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Neal Morse

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Neal Morse Lifeline album cover
3.11 | 319 ratings | 28 reviews | 16% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 2008

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Lifeline (13:28)
2. The Way Home (4:20)
3. Leviathan (6:04)
4. God's Love (5:28)
5. Children of the Chosen (4:55)
6. So Many Roads (28:43) :
- i. So Many Roads
- ii. Star for a Day
- iii. The Humdrum Life
- iv. All the Way to the Grave
- v. The Eyes of the Saviour
- vi. So Many Roads (reprise)
7. Fly High (6:31)

Total Time 69:29

Bonus disc from 2008 SE:
1. Crazy Horses (3:40)
2. Lemons Never Forget (6:36)
3. The Letter (4:17)
4. (What's So Funny Bout) Peace Love and Understanding (4:44)
5. Sometimes He Waits (5:21)
6. Set the Kingdom (11:00)
7. Unknown (4:36)

Total Time 40:14

Line-up / Musicians

- Neal Morse / lead vocals, keyboards, guitar, producer

- Paul Bielatowicz / 2nd guitar solo (7)
- Paul Gilbert / guitar (2.1,2.2)
- Randy George / bass
- Mike Portnoy / drums
- Jonathan Willis / strings (2,6-v,7)
- Jim Hoke / saxophone (3,6-iii,2.3)
- Carl Groves / backing vocals (1,2,5,6)
- Ivory Leonard / backing vocals (6,2.3)
- Danielle Spencer / backing vocals (6,2.3)

Releases information

Artwork: Thomas Ewerhard

CD Metal Blade Records - 3984-14689-2 (2008, US)
2CD Inside Out Music ‎- SPV 79880 DCD (2008, US) Bonus CD with 2 originals & 4 cover songs (Osmonds, Bee Gees, Joe Cocker and Nick Lowe)

Thanks to TheProgtologist for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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NEAL MORSE Lifeline ratings distribution

(319 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(16%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(36%)
Good, but non-essential (35%)
Collectors/fans only (9%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

NEAL MORSE Lifeline reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by LiquidEternity
2 stars I do not want to give this album two stars. I love Neal's music. I want to promote it all I can. However, when it really comes down to it, it's a sub par album.

A lot of fans, in increasing numbers, have been complaining about Neal's music getting repetitive. I never agreed with them until this album. I do not think it is because he repeats his musical ideas too much. I think it is due to two elements: his voice and his transitions. He sings every song the same way these days, it seems, and no matter how cool the riff he introduces, it almost invariably will drop and slow into a mellower section. Too many predictable ups and downs. Like riding a little plastic horse outside WalMart rather than getting on the back of some real crazy equine monster.

The title track opens promisingly enough. Fun keyboards and some high quality Morsean noodling lead the song into a fairly traditional track. Leviathan is, I think, the only truly creative song on this album. Some neat funk horns and some goofy sound effects take this heavy beast (oh, good pun) to a nice level of high-end prog. Too Many Roads, which is almost half the album, is such a standard Neal epic that I could sing along with the last couple minutes on my first listen. Some of the middle sections, especially all the Way to the Grave, have some really neat bits. There is even a moment of bass solo with cowbell, a strong combination. The Way Home, God's Love, Children of the Chosen, and Fly High are all fairly basic tracks from the man, nothing we aren't expecting. Nothing particularly notable about any of them.

I have to say this album is an interesting one, as I enjoy the bonus disc more than the actual one. In fact, without this bonus disc, this album might have gotten a single star from me. The four covers feature more creativity and exciting ideas--just in the way the band toys with them--than the entire first hour and however much change before them. Two album b-sides come next, with Sometimes He Waits, a track that should go with The Way Home and the rest of those above that weakly try to bring some melodic interest to the work. The other spare song, Set the Kingdom, is just behind Leviathan in my book, with some of the more creative riffs to feature on the whole release. Finally, there is the bonus track on the bonus disc (doubly hidden, very clever), I'm a Heavy Metal Long Haired Blue Beard Tattooed Jew (take a guess which band member this is in reference to). I don't know what to say about it, except that it makes me smile, and that I think it is more interesting than most of the tracks on the first disc.

Truth be told, I think I would prefer this album if it were simply armed with the tracks Lifeline, Leviathan, All the Way to the Grave, and Set the Kingdom. Somehow, I think it would seem more worth my dollar, a quality forty minutes of prog rather than having them interspersed among what I hate to but have to call something of drivel.

All in all, this album is stock and standard Neal, a viewpoint I never wanted to adopt but have no choice. If you are interested in buying it, buy the special two disc edition.

Review by Moatilliatta
1 stars In the wake of the previous eight or so years, 2008 has been a pretty disappointing year for music. Not to say that there has been a shortage of excellent releases, but things definitely seem to be cooling off a bit as a whole. Approaching the final quarter of this year, Neal Morse's latest "masterpiece" (as his website dubs all of his albums) Lifeline is the most shocking testament of this musical downturn.

Neal has been criticized by quite a few first for repeating the work of his influences, and then for repeating himself. I have never agreed with these statements in the past; his style may not have evolved much, but each album carried it's own mood, a few new ideas, and a great set of songs. Unfortunately, with Lifeline, I must concede fully to these claims. Neal seems completely uninspired in this effort. Lyrics are dull and often cliche-ridden - nothing sets these apart from your average conteporary Chrisitian songs - while the music lacks the dynamics, feeling, flow and grandiosity of his prior work. Bluntly, this is boring. At least when Dream Theater slacked off lyrically on Systematic Chaos, they kept the vocal melodies and the music strong as always. Here, when Neal has no lyrical purpose, sophistication or inspiration, he doesn't make up for it at all. More than half of the tracks are average contemporary rocks songs. Granted, the man has never been much of a wordsmith, but on each of his past four records, he had an inspiration, and therefore purpose and direction. Plus, the music conveyed a feeling that lyrics couldn't harness anyway. In conext, songs like "Cradle to the Grave and "Heaven in My Heart" worked. They had a use in the grand scheme of their albums while being acceptable or even enjoyable by themselves. Even then, One grew tiresome having not only three similarly ordinary pieces, but three similarly ordinary pieces practically in a row. For Lifeline, you can imagine having "I Am Willing," "Father of Forgiveness," "Outside Looking In" and "Heaven in My Heart" all on the same disc. They're iffy songs as it is; with no context to support them, they will make for a poor, soporific album.

But let's not forget the epics and other standout track. The title track opens the album promisingly with a piano solo followed by a catchy piano riff to get things going. The band kicks in to start the album off rockin'. Really, though, the intro is a half-hearted mixture of the sounds and moods from the intros of "The Creation" and "The Door." After that derivative but enjoyable intro, the song becomes almost instantly unlistenable courtesy of some of the worst songwriting Neal has ever done. The verses and choruses carry a catatrophic combination of dreadful lyrics and vocal melodies. Thankfully, a solid instrumental section relieves us for a bit, though it doesn't excite. That isn't the end of the song, but for this review, that's where the song is ending. "Leviathan" is the first of few signs of Morse's quirky, fun side. Unfortunately it ends up being repetitive and borderline laughable any time vocals appear. For good measure, there is a cool technical-but-melodic riff toward the end. However, its style are way too comparable to the riff at the end of the "Party to the Lie" movement in "The Conflict." Portnoy even does the polyrhythm on the cymbal stack. What's worse is that the riff is nowhere near as good or as effective as the aforementioned. Last, and possibly least, is the 28-minute epic "So Many Roads." I don't even want to get into this one. Suffice it to say that it has a few memorable moments, not the least of them is the point where Neal Morse name-drops Britney Spears, but not nealy enough. The music is good, but it doesn't hold a candle (or flashlight for those reading after the 19th century) to any of his previous epics.

Lifeline is a failure in so many ways (pun not originally intended), but perhaps the one that's going to hurt the most is that it won't appeal to any audiences. Progressive rock fans won't like it because it is often too mundane, too trite or too forgettable, contemporary Christian rock fans won't like it because of the longer and/or more complex pieces (it also doesn't help that Neal said he didn't believe in the Trinity recently), and even the most devout fans might have trouble with it for all of the reasons I have stated. Maybe this mix of styles will hit a certain pair of new ears in a positive way, leading them to check out other great music, and maybe some fans will still enjoy. The likelihood of such cases are low, though.

It is a great shame, but Neal Morse has missed the mark big time. Lifelife might mean something to him, but it certainly doesn't seem as natural and meaningful as Testimony. Hopefully he'll regain some inspiration for the follow-up.

Review by Chicapah
5 stars I figure that if you've got an aversion to anything pertaining to the Christian persuasion then you have as many Neal Morse CDs in your collection as I have albums by Madonna. I understand. It's quite alright. But, having been born and raised in the church eons ago, the spiritual content of his material caters to and fulfills a part of me that I've ignored all too often throughout my many adult years. Having said that, I'm enough of a prog snob to assure you that if his music wasn't challenging and intriguing I wouldn't give him a second listen. So I'm no Neal Morse Kool-Aid drinker if that's what you're thinking. Each of his offerings stands or slumps on its own merits.

This is the album I was hoping he'd make at this juncture of his career. His output (for the most part) since leaving Spock's Beard and Transatlantic has consisted of lengthy, involved projects that dealt with one central concept whether it was man's estrangement from God or Luther's revolution. And, with talented cohorts Mike Portnoy and Randy George (not to mention a bevy of guest artists like Steve Hackett and Phil Keaggy), he has produced some of the best symphonic progressive rock I've ever heard. Now, while his approach has great appeal for me, the size and scope of those CDs probably overwhelms the majority of the non-prog audience and discourages their investments in his music. In essence, they are prog albums with a heavy emphasis on religion whereas "Lifeline" is a religious work that draws generously from the prog reservoir. Had he released another 80-minute-long project based on a single idea I would have joined those who are saying that he's in a rut. But here he has switched gears and delivered seven individual pieces that have little to do with one another (other than proclaiming his beliefs) while the quality of the work remains unimpeachable. On rare occasions I dial in local Christian radio stations in my area just to see what's going on in that realm and, believe me, there's no genre more in need of a progressive movement within its ranks. Morse has made his art more accessible to fans of praise music without betraying or compromising his prog pedigree and I heartily applaud him for that.

"Lifeline" begins with a piano intro, then the fantastic rhythm section of Portnoy & George join Neal in a driving prog pattern that kicks serious tail for over four minutes before the verses and choruses arrive. Morse writes better lyrics when he's not restricted to staying within a particular story line and, therefore, all the songs on this CD benefit from an upgrade in that department. Here he harkens back to his conversion as he recalls how Jesus saved him when "suffering was nothing new/my days were few without a letdown/something down there deep inside/dissatisfied with everything I'd find." A hot synthesizer solo and some spirited guitar work appear midway through and things never get boring as the trio adds invigorating accents and punches all the way to the grand finale. This is no fluff piece and it's an excellent example of what these guys do best.

If you're familiar with Neal's solo albums you know he usually includes one or two standard-sounding tunes along the way. The problem is that they're imbedded within extended movements and the average Joe never gets a chance to hear them. On "Lifeline" Morse has presented four numbers of that ilk as stand-alone cuts. Beautiful acoustic guitars usher in "The Way Home," accompanying Neal's pristine vocals as he discloses that one's religious faith, no matter how strong, doesn't always translate into a life without dilemmas. "I may never find that place where I feel like I belong/I know that when I find it I'll have known it all along/I feel like a dark cold night that's reaching for the dawn," he sings. Lush strings give the track depth and the song builds to an emotional crest before ending quietly.

You can't keep these boisterous musicians caged up for long and the brute force of "Leviathan" lets them free their inner (sea) monsters. Ominous, scary synthesizer lines lead to a barrage of guest Jim Hoke's zippy Horns from Hell as this heavy rocker blazes through an odd chord structure for six minutes of metal fun. In the 2nd part Morse pulls up an interesting vibraphone/steel drum effect on his keyboard to turn your head and then Portnoy slays with his ferocious drumming right up until the abrupt end. Don't look for anything meaningful in the lyrics, they just needed a platform to drive hard and fast and a ditty about Godzilla had already been done. On "God's Love" Neal once again employs acoustic guitars to strum under his soothing voice and he avoids complicating a song that doesn't need complications. "You promised yourself you never would love again/and you tried hiding out but your heart just can't stay shut in/but there's a love that is real/that won't turn on you/just reach out and you'll feel/what He said is true." he assures. Morse is a master of melody and this one will stick inside your head for weeks.

Dense keyboard chords add color to the opening of the powerful "Children of the Chosen," an uplifting tune that features a "walking" beat and a fine nylon-string acoustic guitar ride to provide a change of pace at this point. The words describe being a part of something glorious and not of this world. "Aren't you tired of the rules they made?/the bondage on your backs they laid?/shake it off, you've got liberty/there is more than we can see/God loves you and he wants you to be free," Morse announces. The deeply-stacked vocals and Portnoy's finely-tuned toms rolling during the fadeout are highlights.

No Neal Morse CD would be complete without at least one large epic and "So Many Roads" doesn't take a back seat to any in his catalogue. It's a six-part journey about being unsure of which path to take in one's life and most everyone on the planet can relate. After a piano/vocal outset, the central musical theme skyrockets brilliantly into the heavens overhead before settling back into a straight-ahead tempo. "Star for a Day" is a metal-tinged, motoring track with a sizzling synth break in which Neal warns that, while obviously enticing, fame is a shooting star that burns out quickly and will ultimately drain your soul. "The Humdrum Life" is a charming, jazzy ditty with tricky time signatures and Jim Hoke supplies something I don't recall hearing on a Morse album previously. A soprano sax. It's delicious, too. Neal speaks of the pitfalls in taking the risk-free trail of creative denial, the safe and unadventurous route. "Give up your silly dreams, living life fully/come down the surest road, you can be happy/while you work your life away." he sings sarcastically. After a half-time section filled with soaring guitar lines they segue into "All the Way to the Grave," another forceful pile-driver of a song with tight riffs, Hammond organ growls and a bass solo from Randy that'd make John Entwistle proud. Morse brings up the easiest option, that of dropping out completely. "Forget it, you can party every day/Live it up! You can be stoned all the way." he warbles. Things take a mellow turn at the beginning of "The Eyes of the Savior" with its gorgeous, floating guitars and a very effective tremolo bass effect undulating below. It builds steadily to a magnificent chorus that completely captivates the symphonic prog lover in me. He offers a simple solution. "Behind door number two there is another life/one that will satisfy more than you'll ever know," he sings and I don't have to tell you what it is. The final segment is a big-time reprise of the epic's opening song and it lives up to its promise in spectacular fashion. Anyone who didn't know what high-quality prog rock was before will know after experiencing this cut.

Over the years Neal has composed many wonderful ballads and "Fly High" is one of his most sublime. Few tunes can send chills up my spine like this one does and it includes one of his best phrases ever. "Give up everything you have/for what you could never buy." he urges. Gets me every time. I adore the backing strings and the overall wall-of-sound production but the eye-opening "Wow!" moment arrives when guest guitarist Paul Bielatowicz unleashes a solo that is "GET OUTA HERE!" amazing. I dare say there's not a fledgling guitarist alive that doesn't wish he could crank out one of these babies and my jaw still drops to the floor with every listen. Don't miss it. The angels themselves couldn't have shredded any better.

The true test of an album's worth for me comes when, after a dozen or so spins, I still look forward to hearing it. "Lifeline" is one of those special albums. Is every song prog? No, but there's plenty of progressive ideas to indulge in and the musicianship, arrangements and undeniable enthusiasm involved is of the highest caliber so I have no reservation in recommending it. It's not a masterpiece if you go by the strict definition but to give it any less than a five-star rating would be a travesty. It's that good.

Review by Zitro
3 stars I wish there were a 3.5 star rating, this would be the perfect candidate.

Seems like Neal Morse is in need of some inspiration. He keeps repeating himself musically and lyrically, and it's starting to work against him. However, despite being generally unadventurous played safe, it's a very good album. Neal Morse, due to not taking many risks and played to his strengths on his epics, and due to his songwriting talents, Neal Morse songs rarely are mediocre.

The opening song and title track is so derivative and familiar that it could be a neat overture to his previous four prog albums and his Transatlantic compositions. The problem with the song is when it was released, leaving an impression that you've heard all of this music before, as competent as it sounds. Let me explain: the piano intro reminds of The Creation, the overture mixes the intro to Yes' Endless Dream with bits that really remind of The Door and stuff from the second Transatlantic album. When he sings, the verses sound like "At the End of the Day", the pre-choruses remind of Transatlantic again and the chorus sounds familiar for some reason and is actually not that good: the vocal melody is too poppy. Then it plays the melody in the piano intro (that sounds like a main theme of One) with a guitar/synth unison and sounds very good, but something you heard before. Then you get a random instrumental jam reminiscent of the jams of Sola Scriptura, but with some pretty weak rock riffs alternating with an awful processed vocal line Send me a Lifeliiiiiiiine that sounded very familiar as well. Familiar melodies lead to the next verse/choruses and the chorus line He gave me a lifeline is played with the The Creation recycled melody, which in this case fits perfectly. The song ends with the same melody playing with a Jesus is My Lifeline line instead. Very nice restrained outro I got to admit, but this song is not perfect and is too derivative musically and lyrically

Then there's a humorous and slightly out of place prog-metal piece Leviathan. Opening with funny ominous synths and horn riffs. The verses continue the goofy prog-metal while the choruses are beatleish. Then silly lyrics playing on a mellotron-drenched background alternate with other hard rock riff until a silly instrumental that combines metal with vibraphone leads into the themes of the beginning with the Beatle chorus leading into a fast-paced heavy metal break where Mike Portnoy is on fire. The song ends as it began: goofy synths. The song is fun I guess, you can tell the band was enjoying themselves while making this, but it could have worked wonders as a bonus track.

Then there are four ballads, typical Morse ballads with overtly Christian lyrics. This is what could divide the Neal Morse fans. For the ones who enjoy his ballads and Christian songs, then you will find these songs uplifting and pretty nice at the least, if familiar. For the one who want prog, they may bring disappointment. These kinds of songs work very well on his concept album as part of the story, but having many of them can make them sound like songs aimed for Christian rock radio. I personally enjoy them all nevertheless. They're well written, catchy and memorable: the way Christian music should sound in my opinion.

Luckily, So Many Roads turns this good but non-essential album into a very good one. While it is again derivative lyrically (he did this already in Testimony) and doesn't break new ground, it plays to his strengths, is extremely coherent, and is musically very enjoyable. The theme of the song (deciding on what to do in life, looking at possibilities, and finally choosing to be a Jesus follower) make the epic be varied and divided into different sounding sections. It seems Neal Morse too advantage of this structure and apart from Star for a Day he made every section outstanding and he connected everything extremely well, despite how different parts sound from each other. Not only that, he made a varied epic extremely accessible and easy to get into. The first section doesn't wait to get started, with a very memorable fanfare synth melody. The 1st section is singer-songwriter for the most part but there's a watery synth passage that comes unexpectedly and sounds quite refreshing. Star for a Day is my least favorite part as it repeat things a bit too much and its sound is derivate (think of Hanging in the Balance and California Nights). I found it amusing that he referenced Britney Spears. Again, with great coherence the music leads into Humdrum Life, which is my favorite section as it really sounds as something that Neal Morse hasn't done before. It is an charming acoustic jazz piece with two saxophones playing in the background and an upbeat pace. The melodies are very memorable and when Neal Morse lets the saxophones take the centerstage, their dual solo is incredible. A new in between sections theme is introduced: So Many Roads vocal harmonies and a gentle guitar/mellotron theme is interrupted by the hammond-driven rocker All the Way to the Grave, singing of the idea of partying, getting drugged and living it up. It is here when he finds God: great symphonic buildup on The Eyes of the Savior. The song ends with variations of the themes in the first section, and his pretending to be in front of the audience, going "wooo" "oh yeah" "can you feel it" "yaaaa" "haha" as he always does on epics, which always annoyed me, but what can I do? Anyways, this is a really great epic, and due to its similarities to Testimony it shows you how much he grew musically since that album.

Despite my complaints, Neal Morse fans should own this album. So Many Roads is, for the most part, a masterful composition and the main reason to own the album for the casual fans of Neal Morse and symphonic rock fans who are not familiar of him. This album is also a good starting point for Christians who are not progressive rock listeners as it is accessible, melodic, and much better than the average Christian Contemporary Music. Testimony might be more emotional, but non-prog listeners would be overwhelmed by its duration.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars 3.5 stars. I honestly believe that Neal Morse will be playing and composing this type of incredible music until he's either dead or not able to. What motivates and inspires him is limitless. For those of us who dig the message, and the person that made the message possible, this music is a Godsend. I can see why many would be turned off with the lyrics here, but I can't understand the critisicm for the music itself. Mike Portnoy continues to show why he's one of the all time great drummers, while bassist Randy George seems to become more prominant with each album. I just never get tired of Neal's vocals, as well as his song writing and composing talents. He's all about melody. I like what Chicapah says when comparing "Lifeline" with his past records. "In essance, they are prog albums with a heavy emphasis on religion whereas "lifeline" is a religious work that draws generously from the prog reservoir".

"Lifeline" opens with piano before the bombast hits a minute in. Check out Portnoy ! Huge bass as well here. What an instrumental display. It settles with a steady beat then guitar and organ start to rip it up. Vocals don't arrive until 4 1/2 minutes. Awesome song. Lots of mellotron too. More incredible instrumental work before 8 minutes.Then 11 1/2 minutes in the organ,guitar and drums just kill. "The Way Home" may not be proggy but it's a meaningful and enjoyable track. Strummed guitar and vocals as Portnoy keeps the beat. Some strings too 2 minutes in. "Leviathan" opens with these dark, deep sounds that pulse that being to mind the leviathan. The song kicks in with uptempo sax as drums pound. Neal comes in singing with passion. Nice organ runs and some nasty guitar. Vibes follow. The tempo really picks up 5 minutes in and Portnoy is on fire. It ends as it began. "God's Love" is a mellow song with strummed guitar and reserved vocals. Great lyrics. I can personally attest to them. "Children Of The Chosen" opens with waves of synths before a beat takes over with vocals and guitar. Beautiful. I like the drumming to end it. There's something special about this one.

"So Many Roads" is almost 29 minutes long. I really like the trip this one takes us on. It opens with vocals and piano. When it kicks in it really reminds me of SPOCK'S BEARD. The contrast continues. It gets pretty heavy before 5 minutes with some blistering guitar. More ripping guitar a minute later. It turns jazzy 9 1/2 minutes in with sax. A calm 13 minutes in and the guitar that comes out of that breaks my heart. Gorgeous. It kicks back in after 15 minutes, more great guitar 17 minutes in and fat bass a minute after that. Another calm before 21 minutes. It kicks back in with lots of synths. "Fly High" is another beauty. Neal sings "Fly high, fly straight through the open sky, give up everything you have for what you could never buy". A fantastic guitar solo starts after 4 minutes as Neal shouts and sings in the background. It ends with strings and vocals as the guitar continues.

Thanks Neal.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
1 stars This album has split Neal Morse's fans down the middle. Some consider that he hasn't done anything new on this release, while others acknowledge the same although they don't seem to mind and therefore think of it as another masterpiece. Although I mostly agree with the former kind of fans, I also think that the fact that this album lacks a concept is a major flaw.

I enjoyed the two previous releases because, besides all that great music, they had conceptual meanings to them that boosted the overall atmosphere considerably. Lifeline is a collection of songs and it also feels as such. Most of them are simple, but nonetheless effective, ballads that we've all heard before. Have this been everything the album had to offer then I would have easily dismissed it as another good, but non-essential. The main reason for my disliking is the album's longest track called So Many Roads which just doesn't hold together all that well. That song actually reminds me of the track Water from Spock's Beards debut album that I disliked just as much (although the title track is a killer).

This collection of tracks feels like an up and down slide that in the end doesn't really get us anywhere. I doubt that even fans will want to revisit this experience as much as any of the previous albums. Sorry Mr. Morse but I am extremely disappointed!

**** star songs: Lifeline (13:27) God's Love (5:27)

*** star songs: The Way Home (4:20) Leviathan (6:05) Children Of The Chosen (4:57) Fly High (6:30)

** star songs: So Many Roads (28:42)

Total rating: 2,86

Review by Gerinski
2 stars The 2008 studio release from Neal Morse is a bit of a disappointment for his prog fans. Sure enough there is still quite some good music in here and it includes a masterpiece, but the total package is clearly inferior to Neal's previous prog albums.

This one is not a concept album and while this is not a problem at all musically, it has some effect in the perception of Neal's infamous christian lyrics. I'm not religious so this sort of lyrics is not my thing, but at least in the concept albums the lyrics formed a story and they fell into a certain context. Here it's just christian for the sake of it and they get tedious to me.

The key problems with this album are 2:

a) By now we know that Neal will include one, maybe two cheesy ballads in every prog album. In the concept albums this is normally not a real issue, they are usually quite beautiful tunes, not long, and they have their place within the context. Here we get not 1 or 2 but 4 of them, and even if they are also beautiful tunes, honestly this is too much for me, and of course the lyrics do not help. Neal should be more aware that it's perfectly possible to write ballads but with a bit more musical quality in them (take Genesis Entangled to name just one). b) Except for the wonderful "Lifeline", the other 2 prog tracks are less inspired than what we have come to expect from Neal.

The opening track "Lifeline" is a prog masterpiece and it alone makes it worth buying this album. It's an upbeat song of over 13 minutes which may remind us of Spock's Beard's "Day for Night" but much more elaborated musically, with killer piano and keyboards and an amazing rythmic section by Neal's loyal mates Randy George and Mike Portnoy. If you like Neal's prog, this track has all his best qualities packed in a single song. I have found myself many times putting on this CD just to listen to this track and then switch to something else. Because from here things get worse.

After the first portion of cheese with "The way home" we get the second prog track "Leviathan". It's a power-prog song which approaches prog-metal territory were it not for the fact that it's based mostly on keyboards and has little metal guitar. On paper this track has everything to be a really good powerful prog song, with very fast playing, interesting instrumentation including horns and vibraphone sounds etc, but for some reason it never really captured my interest.

We then get 2 more cheese plates in the form of "God's love" and "Children of the chosen", with these titles I don't need to tell you more about the lyrics?

"So many roads" is the suite of the album clocking nearly 29 minutes. Again on paper this track has all the elements to be a good prog suite and it certainly has some good music in it, but it somehow lacks the spark, it's predictable and it feels like it is built more out of skill rather that out of true inspiration.

The album closes with yet another cheesy ballad "Fly high", this one at least partially saved by the impressive final 8-finger guitar solo by Paul Bielatovicz.

5 stars for the excellent title track, the rest ranging between 1 and 3, so I give it a total average of 2 - 2,5. I hope Neal's genius is not finished.

Review by Flucktrot
3 stars With almost any other artist, an album with 13 and 28 minute songs that I rate as good to near excellent would probably be an easy 4-star rating in my book. However, Neal Morse is certainly unlike most artists (prog included!), which factors into the big picture, regardless of whether you're a huge fan (like me) or anti-Neal.

Unlike One, ?, and maybe Sola Scriptura, Lifeline simply isn't a must-own, mostly because I just don't hear many differences between this album and Sola. Both have a fairly heavy sound and are well-produced, but Lifeline does not have a unifying theme/concept.

Highlights: Lifeline, So Many Roads.The title track is definitely a keeper, with some good themes, big synths, and Portnoy up to his old tricks. Unfortunately, the highlight of most Neal songs in my book--the dramatic ending--just doesn't stack up for me on Lifeline. Maybe it's the fade-out, maybe it's the lack of a mindblowing guitar solo, maybe it's the repetitive vocals...who knows. Not bad, but not great either.

However, So Many Roads really connects with me. Great flow, interesting lyrics ("the stadium cheers for Britney Spears, forget about the warm and tender years") and nice variety. I particularly enjoy the Humdrum Life section, with its happy, bouncy and perfectly sarcastic melody (Do I even hear some soprano sax here as well? Nice!). Nothing groundbreaking in this song, but the theme really resonates with me, as I have also come to a place life where I can see the pros/cons of potential futures (i.e., party/stoned life, suburban drudgery, etc). I tend to side with Neal that none of these provide the deeper satisfaction that most adults seek, and even if you don't seek it in Jesus, it's worthwhile to do so in some way other than drugs, status symbols, or fame.

The rest of the album is largely filler to me, though reasonable minds may disagree.

In all, Lifeline provides enough good stuff to keep fans happy, but insufficient new angles to please more discriminating proggers. Keep 'em coming Neal!

Review by Warthur
2 stars One of the strengths of Neal Morse's solo career is that he's managed to avoid getting stuck in the sort of very limited lyrical rut that much Christian rock tends to occupy. Less imaginative acts in that field would restrict themselves to a fairly limited set of themes ("accept Christ"/"renounce sin"/"praise God", rinse, repeat), but at least as far as his prog-oriented albums go, Neal largely avoids that. (He's also churned out numerous albums of straight- ahead worship music, but that's fine - in that case he's literally preaching to the choir, nobody who is not very keen on hearing that content is going to touch those albums to begin with.)

In fact, his early prog solo albums were all concept albums of one sort of another, allowing him to explore a range of themes, theology, and history which added a certain depth to proceedings which makes them artistically interesting even if you're not inclined to go along with his religious perspective. Testimony was an autobiographical piece about his conversion, One was an adaptation of the Prodigal Son story, "?" explored the Tabernacle In the Wilderness, whilst Sola Scriptura contemplated the theological revolution brought about by Martin Luther.

Lifeline, in fact, is his first prog-based solo album to not have a strong central concept adding a little extra weight to proceeding... or maybe the concept is that there is no concept, just a set of self-contained songs on exactly that sort of "accept Christ"/"renounce sin"/"praise God" clutch of themes I mentioned earlier.

In some respects this shouldn't be totally surprising - Neal had been fairly clearly telling us where his personal perspective was for years at this point. Nonetheless, the comparative simplicity of the lyrics seems to accompany a dip in the quality of the musical backing. It's not that it's out-and-out bad - but it's all very much Neal Morse business as usual, and the compositions are usually designed to reach this climactic moment where the song's message is hammered home through excessive repetition of a particular lyric. With the exception of Leviathan, which is pretty badass throughout, the songs all tend to either have these prog moments which fade away to be replaced with fairly generic Christian rock, or start out in that place to begin with and kind of stay there (God's Love being an example of the latter).

It's not the Christian content that bugs me here - I enjoyed all the four Christian-themed prog concept albums I named above, after all - so much as it's the sense of being preached at, which is stronger here than it was on any previous Neal Morse release. It's not that the music has become a complete afterthought next to the message - but the message is getting in the way of the music a bit more than it used to.

I have to wonder, listening to Lifeline, whether Neal's compositional well was starting to run dry at this point: as well as writing the vast majority of the first six Spock's Beard albums, he'd also penned almost all the songs on his first five prog solo albums and was also churning out albums in other genres at the same time. It's notable that his next prog project after this was getting Transatlantic back together and producing The Whirlwind, whose composition was credited to Transatlantic as a whole, and his next solo prog album (Testimony 2) wouldn't come out until 2011: perhaps he had, at long last, reached the point where he needed to slow down his prog output a bit and recharge his creative batteries.

As it stands, Lifeline is an alright Christian prog album from an artist whose standards are usually higher than this.

Latest members reviews

2 stars Lifeline is a perplexing album. Half of this album is some great prog while the other half is Neal's worship stuff that permeates his discography. The title track 'Lifeline' is one of the stronger songs on the album. It opens with a nice piano melody before seguing into some classic Neal Morse s ... (read more)

Report this review (#818174) | Posted by Mr. Mustard | Monday, September 10, 2012 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Good by most standards, but not by Morse's own standards. Okay, rarely does Neal Morse disappoint. And as far how it compares to other stuff out there, Lifeline definitely holds its own. But Morse is far from the top of his game on this one. It sounds like a rehashing of a dozen or two songs ... (read more)

Report this review (#465065) | Posted by senor_velasco | Sunday, June 19, 2011 | Review Permanlink

1 stars This album is a very big disappointment. I have been a HUGE Neal Morse fan for years, owning every solo album, Spock's Beard album, and Transatlantic album. I think that Neal Morse is an absolute musical genius. But "Lifeline" is just not a good album. The only songs worth listening to are ... (read more)

Report this review (#442824) | Posted by BobVanguard | Wednesday, May 4, 2011 | Review Permanlink

2 stars I really like his work since One, ?, Sola Scriptura, and his other outputs in Transatlantic and Spock's Bead before. Neal Morse has been prolific, but not all of his output is sweet progressive rock. I heard a few tunes from his non-prog albums and they are good but just not the kind of things t ... (read more)

Report this review (#379730) | Posted by terryl | Friday, January 14, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars An album very underrated.But why? Neal Morse continues his progressive rock ever, and he gives us one of their best songs: the epic "So many roads", some of the best 28 minutes of my life. "Leviathan" Another great track is excellent, with heavy riffs that remind me of "Sola Scriptura".As other trac ... (read more)

Report this review (#319909) | Posted by voliveira | Sunday, November 14, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars FACT: Neal Morse can't make a bad album. I had heard bad comments and reviews on this album, and I went into it with a sword in my hand...but to my suprise, it was a great album. I didn't get bored, I thorougly enjoyed it, It was an amazing listening experience. I believe that this was the m ... (read more)

Report this review (#259619) | Posted by arcane-beautiful | Wednesday, January 6, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I don't agree with the reviews of others that criticise Neal Morse because of his infinity love for God. God is our reason; God is our machine to do things good, to do the right thing, to value that with love we obtain happiness. I would like many Neal Morse's .With his songs he call us to the ... (read more)

Report this review (#214240) | Posted by robbob | Thursday, May 7, 2009 | Review Permanlink

2 stars I think we expect a little more to hear a better album of Neal Morse.Este disk itself in that it draws the attention is getting repetitive and needs to take new directions. We must recognize that the great composer, but as progartist has its ups and low. The track "Lifeline" has long and tec ... (read more)

Report this review (#213390) | Posted by nandprogger | Saturday, May 2, 2009 | Review Permanlink

2 stars A disappointed Morse fan writes: After the incredible "Sola Scriptura," I had such high hopes for this album. When I heard Neal Morse was going to revisit the lyrical ideas of "Testimony," I was even more excited. Unfortunately, "Lifeline" has been a big disappointment for me. The title trac ... (read more)

Report this review (#213057) | Posted by The SaidRemark | Thursday, April 30, 2009 | Review Permanlink

2 stars it the will of God that his true believers can only write terrible lyrics??? I just don't understand. The guys in Glass Hammer are all Christians, yet they manage to write lyrics that aren't sappy and trite (well, okay, they DO write lyrics like that.......but at least the vary ... (read more)

Report this review (#212087) | Posted by infandous | Wednesday, April 22, 2009 | Review Permanlink

2 stars I almost regret to write that for the first time, I'm utterly disappointed with a Neal Morse effort. Take Heaven In My Heart from SOLA SCRIPTURA and make an album out of it. Only even less inspired. Normally, I wouldn't have a problem with the idea of Morse making an album full of mostly ditti ... (read more)

Report this review (#208769) | Posted by The Progmatist | Wednesday, March 25, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Lifeline is by no means a bad album; there are a lot of great moments to be found. The problem is most of these moments can be heard in earlier works. If only Neal traversed so many roads in his music, right? When I read the press release for Lifeline on Neal's site months ago, I was intrigued ... (read more)

Report this review (#197779) | Posted by pulsar43 | Thursday, January 8, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars After more than 20 listens, I can keep silent no more. Unlike many 2008 releases, Lifeline has the stuff of enduring prog quality that will keep it in my album rotation, probably for the rest of my life. The musicianship and song-craft are excellent and I can find no criticism with either. All the ... (read more)

Report this review (#197360) | Posted by EnderEd | Monday, January 5, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Let me preface this review by admitting to being a rather big fan of Neal Morse's music, whether it be his solo output or his work with Spock's Beard and Transatlantic. I have enthusiastically given two of his solo albums 5-star ratings (One and ?) and been amazed at the volume of music he is ... (read more)

Report this review (#192555) | Posted by Lofcaudio | Wednesday, December 10, 2008 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I find it very hard to listen to and review Neal Morse albums. It is a challenge almost beyond my modest abilities. So please forgive me........ The reason is this God thing. In USA, God is more a public figure than here in Europe. We don't do God in full public here. I am an even more private ... (read more)

Report this review (#187698) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Sunday, November 2, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars My God (no pun intended) people are split on this album. I think the problem that some people are having is that without an epic concept to be dealing with, Neal's lyrics have become even more straight out Christian. For me though this isn't a problem and the lyrics are generally pretty god damn ... (read more)

Report this review (#186111) | Posted by King Crimson776 | Friday, October 17, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Phew, this is a hard one! After 'Question Mark' I have this problem telling the albums and their individual songs/passages apart. That's not to say it's bad music, quite the opposite (I'm an unashamed Neal Morse fan), but how good is a batch of albums that are so samey that I can't tell any diff ... (read more)

Report this review (#185216) | Posted by npjnpj | Friday, October 10, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Lifeline is Neal Morse's first solo studio album that is not a concept album, but this does not hinder the project in any way. It has more short ballads and some softer sounds, but also contains two lengthier & heavier synth prog masterpieces. Lyrically the CD is strong, remaining consistent wi ... (read more)

Report this review (#185163) | Posted by SoftSpoken | Thursday, October 9, 2008 | Review Permanlink

1 stars Oh, this is bad. The former frontman of Spocks Beard has seen God, and wants to know it and spread it. The music, well, you heard it all before (if you are a Spocks Beard fan) only this one is slightly milder. Lots of the upheavel is just the name, but let me tell you, if you are not Englisch in ... (read more)

Report this review (#183457) | Posted by Hét LICHAAM | Wednesday, September 24, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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