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Neal Morse - Songs From November CD (album) cover


Neal Morse

Symphonic Prog

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3 stars Let's get this out of the way: There is no Prog Rock on this album. Neal Morse is not only a multi-instrumentalist, but he's also a multi-genre-ist. Also worth noting: This is not a religious or overtly Christian album. So it may be quite a departure from what you are used to with Mr. Morse (Mike Portnoy does not appear either).

So what is this? It's best described as a Singer/Songwriter album in which Neal uses pop, rock, folk, hints of gospel, and hints of country as an ode to Family (not the band... his actual family) and the concept of love. It's a personal collection of songs from a time when Neal took time for some introspection and personal reflection.

It's actually quite good. I have not been a fan of his non-Prog albums. In fact, this is the first one that I really like. And I really like it. His masterful melodies are in full display here and there are plenty of catchy choruses to sing along with. If you're like me and your musical taste goes well beyond prog and into the world of pop or Southern flavored folk/gospel or "classic rock" or anywhere inbetween, there's something to like on this album.

If this were not a site dedicated to Prog, I'd rate this 4 stars. However, I must consider the audience of this particular site with this review and, therefore, I'm giving it 3 stars.

Report this review (#1259493)
Posted Monday, August 25, 2014 | Review Permalink
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars Even in his proggiest moments (and there's been plenty of those!), Spock's Beard founder Neal Morse has always displayed one of the keenest ears for catchy melodies, clever song-writing skill and sublime harmonies in modern progressive music. This skill was one of the standouts points that instantly made the Spock's band grab the attention of prog listeners, and it gave them an accessible quality that could have easily opened them up to more mainstream listeners, and this has maintained throughout his entire career, and especially into his current solo career too. `Songs From November' sees the artist stepping away from prog rock, instead delivering a set of classy and well played 70's styled straight- forward rock music, but with strong melodies and memorable choruses that seem to be dipped in the honey-pot of pop music and classic rock perfection!

Infectious boppy horns and sax dance through the upbeat opener `Whatever Days', the first track to drop a killer chorus that will instantly become lodged in your head, then `Heaven Smiled' is a classy reflective acoustic guitar and piano ballad. `Flowers In A Vase' is a Crosby Stills and Nash/The Thorns/Gram Parsons inspired gentle country rocker with wilting slide guitar and sweet chorus harmonies. `Love Shot An Arrow' is an absolute standout, a timeless and massive power ballad with the kind of biggest grandest chorus that retro-rocker Matthew Sweet might have delivered at his peak. `Song For The Free' is a chest-beating protest song with a driving momentum, but another standout is the downbeat but beautiful piano ballad `Tell Me Annabelle', a softly melancholic and wistful heart-break wrapped in a powerful tune.

`My Time of Dying' alternates somber confronting verses with a proud and sure joyful chorus, the weeping violin a highlight. `When Things Slow Down' is a pleasing ballad about trying to find the time to appreciate the things in life that mean the most. `Daddy's Daughter' is a deeply personal ballad Neal devotes to his daughter, and although it's a little sickly sentimental and has a few clunky lyrics, `All that's black and white to you brings colour to my world' is a pretty cool line in the chorus! `Wear The Chains' adds a bit more string-driven drama, backing up a scathing protest lyric, and album closer `The Way of Love' is a big Beatles-esque pop ballad (and listen out for some quickly proggier chunky bass trying to sneak it's way out too!).

Listeners should be aware that a couple of the songs still offer some overtly Christian lyrics, but at this point in his career, this should really come as no surprise! But Morse simply offers a collection of timeless tracks with cool arrangements, thoughtful lyrics and winning melodies, and you can hear in his voice how excited and relaxed he is to be leaving aside the bombast and technical overkill of prog rock for a change and simply cutting loose with a bunch of great tunes! If you're a listener who enjoys Morse's overall ability instead of just his prog credentials, you already know the melodic skill and strong song-writing the guy will bring here, and `Songs From November' is highly recommended to those who appreciate that general talent.

Three stars for this prog rock website, but four stars for those who simply appreciate a damn fine rock/pop album.

Report this review (#1346447)
Posted Friday, January 16, 2015 | Review Permalink

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