracks (which are top-notch in parts, especially when Portnoy shows his REAL things!), but the last sound as a 20-minutes long climax. Who would endure that? And that lyrical concept as usual...sweet Jesus, you know what I'm talking about. I can partly turn my ears off as I ain't English native speaker, but it still slips through...

Anyway, it is good 52-minutes long 2-tracked album. Forget about cheesy "Heaven..." and pompous "The Conclusion", there are better tunes. Recommended for New Symphonic Prog fans, but be sure you support Neal thoughts and ideas... ;)

Report this review (#120029)
Posted Saturday, April 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Sola Scriptura" is surprisingly one of Neal Morse's most achieved efforts. With the help of Dream Theater virtuoso drummer Mike Portnoy, the album is conceivably dynamic and compelling even at first listen. Assenting much on instrumentations and stunning time/rhythm changes very Dream Theater-like, Neal Morse manages however not to fall in the mistake of the last period of his adored band and offers as also some substance to the music. The symphonic orchestration is nice and modern, but obviously not particularly original. In fact, some arrangements and the way the music flows are predictably in the same way of his previous works.

One thing we have to forgot completely (it can be difficult at times), at least if you're not an effusive Christian, is the subjective and personal lyrics of the album. We can not care less with Neal Morse's ideas, but he seem to be compelled to annoy us with his somewhat pretentious "Messenger-Guy" beliefs. The album is very varied, assented on his natural gift for creating compelling melodies and rhythms, and majestic moments. Sometimes, as usual, he ruins a bit the overall atmosphere with some exaggerated dramatic passages a la popular music. More again, If we could say he is a genius for songwriting, we can not say the same for the way he balances things. But there are also some good slow moments as well, particularly the acoustic guitar interlude on "The Conflict" is subtle and well conceived.

While not being totally vague, it does not reach the solemn and subtle profoundness of the classic symphonic prog works, nor is particularly original. Still, manages to be musically a very inspired and overall enjoyable album. 3,5 stars.

Report this review (#120437)
Posted Tuesday, May 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Overall, I think Sola Scriptura is an outstanding album. It has great music which is performed amazingly well by Mike Portnoy, Randy George, Paul Gilbert and Mr. Morse himself. It also has stunning cover art which provides a wonderful backdrop for the album's concept. Fans of Spock's Beard, Dream Theater, Transatlantic and Morse's other albums will enjoy this release.

I have listened to this album over 40 times now. As much as I like it, I don't think it's quite up to the level of Neal's last two albums (One and ?, which I both gave 5 stars without reservation). My main criticism with this new album is that it borrows too much from what Neal has already recorded. This has been pointed out in many of the previous reviews and is very obvious, in my opinion. There are sections which sound just like Snow, V, One and Testimony. Even though I like the music in all of these places, I have heard it before.

Even though I've never had a problem with Morse's lyrics, I know there are those who do not appreciate the Christian message that is typically at the forefront of his music. This album actually has a fairly dark atmosphere and the words are more cryptic than what you will normally find from Morse.

The opening track is The Door and is certainly one of the finest tunes that Morse has ever written. It is a 29-minute epic which has all sorts of moods, twisting and turning to the final climax highlighted by a wonderful guitar solo by Paul Gilbert.

Another epic (The Conflict) follows and is a very dark song with a strong metal vibe to it. Morse's vocals are surprisingly good throughout this song and another catchy guitar solo by Gilbert steals the show (this one is acoustic).

This album is structured identically to that of Transatlantic's Bridge Across Forever with four songs, three of them being epics with a more poppish tune inserted into the third position on the album. Heaven in my Heart is the third song and while many prog fans seem to be bored by it, I actually like it quite a bit even though it is the least progressive music on the album.

The fourth and final song is The Conclusion. This song seems to lack the firepower that was so evident in the first two tracks. I find that it has some very good parts, but also has what I would consider to be a bit of aimless fluff. I do think the climax is very nice though with choir-like voices coming in to accentuate what Morse is singing.

This is a very strong effort which I would consider giving five stars if it weren't for some of the similar sounds which I've already heard on Morse's previous albums. As a result, I'll give it four stars and gladly recommend it to all progressive music fans.

Report this review (#120442)
Posted Tuesday, May 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well here is Neal again with his devine inspiration.

But this albun is not so inspirated than Testimony ,One and ?

I love theclassic symph prog rock that NM alwyas offers.(own albums,SB and Trans.)

But in this one the inffluence of Mike Portnoy is very notorious.

This album is rather a mix of styles of before cds of NM and the lasts albums of DT. I,m only saying that i preffer the classic symph. prog.sound of the lasts albums but i,m not saying this is a bad album.It,s very good but the prog metal inffluences i think that make a little damage in the final work.

4 *

Report this review (#121435)
Posted Wednesday, May 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars If anybody needed proof that Neal Morse should rightfully be ranked alongside the great composers of the prog/prog-related field, then this album is ample proof. That is, if "V", "Snow", "Testimony, "One", "?" or even the opening moments of "The Light" didn't provide that proof already.

Many reviewers point out that this album, like most of his above-mentioned works, offers nothing new and that this is essentially Morse-by-numbers. Of course I agree to some extent. This is not progressive rock in the idealistic "abandoning the old and embracing the new" sense of the word. This is an album by a man who has found his niche (call it comfort zone if you will) and rarely ever strays beyond its boundaries. The reason Neal Morse is my favourite artist is because he has never, repeat NEVER disappointed me. I can't say the same about groups like Radiohead or Tool whose bloody-minded experimentalism often leads to albums of breathtaking highs and too many wretched lows. If you don't want to call Neal Morse's music "progressive" rock, call it "complex rock" or "symphonic rock" or whatever the hell you want. To paraphrase Bill Shakespeare: "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet...". Whatever you call it, this is still some of the most thrilling, well-arranged and immaculately executed music ever made.

Probably the most exciting news about the album when details were first made available in late 2006/early 2007 was the fact that it would contain three epics (by my definition anything more than 15 minutes) and that the subject matter and musical style would take a darker turn. The news that Mike Portnoy would once again occupy the drum-stool was also a great relief, especially since he had been absent from the "?" tour. In-studio footage of Portnoy recording some thunderous instrumental parts, along with studio diaries by Neal Morse and trusty bassist Randy Morse, also whetted the appetites of the faithful, who patiently anticipated the release of the album for about 5 long months (since it was recorded in about September 2006 and only released in February 2007). The resulting album was worth the wait: epic in proportion and an absolute treasure trove of melodies, time signatures, bombast and pomp that would do Styx proud. Here is my utterly biased track-by-track/section-by-section review:

THE DOOR (29:14) Introduction: an absolutely exhilarating instrumental overture. This is the antithesis of something like "The Creation" from the "One" album. Whereas that piece's introduction was uplifting, almost Disney-esque, this is 5 minutes of controlled chaos creating an atmosphere of impending doom. This sounds like "Author of Confusion" on steroids. Synth motifs and musical themes fly about your ears like Valkyries on heat. Mellotron 8- voice choirs wail amidst the feverish mélange of soaring Dennis deYoung-style synths and freight train drumming. Man, I think I need a cigarette after that. In The Name of God: a suddenly sparse musical arrangement after the busy intro takes us into the first lyrical segment. Morse's menacing vocals shift from one speaker channel to the other (very cool effect) and leads into a slow, creeping chorus with Styx/Queen-style high-pitched backing vocals. A chugging riff followed by a Ken Hensley-style organ solo leads into some startling processed vocals singing "In The Name of God you must dieeeee!" All I Ask For: this segment can be compared to "Wind At My Back" from "Snow". Only it's even better. This boasts one of the most achingly gorgeous melodies Morse has ever penned, and is sure to go down really well at live performances. Just when you think it can't get any better, it slows down for an emotional plea of "Oh God I seek the glory that's from you and from you only" followed by a lovely orchestral theme first heard on the in-studio video footage. Mercy For Sale: the mighty riff ushers in a variation on the melody from "In The Name of God" and the closest thing to a counterpoint Gentle Giant vocal segment you'll find on this album. An impressive instrumental section follows, with a solo by what sounds like an electric violin getting it on with a guitar. Keep Silent: similar in pace and sound to "California Nights" from "Testimony", this segment boasts some sleazy soloing and a chorus that is impossible to dislike. Upon The Door: after a string section revisits a theme first heard in the introduction, a beautiful mellotron chords back Neal's almost whispered and impassioned vocals. Guest musician Paul Gilbert contributes some swooning and shredding on the lead guitar. The piece ends so perfectly that, were the album to stop here, I would still be very satisfied. But there are still about 50 minutes of music left..

THE CONFLICT (25:00) Do You Know My Name? : Some of the chunkiest riffs heard in a Neal Morse composition since the "Hanging In The Balance" section of Transatlantic's "Stranger In Your Soul" serve as the backdrop for Paul Gilbert's frenetic shredding in this menacing opening salvo. Neal's vocals sound suitably sinister, almost otherworldly. The fact that he seems to be channeling the late Layne Staley of Alice In Chains in the chorus only adds to this notion. Something tells me Mike Portnoy particularly enjoyed recording this bit, as he always seems to prefer "balls and chunk". Party To The Lie: A swinging, Celtic-sounding instrumental section (think the Thin Lizzy twin guitar duo jamming with Genesis) leads into a richly melodic verse and chorus with lots of open spaces between the chord eruptions to allow the song to breathe following the relentless onslaught of the preceding section. At 07.07, as the chorus ends on the word "..lie", it is echoed and flung about in the right, left and center channels kind of like "Don't touch me" at the end of "Welcome To NYC" on Snow. Out of this erupts one of my favourite Neal Morse moments ever: a Marillion- esque synth breaks out one of the breathless themes from the introduction, this time with monumental cascading drums and wailing choirs added for good measure. Underground: the steamtrain instrumental section screeches to a halt and makes way for this atmospheric and gently strummed section which brings to mind the similarly placed "Machine.machine for a higher." section in "Machine Messiah by Yes. Two Down, One To Go: starts off with a serene acoustic guitar piece a la Genesis's "Blood On The Rooftops". As the tempo speeds up and the vocals enter, one realizes with glee (at least I did..) that Senor Velasco has returned! This is another one of Neal's beloved salsa bits, in which he reprises the "This is all I ask for" melody and adds some piano and percussion reminiscent of Buena Vista Social Club. Paul Gilbert features once again, providing some great flamenco guitar (which, if you think about it, is basically just shredding on an acoustic guitar) Vineyard: an instrumental segue comprising familiar themes leads into what I consider to be a relatively weak section. More wheezing organ and bubbling synths make up for the slightly flawed vocal arrangement, though. Already Home: the epic ends with this mellow section which has a very traditional verse- chorus-verse structure and not much going on in the way of instrumental dexterity, sort of like "Outside Looking In" from "?". It relies on the melody to create a lasting impression, especially at the end when the seeds are sown for another one of Neal's trademark soaring outros.

HEAVEN IN MY HEART (05:11) At 05:11 in length, this certainly sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the behemoths that comprise the remainder of the album. Much like the title track from Transatlantic's "Bridge Across Forever", this is meant to serve as a breather amidst the barrage of epics. Although it doesn't quite reach the considerable heights of "I Am Willing", "Cradle To The Grave" or "Inside His Presence", there is just something that happens when Neal gets all emotional about his faith. His is a genuine conviction which radiates through the speakers and speaks to the heart even when the music isn't exactly earth-shattering.

THE CONCLUSION (16:35) Randy's Jam: this bonkers instrumental section is named after its featured star, stalwart bassist Randy George, whose considerable chops makes its most prominent appearance on the record here. While I have always preferred Dave Meros's bass tone, Randy's prowess cannot be sniffed at. Parping synths and apocalyptic drumming accompany his dexterous bass-lines. Long Night's Journey: this section has elicited some of the most venomous accusations of self-plagiarism. The chorus (and title) sounds almost exactly like "Long Time Suffering" from Snow. This has to be intentional (or Neal at least had to have become aware of it at some stage). Whatever the case is, it's still a good tune. At times I find myself singing "Such a looong tiiiimee suffering." over the melody (sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally) Re-introduction: as the title implies, this is a reprise of the introduction from "The Door" with some variation Come Out Of Her: this revisits the "In The Name of God" melody in the verses and flows into an immense chorus with choral backing and swooning strings to flesh it out Clothed With The Sun: in another one of my favourite Neal Morse moments, the melodies from "All I Ask For" is revisited here, only this time the tempo is slower and more intense, each syllable more pronounced. This is the stuff of legend, people! Just when I thought Neal could never equal (take note: not "top") the glorious finale of "?", he spoils us with this! At 14:32 is one of the greatest moments in any Neal Morse finale, when the synth wails out the heart-wrenching melody used previously in "Introduction" and "Already Home", but never quite on this scale! This type of finale has come to define Neal's sound as much as Keith Emerson's Hammond organ defines ELP or Ian Anderson's flute defines Tull. Give the man a Nobel Prize for this! In Closing: as the final lead guitar note dies out, Neal delivers the final lines over Spartan musical backing employing the melody and lyrical theme of "Upon The Door": "God can change the world with just one willing soul/Who will stand up for the truth and give Him starring role/So come into the fullness and open up the door/Maybe it is you He's looking for/Maybe it is you He's looking for."

This is an excellent album to start off with if you're thinking of checking out Neal's music. A good alternative would be Spock's Beard's "Snow" if the epics here scare you off a little. I award this 5 stars without a second's hesitation. Dream Theater will have to deliver an absolute barnstormer to beat out this for my Album of the Year selection.

Report this review (#122889)
Posted Sunday, May 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Despite my initial impressions of the album as being more of the same from Mr. Morse, I've come to really appreciate this album over time. The melodies and song structures have held up, and the first two songs are just fantastic. The latter half of the album doesn't quite do it for me, though, and the repeating motifs and predictable song structures there mark the beginning of what I have come to see as the beginning of a bit of a rut that Neal will fall into over the next several years. Nevertheless, this is a very good Neal Morse album with some very memorable moments. 3.5 stars.
Report this review (#123378)
Posted Friday, May 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This album blew me away at first spin when by that time I was actually having so many CDs which would be reviewed. Once I got this album, I practically only played this album everyday in any activity that I had - relaxing at home, cycling to work, in the car ... basically everywhere I go, I always have this album with me. I think this album measures up for any dimension of good prog album from composition, musicianship as well as production. On composition, I always use the following points to review: melody, arrangement, harmonies, and structural integrity / cohesiveness. While on musicianship, I use songwriting, intrument virtuosity / skills, contribution to the music and performance as points of review. There are two things on production: sonic quality of the CD and the packaging.


Judging this album from composition, I have basically no issue at all because everything has been crafted with excellent attention to details by Neal. I sometimes wonder how come Neal is much better doing solo job than his tenure as member of Spock's Beard. Sorry to say, I come to think, how come one person (Neal) can outrule four persons (Alan, Dave, Nick and Ryo) where Neal's solo albums after he left the band are much better than Spock's Beard without Neal. Even worse, I personally love Neal solo than Spock's Beard when Neal was still in the band. I do not intend to demean the existing Spock's Beard because they are inferior than Neal's solo, even though I love "Octane" very much. Spock's Beard latest album (2006) is not measuring up to my expectation. But this "Sola Scriptura" by Neal is almost perfect!

The melody is really excellent where Neal is skillful in selecting correct notes to form touchy melody. The arrangement is also masterpiece because it contains great balance of ups and downs, demonstrating good contribution of each musician in the music. The opening track "The Doors" has an opening track's intro which demonstrates much on drumwork by Mike Portnoy.Usually I got problem with harmonies for Spocks Beard music during Neal era. This time the harmonies are really good in terms of vocals as well as music. There is good flow of music in the opening epic as well as how each song connects one to another, so I would say that the album has an excellent structural integrity.

The opening epic "The Door" (29:14) is a great music by any measure. It kicks off dynamically with a great combination of stunning keyboards and dynamic drumwork backed with grandiose orchestra. The music moves dynamicallly from one segment to another. Neal explores his talent by making the intro part quite long (approximately 5 minutes) before lyrical verse enters the music. This 5-min piece helps elevate the music and sets the tone of the whole album. This is really brilliant! The first piece of introduction is very critical to sell the music in the mind of the listeners.

This opening epic does produce music that tells the whole thing about this album. It s very obvious on who have influenced Neal, musically. There are musical segments which remind us to the music of the Beatles (especially I Want You) as well as those influenced by classical music - especially thru piano work. It is so stunning. The vocal line is also stunning even though this time Neal enters with distorted voice, nicely. The keyboard portion which accompanies his singing is also excellent. The organ solo is also stunning. Neal gives Paul Gilbert quite a long duration to perform solo during interlude. It is so rockin guitar with blues taste. You won't regret at all with this opening epic!

Second track "The Conflict" is another rockin' epic with energetic and powerful guitar solo and riffs. The riffs at the intro part.remind me to Zeppelin-like Kingdom Come especially song called as "17". WOW! This track is a true masterpiece! It combines the power of rock music with blues and moves forward with latin music and jazz. The use of flamenco acoustic guitar work and keyboard helps elevate the music textures. The music is so powerful because it varies from one segment to another without distorting transition pieces. Everything moves smoothly and swiftly from one style to another. Well, I dont think I am able to describe the beauty of the music composition unless you listen to it directly.


With such a long write-up about composition, you will definitely agree with me that Neal Morse is really an excellent.and talented musician. He has approached his composition by exploring all his skillful songwriting and through creating a story line for the album. There are very few musicians that can match Neal songwriting capability. He is not only good as songwriter as he sings and plays keyboard really well. Not only that, he selects the best musicians for his solo albums.


It's highly recommended album. You would find varied styles in the music, blended nicely by Neal to produce axcellent music. The album production is also excellent. "Sola Scriptura" is at par excellent with Neal's previous effort "One". Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#132021)
Posted Monday, August 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Sola Scriptura is the 5th solo album from Spock Beard's former front man Neal Morse. For the new album Neal has recruited the extremely gifted guitarist Paul Gilbert, bass player Randy George and long time friend Mike Portnoy on drums. The album contains 3 epics and one short ballad. Sola Scriptura kicks off with the amazing "The Door" clocking in at 29 plus minutes. This track is full of great keyboards, beautiful vocals plus heavy and intricate guitar sections. "The Confict" follows and this is probably the heaviest track Neal Morse has recorded to date. Mind you, it not just heavy riffs, it also contains a great acoustic section that leads into what can be described as symphonic latino prog with jazz overtones. Next up, "Heaven in my heart" is a ballad and my least favourite track on the album. Album closer, "The Conclusion" starts out in a furious tempo with wild keyboards and thumping bass runs before it calms down. The tempo picks up again and the song evolves into symphonic epic. One of the criticism's aimed at Neal Morse previous albums is that they all sound the same. Well, that may be the case but the fact is that with Sola Scriptura, Neal Morse has come up with his best music since Spock Beard's, "V" album.
Report this review (#133647)
Posted Saturday, August 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Morse has shifted his sound from the previous symphonic efforts of One and ? to a more dynamic, more powerful, and generally more varied style. Sola Scriptura is Morse's 2007 release, and still has the brilliant playing of the great Randy George and the legendary Mike Portnoy. This time, he's got a new friend aboard, Paul Gilbert, who has a phenomenally speedy guitar style. He's certainly proved himself a virtuoso with his blazing solos, but is still only a guest on this album. Like One, this is filled with many instruments other than the basic guitar/keyboards/drums/bass that you'd expect to see on most basic prog albums. We've got a whole classical perspective (like One) to add a more diverse edge. But unlike One, this is a lot more edgy and exhilarating.

Compositionally, this is more complex, dense and grandiose than anything Morse has approached before. With a sprawling seventy-eight minute clock-in, there's only a staggering four songs (one of which is very short). As you can see, that leaves a whole lot of music to be spread across three songs. These insanely long epics may turn off even experience proggers, accustomed to long tunes, and sometimes they do seem a little too towering to approach. But, in reality, they are not at all tedious or repetitive, and constantly evolve, with only a few repeated segments. The sections that reappear are more like reoccurring themes, and their purpose is for the listener to become more emotionally, where the regal and moving melodies that we come to love pop up everywhere. Unfortunately, though, some of the melodies popping up here aren't quite as resonating, and although they are very good, they are not gorgeous.

However, despite that, the compositions are so staggeringly layered and so swiftly evolving that my interest never wanes. There are more things that will make you say "That's neat!" or "That's cool!" as opposed to things that will make you sigh "That's gorgeous." The reason for this may or may not be the fact that the symphonic flavour has been toned down, ever so slightly, taking on a heavier, nearly metal edge at times. It's more aggressive, more intricate, more musically-focused instead of emotionally-focused than before. One of the great things about Morse's music is the many styles he can capture in a single song. For example, The Conflict begins with a metal-like section, before taking on some Latin jazz, classical, gospel (and the list goes on) elements. My only complaint is the softer, gospel oriented sections of The Door. I am a Christian myself, and I find those segments to be daunting, and oddly church-appropriate, and I don't blame Atheists for thinking that Morse's music is strictly for us religious folk (which is not actually the case!).

Musicianship is bafflingly off-the-top. Of course, we all know Portnoy's masterful speed for his work with Dream Theater. But I truly think that the best Portnoy's showcase is with Morse, and Sola Scriptura is one of his shining moments. This, along with One, are two of his strongest performances ever. And this fellow Randy George ain't no pushover! Unfortunately, though, Morse himself is not a mind-blowing player of either guitar or keyboards. He's always been more of a composer than anything. One thing that really surprised me here is how long the band was capable of keeping the pace up: sometimes there are ten minute sections end to end without any soft breaks. That's truly staggering!

I must say, however, that the metal sections aren't anything special. They're very derivative and uninspiring. The modern feel is to clean cut and too regularly aggressive to really surprise me at all. After many listens, it grows worse, and I can't help but dislike the album after a while.

So, to wrap things up, Sola Scriptura is a bit of a strong album, that focuses on both symphonic beauty and energetic complexity, but excels by far with the upbeat, intricate moments. Though there is much symphonic music in here, it is not as strong as it was on other albums (namely One). Though most of the music isn't Christian-exclusive, some gospel-like sections may prove to be, and the lyrics certainly are. Don't hesitate in buying this if you'd like to hear some great modern prog, especially (but not only) if you are a Christian, and don't mind a bit of an unoriginal, uninspiring prog metal feel.

Report this review (#133966)
Posted Monday, August 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Despite all logical reason, the Morse train still hasn't run out of gas--sure, there may be some fumes, but overall this is a very creative and originally themed piece. I happen to think that writing extended prog epics about Martin Luther is a cool thing, and even with the definite potential for cheesiness, Morse again takes the engaging (rather than beat-you-over-the-head-with-a- hammer) approach, and remarkable does so successfully. The meat of this album is carried in the first two massive, multi-part epics, but they are cohesive and rocking enough to overlook some of the limitations of the final two songs.

The Door. As a nice new twist, there is no build-up for this one--it hits you right in the face and keeps chugging from there. Great use of synths (though some of the riffs become a bit redundant), EXCELLENT incorporation of strings, and of course always heavy and notable drums from Portnoy dominate this track. It's good throughout, but the highlights are definitely the closing sections: Keep Silent and Upon the Door. There's a great pensive build-up with the strings as Luther is preparing himself for what he must do, and then we have an absolutely chathartic, blistering solo from Gilbert just as the theses are nailed. This is just a great example of storytelling in music, and one of my top 25 epics.

The Conflict. Very solid epic, but not on par with the first in my opinion (admittedly a tough act to follow!). It sure starts well, with a heavier rocking groove that transitions nicely into a tension building synth segment. Then things die down into a Latin-flavored bit, which is good, though momentum is lost and the transitions are a bit extended. It cranks back up just in time for a mellow finish...but I find this a bit anti-climactic, uninteresting and repetitive. I really could take or leave the final ten minutes or so.

Heaven in My Heart, The Conclusion. As far as Morse praise songs, Heaven in My Heart is one of the better, and not quite as cliche as others, but don't expect much prog here. Regarding The Conclusion, I'm all for variation on central themes, but I like them to get better the second time, which is not what I get here. The new sections are nice (Randy's Jam and Come Out of Her), but the rest has a been-there, done-that feeling. It's certainly good, but for me excessive after the opening epics.

If you like Morse and wouldn't mind hearing more of his heavier side, this is your album. The arrangements are excellent, there are numerous catchy and captivating melodies, and there's a nice balance of virtuosic playing and storytelling that add up to very solid music. It all just falls short of masterpiece status.

Report this review (#140363)
Posted Monday, September 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This was my introduction to Neal Morse, following some recommendations from friends.

I love this, it is pure prog rock that alternates between hard rock and gorgeous melody. Great guitar, great piano and keyboards, great vocals and music you'll find difficult to forget!

On the strength of this I have subsequently bought Testimony, One and ? and I find this is the best of a great bunch.

I have become addicted to it - fabulous, fabulous, fabulous!

The only warning is: if you don't like religious lyrics, don't get it, it's a religious concept album. But, if you're not offended by that, don't let it put you off, the music is phenomenal.

Report this review (#148279)
Posted Wednesday, October 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars An epic concept about a man against the world... a true story

From the beginning, this album starts fast out the gate with extremely provocative and infectious music, and you know the musicianship in this album is going to be fantastic. And how could it not be? Mike Portney, Paul Gilbert, and Neal Morse himself... we've got some outstanding musicians here! There are many style changes and odd time signatures. The music ranges from hard rockin', to soft and subtle, to a gospel choir, and even some Latin influences in track 2 'The Conflict'. The way these are executed are really quite fantastic as well. The hard rock basically represents the corrupt Catholic priests. The soft and subtle parts usually represent Luther speaking with God one on one, in prayer. The gospel parts are when he, or the revived church, is praising God's name. I'd also like to state that this music is not, for lack of a better word, 'preachy' in the slightest. However if you, like me, choose to connect with the words on a more personal level then there may be nothing more touching and lovely to your ears. In fact the words spoke to me on such a spiritual and emotional level that at one point, when Luther exclaims,"God will make a way, he will decide my fate, and whether or not I live or die. I won't take it back! This is the only way. I won't be party to the lie." I felt tears well up in my eye's and roll down my cheek, and trust me, that has never happened to me before.

This album is musically challenging, it contains deep meaningful words, and it is as progressive as you could hope for. Those who wish to hear fantastic, moving, dynamic, and epic music will find that here. However, for those of you who consider yourself Christian or just want to explore must hear this album, for it may very well strike you at the core.

Absoluetly fantastic, and although not the utter perfection that 'One' was, due to the last song loosing steam and repeating past idea's a bit, it is still worthy of a VERY high 4 stars

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Posted Sunday, December 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
The Pessimist
5 stars Give me one reason why i should not vote this a masterpiece. I personally can't see any reason. Every song is great on this astounding record, everything a progger needs, this is Morse at his best. The weakest track howeveris obviously the ballad Heaven in My Heart, however it's still very listenable. The Conclusion I would say is the greatest track Neal has ever produced. The other two are excellent also. Album of 2007? yeah, i would say that, although some may disagree. overall rating - (9.2/10).
Report this review (#161841)
Posted Friday, February 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Somehow, despite keeping close to the same sound, each album by Neal Morse is a new experience. And ever since his Transatlantic days, the man has been churning out masterpieces almost every time he enters the studio. With Sola Scriptura, Neal more than bounces back from the shaky ? and has yet again reached new heights. Not since those Transatlantic albums have I been so moved by an output of his.

Interestingly enough, the album's format harkens back to the glorious supergroup's Bridge Across Forever, containing two epics between 25 and 30 minutes, another around 16 and then a 5-minute ballad. The difference is that the shorter epic is at the end, and the two long ones are both at the top of the lineup.

The sound here, varied as it may be, leans toward a darker Morse atmosphere. I'm sure the art helps invoke that thought, but this is the first Morse album to bear a strong metal influence, and the lyrical subject is not a hopeful/happy story like his testimony, for instance, but rather about Martin Luther and the birth of the Protestant church. Of course, there are plenty of major keys, peppy riffs and vocals and positive messages, but in general, the feel seems to be a bit more reflective of the hard times and struggles of the era. And that only attests to Morse's artistic prowess.

Again, Mike Portnoy and Randy George lay down great performances on this disc, possibly their best yet (hard to say considering how great they've done already); it's a shame they don't tour with Neal, because they seem to be the perfect fits for his work. Neal's vocals are more impassioned than they were on the last disc (his only weak output this decade), and of course he puts down a solid performance on the keys and guitars. A real treat here is the appearance of Paul Gilbert, who gives us some fantastic solos in the powerful "Upon the Door" movement of "The Door", the metallic "Do You Know My Name?" and the awesome flamenco section "Two Down, One to Go," both from "The Conflict."

The aforementioned "Two Down, One to Go" is the greatest surprise of the disc, mixing flamenco guitars with what seems like music that belongs in a James Bond or Mission Impossible movie. It would be useless to list other sections as highlights, because each one is a gem in its own right, and they all manage to flow together thanks to the adroit craftsmanship of Mr. Morse. Even the ballad, "Heaven in My Heart" proves to be worthy of being mixed in with those wonderous epics.

Neal continues to work wonders, and Sola Scriptura currently stands as his finest solo output yet.

Report this review (#170109)
Posted Tuesday, May 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars IMO the least inspired of the post Spock's Beard Morse creations. I enjoyed bits and pieces of the each song but never really was able to delve too deep into the songs as a whole. Some bits in here are really stunning but some where a chore to listen to. In particular I could never really finish The Conflict while paying attention to it (I had to be doing something else with The Conflict in the background). Also I have my own opinion's on Martin Luther and his whole thing that somewhat conflict with Mr. Morse though I respect his beliefs and opinions. That also keeps me from fully enjoying the album. I look forward to his next release.
Report this review (#179919)
Posted Monday, August 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars For the most part, Sola Scriptura is a relatively average album.

As far as Neal Morse's music goes, he often ties brilliant fun with tacky ballads, and often ties a lot of those sequences together into really long songs. Any fan of his from his Spock's Beard or Transatlantic efforts should not be surprised by the track listing. The dude likes his long songs. And, in truth, it seems that long songs really like him right back.

The Door is a pretty standard opening, with some killer overturial doodlings in the first four or so minutes. The rest of the song is pretty good, without nothing really standing out except the chorus of In the Name of God. Oh, and there's the closing solo from Paul Gilbert. It's easily the highlight of the album. This is the kind of solo you buy the whole disc for. This is the kind of ending to an epic that gives Neal every right to retire from writing 30 minute songs. Not that he would consider retiring from that, but the man has earned the right with this alone. The solo makes the whole song, no matter how rambling or disjointed it ends up feeling, seem like the perfect epic. You'll see, if you listen to it.

The Confrontation starts off with some serious metal guitar and Alice Cooper vocal work. The experimentation with this dark and heavy feel is another strong point of the album. The middle of the song is punctuated by a Latin-acoustic sort of piece, and while I love both Neal's acoustic pieces and his Latin vibes, it doesn't exactly fit the mood of a Reformation theological/political debate scenario. It sounds really, really neat, though, and almost makes up for the fact that it really doesn't make any sense for it to be in there.

I pretty much always skip Heaven in My Heart. Neal has written an overabundance of these ballads, and while a few are good, one or two or eight every album adds up to a lot of weak tracks that drag his discography down. I think the album would be better if this track had been left off entirely. If you've listened to Neal's music, there is nothing here you haven't heard before.

The Conclusion reprises a lot of stuff from The Door, with some excellent bass guitar and some crazy keyboards. It's a pretty standard album wrap up.

In all, I enjoy listening to this album. It's fun, it's epic, and it's got its progressive chunks of noodling like it's supposed to. However, there really is not that much to be offered by this album that can't be found elsewhere.

Report this review (#184074)
Posted Monday, September 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars One of the finest efforts from Morse, full of progressive elements that would satiate the pallete of any proghead (like myself).

It begins with the blistering 29 minute epic The Door which is broken into many parts like a multi movement suite in classical music. This is an incredible sophistocated piece of prog that thunders at times with awesome guitar riffs and at other times there is a solitude of acoustic and mellotron beauty. Portnoy on drums is at his best as usual, but it is Morse's vocal performance that gives this a majestic quality outside the realm of the type of material he was doing with Transatlantic or for that matter Spock's Beard. His heart and soul is poured out on this CD in 76 minutes of musical virtuosity par excellence.

The Conclusion is a mini epic running for about 17 minutes. It is a worthy addition to the Morse catalogue with complicated tempo changes and metrical patterns that range from Adante to Presto time signatures - 4/4 standard to complex couplets or triplets in 9/8 and beyond.

Heaven in my Heart is a beautiful ballad in true Morse style with emotional depth about his pure faith in God. Listen to that heavenly guitar for a great example of accomplished musicianship.

It ends with the wonderful 16 minute The Conclusion. What else? The concept of theological church history is strong but never overbearing towards the music as a whole. I appreciate how Morse has not sold out his prog roots even though his music has changed direction from the SB years. In fact the material on this album is some of the heaviest Morse has performed - including crunching guitar riffs and a very dark tone overall.

This is definitely an Excellent addition to any prog music collection.

Report this review (#186756)
Posted Friday, October 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars Back in the Middle Ages the only people who had access to a Bible were the leaders of the Catholic church. Church and State were closely linked back then, and the population at large were at their mercy and had to follow their rules and orders. Martin Luther challenged all this solely on what the Bible said, stating that "Salvation" was a free gift of God paid in full by Jesus Christ's death, and received soley by faith, not by obeying the church or religion. Luther would be ex-communicated for telling the truth. He would become the father of the Protestant church, and he also translated the Bible into the language of the people.The printing press had been invented by then so the common people finally had access to God's word. Thankyou Wikipedia for the information.

Once again Morse teams up with George and Portnoy. One significant guest is guitarist extraordinaire Paul Gilbert who offers up a variety of jaw dropping solos. By the way "Sola Scriptura" means "Only according to the Scriptures", how appropriate.

"The Door" opens with bombast and Portnoy is especially outstanding here. Check him out before a minute ! Killer organ 3 1/2 minutes in followed by mellotron as it settles somewhat. It kicks back in as mellotron storms in again with more furious drumming. The first 5 minutes of this song are incredible ! Vocals then come in as it calms down. The song kicks back in before 8 minutes and powerful organ joins in the all out assault. GENTLE GIANT-like vocal section follows. A lighter melody takes over before 10 minutes. Here we go again 14 minutes with ripping guitar and chunky bass as drums pound. Great instrumental section after 17 1/2 minutes. Scorching guitar solo too. Another mellow section and mellotron is back 25 minutes in. What follows is spoken words, piano then reserved vocals. It's that over one minute guitar solo from Gilbert though that brings tears. My God !

"The Conflict" is heavy like the intro of the first track only Gilbert is here setting it on fire. Blistering guitar work as Morse comes in spitting out the lyrics in defiance.This is killer ! This is complete bliss until it lightens 4 minutes in. Actually this section is also pretty amazing. Another change after 7 minutes as the tempo picks up and we get male choirs that come and go. The organ is ripping it up 9 1/2 minutes in. It stays fairly laid back until before 17 minutes when it gets heavy and Morse gets passionate on vocals. This ends before 19 1/2 minutes as it ends with a moving section. I like the lyrics. "Heaven In My Heart" is a ballad of piano, strings and reserved vocals. I would have rathered it wasn't on here. "The Conclusion" is the 16 1/2 minute closer. More fantastic drumming and instrumental work here.The bass is huge ! They contrast the heaviness with mellow sections throughout to great affect. The mellotron is loud and proud as well.

The three longer tracks are all outstanding, this is what Prog is all about.This is my second favourite Morse solo album after "?".

Report this review (#204629)
Posted Friday, February 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Sola Scriptura, Latin for "scripture only" is loosely based on the struggles of German theologian Martin Luther, who among other things, hated the way God's forgiveness was being sold and wanted people to understand the bondage of the human will, that is, without the grace of God, man is bound to sin and evil. This recording is largely progressive metal with symphonic overtones, which occasionally visit other styles. The music of Neal Morse corresponds very well with the subtitles, but I think this album would have been music stronger had those sections been split up into individual tracks. Having it all lumped together in such a manner is a bit pointless (since the music doesn't exactly flow anyway), and it makes the album that much harder to digest. The last piece tends to be a bit repetitive (I feel this album could have been much stronger if it were cut to between 60 and 70 minutes), but overall, this is a masterful effort from of progressive rock's greatest modern minds.

"The Door" The lengthy introduction is a musical onslaught, with Mike Portnoy's double bass drum attacks (that are thankfully restrained), Randy George's fantastic fretwork on bass, and Morse's frenzied classical piano skills. The music during this time is marvelously arranged, even though the vocal section begins abruptly. After some tightly executed music, everything suddenly becomes closer to contemporary Christian music, with bright acoustic guitars and worshipful lyrics. Eventually things morph back into the bitter and heavy sound, as Morse sings in a snide voice, taking the role of the religious leaders at the time. The next section is more like a modern-day Christian anthem, full of conviction. Afterwards, a drowsy Mellotron assumes control, while various instrumentation dances over it. In the end, Morse, singing as Luther, makes up his mind to take action against the heresy of the day, and this is followed up with a screaming guitar solo. The final major chord marks an air of confidence for the determined reformer.

"The Conflict" Heavy metal ensues, with blistering guitar soloing and heavy drumming. The music is very close to Alice in Chains (in fact, I almost swore I was hearing Layne Staley at one point). The convicting tone returns in the second part, where the music sounds closer to Spock's Beard than anything else on this album. The third section is a dim one, with melancholic but hopeful lyrics and a haunting Mellotron and vocal echo. What follows is a Spanish-style guitar piece courtesy of Paul Gilbert. It introduces a flamenco section that certainly adds variety and flavor to a really lengthy album, and for some reason, reminds me of "Senor Valasco's Mystic Voodoo Love Dance" from Spock's Beard's The Light, only not nearly as ludicrous. Morse's piano playing is smart during this section and very entertaining. A lightning-fast keyboard solo ensues during the fifth part. The guitar and vocals of the sixth and final section is inspiring and a highlight of the piece.

"Heaven in My Heart" An anomaly to this heavy effort, this beautiful song could stand alone and serve as an inspiration and encouragement to any Christian believer. It is piano-based, and has a similar theme to the climactic moments of Morse's ? album.

"The Conclusion" A cry to "Come out of her my people" (from Revelation 18:4) begins the final song. After some flashy keyboard work, George gets an opportunity to stand in the spotlight for a bit. Again, the music is heavy and tight, full of fast playing and a recurring theme that doesn't let up for quite a while. When it does, the very first vocal melody of the album is revisited. Everything eventually becomes uplifting and symphonic once more, with a stirring vocal performance from Morse (especially for those who know the scripture he is referencing). The third part of the first track is masterfully brought back (there really could not have been a better way to draw things to a close). I find the actual conclusion after the spirited guitar solo to be a bit weak (mainly because of Morse's vocals, which sound like they were recorded in a phone booth), but the truth that he sings is not lost on this weary but steadfast heart.

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Posted Thursday, May 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars More about religion than in religion this time, thank God!

Neal Morse is a quite recent encounter for me and I do not know any of his work with Spock's Beard or Transatlantic (yet?), but I have heard his three most popular solo works: this one, ? and Testimony. Of these three albums I like this one the most, and compared to the other two, Sola Scriptura is darker, more aggressive and intense, it rocks harder - at times flirting with Prog Metal sounds and there are far more instrumental workouts. In that sense at least, I find this more 'progressive'. There are still the sweet Beatles-esque melodies, but they are more finely woven into a much bigger tapestry and the long compositions are more complex in structure.

What's perhaps best of all is the fact that this album comes across as much less 'preachy'. Like on Testimony and ?, the subject matter is still religion, but Sola Scriptura is more about religion than in religion (a useful distinction I learned while studying religion at the university for two and a half years); it is more of a historical portrait than a personal 'testimony'. This time the religious praising (and cursing!) comes out of the mouths of Martin Luther and the Catholic Church respectively and not, like on Testimony, from Morse's own. This helps a lot to make the album's message more acceptable for me as a confirmed atheist and secular humanist. I feel much more sympathy for Martin Luther's very real struggles against the authoritarian Catholic Church in the 1500's than for the 'spiritual struggle' a Rock musician in LA in the new millennium.

With the presence of piano, synthesisers, electric and acoustic guitars and violin, the sound here often evokes Kansas and Morse seems to have picked up more than a few tricks from Kansas' main songwriter Kerry Livgren who also happens to be one of my own all time favourite songwriters. Morse is walking in the foot steppes of Livgren in more than one way as Livgren is also a born again Christian. They know each other too we may assume as Livgren played guitar on Morse' Testimony album. However, this is no Kansas clone or any clone at all for that matter, Morse has found his own style here within the framework of Symphonic Prog. This may not be groundbreaking music, but it is also not derivative in any objectionable way in my opinion.

Overall, I find this album highly enjoyable with strong compositions, great instrumentation and interesting tempo and mood changes. Highly recommended!

Report this review (#241705)
Posted Sunday, September 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Oh my God!!!, said the words out of my mouth when my ears first descended upon the auidble pleasure that were to emit from my speakers when the first notes hit me in the face.

The story of how I bought this was quite funny. There I was, in a very secluded small and worthless HMV, pondering for good albums, when out of the corner of my eye i spoted this amongst the waste of popular garbage that surrounds most cd shops. I remembered the name from a leaflet that you would see from Inside Out telling you about what cds they have. "Neal Morse, i've heard that name before, is he anygood," i asked my compadre, my brother. He replied "Yea, but he's Christian prog" "Does that even exist", i shuddered. Christian rock is just whiney abuse on the ears (Jonas Brothers are a plain example) But then my brother replied, "Mike Portnoy plays on it" "Oh, then it must be bought", even though Mike Portnoy is probabbly the most annoying man on the face of the planet, he is still one of the most talented man to hold sticks in his hand since Mr. Miyagi. Another point of pleasure for me is that it has only 4 songs on it, 2 of them over 25 minutes. I couldnt care if the Spice Girls had a 4 song album, i would still buy it, becuase with long songs you have 2 options 1. They will bore you to death or 2. It will be pure heaven, because the band knows how to keep the listener intrested through a long piece of music (some mistakes that some bands make now and then)

"The first song is 30 minutes, it will start off slow i bet", were the words I later regret. I was so wrong. I nearlly fell of my amp (yes, i sit on a guitar amp). Oh My God where the words I fettered.

So I will know tell you of what each song sounds like:

1. THE DOOR: As i said, this piece starts off with a bang, a crescendo of guitar, keyboards and drums, with an epic choir sound. I was drawn in by Neal's powers. The intro again takes off but with a different theme being played, again my heart stopped, then started again. Crescendo upon crescendo. After that the main riff is played, a riff that follows me everywhere i go, it possesses me so much that every time i'm near a keyboard, i have to play it, it's just, "phowa". And in the middle of that, Neal expresses some amazing piano arrpeggios, that would have Jordan Rudess cutting himself with ivory over the amazing talent displayed. After that an amazing Bach inspired piano part is played, very dark and quite disturbing. Before the first lyrical contributions are displayed, Neal expresses some lovely keyboard harmonies, and prepares you for what is to come, then a pause before the vocals, and Neals voice can be heard, with amazing dark melodies and quite cyncial lyrics about his own faith, Christianity (which i loved, anyone who can take a quite dark turn at their own faith must be an amazing person), e.g. "Calls himself the bishop prince, and blood's his favourtie wine." Just pure genius. Then after the verese the chorus comes in, "In the name of God you must die." Neal...what are you saying...but as all people should know, he is just giving us a taste of what medieval faith's were like at that time of Henry Vth's reign. Just amazing. Throughout the piece even more fantastic muscianship is being played, even though my ears are still listening to this audible anectdote, my brain is thinking, "How does a human write such epicness, is it because he's a Christian, should i convert," not really, but as a man with no faith, the only thing that makes me tolerant towards Christiantity, is Neal himself, an amazing human being, and an amazing composer. If he was here 500 years ago, music would have been very different...and maybe there would be no absolute tripe in todays popluar culture, maybe people would be listening to prog alot more. Maybe not, that would just ruin music, Prog is supposed to be for actual music fans only. The rest of the piece is just pure prog heaven, with no boring moments yet, even after 20 minutes of listening to the same track. Now if you listen to this, and get to minute 23 in The Door, prepare for some of the most beautifull moments in music history. The mellotron and violin add to the pure beauty of a beautiful ssection, before ending with a fading guitar note. It is time for the end. Upon the door is probabbly the only thing that could make me cry, even live, Neal can feel the emotion that the audience are giving him, that he even sheds a tear,and performs something so art like that would make Peter Gabriel look in the mirror and cry, leaving make up rivers around him. The mellotron lightly plays these absoultely beautiful chords around this beautiful melody. Then one of the most beautiful guitar solo's is played, by Paul Gilbert, one of the best axeman in the world, each note reflecting the soul of every listeners heart. Could this solo be bettered...yes it can where was the feeling i realised when i ordered my Sola Scriptura & Beyond dvd, this guitar player couldnt play this solo, he looks about 12 but could he play, his fingers portaying his own version of the solo, better than Paul Gilbert, imposible as it may seem , but true. Paul Bielatowicz, an absoulte gem, and probabbly one of the best axeman i have ever seen. He was so good, people started to aplaude so loud, it even matched that of the loud pa. The only time that the audience applauded in the middle of song the whole night, Neal knew this and smiled, he had been matched, and he was proud of what he had done. The song ends very successfully, but we still have 3 songs to go.

2.THE CONFLICT: "This sounds like Janes Addiction with Dave Navaro on speed", said I as i listened to the intro. After Do You Know My Name, it goes into a link which is probabbly one of the better moments of prog history, it's just so catchy and powerfull. Then the gospel inflienced Party To The Lie is heard, amazing vocal melodies and harmonies at the end, and an amazing chorus, very addictive. After this an amazing keyboard solo, which Neal should be very proud of, is very Spock's Beard like, a trate he will take to the grave, ever since he formed that incredible band over 15 years ago, and left about 7 years ago (a reunion is prayed for i expect, i mean he was able to go to Transatlantic again, but then again, Transatlantic don t jump on keyboards.) After Undeground, a slow intresting depressing Leonard Cohen inspired ballad, it goes into the flamenco styled 2 Down, 1 to Go. Amazing guitar work by both Neal & Paul Gilbert,and lovely latin beats by Mr. Portnoy. After this it goes into The Vineyard, with more alternative rock roots, but great enthusiam in the vocals, before going into the beautiful Already Home, an amazing ballad that ends the song perfectly, with precision and wise knowledge. Yes this piece defiently matches up to the Door, and is even more light hearted and enjoyable, The Door is more emotional and can actually make a man cry. But now a christian rock ballad is prepared.

3. HEAVEN IN MY HEART: Probabbly my least favourite song, but still very enjoyable. Beautiful harmonies and amazing epic choir and symphonic sounds add to the beauty of the song. Not as good as the other 2, but it is shorter, so we can give him credit, and very catchy. A bit preachy, but meh, who cares.

4. THE CONCLUSION: Very good jam at the start, it reflecs the darkness of the Door perfectly, and then leads to the cheesy Long Night's Journey, cheesey and cathcy, perfect, very Spocks Beard and even a little Genesis vibe. Another instrumental is heard, witch is basically a more watered down version of the intro, amazingly played and makes the reader aware of the varied themes throughout. Then the album ends with 2 more ballads before going to the ending, perfectlly written and exlpore minor and major keys, taking both the emotions portrayed in The Door & The Coflict. I think the ending for the album as beautiful, lovely and quiet, for the albums concept ends with a happy note, when Neal tells us "Mabye it is you he's looking for" His love for his fans emerges,and you are left very happy, and to be honest very audibly disheveled, you just heard probabbly the greatest sounds you will ever hear in your life in the space of an hour. I recommend sitting down, and breating very camly. It wasn't Neals fault he made such an amazing piece of music, well at least i don't think he meant to, and if he did, then he is as cunning as he is genius

MY CONCLUSION: Buy this album please. I couldnt imagine my life without it. I never get sick of it, it is just absoultely, and pardon my french, ORGASMIC!!!. Is this the best album ever made...well if it isn't then it definetly is one of them. I never new music could be this good. I have never heard such perfectly writte music before in my life. If you see this album, or consider it, please get it, you will never regret it, i did, and i've never looked so much like a fool in my life. Even though i payed Ł16 for it, it is still worth every last penny. I would give it an infinite rating if i could, but i can't, so 5 will have to do.

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Posted Wednesday, November 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars I've been listening non-stop to this album for at least a week and that's a lot considering the fact that I never made it once through Testimony.

Originally I was skeptical that Neal Morse could make a great solo album. Note that this was before I heard his previous album ?. But all that changed after a friend of mine made me listen though this album's first track, which I found to be amazing. And since the first track is pretty much 40% of the album, I thought that no matter how the other songs turned out, it would still be a decent purchase.

The album is structured just like the second Transatlantic album, Bridge Across Forever, but this time around there is conceptual story to back it up! All of the three lengthy compositions go through many different sections where the music ranges from every style like Progressive Metal to Spanish guitar section. The album's highlight for me would be the acoustic guitar-jam that transitions into Two Down, One To Go, which sounds something like the Spanish guitar from Spock's Beard debut album The Light.

The great variety of styles and transitions between the different sections gives each composition its share of great but also lesser moments, still it come up on top in the end. I have to agree with a previous review by Flipper, where he said "I'm not a Christian, but if someone is preaching like this, I really don't have a problem". Sola Scriptura is a very enjoyable listen from start to finish, Neal Morse never seizes to amaze me!

**** star songs: The Door (29:14) The Conflict (25:00) Heaven In My Heart (5:11) The Conclusion (16:34)

Total Rating: 4,00

Report this review (#256986)
Posted Sunday, December 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Just about a year ago there was a forum poll about Neal Morse asking readers what they thought of Neal Morse. There were about 5 or 6 answers to choose from and one of them was: he is too religious. I chose that answer but added in the comment post that I nevertheless had the highest respect for him as a musician and mostly as composer. That is indeed how I feel and the best example of his greatness as a composer is this fantastic release called Sola Scriptura.

The reason why this is Morse's magnum opus to me is the wonderful balance between beautiful melodies and energetic approach. Some of his other works tend to become drenched with over religious utterances turning almost into cheesiness. From his point of view I can understand this is happening but personally I have a hard time coping with it. But on Sola Scriptura the "in the clouds" moments are limited and more attention is given to the musical aspect. And combined with highly impressive and energetic playing the whole thing turns into a wonderful piece of musical art.

My favorite piece is The Door but in fact all songs are great if not outstanding maybe with exception of Heaven in my Heart. And even that song isn't bad at all, just less. The rest scores in between 4,75 and 5 stars to me which results in the perfect score. Hats off for mr. Morse !

Report this review (#260313)
Posted Monday, January 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Brilliant in every single aspect!

Don't know why I never checked this guy discography and a big friend of mine insisted me by years to do it. He said that I played keyboards in the style of Morse, that I should check him out, but I'm too lazy to do it. Finally I get this album and stay in my library by a month or some time before I actually get to him. The thing was that I don't like too much the Christian lyrics in rock, but one random day I give it a spin and I didn't believe what I was hearing?

This guy has an incredible talent to approach music with a lot of sense and bringing out good melodies as well as great instrumentation and a lot of different moods and styles. He is really over the top as a songwriter. He's a man with sense and soul and his music is technically elaborated but never miss the point, the music has always a clear focus and you cannot get bored with a material like this.

The musicians are great (the almighty Mike Portnoy and the gifted Paul Gilbert were there) and even at their level the music doesn't get overshadow by those impressible guest players. The focus is always the music and it all makes sense. For me, the keyboards are really the deal here. Morse has a very unique style very eclectic and is shown in this album.

The story is about Luter and his issues with the Church during the Reform. I like that he didn't talk about God but about the humans struggles about religion and the search for answers.

There are only four tracks in the album. From The Door until The Conclusion the album has a very dynamic flow through all the different styles, time signatures and moods that makes this album one masterpiece that you can't miss if you like symphonic prog or prog music in general. This is one of the best albums I've heard in the last decade. I hope you can dive in and discover a wonderful songwriter, as well as a unique album.

5 stars without doubt.

Report this review (#260985)
Posted Friday, January 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
5 stars I heard discussions about the religious contents of Neal Morse's music, but I think that when one listens to a love song, he can appreciate it even if he doesn't love the same woman or man, so even if I'm atheist, I'm not disturbed by the religious contents of Neal Morse's songs, until he's honest and I think he is.

Said so, Sola Scriptura is not a collection of religious hymns. It's a real concept album that uses Luther to speak about religion. This makes it interesting under all the aspects.

But this album contains before anything else, everything a progressive fan looks for: two long epics made of several different sections from folk to prog-metal very well played and arranged, a serious concept and long instrumental passages, even if some of them were already used by him with Spock's Beard, so I felt like I've already listened to them and in some cases I was expecting exactly the same melody but it was a little different.

The two epics, are great. The Door is a masterpiece, but also the two "short" songs (if a 15 minutes song can be called short") are above the average.

This is one of the albums I'm listening to more often and I can't rate it less than 5 stars.

Report this review (#296940)
Posted Wednesday, September 1, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars 4.5

Sola scriptura released in 2007 find Neal Morse in a excellent form, delivering, at least for me, the best he can give, this is his masterpiece work and one of the best albums I 've heard in last years. Absolute great from first to last second. This album worth to be investigated only for the stunning opening pieces The door, 30 min of high class musicianship and excellent ideas, one of the best pieces I've heard from progressive rock zone, excellent. Helped again by the monster drumer Mike Portnoy, Neal Morse gives to the listner one of the top album from last decade and not only, his druming can easy be recognazible because of the uptempo and crazyness he infuse in the pieces, here is stunning. I also like how Morse use the lyrics here, even I'm not the biggest christian ever existed, I'm not bothered about his lyrics or how he used in his music, each one can compose and as he want's, Neal Morse here is great. The album has 4 pieces, 3 are very long and one is more mellow just to diverse the wholness of the album, each track specially the longer ones has a lot of instrumental passages, the keybords are well melted with the guitar, invited guest here on this instrument the legent among rockers Paul Gilbert from Rated X fame. So another stunning release from Mr. Morse, to me his best work so far and one of the best from prog rock in last years, the complexity and the overall arrangements are top notch. Very entertainig album with a lot to offer, doesn't matter if you like neo, prog metal, symphonic or other genres, this is a kick ass album from stars to finish. Recommended.

Report this review (#299111)
Posted Tuesday, September 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars It's actually me he's looking for.

I believe in God now and his name is Neal Morse. Top notch musicianship, beautiful melodies, great story, It's all here....Neal Morse has done it again!

Sola Scriptura starts off with THE DOOR-- A masterpiece all by itself. This song includes many moods from fear/madness to epic God praisin' uplifting sections. It begins with an awesome instrumental overture spearheaded by Neal's keyboards and Mike's aggressive drumming. A wonderful descending chord section on piano followed by the motif and musical theme of the album (I love it, probably Morse's best). The song then begins to tell the story of Martin Luther in epic fashion. After the fearful section where one must die in the name of God, the listener is given a platter of uber awesome Christian pop that neatly fits in a progressive rock song. "This is all I asked for..." is what I said when I first heard this song. Every one here already wrote about the Paul Gilbert solo so no need to talk about it (although it is great).

CONFLICT begins with a blistering solo and a metal riff. I honestly thought Layne Staley came back from the dead to record the background vocals for this song. Some guy sounds exactly like Staley. The latin section is quite nice but not as good as the latin section from THE LIGHT.

There is a short song in between which I don't remember the title. I don't listen to it and find it useless...Also, it is too preachy!

THE CONCLUSION is next and its a great closer to this epic masterpiece. Begins with Neal and Mike giving Randy some room for him to work the bass overtime.

overall a 5 out of 5!!!!! One more thing: I find this album isn't preachy and the references to God are part of a story (the story of Martin Luther), so I find it acceptable and accessible by any atheist!

Report this review (#301317)
Posted Friday, October 1, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars sound for a new millennium!

Vijar confess to the times of Luther when I hear this record, this is a good concept albums: travel both in music and the theme. When he heard Spock's Beard I do not recall hearing something similar. The impressive record for me is that you can hear sounds of mellotron in something so heavy, something bordering on progmetal and yet ... and sound as "married" "The Door" the heavy guitar scales vie for space with heavy piano, organ and mellotron with a somber mood, and not like this melody out of my head! and a little more of the performance of Portnoy through the details with the cymbals, as well as the perfect use of multiple voice, In a few moments seemed to be the same church choir. "All I ask for" and "mercy for sale" the show's vocals sometimes like Gentle Giant, but still with a lower temperature, whilst exploring the same feeling now milder and more symphonic with the "broken the time "caused by the electric guitar cause an interesting effect. "Keep silent" when the pop album associated with the vocals and great guitar fender with touches of blues. "Upon The Door" setting with an atmosphere of reflection "The conflict" to please fans of hard rock and roll rock'in with beautiful guitar improvisations, in fact every track follows the line of electric guitar "Party to the lie" most "balanced" even with some details of Moog. More shines on vocals. "Underground" another ballad environment "Two down, one to go" a melody already explored in Spock's Beard, based on Latin rhythms" "Heaven in My Heart" and symphonic ballad with climate and deep lyrics "The Conclusion" a mixture of the two epics with minor changes

Sola Scripitura is an album to stay in the career of Neal Morse as the best and it shows that often reflects quality not quantity ... Perfect masterpiece

Report this review (#301581)
Posted Saturday, October 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars In the name of God you must die!

"Sola Scriptura" is the most heavier and darker album of Neal Morse.And how good! It is composed of just four songs, three of them are as epic of 29,25 and 16 minutes,respectively, and a little ballad 5 minutes typical of Neal.

Many may say that "The Door"is the masterpiece of this album, and I think that too ... if there was "The Conflict. " That song did not surprise me at first as I listened, but as I listened more and more it grew on me.Paul Gilbert makes a great contribution here, but the last part, "Already Home " is maybe the most beautiful composition that Neal has done. "The door" it's great, as her has the best instrumental intro to any song from him, and the other two tracks, the ballad "Heaven In My Heart" and the epic "The Conclusion" are no less excellent (for this song, it has a glorious end, that just will not lift you spiritually if you do not believe in these things).

This is the kind of album that you do not regret to hear, because it has everything a fan of prog rock either.

Report this review (#319908)
Posted Sunday, November 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
Andy Webb
Retired Admin
4 stars Mix Dream Theater and Spock's Beard...

In 2002, Neal Morse, celebrated prog musician from Spock's Beard, Transatlantic, and Yellow Matter Custard announced he was leaving the prog world to pursue his recent conversion to Christianity. Through the 5 years since then, Neal has gone on to become a solo artist, his primary genre being Christian Rock. However, every once in a while he slips back into his comfy shoes and makes a tasty prog album. Fist with Testimony, then with One, then with ?, and now with this epic masterpiece, Sola Scriptura. The album consists simply of 4 songs... but runs for nearly 80 minutes. Long epics pepper the album, consisting of Neal in all his prog (metal) glory. Whipping out his amazing song writing skill, he has no problem writing 30, 25 and 16 minute long tracks, each of which are essentially amazing. Of course Neal mixes in his faith with a concept of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. Also he manages to slip in a little Christian rock, but it barely detracts from the album.

The Door is the 30 minute epic of the album. But, unlike most massive epics, the song does not take a minute or two to build up. This track right up and slaps you in the face in the first couple seconds. No, it's not some insane technical death metal riff, but neither is it a slow lap steel guitar solo. Neal shows off his ability to wow a crowd with his amazing overture, as any lengthy epic should have. With plenty of tricks, the song easily modulates from major to minor to major to haunting to happy to epic to fast to slow to melodic to metal and about 35 other feels. Overall, the simple overture is purely amazing. And we still have 25 minutes left. With contributions from Mike Portnoy also, the music is given a great fusion feel - mixing the symphonics of Spock's Beard with the metal of Dream Theater. The only negative point is the cheesy qualities of both "In the Name of God" and "All I Ask For," both of which have some..... not-so-preferable qualities, with some overbearing Christian rock influence and some really cheesy melodies. But, the rest of track, including quite a few infectious little proggy sections, balance this song into stardom. Overall, The Door kicks Sola Scriptura into hight gear, making this a highly recommended release already.

The Conflict opens right off with a heavy metal riff and a totally bitchin solo courtesy of Paul Gilbert. The intro has strong Alice in Chains and other alternative metal influences. Throughout the song, we see a few themes explored by the overture furthered, and some great ideas blossoming into beautiful sections. Although the song does slip back into a little bit of Christian rock again, the song sticks to it's prog metal guns for 90% of the time. The song has one of the strongest Spock's Beard influences, with some cool jazz fusion feels going along with it during "Two Down, One to Go." Overall, this song presents yet another amazing furtherment of Neal Morse's incredible songwriting ability.

Heaven in my Heart is the downer of the album. Only 5 minutes long for one thing, it is essentially a pure Christian rock song, consisting of mainly just piano, strings, and some drums. Compared to the two amazing prog epics preceding it, it presents a less than satisfactory effort from the good man Neal. Of course, the melodies and piano work is nice and pleasant, as are the string quartet work. However, the overall feel of the album isn't exactly what I was looking for in the album.

The Conclusion is, well, a really good conclusion. Smashing open with a crazy instrumental jam between the three main members of the band, it also finishes all the main themes of the introduction, as well as re-introducing the album.... again. It does have some cool riffs though! This song really picks up what Heaven in my Heart left off, because it left a lot. A lot of this song functions mainly as just a cap to Martin Luther's story and then after that a massive instrumental jam where all the guys show off what they can do - which is a lot of stuff. The Re-introduction is a crazy and infectious prog jam, which reprises a lot of the material covered in the previous two epics. Overall, this song is a fantastic conclusion to a fantastic album, summing up an epic concept and ending the album with one of the better riffs of the album. Bravo!

ALBUM OVERALL: This album really sums up what Neal Morse can do. Consisting of 3 long epics and one shorter track, the whole album oozes genius. Form sweeping prog rock and metal riffs to simplistic melodic sections, the whole album has an aura of a musical genius at work. Neal Morse can easily dish out just about anything after this album. However, the album has its serve of negative points also. The songs dip into Morse's Christian tendencies, detracting from the overall feel of the album considerably. However, overall the album does present an absolutely amazing ride of music, and I highly recommend it for any experienced prog head who isn't afraid to listen to a 30 minute long track - it's worth it! 4+ stars.

Report this review (#388862)
Posted Friday, January 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have read the various comments on that CD, on this very site; and I was about sure it would be a strong addition to the kind of music I love : symphonic-prog, with complex constructions and epics (I just saw the track listing to see I was having a super example of epics : 29, 25 and 16.5 min for 3 out of 4 tracks !).

So, following the collection of indications, I... borrowed it from one of my friend ! (Hey : the present site is a must, when you have an idea of what you want and like !). And I will buy it, because I ordered it ! Why ? From the point-system here, you hope for a masterpiece, or an excellent addition to your prog collection. And less for a "non-essential" or collector item. I have to add that if you like Neal Morse's music, you will not be disoriented !

So, this one is more complex and powerful than some of his other production, which I only partly know. Anyway, the music is absolutely magnificient, with lots of melodies, developments, impros from the author keyboardist, a lot of spirit musically (of course, it is more spirit influenced on the lyrics side...). In some way, it is a bit strong and powerful, but I feel the whole album easy to listen to. And the links between the various parts on each track is frankly superb, always making the song emerging to a new direction which is still connected with the general ambiance of the song... Truly inspired. And you always recognize the typical keyboard sound of Neal, his touch and musicality. There are some original moments, such as the latino pass in the second track, the violin section in the "short" one, and some very nice tempo changes at various occasions, always well chosen. Simply (because other collegues here were right-on with their descriptions... from which I ordered the CD !), each one of the epics is a 5/5 top-notch composition. You get everything you want in a true prog, complex epic track (each one). And the third song, the short one, is also very nice and emotional, as Morse is known to do. There is no other room for a 5-rating.... believe me. A must, if you know and like either Spock's Beard, Transatlantic or Morse music.

Report this review (#435803)
Posted Tuesday, April 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars I must say that this album is an incredible accomplishment. Probably the best if not the best from Neal's solo catalog up to this point. The keyboard under the hands of the magician are carrying out waves of inspiration and layers of enjoyment covering one each other. Listening to this is simply bliss. The concept behind the album is based on Martin Luther story, the German priest and professor of theology who initiated the protestant reformation. What is great about Martin legacy is the way he doubted Catholic religious practices. Neal tried and succeeded to present the story in a very good way both musically and lyrically.

Mike Portnoy is the master behind drums. I saw them together in Transatlantic and they are completing very good one each other. Mike is crazy, Neal is calm. Mike looks like a rock star. If you don't know Neal you wouldn't say he is involved in a prog rock band and also in Transatlantic. Both of them are among my top musicians in the last years and they are making a very good team. I only hope they will continue to work together on Neal's solo albums and I hope we will get in the future some surprises from Transatlantic.

Believing or not the first song has almost half an hour. I've listened to it several times and every time I'm doing it with the same pleasure. The entire song is extremly good but the last few minutes are simply out of this world("Upon the door").

The most interesting thing about the second song is the Latino odor which I bit unusual for Neal. It is also a very long composition(25 minutes) in the same way as the first song with great key parts, beautiful interludes and powerful heavy sections. It is very hard to make such long compositions and keep the listener active in the same time but Neal succeeded to do this. The same thing is valid for the last song("The conclusion") with the samesymphonic and bombastic approach.

The shortest song is third one if we compare it to the other three. It is a light and very enjoyable moment before the final song "The conclusion".

The only draw back I could find is that sometime the music is a bit predictable and follow the same pattern: powerful keyboards/guitar driven parts ending up in a mellow and melodic part but the very good quality of the songs compensate this. The cover is beautiful, inspired and in the spirit of the music and concept behind. The floor made out of stone from the cover looks really great with the lightly door shown in the back. In the middle of this scene stays a monk which seems to sweep that stony floor.

Highly recommended and one of the best efforts in the modern progressive rock world.

Report this review (#450574)
Posted Saturday, May 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Just before anything else: I'm rating this album from the mere musical point of view, putting aside the merits (or de-merits) of the historical figure of Luther (that task should be left to historians, mine is eventually totally negative for that matters) or even worse, without questioning the artist's intimate and personal beliefs. Having said that, Sola Scriptura (Luther stated "Only written word" of God can be trusted and is immutable, not even tradition) is a strong album from an indisputable genius that skillfully and harmonically blends together many different styles and that is therefore devoted to a wide audience of prog fans. In this effort Neal Morse is supported by Mike Portnoy on drums and Randy George on bass, an amazing trio that grant the album a level of technicality almost absolute. My rating of this great album is 4+ stars ("The Door" 5 stars, "The Conflict" 4 stars, "Heaven in My Heart" 3+1/2 stars, "The Conclusion" 5 stars).
Report this review (#450897)
Posted Sunday, May 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
4 stars Nice surprise again. I was never a big fan of Neal Morse´s former band where he gained so much fame for (Spock´s Beard), so it did take a long time to actually hear his solo works, specially when one knows he abandoned that group when he became a reborn christian. In most cases this fact means that the lyrics will be about his (or hers) newly discovered religion and/or adoration, acccompanied by fitting music (i.e., gospel music). Fortunalty Morse´s case is quite different (see below). I was enthralled by Transatlantic´s Whirldwind and since that work is much his baby as was Roine Stolt´s, I decided to give a shot at his solo output at last (the fact that those records were highly praised here on PA did help, though).

If anything, his new faith boosted his inspiration, for One and now Sola Scriptura show a great improvement of his songwriting skills. Both albums are way better than anything I heard from Spock´s Beard, and quite closer to Transatlanitc´s, which is a compliment as far as as I ´m concerned. Sola Scriptura is a conceptual album of sorts, telling the story of german reformist Martin Luther and his struggle with his issues with the leaders of Catholic church. Usually I don´t like those albums since very few musicians are able to tell a whole story through an album without sacrifying the music over the text. There are a few notable exceptions to that rule (Pete Townshend´s name springs in mind), and now I can say that Morse is one of those few. The lyrics are well written and heartfelt, but the music is always very well done and can be appreciated alone, if you don´t follow the storyline.

Musicly speaking, what surprised me was the several heavy parts included here, a few of them could be well on any Dream Theatre CD (the presence of ex DT´s Mike Portnoy on the drums is no coincidence). There are only four tracks, and only one,the beautiful ballad Heaven In My heart, is around the 5 minute mark. All the other 3 are above 25 minutes of duration. The music is quite varied, going from typical symphonic prog loaded with excellent keyboars to pretty heavy passages filled with blistering guitar solos, with a few jazzy passages and even a little spanish-like guitars on The Conflict. Although long, those tracks are very well done and melodic. The record flows evenly and is really a great tribute to Morse´s talent both as songwriter and performer. The arrangements are very trasteful and precise. It´s a long CD (almost 76 minutes), but it didn´t give me a boring moment me at all. Morse´s vocals abilities were never his strongest point, but he does sing with passion and conviction, making the singing parts very emotional and fitting to the music.

Production is excellent, with all the instruments very well balanced. It´s hard to believe that such complex and well performed CD was a result of so few musicians (basicly a the trio of Morse on keys and guitars, Portnoy on drums and Randy George on bass, plus a some guests on strings and, most notably, Paul Gilbert on guitar).

Conclusion: another excellent work of Neil Morse! One and Sola Scriptura are brilliant records that should be heard by anyone interested in fine symphonic prog music (regardless of their faith). I´m looking foward to hear more of his solo output.

Report this review (#533360)
Posted Monday, September 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars As a progressive metal fan and a Christian, Neal Morse has been an incredible recent discovery for me thanks to Prog Archives. I love both this album and '?' Sola Scriptura has all the elements to satisfy my tastes. Throughout the album it is full of excellent composition both in terms of melodies and complex passages played by highly skilled musicians. It has sufficient heaviness in places and meaningful lyrics in others. I know that non-believers can find Neal's lyrics overly evangelistic, but in the words that appear on this album, 'How can I keep silent when I know the truth?'
Report this review (#547688)
Posted Monday, October 10, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Sola Sciptura is Neal Morse's heaviest and most chaotic album to date. At only four songs, it contains some of the longest epics he's ever composed. But unlike Testimony and One, this is one of his more consistent works. Each song brings something new to the table, while still relying on the classic Neal Morse recipe.

The album opens with a staple of Neal's discography, 'The Door' (10/10) The song is very long, and has many parts, but they're all connected flawlessly. The song takes no time to bother with a build-up intro a la 'The Creation' and jumps right into It with a flurry of guitar, keyboard and drums. The main melody is heard at two minutes and is one of his best. The chaos ensues until the vocals enter at five minutes. The song progresses with riff after riff until acoustic guitar enters, leading to some chorus and another memorable melody. The rest of the song is classic Neal Morse melodies with perfect instrumentation from the band. There are a few Transatlantic-sounding sections (especially at 18:43) I picked up in this song which is always a bonus.

The chaos ensues with 'The Conflict.' (9/10) The song is almost as strong as 'The Door' and contributes to the harsh, heavy, and dark mood of the album. The riffs and melodies are similar to the previous track. There is a notable Spanish guitar section followed by a softer jazzy piano section reminiscent of 'The Light' by Spock's Beard. Overall this song just builds upon the previous track.

'Heaven In My Heart' (6/10) is a slower and lighter ballad. The orchestra sounds help make this song fit in with the rest of the album, despite being softer.

'The Conclusion,' (8/10) like the rest of the album wastes no time starting up by throwing a chaotic keyboard and bass solo at us just moments in. The rest of the song introduces some new melodies, but mostly reprises existing ones.

Sola Scriptura is a high point in Neal's solo career. If there was any nitpicking I could do at all it would be that some of this stuff could have been shorter, especially 'The Conclusion.' Regardless, Sola Scriptura remains my second favorite album from Mr. Morse.


Report this review (#771398)
Posted Friday, June 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is Neal Morse's best album and a masterpiece of modern prog rock/metal. The two epics "The Door" and "The Conflict" are heavy, coplex, yet melodic with great personal lyrics even though it is a concept album on the life of an old dead dude (Martin Luther). I'd call the style heavy symphonic prog. Neal doesn't refrain from using heavy riffs that will please fans of Dream Theater while also throwing in catchy melodies that are reminiscent of Genesis or Pink Floyd. The story is told in a very fitting, first person perspective that manages to relate to the lives of modern listeners. This is easily one of the best releases in "Christian" music and modern prog rock. Highly recommended for fans of symphonic prog and prog metal!
Report this review (#951943)
Posted Tuesday, April 30, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is without any doubt a true masterpiece and one of my absolute favorite albums in the contemporary "symphonic prog" genre. The album mixes jazz elements with heavy prog and emotional and highly beautiful melodies. You can, with all right, have opinions about the lyrics - but when it comes to the musical compositions, the musical expressions and emotions and the musicians technical skillness, this album is at the very peak. This is one of the few albums that lasts for repeated (and then I really mean repeated) listenings - and an album that you always can return to and find new details. I agree with many other reviewers that "Heaven in my heart" is the weaker track - but it serves as some kind of counterweight - even though it is more like a "christian mainstream" song. A very tight album and Neal Morse and co-musicians at his/their very peak - and an album that deserve a 4.9 star rating.
Report this review (#1068853)
Posted Wednesday, October 30, 2013 | Review Permalink
2 stars A word of caution to oversensitive theists: it can be hard for a freethinking Proghead to review a Neal Morse album without a little tongue-in-cheek cynicism. But at the same time his musical sermons present an irresistible challenge to any halfway decent critic, and nowhere in his solo discography was that gauntlet flung down with more force than in this year 2007 concept album: an Arena Rock interpretation of Martin Luther's 16th century Protestant Reformation.

To recap, for those of you who slept through high school: Luther was a Catholic priest in late medieval Germany who famously nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of All Saint's Church in Wittenberg, challenging the omnipotent Papal hierarchy and its mercantile practice of selling 'indulgences' to contrite sinners shopping for inexpensive penance. In today's vernacular, as explained by Father Guido Sarducci, "stealing a hubcap might cost you $100. Masturbation is's a small sin, but it adds up."

The ex-SPOCK'S BEARD leader is of course no stranger to blockbuster Prog Rock mega- productions, and it's nice to hear him attempting something with real narrative ambition. But I'm not sure Luther makes the best role model, in life or in music. And Morse's take on the subject is predictably shallow, bringing anachronistic 21st century attitudes to a far more complex historical record. "There is truth that I'm feeling / Love full of healing" says his protagonist in the song "Already Home", but that's Neal Morse singing, not Martin Luther. He's putting Sunday School platitudes into the mouth of a bigot who once wrote "To be a Christian, you must pluck out the eye of reason." And I won't even repeat what he said about Jews and their "wanton blasphemy".

To his credit, Morse actually considered scrapping the project after learning about his subject's rabid anti-Semitism. But he was able to avoid that ethical roadblock by simplifying the facts to fit his own rosy superstitions, and expressing them in poetry more consistent with Dr. Seuss: "God can change the world with just one willing soul / Who will stand up for the truth and give him starring role...Maybe it's you he's looking for!"

Neal's Divine Plan is uncomplicated: believe, and be long as it's his own narrow brand of Protestantism. Hence the need to protest "false religions" (his own words, in the CD notes). That not-so-hidden agenda prompted a lot of mildly entertaining religious pillow-fighting in the nerdier corners of the blogosphere, all of which underlines a point I'm sure Morse didn't intend to make: dogma is always man-made, never divine. To paraphrase another Prog Rock apostle (C of E skeptic Ian Anderson): God created Man in his own image...and Man, being polite, merely returned the compliment.

I've rambled on at length about the insecure concept behind the album to suggest that its author was out of his depth and treading rough theological waters: surely a moot point if the music itself reached as high as his idealism. And fortunately the trio of main players is on more comfortable ground, albeit trying a little too hard, as always. A composer this gifted and prolific sometimes doesn't know when to restrain himself, and here the results only reinforce every unfair knee-jerk bias ever brought against Progressive Rock: gratuitous virtuosity; performance overkill; arbitrary 30- minute suites; you name it. From the busy GENTLE GIANT syncopation to the big symphonic crescendos, it's business as usual for the workaholic Morse. Expect yet another sappy ballad ("Heaven in my Heart"), one more recycled Spanish interlude ("One Down, Two to Go"), and the same jazzy piano solo from Transatlantic's "All of the Above", copied almost verbatim.

Additional anti-Prog ammo is supplied in the epic musical arrangements, presented with all the ersatz flash and dazzle of a Sin City stage extravaganza, minus only the topless showgirls (alas). But I might have liked it even less without the Technicolor bombast and pomposity, a saving grace when applied like gaudy wallpaper over the album's obvious thematic shortcomings. Musically, Neal Morse is the Thomas Kinkaid of Prog Rock. And if you don't know the late, self- promoting 'Painter of Light', here's a passage from writer Joan Didion that might have been describing a typical Morse album: "A Kinkaid painting was typically rendered in slightly surreal pastels. It typically featured a cottage or house of such insistent coziness as to seem actually sinister, suggestive of a trap designed to attract Hansel and Gretel. Every window was lit, to lurid effect, as if the interior of the structure might be on fire." Hallmark card sentiments and heavy power chords...not exactly the most compatible blend, but hard to resist as a guilty pleasure.

You don't have to share his beliefs to recognize that Neal Morse has expressed them more effectively elsewhere in his career. Ten years earlier, while still in Spock's Beard, he penned a song clairvoyantly named "The Doorway". But that open invitation ("You are the doorway", he sang at the time) was replaced here by the object itself, now locked tight against incursion and bluntly titled "The Door", upon which Mr. Morse would try to nail his own musical theses. Unlike Martin Luther's Reformation it wasn't, however, a purely spiritual epiphany: quite the opposite, one could argue. What he's selling is only a new form of indulgence: 76-minutes of Prog Rock redemption, available with a nopCommerce account direct from his own on-line store.

Too bad there isn't a name-your-own-price option. The album is certainly worth the small mercy of Father Sarducci's 35-cent fee.

Report this review (#1087717)
Posted Monday, December 9, 2013 | Review Permalink

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