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Neal Morse - ? [Aka: Question Mark] CD (album) cover


Neal Morse

Symphonic Prog

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5 stars Got a chance to hear it last evening on In one word - TERRIFIC! In a couple of extra words AMAZING, MASTERFUL. It's about time someone is truly serious about putting out Good Christian music. Mike P, from DT, was perfect on drums, along with bandmate Judan on keys. Alan Morse sounded great playing along with his bro. Not to mention the bass parts. Off Neal's most recent three albums - "?" is a must have, in my humble opinion. Now I just have to wait to get my copy.
Report this review (#51714)
Posted Friday, October 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars After the brilliant 'One' I had high expectations of this.Always a bad thing! Despite the impressive array of prog talent on show this is a big dissapointment.There is none of the inspiration and excitement generated by One.This is 'prog by numbers'.Sure it has all the ingredients but nothing here is above the ordinary.Its a limp offering.What a great shame.Neal needs to find new inspiration.The Christian thing is now getting tiresome and this album reflects that.
Report this review (#53806)
Posted Saturday, October 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars "?" is the third solo album by ex-Spock's Beard frontman, Neal Morse. After having flirted with Christian themes and connotations on the epic 2-disc masterpiece "Snow" within the confines of Spock's Beard, Neal went "full throttle ahead" in regards to Christianity on his first two solo albums, "Testimony" and "One". "?" continues on that path, this time mixing original lyrics with references to biblical passages. I, for one, cannot with my head held high, critizise a man for using his strongest passions in his work - hence I´m not going to "slam" the lyrics. They are from the heart, no doubt about it. However, to a non-Christian, they are starting to wear out. I likes the subtleness of "Snow" much, much better. It had an ambiguity which attracted all spiritually active people. This time around, only the followers of the Christian faith can possibly be moved. Musically, "?" is a tour de force of the strongest players on modern progressive music with names such as Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt and Jordan Rudess collaborating on the album. And it is well played, believe me! The rhytm section is dynamic and innovative, Stolt´s unique playing style shines through and Rudess is a prodigy on keys. Having lestened to the album a couple of times now, I am left disappointed, though: Song by song, "?" plunders through its 56 minuttes of playing time withour many highs and lows. It really just seems to be going through the numbers - nothing is new under the sun. Neal Morse has written amazing songs throughout his career - and I hope and think he will again. But there is so much strain on delivering the emotions of his relationship with God that it to me is getting both predictable and a little bit trivial, really. Maybe the next one will be better...
Report this review (#53848)
Posted Saturday, October 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
King of Loss
4 stars This is Neal Morse's third solo album since he left some of my favorite mates in TransAtlantic and Spock's Beard. This album was brought into my attention when Jody (TheProgtologist) offered to send it to me. After "The disaster" that One was to me, ? came in as a lightning bolt. "?" so far is one of my favorite epics and albums of this year and maybe of all time. Why, though?

This album is a gem. "?" is not 12 songs but an entire 54 minute Progressive Rock epic masterpiece! It explores through Christian themes of course, but also has the amazing TransAtlantic vibe that I love so much. Throughout the album, I am reminded again and again about his amazing epics that he worked with TransAtlantic, especially "Suite Charlotte Pike" since of the name of the first and last sections. Amazingly emotional ride through Neal Morse's new vision and the plus side is that its not very preachy. For those that are not Christian or very religious can find this album very listenable. The emotional singing and great solos by Roine Stolt, Steve Morse and Steve Hackett, combined with MIke Portnoy's usual great cymbal work combined with Neal Morse's brilliant songwriting and we get this "?", an emotional epic of an album that is far more superior than "Testimony" or "One"

This is not your average Progressive Rock album, but it is a very brilliant album. Essential for any Spock's Beard, Dream Theater and TransAtlantic fans, but also recommended for anyone who is interested in a great listen. 4.5 stars

Report this review (#53887)
Posted Saturday, October 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I agree with "King Of Loss"'s review. He has hit the nail on the head - I love the Transatlantic 'vibe'. This is up there, really, with Floyd's "Dark Side Of The Moon" as a concept album (but for the current times). It is really easy to ignore the Christian theme because the music overpowers anything about 'god' this and 'god' that. I would love Neal's vocals even if he was singing about the tap dripping or paint drying!! As well, Roine Stolt makes a guest appearance on guitar (along with the well-established band that Neal has had since "Testimony" was released. What we have here is 12 tracks of pure genious. Neal really puts his heart and soul into every track (and I believe the guest musicians do too). "Testimony", his first solo effort, established that he can make it on his own. That album was about getting his story across to everyone wondering why he left Spock's Beard. Then we had "One", with some epics I really like (like "The Creation" - that track gives me shivers on my spine!). But this release, IMO, overshadows his past solo output. He has approached this album differently, as there are no 'epic' tracks that are 20 mins+ - but here we have what seems to me as if it is one epic track put together as 12 tracks anyway. To sum it up: an amazing concept album with music that touches the spirit, Roine Stolt's appearance makes it even more like a Transatlantic album, all in all I think this is among Neal's best work. I am not going to say it's his best work, but up there with it. Any fan of Neal's previous work (including Spock's Beard) must get this CD!.
Report this review (#53967)
Posted Sunday, October 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I was skeptical coming into this album because I thought that it's impossible to keep writing amazing music album after album. I heard clips previous to buying it, and felt that it was definately going to be a let down. I was weary of the album focusing on the same spiritual stuff as before, and so going into it I was not sure what I would think.

Now, after giving it a good listen to. I LOVE IT! The most powerful thing about this album is the music. It's been a while since I've heard some fresh progressive rock, but this definately blew me out of the water. It is one of the most satisfying albums (musically) that I have ever listened to. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, does an awesome job on this album. Neal, Mike, Jordan, Steve, Alan, Roine, Mark...... they all did a stand up job and put together a nice 56 minute song that really makes you think. The lyrics are blatanly Christian, but I am one of those who really enjoy that.

As a side note, if you are tired of listening to Neal because of the lyrics, I think people understand that. However, don't give bad reviews to good music just because you disagree with the lyrics. If people do that than really good music will be missed out on by those who read the reviews and listen to them. Neal will not being going back to "snow" like lyrics because he has devoted himself to pleasing God through his music. All that to say, judge the music and not so much the lyrics.

In conclusion, get this album!!! You will not be dissapointed! As a final warning though, you have to listen to it all the way through to get the big picture and truly appreciate it for what it is.

Report this review (#54316)
Posted Tuesday, November 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's a funny thing, you know, coalescing progressive music with the beliefs of such omnipotence like the almighty Lord; at the same time, it's never been more extravagant than this record. Neal Morse, better known for his work with Spock's Beard and Transatlantic, has crafted key quantities of splendor and melody, and compacted that into fifty-five minutes of pure magnificence. Neal, for me at the least, beautifully tells a story about the belief, myth, and finding of God and all His analogies (with man, not Neal specifically), that I couldn't help but marvel at the work, even as I'm not levelly too spiritual. But that's only breaching the façade: the instrumental appeal put into play on this album really brings the words alive; superb imagery, in other words. With such artists as drummer Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater) and his partnering keyboardist, Jordan Rudess (also Dream Theater), not to mention Neal's brother, Alan Morse (Spock's Beard collaborater), Roine Stolt (best known for The Flower Kings), saxophonist Mark Leniger, and a guest [guitar] appearance by Steve Hackett (Genesis), backing Neal's play, I firmly believe this record, while not Morse's best, is one more pinnacle of his professional, if not holy, ambition.

Now onto the full-scale analysis . . .

01) THE TEMPLE OF THE LIVING GOD. Jordan Rudess (or perhaps a surprise preface by Neal, as they're both masterful with the keys), opens with a habitual, yet elegant Neal Morse prelude, that truly captured me at such a musical state. Abruptly subsequent are both the acoustic as well as electric guitar simultaneously, although the acoustic wins the bout as it persists to aid the tone before Neal lyrically unbolts with: "And then after all, with our backs against the wall, we seek the temple of the living God." Once he's done with this little verse, the song dies down whilst picking up - I say die down because I was enjoying Morse's vocals, as always. I know it had to be done, but it's always a treasure when I get simplistic guitar notes and Neal Morse's melodic voice.

Aside from that, a great instrumental (second) interval. Very . . . saintly, I guess. After which, Neal returns; another disadvantage with this album, utter and major predictability. If you listen right, you can foresee exactly when Neal will sing, or Rudess will "key," or even when Roine'll take over. Plus, this chorus isn't spectacular, either; sure, it's appropriate, and partly inspiring, but tunefully it did nothing for me. I'm sorry.

02) ANOTHER WORLD. Quickly after Neal closes with the final contour of the chorus (coincidentally being the title of the song plus in the first line), do we convey into track two, "Another World," and while it's being said, I'm proud to admit, it was a great transition. Also, up to this point, and albeit the song is only a shade over two-and-a-half minutes, but Neal's vocalization hits dead-on, I think. I always admire a vocalist for taking a different approach on emphasis in pronunciation and, above all, phraseology. Plus, beware of abundance in Bible references throughout; I mean a lot. But that'll happen.

03) THE OUTSIDER. Great use of the guitar here, although marginally simple; I'm constantly a sucker that when times hit me, so sue me. Morse give me exactly what I needed from him through this track; him and Stolt both (at least it sounds like Stolt, but I couldn't be sure, and I'm too lazy to look it up). Another undersized song that could have been potentially dazzling, but I benefitted from what minuscule exquisiteness it did have.

04) SWEET ELATION. The line, "Sweet elation, come down, come down," melted my result completely; in fact, it's only comprehensive if you've experienced it, otherwise this will be the equivalent to incoherent idiocy. In any case, it was Neal again who gave me chills with those jaw-dropping chords he possesses. Plus, I think this is Rudess' best accentuation yet, although we're not even halfway through yet. He's simply amazing, to sum up.

05) IN THE FIRE. Tracks quickly alter before I can keep up, again, and it's aggravating me. I think right when the ensemble really gets going, the temperament changes, and alas so must the song. I'm not saying it's not intriguing, all I'm asking for is the prior lengthy Neal Morse; this short side is an unexpected turn. Regardless, this song definitely picks back up via the keyboards, plus Portnoy's drums see more action, so I suppose it should that be said about. Marvelous instrumental transition that re-introduces Morse.

06) SOLID AS THE SUN. "A million people in the sun," though a little superfluous, is a classic line as regards to this album. In addition to it, this is the chorus I'm used to, and furthermore will encourage more like it, because it's exactly when Morse echoes, "Solid as the sun," that the chills return to me. Like before, I don't have much for this . . . it's been a long night.

"Do you know what God's doing right now? He's not building a house like he was in the days of Jesus."

(THE SONG OF CHOICE.) 07) THE GLORY OF THE LORD. This song was the biggest disappointment on the entire recording, simply due to this: too bloody short. Seriously, this track was amazing, with pure excitement and luminosity and everything needed to give the entire piece its edge, but it just angers me that it had to end so immediately. I know some might say the piece continues through track eight on, "Outside Looking In," and by all rights you're correct, but it isn't the same, and secretly you all know it; or at least I do for a certainty. More musical interludes, if nothing else, but just something more to accentuate from the already conspicuous brilliance of it all. I was just in love with it to just let it pass -- again, sue me.

(THE SONG OF CHOICE, pt. 2, since they crisscross.) 08) OUTSIDE LOOKING IN. Two more key qualities heard copiously with Neal, his vocals and his guitar, with naught besides. I've seen a few reviews that claim this opening to be sung in a cappella, but that's untrue; Neal's acoustic influence prevents that from occurring, so stop issuing it to the readers, who are more or less too naïve to know. This song has the best of everything: vocals, lyrics, vibe, just everything. Well, except the instruments - "Sweet Elation" still carries that title.

09) 12. Again, it changes, but keeps the same mood for the most part. I have absolutely nothing for this, and I'm running late, so forgive me for neglecting it.

10) DELIVERANCE. Previously absent through the past three tracks, or at least diminutively forgotten, is Mike Portnoy who has been setting the beats, yes, but not highlighting his presence, until this track, which is my favorite of his, whereas "Sweet Elation" is my favorite of Rudess' - understand? Speaking of "Sweet Elation," I loved the recurrence halfway through. Very Neal / Portnoy / Stolt / Transatlantic, if you follow. A great preview for the final climax, it looks like.

11) INSIDE HIS PRESENCE. Continuation for Rudess, and it couldn't come at a better time; Rudess is great with concluding albums. Neal's apparent sacred echo, as if in a tomb, was particularly preservative for the emotion to be sensed. "A rainbow wreath," was outstanding. I'm sorry, but I have to continue. Take my word for it, or don't, when I say this song almost reached above "The Glory of the Lord" / "Outside Looking In" in my individual favorites.

12) THE TEMPLE OF THE LIVING GOD. The finale, and what a show: Neal and his altered crew, up to my standards at least, have put on a show worthy of a listen or two, or three, or four, or as many times as the heart can congregate. It's heartfelt, compelled with mythical anecdotes and irreversible quotes and marks from the Bible, and piled off with Neal expressing his emotion through wide-ranged vocalization in the course of the reprisal of "The Temple of the Living God." You all know his style (his emotion), or you should if you're familiar with his work, so I'm not going to delve into any further elaboration.

Much like this review, the album just ends and we're left with two minutes of steps and whispers, or from what I heard, that can insinuate anything if thought out with the right perplexity of imagination.

A long story short, if you're a keen Neal Morse or Dream Theater or Transatlantic or Spock's Beard partisan, chances are you'll enjoy this record, but I've read incessant reviews mocking and cursing Neal Morse for leaving Spock's Beard in search of his religious journey, and personally, I think that's a load of . . . well, "crap," since this is a family-friendly review page. -- First of all, if you can't be in high spirits toward the man for finding some kind of meaning in this hell-infested heap we inhabit, then you were never very loyal to his aspirations in the first place, and should go find a lesser group like, say, Magenta or Glass Hammer. -- Second of all, open your ears to the flow Morse has crafted with his solo venture; perchance I'm hearing something different, but I think it's sensational. His disposition and energy is so invigorating, chills relentlessly run up and down my spine listening to the man play as well as sing, mostly because he has such liveliness to his technique. Get in touch with that or listen to something else, because I have beyond grown tiresome of these never-ending discouragements because he isn't with Spock's Beard anymore. I almost like his new work more than his old, anyway, so by all means, suck that up and chew it.

Anyway, if you truly express any sense of loyalty to the man, get this album - I can only speak for myself when I say this, but aside from a few minor personal reasons, I'm not disappointed with this piece one bit. A great addition to the progressive collection.

Report this review (#54861)
Posted Sunday, November 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars The third of Neal's albums since leaving Spock's Beard and Transatlantic was anxiously awaited. "Testimony" was inspired music, as was "One" though not quite to the same extent.

The fact that the lyrics to these new works were firmly Christian inspired could be overlooked, if one wanted to, and still the music / lyrics left me feeling inspired and very spiritually open, perhaps wanting.

Then the news of a mystery album including Roine Stolt as well as Mike Portnoy and Jordan Rudess drew instant comparisons to Transatlantic and the hope that this may very well be the best of Neal's solo albums. I was wrong, very wrong. If you're into Christian lyrics you may like this album (catechism done to Prog) but if you're more into the music this album is relatively bland, mechanical prog rock. It is done very well, as would be expected with the level of talent these musicians possess but it is dry, unemotional and forgettable.

I'm sure there will be many 5 star reviews from the "Inner Circle" fans that pay $10.00 a month worship him but at this point I will have to hear the next album before I buy it, it is no longer automatic!

Report this review (#54906)
Posted Sunday, November 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Excellent addition to any prog music collection- NO DOUBT.

I love the lyrics to this album- being a Christian, its nice to hear lyrics like this- and still enjoy great music to go along with it.

This album is a PRODUCTION- every songs blends into the other- creating a seemless- awesome album. Its very, VERY hard to turn the album off when its going.

The music is geat- touches of Spock's Beard (duh) everywhere- Portnoy adds in nicely on the drum set.

Great album- music- lyrics- its all there...4 stars!

Report this review (#54990)
Posted Sunday, November 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I think that religion is a hard topic and i really like the way that Neal mixes Religion and prog rock in this wonderful epic.

This album is by far the best of Neal.... the way he do his work and the very talented guest appearances makes it so special, sometimes it sounds like spock´s beard, some times like dream theater, sometimes like flower kings and sometimes even like genesis, but when all diferent styles combine it sounds amazing.

I never thought that Morse Stolt and Portnoy play together again but what a surprise, it happened.. I still wonder what´s up with Trewavas??? and who is the bassist ??? but i can´t complain There is Steve Hackett My all time favorite guitarist and Jordan Rudess a man who knows how to play the keyboads.

Im still amazed by this prog rock masterpiece it´s now on my epic top ten, close to "Supper´s Ready" and "close to the edge"

Report this review (#55000)
Posted Monday, November 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Of all of Neil Morse's solo albums, this one better than "One" and at least on par with "Testimony", while being more concise at a 56 minute length. There is a certain "sameness" to all of Neil Morse's output, from Spock's Beard, to Transatlantic to his solo work, which is to be expected. Thankfully, this album has many great guest artists who elevate the album musically. The concept, for those theologically minded, is very interesting. For those less interested in religion, there's still alot to offer.

Thematically, the album deals with how the Temple of God was transformed from a physical place in the old testament (and certainly through Jesus' day). However, with Jesus' death and sacrifice the Temple of God is now contained within each one of us.

As mentioned by others, there are many guest spots though they are not credited to individual songs, which leaves the listener to guess who appears on what song. It's pretty easy to pinpoint Jorden Rudess' keyboard solo (track 5, In The sounds like a guitar solo but is really Rudess playing his Continuum-a hybrid guitar/keyboard/ synth that provides that Edgar Winter "Frankentein" sound to the track). I'm less certain about Roine Stolte's and Alan Morse's solos, but there's alot of guitar interplay towards the end of the album that must certainly contain their work.

Steve Hackett's solo is unmistakable however and occurs on a track called "12". This track makes the case that the number 12 must be a divine number (12 tribes of Israel, 12 Apostles, 12 hours in a "day", 12 months in a year, 12 tones in a musical scale). The song segues into this amazing instrumental written by Morse, Portnoy and Randy George, the bass player on the album. While I'm an admitted Genesis/Hackett fan, this has to be the most dramatic, intense, melodic solo I've heard from Steve Hackett in many, many years. It reminds me in many ways of his Firth of Fifth solo, by picking out the many musical themes from the album and then tearing them apart in new, original ways. In my humble opinion, this track makes the album worth owning.

So while this is not an essential prog rock purchase, there's much to like. The religious side might turn people off, but might well provide the impetus to delve deeper into scripture since the lyrics are heavily footnoted with scriptural references. While "Testimony" was a deeply personal album, this is a very compelling piece of music.

Report this review (#55053)
Posted Monday, November 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is an outstanding album! It is the most disciplined and interesting album released by Neal Morse as a solo artist. If you disregard his lyrics (which are starting to be too repetitive and boring) he has taken his melodic progressive rock to new hegiths. As most often with neal, it is a non-stop concept album, but this time all songs are of the highest possible quality from beginning to end. There are no fillers, and for me this is one of the best releases of 2005 so far.

I have no hesitation in giving this the highest rating

Report this review (#55581)
Posted Wednesday, November 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is wonderful. People are always complaining that Neal is repetitive but people like me who enjoy excellent, hard hitting prog with great musicianship will continue to buy the same thing over and over again. It is our pleasure. Not that I would say that Testimony, One and ? all sound the same. Neal has his style and it is a style that suits me just fine.

And then people complain about the lyrics. If talking about God is the worst thing you have to endure in your life, then you must have it pretty good. Go buy a Carcass album and wallow in some of those lyrics so you don't have to be subjected to something that may may you think about the grand scheme of things.

When you buy a Neal Morse album, you know what you are getting. Between his track record and the myriad reviews of his work, there should be no surprises. If all you are going to do is try and tear down a guy who has more talent than all his detractors put together, put on your headphones and listen to Selling England By the Pound for the 800th time and maybe you won't feel so bad about blowing your $14.99 on a new masterpiece of the genre.

Report this review (#55804)
Posted Thursday, November 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Well first of all it's difficult to rate this new effort by Neal Morse, cause He has been composing a range of melodic tunes under a "Christian" inspiration for a few years and now it seems it's his definitive pinnacle from the artistic point of view.but unfortunately -in the same time- if you dig into it, the present album is not diverse in comparison to the music ideas He developed with Spock's Beard in the album "Snow": this time there are some guest stars as clever guitarists (firstly Steve Hackett, then Roine Stolte), with the contribution of the fertile keyboardist Jordan Rudess, all together participating in such an epic concept, whose main biblical theme is the "Temple of the Living God". Actually it's a sort of recurring step of his solo career , focused on a meditative perception of the general sense of life - in a kind of "immanentism"- between philosophy and religion, but with the priority of this latter which often's not easy to perceive it , but the Christian lyrics help the listener to understand the music plot. Talking about the immediate harmonic solutions inside twelve tunes you know what you're buying, but you have to regard that nobody can invent something completely new or innovative in the world of music (in the world of art generally.) and Neal Morse is simply confirming his music background here! The final biblical conclusion of the main concept - regarding the Living Temple of God - is probably the most interesting tune of the whole opera, but you cannot forget the talented hand by Rudess in track # 11, the guitar approach of track # 3 and also the pretty chorus inside "Another world", some of the most interesting features of the concept to be remarked by considering the whole job by Neal.

You hate it or love it, without compromises!!

Report this review (#56134)
Posted Sunday, November 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I think that all three of his Christian CD's are excellent, but this is simply the best work Neal has ever done. I am surprised by the variation in reviews here. Suffice it to say, if you like Neal's work with Spock's Beard and TransAtlantic, you will enjoy this piece. The lyrics are subtle enough that they shouldn't offend any but those who are God loathing (at least until the last track). Having Rudess, Hackett and Stolt guest sets this above Neal's excellent One.
Report this review (#56557)
Posted Wednesday, November 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars This album left me totally cold. There was nothing new or original that Neal has not churned out over the last few years although Testimony was/still is his best solo album IMHO. I was happy to ignore the religious lyrics as to me all lyrics are second to how the music moves you and despite having an array of talent available on this new album, it is simply going through the motions. I think Morse has hit a brick wall as far as his creativity and there are only so many songs that you can churn out the same riffs, melodies and time signatures. It all sounds tired and cliched now and I think he needs to take a look at where he is going. Should he decided to continue the path then I think he will begin to turn some fans away - including me. Like the new Spocks album which is frankly awful, when compared to their peak with Morse on board, Neal without the other members of SB is equally struggling for creativity. No amount of devotion to God and Jesus can disguise weak compositions and a lack of the standard set by Neal in the past.
Report this review (#57144)
Posted Sunday, November 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars 4.4 stars.

Take that, Six Degrees of inner Turbulence!

Take that, Garden of Dreams!

Here, Neal Morse has successfully created a huge 57-minute epic. This is a brilliant album with the same quality of his previous two works. He, as always, knows how to write conceptual albums. The melodies are themes usually reappear throughout the record like in Testimony and Pink Floyd's The Wall. Here, Neal Morse keeps writing religious music with a similar sound as Transatlantic and his previous works. As a result, it is not very original. This is the only reason I give it 4 stars. You are a good songwriter Neal, but please! While I don't mind all of your albums being religious, I am disappointed that you do not experiment more with your sound and try to reach new levels.

The album begins strongly with a melodic section that explodes with an instrumental part that blows you away. Unfortunately, it is interrupted by a somewhat irritating way of singing/screaming (the worst part of the album). Another World is a melodic piece with a nice guitar riff. The next 2 minutes (Outsider) is a ballad, while Sweet Elation is more energetic. I love the synth riffs at the end of the short movement. In The Fire is the next movement and the longest one in this album. It is probably the most accessible track with that catchy wha-wha riffing that sounds like "Your Move" - Yes. Also, the vocal line 'Burn it in the fiireee!!' followed by that distorted guitar chord is classic! The Ruddess synth fiesta is a bit overlong but enjoyable thanks to the great rhythm section. The main themes and riffs are played again and are very welcome along with new splendid riffs. Solid as the Sun is a solid track indeed! While the melodies are not superb, the guitar riffs, and especially the bass solo are something to talk about. NExt is Glory of the Lord. This is just out of this world!!! Compare it with the quality of God's Theme from Testimony... why did it end so quickly? Outside In interrupts it with Neal's voice and his guitar. I love that little guitar riff in it. The next movement is another important part of the album, at least instrumentally. The band quickly creates an interesting rhythm and after some repetitive guitar riffing, HAckett comes out and delivers one of the best solos I have ever heard from him! I can find similarities to his solo in Firth of Fifth because the solos plays all the melodies on the track (on this one, he plays the melodies from the album itself) Deliverance is an excellent up-tempo track that plays some melodies from earlier movements and inside his presence follows it with some very emotional music and a guitar solo that seems to be from Roine. The conclusion of the album is very well done.

This is mindblowing music. Althrough I think Neal should start changing his musical styles a little. It is starting to become tiring. Thanksfully, his songwriting here is really good.

Highlights : First half of Temple of the Living God, In The Fire, GLORY OF THE LORD, 12's Guitar solo, and the last three songs. Let Downs: 2nd half of Temple of the Living God, Outside In.

My Grade : A/B

Report this review (#57508)
Posted Tuesday, November 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Overall, this is a very impressive album. From start to finish, there is no let-up in good music. What is somewhat unique is that the whole album is really just one song, with twelve distinct "segments." But the music flows non-stop and is one cohesive unit, making for an outstanding conceptual piece from Neal Morse. As has been stated in previous reviews, Morse relies on the skills of Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Alan Morse (Spock's Beard), Roine Stolt (Flower Kings), Randy George (Ajalon) and Steve Hackett in the making of this album.

Segment 1: The Temple of the Living God

The main theme floats in over the sounds of a wind-swept scape and begins to build into some excellent progressive runs using a piano/keyboard and then is joined by a nasty saxophone. The opening lyrics tell of a necessary quest to find the temple of the living God. Morse lays the lyrical foundation for the album by declaring that a sacrifice is necessary in order to successfully find the temple of the living God.

Segment 2: Another World

The music subtly changes as the quest begins by "stepping into another world." This is the world of the Biblical Old Testament, where the Israelites communed with God through the Mosaic tabernacle. This is a short segment but has a wonderful chorus with some intricate chord changes that are eyebrow raising the first five times you hear it and are mesmerizing after you become familiar with where the music is going. Great stuff packed into this segment which finishes with a solitary acoustic guitar to lead into...

Segment 3: The Outsider

Morse tells of someone looking into the world of the Mosaic tabernacle and the priests who were responsible for making sacrifices to appease God and to make atonement for the wrongs of the Israelites. Lyrically, this segment paints a nice picture of "a no one hiding outside" looking into the goings-on of God's people. The music begins quietly and adds some majestic bells which builds into...

Segment 4: Sweet Elation

The presence of God is sweet elation and is described as being "a cloud of secrets fills the air as the lines are blurred between here and there." The music continues to crescendo with stunning acoustic guitar work and a huge emphasis on the bass. This segment will appeal to many to the catchy pop chorus and the lengthy solos which will put a hard-core progger in hysterics. The solos take over to bring a close to this segment.

Segment 5: In the Fire

Morse begins this track with some Wah-Wah "talking" guitar that leads into an amazing vocal display as Neal layers numerous vocal harmonies into a great sounding melody. This segment starts off fairly innocent, but then starts building quickly and before you know it, Morse is yelling "BURN IT DOWN!" This scream is followed by a dizzying array of solos, first keyboard, then some drums and bass, then a guitar (sounds like that kooky Alan Morse cutting the solo) and then some more keyboard and then...well, let's just say one solo leads into another for an intense build-up of sound. Morse's sticky sweet vocals come back in attempting to keep this song on topic, which is the need for a sacrifice to appease a holy and righteous God. The vocal arrangements start to trade punches with some of the instrumental solos and the momentum keeps building and never really slows down while leading right into...

Segment 6: Solid As The Sun

This is probably my favorite portion of the album. The rhythm section really drives this segment which is culminated in a wonderful bass solo which should tickle the fancy of any musician. Some great music here with some repeated refrains from the previous segment. There is a musical climax as the first half of the album comes to a close.

Segment 7: The Glory of the Lord

This segment is other-worldly in its heavenly choir sound. Many have complained of its brevity, but Morse seems to just use this as a quick intermission between the first half of the album and the second half which begins with...

Segment 8: Outside Looking In

This tune is easily the most accessible song on the album and is gut-wrenching in its sorrowful lyrics and quest for hope. It is a slower ballad which lays the foundation for the subsequent segments to build and to offer a solution to the lyrical anguish expressed in this song.

Segment 9: 12

This song is a highlight reel which begins somewhat inauspiciously with a repeated theme of the Biblical significance of the number 12. Then when Steve Hackett's solo hits your ears, your jaw may just drop to the floor. I hate using the same tired clichés when described good music, but I must succumb to the temptation and state that Hackett's solo truly is a mind-blower.

Segment 10: Entrance

Hackett's solo kicked things into a higher gear in the last song and things continue to build during this segment which I consider to be my second-favorite of the album. There are lots of wonderful things going on here with obvious bells being rung when "the gates are being opened." This song also reaches a stunning climax in musical intensity which will leave some listeners out of breath (but wanting more!).

Segment 11: Inside His Presence

Entrance ended with a bang and now this song comes with a little less emphasis but quickly grows and ends with some powerful lyrics and wonderful music to boot.

Segment 12: The Temple of the Living God

The journey ends where it began and let me tell you, it really was a fun and exhilarating journey.


Obviously, I enjoy this album and Morse's music in general. If you enjoyed his previous efforts, I would be very surprised if you did not fall in love with this album. Great songwriting, great lyrics, great performances from the all-star lineup and a fun musical journey make this an "essential" album in my opinion.

Report this review (#57572)
Posted Wednesday, November 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I bought this album thinking because I do not have any contemporary prog. The newest album i have (in terms of release date) is Moving Pictures by Rush (1981!!) I had heard a lot about Mr. Morse and Spock's Beard, so I gave it a shot.

First of all, this album rocks! five stars just for the impact it had on me. I could have never dreamed of a Christian themed album with the intricacies of this album. (if there are, well, then i'm ignorant.) Morse's lyrics are astounding. Ex: "and then after all, with our backs against the wall, we seek the temple of the living god, and outside the gate the cripples sit and wait, to see the temple of the living god." Beautiful. and he has a descent voice, too. now, at first i thought, oh, his voice is crappy, but i listened to his range and harmonies, he's pretty talented.

all the tracks are astounding, so i'll break down my favorite song "in the fire." first, the vocal melody is very pleasant. sort of reminds me of "i've seen all good people" yes (see, i'm still stuck in the past, even though i'm only 19! however, the vocal melody isn't as cool as the wah wah riff (it's a cool wah wah talking riff, listen to "rainy day, dream away" by hendrix to understand what i'm talking about.) the lyrics are cool and then we get to the solos. there are, like, 8 (intricate and fast and cool and dueling) guitar solos and a really cool keyboard solo. i also got this cd because of the stuff i heard on jordan rudess. he's on the cd! both he and morse are very talented (i can't tell who's who, but all the keyboaed solos are awesome, so both of them are great. if you like the old bands such as yes, genesis and gentle giant, you'll love this album. remeber that i do not like christianity (being a catholic can do that to you), but i still found the lyrics beautiful and inspiring. buy it now.

p.s i think i'm hooked on this guy. as soon as i can, i will buy a bunch of morse and spock's beard albums.

pps was it hackett that cut the "12" solo? he's another reason i bought the album.

Report this review (#58479)
Posted Monday, November 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is definitely Neal's best solo offering, by far. It's just so tight the whole time. I liked "Testimony and "One", although there were sections I couldn't stand for repeated listenings. This is his most progressive work in his new solo career, as well. I really don't care about lyrics, at all. There is a nice mix of instrumental and sang parts, and that is a plus. I love Neal's voice, and he puts all his emotion in this record. There's the Transatlantic vibe like someone said earlier. And Portnoy delivers some great and precise drumming. On the downside, some of the melodies are repeated through the album, which is to be expected, but can be annoying to some. And there's this song, "Outside Looking". which reeks of cheesiness, but is pretty... or something.

More like, 9.5/10. I love this album. Who said prog rock was without emotion?

(Yeah, I suck at making reviews, so I'll stop here)

Report this review (#58852)
Posted Friday, December 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is amazing. If you're not familiar with Neal Morse, allow me to educate you. Right. Imagine Dream Theater. Now imagine that instead of a typically whiney and over- accented vocalist (ahem) you have a much more pleasant, almost celestial angelic voice. Keep imagining Dream Theater, now imagine them about 1,000 times more exciting and adventurous. For those of you thinking "what, but dream theater aren't uninventive" well, that's what I thought til I heard this. Basically we have a progressive spiritual journey. Yeah, at first this sounds a bit...well...Christian, but don't let it bother you. It does NOT detract from the musicality at all. This adventure roves throughout many timbres and emotions. It goes from peaceful ballad-like material, to powerful Rush-esque poppy parts which descend into the most perfect keyboard based madness you will witness (often from Dream Theater's only appealing member, Jordan Rudess). But let me talk especially about a certain track. It's called 12, and it is the word 'amazing' personified, and incognito. It starts out with some fairly average tune which slowly devolves into a mysterious piano based solo...which without warning descends into the best three minutes of music on the entire album. And guess who's responsible? Steve Hackett. That's right, the world's international guitarist of mystery plays the best solo he's played since he was with Genesis. A beautiful, soaring, indescribable solo which combines his beautiful power and emotion with a bit of topical shredding. He proves that he is the only man in the world who can shred with emotion. Anyway, enough of my fanboy ravings. Neal Morse is a modern day prog genius and is relatively unmatched in his field. Ignore his relentless spiritual preaching if it bothers you and enjoy his musical prowess.
Report this review (#60116)
Posted Sunday, December 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well, this is the first review I have done for this site that features several caveats. First of all, let it be known that I am a staunch atheist. For this reason, the overtly Christian themes that permeate this album (not even as broadly allegorical as Spock's Beard's Snow) kind of trouble me. Second, the album has a feel very definitely steeped in the same music Neal explored with Spock's and Transatlantic: not much new musical ground has been broken. Having said that, I really dig this record. If neither of the above warnings are of concern to you, add a star, you're gonna absolutely love this album. If either gives you pause, take away one. Having said that, Neal has put out another album out in the same musical mold as his previous outings, read very accessable prog. The musicianship is not even questioned here, just look at the guys involved, that should should tell you something. But, if you're looking for something new here...sorry. So, in summing up, if you don't mind derivative Christian this, you will love it. But if you have a problem with permeating religion in your lyrics or you don't love Spock's or Transatlantic...steer clear, this record will not convince you otherwise.

P.S. I really like Spock's Beard...consider this when evaluating my ranking.

Report this review (#60281)
Posted Tuesday, December 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars "I never even spoke to Steve (Hackett)! I emailed his manager and we worked things out and we emailed them the music we wanted Steve to solo over and he fedexed us a disc back with his bits on it. It's a brave new world!" That was Neal Morse comment when was asked about the involvement of Steve Hackett in his latest offering. The comment which can be found on a Dutch prog-website evokes at least two things in my mind: First, Morse really had opened up to contribution on the guitar department which has been lacking of 'kicks' within the last two albums (his second solo period that is). In this respect, he also hires his brother to beef up this department, and overall, this has balanced all the departments. Second, it seems that high profile musicians really knows what they are suppose to do when presented with raw material and asked to fill some 'missing' parts and make it a coherent whole. Not just coherent, but takes it to the higher unimaginable level.

Neal Morse has made a fantastic job in this album, and the song entitled '12' (track 9) where Hackett has contributed a powerful solo is simply majestic, which was why I chose to begin my review on the things behind this song. Hackett's unmistakable sound graces this song beautifully and it was so moving that brought tears in the corner of my eyes, sent butterflies inside my stomach. The rhythm section in this song is solid as the sun, which is also the case on the rest of the songs. '12' begins with a ballad opening part, with a typical Morse's backing vocal style, and then goes into a jazzy (piano) territory in the vein of Transatlantic just to prepare you to meet Hackett's tour de force! Excellent track! Some nice and tasty synthesizer parts add up to the joy of listening to this track.

The album is a concept album built around religious conception of tabernacle. You don't have to pay a lot of attention to the lyric if you are not into Christianity, but the music is so powerful by itself that it demands your complete attention. It is a 56 plus minutes of pure progrock enjoyment where you can enjoy a rocking trip ('Sweet Elation', 'Solid As The Sun', '12' and 'In The Fire') or a floating one ('The Outsider', 'Outside Looking In' and 'Inside His Presence'). Track 5, 'In The Fire' is worth listening not just because Jordan Rudess and Alan Morse perform a van Damme-versus-Stallone kind of duel, but also because it has a dynamic arrangement, a great bass-drum sound, bits and pieces of tasty progressive rock sound spread throughout the length of the song in the right position to glue you in your place and listen to the song intensely! It is definitely a highlight of the album!

Funky brass section and the preacher sound sample on the following track 6, 'Solid As The Sun', in my opinion, is a bit out of place, uncharacteristic of the sound that tries to be developed by the song. However, it does not last that long that potentially endanger the whole spirit of the song. Nice track!

To sum up, this is a solid offering by Neal Morse, and in my opinion it has outdone the previous album 'One'. Mind you, this is not merely a collection or assemblage of Morse's familiar and predictable prog sounds, it is a quite fresh outing and therefore is highly recommended. (Nirarta - Indonesia)

Report this review (#66047)
Posted Sunday, January 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'm a rugular visitor of progarchives, but this is my first review. Thanks to the many interesting reviews I have learned about (to me) unknown artists. Neal Morse first got my attention thanks to a review of Spock's Beard V in a local newspaper. The review interested me because of the links to Genesis and Yes (longtime favourites). I baught the album, and never regretted I did! Since then I followed Spock's Beard, but even more Neal Morse. What a great voice! "Testimony" really got me, followed by "One", and now "?" Sadly enough I missed the concert in Tilburg (Testimony live DVD), so I hope Neal will return soon! Let me end by saying the average 4.08 stars are well earned. To me all Neal Morse albums deserve 5 stars really.
Report this review (#68806)
Posted Wednesday, February 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This new album is be far the best for me in Neal Morse solo career. Testimony had too many songs that I always skipped, One was somewhat boring, but none of that concerns "?". This album is brilliant right from the start till the end. All songs are musically great (being an atheist I must confess I can't enjoy lyrics as well but that's only my point of view). Collaboration with Roine Stolt, Steve Hackett makes the album sound solid and fresh. To sum it up, it's surely one of the best prog albums of 2005. Buy it now!
Report this review (#69208)
Posted Monday, February 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars It makes me sad to know that Neal Morse left Spock's Beard because he did great wonders on albums like Snow and V HOWEVER i love the fact that he is using the power and word of the lord through music like this. Never in my wildest dreams i would ever thought that someone would use christain music and mix it with Progressive rock. Not to mention its NEAL MORSE that's doing that too. Well anyway i've heard ONE and that blew me away but "?" is just a little bit better than ONE as neal creates a 56 minute song with such moments a progger could dream of. i mean there are great mega epics like A PLEASANT SHADE OF GRAY, SIX DEGREES OF INNER, TURBLUENCE, AND GARDEN OF DREAMS but this to me absolutely blows them away. Not to mention he has a great cast of musicians in this album as well with funky bassist RANDY GEORGE and of course THE ONE AND ONLY MIKE PORTNOY!!!! plus he also brought some brotherly with ALAN MORSE, some old Transatlanitc memories with FLOWER KINGS frontman ROINE STOLT, and of course one the legends in prog rock STEVE HACKETT and dude his solo on 12 AAAAAAAAAAAH AWESOME!!!!! plus we've also got imo the greatest keyboard player ever JORDAN RUDESS and dude his solo on INTO THE FIRE gives me goosebumps every time i listen to it. Anyway this is one of my favorite SPOCK'S BEARD-related CDs as album has such a great message to it. Every time i listen to it i sometimes get a tear to my eye of how beautiful most of these songs are like OUTSIDE LOOKING IN and INSIDE HIS PRESCENCE. Anyway this CD is definitely recommended if you LOVE neal morse and Spock's Beard. Great Album Neal may you continue to change people's lives with the wonderful message you bring in your albums. God Bless
Report this review (#70515)
Posted Saturday, February 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Believe it or not, I have been spinning this CD for three weeks in a row combined with Roine Stolt "The Flower King" by which these two CDs are my favorite and both have taken roughly about 70% share of CD playing at my player. I also have ripped these two albums to my PDA so that I can listen to these excellent CDs whenever I go. Yeah, I live, I work, I seleep, I breathe with prog music man!

This latest album by Neal Morse blew me away the first time I spun the CD. I like especially the combination of silent / slow as well as dynamic and heavy segments. That's basically the strong point of this album. Mr. Morse is one of great prog musicians in the 2000s. See how he stirs our emotion (no need to talk about the lyrics yet) by mixing the mellow style at the intro part of "Temple Of The Living God" (6:13) - album opener - where he brings his music gently and brilliantly from powerful vocal backed with soft piano touch - and augmented with bluesy guitar fills - and firmly enters the dynamic segments through a very touchy "eastern" style music using "flute-like" sounds . oh man . this part is great! [I'm referring to approx minute 2:00]. This wonderful piece of music reaches its peak when it comes to minute (approx) 2:53 . oh the melody really kills me . Yeah, it reminds me to the music of Spock's Beard "Octane". Well, everyone knows that Neal Morse was a mastermind of Spock's Beard. So powerful his influence was - probably- that finally his music style seems like ingrained in the music of The Beard after he left the band. Oh no .. not really a true statement; because actually this opening track reminds me to "Octane" and it's different with the Beard music during Neal's tenure. Got the picture? If not - try playing "The Beauty of It All" (Spock's Beard "Octane") and compare it with this track. You may find some similarities in nuance.

The opening track continue seamlessly to the second one "Another World" (2:36) with a kind of The Beatles rhythm section. Of course there are high and low points that are totally different with The Beatles style, for example the combination of keyboard and guitar at the end of this track. It also moves seamlessly to "Outsider" (2:21) where the guitar style is the vein of Steve Hackett circa "A Trick of The Tail", continued with "Sweet Elation" (2:32) which is heavy with acoustic guitar.

"In The Fire" (7:24) brings the album to the kind of early albums of Spock's Beard, at least you can identify the unique singing style. It's an excellent track with pulsating keyboard combined with electric guitar work. Yes, you may find the guitar solo, as well as keyboard solo is stunning. Jordan Rudess' keyboard is so transparent here. Neal's voice is powerful and transparent. If prog spirit is in your blood it's very hard to deny this excellent track. It might explode your adrenalin. Watch out!

"Solid As The Sun" (6:12) - as the title implies - is another solid track where its strength lies at the interlude part where the bass player Randy George plays his bass guitar dynamically. It's basically a walking bass where he plays his instrument like a guitar solo. Really cool. I'd say that this track in terms of style is definitely an early Spock's Beard's music with heavy influence from The Beatles. Oh yes .. even the guitar playing style on bluesy part is very close to The Beatles.

"Glory Of The Lord" serves wonderfully as a bridge with heavy choirs and orchestration and it flows smoothly to "Outside Looking In" (4:19) (ehm.. the title reminds me to my favorite Grand Funk Railroad track "Inside Looking Out" ). I don't actually favor this track as it's too ballad, style-wise. But, as this serves as transition to next track "12" where Mr. Stephen Hackett contributes his guitar work. It's like a dream comes true having this track with Hackett as guest appearance. His guitar playing is so unique. It's enjoyable, really.

The last three tracks "Deliverance" (6:22), "Inside His Presence" (5:30) and "Temple Of The Living God" (4:27) are also excellent ones. Special for me is" Inside His Presence" (5:30) because I really enjoy the tasty piano work with transparent and powerful voice line. Not only that - the double guitar work during interlude part is cool. What's also interesting is the very smooth transition to the concluding track titled exactly the same with the opening track.

In summary, Neal Morse has been consistent with his music direction after he left the band. But on the other side of the coin, his music does not progress as the three albums sound alike. It does not mean that this album is not a good one. Even though I still prefer his previous album "One", this latest album demonstrates tastier music segments. It's an excellent addition to any prog music collection. Recommended. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#72947)
Posted Friday, March 24, 2006 | Review Permalink
Founding Moderator
4 stars For Pete's Sake! All those non-Christians who are "offended" by Morse's faith need to get over themselves: if it bothers you, don't buy his music. However, if you are a true progger who doesn't judge the music by its subject, Neal Morse continues to write the most interesting, thoughtful, intelligent, imaginative, even brilliant prog out there. And if his subject matter is "controversial" - even provocative - so much the better: would those who seem "put off" by it prefer their prog "easy?" Or perhaps even "lite?" And I thought prog was SUPPOSED to be challenging, both musically and intellectually! So why not spiritually as well?

Testimony was Morse's very personal "witness" about his conversion; on One he tackled the cycle from Creation and original sin to redemption and salvation. On "?," Morse gives what amounts to a one-hour master class on how the notions of "temple," "atonement" and "sacrifice" moved from the Old Testament notion of the physical temple, and once-a-year atonement via the sacrifice of an unblemished lamb by the "high priest" (the only person permitted into the "holy of holies" where the sacrifice took place), to the New Testament notion of Jesus as the ultimate "sacrificial lamb" "once for all sin for all time" and the "temple" being our own bodies and hearts where the Holy Spirit resides.

Although just as cohesive, amazing and listenable as Testimony or One, "?" just misses being the near-masterpiece that those two are. Still, beginning with the jam at the end of "Sweet Elation" through the brilliant "In The Fire" - among his best works, and both the obligatory GG-influenced piece and a jam session in which everyone is given a chance to shine during stunning extended solos - through the exceptional bass solo in the middle of "Solid as the Sun," and on into the majesterial, even spine-tingling "The Glory of the Lord," this part of the album alone is worth the price of admission.

The musicianship on the album is expectedly superb, though I must say I was not always certain who was playing which instrument when. However, this is probably a good thing, as it "levels the playing field" so that you don't have a case of, "Oh, yes, here is Hackett's (or Stolt's or Rudess') contribution." Rather, the blending of the instruments is done in a spirit of equality, even if the style of a particular musician may be better known to particular listeners. Morse's work (both guitar and piano) is, as always, top-notch, and the "backbone" of Mike Portnoy (does he even KNOW what a mistake sounds like?) and Randy George (where DID this guy come from?!!) is as solid as ever.

As an aside, note that Morse is all the more brilliant for being able to write incredible prog music with minimal self-repetition, either song to song or even album to album. And even his self-references are usually neatly done, and not just direct "lifts."

Morse has become a serious Christian, and is obviously quite happy and content with that. If that is now his inspiration for writing some of the best prog music out there, how can anyone find fault with that? Indeed, we should all be very happy - even grateful - that his faith inspires him to such great heights of writing, keeping the true spirit of prog alive and growing.


Report this review (#76600)
Posted Friday, April 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Upon the recommendation of a friend, I decided to delve into the workings of Neal Morse. Having being a fan of the Beard, I decided to give his solo work a try. The local music store I frequent had two albums by mr. Morse, "One" and "?". I instantly decided upon "?" after seeing a little sticker on the front stating that the album was "Featuring Steve Hackett, Jordan Rudess, Mike Portnoy." How could one resist that? Being a fan of bot Dream THeater and Genesis, this had to be the release I was waiting for. In turn I was not dissapointed. "?" is not twelve separate tracks, but rather a massive epic in twelve parts.

The epic starts with "The Temple of the Living God." A gorgeous contemplative yet unsettling piano intro starts off the show. A little strum-and-sing guitar session briefly ensues. then the listener is propelled into straight hard rock, with brief instrumental guitar/horn work until Morse starts up with vocals again. This segues into "Another World" another straight rock peice with some impressive guitar work and catchy melodies before slowing down to begin "The Ousider," another strum-and-sing ballad. Once again, this builds up into "Sweet Elation." This is where the real musical treat begins. After a bit of vocals, an impressive instrumental section continues with brilliant keyboard passages and guitar work. "In the Fire" continues right where "Sweet Elation" left off. A hard driving rocker starting with a catchy riff and some pleasing vocal harmonies, "In the Fire" continues with the longest instrumental endeavour of the entire album. Here Jordan Rudess is allowed to shine with a steller performance once again establishing his reign as THE keyboard wizard. Apart from the keyboards, some guitar shred sneaks into the mix as well as some great vocals. This track reminds me of the prog work of old. I especially like the talkbox guitar melodies. Solid as the Sun, another straight rockers ends the jam session with more straight popish rock. One of the highlights is a bass solo with a spoken sermon in the background. The impressive choral "The Glory of the Lord" is a shining example of Morses versatility as a composer. Then another ballad, "Outside Loooking in" takes over. This moves into one of the best highlights of the album, "12." Here Morse continues with slow ballad like feel of "Outside Looking in" until moving into more instrumental passages, although slower and less intense as the "In the Fire' jam. The Steve Hackett joins in. Here, Hackett delivers an inspiring and emotional solo rivalling that of his "Firth of Fifth" solo and further securing his place as an essential piece of the pantheon of guitar gods. Then more instrumental work continues providing focus on melody rather than speed/skill based soloing. "Entrance" starts out with stunning piano playing and a Gabriel-esque flute melody. Morse continues with the soft rock mood until moving back to the melody and lyrics of "Sweet Elation" and "The Temple of the Living God" with a bit more bombast and elaboration. The piece ends with a Pink FLoydish ambience before continuing the piano melody from the intro of the album. The quiet contemplative piano work continues into the quiet and contemplative piano ballad "Inside his Presence." I could imagine the local mega church covering this bit at church next Sunday. I especially like the bagpipes and emotional dual guitar solo towards the end. "The Temple of the Living God" finishes off this brilliant composition, covering the melodies off the album in a climactic summation until the piano sounds the fnal chord.

"?" is a brilliantly concieved epic album executed by brilliant musicians resulting in 56 minutes of pure euphoria for ones ears. The album is never boring and balances between heavy and soft, catchy vocal melody and impressive instrumental passages, and spectacular interplay and emotional performances between the musicians involved. Some may be turned off by the Christian content of the lyrics (Morse even states in the cd booklet when each particular lyric was lifted from scripture) but I have always felt that music is simply a vehicle of expression. Morse isn't trying to sell millions of copies, rather expressing himself and his message in musical form. Hate the message if you must, but at least give the music a chance. Any fans of Spock's Beard, Transatlantic, Dream Theater or Genesis will highly enjoy this album. Rudess, Portnoy, Hackett, Stolt, Alan Morse, and especially Neal Morse far surpass the sum of their talents on this jem. Hihly Recommend.

Report this review (#79998)
Posted Thursday, June 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I have been scoring hits lately with a lot of my recent purchases of new bands but this one is at the top of the heap. This one is a concept album about the trail of the earthly housing of God from the Ark of the Covenant to everyone's heart becoming the temple. If you expected anything less than a Christian epic or if that offends you from NM than don't buy this CD. It would be too bad if you did allow your feelings on the subject to keep you from this masterpiece of prog.

The album is a group of recurring musical themes moving from one part to the other and back again. Each time adding something new to the theme. Even though there are song breaks the CD moves though as one piece of music I look at the opening track The Temple of the Living God as a model or overture to the rest of the album. The music is very imaginative moving from a Genesis twelve string moment at the beginning of The Outsider to a more spirited sweet melody in Sweet Elation that conjours up the harder parts of the Musical Box. Track Five enters in with a funky guitar beat reminiscent to muted trumpet. Alan Morse shines on a solo on this one. This song builds up to a raging torrent with a wicked Hammond solo towards the end with a burning guitar in the background.

Track 8-12 bring the piece up to its climax. It starts out with a nice a little acoustic song where Neal identifies with the man standing outside the temple in Outside Looking In. This merges into 12 which describes many things using the number in and out of the bible. Incredible bit of harmonies here. This song builds to an electrifying ending with a great Steve Hackett solo. Song ten brings the Outsider into the temple led by Christ who cleanses him and leads him to the mercy seat. Inside his presence moves the experience of them temple to ourselves as we are now the temple of the living God. Great climax music in this reminiscent of Suppers Ready especially some Hackett like guitar sounds. The last song a reprise of the first With a single Piano chord ending this epic and the sounds of voices whispering in the dessert.

Kudos must also be given to Mike Portnoy without his drums I don't think this CD is as dynamic as it is. This is very high on my music scale as I can't really stop listening to it for the 6 months I have owned it. It always seems to find its way back into the CD player. I am looking forward to buying both One and Testimony and seeif they do the same for me. It is a strong 5 to me.

Report this review (#85286)
Posted Monday, July 31, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars One word best describes it: OUTSTANDING!! First of all, any reviewer who doesn't give this cd 5 stars does not know of which they speak. Actually, it's brilliance deserves more than just 5 stars. That being said, go out NOW and buy not one but two copies of this progressive rock masterpiece. Guaranteed that you will either wear out the first copy through continuous listening or you will lend it out never to be seen again. The musicianship, lyrics, and Neal's obvious devotions have given us what has to be the finest release of 2005. Keep up the good work Neal. Whatever is in your head and heart belongs on digital plastic. 5/5. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!
Report this review (#87745)
Posted Sunday, August 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Perhaps this it is the work that less new presents/displays of which I have listened to of Mr. Neal MORSE, the new thing and excellent I create appears in the participation of some of his friend for this disc, appears the same one formulates for this disc of the elements easily are recognized the new features much are in the participation of STOLT, HACKETT and RUDESS, that make notice a tone diferenciadle basically speech of God and its paper with the man and the doubts that this is engaged in to the life of the men, in general this if it is a disc for which please almost of the music of Neal and of exclusive way, but those that have not listened Neal in their Christian stage it will seem to them interesting.
Report this review (#88666)
Posted Friday, September 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I am a 42 year old man who hasn't heard of "progressive" music before 2006. I came from a background of classic Rock, mostly genesis, yes, supertramp, pink floyd, Styx etc.

The last many years I've listened primarily to christian based music, ranging from Rich Mullins to Dennis Jernigan. I've watched a friend of mine take this journey through progressive music land. I've chuckled as he talks about spocks beard (what an odd name) and other strange sounding groups. I've taken slightly chilled listens to various stuff he has...long winding melodies, varous instrumentals...just didn't catch my ears. He also lives many hours away, so the influence has only been sparingly.

He lent me "testimony" and I gave it several good tries, but it just didn't stick. Still doesn't, for whatever reason.

Then something insane happened to me.

He recommended I listen to "?"

I have not heard such an album of majestic qualities and amazing theatrical rock qualities since Dark Side of the Moon. To say that I have been blown away is an understatement. I have literally been moved to tears by the end of the disk. Then to learn of Steve Hackett's contribution was a sheer joy. And the drumming is the finest I've heard with no true comparisons, except for maybe Rush's drummer (neil peart??).....

I've downloaded all of Neals stuff from iTunes and am now embarking on my first ever progressive rock journey. The more I learn about this guy and listen to his music, the more stunned I am. I'm going to eventually get to Spocks Beard and download "snow."

I'm a bit confused as to some peoples objections regarding religious lyrics. People always sing what they are passionate about. Listen to old styx, some of their lyrics are rather good insights into what they went through personally. God or not, music is a window into the artists soul. This guy is following what other true musicians do and singing about what is on his heart.

"?" Is the finest album I've heard since Dark Side of the Moon. I've had none blow me away to the extent this disk has. I cannot perceive of a finer album and hope that history will record this as Christendom's finest CD epic work ever.

Report this review (#90200)
Posted Tuesday, September 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars For me, this is Morse's best solo release, and it ranks up there in my top 5 favorite albums of all time. At first, I wasn't sure how to take this album. In contrast with TESTIMONY and ONE, there are very few tracks that really stand out here. In fact, I was surprised at how different the style was. Sure, you're going to get all you would expect from a Neal Morse album, but there is definitely a different feel to the music on this record. In theory, this album is supposed to be one long song divided into several parts, and I think Morse was successful here. In fact, I think that this is exactly what makes the work so masterful: the tracks blend together seamlessly, and the climactic development virtually explodes at the end with one of the best album endings I've ever heard.

Several reviewers on this board and elsewhere have criticized this album because of its religous lyrics. It is interesting, though, that many of these same reviewers are the first to tout concept albums like GENESIS' SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND. To me, there is little difference between the two examples. Sure, SEBYP is not religiously-oriented, but religion is just another landscape on which to tell a story. In this sense, both albums tell a story and allow the listener to challenge and interpret. Are these not the very things that we as proggers cherish in good music? The truth is that Morse's ? is full of mysteries and ideas that are open to interpretation and debate, hence the title of the record. If some listeners feel that they need to throw this album aside because Morse uses the word "Christ" once, then they are not mature enough to be able to put aside preconceived notions and appreciate great concept-driven music. The same goes for those who equally ignore the works of bands like TOOL or DEVIN TOWNSEND because of the darker themes they often employ. Unfortunately, both sides limit themselves to a very narrow range of emotional expression, and, consequently, miss the opportunity to ask more questions.

Report this review (#93207)
Posted Tuesday, October 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Great CD, great album, great musicians. Neal Morse is truely a great man, both in talent and in message. Whether your Christian or not you just gotta have a look into this guys work. With Portnoy drumming and Rudess keyboarding for him you can't go wrong! Neal hits the spot for some nice soft relaxing rock to listen to. Some prominent songs from the album are Temple of the Living God, great song! And deliverance, outside looking in, Solid as the Sun. Pretty much every song is good on this album making me to have to deliver a glorious 4/5 star report! It's a great album with plenty of good symbolism and power. He has the emotion, the melody and the rythm. Neal Morse just rocks!
Report this review (#98354)
Posted Saturday, November 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Not being familiar with any works by Spock's Beard but encouraged by the enthusiastic reviews posted on this site and the fact that Mike Portnoy is the drummer, I took a calculated risk with this cd. I'm very glad I did. It is excellent symphonic prog from beginning to end. I have to say that the beginning is a little weak for me but from the 2nd song onward it never lags again. "Another World" is a short piece but it really sets up the theme for the rest of the album. I love the musical triplets that characterize "Sweet Elation" as it reminds me of classic Genesis. "Into the Fire" is a mix of metal, rock and funk that works surprisingly well as it transitions into "Solid as the Sun." I'm a real sucker for huge chorales and "Glory of the Lord" is short but very effective as it sets up the poignant "Outside Looking In." Starting with "12" the rest of the cd continually builds and builds to a fantastic ending. The guest artists really add variety and excitement to the proceedings, Steve Hackett and Jordan Rudess in particular. And, of course, Mr. Portnoy is solid as a rock throughout. He continually proves that he is one of the very best drummers in the business today. As for the spiritual content I sincerely hope you aren't Bibliophobic and staying away from this artist because of it. I didn't find it preachy or holier-than-thou at all. Maybe you could just imagine that he's talking about Greek mythology or something if that's a problem for you. If you love grandiose progressive rock it would be a shame for you to pass this by just because he's singing about God. I personally found it refreshing to hear positive, uplifting lyrics for a change and I now look forward to enjoying more musical offerings by Mr. Morse in the future.
Report this review (#102152)
Posted Friday, December 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars When I started listening to Neal Morse, I did it backwards chronologically speaking. I listened to ? first, followed by One, then Testimony. ? definitely encouraged my to hear more of what Mr. Morse had to offer. The combination of Neal Morse on vocals, guitars, and keyboard (probably his best instrument), Mike Portnoy on drums, and Randy George on bass is an excellent mix. Morse's keyboards, though not as skillful as they were on One, are certainly worth looking at, and reveal his true skill at the instrument. Portnoy's hard-hitting drum style is VERY evident throughout the album, an excellent show of percussion skill that makes Portnoy one of my favorite drummers.

? is a concept album based on a search for the tabernacle, and Morse has been quoted as saying the whole album should be viewed as one long song (a point that becomes very evident when many songs contain the completion of songs that came before them-making every song part of the same, long epic). The album begins with a haunting (and very classically smooth sounding) piano intro, leading to an examination of God's kingdom on "The Temple of the Living God". "Another World" clearly is an introduction point to the tabernacle, setting up the rest of the album. "The Outsider" is the lament of an outcast who feels unloved and left out of God's glory (though God loved this outsider enough to give this track melodic guitar and a very nice, if short, Morse effect.) A theme that appears often throughout the whole album, "Sweet Elation" is probably best exemplified with all the parts of it featured in the other tracks of album, a very upbeat fell to a very up-beatly named song, full of highly perky keyboard. The first thing you notice when you hear the next son, "In the Fire", is the extreme wa-wa pedal, giving the song an excellent starting point to become one of the best songs on the album, a very rhythmic track that has a mesmerizing effect. "Solid as the Sun" trades off between Morse at his rocking best, and smooth, flowing keyboards, to create a flowing contrast that is very appropriate where it is on the album. Suddenly, you hit by a very, very unexpected choir in "The Glory of the Lord" but it really fits into the album after a few listens, and highlights the work, no matter how out of place the song seems the first time you hear the album. Again, the forlorn man returns in the emotionally charged "Outside Looking In", a man looking inward to God's kingdom, wishing for the happiness of all the people he sees there. "12" is a thought pretty much along the lines of-God really likes the number 12 doesn't he? That's a really weird coincidence (or not a coincidence as it my be), with the "Temple of the Living God" theme always lurking in the background, followed by a masterful instrumental of keyboard and guitar prevalence. My personal favorite of the album, "Entrance" is next, though not that much different from the rest of the album, it highlights "Sweet Elation", and the main Temple theme again. "Inside His Presence" begins with a major variation on the temple theme, it comes across as more of a worship song than a prog song, and is slightly out of place, though it works better than it should. The last track is also name "The Temple of the Living God", it is essentially the same song, with some differences, mostly in the attitude, instead of searching for the tabernacle, Morse stresses the fact that Jesus' temple is himself, and the search for the tabernacle ends with ones' self.

Neal Morse is the epitome of Christian prog, and ? is the epitome of Neal Morse, a first-rate album!

Report this review (#105658)
Posted Friday, January 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Neal Morse Finds God... Again

Neal Morse has been on a hot streak of religiously themed albums ever since his departure from Spock's Beard. Testimony revealed his most emotional side, and One expanded upon that and also had some of his best and most creative music to date. That leads us to ?, a 56 minute epic spread out over 12 tracks. ? combines the musicality of One with the conceptual prowess of Testimony and creates an otherworldly experience that has all the frills, bells, whistles, and cliches that Neal Morse is known for.

What is impressive about this album is the array of guest musicians featured throughout. Aside from the reliable rhythm unit of Randy George and Mike Portnoy, respected guitarists Alan Morse, Roine Stolt, and the legendary Steve Hackett lend their talents along with keyboard wizard Jordan Rudess. While the guests contributions aren't always at the front of the sound, at key points in the album they add an element Morse himself couldn't even add.

Like One, the guitar is featured more prominently than one would think when they think of Neal Morse (who's more renowned for his keyboard work than guitar work anyway). However, Morse performs the core guitar work, ranging from melodic riffs and crunchy solos to mellow acoustics and somber melodies. The guest guitarists take up most of the guitar solo space, with Steve Hackett having the most memorable solo in the song 12, which captivates the listener with its many twists and turns.

Like all albums that feature Neal Morse, there are sections that are particularly mellow. The most notable song in this vein is Outside Looking In, which has a memorable and somber chorus as well as a passionate lead vocal from Morse. The acoustic work on this track is impeccable and has a bit of a Genesis vibe. The key part to this album is how Morse is able to have the sections flow coherently and have catchy hooks that segue the songs.

In the end, fans of Neal Morse won't be disappointed with this release, it's probably his most concise solo album thus far. However, I'm not so certain I could call this album a masterpiece, as it lacks a certain something to give it that quality. However, I can highly recommend this album, as there's not much to dislike. Hopefully Neal Morse's next album will be able to match the strength of this release.

Report this review (#107791)
Posted Thursday, January 18, 2007 | Review Permalink

With a very Floydian style start with piano and guitar, Neal Morse opens this album with religion as the main topic, this is the consequence of his encounter with God. "Temple of The Living God" continues with an instrumental passage "a la Genesis" with a duet of keyboard and guitar, then a sax joins to complete the fusion. Mike Portnoy looks very solid in this song, but as the song goes by, it loses strength, and what started as an excellent job suddenly fades away.

Some kind of conceptual release, Neal Morse offers this album as a sacrifice for his Lord.

"Another World" continues immediately in a very happy mood following the symphonic school very marked on each of the projects of this American musician.

"Outside" is a very calmed and mellow song that kills the rhythm of the first three tracks.

Besides the songs get very monotone in what lyrics concern, this album has excellent instrumental fragments as in "Sweet Elation".

The fact of being God the only lyrical topic of the songs, the diversity that differences Morse from other musicians gets lost.

"In The Fire" starts as a very weak and grows up and gets stronger on each bar. It's an excellent effort. Mike Portnoy shows off in an excellent way to add variations on the drum kit with his bag of tricks as he calls it on each second of the album. The Gospel Style Choirs add something special to the song that couldn't have been finished in a better way.

"Solid As The Sun" starts with a bang, the bass work is very notable, but the lack of heaviness on Morse's Voice makes it lose power, the sax solo fits perfectly with the melody of the song and the Yes Style vocal arrangements add an special mix to this track.

Once again, the symphonic influences take place on this album in "Glory Of The Lord" that is an excellent introduction for "Outside Looking In", a ballad very in the Bryan Adams Style, that knocks out the album when it was rising, so once again it falls because of the lack of consistence.

Bringing continuity to the ballad, the strongest track of the album, "12" introduces itself with the first chorus of "Temple Of The God", adding an excellent Latin arrangement on the keyboards and the drums, and a great keyboard and guitar solo finishes the song.

"Entrance" slows down the ecstasy achieved on "12" with an excellent piano intro followed by the voice of Neal Morse. "Inside his presence" is like a church hymn, starts very quiet, and the song goes to its climatic point, but not in a progressive way, just like a normal ballad from any Rock Band, pretty much in the Bon Jovi Style.

And back to the main theme, "Temple of The Living God" announces the end since the beginning, a good instrumental part, you can imagine yourself in the church singing it at the end of the Priest Preech.

In conclusion, this album has an excellent instrumentation, for my taste the lyrics are too religious, but thinking of it as a concept album, I think it deserves a chance, I was pretty doubtful about the rating I should give, but after listening to it a couple of times during the review, I'm gonna give it 4 stars.

Report this review (#109264)
Posted Sunday, January 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Another truly wonderful album from a true prog genius.

This was in fact the first Neal Morse solo album I heard, and I loved it so much I had to buy the other two Morse/Portnoy/George outings (of course now he has another which I have yet to procure, but I'm sure I'll get round to it eventually). I can understand skepticism about this album if one had heard the 'One' album, say, first, but I would still nevertheless feel they were unjustified.

There are a couple of things I love about this album in particular which make it stand out as a masterpiece of progressive rock: 1) The concept. The album sets out to discuss the mysteries of God's character and how he interacts with mankind through the Bible. It is, undeniably, an incredibly high-minded concept, but there is, of course, nothing wrong with that in prog. Especially when the lyrics are so well done to support this concept. I find there's something both very beautifully honest and incredibly profound about Neal Morse's lyrics - none more so than on this album. Songs such as 'The Outsider' and 'Outside Looking In' discuss very poignantly the state of feeling outside God's grace, in contrast to those in movements such as 'Sweet Elation', in which the glorious ecstasy is described. The two 'Temple of the Living God' songs talk clearly about the difference in the nature of relationship with God before and after Christ, and the song 'Inside His Presence', which has certainly my favourite lyrics of all time, speaks movingly of how all is made new in Christ. 2) The intricate musical construction and intelligent use of repeated throughout the album as a whole. Well, pretty much enough said on that count.

This is a truly wonderful album. Get it now!

Report this review (#121757)
Posted Friday, May 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well, the songs in this album are somewhat more short than the previous albums. However, "?" is a conceptual album, and it follows a line from the beginning to the ending. The line-up is awesome. Just see it. I love the instrumental parts. But when the voice appear, the work become in a "prog-pop song".

(1) "The temple of the living God": the piano gives us a great beginning with a strong instrumental intro. Then, when the song starts the pop component appears.****

(2) "Another world": this theme follows the first track. The guitar's solo is good. The keyboards do their part.***

(3) "The outsider": the climax increases because of this song. This increase prepares us to the next song.***

(4) "Sweet Elation": well, here the album is stronger. The keyboards are amazing.*****

(5) "In the fire": maybe the best song for me. Exciting, virtuous, emotional. The keyboards 'jam session' is great! The base is nice too. It makes me move. The vocals arrangement also is great.*****

(6) "Solid as the sun": a bit hard song. This song has a good diversity of sounds. The bass solo is incredible... as the sax (or keys?) solo. Great final.*****

(7) "The glory of the Lord": Incredible composition. I like it very much. The choir is amazing. And I like the meters: they aren't common meters.****

(8) "Outside looking in": this is really a pop song. However, the song is nice and it is well placed in this album.***

(9) "12": great... many melodies mix in this song. It's certainly emotional. After that, the strongest part of track is tense like tracks 6 and 7. There is an arabic part which is very nice.*****

(10) "Deliverance": emotional and simple song at beginning. Then some parts of "Sweet Elation" and another songs appear again so the song takes energy... nice track.****

(11) "Inside his presence": the introducting piano is here again. The end is near us. It's evident. This song praises God. Really it's an emotional song.***

(12) "The temple of the living God": the 'grand-finale' for this album, great track. The album finishes as pompous as It started.****

Average Rate: 4 stars

I think this album is really 4-star-album. Always, vocal melodies are too pop in Neal Morse music. However, the music is really good.

Report this review (#124304)
Posted Friday, June 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Wow! I can't believe I stayed away from Neal Morses' solo work for this long. Realize, I am a Christian, and have always had a "Seperation of Church and Prog" mentality. Prog was one thing, the things of God another. Therefore I was extremely hesitant to try His music, being afraid it was to be as "cheesy" as modern Christian music can be. This is a great album. Beautiful melodies, awesome jams and Hackett's solo on the song 12? Incredible! Yet the whole band's effort is top notch. Remarkable musicianship and the voice of Neal Morse is strong, passionate and alive. Recommended to all who would dig some first rate, high energy prog!
Report this review (#127736)
Posted Friday, July 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Excellent song writing.

This album is extremely well written. The vocals are emotional, not technical, similar to Pink Floyd, which makes this music create a very special feel. I needed about 5 tries on this album before it sunk into me and now it's one of my favourite albums out of modern music.

All his lyrics are of a Christian nature, all albums are concept albums about how he found religion and quit his other bands to follow his religious path trough music, life and so forth- This very album is therefore filled with biblical quotes and texts. Some people have problems with this, but not me. And even if I did have problems with biblical stuff, it could never be good enough of an excuse to ignore this album.

All songs are part of what makes the whole album so magnificently unique. Neal uses elements from Progressive Rock to Symphonic Prog to create an almost magical feel with a twist. Almost magical, since not even magic is a word good enough to describe the good feeling his music is able to produce with this true energetic masterpiece.

Might take some time to get into, but once it bites, it'll never let go.

Report this review (#134603)
Posted Thursday, August 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I realize that by giving this album five stars, I am "overrating" relative to many other reviewers, so I will try my best to explain why as concisely as possible. Being familiar with roughly half of Neal Morse's work (SB and Transatlantic included), it is clear that he has his own style, and this style is a bit derivative and repetitive. Therefore, I want to use high reviews for his work sparingly, and ? is the album for that five star rating for three reasons: it is a solid, coherent album, the musicianship is fantastic (though always a highlight on his albums), and this album has fewer of the major flaws of his other prog albums (the stand-alone praise song, too much focus on his voice, too much repetition of themes, etc). ? is simply one hour of rocking, well-produced, and interesting music.

Rather than focusing on each individual track, I'll just briefly list the highlights. I really enjoy the introduction, with the faint whispers, then the mysterious piano, and then the brief "theme" (which will be revisited for a majestic finale to close the album). Then a very cool percussion/keyboard kicks up the tempo: one of at least two times that my girlfriend (who can tune out ANY of my prog) remarked: "That's different". Indeed. The music continues to build in tempo and intensity through In the Fire and Solid as the Sun, to be brought down by the cataclysmic (and very cool) The Glory of the Lord. Once again, things start slow, only to build in intensity through to the album's conclusion. The instrumental section in 12 is one of my all-time favorites (that HAS to be Stolt, right?), and the guitar solo (s) to close the album (Inside His Presence and The Temple of the Living God) in my opinion are perfect examples of Neal's ability to music that builds in intensity without being repetitive, as well as finding excellent musicians who can bring his ideas to life.

Some may disagree, but I believe this to be the best ALBUM (not individual songs) that Neal Morse has to offer. Plenty of nice ideas, great instrumentation, lots of space for his talented guests to contribute (of course, this album would not have the same energy if Portnoy was not on drums), and I think interesting content (a much more mature treatment of biblical material than Arena, Songs from the Lion's Cage, for example). Given Neal's most recent output (Sola Scriptura), it appears that Neal is charging forward, and I for one am glad about that--Keep it up!

Report this review (#135697)
Posted Saturday, September 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3.5 stars really.

Well, I wasn't to thrilled by this album initially. Perhaps it was the Neal Morse burnout that seems to affect some of his fans? Perhaps I just didn't listen closely enough or wasn't in the right mood? Whatever the reason, the last couple of times I've listened to it I have found it quite enjoyable and quite good.

It does hang together as a whole 56 minute piece pretty well. I think one of the things is that this is just a bit less familiar than his other solo works (like Sola Scriptura, which is like the Transatlantic album that never got made by Transatlantic). It doesn't reveal itself quite as quickly as some of his other works (like Sola, which still took a few listens to fully absorb). But that ultimately for me is a good thing.

The album has a good flow as mentioned above, and and the usual outstanding performances by all involved. Though it might have been nice to know when and what certain performers contributed..............though Rudess and Hackett are both pretty obvious with their contributions :-) In fact, Hackett's solo is the highlight of the entire album, and was the only thing that stuck in my mind after the first couple of listens. Again, though, the album does grow on you and starts to become more enjoyable with time.

The lyrics on this album are somewhat easier to digest for me as well, drawing directly from the biblical passages and overall forming a more interesting lyrical base for the album. Far less of the preachy and Jesus loving fair of his other recent solo works. But still blatantly religious, maybe just not so blatantly Christian. But even with that, I think they just work better than on other of his albums.

So, while this album still sticks pretty close to the patented Neal Morse Prog Formula, I think it works pretty well. Not quite as good as Sola Scriptura, but still a very good effort for Morse. If you like his style (and can stomach the lyrics), you certainly can't go wrong here. Still, for newcomers I'd recommend the following album first. A solid 3.5 stars for this. Not quite essential (unless you are a Neal Morse fan), but better than just good.

Report this review (#146431)
Posted Monday, October 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Since Departing Spock's Beard, Neal Morse has made albums that are always just a teensy bit below the masterpiece level. On this album, he reaches the heights of the Light, his first effort as a prog musician and his first masterpiece. This album is absolutely spectacular. All of the necessary elements are here: plenty of talented musicians, probably his best line-up to date, consisting of Alan Morse, Roine Stolt, Steve Hackett, Jordan Rudess, Mike Portnoy, and Randy George. Combine all these guys with Neal's most inspired writing yet, the album is propelled into the stratosphere.

Temple of the Living God: A mysterious, dramatic opening that is so key for a good concept album/rock opera to work. Something that makes the listener want to concentrate on the music and nothing else. The mystical piano line is hair-raising, and we get introduced to the main theme, a quiet acoustic guitar with mellow electric parts accompanying it. Morse sings softly, and then then tempo kicks up for the overture of sorts. Electric piano lead part is amazing and the guitar parts are very epic. When the vocals kick back in, it sounds like early Spock's Beard with a vocal distorter and a few electric noise bursts from Alan Morse. This segues perfectly into...

Another World: a new synth theme is introduced along with a cool verse vocal line and piano part, telling of the tents gathering around something. The storyline in this album is the most vague, and I have trouble discerning it. However, this is a great song, if it were longer it would be bad, but its the perfect length, even allowing for a small guitar solo at the end, and a slow down into...

The Outsider: Lightly strummed acoustics create an ethereal atmosphere that Morse has never been able to make, sending shivers down my spine. Neal sings perfectly here, sounding impassioned and truly lonely. It slowly builds as Neal becomes more confident in his singing, perhaps representing the bravery of the outsider to venture into the place he is isolated from. The acoustics bring us nicely into...

Sweet Elation: Neal sounds even more impassioned here as he belts out the vocals and the guitars pick up the tempo, with plenty of other instruments adding in. A new theme is introduced here that will later be extrapolated on many times over, but for now it stays simple and leads into...

In the Fire: a great wah-wah guitar intro brings us into the Devil's Got my Throat of this album. Some vocals bring us in along with the epic chorus, but the main focus is the instruments. Soon a duel begins between Alan Morse and Jordan Rudess, complete with ridiculous shredding and funky sounds blowing you away. This section continues for a little while and never gets old. An amazing riff is also introduced at one point, with plenty of air guitar opportunities. This song is just full of the little tidbits that made Spock's Beard so unique. The ending section has a massive hammond solo from own own Neal, and introduces the new theme for the next song with horns and clavichord, with the next song being...

Solid as the Sun: Similar to In the Fire, but heavier and more developed in melody. The chorus is spectacular and the mellotron part is ridiculously well thought out. There is a great bass solo in the middle from Randy George accompanied by a narration with some Christian lyrics. Following the bass solo is a horn section with a soaring saxophone solo, a rarity in Morse's world, but great nonetheless. The ending section is a reprise of the themes from Into the Fire mixing with the heavy riffing from Solid. This medley brings the intense solo section to a close and gives us...

Glory of the Lord: Lots of strings and choirs accompany Mike's symphonic drumming for a heavenly interlude of epic proportions. This is a perfect length and segues nicely into...

Outside Looking in: Surprise! on a Neal Morse album, the first ballad section is 28 minutes in! and only one of 2 ballad sections! Not that its bad, this ballad is quite good in fact, with Morse revisiting the theme of isolation introduced in the outsider. A nice little guitar riff accompanies Morse and a light string backing fills it out nicely. This carries on for a good length, allowing for a guitar solo improvising on the them, and brings us into the peak of the album...

12: With some more ballad work, Neal explains the religious significance of the number 12 by naming all the things dealing with religion that also happen to come in 12: tones in music, tribes of israel, disciples, sons of jacob, etc. etc. Finally, Neal reprises the opening lyrical theme and the song changes in mood. The dramatic, mystic, epic chord progression from the last half of Sweet elation comes back, and Mike Portnoy switches to pure snare drumming with a little cymbal work while Neal gives us his typical latin piano solo section. This is one of my favorite instrumental sections of all time because it builds the drama throughout and this is especially key for this album as the ending needs to be at the highest level of drama possible. After the piano solo is over, the guitar theme kicks in again, and gets faster and faster until Steve Hackett hits the first note of his solo. When this note hits, the sky is torn open by its awesomeness and the Great Guitar God from Genesis rends his way through a scorching solo that seems almost impossible from anyone else. Its just perfect. The synth theme returns and there is plenty more soloing combined with keyboard fills and even a sitar at one point, and it builds and builds until a powerful release leading into...

Entrance: piano and mellotron combine to make a slightly evil atmosphere while Morse does a little role-playing. The chorus is stellar, yelling about the unclean ones, the weakest ones, the lowest ones, and how Morse will help them all. Still, there is fear evident in those people, for they do not believe. I am not a religious man, but I still feel the power in this song, and I can feel Neal Morse's soul bared before us all as he gives all and takes none. Some orchestral bells accompany the second chorus as the volume builds and the sweet elation vocal theme is revisited. Several key changes are experienced, each one ascending in volume and power, until Morse is at the top of his range, and perhaps even beyond. Neal re-sings the Temple of the living god theme amidst the most furious instrumental flurry I have ever heard on a Morse album, and then it dies down to random synth gurgles and mellotron washes to prepare for the upcoming ballad...

Inside his Presence: an excellent variation on the opening piano theme is played, and Morse's voice enters at barely a whisper. The lyrics consist almost entirely of quotes from different parts of the bible, although where they are from I do not know, nor do I know what they have to do with the story. Morse sings with a grandiose, operatic passion not seen since the days of Peter Gabriel. After several choruses, what seems to be a bagpipe enters with the main theme and starts the epic close. For the last part of this song, 2 or 3 guitars solo over the theme of Inside his presence, but the theme will soon change for...

The Temple of the Living God: the theme suddenly takes on a more grand mood and the drums are fittingly pounding and epic. Roine Stolt is probably soloing here, as well as both Morse Brothers. This epic jam builds and slows dramatically to the final repetition of the main lyrical theme and an orchestral, dramatic finale suiting for a 57 minute epic song/album. A final piano chord closes it off, much like a Day in the Life from Sgt Pepper. Some wind and whispering fill the last minute or so, giving a shivery feeling alluding to more possible albums.

Overall, Morse's best, perhaps better then Spock's beard material and equal to Bridge Across Forever in scope, drama, talent, passion and serious progging. I highly recommend it to anyone with an affinity for dramatic prog.

Report this review (#163636)
Posted Monday, March 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars After really enjoying Neal's previous effort One I was very excited about ?. Neal recruited some highly touted prog musicians for this one, including Mike Portnoy (who is standard on a Neal release), Jordan Rudess, Roine Stolt, brother Alan Morse, and Steve Hackett. At the first few listens, this album did not hit me like some other Neal Morse releases. In fact, I was a little underwhelmed. BUT now it's about 3 years later and about 50 spins later, I would rate this album as one of Neal's best works (right behind One). It's amazing how Neal can breathe life into a concept that I never have had too much interest in, the Tabernacle in the Old Testament. But this album made the Bible passages come to life for me and gave me a fresh view of it. The emotion he puts into his music is nothing short of magical. And the way he, Portnoy and Randy George work together to create music brings chemistry of the highest amount. Something special happens each and every time those 3 go into a studio. The highlights of the album are: Sweet Elation, the jamming section on In the Fire, 12 (a monster solo by Steve Hackett) and the ending 3 album tracks which tie everything together (much like Snow during his SB days). The music is very inspired which creates an uplifting feeling when listening, religious or not.

Some proggers say Neal has been releasing more of the same for a few albums now....if that's the case, then keep it coming! More of the same is fine by me! 5 stars and no reservations....May prog be with you...

Report this review (#179309)
Posted Saturday, August 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars Where to start ? First of all the subject matter is about the "Meeting Place" where God dwelt in the "Holiest of Holies" in the tabernacle (tent) that the Isrealites built in the desert after they escaped out of Egypt. They would pack up the tent, the ark of the covenant and all the other objects as they moved from place to place for forty years in the desert. When they finally crossed the Jordan River and fought the people in that land (Caanan) and settled in it, the tabernacle had a final resting place.Then eventually Solomon built the temple that was used instead of the tabernacle, where the Isrealites would come and celebrate God. Now as Neal explains, because of Christ's death, when we believe, our hearts become the tabenacle or temple where God meets with us. The imagery is incredible on this album, when Neal takes to the desert I can imagine the heat and the expectations of the people. I can picture them. Check out not only the cover art, but the excellent pictures inside. This is really one piece of music that all blends together. And it's less then an hour ! As usual Mike Portnoy and Randy George are here. Guests include Roine Stolt, Alan Morse, Steve Hackett, Jordon Rudess and others.

"The Temple Of the Living God" opens with the wind blowing and you can hear whispering (praying ?) as piano comes in. Vocals and some intricate guitar after a minute. This is so moving for me. A change 2 minutes in as the tempo picks up and mellotron then a full sound arrives. This is so impressive, especially the piano/drum work from the dynamic duo. Neal comes in yelling the words 4 minutes in. This is so emotional. This vocals and lyrics just melt me. So meaningful. "And outside the gate the cripples sit and wait to see the temple of the living God". It blends in to "Another World" where it reminds me so much of SPOCK'S BEARD. The emotion is still at the surface, it rarely subsides during this recording. This song tells of that "other world" which the Isrealites entered as they walked through the gates into the courtyard of the tabernacle. Again the imagery is so real. Chunky bass and gorgeous guitar melodies. That has to be Roine. A calm 2 1/2 minutes in as it blends into "Outside" a touching song with fragile vocals.

"Sweet Elation" is more powerful and it's building. Keyboards comes in after a minute as drums pound away. Amazing sound ! The guitar is just screaming 2 minutes in. "In The Fire" makes me laugh when I hear the intro. This is a killer track. TOOL-like drumming after 1 1/2 minutes with some aggressive guitar. Nice. A synth solo follows (hello Jordon !). A stampede of drums 5 minutes in followed a minute later by some ripping guitar. Organ runs take the lead 6 1/2 minutes in. It blends into "Solid As The Sun". Vocals lead the way and they are contrasted with heavy sections throughout. Mellotron after 2 minutes. Check out the deep bass lines 3 minutes in as we hear Neal's pastor give a few words. Sax follows. Heavy duty again 5 minutes in. Hell ya !

"Glory Of The Lord" is very meaningful and moving with a choir. "Outside Looking In" features strummed guitar and reserved vocals. Organ and higher pitched vocals a minute in. Gulp. A fuller sound 2 minutes in. The guitar soars a minute later. Beautiful track. "12" looks at how important that number is in the Bible. Lighter vocals suit the soundscape. What a treat it is when it turns jazzy 2 minutes in. The piano and drums are pure bliss. Again the Portnoy / Morse show continues. Amazing guitar 3 1/2 minutes in that goes on and on. Check out Portnoy 6 minutes in ! "Entrance" is about meeting Jesus and following him. Then we get a section where the master speaks "Come...I have made a way". Fist pumping time ! The rest is all so meaningful both lyrically and instrumentally. Cool how the theme of the first song is repeated here. "Inside His Presence" continues with piano from the end of the last song. Fragile vocals come in that try to describe heaven. The sound and vocals get stronger. Powerful man. Tasteful guitar to end it. "Temple Of the Living God" continues like the last song. Two lead guitars 1 1/2 minutes in before the vocals come in. It really ends 3 minutes in but then we can hear the wind blowing like in the intro of the first song. Birds are chirping too. All is well.

This is the best album i've heard that Neal Morse has been involved with. By far his best solo album in my opinion.

Report this review (#182231)
Posted Friday, September 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is my favorite solo album from Neal Morse to date, and (or possibly because it is) it is also his most progressive and creative release.

? should not be viewed as twelve songs, I don't think. To me, this is clearly one 56 minute epic suite, made to be listened to in its entirety. And that sounds progressive, right? An hour long song? Well, there is actually the danger that it might not be, though thankfully Neal pulls out some of the prettiest stops seen this side of the new millennium.

First off, there is the quality of the guest musicians. Now, guest musicians do not guarantee quality, no matter who the guests. But I know few fans of prog music who wouldn't get excited in some measure by hearing that this album features Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater, Steve Hackett of Genesis, Roine Stolt of the Flower Kings, Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater, and so forth. Big names, and it sounds like the album would end up being rather busy. Well, it is, when it needs to be (even featuring a final duet over the music by Roine and Spock's Beard guitarist Alan Morse), or the trade-off solo between (I'm pretty sure this is correct, but there's no actual listing in the CD case) Jordan Rudess and Alan Morse.

Either way, an hour long song sounds like a very risky idea. And it usually is. Too many ideas seem to go into the mix, and the end result isn't a song but just some loosely connected series of songs. Here, however, it's definitely able to stand on its own. It even has a chorus that reappears a number of times throughout its length, in different ways some of the time, but its quite clearly the main theme and chorus. Recurring bits of music string together throughout, tying the ends and the middles and everywhere else together without being redundant or uninspired.

The lyrics still seem to be quite capable of turning people off, but I still feel like Neal is holding back from becoming the straight-up preacher type. In truth, the lyrics take a back seat most of the time to the wild musical strains powering through the speakers.

In all, though this is not Neal's easiest album to swallow, it is certainly the best one he has composed of yet, and I would recommend it to any fan of Spock's Beard or Transatlantic.

Report this review (#184073)
Posted Monday, September 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well.... What can I say? '?' combines all typical Neal Morse elements (the high riffs, recurring themes, catchy choruses) and that is why it isn't really a surprising album, but it combines them in such a brilliant way that it just has to be considered a masterpiece.

'Temple Of The Living God': the fantastic opening track to this album. It starts with whispered words and then goes into a very mystical, sobre piano piece. Neal's voice sings over it and then the song kicks off with one of those typical Neal Morse riffs; complicated yet very catchy. You'll probably sing the chorus along after hearing it just once, it's that catchy. 'Another World': A pretty straightforward song, nothing very special yet again, very catchy.

'Outsider': The lyrics of this song are pretty awful, but not thát awful. It's not really a memorable song, but it does it's job.

'Sweet Elation': A great main theme runs through this energetic song, with some fantastic bass-playing

'In The Fire': The longest song of the entire album, and one of the best. A heavy guitar dominates this song, but about in the middle an awesome keyboard-duel kicks in. It's truly spectacular to hear and a real joy.

'Solid As The Sun': A continuation of the previous track, including the very heavy guitar, yet with a chorus that's a tiny bit better than that of 'In The Fire'.

'Glory Of The Lord': A very bombastic track that serves as the bridge between 'Solid as the Sun' and 'Outside Looking In'.

'Outside Looking In': A very mellow song with good lyrics by Neal Morse standards. It's one of the easier songs of this album and is very pleasant to listen to.

'12': The lyrics are pretty bad here, though it's a nice try. But this song really isn't about the lyrics, it's about the awesome music. At about 1:30 the main theme of the album returns, which is pretty awesome. The then following 5 minutes of music is some of the best Neal has ever written; it's catchy, complex and a few previous riffs and themes return. Portnoy drums like there's no tomorrow and the keyboard sounds great.

'Entrance': Again, a recurring theme returns. The chorus is very catchy, but not that memorable

'Inside His Presence': Beautiful! This is my favourite track of the album because of the beautiful singing by Neal. The transition to the last track is also incredibly well done

'Temple Of The Living God': A great and epic ending to a truly fantastic album. The guitar here is magnificent and really moves me. Excellent drumming by Portnoy here (as always), plus also a great 'chorus': the main theme. The very last note is also surprising; a single piano chord which gives me goosebumps everytime I hear it.

This is a splendid album and any fan of prog should own this, even if you're not into Neal's previous music. Give it a chance and you might just discover your favorite album of the century.


Progressive greetings from Belgium! - James Someone

Report this review (#219657)
Posted Wednesday, June 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Since his departure from Spock's Beard I have been into Neal's "preech-prog" to be honest, but without question (no pun intended) this album is Amazing ! With odes to both Spock's Beard and Transatlantic this album does it for me! This is some of the strongest most "Progressive" music he has done in some time. Definitely eclipsing his past few attempts this spirtual yet heavy album ebbs and flows from spanish guitar to heavy dark progressive moments. Morse is assisted by the talents of The Flower King's Roint Stolt, Mike Portnoy, Steve Hackett, Jordan Rudess and brother Alan Morse. Morse's biblical exploration thru his lyrical development is still present but lets say a whole lot less in your face and much more tastefully and less forcefully done. I would highly recommend this album to anyone who is looking for some great modern prog to showcase.
Report this review (#223800)
Posted Monday, June 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars ? is the third solo prog release from modern prog god Neal Morse. I am writing this review today to celebrate Neal's 49th birthday! Let's get one thing out of the way first: I am certainly very biased towards Neal Morse. From Spock's Beard to Transatlantic to all of his solo efforts; he has not produced anything that is flat-out bad, in my opinion. So by default, in my mind it's impossible for Neal to create something that isn't good. The only solo album of his that I find to be passable is Lifeline, but even that is a very good album.

Now that you know how and why I am so biased to Neal Morse's music, the question is what makes this one of his best releases? It is quite possibly Neal Morse's greatest album for many reasons explainable on paper and some reasons that can only be understood by listening to this flawless masterpiece. The reasons that I can explain right now is that this is the perfect blend between everything Neal Morse does well. It has some of his best softer religious songs, along with more hard rock songs, and songs full of emotion. Neal's trademark complex instrumental sections are also very present here.

I can't help but wonder why this album doesn't crack the top 100 prog albums ever released. This does have an excellent rating, but Neal Morse deserves more than what he gets. Don't get me wrong; 4.22 as an average rating is almost perfect, but it definitely should crack the top 100.

The lineup of musicians on this album is excellent as usual. It has Neal on vocals, keys and guitars, Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater on drums, and Randy George from Ajalon on bass. The guest musicians shine as well. Steve Hackett from Genesis helps out along with Jordan Rudess on keys Roine Stolt on guitar. This is an excellent lineup by any standards, and can only be matched by few.

Now that we have all of that out of the way I must explain some of the music here. ? is an ambitious concept album that Mr. Morse claimed to be one 56-minute epic rather than 12 separate tracks. The first song starts out with some nice guitars with melodic singing and is followed by what is basically an overture in the same track, and it really sets the mood for the rest of the album. There is a classic trick ending, and some beautiful songs like "Outside Looking In" and "Inside His Presence". My favorite track is probably "In the Fire", but don't EVER listen to just one track. This is really meant to be listened to as one song.

This is one of my favorite albums of all time and this review means absolutely nothing if you don't buy this. There are few flawless albums, and Neal pulled off another masterpiece with "?".

5/5 stars

Report this review (#229608)
Posted Sunday, August 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
5 stars EDIT: I think that first thing I should write is that I'm an atheist. OK, normally, that's my choice (even in fact not, I grew up this way, because society isn't so friendly to faith here) and also quite personal thing. But in this music style (not genre, but style, topic, lyrics), it's important. As foreigner, I didn't get it at once. First I enjoyed this to maximum. So called instant catcher. But as time went, I started to translate lyrics. And I found that it's full of god (ironically, I don't believe that capital letter should be written). And so I was annoyed. But as time went bye, I realized two things. 1)I can ignore the lyrics and enjoy music, which forms still main part of prog and can substitute lyrics I don't like. 2)Without God (now talking about believer Neal Morse, so capital letter intended), he maybe wouldn't be able to produce so much albums (and about half of them really good ones), so if he wants to believe, he should be free to decide whether believe, or not. And if it helps to create such masterpieces, I say: Let him believe.

First glimpses were in Spock's Beard. He started his influential presence here and maybe was driving force of the band. Than his big enthusiasm helped to create Transatlantic. And to answer to "Cygnus X-2's" sentence, Neal Morse finds God, always. Great blend of symphonic and psychedelic (beware, different kind of psychedelic, I don't know how to name it, but it's in The Temple of Living God from 1:51-3:54). And even he's at one point Outside Looking In, he's finally Inside His Presence. That's how the story goes. For me personally, life was hard many times. I mostly solved all my problems by myself, depending just on me. But a lot of people does it in a different way. They seeks god, embrace (did I choose correct word ? I mean more like worship) god and solve problems with his help. Both ways are right, that's democracy (or similar thing of free will), I'm used to depend just on myself (you know the saying, when you want to have something done for sure, do it by yourself). Basically, entire album, all 56 minutes is one big track chopped on 12 thematic parts. From what I understand, it's a story about man finding his way to learn about divinity and join it by its size. And don't think that as atheist, I can't appreciate it. I can and I do.

5(-), those who believe count 5(+) as perfect album. I was stunned by line-up musicians, Jordan, Roine, Mike, Steve and Alan.

Report this review (#240501)
Posted Sunday, September 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars Solid as the sun

The theme is again Christian here, but I do not find it 'preachy' in the way that I found Testimony and to a degree One too, preachy. While the subject matter of the lyrics is the tabernacle, most of the songs can easily be given other meanings by the listener. The theme is partly historical and partly Morse's own theology according to which 'the temple of the living God is you'. For me as an atheist, I don't believe in this at all, but I find it an interesting idea that is more individualistic than most Christian doctrine.

The musical influences seem to be Pink Floyd, The Beatles and Kansas. And Morse can indeed be seen as a songwriter in the same class as Lennon/McCartney and Kerry Livgren! The melodies are often Beatles-esque and very strong throughout, all the songs are very memorable. ? runs for less than an hour, which is great after the overlong Testimony and the quite long One. This album is much more consistent than Testimony and the tracks flow perfectly into each other to create a strong unity. I found it very hard to listen to Testimony both because its length and its overly religious theme. But here it doesn't bother me at all.

Steve Hackett, one of my absolute favourite guitarists of all time guests on this album to great effect. On 12 Hackett's guitars are mesmerizing!

? is a solid album and clearly one of Neal Morse's very best works, highly recommended!

Report this review (#242017)
Posted Tuesday, September 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Wow... what an incredible epic of prog rock!!

This album should be titled "The Temple of the Living God". Lyrically and musically, this album brilliantly captures both the joy and the pains that a worshiper experiences in the presence of God, as well as his / her desire to enter into the Kingdom of God. I love the smooth transitions between the tracks, they give the album musical and thematic unity. The musical themes themselves are very memorable. Neal Morse himself, as well as the guest musicians on the album, display excellent virtuosity on the keys and guitar.

This is surely Neal's Magnum Opus.

4.5 Stars!!

Report this review (#246807)
Posted Wednesday, October 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have been open about my enthusiasm for Neal Morse's music (SB, TA, and the solo series). Although some of strong Chrisitian lyrics can be quite off-putting some time (think Testimony, Lifeline and a handful of sections in One), this is not the case with this 'mysterious' release.

As far as progressive rock goes, this '?' is his third solo album after the highly acclaimed Testimony and funtastic' One. In Prog history this album would one day serve as a springboard for the much hyped 'the Whirlwind' that sees Transatlantic united in a one-maga-epic songwriting format, which was experimented and excelled in this 12-song cycle. How did this one fare? In comparison with the rest of those perhaps better-known works, including the brilliant Snow of Spock's Beard and the first two Transatlantic albums, it does NOT pale in comparison to those work. Although this is a signfiicantly shorter album, the listening experience is just perfect.

The album starts out in an attempt to mystify the audience, with a mimalist piano notes and Neal's whispering of 'Jerusalem' something. Then the first verse kicks in with acoustic guitar strumming very beautifully. Those who have listened to this album know by now how this part 'And then after all, with the backs against the wall...' will keep reprising and serves as the main chorus part of the whole 58 minute long 12-part epic. The melody of this part is brilliant and haunting.

Everybody knows how a strong chorus is vital to an ordinary song. A prog epic, on the other hand, have been without a good chorus part that keeps the whole track cohesive. In my opinion, tracks that are between 7 - 15 minute long can get by relatively easily. Tracks that are longer tend to get more loosely connected and can be considered more of several 'songs' with a continuous flow. Think 'Dark Side of the Moon' or PT's 'The Incident'. In the case with this album, this is executed perfectly and can set a high standard for wrting a long epic track.

From that point on, the music is exploded into many territories, and they are great music here! Partly it's thanks to the contributing musicians including TA bandmate Roine Stolt, Alan Morse, Jordan Rudess, and STEVE HACKETT. What could possibly go wrong when these masters are at work? It's a shame the guests are not given the credits for their exact contribution like who has played which part. In one of the interviews, for example, I learn that Roine Stolt contributed percussion to the first track and this information was quite revealing.

Of serious remark in this album is the bass by Randy George. His contribution to Neal Morse music has been improving with every release. This album and the next (Sola Scriptura) should get him to the same rank as many dominant prog bassists. At certain points he plays with certain ferociousness that only be heard from Chris Squire. Pete Trawavas (my fav bassist since Fish-era Marrillion) at his height displayed in all Transatlantic albums may be more consistent. But in certain moments in these two discs Randy would easily outshine Pete.

On the other hand, Portnoy in this album is a bit more restraint than "One" and "Sola Scriptura" that bookend this album. I believe with proper control he could be a much better drummer than the metal-wise double-bass drum fest he usually display in current line-up DT. In this album, he is obviously in control. Although there are quite a number of odd time signatures and suden changes here in this album, the drums are played with perfection and restraint. He wouldn't be able to top his drumming easily.

Finally and most significantly I am addressing Mr Neal Morse, who is Mr Pefect in this album. His vocal performance is great, with great dynamics tool; the lows are very rich and the highs are pleasing, not annoying at all. Since he doesn't say which part of the music is contributed by which musician, I will hold him responsible for producing most of these keyboards and guitars (and yes we've seen that he could play all these notes in his Sola Scriptura concert). Man, the guy is unbelieveable. The keyboard solos are rapid fire (some parts sound more like Rudess, but the DVDs show us that he could play those notes too). Most importantly, these notes are quite memorable, not a speedy shred fest other technical bands would go for.

In general, the '?' album offers all that Neal Morse is well-known for (or notorious, to some point of view). Long-musical structures, reprising themes, religious lyrics, counterpoint vocals, majerstic finale, pop sensibilities for good (even sing-along) melodies, instrument duals. The difference is, this time he is excellent in all these elements. Certain sections no doubt reminded me of some other unworldly bands, such as the freaky jam in Solid as the Sun sound typical to Kansas, and I guess Kerry Livgren guested in this part. It is hard to pinpoint the best moments in this disc, as the entire 58 minutes are pure gold. Not a second of the music is filler.

The lyrics, although ultimately Christian, are well constructed. If you are reading this, you probably know about the tabernacle and how one can find God. The way the story is narrated and a sense of suspense is not at a level that belongs to music industry. This is almost a long form of poetry or at least trying to be a novel. I think Neal Morse has done a monumentous job to create the lyrics for this wonderful epic. I am not saying Neal is a Khalil Gibran, but that his lyrics for this album progress beyond the realm of music. I am not a Christian or beliver in any faith myself, and his lyric here, unlike some parts in Testimony and Lifeline, doesn't offend me at all. There's nothing downright preachy about it. All in all, this is essential for progheads. I am rating this five stars against any pop-up warning by Progarchives, because Neal Morse and co just deserve it.

Report this review (#254822)
Posted Tuesday, December 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars This is where I think that Neal Morse has finally come fully into his own as a solo artist!

Question mark or simply ? starts off with my favorite Morse album intro tune titled Temple Of The Living God. It's such a grand way to begin a concept album and the melody drags the listener effortlessly right into the storyline making every new track another piece of the adventure. The material flows smoothly up until the section where the album goes into Neal's trademarked ending that he uses quite frequently (Snow, Testimony, Sola Scriptura, Lifeline and all the Transatlantic albums). What I mean is that it starts with a slow buildup to the ending, in this case Inside His Presence, and finally repeats the title track melody in the concluding section right at the end.

This is a wonderful album that takes the listener on an hour full of great music adventures filled with nice melodies and neat instrumental sections. Unlike most complaints about the religious content of the lyrics I could only find one particular part of the album that made me slightly disturbed by it. But even that section, on Solid As The Sun, seems to be aware of this flaw and pans all the vocal/narration to one side of the speakers which make it easy for me to lower the volume on one side and just enjoy the instrumental work.

So far this is my favorite Neal Morse release, but I feel that another great album is just around the corner!

***** star songs: Temple Of The Living God (6:13) Inside His Presence (5:30)

**** star songs: Another World (2:36) Outsider (2:21) Sweet Elation (2:32) In The Fire (7:24) Glory Of The Lord (1:41) Outside Looking In (4:19) 12 (6:46) Deliverance (6:22) Temple Of The Living God (4:27)

*** star songs: Solid As The Sun (6:12)

Total Rating: 4,10

Report this review (#256973)
Posted Sunday, December 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars this album is really like one giant epic, like garden of dreams by the flower is a one hour track separated into 12 smaller tracks....What a masterpiece this is throguh and through.....never a dull moment...except the first part of the song 12.....that is the ONLY bad thing about the album...although the lyrics are indeed thought provoking, but the music in the album is definitely top notch prog...very epic indeed, incredibly technical with neal on keys and guest suck as roine stolt, jordan rudess, steve hackett and mike portnoy, as always on drums....this makes for a very interesting ride...not one dull song...although its an album that does seem a bit dull on first listen...if you think of the album as separte single tracks than the album is far from strong....but each track running together makes this album an absolute masterpiece...its not jst the fact that its one giant song....its the ideas that are put forth and the way its structured....not a dull moment of music really....the vocals are excellent if you dig neal's very emotional melodic voice...all in all an amazing effort and yet another masterpiece from neal!!!...the only album in his solo christian discography that might be skippable would be lifeline...too much of the same sort of stuff from his other records...if u r planning on checking nealout,, save that one til the very end..give all the other ones a fair amounts of spins
Report this review (#261325)
Posted Sunday, January 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Wow! I'm amazed!

I could not believe what I heard when I heard the "?"... It's amazing how Neal managed to finish two goals at once: achieve your best time with the love of Christ and still maintain a superior quality with Progressive Rock. For this being my first review, I'll start by saying that whenever I give my opinion on the album describe the tracks and give my note, as does my colleague Zitro (by the way, I love your reviews) ...

The album begins with "The Temple of The Living God," a bombastic opening introduced by the melodious guitar Stolt disrupted by beautiful keyboard tricks between Morse and Ruddress interesting ... until I break it down into three phases - a lovely part, a magic show and a letter sung heavily ... then comes "Another World", a ballad quite unselfish, with a letter describing a procession and a song in much the same way ... In "The Outsider", the ballad is even slower and more exciting ... And, finally, comes one of the best parts in my opinion, "Sweet Elation" - which also is a nice bridge between the previous track and later, "In The Fire" ... Ahh, this is explosive , a wonderful chorus and that makes you want to jump for real - beautiful divisions between the crazy Alan Morse and virtuous Rudress ... Through a line of hard-rock, they revert to "Solid as the Sun, and ballad heavy and filled with metal riffs combined with guitars, a beautiful bed of mellotrons and a good sax solo, ending with the force of "burn it in the fireee!" and enter "The Glory of The Lord", fully symphonic, with beautiful rooms and harmonic setting the entry for "Outside Looking In" ... From there, the last four pieces are equipped with a speed moderate and some counterpoints to the latest parts... Portnoy maintained the energy and magnificence on drums ... All the musicians are very authentic and enriched this beautiful work ...

I give 4 stars, because, no album of Neal, or Spock's and Transatlatic are able to be an epic, no matter how good they are...But the form of a concept album and the energy transmitted add value to it ...

Report this review (#264278)
Posted Thursday, February 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Neal Morse is one of the major figures in progressive rock in last 15 years, with each band where he was involved done great things and inventive and monumental passages. He was member of world known Spock's Beard, Transatlantic and also other colaborations with other bands, always keeping high standards. He also has a prolific solo career for more then 10 years, where we can find from medicre to good and even realy brilliant releases. One of his most acomplished album he done over the years and one of the best of the last decade in symphonic prog field is without doubt ? released in 2005 through Inside out. The songwritting the musicianship is top notch, reminescent of his former band Spock's Beard but also from Transatlantic elements taken, he did a great job here, from vocal department to the excellent instrumental passages. The album is like a single ong track dicided in 12 pieces, the flow from one piece to another is natural and very well performed. Also here is a great list of guests like Steve Hackett, Roine Stolt, Jordan Rudess, and his brother Alan Morse. What strike me on this album is how easy musician play or how great is integrated in the music the lyrics, who has like on other solo album of his a spiritual context, neverthe less great used here. The music is great, great and complicated passages, from mellow and acustic portions to more uptempo, the musicians are always in top form every second they play. While Neal never was one of my fav singers from prog zone, I don't know but I found him a little to plae in compartaion of greatness of his music, here he done a great job full of intristing vocal arrangements. The instrumental sections are great, the complexity of some parts are truly amazing, like on Temple Of The Living God and so on. Well a great album for sure, and desearve to be this way, because he realy done it with this album, 4 stars for sure a real listning experience. Recommended , I guess among his best workd since the beggining of his career, and to me better then waht he done with Spock's Beard or Transatlantic.
Report this review (#299108)
Posted Tuesday, September 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars 9.5/10

Question Mark is the third album by Neal Morse after his conversion. As a Christian I could not be happier to have a brother playing progressive music of faith, and this is the good, if not the best! Although Question Mark is not the best of it, is just a masterpiece worthy of five stars.

Like all other Morse albums (except for Lifeline) this is a concept album, telling the story of the Jews created the tent in the desert in order to praise God. An interesting story, showing the fear of Morse in the Bible, but like the rest of the lyrical content of the face is terribly neglected by many reviewers atheists.

I think this album can be divided into three epic songs, according to the connection between the tracks: the first comprises Living Temple of God and Another World, the second comprises The Outsider Sweet Elation, The Fire In The Sun and the Solid and consists of aterceira the Glory of the Lord, Outside Looking in, 12, Entrance Inside His Presence and the replay Temple of Living God. from this perspective it becomes even more quesion Mark epic it is - look at the coral powerful the Glory of The Lord, who goes to the beauty and smoothness of Outside Looking In, before descending into the instrumental power of 12 (which features a solo Steve Hackett), who moves to ... good, you understand me?

Definitely one of the strongest albums of recent times, although not the best Morse - that honor goes to One and Sola Scriptura.

Report this review (#307735)
Posted Sunday, October 31, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars It is self-evident, and I am deeply convinced that Neal Morse is the greatest modern, progressive composer. The using of the term "modern" makes our deliberations limited to the last, for example, 15 years. The more debatable question is: which of his album is the best one? Certain Spock's Beard's or Transatlantic's production or maybe one of four epic album denoted by his own name? It is not very important, but in my opinion "?" is the best one, being simultaneously, one of the greatest all-time progressive album. Extraordinary melodic invention, long-distance time planning in longer compositions and great imagination in instrumental arrangement are typical for Neal Morse's production in general, and especially just to this album. Neal Morse is also advanced multi-instrumentalist, moreover, supported on this album by great musicians, he created unique work. "Sweet Elation", "In the Fire" (brilliant keyboard line by Jordan Rudess) and my favorite "12" (extraordinary guitar solo by Steve Hackett reminding sound of album "Lamb lies down...") are obligatory positions for each fan of progressive music. It might be useful to mention that drumming of Mike Portnoy (as well as on other Neal Morse's solo album) is extraordinary, even better than with Dream Theater and Transatlantic - the best progressive drum parts I have ever heard. The only controversial things are lyrics - specific, biblical, ideological. I can not feel it, but You must get genius as a whole... Five stars.
Report this review (#339205)
Posted Tuesday, November 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Good rock a la the bubble gum/stadium rockers of the late 1970s and early 1980s: REO SPEEDWAGON, STYX, KANSAS, FOREIGNER, BOSTON--maybe even THE EAGLES and PINK FLOYD. But really there is nothing here without a pop/commercial feel to it, nothing new or innovative. Just nice, somewhat memorable songs that at times sound like they're meant to be proggy or sophisticated but usually end up tripping over their own cliché-ness. I guess it doesn't help that I really find Neal's voice rather annoying and twangy. The overtly religious lyrics and intentions of this album have little bearing on my enjoyment of this album as I don't really tune in to lyrics and there are a lot of Christian and religious music that I adore. (No pun intended.) Like SPOCK'S BEARD, TRANSATLANTIC, THE TANGENT and a lot of THE FLOWER KINGS, I just find nothing new--or rather, I find too much repetition of old themes, sounds, and constructs in this music. It's not even 'neo-'prog to me; it's pseudo-prog. I do like the send off of "The Temple of the Living God," though. Very YES/TFK.
Report this review (#387196)
Posted Thursday, January 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars So Mr. Morse finally made it in PA's top 100 of all time. With this very release that is. Does that make Questionmark his best effort so far ?

Personally I don't think so, I believe Sola Scriptura is the best example of magnum opus by him. But I must admit there are several terrific moments on here. But all in all I feel the whole thing is less spectacular and outstanding than his superb effort from two years later. Then again: are the two albums actually too different from each other ? Hardly I truly believe. Like I said: Sola Scriptura is just a bit better, hard to explain in detail; it's more like an overall feeling listening to both albums.

And this gut feeling simply tells me Sola was convincing enough to go for the full five where this output just misses out. It's somewhere between 4,25 and 4,5 to me. My highlights are In the Fire and 12 which are both truly outstanding but the rest doesn't reach this extremely high level and therefore I will have to settle for four this time. Neal Morse fans shouldn't miss this but that's almost kicking in an open door, right ?

Report this review (#501265)
Posted Thursday, August 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars After the strong, but overly preachy and inconsistent One, Neal Morse enlists the help of a few known prog superstars in his great effort, ?. All of the melodies and musicianship of One and Testimony are present, and then some. This album is probably Neal's closest sounding to Spock's Beard as well, especially Snow.

Some of ?'s main melodies are first introduced on the opening track 'Temple of the Living God.' (9/10) The song builds up slowly but eventually reaches a flurry of melodies and chaos near the middle.

'Another World' (8/10) is an upbeat and happy song led by a strong rhythm section in George and Portnoy.

This segues to the dramatic and gentle acoustically driven 'The Outsider.' (6/10)

The following three songs are the bulk of what make this album amazing. 'Sweet Elation' (10/10) works off the acoustic motif started in the previous track, but eventually leads to an amazing synth solo which lasts until the end.

'In the Fire' (10/10) is a classic Snow-era Spock's Beard sounding song. This song features a fairly long Jordan Rudess solo, which is instantly recognizable if you know his sound in Dream Theater. The song also has some of Neal's heaviest riffs as well. The song is left with a really fun sounding keyboard melody which drifts into the song.

'Solid As the Sound' (10/10) continues more of the Snow-sounding motif of the previous song. There is a cool bass and sax solo in the middle which mixes things up a bit. 'The Glory of the Lord' (6/10) is a cool orchestra driven song. The vocals are a bit overdramatic but fit in the context of the album.

'Outside Looking In' (6/10) is a slower paced song that is made great by Neal's heartfelt vocals.

This segues perfectly into '12,' (10/10) another fantastic track. The song starts with Neal's vocals and builds strongly from there. There is some fun jazzy piano work at around two minutes which leads to a notable solo from guest musician Steve Hackett. A flurry of cool synth passages and a reprise of earlier melodies serves to segue into the next song.

'Deliverance,' (6/10) 'Inside His Presence' (6/10) both feature some more of Neal's dramatic vocals.

'The Temple of the Living God' (6/10) has some more dramatic vocal delivery and solos as is indicative of most of Neal Morse's endings.

? is, along with Sola Scriptura, Neal Morse's most concentrated and consistent work. ? is basically what Snow would have been if it was shortened to one disc. Everything transitions beautifully to the point where it could be considered a single song. But song or suite, this remains one of Mr. Morse's greatest achievements.


Report this review (#771397)
Posted Friday, June 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars My apologies in advance for any snide remarks, but the evangelical music of Neal Morse has always elicited strong reactions, both pro and con. Too many of the latter on this web site are hidden behind the camouflage of a ratings-only single star, so allow me to play devil's advocate (so to speak) in reviewing his otherwise nameless 2005 solo album, identified by title only with an enigmatic question mark.

A less charitable critic might say it's about time someone pulled the curtain away from this charlatan. He abandoned SPOCK'S BEARD at a critical moment in the band's career, claiming his newfound Savior had other plans for him. Nothing wrong there: we should all heed the councils of our inner nature. But has anything really changed in his music since then? Take away all the heartfelt but artless preaching, ignoring for now his ongoing series of CD worship sessions (as they rightly should be, at least in this forum), and what's left are the same pile-driver Neo-Prog gestures, employing awesome musical skills to be sure, but often played with all the nuance of a superstitious bull in a cheap china shop.

His subject here is The Tabernacle, that mystical nomadic temple, usually depicted as a tent of sorts in a neatly fenced yard, toted around the desert by the Jews after their Exodus from Egypt. Legend recalls it as a place of cabalistic ritual and symbolism...the perfect setting, in other words, for a Progressive Rock concept album, illustrated musically by an uninterrupted, 56-minute cycle of typically histrionic but spirited Retro-Symphonic sermons, divided into twelve linked chapters (the number apparently carries arcane significance: see below).

Once again, Morse is recycling riffs and melodies wholesale from his own extensive musical archives. But I have to admit he's playing as if truly inspired, and with enough creative energy to sway even an outspoken skeptic like myself. A stellar guest list makes the project even more attractive. Ace drummer Mike Portnoy invited his DREAM THEATER comrade Jordan Rudess to the sessions, and Morse finally plugged a weak spot in his roster by enlisting brand-name guitar talent, including superstars Roine Stolt and Steve Hackett. The latter has a solo spot at around the 37:00 mark that compares favorably to anything from his own laudable career, in GENESIS or afterward.

So the album deserves four unconditional stars for musical chops, despite its frequent moments of overwrought ostentation, as in the full orchestral bombast (complete with choir) inflating chapter seven, "The Glory of the Lord". But the strictly one-star banality of the libretto almost spoils the experience, at least for listeners old enough to recall the more diverse spiritual aspirations of the same Golden Age Prog that continues to influence Morse's better music cues.

Of course Progressive Rock has always suffered under the burden of occasional lame-brained lyric writing, dating back to when mountains first came out of the sky, and stood there. All Neal Morse did was elevate the same metaphysical quest to a higher, much narrower plane. Let me repeat: it isn't his religious convictions that undermine the album. It's the retrograde way the newly-minted prophet from Van Nuys drags his primitive theology around like a gold-plated ball and chain.

Consider the song "Solid as the Sun". Unless "Sun" is a poetic twist on the word "Son" (of God, of course), it's worth remembering that our local star is really just a bloated mass of plasma and hot air: not the best metaphor in a Born Again prog-rocker's playbook. And his occult embrace of numerology is just plain silly. "Twelve makes a day / Twelve tones in music / Twelve months a year / Do you think it's an accident?" (No, Mr. Morse, it's called a meaningless coincidence, and in the real world twenty-four makes a full day...)

A majority of the lyrics merely quote verbatim from biblical scripture, dutifully citing (and in one instance actually singing) the chapter and verse ("Leviticus 21:18!") And it requires nearly 2,000 words before Morse finally arrives at his point. But it's a point worth making, even to an irreligious dissenter like myself: we are each, if we choose, a vessel of that Holy Spirit he reveres. The Temple of the Living God he sings about is actually a living, flesh and blood shrine, multiplied by the population of earth into uncounted variations of belief. When seen like that, it hardly matters if the deity itself is a fiction.

I doubt if Neal Morse would accept the olive branch of that interpretation, extended from a kindred Proghead across an unfathomable gulf of irrational faith. And his album isn't likely to save any wayward souls here on terra firma. But when Morse finally reaches the Pearly Gates he could certainly teach his Heavenly Father a thing or two about the guilty pleasures of Neo-Prog overkill...provided, of course, that his god is actually a fan of Progressive Rock (given his track record, I tend to imagine the Almighty as more of a Punk). What H.L. Mencken once famously wrote about the prose style of President Warren G. Harding applies equally to this musical effort: " drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash. But I grow lyrical..."

To which I can only add an enthusiastic (but entirely secular) "Amen."

Report this review (#1088585)
Posted Wednesday, December 11, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars In parallel with his progressive efforts Morse started releasing also albums linked with Christianity.In 2005 two of them were released, ''God won't give up'' and ''It's not too late'' on Radiant and Latter Rain Records respectively, containing Christian hymns and pop songs.But a third progressive effort was already in the process, known as The Question Mark album.The album deals with the tabernacle in the wilderness and actually Morse presented it as a 56-min. long track, divided in 12 themes.Exactly one year after ''One'', ''?'' was released on InsideOut and Metal Blade, featuring again Portnoy and George as Morse's main bandmates and a huge guest list, among them are his brother Alan Morse, Jordan Rudess, Roine Stolt and Steve Hackett.

Musicwise Morse's decision to dedicate himself to God and follow a more personal career has done him good, his music has become incredibly emotional, keeping the impressive complexity of Symphonic and Progressive Rock.No epic movements here, the tracks are rather short to build Morse's suite about tabernacle in the wilderness, but the flow and sounds on this album are simply amazing.The man hasn't moved an inch from his familiar style, heavily influenced by Classic 70's Prog, and displays some serious musicianship with the symphonic leanings being pretty obvious, but featuring also the well-known Morse-established Pop sensibilities, not to mention the surprising opening track ''The temple of the living God'' with its monumental VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR-like sax scratches of Jim Hoke, an instant favorite of Neal's playlist on live shows, or ''Solid as the sun'', where a similar style is presented.The music at moments has become a bit heavier and it wouldn't be an excess to say that the powerful grooves, heavy organ runs and mascular riffs recall something of DEEP PURPLE and even DREAM THEATER.But these come just before the tracks enter again some elaborate, lush arrangemets, pretty vintage-style despite the modern vibes, reminding of YES, KING CRIMSON and GENTLE GIANT.Strong use of Mellotron, flashy keyboard washes, solid drumming and sensitive melodies are offered through a mass of grandiose passages, sudden twists, shifting moods and cinematic soundscapes.The lyrics are again deeply religious and Morse's dedication has evolved into consistently nice singing lines, including some beautiful choir parts.

Three albums in three years, three fantastic efforts of Progressive Rock in this period.Yet another winner by the American mastermind, who had already become an icon of the genre's more recent years.Highly recommended.

Report this review (#1195780)
Posted Thursday, June 19, 2014 | Review Permalink

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