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Neal Morse - ? Live CD (album) cover


Neal Morse

Symphonic Prog

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erik neuteboom
4 stars


Because of the many enthousiastic stories of befriended prgheads I was very curious to this double live CD by Neal Morse, once the multi-talented frontman of USA legend Spock's Beard.

Indeed this is a very pleasant musical experience that will appeal to many progheads, it sounds very melodic and accesible and the music range from melodic rock to symphonic prog and neo-prog. The band (that hosts Dutch musicians!) sounds tight and inspired, especially the drummer plays very dynamic and propulsive. The band members got room for solos and instrumental explorations like in In The Fire (fiery wah-wah guitar, powerful drums and a flashy synthesizer solo) and The Creation (swinging bass, heavy guitar and again a flashy synthesizer solo). Neal Morse has a very distinctive voice, he sings strong and also delivers some swinging pieces on the piano and in Help Me/The Spirit And The Flesh he plays a virtuosic solo on the acoustic guitar, like he never left Spcok's Beard, what a talent! On CD-2 the emphasis is a bit more on acoustic ballads with a religious message, I am not religious so it doesn't appeal to me nut on the other hand its'not disturbing for me.

This is a strong live-2 CD set that contains pleasant and varied compositions with good work on guitar and keyboards, good vocals (also by female singer Jessic Koomen) and I like the enthousiastic approach by Neal and his band, listening to the reactions of the crowd (Berlin 2006) they loved it too, recommended!

Report this review (#150449)
Posted Tuesday, November 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars As a fan of Neal Morse's previous solo efforts, I like this one as well. Although, it's not the album I would recommend newcomers to start out with. Working with mostly Dutch musicians, recorded live in Berlin, it all sounds tight and impressive for the most part. Before, Morse has worked intensely with Mike Portnoy, Randy George and a couple of other almost steady partners. However, what surprises me a bit is the fact that this (temporary?) European band seems to really come into their own on the second disc of this double album. Almost as if they were only warming up during the live version of "Question Mark (the entire album) and let go of all inhibitions when they start over with selected songs from "One". Maybe there is some form of respect or awe that keeps them from doing their absolute best at first - I don't know...

Neal is preaching now and then, and if you have a problem with that - be warned. If you enjoy his personal approach in that sense, tying up the themes and expressing his motivations in a spiritual way, you may see this as a bonus. It works for me, most of the time. Highlights overall include this fresh version of "The Creation" and the concluding medley with incorporated elements from Spock's Beard material as well.

All in all, it lives up to the conclusion "Good - but not essential for everyone. In other words; three solid stars the way I see it at this point. That might change over time, but I doubt it.

Report this review (#161639)
Posted Tuesday, February 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Neal Morse is one of my favorite prog musicians, and here is his first solo live album. ? Live is a double live album by Neal Morse recorded in Berlin is very enjoyable, but not really worth the purchase for everybody, especially newcomers to Neal's music. He plays all of his albums ? and One plus a cool encore medley perfectly fine, but that's where the problem begins. It's great music executed perfectly, but there's no real reason to pick this up instead of the original albums (unless the sound of clapping hands somehow makes you feel good). I would have liked to see some jamming or something like that, which is one thing Neal is amazing at. There's nothing wrong with this album, and is worth picking up for any of Neal's fans. I don't regret buying this live album at all, but a better start to listen to Neal would be getting the original albums.
Report this review (#190193)
Posted Saturday, November 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars On the tour supporting his epic ? album Neal Morse decided for the first time to build a European band for the gigs in Europe, mainly for practical and financial reasons. So, no Mike Portnoy, no Randy George, no any other member of his fine previous Testimony Live band, but a bunch of Dutch guys, obviously very eager and honored to be playing his music. They are all capable, especially the drummer Collin Leijenaar who plays Mike Portnoy's parts deliciously in his own hard hitting style and rarely makes any mistakes. The best moments of the cd occur when Neal and the band let a bit loose and let the music guide itself, like on the groove moments and a very surprising and funny beatbox solo on "In the Fire/Solid as the Sun". Most of the set is played very much like they are on the albums, and as I'm not that fond of live albums in general I'd much recommend checking the studios out instead.

The Question Mark album is my favourite out of Neal's and I think one of the best albums ever, so it is easy to say that musically speaking this is just stunning and beautiful stuff. Some nice selections from his second One include the massive epic "The Creation", "Help Me/Spirit and the Flesh" and "Cradle to the Grave" in which Neal lets his son Wil to sing the major part of, further adding to the subtle Father/Son relationship displayed on the song. The encore is a medley of We All Need Some Light and a few selections from Snow, an album that has a very special place in my heart. Having seen him once live it is obvious that what can be captured on a album like this is just a small glimpse of what was is actually going on as he sings, plays, seizes and prays through the majesties and little wonders of what his music is made of. If you ever get a chance to witness that, I highly suggest you take it whether you approach towards Christian music in general is positive or not.

Report this review (#796418)
Posted Sunday, July 29, 2012 | Review Permalink

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