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Neal Morse - Sola Scriptura and Beyond CD (album) cover


Neal Morse

Symphonic Prog

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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars I noticed the expression 'Christian prog (rock)' just recently but this style wasn't new for me because during my teenage years, back in the 70s, I attended a cluster of gigs in churches and temples and those amateur bands that displayed then worked mainly in the prog-related lines, maybe due to the use of keyboards, flute, acoustic guitars and soft vocals those bands were driven into a more proggish approach. Some songs have a kind of heavenly tenderness and were the favorites to be covered, like ELP's 'Jerusalem' (I mean, their version), PFM's 'Appena un pň', O Terço's 'Tributo ao sorriso' (very uplifting lyrics, indeed), amidst some others. While some friends (both genders) preferred something more danceable, I must confess that having a prog-heart these covers delighted me and I didn't care too much about the intended holy message or the intrinsic proselytism - I liked the music and that was enough.

However, I find the expression 'Christian prog', a bit disturbing; are those doing music with this label the only ones who embrace the said religion? Are they the only ones that have faith? Are all other acts, not labeled so, doomed to the fires of inferno? To avoid confusion maybe a new tag should be thought for labeling those songs and musicians attached to the religious dominion. Well, at least for the progressive realm, they continue to trail those genres we all are used to identify: symphonic, neo, metal, and so on.

That said, it's time to review Neal Morse's DVD titled "Sola Scriptura & Beyond" which is primarily a symphonic-prog production based mainly upon his 2007 "Sola Scriptura" album but containing additional stuff from other albums and also from his Transatlantic & Spock's Beard time that are able to amuse musically the average hearer, being the latter, spiritually gifted or not. While lyrically Neal Morse runs in a particular lane marked by his personal experiences with the divine, musically he keeps a way close to that of Spock's Beard soft side, adding bits of gospel and pop-rock and significant doses of poignancy. Checking how this blend work in a live show is an interesting deal.

Neal appeared very enthusiastic, excited, emotive, energetic. and this posture soon wrapped up his entire staff, mainly the technical people and the supporting band. Considering that the core of this DVD was recorded in The Netherlands, it's not a surprise that the majority of Neal Morse's crew members are Dutch and consequently the audience too. The accompanying musicians are pretty young but showed a high level of professionalism and while a bit shy initially they soon joined Morse's liveliness.

The initial part of Disc 1 containing the "Sola Scriptura" tracks shows Morse & band very concerned for a few participative audience, which is explainable since the songs weren't too much known then - even so the result is beyond fair due to the musicians' skills. The 'Question Mark Medley' and 'Testimedley' sections open the gates for a more warm response from the audience that makes the overall atmosphere to grow intensely. The two final songs 'We all need some light' and 'Wind at my back' from Morse's Transatlantic and Spock's Beard years close the disc grabbing entirely the viewers (there or at home). A classical ender for this fine production.

The bonus material dubbed as Disc 2 brings some amusing and enjoyable musical parts especially those rooted on the "Question Mark" album and where we may catch all progressive influences over Neal Morse. Non-musical and behind the scene parts in this disc are pretty funny and sometimes interesting but add few to the general content.

Not being an expert on cinematography, I may tell that camera positioning (both discs) and movie cuts are impressive and well-crafted putting the hearer/viewer inside the action most of the times. I also heard this DVD as plain CD and while the recording is of the finest extraction it's clear that with a few exceptions the musical stuff is pretty average but the inclusion of images and movement donated a plus that makes this DVD an excellent addition to any progressive collection.

Report this review (#179540)
Posted Wednesday, August 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
4 stars

.... Henk Doest, Wilco van Esschoten, Jessica Koomen ... typical Dutch names to be found on the back cover of the new Neal Morse DVD because on his European tour Neal Morse has invited a lot of Dutch musicians. Talking about Dutch musicians, I have a small story for you. A few years ago I worked for the Dutch progrock magazine iO Pages, on our annual 'reviewers meeting' the chief-editor had arranged that one of the reviewer was going to give a 'drum clinic'. Well, he did and we were all very impressed, afterwards I had a talk with him and it turned out that we shared a huge appreciation for Neil Peart. Looking at the back cover I noticed the aforementioned typical Dutch names and ... the name of Collin Leijenaar, the iO Pages reviewer/drummer who gave that clinic: the one moment he wrote about Spock's Beard, the other moment he's the drummer of Neal Morse his band! And Collin is not only the drummer, he's also the driving force behind the Neal Morse band, wat an outstanding blend of skills and power, especially during the heavy symphonic rock and progmetal parts, very exciting.

On DVD-1 we can enjoy Neal his catchy enthousiasm, his funny stage antics and his great, very varied musical skills on several instruments: in the long and excellent composition The Creation (featuring wonderful choir-Mellotron) he easily switches from fat synthesizers runs on his keyboard to heavy guitar work on his electric guitar, showing a big smile, I love that 'playful musical megalomania '. I was also pleased with Neal his short vocal performance of the Seventies Top 10 hit Seasons In The Sun by Terry Jacks (it was my favorite ballad too) during the Spock's Beard tribute entitled The Good Don't Last/Open Wide The Flood Gates. The track The Door delivers heavy interplay with lots of scale-acrobatics, genuine progmetal with lush Hammond organ, not bad at all to use an understatement. Guitarplayer Paul Bielatowicz showcases his huge talents in this and the next song The Conflict/The Conclusion with hints from Steve Vai but he also plays warm blues with a bottleneck or more spacey with an E-bow, what a killer guitarplayer! In the long tracks Question Mark Medley and Testimedley again the band delivers excellent interplay and very exciting solos on guitar and keyboard (like a flashy solo on the synthesizer by Neal himself). The concert is concluded with the two ballad-like songs We All Need Some Light (in which Neal is grateful to the fans because "you show more understanding why I play for 3 hours than my wife ..") and the pleasant final one Wind At My Back.

DVD-2 contains a lot of 'bonus footage' like 'behind the scenes', an acoustic version of Bridge Across Forever and 9 bonustracks of the Question Mark tour, really interesting to watch.

In my opinion Neal Morse has succeeded to reach a wide audience with his tasteful and dynamic blend of ballads, symphonic rock and prog metal and how nice to notice so many Dutch musicans on stage. Highly recommended!

Report this review (#180987)
Posted Thursday, August 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Full plate for the fans

What can I say about this double dvd is that it is simply perfect. You can find forced the idea that "Sola Scriptura" is a symphonic prog album, but can not question the quality of this work. What can I highlight in this dvd is that first: it is double, and second: it is a double dvd perfit. The performances of both Neal and the rest of the band are top-level (difficult to highlight any musicians in particular), while his keyboard player and wonderful pilots organs; jazzy moments, the drummer comes in with an attitude and footprint to forget the "Portnoy" by some time. I wanted to highlight the quality of the audio, especially if you have a home theater. Another thing that I find essential in a DVD is the choice of playlist, because if poorly chosen can lose points. While practically to do the "SB" is present, there is still room for songs from Spock's Beard and Transatlantic, and the exquisite "One", "Question Mark" and "Testimony" and scenes of the tour where Neal plays in the church (s ). Undoubtedly, both in picture, sound and choice of songs, both in the execution makes this dvd is the same level as any live recording of any medallion prog.

Report this review (#241940)
Posted Monday, September 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Watching Neal Morse on a nice flat screen tv is always great. This man always brings a smile. Sola Scriptura and Beyond Dvd is a masterpiece live concert experience. He is so much fun to watch. Morse really gets into the music. The setlist is to die for, hitting everything pre-Lifeline. The Creation is an amazing opener followed by an old Spock's Tune. The highlight without a doubt is the whole Sola Scriptura album performed (well almost). Then there are Testimony and ? 30 min. + medleys. (Amazing playing that much!) He concludes with some old school Spock's Beard and Transatlantic. The musicians up on stage with Morse are insane playing this kind of music so well and with little rehearsal (Morse explains this on the documentary- which is great too!). The guitarist Paul, has some very powerful/Petrucci reminiscent solos throughout. All the other musicians are great, Collin fills Portony's shoes rather well. Disc 2 captures many other bonus tracks from the ? tour. These are sweet too. Watch the documentary, Neal always makes fun, enjoyable documentaries. All in all, this is a solid concert which extraordinary playing. Thanks Mr. Neal Morse!!!!
Report this review (#394060)
Posted Friday, February 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars When I heard Neal had left Spock's Beard after "Snow", I was saddened. When I learned he left to pursue a more religious path in his music, I was devastated. Just what the world needs, more lame "Christian" music. I had seen reviews for his solo C. Rock records (not good) and listened to a few snippets, which were less than thrilling, so I decided to continue to follow Spock's and say goodbye to my soul-brother, Neal. My dream of seeing "Snow" fully realized live was now gone.

After a long hiatus, I began a gradual return to Neal thru my love of Transatlantic. Whirlwind is one of the best albums of the past decade as is the live dvd. I decided to go back in time (figuratively) and pick-up with Neal and his solo career. I was apprehensive at what I might find, but decided to dive into "Testimony". I was glad I did! It is a phenomenal concept album, with the first disc being a masterpiece. I then skipped ahead to "Sola Scriptura" which is just incredible and heavy. I then picked-up "One" which is not quite as solid, and a bit more preachy, but has many good prog songs on it. "Lifeline" was a failure in my book, but I wanted to get a live DVD to see Sola performed and Testimony. This seemed like a good mix of old and new, including some Transatlantic and Spock's thrown in for good measure. After reading many reviews on DPR and Prog. Arch., I decided to get this one.

So, after much build-up, here is my review of the DVD: Awesome! The cinematography, picture, and sound are great(esp. for stereo: LPCM 48/16 on both discs!). Disc 1 is the main concert and,if you have the most recent Spock's Beard DVD, was filmed at the same place (by the same crew?) the following night. Neal is excellent, playing guitar and keys, and belting out the vocals. There are a few flubs here and there by Neal when singing, but they are minor and forgivable from a guy putting on a nearly 3 hour show and playing 2 instruments. The show covers all the pre-Lifeline solo material plus some Spock's stuff. Two long medleys encompass Testimony and "?" albums, which the band executes perfectly. Sola is pretty much in total represented and One gets represented with the excellent Creation. The show is executed so well the time just flies by! A minor gripe would be: no 5.1 surround mix. Another would be the exclusion of some of the great tracks from Testimony and One-Author of Confusion would have been spectaular! Disc 2 is another treat and includes more songs from "?" and One, as well as Transatlantic and Spock's. The bonus video of the hour and 20 mins. concert is not of the highest quality visually, but musically it is fantastic. There is also an acoustic on the fly version of Bridge across Forever included on this disc, as well as an hour and 40 min documentary on the Sola tour (which I have yet to dive into). Needless to say, the addition of this material makes this set an excellent value, with the second disc clocking in at 3+ hours! If you are worried about Neal sermonizing, it is pretty minimal, with most of it coming during the Testimedly and the bonus "?" performance on disc 2 (as are more of the religious songs).

If you like Progjavascript:wordCounter(Fupdatereview.Imessage)-rock, Transatlantic, Spock's Beard, and Neal Morse, I don't think you can go wrong with this DVD set. It is a spectacular presentation of what prog can be and, if you are not religious (I'm not-at all!), there is nothing over the top/in you face in that dept. Pick this up, and grab a copy of Testimony 2 while your at it: Truly great stuff from a musical genius!

Report this review (#453582)
Posted Sunday, May 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
Heavy / RPI / Symphonic Prog Team
4 stars Neal Morse's music is one of a few solo artist that i enjoy. When a new cd comes out of him you know, it's going to be good. This artist believe in god and he's not afraid of showing it in his lyrics. He has the pretension of making big symphonic piece of music of more than 15 minutes in a regular base. His music seems to follow some repetitive patterns and lack of originality. Neil's music is a efficient machine of regularity with almost the same level of quality from one cd to another. While this is maybe close to the truth, it doesn't tell the whole story.

Neil Morse has beautiful voice and play keyboards at the same time. The songs are full of emotions and in a long piece of music, there is a full range of emotions. The use of 2 keyboards in the band give to the music his richness. With a guitarist that make the occasional guitar's solo, a solid rhythm section, you have all the ingredients to make great music. But the main ingredient to the success of any music is the songwriting, and Neal got it from the time he was with Spock's Beard. Nothing in his music is a new kind of progressive music, but it's good old school's progressive rock music done with his modern touch, that means with a nice production that showcase some crunchy guitar and bass parts.

This DVD contains a lot of material shot very professionally in a venue where you are close to the action with some great close ups of the band, and a nice editing that doesn't distract you from the music. The picture quality and sound are excellent.

The songs are taken from the Sola Scriptura's tour and Question Mark's tour, the latter in the second DVD. We have 2 big medleys of The Question Mark's cd and The Testimony's cd. Add to those songs, a behind the scenes documentary and a acoustic version of Bridge Across Forever, plenty of material for your money.

Report this review (#669292)
Posted Tuesday, March 20, 2012 | Review Permalink

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