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MOMENTUM

Neal Morse

Symphonic Prog


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Muzikman
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Just when you think an artist like Neal Morse has released a career defining album he turns around and releases one that is even better. With Momentum Morse has done that, again.

The title is fitting because Neal felt very strongly that he had more momentum now than ever before during his recording career and now was not the time to rest on his laurels but to seize the moment and continue writing and recording music. His blend of spiritual progressive rock has swept across the world like a musical tsunami bringing along anyone within range of its awesome powers.

Morse is in the prime of his career now recording solo albums and performing and recording with super group Transatlantic. His longtime friend and drummer extraordinaire Mike Portnoy has been along for the ride. It goes without saying that the drumming on this recording is outstanding. Also the ever present Randy George is on bass, the other half of the powerhouse rhythm section that sets Morse and his songs on fire. The guitar playing comes via the six strings of legendary Paul Gilbert and Brazilian Adson Sodr'. The chemistry for this recording is undeniable and the end result is proof that it all worked.

The music is incredibly good on Momentum. What you get is spiritually infused electrifying prog rock and metal, basically everything you would expect and more. It comes at you like a smart bomb and just explodes from your speakers, making every word count with full impact. The nearly 34 minute suite 'World Without End' is a bona fide prog rock magnum opus and some of Morse's best work to date not to mention every other musician making contributions on another level, which separates them from so many others with profound emphasis. Morse finds inspiration and endless creative energy through his faith and we as the listeners are the fortunate recipients of that blessing.

I have to give the nod to the title track and 'Smoke and Mirrors' as well, they are standouts that spotlight the precision instrumentation and power of Morse and his band. To be perfectly honest, there is not a moment of holding back on this recording and that includes not only the musicianship but the finely crafted lyrics behind all that energy and sheer musical force. There are some real heavy instrumental passages on this recording and I found it very pleasing as they offered both the complex, hard edged and mellower aspects of the genre. From the brute force of heavy metal at its peak to the more refined and syncopated complexities of keyboard laced prog, sprinklings of classical and jazz, this album covers the gamut of progressive music. Morse is no stranger to the elements of prog and what makes it tick.

With Momentum Neal Morse shows the world that not only is it befitting the title of the recording, he exemplifies the very meaning. When many artists his age are pulling in the reins, getting off the road and slowing down in every aspect of their careers, he seems to be hitting his stride with no end in sight. This is classic prog rock by one of the brightest stars of our generation.

Key Tracks: Momentum, Smoke and Mirrors, World Without End Keith 'MuzikMan' Hannaleck-Founder MuzikReviews.com

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Send comments to Muzikman (BETA) | Report this review (#807682)
Posted Monday, August 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Neal has shocked me once again... I am just in awe. Momentum is wonderful. Opening up with the title track Momentum, the tone is set well. The full version is a lot better than the short cut in the music video (still love the video though). The title track is a solid piece with precision and the chorus is ever catchy. Next we move on to Thoughts Part 5. This might possibly one of Neal's most interesting tracks he's ever recorded. There are so many changes within a short 8 min length (short by Morse standards). There are some sweet headbanging moments in track, so heavy in a proggy sort of way. Randy's bass is super present and Mike is tearing it up. We even get to hear Randy play some guitar ( a real treat) Next we go to Smoke and Mirrors, this is a nice little tune similar to Kansas's Dust in the Wind. Weathering Sky is next,I love the instrumental precision in this one, its very catchy ha ha. Great rock pop Morse style. Freak, this is some new territory for Morse. He always had a craft in incorporating strings so well, but this is really different. Its a pop driven string song with interesing lyrics touching on the reality of how Jesus might be perceived today if He physically walked around. ... And the seeds of Gold is saved for last (sorry I know I just did that). The Monster epic World Without End clocking over 33 minutes is it. A while back Randy was saying that this is the best epic Morse and them have ever done yet... I can see why. This is Neal's best over 20 min epic to date I can safely say. It also has some of the best insane instrumental passages he's ever recorded (still off that T2 high, Momentum huh? ha ha). Portnoy really stands out (but doesn't he always?) here, the drumming is earth shattering. And I also thought the lyrics were great referring to the age to come... Well I'm sure as I listen to in many more times, new things will be observed, and my appreciation will just grow. World Without End is the highlight on Momentum. A masterpiece. 5 out of 5. Thanks Mr. Neal Morse

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Send comments to AlexDOM (BETA) | Report this review (#814059)
Posted Sunday, September 02, 2012 | Review Permalink
Flucktrot
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars For all the talk about this album both being very mindful of not rehashing previous material and also bringing us back to the Spock's Beard days, it really sounds to me like a continuation of Neal's last solo album (Lifeline) and Transatlantic album (Whirlwind). I'm not hearing a new direction, and there are numerous places that take me back to recent material.

Having said that, I personally enjoy this album, particularly World Without End. With Momentum, Morse has indeed kept up his songwriting momentum, but this inertia has also led him in a very linear path from previous material.

Lifeline seems to split fans, but count me in the camp that thought it was a fine album, particularly So Many Roads. To me, World Without End is perhaps a bit more solid than Roads (which I think is a very solid track, though less "epic"), although the two are definitely in the same league. I'm perfectly happy when Neal rocks out for stretches, throws some metal in there for fun, and then also spruces things up with some fresh sections (such as winds/horns) before wrapping things up with an epic refrain. Aside from Testimony II, this is essentially what Morse has been doing for the past half-decade.

This strikes me as quite a formulaic approach, but it's a good formula, and I still like the results. The main limitation is that some of the insanely good, unforgettable moments from albums such as Testimony, One and ? are not present here. The upside is that is that the consistency is much better (especially given the Testimony comparison). The first 20 minutes of World Without End just fly by, as the melodies, pacing, transitions and instrumentation are expertly done, and the tempos (particularly the energetic opening verse) are nice and energetic.

My main gripes come with the last third of the piece. First, the metal grooving after the first slow down seems pointless. Perhaps if there were a killer guitar solo in there (if Paul Gilbert wasn't available, we know Adson Sodre could have laid something tasty down, given his work earlier in the song). If I had editing input, I would definitely have chucked that section. Second, the grand finale--while plenty grand--is not as high quality as most of the rest of the song. There's a good melody, strong vocals (the last note Neal hits proves he's still got it!) and harmonies, and a nice revisiting of the opening theme. This theme is not great, as it strongly reminds me of the melody from PBSs Nature. The closing also needs something more than a dramatic key change...perhaps a tempo kick or introduction of another theme, or both. Don't get me wrong: this is a high-quality epic, though it needed a stronger closing to really get into my top 25. Given that Neal and Mike have worked on epics that are on that list (Octavarium, Great Nothing, the ending of ?), I think they can still do it on future collaborations. I hope they want to!

As you may be able to tell, I was greatly looking forward to this album for the epic, although the rest is solid as well. Momentum and Weathering Sky are catchy and fun, although less proggy, while Neal explores his take on Eleanor Rigby for Freak. Thoughts is also good, although here is where I really miss Nick D'Virgilio, as his voice and drumming are missed. I also like Randy on bass, but he's just not on the same level of bombast as Dave Meros, and bombastic is what I love about the original Thoughts tunes.

Overall, this is a lean, fun, and energetic album. It's not this group's most creative output, but they've also set a very high standard in that department. It's my favorite Morse album since Sola Scripture, and that's a compliment, because I have mostly enjoyed the ones in between as well. As long as you don't have unreasonable expectations going in (i.e., perfect album, best epic of the last decade, etc.) you won't be disappointed.

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Send comments to Flucktrot (BETA) | Report this review (#820665)
Posted Friday, September 14, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Neal has a tendency to churn out amazing prog (and even good sounding non-prog) at will. Whatever formula he's found is certainly working on this album. The melodic passages of ? and One are present. The heaviness of Sola Scriptura is here, along with a strong hint of Spock's beard and Transatlantic (more so than previous albums). Though at this point it seems Neal is using the prog-by-numbers approach, as the album sounds very similar to all these works listed. Nevertheless, this is a very solid offering.

The title track Momentum is one of those pop-prog songs that Neal seems to be so good at. Although in this case there's nothing really prog about it, just one of those catchy songs in the vein of 'All On a Sunday' by Spock's Beard. Overall nothing really special here though it does contain a nice guitar solo by Paul Gilbert. 6/10

Thoughts pt. 5 follows in the epic thoughts series featuring the signature Gentle Giant vocal harmonies (something Neal seems VERY fond of). The song is heavier than the other thoughts and perhaps less quirky. Nonetheless, there are some amazing riffs and some delicious sounding bass courtesy of Randy. 9/10

Smoke and Mirrors is a slower paced tune similar to 'Dust in the Wind' by Kansas, being mostly acoustic guitar with a nice keyboard climax in the middle. Overall the song is rather uninteresting but does provide a break from the rather bombastic Thoughts. (4/10)

Weathering Sky is based off a heavy and cool riff and a "poppy" chorus. Really, it's as simple as that; but it is very catchy. (6/10)

Freak is a cool little strings based song similar to Eleanor Rigby. It doesn't have the riffs or melody to be a great song like Thoughts pt. 5, but has its idiosyncratic spot on the album. (5/10)

Last but far from least is the real meat of this album, the epic World Without End. This could have easily been the only song on the album. The song is very reminiscent of Transatlantic especially 'The Whirlwind.' The song opens with a very energetic intro that lasts for about 4 minutes until the main melody enters followed by a unique vocal style. The main melody itself is a bit derivative of his previous works and isn't as memorable as the one from 'Seeds of Gold' but does have a nice transatlantic feel to it.

12 minutes in we're hit with a heavy riff backed by Bonham-esque drums. Again, Neal has some interesting vocals unique from his earlier works. Adson Sodre offers a great guitar solo before being segueing into one of Neal's best accomplishments, 'The Mystery.'

The Mystery is possibly the best 4 minutes of any of Neal's solo work; it's THAT good. The section is an orgasm of keyboard playing some of the coolest melodies he has ever composed. I was disappointed when it ended, but at this point the song is only slightly more than half over and there's still a lot of good stuff to come.

The following section has a high Transatlantic vibe until pleasantly interrupted by a heavy riff and a Randy George bass solo. The chaos continues until about 27 minutes when you really think the song is over. The last 6 minutes are a typical (but great) ending with the main theme reprised including soaring guitars very similar to Dancing With Eternal Glory from 'The Whirlwind.' Nonetheless, the ending delivers.

There we have it. The song is nearly perfect. The only criticism I can give it is that it's a bit derivative of his earlier stuff. In fact, if it weren't for the 'The Whirlwind' or 'The Creation' or 'The Great Nothing' I would probably give the song a perfect score. (9.5/10)

Overall, this album is a great offering. Thoughts pt. 5 and the epic make up for the weaker rest of the album. I would probably place it just behind ?, Sola Scriptura, and One. Keep up that momentum!

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Send comments to Mr. Mustard (BETA) | Report this review (#820828)
Posted Friday, September 14, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Momentum is now the seventh solo prog album from Neal Morse. Those familiar with Morse's work know that he is a prolific songwriter always able to craft strong melodies which highlight his skills as a multi-instrumentalist while relying on significant contributions from Mike Portnoy and Randy George.

Momentum consists of five relatively short songs and one 33-minute epic ("World Without End"). The album opens with the title track "Momentum." I consider this to be high-quality pop/prog as it showcases an engaging upbeat melody and a blistering guitar solo from guest artist Paul Gilbert.

"Thoughts, Part 5" is next. This may just be the best song on the album and is very reminiscent of King Crimson's "Red," but with Gentle Giant-like vocal harmonies. After the heavy guitar riffs and vocal acrobats, the song ends with an instrumental jam with some really nice playing from both Portnoy and George.

"Smoke and Mirrors" follows and is a gorgeous piece very unique to what you might normally expect from Morse. I consider this to be the best ballad he has ever written and feel that it fits very nicely on this album.

"Weathering Sky" is the fourth track and while catchy and hard-driving, this is probably my least favorite song on the album. Neal says on the "Making of" DVD which is included with the Special Edition that he doesn't know what "weathering sky" means, but he liked the sound of it. While I find that mildly humorous, I personally prefer lyrics with meaning over lyrics that have none. I will discuss this a bit more later in this review.

"Freak" is next and is another slower song that I would consider to be "prog-lite." It has a catchy bridge that leads into a dynamic modulation giving the song a nice dramatic finish.

"World Without End" is the final track, clocking in at 33 minutes. This is another strong epic which we have come to expect from Neal Morse. The song is divided up into six distinct parts all of which add quality parts to the whole. It is worth noting that there are some really interesting guitar solos peppered throughout the song, including a nifty bass solo toward the end. This song takes some time to truly appreciate. On the first few listens, nothing really stood out to me, yet I never grew tired or bored or felt like the song was bloated. Now after about ten listens, I've come to really enjoy almost everything about this epic track. My only quibble is my primary grievance with the album as a whole which is...

The lyrics! The scuttlebutt surrounding this album is that Morse wrote all of the music in two weeks with the lyrics presumably penned in that same time frame. The music is great, but the lyrics (primarily on "Thoughts," "Weathering Sky" and "World Without End") leave a lot to be desired. Now many listeners are going to be thrilled that the Christian references are virtually nonexistent, but they have been replaced with lyrics that are silly at best and at times, nonsensical. One of the things that I have loved about Morse's music is that his music and lyrics are usually pretty gripping and moving (whether you agree with them or not). I feel that aspect is completely missing on this particular album and as a result, brings it down a notch in my estimation from some of his better albums (One, ?, Sola Scriptura and Testimony 2).

Overall, I highly recommend the album and really feel as if all of the tracks are strong and perhaps more diverse musically from the typical Morse album.

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Send comments to Lofcaudio (BETA) | Report this review (#824216)
Posted Wednesday, September 19, 2012 | Review Permalink
memowakeman
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Review originally posted at www.therocktologist.com

And now I can't wait to see him live!

Well, tomorrow (October 5th) I will be attending to a Neal Morse concert in Mexico City, in which of course he and his band will be performing some songs (if not the entire record) from this new album entitled "Momentum", that shows once again this musician never ceases to compose and create first class music. We all know him for his work with Spock's Beard, but also for his solo efforts, which have his personal touch and always show how efficient he is. I am eagerly waiting for that concert, but for now, I will give you my thoughts about this 6-track album released this 2012 that offers an hour of excellent progressive rock.

The album kicks off with "Momentum" and since the very first seconds we can notice that peculiar keyboard sound of symphonic prog bands, this time made by Neal Morse, then the bombastic drums of Portnoy can also be appreciated, and the song begins to build up a structure, with a positive, even happy atmosphere, a great voice and original bass notes. This is a very solid opener track. The album continues with ""Thoughts Part 5" which is definitely my favorite. The words progressive rock are majestically represented in this track, where the musicians show their skills as both, composers and performers. It starts with a heavier sound, but it only lasts for some seconds because the music itself is gentle mostly all the time; here we can appreciate some harmony vocals made by Morse and a guest singer; the instrumental parts are great, with some keyboard solos, cool rhythmical sections and even with some guitar riffs at the end. Great track!

"Smoke and Mirrors" has a much softer sound since the first notes. It begins with acoustic guitar and a delicate voice, little by little drums, bass and keys are being implemented, so the song begins to progress until it reaches its chorus at minute 2, and the intensity grows a little bit. Before the fourth minute there is a beautiful passage where a violin sounds, though I am not sure if it is really a violin, or the keyboards with effect; seconds later the music fades out. "Weathering Sky" returns to that symphonic sound these 90s and 00s have, it is impossible not to remember Spock's Beard. This track is nice but not the best they can create, though it is cool for this album, and even nice to sing in some moments. "Freak" is honestly the worst song here, and I am sorry but I would even say it is kind of annoying, mostly in the first part. Weak.

The last song is practically half of the album, with a long epic (Morse use to give us at least one loooong track per album, and this is not the exception) entitled "World Without End". Its first two minutes are soft, with some uncertainty, but later it explodes, becomes heavier and begins to build a structure in which we can listen to the extraordinary drums of Portnoy, the great bass lines of George, and of course keyboards and guitars. The instrumental passage continues with some changes in tempo and mood, but always with a constant motif; the music is very visual. The vocals appear at minute 6, and I cannot help but remembering "The Doorway" by the Beard; this rhythm continues for some three minutes, including some soft keyboard moments.

After eleven minutes it changes and becomes heavier, the music is great but when the vocals enter I am not that happy, Neal's voice is now closer to Bon Jovi. However, as I said the music is cool and reaches a great climax a couple of minutes later with a killer guitar riff. Then there are some other changes, the rhythm slows down and Neal's voice is not forced now, so it sounds as great as it has to be, the music is gentle and cool for the ears and soul. At minute 20 there is a main change, seems the song is over but it isn't, it simply restarts in a very soft way. The sound is delicate, with voice, piano and quiet drums for at least 3 minutes; but later it explodes and returns to its heavy symphonic and attractive sound, there is also a little passage where the bass stands alone, creating nice nuances. At minute 26 seems the song is going to finish, one can sense that goodbye feeling; however, it only slows down and gives us the final 5 minutes, which are nice more relaxed.

Momentum is in general a great album, with excellent pieces and passages that can please any prog rock fan, those moments are the ones I want to listen live tomorrow; however, the epic is not that solid or memorable in my opinion, and "Freak" is terrible, that is why my final grade will be four stars.

Enjoy it!

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Send comments to memowakeman (BETA) | Report this review (#832906)
Posted Thursday, October 04, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Once again, Neal Morse is preaching to the converted ... converted Progheads, that is.

Momentum furthers Morse's musical journey toward a very personal promised land. Longtime collaborators Mike Portnoy (drums), and Randy George (bass) are onboard, and, along with a host of additional musicians, manage to bring a bright, epic, celebratory sound to life. The bold "Weathering Sky" and nice change-of-tempo "Smoke and Mirrors" are solid build-ups to the 30-plus minute closing track, "World Without End," which continues the Morse tradition of crafting really long tracks that never seem to overstay their welcome. The one oddball, "Freak," might be the closest Morse has come to aping Ben Folds' Tin Pan Alley pop style. Definitely different but an interesting curve ball, nonetheless.

The refreshing thing about Morse is that he's less a proselytizer than a hardcore quester in regards to his faith. The guy's seeking answers and utilizing his sizable musical talents in an attempt to figure things out. End result: He doesn't beat you over the head with his spiritual views and listeners get to enjoy some excellent, big-hearted prog while he undertakes his journey. Everybody wins.

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Send comments to progressouno (BETA) | Report this review (#835860)
Posted Wednesday, October 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars 7.5/10

I could not be happier to hear that guitarist Adson Sodré (Promessa D, Speedplain) was summoned to join the band by Neal Morse. Coming here in the brazilian state of Bahia (more precisely the city of Jequié, which is not far from mine - I actually have some friends who know him) he really boosted his career with this invitation (who want to hear the sound of it can check his solo album "É assim que sou, é assim que soou") Along with Paul Gilbert he plays guitar in the epic World Without End, 33 minutes a monster that dominates more than 50% of Neal's new album, Momentum.

Momentum is nothing you have not seen before Neal's career - and honestly, this lack of new evidence is already bothering me. Because it's always interesting that a musician renew their sound without losing its character. If that is the fear of it, I do not know. Anyway the remains impeccable musicianship, with fellow longtime Randy George and Mike Portnoy (drums deity, my inspiration and reference) continue to provide broad support - see the passages down to 15:30 minutes in a World Without End. About this song she is clearly the highlight of the album, although not the best Neal's epic. Jas the other five are at best good, except for Freak, which is somewhat cheesy for my taste, so why u like pop music to a certain extent.

Do not get me wrong, I really like Neal Morse, but I think this album is the weakest it has ever produced - and still deserves four stars. Renew yourself, Neal ... and do not underestimate the potential of Adson Sodré!

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Send comments to voliveira (BETA) | Report this review (#836728)
Posted Thursday, October 11, 2012 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
4 stars Back about a decade before this review was written, after completing the disappointing and unoriginal album "Snow" with his band Spock's Beard, Neal Morse announced that he was quitting the band to become Kneel Morse, and could only write songs about his personal savior. This was even more disappointing than "Snow". With SB, Morse had written some powerful prog, often sprinkling in hints of his religious inklings, and had even created a near masterpiece with the album "V".

I have heard bits and pieces of Morse's solo albums since, and while his musical composition has still been good, his lyrics had deteriorated to cliched proseletizing, and put me off from puchasing any of his albums. His lyrics even spilled over into some of his side projects (like the dreadful last movement of the otherwise fine work "The Whirlwind" by Transatlantic).

But the word was out that Morse had just released a new album where he minimizes the cheesiness and emphasizes the prog. So I picked up "Momentum" and gave it a try. And for the most part, this sounds like a good Spock's Beard album. The religious imagery is kept to a minimum, more than most SB albums, but not so much that it's off-putting (allthough there are a few points, all coincidentally in the most overtly religious tracks, where Morse's rhyme can be diplomatically described as ham-handed).

The opening track Momentum, with a powerful, yet Tony Banks inspired keyboard riff, sets the tone for the album. It appears this is going to be a throwback to the Beard years. Thoughts Part 5 (Where are parts 3 & 4?) is a continuation of the series begun years before with SB, and is worthy of the title. World Without End is a half hour epic, in the mold of The Great Nothing, and features some spectacular performances by Mike Portnoy and bassist Randy George.

And the lyrics? Not bad. I don't mind Morse's Christianity when he is not pushing it in our faces as "The Only Way". But trying to rhyme "tears" and "years" with "mirrors"? And "between us" with "Jesus" (I can think of a better word to rhyme, but I bet you wouldn't use it)?

For ithe most part, if you miss classic SB, get this album. The ups far outweigh the downs.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#858084)
Posted Tuesday, November 13, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Momentum is one of Neal's better albums. Still, it's not flawless, but it's fairly consistent and not at all bad. The album kicks off with the title track, Momentum. The catchy chorus melody and guitar soloing make for a satisfying album opener. Thoughts Part 5 has some heavy riffing at the start, with some references to the earlier Spock's Beard songs, Thoughts and Thoughts Part 2. A melody begins to emerge through the multi-layered vocals that Neal has used in this song. The song changes about half way through, going from a catchy, heavy song to a more improvised and jazzy section. Smoke & Mirrors is a ballad, with a predictable but surprisingly strong chorus melody. This is probably the weakest moment of the album, but perhaps the next track, Weathering Sky is. Sure, the chorus is catchy, but the song doesn't give us anything that we haven't heard before. Track 5, Freak, is probably the most intriguing song on the album, with strings in the verses (think Eleanor Rigby), and a strong and catchy chorus. The song is quickly over, though, and so we start the massive epic World Without End. The melodies and themes in this song are fairly strong (especially in the parts Never Pass Away and The Mystery). The instrumental introduction is too long though, lasting about 6 minutes, when it probably should have lasted only 2. In fact, the whole song suffers from its massive length of 33 minutes and 39 seconds. However, it closes the album well and leaves the listener fairly satisfied. For a Neal Morse fan, this is a necessary purchase, but if you're new to Neal, start with something like ? or Sola Scriptura.

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Send comments to zeqexes (BETA) | Report this review (#887496)
Posted Friday, January 04, 2013 | Review Permalink
ProgShine
COLLABORATOR
Errors & Omissions and Crossover Team
4 stars I've known NEAL MORSE's music for a long time now. A friend of mine presented me Testimony (2003), his first solo album after leaving SPOCK'S BEARD, right after the release and I was blown away. I've followed Neal's music in every album since then and one thing's for sure, he hardly does mistakes.

Momentum (2012) is his ninth solo album (not counting his live, demos albums etc.) and it was released last September.

The title track that opens the album is as powerful as his best tracks always are. Typical Morse sound, with great riffs, great recording and a perfect mix of soul and technic. And as it already happened on other albums, PAUL GILBERT plays some killer guitar solos on the track. Maybe a surprise for some, but not for me. I like to have this continuation thing that he proposes in 'Thoughts Part 5', this is a GENTLE GIANT tribute that started back with his old band Spock's Beard on the album Beware of Darkness (1996) and was followed by the second part on V (2000), the third part will be on the new SPOCK's BEARD album Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep (2013) that will be released in March and the part 4 is? unknown? yet. This fifth part is very heavy and the Randy George bass shines brightly (as usual).

I can't say that this is a problem but, on the third track I felt something weird, 'Smoke And Mirrors' is a nice track, but it just doesn't fit. And the problem continues on 'Weathering Sky', despite the good guitars played by Neal himself and in 'Freak'. After some consideration I can honestly say that I now know what's my 'weird feeling' about these tracks. Despite Neal's being a great writer, despite the fact that his band is just amazing (Randy George ? bass & Mike Portnoy ? drums) he's repeating himself! And that's not a good thing. I would like my review to be seen by Neal himself, not because I want some credits or anything like that, but because I would like him to take my advice: Neal, give it a break! I will explain, he pretty much releases an album a year, plus his projects, plus his Inner Circle CDs, plus his Christian music? and this? makes him just repeating himself in an endless circle. Take a look at THE FLOWER KINGS, for instance. They had a 5 years break and their new album, Banks of Eden (2012) is fresh and amazing, one of the best albums in 2012. I'm not saying that he should be away for 5 years, but a year would do wonders to Neal Morse music! Pretty much every NEAL MORSE album has a kind of formula, 4 or 5 short tracks and an 'epic'. In Momentum (2012) it is not different. For the lovers of the big tracks, as I am, we have the final track 'World Without End', a 33'39 song with all the Epic feeling you can ask for, a strong drum part by Portnoy and some interesting guitar solos by the Brazilian Adson Sodré, their new live guitar player. It's the track that was divided into six small chunks, of which the third part 'Losing Your Soul' is one of the best, followed by the great part four 'The Mystery'.

All in all, like I said before, NEAL MORSE is NEAL MORSE, and if you like his music, you'll like this one for sure. It's a great album, but not his best, the reason you've just read above. But one thing always makes me happy about his albums. Namely, the overall sound of Neal's albums is always amazing. It's how it should be, how I like, and when it comes to me that always gives him some plus points.

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Send comments to ProgShine (BETA) | Report this review (#891316)
Posted Saturday, January 12, 2013 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
5 stars

Neal Morse has been a very prolific artist of late with Transatlantic and producing a covers album with Portnoy and George. Somehow in the same year he has also managed to release this incredible album "Momentum". The main players are Neal Morse on keyboards, guitars, vocals, Randy George on bass, and Mike Portnoy on drums. The album is about one hour of solid prog with 5 songs followed by a colossal epic clocking 33:40 titled 'World Without End'.

Before we get to this let's explore the short songs. It opens with 'Momentum' (6:25) that begins proceedings with a standard Morse track, the vocals are pristine, the keyboards are heavy and the guitar rhythms have a distorted sound. It could be mistaken for Transatlantic, and of course Portnoy lends a hand as always, as welcome as ever.

'Thoughts Part 5' (7:51) is the odd title for a track that Spock's Beard have released with 'Thoughts Parts 1 and 2'. There is no need t wonder what happened to the other parts leading to 5 as that is one of life's little mysteries and Morse's inside joke and wink to the Spock's Beard fanbase. It is certainly one of the proggiest songs on the album and has a heavy rhythm and guitars revved up to the max. The stop start jaunty spasms are counterbalanced with some melodic vibes. This is one of the highlights of the album.

'Smoke and Mirrors' (4:38) is not the Symphony X song, but a delightful acoustic song about the hidden mysteries of maintaining face in the midst of hypocritical society, and how the truth is hidden. It speaks of Fantasy worlds, how we are being deceived from birth and conceived to die, misleading lies, born in to bondage, slaves to sin, "disillusioned souls causing bloody tears, the truth is masquerading with smoke and mirrors". These are heavy themes but Morse relishes in such things and it is part and parcel of his music, despite the dangers of offending. Christians will have no problem with these ideas but it may disturb non- believers, and Morse wants us to wake up and question things rather than taking them at face value. For me this is part of the drawing power of the music, and it makes a change from all the darkness inherent in music.

'Weathering Sky' (4:15) has a melodic riff that jams into the brain easily, and focuses on the calling in Morse's life, that may be an allegory to Jesus called into the desert. It is one of the best songs here due to the strong melodic chorus and very cool guitar work throughout.

'Freak' (4:29) is a fun song about the difficulties of being a Christian and the mocking that ensues with such a lifestyle choice. Then it ends with the clincher that the freak in direct contrast may be Jesus, who certainly went against the flow and was labelled as such in the days when the Gospel was being preached.

'World Without End' (33:39) is the one that has everyone talking about, an epic in the same vein as 'The Whirlwind' except this is not divided into specific sections. It takes an incredible amount of skill to compose something this ambitious but Morse is a master having spent some time with the Spock's Beard members and Transatlantic over the years. The epic begins with dreamy keyboards soaked in ambience until a majestic guitar soars over. It builds with fast paced virtuosos keys and guitars over a driving beat in an odd sig. Adison Sodre is incredible on lead guitar hammer ons and fret melters, joined by incomparable skill by Bill Hubauer who multi skills on clarinet, flute, guitar, and keyboards. The vocals are terrific by Morse and he is joined by Wil Morse. Despite the length of the epic it moves along quickly, with distinct segments and changes in mood, ranging from exuberant to reflective and melancholy. The melody is joyfully executed and the lyrics are profound; "there's a world in the blazing sun, I've got to find my life my way, to a world that will never pass away, in the heat of the day pushing midnight, I've got nothing to say? life's too short, the world is waiting on the other side, everyday in spiritual genocide, the desert sand, the days of the damned."

The keyboard solos along the uptempo rhythm and it locks into a slower pace at 10 minutes, a more soulful gentle approach. The melody is still there but much slower and more majestic in its measured cadence. Then a heavier riff opens up the soundscape, and some excellent guitar phrases are heard as much more aggressive vocals sing about the paparazzi, losing faith, losing hope, buying into lies and losing your soul. Again the content is heavy but it makes sense from Morse's point of logic; a man who has been through it all and finally found salvation. His music is an evangelical tool, and it is one of the best musically; uplifting, thought provoking and innovative. The epic features an incredible lead guitar solo that has breakneck fingering and chilling string bends; one of the best from Morse's catalogue. This is a mind blowing epic and then it goes up another notch with the adventurous riff to follow at 15 minutes. It ends on a grand cresendo in an uplifting finale. This is undoubtedly one of the finest pieces of music from the Morse canon and it absolutely seals this as a masterpiece.

Morse never fails to please but this time around has created something very special with masterful compositions. I look forward to the covers album with the same line up, but in the meantime this 2012 album caps off a great year in prog.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#904065)
Posted Friday, February 01, 2013 | Review Permalink
Neu!mann
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars "Some people think they're lucky / Like they thought of heaven first..." That was Neal Morse in his pre-Christian, party animal youth, from the 1996 SPOCK'S BEARD anthem "Waste Away". It was a prophetic lyric for a veteran Proghead who would later turn his entire life into a concept album of sorts: an ongoing hymn of praise to his personal Savior.

I'm not the first listener to point out that his shtick (both musical and metaphysical) grows old after the first several repetitions. Not too many singers can stretch a simple word like "arrive" into five distinct syllables, and fewer cling to their Old Time religion with such insecure devotion. He's been plowing the same straight and very narrow path throughout his single-minded solo career, but sooner or later such a prolific composer was bound to hit pay dirt, and this year 2012 studio album is the one Spock's Beard fans have likely been waiting for, achieving at last that elusive balance between his ministry and music.

Since quitting the Beard the latter should have been (but wasn't always) his first priority. It's usually necessary, when listening to a Neal Morse album, to hear the music while trying to ignore the Flat Earth thinking behind it, further illustrated in the cover art of his newest studio album. Is there a God-fearing American bias to the positioning of the globe, held aloft by the mighty hand of its absentee landlord? And is that meant to be the sun (or the Son?) revolving around it, in defiant opposition to Copernican logic?

But he's not pushing his religion quite so hard in this effort, in effect expanding its appeal beyond the circumscribed limits of his CPR fan base. And the music itself presents some of his strongest writing to date. The initial five songs (the first 'side' of the album, so to speak) pick up close to where the Beard left off with their peak album "V", driven by the old school Symphonic Rock of the aptly named title track. Morse's episodic homage to GENTLE GIANT (again, last heard on the "V" album) continues in the knotted "Thoughts, Part 5", and the slot reserved for the usual ballad is nicely filled by the delicate "Smoke and Mirrors". The only stumble is the too-cute novelty song "Freak", in which the punch-line is telegraphed well in advance and presented, with a self- satisfied smirk, like a rabbit from an old top hat.

And then there's the 33-minute "World Without End": a (melo-) dramatic showcase for Morse's gifts as an arranger, and the equal to any epic in his greater discography. The individual parts were all pressed from the usual template, but the edge never dulls over its more than one-half-hour length, and the pieces all fit together with effortless ease. Too many of Morse's big musical epiphanies, dating back to the earliest Beard albums, have sounded forced or artificial, but by the end of this beast he achieves a real sense of majesty (with a lower case letter 'm', please note).

Like a lot of Neo Prog the songwriting is typically verbose, often defeating its author's purpose, which is to spread the word, not smother the listener. And the sessions were supposedly inspired by a couch-potato fixation with an Australian boob-tube televangelist ("can God speak through a television?" asks Morse in the CD notes, and I suspect it was meant as a legitimate question). But the entire project was completed in a fortnight: an amazing accomplishment all by itself. Hard work, good fortune, and the law of averages all paid handsome dividends this time around, although Morse obviously doesn't see it that way. "Needless to say," he writes about the recording process, "the Lord delivered."

Why needless? And why not take credit for your own act of creation? If you want to claim divine guidance, more power to you, Neal, but I'm not buying it: you're a talented guy, and you did it all yourself...with a little help from your terrestrial (not celestial) friends.

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Send comments to Neu!mann (BETA) | Report this review (#1089386)
Posted Friday, December 13, 2013 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I only spun this album and pay attention to the music once I listened to the latest album of Spock's Beard and writing the review about it couple of days ago. I have to admit that this is really an excellent prog album with full rocking spirit from start to end. I almost did not believe that in fact Neal is much better as solo musician than being a front man and major composer of his legacy band : Spock's Beard. I do enjoy this album from start to end.

First off ...let me give my say about the concluding track which is actually an epic "World Without End". The epic starts in an ambient mode with keyboard work which is then followed with a blast of excellent music that moves dynamically with no vocal line for such a long period, approximately first six minutes. Oh yes ..the first six minutes instrumental part is so captivating and it sets the overall tone of the epic. For sure I enjoy the intro part which presents great combination of excellent performance as well as tight arrangement that create the music flows naturally. The next four minutes is a musical segment with lyrical verse where Neal sings beautifully in a rockin' style and at the end is the change in mood to slower in tempo and mellow in style. What I really love is the part - a rocking one! - that start at approximately minute 11:53. The music turns into differrent style and mood with excellent keyboard riffs. there arae many breaks aound this area. The guitar solo is really stunning and of course I love this part in particular and love the whole epic. I just cannot believe that Neal still can do this wonderfully crafted epic. The most important thing is that even though the epic runs over 33 minutes overall duration, I never get bored with it. In fact ..the more I spin , the more I enjoy it especially the intertwined work of keyboard and guitar solo in the middle of the epic. It's so captivating!

I think ..considering only the epic, it does make sense to purchase this album regardless the other songs are lousy ...

But that's not the case, really! The other songs are very good and excellent as well. The opening track "Momentum" (6:25) is an upbeat and rocking music composition that I guarrantee you would love it at first spin. "Thoughts Part 5" (7:51) is in fact rockier and faster in tempo than the opening track. the important part of this second track is the choirs like the one Gentle Giant did in the past. The choirs are really great and I do enjoy it as it sounds natural in the beginning part of the track. There is an interesting bass guitar solo in the middle, followed by a stunning guitar solo. Yeah!

"Smoke and Mirrors" (4:38) brings the album into a nice ballad with excellent acoustic guitar work at intro part. This song is mellow with memorable melody. Neal's voice sounds great. There is a little prog component right here but it provides an excellent melody all over the track. "Weathering Sky" (4:15) brings the music into a rocking style again with excellent guitar solo and singing style. This track is heavily influenced by The Beatles. "Freak" (4:29) reminds me to The Beatles' Eleanor Rigby especially at intro part where it has string sounds that accompany vocal.

Overall, this is really an excellent prog ROCK album in its truest sense. The composition has excellent harmony and many style and tempo changes throughout the album. Despite many changes the album still maintains its structural integrity so that produces an excellent cohessive whole. Keep on proggin' ,,,!!!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#1098525)
Posted Tuesday, December 24, 2013 | Review Permalink

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