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Neal Morse - Lifeline CD (album) cover


Neal Morse

Symphonic Prog

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1 stars Oh, this is bad. The former frontman of Spocks Beard has seen God, and wants to know it and spread it. The music, well, you heard it all before (if you are a Spocks Beard fan) only this one is slightly milder. Lots of the upheavel is just the name, but let me tell you, if you are not Englisch in youre native tongue this album is gonna bodder you, annoy you. It's a true gospel and church album. So if you are not religious there is nothing there for you. If you do enjoy this kind of music just buy the Spocks Beard, even the ones Neal was singing on. I know this review won't stand very long as my previous reviews were denied if they don't have a hint of positivity in them, but I'm sorry.... There is just none in here....
Report this review (#183457)
Posted Wednesday, September 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars I do not want to give this album two stars. I love Neal's music. I want to promote it all I can. However, when it really comes down to it, it's a sub par album.

A lot of fans, in increasing numbers, have been complaining about Neal's music getting repetitive. I never agreed with them until this album. I do not think it is because he repeats his musical ideas too much. I think it is due to two elements: his voice and his transitions. He sings every song the same way these days, it seems, and no matter how cool the riff he introduces, it almost invariably will drop and slow into a mellower section. Too many predictable ups and downs. Like riding a little plastic horse outside WalMart rather than getting on the back of some real crazy equine monster.

The title track opens promisingly enough. Fun keyboards and some high quality Morsean noodling lead the song into a fairly traditional track. Leviathan is, I think, the only truly creative song on this album. Some neat funk horns and some goofy sound effects take this heavy beast (oh, good pun) to a nice level of high-end prog. Too Many Roads, which is almost half the album, is such a standard Neal epic that I could sing along with the last couple minutes on my first listen. Some of the middle sections, especially all the Way to the Grave, have some really neat bits. There is even a moment of bass solo with cowbell, a strong combination. The Way Home, God's Love, Children of the Chosen, and Fly High are all fairly basic tracks from the man, nothing we aren't expecting. Nothing particularly notable about any of them.

I have to say this album is an interesting one, as I enjoy the bonus disc more than the actual one. In fact, without this bonus disc, this album might have gotten a single star from me. The four covers feature more creativity and exciting ideas--just in the way the band toys with them--than the entire first hour and however much change before them. Two album b-sides come next, with Sometimes He Waits, a track that should go with The Way Home and the rest of those above that weakly try to bring some melodic interest to the work. The other spare song, Set the Kingdom, is just behind Leviathan in my book, with some of the more creative riffs to feature on the whole release. Finally, there is the bonus track on the bonus disc (doubly hidden, very clever), I'm a Heavy Metal Long Haired Blue Beard Tattooed Jew (take a guess which band member this is in reference to). I don't know what to say about it, except that it makes me smile, and that I think it is more interesting than most of the tracks on the first disc.

Truth be told, I think I would prefer this album if it were simply armed with the tracks Lifeline, Leviathan, All the Way to the Grave, and Set the Kingdom. Somehow, I think it would seem more worth my dollar, a quality forty minutes of prog rather than having them interspersed among what I hate to but have to call something of drivel.

All in all, this album is stock and standard Neal, a viewpoint I never wanted to adopt but have no choice. If you are interested in buying it, buy the special two disc edition.

Report this review (#184075)
Posted Monday, September 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
1 stars In the wake of the previous eight or so years, 2008 has been a pretty disappointing year for music. Not to say that there has been a shortage of excellent releases, but things definitely seem to be cooling off a bit as a whole. Approaching the final quarter of this year, Neal Morse's latest "masterpiece" (as his website dubs all of his albums) Lifeline is the most shocking testament of this musical downturn.

Neal has been criticized by quite a few first for repeating the work of his influences, and then for repeating himself. I have never agreed with these statements in the past; his style may not have evolved much, but each album carried it's own mood, a few new ideas, and a great set of songs. Unfortunately, with Lifeline, I must concede fully to these claims. Neal seems completely uninspired in this effort. Lyrics are dull and often cliche-ridden - nothing sets these apart from your average conteporary Chrisitian songs - while the music lacks the dynamics, feeling, flow and grandiosity of his prior work. Bluntly, this is boring. At least when Dream Theater slacked off lyrically on Systematic Chaos, they kept the vocal melodies and the music strong as always. Here, when Neal has no lyrical purpose, sophistication or inspiration, he doesn't make up for it at all. More than half of the tracks are average contemporary rocks songs. Granted, the man has never been much of a wordsmith, but on each of his past four records, he had an inspiration, and therefore purpose and direction. Plus, the music conveyed a feeling that lyrics couldn't harness anyway. In conext, songs like "Cradle to the Grave and "Heaven in My Heart" worked. They had a use in the grand scheme of their albums while being acceptable or even enjoyable by themselves. Even then, One grew tiresome having not only three similarly ordinary pieces, but three similarly ordinary pieces practically in a row. For Lifeline, you can imagine having "I Am Willing," "Father of Forgiveness," "Outside Looking In" and "Heaven in My Heart" all on the same disc. They're iffy songs as it is; with no context to support them, they will make for a poor, soporific album.

But let's not forget the epics and other standout track. The title track opens the album promisingly with a piano solo followed by a catchy piano riff to get things going. The band kicks in to start the album off rockin'. Really, though, the intro is a half-hearted mixture of the sounds and moods from the intros of "The Creation" and "The Door." After that derivative but enjoyable intro, the song becomes almost instantly unlistenable courtesy of some of the worst songwriting Neal has ever done. The verses and choruses carry a catatrophic combination of dreadful lyrics and vocal melodies. Thankfully, a solid instrumental section relieves us for a bit, though it doesn't excite. That isn't the end of the song, but for this review, that's where the song is ending. "Leviathan" is the first of few signs of Morse's quirky, fun side. Unfortunately it ends up being repetitive and borderline laughable any time vocals appear. For good measure, there is a cool technical-but-melodic riff toward the end. However, its style are way too comparable to the riff at the end of the "Party to the Lie" movement in "The Conflict." Portnoy even does the polyrhythm on the cymbal stack. What's worse is that the riff is nowhere near as good or as effective as the aforementioned. Last, and possibly least, is the 28-minute epic "So Many Roads." I don't even want to get into this one. Suffice it to say that it has a few memorable moments, not the least of them is the point where Neal Morse name-drops Britney Spears, but not nealy enough. The music is good, but it doesn't hold a candle (or flashlight for those reading after the 19th century) to any of his previous epics.

Lifeline is a failure in so many ways (pun not originally intended), but perhaps the one that's going to hurt the most is that it won't appeal to any audiences. Progressive rock fans won't like it because it is often too mundane, too trite or too forgettable, contemporary Christian rock fans won't like it because of the longer and/or more complex pieces (it also doesn't help that Neal said he didn't believe in the Trinity recently), and even the most devout fans might have trouble with it for all of the reasons I have stated. Maybe this mix of styles will hit a certain pair of new ears in a positive way, leading them to check out other great music, and maybe some fans will still enjoy. The likelihood of such cases are low, though.

It is a great shame, but Neal Morse has missed the mark big time. Lifelife might mean something to him, but it certainly doesn't seem as natural and meaningful as Testimony. Hopefully he'll regain some inspiration for the follow-up.

Report this review (#184662)
Posted Saturday, October 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Lifeline is Neal Morse's first solo studio album that is not a concept album, but this does not hinder the project in any way. It has more short ballads and some softer sounds, but also contains two lengthier & heavier synth prog masterpieces. Lyrically the CD is strong, remaining consistent with Morse's journey through christianity.

Technically this album is very strong, as one would expect from anything featuring Morse and Mike Portnoy, and Randy George supplies solid bass guitar musings. The CD is more reminiscent of Testimony than Sola Scriptura, and more profound than either. Morse brilliantly continues the valiant struggle to establish modern symphonic progressive rock music which appears to be slowly disappearling from the prog landscape. Long gone are the symph hey-days of '67-'74. Apparently symph appeals-not to the industry conglomerates of today.

I rate this album 4.5 stars but will enter a 5 star rating here as I believe Morse has earned the benefit of the doubt. If you like symph, buy this album. You won't regret it.

Report this review (#185163)
Posted Thursday, October 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Phew, this is a hard one! After 'Question Mark' I have this problem telling the albums and their individual songs/passages apart. That's not to say it's bad music, quite the opposite (I'm an unashamed Neal Morse fan), but how good is a batch of albums that are so samey that I can't tell any difference any more?

If taken in context with 'Sola Scriptura', 'Question Mark', and 'One', 'Lifeline' is practically identical to these, no better, no worse. And so it has to receive a slap on the wrist for unoriginality. The word stagnation springs to mind.

But is it fair to judge an album in conjunction with previous output? Possibly. If I didn't know any other of his earlier albums, 'Lifeline' would make me rush out and buy these in bulk, probably with the same end result of bafflement.

The album is made up of individual songs and not a long epic as usual, but there is something weird about this: Quite often I listen to albums where I have the impression that unconnected songs are bridged together to create the illusion of a concept album. This one seems to be exactly the opposite: We seem to have one large epic that has been torn apart by force to create the illusion of individual songs. Possibly a reaction to some critique?

Anyway, I can't really see the point in going into detail for this album, please read the reviews of those other albums, and they will apply here.

Am I going to listen to it repeatedly? Definitely yes. Does it thrill me? Yes, but it's starting to wear (very) thin. Is it as good as his other releases: Another definite Yes. Would I recommend it: Also Yes, but don't expect to be bowled over by anything new.

I won't comment on the lyrics, I never listen to lyrics anyway. I'd rather leave that to the bible bashers (positive and negative). Can't get arsed to get into that.

For the above reasons this album gets between three and five stars, so let's say four stars, but this is still on a pretty generous side.

Report this review (#185216)
Posted Friday, October 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars I figure that if you've got an aversion to anything pertaining to the Christian persuasion then you have as many Neal Morse CDs in your collection as I have albums by Madonna. I understand. It's quite alright. But, having been born and raised in the church eons ago, the spiritual content of his material caters to and fulfills a part of me that I've ignored all too often throughout my many adult years. Having said that, I'm enough of a prog snob to assure you that if his music wasn't challenging and intriguing I wouldn't give him a second listen. So I'm no Neal Morse Kool-Aid drinker if that's what you're thinking. Each of his offerings stands or slumps on its own merits.

This is the album I was hoping he'd make at this juncture of his career. His output (for the most part) since leaving Spock's Beard and Transatlantic has consisted of lengthy, involved projects that dealt with one central concept whether it was man's estrangement from God or Luther's revolution. And, with talented cohorts Mike Portnoy and Randy George (not to mention a bevy of guest artists like Steve Hackett and Phil Keaggy), he has produced some of the best symphonic progressive rock I've ever heard. Now, while his approach has great appeal for me, the size and scope of those CDs probably overwhelms the majority of the non-prog audience and discourages their investments in his music. In essence, they are prog albums with a heavy emphasis on religion whereas "Lifeline" is a religious work that draws generously from the prog reservoir. Had he released another 80-minute-long project based on a single idea I would have joined those who are saying that he's in a rut. But here he has switched gears and delivered seven individual pieces that have little to do with one another (other than proclaiming his beliefs) while the quality of the work remains unimpeachable. On rare occasions I dial in local Christian radio stations in my area just to see what's going on in that realm and, believe me, there's no genre more in need of a progressive movement within its ranks. Morse has made his art more accessible to fans of praise music without betraying or compromising his prog pedigree and I heartily applaud him for that.

"Lifeline" begins with a piano intro, then the fantastic rhythm section of Portnoy & George join Neal in a driving prog pattern that kicks serious tail for over four minutes before the verses and choruses arrive. Morse writes better lyrics when he's not restricted to staying within a particular story line and, therefore, all the songs on this CD benefit from an upgrade in that department. Here he harkens back to his conversion as he recalls how Jesus saved him when "suffering was nothing new/my days were few without a letdown/something down there deep inside/dissatisfied with everything I'd find." A hot synthesizer solo and some spirited guitar work appear midway through and things never get boring as the trio adds invigorating accents and punches all the way to the grand finale. This is no fluff piece and it's an excellent example of what these guys do best.

If you're familiar with Neal's solo albums you know he usually includes one or two standard-sounding tunes along the way. The problem is that they're imbedded within extended movements and the average Joe never gets a chance to hear them. On "Lifeline" Morse has presented four numbers of that ilk as stand-alone cuts. Beautiful acoustic guitars usher in "The Way Home," accompanying Neal's pristine vocals as he discloses that one's religious faith, no matter how strong, doesn't always translate into a life without dilemmas. "I may never find that place where I feel like I belong/I know that when I find it I'll have known it all along/I feel like a dark cold night that's reaching for the dawn," he sings. Lush strings give the track depth and the song builds to an emotional crest before ending quietly.

You can't keep these boisterous musicians caged up for long and the brute force of "Leviathan" lets them free their inner (sea) monsters. Ominous, scary synthesizer lines lead to a barrage of guest Jim Hoke's zippy Horns from Hell as this heavy rocker blazes through an odd chord structure for six minutes of metal fun. In the 2nd part Morse pulls up an interesting vibraphone/steel drum effect on his keyboard to turn your head and then Portnoy slays with his ferocious drumming right up until the abrupt end. Don't look for anything meaningful in the lyrics, they just needed a platform to drive hard and fast and a ditty about Godzilla had already been done. On "God's Love" Neal once again employs acoustic guitars to strum under his soothing voice and he avoids complicating a song that doesn't need complications. "You promised yourself you never would love again/and you tried hiding out but your heart just can't stay shut in/but there's a love that is real/that won't turn on you/just reach out and you'll feel/what He said is true." he assures. Morse is a master of melody and this one will stick inside your head for weeks.

Dense keyboard chords add color to the opening of the powerful "Children of the Chosen," an uplifting tune that features a "walking" beat and a fine nylon-string acoustic guitar ride to provide a change of pace at this point. The words describe being a part of something glorious and not of this world. "Aren't you tired of the rules they made?/the bondage on your backs they laid?/shake it off, you've got liberty/there is more than we can see/God loves you and he wants you to be free," Morse announces. The deeply-stacked vocals and Portnoy's finely-tuned toms rolling during the fadeout are highlights.

No Neal Morse CD would be complete without at least one large epic and "So Many Roads" doesn't take a back seat to any in his catalogue. It's a six-part journey about being unsure of which path to take in one's life and most everyone on the planet can relate. After a piano/vocal outset, the central musical theme skyrockets brilliantly into the heavens overhead before settling back into a straight-ahead tempo. "Star for a Day" is a metal-tinged, motoring track with a sizzling synth break in which Neal warns that, while obviously enticing, fame is a shooting star that burns out quickly and will ultimately drain your soul. "The Humdrum Life" is a charming, jazzy ditty with tricky time signatures and Jim Hoke supplies something I don't recall hearing on a Morse album previously. A soprano sax. It's delicious, too. Neal speaks of the pitfalls in taking the risk-free trail of creative denial, the safe and unadventurous route. "Give up your silly dreams, living life fully/come down the surest road, you can be happy/while you work your life away." he sings sarcastically. After a half-time section filled with soaring guitar lines they segue into "All the Way to the Grave," another forceful pile-driver of a song with tight riffs, Hammond organ growls and a bass solo from Randy that'd make John Entwistle proud. Morse brings up the easiest option, that of dropping out completely. "Forget it, you can party every day/Live it up! You can be stoned all the way." he warbles. Things take a mellow turn at the beginning of "The Eyes of the Savior" with its gorgeous, floating guitars and a very effective tremolo bass effect undulating below. It builds steadily to a magnificent chorus that completely captivates the symphonic prog lover in me. He offers a simple solution. "Behind door number two there is another life/one that will satisfy more than you'll ever know," he sings and I don't have to tell you what it is. The final segment is a big-time reprise of the epic's opening song and it lives up to its promise in spectacular fashion. Anyone who didn't know what high-quality prog rock was before will know after experiencing this cut.

Over the years Neal has composed many wonderful ballads and "Fly High" is one of his most sublime. Few tunes can send chills up my spine like this one does and it includes one of his best phrases ever. "Give up everything you have/for what you could never buy." he urges. Gets me every time. I adore the backing strings and the overall wall-of-sound production but the eye-opening "Wow!" moment arrives when guest guitarist Paul Bielatowicz unleashes a solo that is "GET OUTA HERE!" amazing. I dare say there's not a fledgling guitarist alive that doesn't wish he could crank out one of these babies and my jaw still drops to the floor with every listen. Don't miss it. The angels themselves couldn't have shredded any better.

The true test of an album's worth for me comes when, after a dozen or so spins, I still look forward to hearing it. "Lifeline" is one of those special albums. Is every song prog? No, but there's plenty of progressive ideas to indulge in and the musicianship, arrangements and undeniable enthusiasm involved is of the highest caliber so I have no reservation in recommending it. It's not a masterpiece if you go by the strict definition but to give it any less than a five-star rating would be a travesty. It's that good.

Report this review (#185341)
Posted Saturday, October 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars My God (no pun intended) people are split on this album. I think the problem that some people are having is that without an epic concept to be dealing with, Neal's lyrics have become even more straight out Christian. For me though this isn't a problem and the lyrics are generally pretty god damn good for Christian lyrics. So Many Roads particularly has some epic lines, but more importantly, the music is awesome as always. The people who say Morse is repeating a formula are missing the fact that almost every band in history has a formula for writing their music, I would say that Morse is one of the most creative and open-minded (well, musically, that is) rock musicians of all time, he never holds back a musical idea if he thinks it'll sound good and that is truly what the progressive mindset is all about. Lifeline starts out with one of the coolest intros I've ever heard, it's this high pitched little piano melody that rings along for a bit before exploding into an epic uberheavy prog riff. The rest of the track is excellent as well, up until the part where he yells, Jesus is my Lifeline! but his uberchristianness is easy to overlook in light of the awesomeness of the music. The Way Home is one of my favorite ballads by him, with a great little catchy melody at the beginning and a really euphoric one in the middle. So Many Roads is brilliant all the way through and features one of the greatest parts in any of Morse's music; The Humdrum Life, which features an incredible duel saxophone solo that puts most modern jazz to shame. Overall, this is Morse still at the top of his game and not failing to release the greatest album of the year, as has been his tradition for many years running now. A must for Morse fans and fans of great musicianship alike.
Report this review (#186111)
Posted Friday, October 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars I find it very hard to listen to and review Neal Morse albums. It is a challenge almost beyond my modest abilities. So please forgive me........

The reason is this God thing. In USA, God is more a public figure than here in Europe. We don't do God in full public here. I am an even more private person than that. I do not like religion being sung about or discussed in the open. That also includes the satanism of bands like Burzum and Gorgoroth. The same rule also goes for the bible-bashing Neal Morse. Religion is a private matter, best kept behind closed doors. Period.

I am not that overjoyed by the music on this album too. Too much AOR and precious little progressive rock. The first five tracks offers very little joy for a prog-head. It is pretty bland music, laden with bible-bashing and join-me-in-heaven sweetie sweetie melody lines. Candy is nice. But this is too much. Far too much candy. The last track, the 28 minutes long piece of music called So Many Roads is the best piece of music here. It really has some good parts. It is also a return to the world of Spock's Beard. A welcome return. The last song is OK. Nothing more.

The conclusion is that I do not like this sugar laden AOR on this album. The twenty eight minutes long So Many Roads is the only track I really value here. As a background noise and muzak, this album is good. But not for serious listening. I am not impressed.

3 stars.

Report this review (#187698)
Posted Sunday, November 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars I wish there were a 3.5 star rating, this would be the perfect candidate.

Seems like Neal Morse is in need of some inspiration. He keeps repeating himself musically and lyrically, and it's starting to work against him. However, despite being generally unadventurous played safe, it's a very good album. Neal Morse, due to not taking many risks and played to his strengths on his epics, and due to his songwriting talents, Neal Morse songs rarely are mediocre.

The opening song and title track is so derivative and familiar that it could be a neat overture to his previous four prog albums and his Transatlantic compositions. The problem with the song is when it was released, leaving an impression that you've heard all of this music before, as competent as it sounds. Let me explain: the piano intro reminds of The Creation, the overture mixes the intro to Yes' Endless Dream with bits that really remind of The Door and stuff from the second Transatlantic album. When he sings, the verses sound like "At the End of the Day", the pre-choruses remind of Transatlantic again and the chorus sounds familiar for some reason and is actually not that good: the vocal melody is too poppy. Then it plays the melody in the piano intro (that sounds like a main theme of One) with a guitar/synth unison and sounds very good, but something you heard before. Then you get a random instrumental jam reminiscent of the jams of Sola Scriptura, but with some pretty weak rock riffs alternating with an awful processed vocal line Send me a Lifeliiiiiiiine that sounded very familiar as well. Familiar melodies lead to the next verse/choruses and the chorus line He gave me a lifeline is played with the The Creation recycled melody, which in this case fits perfectly. The song ends with the same melody playing with a Jesus is My Lifeline line instead. Very nice restrained outro I got to admit, but this song is not perfect and is too derivative musically and lyrically

Then there's a humorous and slightly out of place prog-metal piece Leviathan. Opening with funny ominous synths and horn riffs. The verses continue the goofy prog-metal while the choruses are beatleish. Then silly lyrics playing on a mellotron-drenched background alternate with other hard rock riff until a silly instrumental that combines metal with vibraphone leads into the themes of the beginning with the Beatle chorus leading into a fast-paced heavy metal break where Mike Portnoy is on fire. The song ends as it began: goofy synths. The song is fun I guess, you can tell the band was enjoying themselves while making this, but it could have worked wonders as a bonus track.

Then there are four ballads, typical Morse ballads with overtly Christian lyrics. This is what could divide the Neal Morse fans. For the ones who enjoy his ballads and Christian songs, then you will find these songs uplifting and pretty nice at the least, if familiar. For the one who want prog, they may bring disappointment. These kinds of songs work very well on his concept album as part of the story, but having many of them can make them sound like songs aimed for Christian rock radio. I personally enjoy them all nevertheless. They're well written, catchy and memorable: the way Christian music should sound in my opinion.

Luckily, So Many Roads turns this good but non-essential album into a very good one. While it is again derivative lyrically (he did this already in Testimony) and doesn't break new ground, it plays to his strengths, is extremely coherent, and is musically very enjoyable. The theme of the song (deciding on what to do in life, looking at possibilities, and finally choosing to be a Jesus follower) make the epic be varied and divided into different sounding sections. It seems Neal Morse too advantage of this structure and apart from Star for a Day he made every section outstanding and he connected everything extremely well, despite how different parts sound from each other. Not only that, he made a varied epic extremely accessible and easy to get into. The first section doesn't wait to get started, with a very memorable fanfare synth melody. The 1st section is singer-songwriter for the most part but there's a watery synth passage that comes unexpectedly and sounds quite refreshing. Star for a Day is my least favorite part as it repeat things a bit too much and its sound is derivate (think of Hanging in the Balance and California Nights). I found it amusing that he referenced Britney Spears. Again, with great coherence the music leads into Humdrum Life, which is my favorite section as it really sounds as something that Neal Morse hasn't done before. It is an charming acoustic jazz piece with two saxophones playing in the background and an upbeat pace. The melodies are very memorable and when Neal Morse lets the saxophones take the centerstage, their dual solo is incredible. A new in between sections theme is introduced: So Many Roads vocal harmonies and a gentle guitar/mellotron theme is interrupted by the hammond-driven rocker All the Way to the Grave, singing of the idea of partying, getting drugged and living it up. It is here when he finds God: great symphonic buildup on The Eyes of the Savior. The song ends with variations of the themes in the first section, and his pretending to be in front of the audience, going "wooo" "oh yeah" "can you feel it" "yaaaa" "haha" as he always does on epics, which always annoyed me, but what can I do? Anyways, this is a really great epic, and due to its similarities to Testimony it shows you how much he grew musically since that album.

Despite my complaints, Neal Morse fans should own this album. So Many Roads is, for the most part, a masterful composition and the main reason to own the album for the casual fans of Neal Morse and symphonic rock fans who are not familiar of him. This album is also a good starting point for Christians who are not progressive rock listeners as it is accessible, melodic, and much better than the average Christian Contemporary Music. Testimony might be more emotional, but non-prog listeners would be overwhelmed by its duration.

Report this review (#192303)
Posted Monday, December 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Let me preface this review by admitting to being a rather big fan of Neal Morse's music, whether it be his solo output or his work with Spock's Beard and Transatlantic. I have enthusiastically given two of his solo albums 5-star ratings (One and ?) and been amazed at the volume of music he is able to write, record and produce in a short period of time. However, I think there is perhaps a noticeable downside to being such a prolific songwriter: the similar musical nuances that inevitably get re-used in a short period of time before the overall music style has a chance to sufficiently evolve. More than any artist I can think of, Morse gets blamed for self-plagiarizing and I believe this to be warranted. Morse makes it fairly obvious in his music where his influences lie and lately, he seems to be most influenced by his own past work.

I say all this in my review of Morse's latest release, Lifeline, since on the first few listens it is fairly distracting how much this sounds like a mesh of Snow, V, Sola Scriptura and One. I remember the first time I listened to Riverside's first album, Out of Myself. In my first few listens to that album, I felt like I was listening to a Pink Floyd cover band that had switched some words around and thrown in some growls for good measure. But after getting deeper into that album, that feeling went away and it sounded more like...Riverside. Unfortunately, with Lifeline, I just can't shake that deja vu feeling as some of the passages are just too similar, if not exactly the same as previous Morse music.

The album starts off with a fairly good song in the title track, Lifeline. It runs for over 13 minutes and moves at a great pace making it seem like a much shorter song. As others have noted, it sounds much like the opening tune from the One album (The Creation). This song has grown on me nicely since I first heard it and I pretty much enjoy it from start to finish.

The next four songs are all between 4 and 6 minutes and aren't especially noteworthy, with the exception of Leviathan which is just quirky enough to raise your eyebrows. While the tempo of Leviathan is reminiscent of Author of Confusion from One, this is the most unique song on the album and is another big grower. As I said, the other three are "lost in the shuffle" as they are typical Morse ballads in that they have nice tunes, uplifting lyrics and the usual acoustic guitar solo similar to the one in "We All Need Some Light".

"So Many Roads" is the big epic. For whatever reason, I'm just not that crazy about it. As a Morse fan, I usually absolutely love his long epics, but this one just doesn't quite measure up. It doesn't seem to have those bone-chilling moments that I have come to expect and get in good supply in All of the Above, The Great Nothing, The Creation, The Separated Man, The Door, ?, etc. etc. etc.

"Fly High" finishes the album off and is perhaps the catchiest tune on the whole album. Weighing in at six minutes and change, it leaves a great taste in my mouth at the conclusion and does not seem to have all the sameness that plagues much of this album.

While I think there is lots of great music on this album, I cannot give it more than three stars. I actually think this album will be better received by people not familiar with Morse's other music, as they won't be distracted by the similarities to Morse's previous work.

Report this review (#192555)
Posted Wednesday, December 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars 3.5 stars. I honestly believe that Neal Morse will be playing and composing this type of incredible music until he's either dead or not able to. What motivates and inspires him is limitless. For those of us who dig the message, and the person that made the message possible, this music is a Godsend. I can see why many would be turned off with the lyrics here, but I can't understand the critisicm for the music itself. Mike Portnoy continues to show why he's one of the all time great drummers, while bassist Randy George seems to become more prominant with each album. I just never get tired of Neal's vocals, as well as his song writing and composing talents. He's all about melody. I like what Chicapah says when comparing "Lifeline" with his past records. "In essance, they are prog albums with a heavy emphasis on religion whereas "lifeline" is a religious work that draws generously from the prog reservoir".

"Lifeline" opens with piano before the bombast hits a minute in. Check out Portnoy ! Huge bass as well here. What an instrumental display. It settles with a steady beat then guitar and organ start to rip it up. Vocals don't arrive until 4 1/2 minutes. Awesome song. Lots of mellotron too. More incredible instrumental work before 8 minutes.Then 11 1/2 minutes in the organ,guitar and drums just kill. "The Way Home" may not be proggy but it's a meaningful and enjoyable track. Strummed guitar and vocals as Portnoy keeps the beat. Some strings too 2 minutes in. "Leviathan" opens with these dark, deep sounds that pulse that being to mind the leviathan. The song kicks in with uptempo sax as drums pound. Neal comes in singing with passion. Nice organ runs and some nasty guitar. Vibes follow. The tempo really picks up 5 minutes in and Portnoy is on fire. It ends as it began. "God's Love" is a mellow song with strummed guitar and reserved vocals. Great lyrics. I can personally attest to them. "Children Of The Chosen" opens with waves of synths before a beat takes over with vocals and guitar. Beautiful. I like the drumming to end it. There's something special about this one.

"So Many Roads" is almost 29 minutes long. I really like the trip this one takes us on. It opens with vocals and piano. When it kicks in it really reminds me of SPOCK'S BEARD. The contrast continues. It gets pretty heavy before 5 minutes with some blistering guitar. More ripping guitar a minute later. It turns jazzy 9 1/2 minutes in with sax. A calm 13 minutes in and the guitar that comes out of that breaks my heart. Gorgeous. It kicks back in after 15 minutes, more great guitar 17 minutes in and fat bass a minute after that. Another calm before 21 minutes. It kicks back in with lots of synths. "Fly High" is another beauty. Neal sings "Fly high, fly straight through the open sky, give up everything you have for what you could never buy". A fantastic guitar solo starts after 4 minutes as Neal shouts and sings in the background. It ends with strings and vocals as the guitar continues.

Thanks Neal.

Report this review (#194300)
Posted Thursday, December 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars After more than 20 listens, I can keep silent no more. Unlike many 2008 releases, Lifeline has the stuff of enduring prog quality that will keep it in my album rotation, probably for the rest of my life. The musicianship and song-craft are excellent and I can find no criticism with either. All the elements of prog (albeit retro) are present. Fans of Genesis, Yes, Styx, and even Floyd will feel the warmth of long-loved musical phrasings, complete with timing and production changes, all wrapped in fresh expressions of the genre.

The only reason I give it a 4 (point 5) rating is that some of the lyrics are a bit skoochy. For example: Life like a razor can shave you clean Or it cuts in a moment to leave you to bleed Not too bad a simile (I guess), but it's lead off for the song Fly High seems a bit too stark -- I continually find myself chagrining my last battle with the morning razor, and missing the next 15 or so seconds of the song. But such lyrical fouls are sparse and small, and offer no reason for throwing this baby out with the bath water.

A note about the Christian lyrics.
I think the last time I felt good about tolerating overt Christian lyrics was with Stryper's Reason for the Season and Jars of Clay's debut. So when I first heard the closing refrain of the title track, I thought with a roll of the eyes, Uh oh. Here comes the cheese... But happily, this is not the case with Neal. So he hits between the eyes and one leaves Lifeline with no doubt about where he stands regarding things-God. But somehow it's not offensive. (I think it's worth contrasting these lyrics with the tired, polar opposite offered this year in Edensong's The Sixth Day from The Fruit Fallen album (talk about an eye-roller ).

So if you're not averse to wonderful retro-prog with overt Christian themes, I highly recommend you add Neal Morse's Lifeline to your collection.

Report this review (#197360)
Posted Monday, January 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Lifeline is by no means a bad album; there are a lot of great moments to be found. The problem is most of these moments can be heard in earlier works. If only Neal traversed so many roads in his music, right?

When I read the press release for Lifeline on Neal's site months ago, I was intrigued. Here was a break from all those concept albums we've been getting - something new! However I overlooked another facet of the press release - in it, Lifeline is compared to his previous works no fewer than seven times!

Now the opener is not bad. It's a fun piece; its only problems are the guitar phrases that recall Duel With the Devil, and Neal repeating He gave me a lifeline about a dozen times more than he needs to. What irks me is that Neal has a seven-minute single version of this downloadable for free on his site. Translation: he knows exactly how to cut out the fat, but for whatever reason he doesn't.

Next up, is Way Back Home - a ballad with interesting vocal melodies; it is my favorite song on the album.

After that is Leviathon. The press release bills this as sounding like Sola Scriptura, but it couldn't be more wrong. Yes, it's heavy, but the similarities end there. Most of the cd's creativity can probably be found here, but I think if the rest of Lifeline were up to snuff this would not get rated so high. I wouldn't be surprised if we eventually see a sequel called Behemoth.

Okay, the rest of the ballads - God's Love, Children of the Chosen, Fly High. Children of the Chosen is the best of these, which is to say when it starts off it sounds like it has potential. The rest don't. The lyrics do nothing to redeem them in my eyes, and it should be mentioned here that I am a Christian. And when I became one all my problems did not disappear, as a certain songwriter seems to think. Neal makes straight-up worship cds now and then, and this is where these three belong. Other reviewers have compared these to CCM, but there are a few riches to be found in that genre - there aren't any here. In other words, these are the sort of commercial songs that probably pushed you to prog in the first place.

A little comic relief mid-review for you: the press release claims Children of the Chosen is as engaging as Wind at my Back!

So Many Roads is a half-hour lyrical repackaging of Testimony, only it's not as personal, emotional, or fun as its predecessor. The intro and outro call to mind the Light, there's a guitar solo that sounds ripped from the Door until it briefly evokes Bryan Josh of Mostly Autumn at its close, and many, many reminders that the title is, in fact, So Many Roads. Don't worry, the obligatory celebration fanfare (a la the One) and slow, drawn-out vocals toward the end (a la everything) are present. Granted, hooks still abound the epic, and tasteful sax work accompanies The Humdrum Life, making it the highlight.

In summary, this one is for the fans only.

Report this review (#197779)
Posted Thursday, January 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars I almost regret to write that for the first time, I'm utterly disappointed with a Neal Morse effort. Take Heaven In My Heart from SOLA SCRIPTURA and make an album out of it. Only even less inspired. Normally, I wouldn't have a problem with the idea of Morse making an album full of mostly ditties. But the ditties here are nowhere near as gripping as past efforts like Wind At My Back, Father Of Forgiveness, or Wasted Life. To make matters worse, the album's epic, So Many Roads, feels almost as uninspired.

Simply put, LIFELINE lacks that special emotional flair that Morse always seemed to incorporate into his music so naturally. That carefree immersion in the soul has been replaced by a self-conscious obsession to do something different while still remaining Neal Morse, whatever that means.

I can only hope that LIFELINE is just a speedbump, a transitory album that sheds old skin and allows Morse to venture into new territory. Morse is too good for this, and I'd argue that he'll always be this good. I'm looking forward to his next release.

Report this review (#208769)
Posted Wednesday, March 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars it the will of God that his true believers can only write terrible lyrics???

I just don't understand. The guys in Glass Hammer are all Christians, yet they manage to write lyrics that aren't sappy and trite (well, okay, they DO write lyrics like that.......but at least the vary the topics of their songs a bit more). Even Morse himself managed some interesting lyrics on the previous album (first two tracks at least) and on the question mark album.

But here we have nothing but retreads in the lyric department. I will admit, the first track and Leviathan the lyrics are not terrible. In both cases the music is fantastic, if drenched in the Neal Morse Patented Prog Formula (in the case of the opening track, at least). The Way Home, God's Love, and Children of the Chosen should have been put on one of his worship album, as I thought that's what they were for. Albums for people who want exhortations of love to God. But his solo works, I thought, were supposed to be his PROG albums. Not worship music.

Then we have the obligatory epic. I generally love Neal's epic pieces, but this one just doesn't cut it. Sure, it has good moments, but it doesn't flow as well as his other pieces (the first two tracks on the previous album, for instance) and the Patented Prog Formula actually starts wearing thin for me on this track. On top of that, the lyrics are basically a condensed retread of the Testimony album.

The last track is another fairly bland paean to the glory of God (no! REALLY?????).

I said in my previous review that I was getting a bit tired of the sameness and blandness of much of Neal's lyrics. He obviously has a very specific style when it comes to prog music, but that really never bothered me much as I enjoyed his approach to it even if it was pretty repetitive in design. But here it just starts to wear on me. I think it's because this is a step down musically from the previous album, and lyrically it's a huge drop (which is saying something, considering the fact that every solo album since leaving Spock's Beard has had the exact same lyrical theme).

I'll add an extra star for the opening track and Leviathan, the latter being the most interesting and different track on the album (by Neal standards at any rate). But they are all that save it from being a one star album. Let's hope he finds some much needed inspiration working with Portnoy, Stolt and Trewavas on the upcoming new Transatlantic album.

Report this review (#212087)
Posted Wednesday, April 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars A disappointed Morse fan writes:

After the incredible "Sola Scriptura," I had such high hopes for this album. When I heard Neal Morse was going to revisit the lyrical ideas of "Testimony," I was even more excited. Unfortunately, "Lifeline" has been a big disappointment for me.

The title track might be the best song here, and even it has some definite flaws. After its outstanding overture, it starts to go down hill. One of my biggest complaints with Morse's music is the predictability - the standard pop verse-chorus structure packaged between instrumental movements, and though all melodies are very carefully crafted and themes reoccur cleverly, it is pretty unsurprising. This is made more dull by the lyrics; Neal has never been a great lyricist, Christian or otherwise. The lyrics here are your standard Neal Morse Jesus homage, packed full of heavy-sounding phrases that when you consider, just aren't that good (i.e. "he gave me a lifeline right down to my soul.")

"The Way Home" is fair, despite being a straight ahead Christian-pop song. The guitar hook is quite good. Still, this track and those like it later on the album do not compare to level of excellence reached by songs like "Heaven in my Heart" (off the "Sola Scriptura" album.)

"Leviathan" is the the closest thing to innovative on this album, a strange fusion of funk and metal, and a failed one at that. It still is subject to the same sub-par lyrics, and combined with the percussive sounding keyboard solo in the middle, the whole thing almost sounds like a joke. The composition is fairly unfocused, especially by Neal Morse standards.

"God's Love" and "Children of the Chosen" pick up where "The Way Home" left off, more Christian-pop balladry. Sadly, these boring tracks are the highlights of the album; they actually sound pretty good after Leviathan. They really offer nothing more than basic pop tunes with good hooks and decent lyrics, though.

"So Many Roads" just goes to show that Neal Morse needs new inspiration. The template he has been using for his epic songs is beginning to wear out for me. The overture+songs within songs+reprisal concept he has been doing virtually his entire career has become so rehearsed that it no longer feels innovative whatsoever. Despite being nearly thirty minutes in length, this song doesn't feel like anything more than a collection of smaller songs, which on their own, do not compare to the quality he displayed on previous albums. Lumped together with some all-too-fluid transitions, this is a standard affair. Even though there are good moments scattered throughout, this track does not justify the tremendous length it takes to deliver them. Neal's singing "so many roads to no where" a million times does not help.

The album concludes with one more straight ahead Christian-pop ballad, by far the sappiest one here. "Fly High" is Neal needlessly gushing his Christian philosophies upon us yet again, ending the album on a very boring note. The shredding guitar solo at the end is far too forced of an attempt at being epic. This song begs you to stop the album before its finish.

My number one complaint with "Lifeline" has do with its lack of innovation, which in my opinion is the most crucial aspect of progressive music. On previous albums, Neal Morse has nearly perfected his craft, and I haven't minded the repetition of his style, simply because the quality of music has never suffered - until now. It is not just Neal who grows repetitive. Mike Portnoy's drum work is so soullessly calculated and typical of his work in Neal's projects, I feel as if I have heard it all before (maybe I have). Listening to his playing here, I almost forget that this is the man who took my breath away with his playing on Dream Theater's first several albums.

"Lifeline" is Neal at his most mediocre. Epics are just average, lyrics are quite awful in places, and much of the album is contained in Christian-pop songs disguised under a progressive title. Though are and though moments of excellence do shine through in certain places, the overall package here deserves no more than two stars.

Report this review (#213057)
Posted Thursday, April 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars I think we expect a little more to hear a better album of Neal Morse.Este disk itself in that it draws the attention is getting repetitive and needs to take new directions. We must recognize that the great composer, but as progartist has its ups and low.

The track "Lifeline" has long and technical introduction but leaves us feeling that "I have heard this before" rings attached to Morse from his time in Spock's Beard.

"levithan" is perhaps the highlight of this disc of music with elements rockfusion and good arrangement of metals. "The Way Home" and "God's Love" show your vein Christian / pop musician in rooted yet. "So Many Roads" with its 28 minutes sounds gracelessly and without purpose, with the old clichés morseans. After the great Sola Scriptura, Neal Morse disappoint his fans with songs short of its capacity.

Report this review (#213390)
Posted Saturday, May 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars I don't agree with the reviews of others that criticise Neal Morse because of his infinity love for God. God is our reason; God is our machine to do things good, to do the right thing, to value that with love we obtain happiness.

I would like many Neal Morse's .With his songs he call us to the goodness.

The most important lyrics that songs can have is about God or Jesus or Mary. God means love.

I've heard so much good prog bands with nonsense lyrics.

So taking off the God thing let's talk about the music:

Excellent as his previous Sola Scriptura. Very nice symphonic compositions with the usual Neal Morse strength and emotiveness.

Excellent arrangements, excellent musicians.

So Viva God then

5 stars

Report this review (#214240)
Posted Thursday, May 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
1 stars This album has split Neal Morse's fans down the middle. Some consider that he hasn't done anything new on this release, while others acknowledge the same although they don't seem to mind and therefore think of it as another masterpiece. Although I mostly agree with the former kind of fans, I also think that the fact that this album lacks a concept is a major flaw.

I enjoyed the two previous releases because, besides all that great music, they had conceptual meanings to them that boosted the overall atmosphere considerably. Lifeline is a collection of songs and it also feels as such. Most of them are simple, but nonetheless effective, ballads that we've all heard before. Have this been everything the album had to offer then I would have easily dismissed it as another good, but non-essential. The main reason for my disliking is the album's longest track called So Many Roads which just doesn't hold together all that well. That song actually reminds me of the track Water from Spock's Beards debut album that I disliked just as much (although the title track is a killer).

This collection of tracks feels like an up and down slide that in the end doesn't really get us anywhere. I doubt that even fans will want to revisit this experience as much as any of the previous albums. Sorry Mr. Morse but I am extremely disappointed!

**** star songs: Lifeline (13:27) God's Love (5:27)

*** star songs: The Way Home (4:20) Leviathan (6:05) Children Of The Chosen (4:57) Fly High (6:30)

** star songs: So Many Roads (28:42)

Total rating: 2,86

Report this review (#257000)
Posted Sunday, December 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars FACT: Neal Morse can't make a bad album.

I had heard bad comments and reviews on this album, and I went into it with a sword in my hand...but to my suprise, it was a great album. I didn't get bored, I thorougly enjoyed it, It was an amazing listening experience.

I believe that this was the missing link between Neal's solo stuff and what he left behind in Spock's Beard. The songs were upbeat, in major keys and had great chorus'. The arrangements were well done and the vocals were to die for. Again, it was a bit preachy, but after listening to a bunch of angry Christians all my life, Neals calm attitude to the subject was approachable, again, his faith I do not believe in and do not have any real remorse (haha rhymes with Morse) for their believes. But Neal I can deal with, cause he's nice and makes great music.

1. Lifeline - The songs title track and definelty a flashback to Spock's Beard. The first time I heard this song, was when I was doing my GCSE's, and to be honest, was feeling a little down, but the organ riff in this song was enough to cheer me up. Amazing finger work from Neal, spectacular drumming from that Jew fella and the basslines are better than anything Chris Squire or even Dave Mereos could ever fathom. This song is an amazing dose with happy with a side of epicness. Amazing start to the album.

2. The Way Home - This is definetly a homage to the great ballads that were created in Spock's Beard, e.g. Waste Away, June, Love Beyond Words etc. Amazing chorus with beautiful melodies.

3. Leviathan - King Crimson...Van Der Graaf Generator...Antonius Rex, basically a dip in the eclectic pool for Neal. Crazy saxaphoning, amazing jaunty riffs and riffs that could kick the head of Satan himself.

4. God's Love - An amazing teary ballad with amazng harmonies provided by the vocal side. What more can I say, great song, see, I could say more.

5. Children Of The Chosen - A more gospel and preachy side, there always is one of these, so I don't mind, I enjoyed it.

6. So Many Roads - The epic, monster of a song. I thought this would sound like something of "Sola", but It was steering to a more "At The End Of The Day" mood. The themes are amazingly presented, Neal pushes his fingers and voice to the limit, pop culture references...basically a mammoth of a song.

7. Fly High - A great ending and a solo from that New Zeleander with the amazing fingers. A great end to a great album.

CONCLUSION - Not his best, but an amazing album non the less. Buy all his albums, your soul will be saved :)

Report this review (#259619)
Posted Wednesday, January 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars The 2008 studio release from Neal Morse is a bit of a disappointment for his prog fans. Sure enough there is still quite some good music in here and it includes a masterpiece, but the total package is clearly inferior to Neal's previous prog albums.

This one is not a concept album and while this is not a problem at all musically, it has some effect in the perception of Neal's infamous christian lyrics. I'm not religious so this sort of lyrics is not my thing, but at least in the concept albums the lyrics formed a story and they fell into a certain context. Here it's just christian for the sake of it and they get tedious to me.

The key problems with this album are 2:

a) By now we know that Neal will include one, maybe two cheesy ballads in every prog album. In the concept albums this is normally not a real issue, they are usually quite beautiful tunes, not long, and they have their place within the context. Here we get not 1 or 2 but 4 of them, and even if they are also beautiful tunes, honestly this is too much for me, and of course the lyrics do not help. Neal should be more aware that it's perfectly possible to write ballads but with a bit more musical quality in them (take Genesis Entangled to name just one). b) Except for the wonderful "Lifeline", the other 2 prog tracks are less inspired than what we have come to expect from Neal.

The opening track "Lifeline" is a prog masterpiece and it alone makes it worth buying this album. It's an upbeat song of over 13 minutes which may remind us of Spock's Beard's "Day for Night" but much more elaborated musically, with killer piano and keyboards and an amazing rythmic section by Neal's loyal mates Randy George and Mike Portnoy. If you like Neal's prog, this track has all his best qualities packed in a single song. I have found myself many times putting on this CD just to listen to this track and then switch to something else. Because from here things get worse.

After the first portion of cheese with "The way home" we get the second prog track "Leviathan". It's a power-prog song which approaches prog-metal territory were it not for the fact that it's based mostly on keyboards and has little metal guitar. On paper this track has everything to be a really good powerful prog song, with very fast playing, interesting instrumentation including horns and vibraphone sounds etc, but for some reason it never really captured my interest.

We then get 2 more cheese plates in the form of "God's love" and "Children of the chosen", with these titles I don't need to tell you more about the lyrics?

"So many roads" is the suite of the album clocking nearly 29 minutes. Again on paper this track has all the elements to be a good prog suite and it certainly has some good music in it, but it somehow lacks the spark, it's predictable and it feels like it is built more out of skill rather that out of true inspiration.

The album closes with yet another cheesy ballad "Fly high", this one at least partially saved by the impressive final 8-finger guitar solo by Paul Bielatovicz.

5 stars for the excellent title track, the rest ranging between 1 and 3, so I give it a total average of 2 - 2,5. I hope Neal's genius is not finished.

Report this review (#266086)
Posted Sunday, February 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars With almost any other artist, an album with 13 and 28 minute songs that I rate as good to near excellent would probably be an easy 4-star rating in my book. However, Neal Morse is certainly unlike most artists (prog included!), which factors into the big picture, regardless of whether you're a huge fan (like me) or anti-Neal.

Unlike One, ?, and maybe Sola Scriptura, Lifeline simply isn't a must-own, mostly because I just don't hear many differences between this album and Sola. Both have a fairly heavy sound and are well-produced, but Lifeline does not have a unifying theme/concept.

Highlights: Lifeline, So Many Roads.The title track is definitely a keeper, with some good themes, big synths, and Portnoy up to his old tricks. Unfortunately, the highlight of most Neal songs in my book--the dramatic ending--just doesn't stack up for me on Lifeline. Maybe it's the fade-out, maybe it's the lack of a mindblowing guitar solo, maybe it's the repetitive vocals...who knows. Not bad, but not great either.

However, So Many Roads really connects with me. Great flow, interesting lyrics ("the stadium cheers for Britney Spears, forget about the warm and tender years") and nice variety. I particularly enjoy the Humdrum Life section, with its happy, bouncy and perfectly sarcastic melody (Do I even hear some soprano sax here as well? Nice!). Nothing groundbreaking in this song, but the theme really resonates with me, as I have also come to a place life where I can see the pros/cons of potential futures (i.e., party/stoned life, suburban drudgery, etc). I tend to side with Neal that none of these provide the deeper satisfaction that most adults seek, and even if you don't seek it in Jesus, it's worthwhile to do so in some way other than drugs, status symbols, or fame.

The rest of the album is largely filler to me, though reasonable minds may disagree.

In all, Lifeline provides enough good stuff to keep fans happy, but insufficient new angles to please more discriminating proggers. Keep 'em coming Neal!

Report this review (#281726)
Posted Wednesday, May 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars An album very underrated.But why? Neal Morse continues his progressive rock ever, and he gives us one of their best songs: the epic "So many roads", some of the best 28 minutes of my life. "Leviathan" Another great track is excellent, with heavy riffs that remind me of "Sola Scriptura".As other tracks are no less excellent, although they are all ballads, excepting the title track, a mini-epic of 13 minutes which is good, but the times gives the section that is dragging.

Although I like Lifeline, I agree that it is not at the level of masterpieces previously released by Neal Morse.I wish who he does not talk down to them in their forthcoming albums.

Report this review (#319909)
Posted Sunday, November 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars I really like his work since One, ?, Sola Scriptura, and his other outputs in Transatlantic and Spock's Bead before. Neal Morse has been prolific, but not all of his output is sweet progressive rock. I heard a few tunes from his non-prog albums and they are good but just not the kind of things that i or people who come to this website would generally like.

Then along came Lifeline. I was afraid that one day the line between the two sides of his music would blur, and his music fused but with the side that i generally stay away will outshine his proggy side. This album is exactly what I feared.

The unique characteristics of his music that i have always liked is how the songs flow well within the album, and there are usually strong lyrical and musical cohesion in his songs. These are particularly strong since Testimony upto ? and Sola Scriptura. As far as his prog stuff goes, none of these strengths can be found in Lifeline. I havent listened to Testimony 2 but from what the reviews Ive been reading the same Morse is back. In this album, whilst Morse usual epics like So Many Roads and the title track themselves are symphonic prog with a blend of hard rock, some tracks in this album (i.e. The Way Home and God's Love) can easily shine in his non-prog categories. Their inclusion here in my humble opinion is not necessary.

The song Lifeline has good, apparently Morse flavoured, intro, but it dragged on for the sake of being prog. Editting about four minutes out might make this song work much better. Leviathan is a Author of Confusion in disguise, and I've heard it before. From the beginning I particularly like Children of the Chosen, but after a few spins this feeling has gone. So Many Roads is a good epic, but not outstanding when this comes from Morse's catalogue. There are interesting moments but again we have heard it all before.

Paul Bielatowicz, who rocked in the Sola Scriptura DVD, guested in the last track Fly High. This is Morse doing 90s heavy rock ballad, and a solo that seems to be inspired from his previous collaboration of the legendary Paul Gilbert. This overly long solo doesnt seem necessary and the brilliant Bielatowicz cannot save this song from being mediocre ballad.

I would rate this alongside his non-prog cds (although i havent rated any of them). For collectors/ fans only. If you want to know Morse, get all his CDs from One upto Sola Scriptura.

Report this review (#379730)
Posted Friday, January 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
1 stars This album is a very big disappointment. I have been a HUGE Neal Morse fan for years, owning every solo album, Spock's Beard album, and Transatlantic album. I think that Neal Morse is an absolute musical genius.

But "Lifeline" is just not a good album.

The only songs worth listening to are the title track, Leviathan, So Many Roads, and Set the Kingdom.

But "Lifeline" and "So Many Roads" are just a regurgitations of ideas that Morse has already explored quite a bit on previous albums.

I'm praying that Neal will get a fresh injection of creativity from his collaboration with the other guys in Transatlantic with the excellent "The Whirlwind" album and tour.

Report this review (#442824)
Posted Wednesday, May 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Good by most standards, but not by Morse's own standards.

Okay, rarely does Neal Morse disappoint. And as far how it compares to other stuff out there, Lifeline definitely holds its own. But Morse is far from the top of his game on this one.

It sounds like a rehashing of a dozen or two songs we've heard before. It takes me back to his 1999 eponymous solo debut. What used to sound fresh now tastes like an old hat.

I have absolutely no problem with the overtly religious messages in the album. In fact, God Is Love is a delightful highlight that succeeds in part because of the lyrics rather than in spite of them.

In contrast, the album's nearly 30-minute epic piece So Many Roads meanders musically while indulging in introspective blather. Inspiring it is not.

So Disc One is rather a disappointment. But boy was I glad I didn't skip Disc Two. Mostly because of Crazy Horses!

Morse has resurrected the ridiculously catchy Osmonds tune with great panache, and it easily justifies purchasing the 2-disc special edition.

The rest of the tunes on Disc Two are either fun covers, cutting-floor material or just the silly Heavy Metal Long Haired Blue Beard Tattooed Jew.

Altogether, the entire album is worth a good listen for Morse fans, and others unfamiliar with his music may find it to be quite praiseworthy. In the company of his other works, however, this one lazily drifts to the bottom of the pile.

Report this review (#465065)
Posted Sunday, June 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars Lifeline is a perplexing album. Half of this album is some great prog while the other half is Neal's worship stuff that permeates his discography.

The title track 'Lifeline' is one of the stronger songs on the album. It opens with a nice piano melody before seguing into some classic Neal Morse symphonic goodness. This is a very upbeat and energetic song with tons of great melodies, but does sound slightly derivative of his earlier stuff, especially Sola Scriptura.

'Leviathan' is an interesting song. I've never really heard anything quite like it from Neal (though it does have a hint of Sola Scriptura), so I do give him a few points for originality. The song is built around some melodies on horns, and is just a great ball of fun.

'So Many Roads' is a very long (by Non-Morse prog standards) song clocking in at 28-minutes. I would say it's one of Neal's weaker epics. It has a lot of great ideas, and they are connected well. But it just seems like he's done this before. The song does have a strong main melody which is repeated and reprised throughout, which is nice.

The remaining tracks are where this album fails. 'The Way Home,' 'God's Love,' 'Children of the Chosen' and 'Fly High' are all your typical preachy praise Jesus Neal Morse ballads. This obviously don't sit well with me as I believe they don't with many others

This is a low point in Neal's discography; although I shouldn't be complaining because he has been releasing stuff similar to this in his worship albums. But there is nothing here innovative besides 'Leviathan.' Everything else is either too preachy or derivative.


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Posted Monday, September 10, 2012 | Review Permalink

NEAL MORSE Lifeline ratings only

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