Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Neal Morse - The Restoration - Joseph: Part Two CD (album) cover


Neal Morse

Symphonic Prog

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
3 stars I am writing this review directly after reviewing The Dreamer (Part One), and many of my critiques (both positive and negative) apply to this album, but only to the first 12 out of 16 tracks, because something very strange to my ears happens to close out the album, and thus I'll structure this review accordingly.

Highlights: My Dream, Dreamer in the Jailhouse, All Hail. Perhaps not surprisingly, the parts that involve Ross Jennings on this album are fantastic. These tracks remind me of some of my favorite, more sinister moments of Sola Gratia, and hearing Ross in there in spots helps the music feels especially fresh to ears that have listened to literally dozens of hours of Neal Morse music. One caveat: Neal's truly terrible falsetto in All Hail--that thing wasn't working 20 years ago and it has only gotten worse, and it's especially annoying because Neal literally has numerous other talented vocalists appearing at other points on this album who would have done a better job here.

Lowlights: tracks 5-11. Every time I listen to this section of the album, I honestly can't believe how bad it is. I don't throw around the word "bad" easily, and I don't think Neal does much that would be considered bad, but whether it's the too-tight-pants Ted Leonard vocals to the awkward vocal round exposition to the poor lyrics (rhyming "grain" with "insane"? Give me a break, Neal!), this is just one tough listen, every time through. You have been warned.

And now for something completely different: tracks 13-16. The Brothers Repent and Restoration is basically 10 minutes of musical whiplash: Here's Matt Smith! Here's NDV! Thanks for coming back Talon! Let's run back this previous theme, but only tease it...also, here's a Testimony-ish, latin-timbale break, but don't get your groove on, because it's back to another leitmotif. Is this objectively good? I don't know, but I think I like it, and I'm having fun. Also, anything I'm still caring about regarding the story seems to be wrapping up. Is it satisfactory? I don't know, but I think I'm done hearing about grain and polygamy, thank you.

Speaking of fun, then comes the real party: Everlasting. Party time. Let's kick up the tempo, get the backup vocalists rocking, get those timbales clanging, get all those Disney characters singing together...and don't forget your whistle...twice! Neal Morse is just Morse-ing the crap out of this. Is it a problem that we've kind of heard this before? Yes, a little bit, but it's still fun, so just go with it!

But unlike the Disney movie, Neal isn't done. At this point in his career, he appears to feel called to more proactively help people walk with God, rather than explaining it in his music and hoping God just takes it from there. I think that's what God Uses Everything for Good represents--just like former addicts rehearsing the Serenity Prayer in difficult times, if people who listen to this album remember nothing more than this simple mantra, perhaps this song might also help people in their most distressing moments.

I think this is ultimately pretty cool, but there are two problems--one thematic and one musical. First, I think that simple message is pretty clear to anyone who has made it to the end of the Joseph albums, so for someone like me, the music better make it worth the extra run time. Here's where this is a clear mixed bag: the closing minutes are truly epic, there's so much going on (strings, horns, harmonized vocals, heavy timpani and symbol swells) that it juuuuust starts to sound a little muddy. However, there is a bigger issue, which is that underlying melody sounds sooo close to a main Testimony melody that the first couple times I heard it, I couldn't help but hum that in my head instead.

Having said all of that, my experience with this album supports two potential conclusions. First, this to me sounds like a musician/composer who might be almost done--go out with a bang, taking all of your signature sounds and cranking them to 11. The other potential conclusion is that Neal is going to at least have to conclude this period of his writing, in which taking a biblical story and Morse-ing it up is at a point of clear diminishing returns.

Will Morse keep going to the drying well, or will he pivot and evolve? Or will he hang it up?

Report this review (#2991619)
Posted Thursday, February 15, 2024 | Review Permalink
5 stars

Joseph Part 2 just blew me away like no Neal album has for a long while. It's like Neal made exactly the album that he wanted to make; unabashedly all of things that his music gets grief about: bombast, huge key changes, themes being explored to their uttermost. I didn't stick this on for 10 weeks, not sure why, but when I finally did the ending was so epic. I think Neal's voice now he's older really suits his aggressive - almost shouting - parts, it gives it so much emotion. Let's hope it's not a swan song and that there is much more for Neal and the gang.

Report this review (#3034087)
Posted Saturday, March 30, 2024 | Review Permalink
4 stars A solid, and improved follow-up to last year's The Dreamer: Joseph Part 1. Once again, Neal has brought in many guest vocalists (Ted Leonard, Matt Smith, Jake Livgren, Nick D'Virgilio, Ross Jennings) to round out the cast of characters in his biblical prog rock opera telling of the story of Joseph, along with his Neal Morse band cohorts guitarist Eric Gillette and keyboardist Bill Hubauer to enhance Neal's own multi-instrumental musicianship. Although a long album (16 tracks, 75 min), and certainly dramatic and theatrical in nature, Neal tries to keep things interesting by varying the tempo and musical styles from song to song. That and the different vocalists, keep things moving through the various stylistic choices of Morse and Co. Mixing in familar prog elements (reminiscent of Spock's Beard, Gentle Giant, ELP, etc) with hard rock, choirs, vocal harmonies, orchestration, jazz, and even a bit of latin swing, as only Neal Morse could. Although much of this may seem quite familiar to other projects from Morse, he still manages to surprise occasionally, and entertains quite consistently, as it builds to a rousing and satisfying conclusion, and saves the best songs for the last sequence. Better than expected. Best Tracks: My Dream, the Argument, Make Like a Breeze, The Brothers Repent, Restoration, Everlasting, Dawning of a New Day. Rating: 3.5 stars
Report this review (#3034987)
Posted Wednesday, April 3, 2024 | Review Permalink
5 stars If you are regular readers of ProgCritique, you know that the first part of the work devoted to Joseph by Neal Morse, namely 'The Dreamer ? Joseph: Part One', excited me. I invite you to go and read this column if you have not already done so. Some six months later, Neal returns with the second part of the project: 'The Restoration ? Joseph: Part Two', which constitutes the continuation and the end. The format is unchanged (concept album, rock opera, musical comedy, your choice), and the narration picks up where we left Joseph at the end of the first part, namely: at the bottom of the hole. We find in this second part many musical themes already present in part 1, but under slightly different arrangements. However, I find this one a little more Rock, a little more adventurous, and even more Prog, which is not to displease.

From the start of "Cosmic Mess", the instrumental virtuosity is there. Prog fans, settle in, you are at home here. Then the title takes a Rock turn with the arrival of Neal Morse 's singing lost in a reverb supposed to evoke the character's situation. The song is enhanced by dynamic brass parts and segues directly into the next "My Dream", where the trio D'Virgilio , Morse , Jennings is reconstituted (don't forget to listen to their album 'Sophomore'), for a set of high-level vocal jousts. Ross Jennings (Haken) stays on track for "Dreamer in the Jailhouse", a title still part of the Prog, dotted with interesting keyboard touches and some metal guitar insertions. The fervor does not diminish on "All Hail", which contains a bridge with a soaring 60s Psyche Rock atmosphere, and a finale which gains in intensity led by beautiful keyboards. A furious Prog title with vocal performances reminiscent of Gentle Giant, "The Argument" is a pure virtuoso demonstration and serves as a sort of introduction to "Make Like a Breeze", a resolutely Rock/Metal piece with the arrival of Ted Leonard on vocals and enhanced with grandiose organ and guitar parts.

The "Overture Reprise" reminds us of the opening theme of part 1, 'The Dreamer', then Neal Morse displays his talents as a composer on " I Hate My Brothers" which skillfully mixes Hard Rock guitars and brass. On "Guilty as Charged", we recognize the melody used on "Heaven in Charge Of Hell" from Part 1. It is from here that the two parts seem to begin to interact. The title also features a very beautiful string part, shifting the story to a more emotional angle. And on "Reckoning" it's the riff from "Gold Dust City" from 'The Dreamer' that emerges! Return of cannon vocals in Gentle Giant mode on the introduction of "Bring Ben", which then evolves into a more accessible Classic Rock style à la Toto. Then comes "Freedom Road", a ballad in the purest Neal Morse style, emotionally charged, with the support of the strings.

Return of the melodic theme of "Heaven in Charge Of Hell" from 'The Dreamer' on "The Brothers Repent Joseph Revealed", an extremely rich piece with numerous reminders of themes and marked by very successful string and brass arrangements. "Restoration" leans for a moment towards Jazz and Samba and brings a little lightness to this end of the story via a style that recalls the luminous side of the Extreme group's album 'III Sides to Every Story'. On "Everlasting", it's party time for the reunion of a large part of the protagonists who embark on a sort of jam session. The story closes with "Dawning of a New Day (God Uses Everything for Good)" in which Neal Morse can freely deliver his message of hope by speaking directly to us. The title (and the entire work) ends in apotheosis with a very orchestrated crescendo and the repetition of the words "God uses everything, Everything for good".

That's it, end of story. In total, combining parts 1 and 2, Neal Morse offers 2 hours 20 minutes of high quality music, all in less than 6 months. It's incredible to see such creativity from such a prolific artist. Perhaps some will see it as the work of the hand of God. In a more Cartesian way, we can imagine that the musician finds the capacity to surpass himself by tackling a theme of such dimension and which is so close to his heart, as many other artists have done before him.

Review originally posted on

Report this review (#3051242)
Posted Thursday, May 2, 2024 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars I strongly felt Neal's last album was a real return to form after his previous Christian musical, 'Jesus Christ The Exorcist', which was for me one of his weakest releases, although to be fair I do not think it is possible for Morse to put out a truly poor album. Needless to say, I have been looking forward to hearing this, and at long last we have the concluding part of the well-known story. 'The Dreamer - Joseph: Part One' finished with Joseph unjustly imprisoned, and in 'The Restoration - Joseph: Part Two,' we find him becoming the viceroy of Egypt and reuniting with his family. Neal assumes the lead vocalist role, plus there are a host of guests including Nick D'Virgilio (Spock's Beard, Big Big Train), Ted Leonard (Spock's Beard, Pattern Seeking Animals, Enchant), Matt Smith (Theocracy), Ross Jennings (Haken), Jake Livgren (Proto-Kaw, Emerald City Council) and Alan Morse (Spock's Beard), along with members of the Neal Morse Band, such as Bill Hubauer and Eric Gillette.

It must be said that some of this does seem somewhat like Morse by numbers, and there is no doubt we have previously heard the vocal approach on "The Argument" on songs like "Gibberish" ? it is very clever but there is definitely the feeling we have come across this before. It is a shame as the driving guitar which precedes it is simply wonderful, and then we morph into "Make Like a Breeze" where we are into classic driving prog which makes me almost forgive what just came before. The man is a genius, of that there is no doubt, but when working in a multi- instrumentalist fashion there is always the risk of not taking on new ideas and falling back on what is safe. The result is an album I have thoroughly enjoyed but is not at the heights of being truly indispensable, and given how much I enjoyed the first part I must admit to being somewhat disappointed. I understand that Neal feels it is his duty to keep spreading the word of Christianity as it is incredibly important to him, and over the years he has released some truly great albums (seeing him perform 'Testimony' in London was a very special event indeed), but if he is going to have the impact he desires then he also needs to rethink his musical approach, as while there are times when this is truly brilliant there are also others where we feel we have heard it before and are looking for something new.

It may not have been the brilliant conclusion I was looking for, but it is still worthy of investigation for those like me who have followed his career with interest ever since the arrival of 'The Light' all those years ago.

Report this review (#3058731)
Posted Saturday, June 8, 2024 | Review Permalink

NEAL MORSE The Restoration - Joseph: Part Two ratings only

chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of NEAL MORSE The Restoration - Joseph: Part Two

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.