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Neal Morse - Testimony 2 CD (album) cover


Neal Morse

Symphonic Prog

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5 stars Testimony 2 further digs into the story Neal expressed in the first part. Everything about this album is wonderful. The musicianship is incredible as usual. Mike's drumming is sweet as usual. One thing that really stands out is Randy George's bass playing, it's awesome (Overture 4- WOW!!!) Testimony 2 is more up beat and proggy than the first Testimony. There are many familiar melodies and riffs brought back from the first part. I think I even heard a Spock's riff early on in this album. It sounded like it was from the Light Album..This is a review after just one listen. So as I listen more and digest, there will be much more to explain. This is a complete masterpiece! Also enjoyed the Jayda song, very toucing daughter story. I do not want to spoil that song, but man God works wonders which Neal passionately gives God the credit. Thanks Morse!!! 5 out 5. Cannot wait till May 19 to see him, two weeks from today.

Added since yesterday and more listens: The water is the song I believe (funny that was the most controversial Spock song) Yeah the Beard are in the wonderful Time changer song with an awesome vocal part. Love that song!!! Neal has some very incredible synth (man I love the synth is this album), and there are more numerous than usual great guitar solos (the usual Morse goodness). There seems like there are several nods to other bands (truth will set you free- DT's repentence). With each listen it grows on me. I don't know but now I feel like this one, if not Neal's strongest and best efforts. But man his discography are all masterpieces (Lifeline not so much but still was good). Neal is one of best representatives of the prog world today, and I'm so happy God is being honored by it. Being a Christian myself Neal is the best thing that has ever happened to the Christian music industry and beyond in the prog world. I cannot stress this enough, get this album, Neal Morse is a genuis (not to mention Mike Portnoy, Randy George, and others add to further this art). Thanks so much Neal Morse!!!

And after even more listens I am convinced the this is Neal's best effort. Neal Morse never ceases to amaze. This album is simply stunning from beginning to end.

Be sure to check out the bonus disc. The epic "Seeds of Gold" is arguably one of Neal's best epics. It is quite a wonderful track, Steve Morse is featured on it with a crazy guitar solo. Great stuff

Report this review (#443250)
Posted Thursday, May 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Testimony 2 is a real difficult album for me to review. First off, being that the album was only released for pre orders and is not in the highest audio quality (128) its still a bit early to tally up a final review. But still, there are a few things i can already hear. Testimony 2 is a little bit more of the same we've been hearing the last 10 years from Neal Morse. Technical brilliance, long songs, emotional ballads, god related themes, its all here. The thing is, its getting a little bit old.

First off the length of the albums is a bit too much. Some of the songs sound as repetitions of others, not very original. It drags a lot. We could take a couple of the songs and take them away and we may have a masterpiece here.

Second. The compositions are not that good. While technically awesome, we aren't hearing anything new. We can see a lot of the same patterns he uses in Transatlantic, Spocks Beard and as a Solo artist. The repetition of themes from other songs from his previous work, plus the repetitions of this concept album, are a bit too much. We don't need to hear the same melody in every song to be reminded that it is a concept album. Learn from the masters. Lamb lies down on broadway anyone?

Third: Mike Portnoy is getting old. His drumming is awesome, but nowhere near his best. I might think he peaked in the latest Transatlantic record. He is also using the same old double bass patterns, fast fills here and there. Ballads sound horrible with his power drumming. Got to keep it simple when the song demands it Mike!

Fourth: Some songs are really really GOOD. The first three are awesome! I get excited listening to Time Changer, and Mercy Street (whats up with the Peter Gabriel ripoff name?) , also Overture 4 is great!

Fifth: Neal's singing is great, bad, good, and so-so. The chorus used in time changer with Spock's beard is HORRIBLE! A yes ripoff without the quality. Also, these passages don't sound good, and still Neal keeps going to them...

Overall i would say that this album is average. Some awesome stuff here and there. Testimony 1 is still better, and One is still the best Neal Album.

Report this review (#446790)
Posted Thursday, May 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Neal Morse is back! And stronger than ever!

His previous work Lifeline was a little bit disappointing after the opus of Sola Scriptura, though it contained good stuff. I believe that the reunion of Transatlantic, the release of The Whirlwind in 2009, and it's success in the prog rock world, were all factors in Neal's solo music being reinvigorated; because that is what has happened, and this album, Testimony 2, proves that.

Mercy Street, Nighttime Collectors and Road Dog Blues are also a very fun songs, the former being very uplifting and opening with the T2 theme on piano; the latter having great sax work, and moving the story along into some of the main themes of the album. It's For You is good, but has that early 2000s mainstream rock feel to it in the chorus (but doesn't really detract from the song). The rest of the song has some awesome parts with the sweep picking on the guitar (is that Neal???) and just some crazy runs ala Is It Really Happening from The Whirlwind.

Im also a big fan of the string section on this album. It is more powerful than usual for Neal Morse. The Truth Will Set You Free is some awesome stuff gong on. I also the overture in this album much more than on T1, maybe because of the first albums' riffs, but also the new stuff. And Time Changer is definitely something different for NM, and has a lot of Rush influence.

I find the album as a whole has very few low points, with my least favorite being Jayda right now, but it does contain the beautiful "Sad Theme" that is further elaborated during Crossing Over/Mercy Street Reprise. I find CO/MS Reprise to be a fitting ending, and though I usually don't like fade-outs, I think it is appropriate for the end of the album, and leaves the album open for Testimony 3 if it were to happen. (However I think Neal decided to not end every album in a bombastic way, with a big final chord, etc...)

The finale of the first disc is one of Neal's best, and is the first song from this album to get stuck in my head. From the opening theme played on guitar this time, and Neal talking about leaving Spock's Beard. But the Crossing Over theme is so catchy and uplifting, and containing some of his most beautiful work (not to mention some Genesis influence). The album ends with the "Sad Theme" and even throwing some more sax in there with the full orchestra for a very pleasant sound. This song just makes me want to throw my fist in the air and yell "Yea!"

I love this ending, and is up there with the epic endings of Stranger In Your Soul, The Whirlwind, ?, One, and Duel With the Devil.

Seeds of Gold from the second disc is awesome. Those first 2 tracks are ok, solid slices of melodic rock. But Seeds of Gold, is just....Gold. One of Neal's best epics, and some ridiculous clavinet work shows up which really surprised me, not to mention Randy's incredible bass work. This is a different kind of epic for Neal Morse, and it's refreshing to hear. Steve Morse plays a beautiful solo, and reminds me of Dream Theater's epic Octavarium at times. All the parts are so good that they keep bringing me back.

I have to give this one 5 stars; it is Neal's most beautiful sounding album, and his most fun to date.

Report this review (#452552)
Posted Friday, May 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Neal Morse has always been a source of inspiration to me in everything he has created, starting with Spock's Beard, continuing with Transatlantic, and then on his solo work. His music shows his main influences but has a mark of its own and his creativity is just amazing. In Testimony 2 he has produced, in my opinion, his best work, and man, does he have great ones before this! The pace set by the first 3 songs is just breathtaking, showing also the amazing work of Randy George and Mike Portnoy. The hommage he pays to his days with the Beard is great, even playin a bit of "The Water" and going back to the vocal parts that were a trademark in his time with the band. Then on to the moving "Jayda", in which he details his daughter's heart problem and her miraculous healing... I could go on saying something about each song, but instead I better advise every prog lover out there, specially if they're not familiar with Neal's work, to check this one out, and if they are I'm sure that many of them will agree with me. The live experience is even better, if possible! Don't miss it! A real masterpiece. Five stars.
Report this review (#453600)
Posted Sunday, May 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars It's truly amazing how consistently Neal Morse delivers some of the best prog rock out there. Between his work with Spock's Beard, the supergroup Transatlantic, and his tremendous solo career, it's remarkable that he's still able to release such top-notch music. Testimony 2 is Neal's sixth prog rock solo effort, and (as implied by the title) is a continuation of 2003's Testimony. Testimony explored Neal Morse's spiritual journey into becoming a born-again Christian, and Testimony 2 is a lyrical continuation of that journey. Whether or not you're a believer, this is beautiful music that Morse clearly put his heart and soul into. The first Testimony album is one of my all-time favorites, and Testimony 2 is a more-than-worthy successor. In almost every way possible, this album is another masterpiece from Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Randy George, and a host of other guests. I have no doubt that this will be viewed as one of the best prog rock albums 2011 has to offer.

For anyone familiar with Neal Morse's music, his sound is instantly recognizable. Expect epic prog rock instrumental sections in the vein of Yes, vocal sections inspired by Gentle Giant, and four-man Genesis-sounding pop/rock sections. The Beatles are also a huge influence for Morse, which is clearly audible in tracks like "Chance of a Lifetime" or "Road Dog Blues". Testimony 2 is not as eclectic as Testimony nor as heavy as Sola Scriptura, but instead rests somewhere in-between. Conceptually, this may be his best album yet, with songs like "Jayda" and "Time Changer" featuring some of his best lyrical work to date. The former song (written about his daughter who was born with a hole in her heart) especially is evidence that Morse really put his sweat, blood, and tears into making this an incredibly emotional album. Testimony 2 isn't all about "spiritual" lyrics and softer songs, though. Expect plenty of instrumental prowess from Morse, George, and Portnoy on tracks like "Overture No. 4" and "Time Changer". "Time Changer" is a really unique track, seeing that it features a vocal section with Spock's Beard members and even features a borrowed organ riff from "The Water" (off of Spock's Beard's The Light). Between those accolades and the terrific bass playing from Randy George, it may be safe to consider this the best song on the album. Testimony 2 closes off in the epic sense that Neal Morse is known for. "Crossing Over / Mercy Street Reprise" features many of the themes from the album (as well as the first Testimony), making for a fantastic closing piece.

If you're going to get this album, it's worth mentioning that the double-disc version with three bonus tracks is absolutely essential. The bonus disc contains two pop-oriented songs, and one 26 minute prog epic that's among Morse's finest ever. "Absolute Beginner" is a decent pop/rock song, "Supernatural" is absolutely beautiful (I really love that one), and "Seeds of Gold" is possibly better than anything on disc one of the album. And after reading my endless praise for disc one, it's clear how much that means. "Seeds of Gold" contains extremely memorable themes, odd time signatures galore, and terrific vocals from Neal Morse. Did someone say "masterpiece"?

Testimony 2 is yet another fantastic effort from the master of modern prog, Neal Morse. This shows him at his most lyrically intense, musically demanding, and compositionally impressive. I wouldn't quite put this as his best effort ever (Snow will most likely always hold that position for me), but it's an essential purchase and one of the best this year by a long shot. 5 stars are well-deserved for this stellar album. I honestly can't think of many albums I would give the masterpiece stamp before this one. Whether you like him or not, Neal Morse can't be ignored and Testimony 2 is a serious contender for my top five list once the end of the year rolls around. Chalk up another essential modern prog masterpiece for Neal Morse.

Report this review (#465625)
Posted Monday, June 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Neal Morse continues on his spiritual journey and shares it with us again on a second installment of his recordings titled Testimony Two, a two disc set. He is joined by his usual stellar performers Mike Portnoy (drums) and Randy George (bass) amongst several other guests including his former band Spock's Beard on the powerful track "Time Changer". I have always appreciated Neal's music and the tremendous insight into the human spirit based on a solid foundation of faith that he conveys. As most folks know that are familiar with Neal, he is a born again Christian. This event sparked his exit from Spock's Beard and consequently launched a very successful solo career and several recordings with prog rock super group Transatlantic.

Testimony Two is without a doubt the strongest effort to date from Morse. I have covered his solo career very closely and had the opportunity to share my opinion on most of his work to date. I noticed right from the start that the energy level and music is very powerful. This is a very good thing because Neal has a story to tell and a very important message to relay to listeners. This is his story and it is indeed a compelling one. The turning point in Neal's life was when his daughter Jayda was born with a hole in her heart and then was healed by a miracle of faith. I think most people would be shaken by such an event and given a new outlook on life, and then renewed spiritually with all the possibilities presented during such an awakening. It was a huge wake up call for Neal and his family and the reason you are reading this review is because of that little girl and how she was healed.

It really is an amazing story and the music that is found on this recording is equal to the task of telling the tale in the most prolific way. The disc opens with "Part Six" which may seem odd at first however if you have Testimony, the first installment, it will make sense. The story continues and unravels in 17 amazing tracks on disc one. As "Overture No. 4" leads into "Time Changer" you know that this album is not going to let up and you are in for a truly great progressive rock experience. One of the more entertaining tracks is "Road Dog Blues", which is self-explanatory. Not only does Neal find freedom in his new found faith, he can share it with his family because he is not on the tour grind any longer with Spock's Beard. I can see Portnoy having the time of his life behind the drum kit on that track.

CD 2 holds three tracks and it's the highlight of the set, all three emotionally power packed tracks. This is Morse and his band at their very best pumping out prog rock classics "Absolute Beginner", "Supernatural" and the nearly 25 minute tour de force "Seeds of Gold" to wrap up the session. This set is fantastic and similar to the kind of music and presentation that Neal is accustomed to in recording with Transatlantic.

Neal Morse has made the musical and spiritual statement of his life and career with Testimony Two.

Key Tracks: Seeds of Gold, Road Dog Blues, Absolute Beginner Keith "MuzikMan" Founder

Report this review (#466533)
Posted Wednesday, June 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Having already given masterpiece status to two of Morse's other albums (One and ?), I thought it unlikely that he would be able to put out another stellar album after his more recent albums (Sola Scriptura and Lifeline) left me a little disappointed. I was wrong. Testimony 2 is a beautiful work and a true masterpiece.

I have been critical of Morse in the past for self-plagiarizing; but with this album being a sequel, it made sense to do that very thing. Interestingly enough, the reoccuring themes from the first Testimony album are brought to life in a fantastic way. Testimony 2 is full of dizzying overtures, soaring melodies and catchy themes which can't help but please. There are so many highlights, it's difficult to determine where to begin: "Overture No. 4" and "Time Changer" are brilliantly written and performed (with some nice contributions from guys named Nick D'Virgilio, Dave Meros and Alan Morse). "Jayda" is emotionally moving. "Jesus' Blood" and "The Truth Will Set You Free" are Neal Morse at his best with soulish singing and energetic playing on a wide assortment of instruments. "It's For You" is a fantastic tune with some stunning guitar work performed by Paul Bielatowicz.

Disc 1 closes with "Crossing Over" which is a nice ending, but also is my one quibble with the whole album in that it goes a little longer than I think it should. Morse likes having big drawn- out endings and for once I'd like to see something finish strong and abruptly. It's a minor quibble, but one I thought worth mentioning. 5 stars without hesitation and I haven't even gotten to the best part...

Disc 2!

Three songs - all very strong - with "Seeds of Gold" being a 26-minute epic and an outstanding one at that. I highly recommend this album to any prog lover.

Report this review (#468282)
Posted Thursday, June 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Testimony 2' - Neal Morse (8/10)

Neal Morse has been one of the most celebrated figures in the progressive rock scene of recent years. Developing a strong following with Spock's Beard, Morse has also met some heavy acclaim for his solo work, where he shows no signs of letting up. Although I am an avid fan of prog rock, I have found it often difficult to get into the music of the artists who choose to express themselves through the sound of the original prog legends, rather than truly progress rock music forward. First hearing the work of Neal Morse through the Transatlantic supergroup, that has been my biggest gripe with the man's work, but while the epic scope of symphonic prog here is far from original-sounding, Neal Morse writes his music with conviction and passion, refusing to compromise his expression even so far into his career. 'Testimony 2' is doused in Yes-inspired prog rock instrumentation, recurring themes and skilled musicianship. What I find myself most enjoying about the album however, is Morse's ability to take these ingredients and make a personal journey out of it all.

For much of what I have heard from Neal Morse in the past, it seems as if the greatest thing he has going for him when compared to the rest of the prog scene is his incredibly sincere attitude towards music. While many artists that create twenty minute suites of music (as Morse does here) go down the route of making their music about some spaced out fantasy or vague philosophy, Neal sings about things that are quite clearly dear to him and his life. As many may know, this includes a great dose of religious themes, since Morse has deemed himself a born-again Christian. Even taking a look at the track listing here may turn off the more secular listeners right off the bat, but unlike a couple less successful Morse releases, 'Testimony 2' does not focus solely on his beliefs in God. I am atheistic and was not sure how Morse's religious themes would strike me before listening, but if anything, they are certainly tastefully done. Instead of blindly shouting out praise to his religion, Neal Morse only moderately dabbles in lyrics about his religion; the songs here are about much wider topics in his life. Among these are songs about his daughter nearly dying in childbirth, or missing his family while he is out on tour, and the straightforward, human way that Morse conveys these topics to the listener is touching.

The music here is very well arranged, but perhaps 'Testimony 2's greatest weakness is the fact that it is far, far too long for its own good. While there are albums out there that can make grand use of their long lengths, 'Testimony 2' does not feel as if it has enough musical dynamic or rising action to warrant such a long musical experience, which is nearly two hours long. Although the first disc has a nice narrative throughout the three epic chunks of music and Morse keeps the sound nicely arranged and lush, 'Testimony 2' stays mainly stays focused on upbeat symphonic prog, staying fairly fixated on vintage prog rock conventions throughout the whole thing. While I can certainly see the revivalist school of prog rock finding no qualm in this, the retrogressive style here tends to leave nothing to the imagination, and becomes very predictable, despite the great musicianship from everyone involved here. As for the second disc, the epic 'Seeds of Gold' is as strong- even perhaps a little stronger- than the three parts of disc one, but when compared to the already-lengthy first disc, the latter portion of 'Testimony 2' feels like it may have been better left off the record entirely, in order to make this expression from Morse a little more effective.

I was not originally sure what to expect from what was first reaching my ears as a religious album, but it is clear why Neal Morse is one of the rightful kings of the modern-day prog rock scene. While there is still a little fat on the edges of this steak that could have been trimmed off for the sake of ultimate flavour, 'Testimony 2' has made a believer out of me.

Report this review (#468429)
Posted Thursday, June 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Jesus bring me home, I don't want to hurt my family anymore...."

"Will the real God please stand up? I want the truth... I want to know the way..."

".. I"ll give you more than this world can ever give..."

Brilliant modern symphonic prog with a very personal touch, particularly for believers.

Neal Morse has inspired me and entertained my ear for a good two years now. Having a strong personal interest in the Christian faith, I snatched up his albums as quick as I could. "One" and "Sola Scriptura" to me were excellent epics that I will no doubt continue to spin in the future. But the step up to (almost) perfection came with "Question Mark" and "The Whirlwind". These were enough to establish Neal's legacy. But, says Neal, there is more! 'My God gets the glory' he says. And so we get "Testimony 2". This album continues the momentum of masterful music! Well, mostly. To be fair, a few tracks suffer from cliche.

All up, we get an album which is lyrical, energetic and passionate.

Have a listen to the bass work and the great guitar riffs and solos.

"Seeds of Gold" blew me out of the water!

Very enjoyable, highly recommended!

4.5 stars

Report this review (#468918)
Posted Friday, June 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
1 stars This is perhaps the corniest album I've ever heard. The problem is that Morse obviously had great lyrical inspiration. These are messages that are very iportant to him and he really wants to express them. Musical inspiration? Whoops, now there's the problem. He's pretty much literally taken his desert island discs plus his own back catalogue, put them in a blender, heated them up till they're nice and tepid and slopped them on a plate. Which isn't to say this is a lazy album, no, there's been effort put into this. But the result is like heated up barf regardless of how much labor has been put in. This is a man with his head up his own ass which the length confirms. One would've thought the point of testifying was to reach a wider audience rather than to retreat inside an increasingly narrow universe. Anybody who is openminded about sprituality will find these lyrical messages laughable and perhaps even almost offensive. As others have said the album is full of "vintage" and "retro" sounds except for me that doesn't warrant 4/5 stars. How one turns in an album which is so long but contains so little invention and be considered one of the best of the year is beyond me and this is exactly the kind of album which makes prog the laughing stock of other musical genres.
Report this review (#469008)
Posted Saturday, June 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars The tree has grown since 2003's "Testimony" and in the meantime also Neal Morse has not stopped growing both spiritually and musically; "Testimony 2" is the final outcome of this continued growth, a double CD containing nearly 2 hours of great music without any particular flaw or weak point. Only a great musician (supported by 2 great performers such as Portnoy and Randy George) can conceive and carry out such a titanic undertaking and the final results are in the ... ears of every prog music fan. And, of course, it doesn't really matter and therefore can not be considered a weak point its lenght, considering the excellent quality of music offered throughout the whole album. Strongly recommended. My final rating: 5 stars
Report this review (#469011)
Posted Saturday, June 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars 5 stars?More or less

After the slightly disappointing "Lifeline," I was afraid that Neal Morse was losing his divine inspiration.But behold, he gives us " Testimony 2 ", an album that is not very different from anything he's done, but it's definitely a breath of fresh air in his wonderful career, being a strong candidate for one of the best albums of 2011.

In fact to say that this album was not surprised and pleased as much as "One" or "Sola Scriptura ",my favorite albuns of Neal.Disc 1 is good, but falters in some moments.But agree with the reviewers who say the best part is the six-especially "Time Changer" which, with a cameo by Alan Morse, Nick D'Virgilio and Dave Meros (why not call Ryo Okumoto too?) to prepare a vocal a la Gentle Giant and an organ solo to borrow "The Water"(from the debut album by Spock's Beard), is the best song of disc.While listened, I wondered if it would be good to give this album 4 stars.

But then came the second disk and changed my point of view.It is a bonus disc consisting of only three tracks: "Absolute Beginner", "Supernatural" and the monstrous epic "Seeds of God" ,which is one of the best songs ever by Neal - each time I listen, I fall in love more and more of this wonderful song.The songs already composed three tracks are better than anything from the first album (except "Time Changer", of course).

Although far from being the best album of Neal Morse, put to me that this is occupied by "One" and "Sola Scriptura", "2 Testimony" is a strong book and deserves 5 ​​stars

Report this review (#470195)
Posted Sunday, June 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well, it took him eight tries (six since he left Spock's Beard), but Neal Morse has finally written and recorded his perfect solo album. And what a terrific album it is.

Once you hear the opening piano notes, which reprises one of the main themes from the original Testimony album, you know you are in a for a helluva ride, especially when it immediately segues into the very catchy Mercy Street, which has a chorus that will get stuck in your head for days.

The main disc is an astonishing journey of Morse's catchy, and yet very complex, prog rock. Plus, this disc brings back what has been missing from a lot of Morse's solo work: fun! Songs like Time Changer (which recalls his days with SB, had a very SBish bass line, and features a vocal section where most of his former bandmates all contribute), Nighttime Collectors, Time Has Come Today and Road Dog Blues have that kind of fun as hell, rocking vibe that Morse was so good at writing when he was driving the Spock's bus.

If nothing else, the main disc is worth having just for the last two tracks. It's for You is a typical Morse composition that combines stunning melodies with progressive theatrics; it is a track that many rock stars would love to say they had written.

Which brings us to Crossing Over/Mercy Street Reprise, which is hands down the best 11 minutes and 46 seconds Neal Morse has written in the last decade. Words cannot do this song justice. You have to hear it to grasp its full greatness and majestic power. I love how, instead of doing the usual Morse-style ending where it builds to a crushing crescendo, it just goes on and on and eventually fades out, leaving the listener believing that that gorgeous melody will go on forever, even while our time listening to is over.

And if the main disc isn't enough, we get three more songs on the second disc. The first song, Absolute Beginner, is a good tune; nothing spectacular, but just a solid song. Supernatural, track two, is a killer tune with harmonies in the middle that are very reminiscent of Spock's June. Plus, I like how the lyrics can be interpreted in several ways. While it is easy to think that Neal could be talking about the relationship between God and man, they are ambiguously worded to where it could be about a relationship between a man and a woman. That kind of spirituality, but without being over the top about it, carries over into Seeds of Gold, a 26-minute epic that would be the best thing Neal had written in years (if Crossing Over... didn't exist).

Ultimately, yes, I think this is a progressive rock masterpiece. I would probably give it 4 1/2 stars, but with the 1/2 stars not available here, I'll bump it up to 5 here. If you were a big fan of Neal's back in the day, but have a tough time sticking with him because of his lyrical content, this is the Neal Morse solo album to have.

Report this review (#470457)
Posted Sunday, June 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Testimony 2 is an album I didn't think I would be reviewing. With so many to cover in 2011, and with this one being a long and daunting composition, I had reserved Neal Morse's latest to casual, fun listens rather than anything intensely concentrated. Over time though, I became way too engrossed with it not to give it the attention it deserves. I'm glad I did, because Testimony 2 is a wonderful album, and is surely one of the year's best.

Before we begin, let's get this out of the way right now. Unless you've never heard anything by Neal Morse, you've probably made up your mind about his music, and this album isn't going to change your mind. For Neal fans, you should already own this. For those who don't like him, you can move along safely. Now that that's done, let's actually talk about Testimony 2.

What an album Neal Morse has crafted. This is my first experience with one of his solo albums, but I'm familiar with his work with Spock's Beard and Transatlantic, so I felt right at home instantly. What I'd taken away from those other bands is that his strengths lie in composition and singing, both of which are just as good here. For me, Testimony 2 is like (Transatlantic's) The Whirlwind's little brother, which is a personal favorite of mine. It shares a lot of what made that album so good, while branching out in its instrumental variety, if not being quite as exciting without the other band's members.

What this album shares most with The Whirlwind and what makes it so good is its extremely well done composition and use of recurring themes. There are about a half a dozen themes used throughout the 13 songs, and each is reprised a number of times. Neal must know I'm a sucker for a good theme, and I can't remember when I've had so many goose bumps in 80 minutes. Besides the use of themes, there are a lot of changes in energy and dynamics, and exciting solos that keep the music entertaining throughout. While not every individual song is incredible, there are enough strong ones to make up for it, and make the whole piece great.

The instrumentation is just as solid as the composition, and Neal's usual bubbly synthesizers, organs, and guitars are present, in addition to a large number of guests. The string section, mostly violins, creates a few incredibly moving sections, and there are a handful of more unique passages, like an electric violin solo and a few saxophone lines. Neal's voice is, as always, consistently strong. He can have his corny moments, but the high points of his voice more than make up for them. Even if I just considered the vocal sections that I didn't like, they would still be stronger than the majority of singing on albums I've reviewed this year.

While in our favorite genre, lyrics usually get pretty abstract and out there, Neal's are really heart-felt and grounded in reality. The lyrical theme of Testimony 2 centers on his faith, and the struggle he went through transitioning from touring with Spock's Beard, to fully accepting God. Listening to this album is almost like getting a musical auto-biography, and if you're interested in Neal's life, the lyrics are really interesting to hear. The lyrics are also reflected in the music, changing from more rocky, energetic material when singing about being on tour, to somber and slow pieces when having internal struggles. The lyrics and music combine in a great way, and the cohesive story is a great element of the album.

Now, if Testimony 2 only included the main composition, I would be giving this four stars. Sure, for as much as I really like it, there is enough singing that I don't care for, and a couple low points in the middle act to keep it from being perfect. However, there is a short second disc that contains three unrelated tracks. The first two are actually not very good, with the first song seeming more like a Nickelodeon theme song. The final song though, Seeds of Gold, is an amazing epic that's just as good as the high points of the first CD. With the first disc already being quite strong, and an extra 25 great minutes on the second, the overall package is well deserving of the full five.

In the end, this lengthy review has been a justification of my rating. The main composition is a great cohesive piece, and I wouldn't be surprised if Seeds of Gold ended up being this year's strongest epic, but you probably have already decided whether or not to buy this. If for some reason you're on the fence and have any interest in Neal Morse's music, the answer is yes, go out and buy this right now.

Report this review (#480168)
Posted Sunday, July 10, 2011 | Review Permalink
1 stars Without any prior knowledge about neither Neal Morse nor Spock's Beard. Just knowing that this artist was supposed to be one of the relatively new prog stars. I got my hands on Testimony 2. I will do this short, because i dont want to spend too much time on a negative review, but i have been listning to the album 6-7 times, and i still feel nothing, less inspired than if i listen to a few hours of mainstream POP on FM radio. At least that contains a degree of varriation. The lyrics beeing very religius dosent hurt much, but dosent help much either, not very inovative as with everything else on the record. That this is supposed to be a top 2011 release is beyond me, just dont understand !. I hope that he have made much better records and his reputation helps him on this very thin recording.

Honestly im not sure i'll ever listen to it again. If in the mood for something not inovative and very "done before", ill do much better with the new Amos Lee or Decemberists, at least those are rustic in a much better sence of the word.

I will have to give this a 1 stars rating. This is the only CD i have directly got regrets about getting, for a very long time.

Report this review (#484769)
Posted Monday, July 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Finally, the present effort by Neal Morse is able to take the best style from his last era with Spock's Beard (at the time of "Snow"), as well as from the most "metal prog-oriented" period with Transatlantic, but without forgetting his "religious" and more mystical roots of the early music career as a soloist (think of the track "Jesus' Blood", which goes into such direction)...Well, the typical "overtures" and more symphonic themes represent a secure "trade- mark" for an intelligent artist like him, as He's obliged to survive inside the difficult market of music; nevertheless the sound (unlike his recent compositions) is not too much derivative and a bit "fresh" too, except on the gentle-giantesque vocalism of "Time Changer" or a few parts in the vein of the quite disappointing "Lifeline". Moreover the track "Nighttime Collectors" perhaps is able to maintain the same mood as in the recent concerts with Transatlantic, where the organic work of each player has been performed live to serve the teamwork and not to let remark a specific talent on stage within a sort of "music-competition"; then I like to mention also the song "Time Has Come Today", where Neal let emerge the good music talent of the guitarist, even though emotionally it cannot be compared to the already mentioned feeling of "Jesus' Blood".

Instead, talking about the second section of the present album by N. Morse, I prefer the tune "Supernatural", where his original prog rock roots in the vein of the early Genesis emerge by means of his lush synths...even though also the pop song "Absolute Beginner"- the opener of side 2- is not bad, in spite of an obvious style, partially improved if you consider the chorus inside...then the final track "Seeds of Gold, (almost 26 minutes long), which is not prolix- being very "varied" in the composition- thanks also to the presence of a special guest-star like Steve Morse; but you know I don't like a too much long composition (except of course on the mythical suite "Supper's Ready" by Genesis) in every kind of music style...nevermind, the present "Testimony 2" is worth checking out anyway!!

Report this review (#489683)
Posted Sunday, July 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars What can you actually write about Neal Morse? I wonder if there is anyone in this site unfamiliar with his work? I wonder if a review of this album is necessary after the time that we all have spent with it? And for someone that listens a lot, A LOT, of music, it is worth mentioning that this CD had stayed all summer in the CD player of my car (...and I believe the heat ruined it...)

As for the review: Well I always loved his music. But I believe since his latest work with Transatlantic he achieved the perfect balance. And this record shows it. Incredible songwriting, one of the greatest voices in music today, monumental performances of the participants. Mike Portnoy's playing shows why he is in the elite of drummers today.I don't care under what band he plays, we all need him!

The compositions are full of warm and catchy melodies along with great symphonic complicated moments, all that you expect from NM. The song structure and length of songs is more balanced, compared to his previous works. IMHO, the 2CD edition is a must, if you need more of what he can deliver.

Simply this is one of the top 10 releases this year.

Without any comparison to his previous works and song by song rating, I lastly wish to add that 2 songs from this album are still all time favorites of my 3 year old daughter. It is the first thing that she asks when she gets in the car and she also tries to sing along (she barely speaks english!!) And for all of you that you take this the wrong way, keep in mind that although of young age, I am proud to say that she is an experienced prog rock reviewer. I don't know how this will evolve in the future but I lost count of all the prog records that she has already listened and, hopefully, enjoyed. Well she surely enjoys this one!

Report this review (#512984)
Posted Friday, September 2, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars I don't get some people. Why would you buy a symphonic prog release, if you don't like the genre. Symphonic prog will never ever be original again, everything has done before. From Genesis to Kansas and back again. Symphonic prog is a genre for people who adore synthesizers/keyboards in all their glory. People for who melody is more important than pretentious over-complicated progressive nonsense. Bands who get lost in their music, because they want to be original and an acquired taste.

Neal Morse just wants to right music that will touch people's hearts. There is where the only flaw of this album surfaces... the Christian theme. For people of other believes or no believes, this can be a huge obstacle to take. At first it was even a hurdle to take for me. I listened to it once and was disgusted by the religious drenched songs. After a while I built up a filter and pinched through the theme and found some heavenly (no pun intended) melodies and great soundscapes you get goosebumps from.

Excellent release, by a great artist. I hope he some day stops to try and convert us.

Report this review (#533165)
Posted Monday, September 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Much heavier than I expected! I'm not a Neal Morse (or Sock's Beard) fan, but I must admit that this album is better than my expectations. The sheer volume of high quality music and performances may bear this one out to be a 'masterpiece'--one for the ages--though to my mind this one is still a bit too KANSAS-like to vault it into such esteem. I have no problem with Neal's Christian message--as I have no problem with the despondent Goth messengers. This is just good music with emotion-filled vocal performances. The fact that Jesus and Christianity are what inspire Neal to deliver such performances is immaterial--we're just lucky his muse is so very strong.
Report this review (#558759)
Posted Friday, October 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars 7/10

"Testimony 2" is a really enjoyable, honest listen that brings back old glories of progressive rock, bringing something new to the table as well.

Eight years after "Testimony", Neal Morse felt that he had much more to say concerning that part of his life and that concept in particular, so he wrote "Testimony 2", this time, being more explicit to certain themes that were a little less underlined in the previous effort, the most obvious one being about his daughter Jayda. While being a little inferior to the original LP, "Testimony 2" contains elements that were lacking in the first part, and thus is much different.

Musically, it wouldn't be a heresy in saying that pretty much nothing whatsoever changed: there are the strong progressive themes, the excellent musicianship and eclectic instrumentation, softer, pop rock, acoustic moments, and so on. There is however something in the air that makes it sound modern, or at least something that is different from the first part: I can certainly tell by the music that this is not only a sequel, but a sequel written in 2011. Once again, we have on drums Mike Portnoy and a change in formation for the bass guitar, Randy George. Together they give a great addiction to the music, although this time around I sense Portnoy's presence because of his typical drumming: back in 2003, I remembered him much more laid back.

In "Testimony 2" Morse clearly explains the struggles he had concerning his faith, identity, by living almost two lives, one as a prog rock musician and another as a extremely devoted Christian. The story is the continuity of the first Testimony, which explained the process of him becoming a Christian. Once again, some of the lyrics on this new album at times become a little banal and corny, not for the content itself but how they were written. The album's grandiose 112 minutes has quite some highlights around it : the opener "Mercy Street" is of a great, memorable prog rock tone, it just shows how Morse is truly devoted also to prog rock music. From there, a large variety of sounds, moods, and instrumentation, finding their best moments in the ballad "Jayda", "Jesus Bring Me Home", and the whole second disc of this album, all three of songs included pretty darn close to being masterful, especially the twenty five minutes epic "Seeds Of Gold".

"Testimony 2" is a really enjoyable, honest and in a way visceral listen that brings back old glories of progressive rock and as always brings something new to the table as well. Whether this album will go down in history or not, It is pretty uncertain, but it will always remain a precious and worthwhile listen, despite it's massive length.

Report this review (#590169)
Posted Saturday, December 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Testimonial to a big man of modern music. Well, I wanted to stop my long delightful Neil Morse's musical experience with "Sola Scriptura", because I thought "what else could I have from this guy, given also his great Transatlantic output?". And, then, this "Testimony 2" came out. The title was already flashing an alert on me, and I stayed away from it, for many months. Then, the many good reviews on PA really pulled me out from my initial intentions. I gave Neil another proof of faith (eh eh). And, my friends, he delivered once more. And how enjoyable this work is! Yes, it's music already heard, as a whole: but with enough new twists and melodies, and hooking motifs that I have been so impressed, and wishing to forgive him about the unoriginal album title. You get everything you may ever desire from a Symphonic record. Tearjerking melodies and lyrics ("Jayda", "Jesus bring me home"), slightly heavier and fast paced compelling blues-oriented songs ("Time has come today", "Chance of a lifetime, Road dog blues"), rockers ("Nightime collector"); The two acts pf "Mercy Street" in pure uplifting Neil Morse style; and the great, multifaceted "Time changer"; and "Supernatural" gets its name by its flat-out unearthly beauty. And then, what, after all of this? A 26 minutes epic, with an all-you-can-hear menu on it, astonishing. Setbacks? I'm skipping "Absolute Beginner" as a dull straight pop tune.

Final Judgement: 9/10, missing "10" just because it's not breaking through new music. But if this is your first exposure to Neil Morse, you couldn't escape labeling this a masterpiece. And my 5 stars rounding-up is to say thanks to such a talented man. One of my Top 3 albums of 2011 (together with Steven Wilson's and Haken's ones).

Report this review (#602279)
Posted Tuesday, January 3, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars After the rather terrible 'Lifeline,' Neal Morse gets his creative juices flowing again and releases the wonderful sequel to Testimony. This album has as many great ideas as Testimony one, but they're all compacted to give a much tighter and focused sound. This is Neal Morse back to show why he's the king of melodies and the leader of modern prog.

The album begins with 'Mercy Street' (9/10) which is this albums equivalent Testimony's 'The Land of Beginning Again.'

'Overture No. 4' (10/10) is an instrumental track and is exactly like what you would find on the first Testimony. Plenty of good melodies and instrumentation is found here.

'Time Changer' (9/10) is a bass driven song that also cameos one of Neal Morse's Gentle Giant fiascos near the end.

'Jayda' (6/10) is a nice little ballad with acoustic guitar and strings. The Mellotron is also very strong on this one as well. This song is obviously very personal to him, and I think he does a good job with singing it with emotion.

'Nighttime Collectors' (8/10) reminds me slightly of Spock's Beard, which is no surprise as the boys lent some backing vocals, and some organ parts sound similar to some Beard tunes.

'Time Has Come Today' (10/10) starts off with a reprise of some previous melodies before entering a really nice vocally driven section at two minutes. I really like the positive and energetic atmosphere on this one.

'Jesus's Blood' (5/10) is another slower ballad led by some tasty Mellotron bits and some nice blues, Gilmour-esque guitar.

'The Truth Will Set You Free' (5/10) is based around the main Testimony melody. It really doesn't have much going for it otherwise.

'Chance of a Lifetime' (9/10) revisits some previously used melodies, especially in 'Time Has Come Today.'

'Jesus Bring Me Home' (5/10) is another slower ballad like song. I can feel the desperation in Neal's voice, which shows he is both a masterful instrumentalist AND vocalists.

Road Dog Blues' (7/10) is a fun church-like song. I don't particularly mind it this time around like I didn't in One.

'It's For You' (7/10) helps finish off the album with a flurry of great synth melodies. 'Crossing Over/Mercy Street Revisited' (7/10) is obviously a reprise of the melodies before it like Neal so often does at the end of his albums. This is a long, but appropriate ending.

The bonus songs 'Absolute Beginner' (5/10) and 'Supernatural' (5/10) though I do like the vocal melodies/harmonies in the latter. The real star of the bonus disc is the 25-minute epic 'Seeds of Gold' (10/10) This is one of Neal's better epics and is my current second favorite behind 'The Creation.' It opens with the classic piano intro reminiscent of 'The Doorway' by Spock's Beard. This is followed by a cool bass breakdown by Randy. This easily has some of the coolest vocal melodies I've heard from Morse so far and is certainly a strong point in the song. It is also organized better than some of his other epics like The Door and The Conflict, which both felt slightly bloated. This has clearly identifiable parts that are intertwined perfectly. This is right up there with 'The Great Nothing,' All of the Above' and 'The Creation' for best Neal Morse composition.

Overall I would say Testimony 2 is a slightly better and less bloated album than the first. But it is still one of Morse's longer releases and takes a while to get through. But I would venture to say you would be greatly rewarded by doing so.


Report this review (#792447)
Posted Sunday, July 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Testimony 2, like the original Testimony album, is a prog-oriented solo release by Neal Morse which comes at an interesting point in his career. The original Testimony wasn't quite his solo debut - he'd put out some non-prog singer-songwriter stuff before that - but it was the first prog material he'd put out since his departure from Spock's Beard, and was essential in establishing Neal as a viable solo artist who could still speak to the prog fanbase he'd cultivated despite his shift into overtly religious subject matter.

This turned out to be unusually successful, because whilst Neal might have felt a religious calling to do more music about his spiritual perspective, he hadn't given up on his former musical and lyrical approach so much as he'd evolved it. In particular, most of Neal's prog solo albums from Testimony to Testimony 2 would be unabashed concept albums, tackling meaty subjects like autobiography, Christian parables, Old Testament Scripture, and Church history. Of course, promoting a particular religious viewpoint and hyping up Christ was part of the deal, but the albums were never simplistic collections of praise songs or unsubtle, repetitive calls to conversion. (Neal would put out his Worship Sessions series of more conventionally Christian-themed music, of course, but they aren't prog releases and don't pretend to be.)

However, I found that his 2008 release, Lifeline, found the prog side of his work slipping; unusually for his prog solo releases, it wasn't a concept album, just a collection of songs about how awesome God is, and as well as lyrically slipping back towards his worship music output it musically speaking kept drifting in a fairly generic Christian rock direction. It felt like Neal's prog batteries were low - and then came the surprising twist of his return to Transatlantic, which he'd left at the same time as his departure from Spock's Beard, with the new album The Whirlwind being a good step up from Lifeline (perhaps benefitting from a wider range of compositional hands at the helm).

If the first Testimony was Neal explaining his perspective of things at the time when he'd just given up on being part of his various band projects, then, Testimony 2 finds him giving an autobiographical snapshot of where he's at immediately after he'd not only come back to one of those bands, but taken up the keyboard player's duties in another project (Flying Colors). Inevitably, this involves going over some territory again - he's not stopped being keen on Jesus, after all - but in some respects this is a good thing, because it allows Neal to touch on subject matter which he had avoided on the previous album.

On the first Testimony, and in public, Neal's departure from his various band projects was presented as solely being about him wanting to put more of a focus on religious music, and not wanting to drag those projects in that direction. (Notably, whilst his reunion album with Transatlantic isn't without mild religious themes, these are nowhere near as front-and-centre as they are in his solo work.) Privately, however, Neal's family was undergoing a crisis: his daughter Jayda had been born with a heart condition, but thankfully it seemed to spontaneously resolve itself.

It's understandable why Neal might have felt he owed God a thing or two after that - and doubly understandable why he would want to take more control of his schedule, stepping away from the Spock's Beard and Transatlantic touring grind so as to spend as much time as possible with his family, and triply understandable why he wouldn't have wanted to make a big deal of that on the first Testimony - both because the matter was so raw at the time, and because the classy thing to do when you've got a song about someone's birth condition is to wait until they're a little older and can form views on whether they want their medical history turned into a song!

Happily, Jayda's recovery appears to have stuck - and so Testimony 2 includes Jayda, a song focused on her story; this is perhaps the simplest and most direct song on the album, a heartfelt tune vividly describing the agony the family were going through and their joy at her recovery - all the sort of thing you can get behind and enjoy whether or not you subscribe to Neal's particular religious conclusions, because regardless of that there's still an interesting autobiographical story being told here. This added dimension to the story means that Testimony 2 doesn't feel redundant next to Testimony so much as it's giving a different slant on the same story, which both makes Testimony 2 a richer album by itself and helps put a new spin on the original album in retrospect.

So much for the lyrical themes: what about the music? Well, thankfully Neal's back on top after the misstep of Lifeline; it's not that his approach is radically different from the sort of work he's done since the early Spock's Beard (his prog songwriting has always been gradually evolving rather than undergoing sudden revolutions), but there's a pep to the music's step which wasn't there on Lifeline. You've got big Broadway musical moments, torch songs, Gentle Giant-esque intertwined vocal harmonies, Pink Floyd-inspired guitar work, and all sorts of prog treats crammed into 100-odd minutes of music.

Notably, though, only 70-ish of those minutes relate to the main concept - the second CD has two shorter, self-contained songs and a nice self-contained prog epic, Seeds of Gold. Interestingly, all three songs can absolutely be interpreted from a religious perspective, or could be secular songs about love and peace - much as was the case with Transatlantic's The Whirlwind - suggesting that as well as being open to working in more secular band projects (Flying Colors is not overtly Jesus-y, for instance) and in addition to playing covers of secular songs, Neal was now open to broadening the lyrical scope of his solo compositions.

Look, this deep into his solo career Neal Morse has told us exactly who he is and what he's about; if anything, he did that on the original Testimony, so despite his sensible decision to keep some of the most personal and painful aspects of that story quiet until this release you can at least say he was open and honest about the parts he did lay out. There's not a whole lot that's going on with Testimony 2 which is enormously new - indeed, even the core musical team of Neal, Mike Portnoy, and Randy George is the same trio that's been the backbone of his pro solo albums since One - but when it comes to examples of what Neal does on his prog solo albums, Testimony 2 is right there in the top tier next to Sola Scriptura.

Report this review (#860194)
Posted Friday, November 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars As a Christian who respects the Bible as an authority, I agree only in part with the preaching of Morse. There are important insights in his lyrics which, in my opinion, have no foundation in the Holy Scriptures, as it has miraculous healing today. Also, I do not know conclusively until real is his conversion, but it's not my business to judge him.

As for the music, Testimony II is a highly qualified product, essentially the first album, seamless, with intelligent conductive line. well orchestrated and sung with emotion. Seeds of Gold of second album is also essential and brilliant.

The compositions and melodies are transcendent, Morse executions on piano and synths, extraordinary, like the corresponding collaboration of his comrades. Another unmissable gem in vast discography of a leading musician of the last two decades.

Report this review (#1089003)
Posted Thursday, December 12, 2013 | Review Permalink

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