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Neal Morse

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Neal Morse Jesus Christ The Exorcist album cover
3.64 | 154 ratings | 5 reviews | 21% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2019

Songs / Tracks Listing

CD 1 (63:18)
1. Introducing (2:31)
2. Overture (3:19)
3. Getaway (2:41)
4. Gather the People (5:17)
5. Jesus' Baptism (3:09)
6. Jesus' Temptation (10:18)
7. There's a Highway (4:06)
8. The Woman of Seven Devils (5:41)
9. Free at Last (5:05)
10. The Madman of the Gadarenes (7:04)
11. Love Has Called My Name (4:14)
12. Better Weather (1:42)
13. The Keys to the Kingdom (4:48)
14. Get Behind Me Satan (3:23)

CD 2 (46:28)
15. He Must Go to the Cross (3:10)
16. Jerusalem (3:55)
17. Hearts Full of Holes (3:40)
18. The Last Supper (3:50)
19. Gethsemane (7:39)
20. Jesus Before the Council and Peter's Denial (3:12)
21. Judas' Death (3:33)
22. Jesus Before Pilate and the Crucifixion (8:14)
23. Mary at the Tomb (2:45)
24. The Greatest Love of All (5:00)
25. Lover Has Called My Name (reprise) (1:30)

Total Time 109:46

Line-up / Musicians

- Neal Morse / keyboards, guitar, bass, percussion, vocals (as Pilate, Demon 1, Disciple 1), composer & producer

- Paul Bielatowicz / lead guitar
- Bill Hubauer / keyboards
- Randy George / bass
- Eric Gillette / drums, guitar
- Ted Leonard / vocals (as Jesus)
- Talon David / vocals (as Mary Magdalene)
- Nick D'Virgilio / vocals (as Judas Iscariot)
- Rick Florian / vocals (as The Devil)
- Matt Smith / vocals (as John the Baptist)
- Jake Livgren / vocals (as Peter and Caiaphas)
- Mark Pogue / vocals (as Israelite 1, the Madman of the Gadarenes, Pharisee 2
- Wil Morse / vocals (as Israelite 2, Demon 3, Pharisee 1)
- Gabe Klein / vocals (as Demon 2, Pharisee 4)
- Gideon Klein / vocals (as Demon 4)
- Julie Harrison / vocals (as Servant Girl)
- Holly Smith / French horn
- Gabriel Collins / saxophone, flute
- David Cooper / trombone
- Dominique Caster / trumpet
- Steve Patrick / trumpet
- Gideon Klein / violin, viola, cello, string bass, vocals, horn & string arrangements
- Jake Tudor / violin
- Josee Weigand / violin
- Grace Laminack / viola

Releases information

Sub-titled "A Progressive Rock Musical by Neal Morse"

3LP Frontiers Music SRL ‎- FR LP 955 (2019, US)

2CD Frontiers Music SRL ‎- FR CD 955 (2019, Europe)

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy NEAL MORSE Jesus Christ The Exorcist Music

NEAL MORSE Jesus Christ The Exorcist ratings distribution

(154 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(21%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(32%)
Good, but non-essential (32%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (8%)

NEAL MORSE Jesus Christ The Exorcist reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Flucktrot
4 stars (I'm not a big fan of musicals, and I already got a Neal Morse album this year that I have thoroughly enjoyed, so I really thought I would sit this album out. Only by chance did my wife want me to try her new set of headphones and put something she thought I would like on to try them out. Of course just five minutes was enough to get me totally hooked, and I ordered it that night.)

Have you ever wanted to hear what it would sound like if Neal wrote an extended piece himself (as opposed to the everybody writes model he often uses now) but without him doing triple duty in the vocal and instrumental roles? That's about the best way I can sum up this album.

There are some truly excellent moments to be found JC the Exorcist, and it is really enhanced by the choral arrangements. It's almost like a cover band or composer taking existing Morse material and reworking it just enough so that it sounds interesting to those who were familiar with the earlier pieces. Structurally this strikes me as most similar to Neal's Testimony albums, which involves more single-length songs arranged into larger acts. Then you'll hear clear call backs to Spock's Beard here and Sola Scriptura there. I mean, come on--the Love Has Called My Name chorus is a crystal clear rework of Wind at my Back, complete with NDV hitting the high harmony. When you're as prolific as Neal, self-plagiarism is going to happen to some extent. I'm totally fine with it for the most part here, because the choral elements make those eyebrow raising moments just different enough from where I've heard them before, but if this has turned you off from Neal before, it's highly likely to happen again here.

Highlights: Jesus' Temptation, Woman of Seven Devils, He Must Go to the Cross, the Crucifixion. Given my discussion of similar themes above, I do have to point out that there are also many, many moments of pure, delightful, originality. Special shout out to Rick Florian as the devil in a Dio-esque performance. Talon David really delivers as Mary, and her duet with Ted Leonard to close out the album is flat-out beautiful (and that's a compliment coming from me as I'm not a sappy ballad guy).

Lowlights: There's a Highway, Get Behind Me Satan, Hearts Full of Holes. I love probably 80% of what Neal puts out, which often makes the other 20% so confusing for me sometimes. I understand these songs are here for thematic (and not just musical) reasons, they don't fit in my opinion. No one needed a straightforward, plain Jane Ted Leonard rocker in Highway, or the unnecessary Black Sabbath Paranoid clone in Satan. The previous song ends with Peter saying that he would follow Jesus anywhere, anywhere but the cross. The first song of Act II is called He Must Go to the Cross. It would have been a perfect transition between acts if the Satan song just wasn't on there! And Holes is is a sappy NDV vocal feature, and I never really dug those moments back in the Beard days either.

I would start with 3 stars for this album, mostly from the borrowing from previous material, but then bump it up to a super solid 4 stars when considering the cohesiveness and quality production. It's a beautiful sounding and thematically intriguing (and spiritually inspirational and rewarding, depending on your religious persuasion) album, and it sits right up there with many of Neal's best works.

Review by kev rowland
4 stars Listening to the introduction had me checking I had put on the right album, as the first minute of this 109-minute- long epic had me convinced I was listening to a new release by Clive Nolan. In recent years Clive has moved away from his more overtly progressive releases into musical theatre, and now Neal has followed the same trend. I grew up in a Christian household, one of my favourite albums as a child was ' Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat', the first musical I ever saw was 'Godspell', and still enjoy 'Jesus Christ Superstar' to this day (I thought the recent all-star cast was excellent, Alice Cooper as King Herod? Inspired). So, this is a musical and lyrical style I am comfortable with, and I was intrigued to see how Neal would approach this. The first thing which struck me was just how little we hear from the man himself, in that he has given himself a few minor parts but that is all. In the two main roles of Jesus and Judas we have his fellow Spock's Beard lead vocalists Ted Leonard and Nick D'Virgilio respectively, and as one would expect they do a mighty fine job indeed, but the biggest change for me is the writing style, which is not what I would expect from Neal at all. Although there are bits and pieces such as the acoustic 'Gather The People' and the dramatic 'The Madman of the Gadarenes' which do remind listeners of his roots and normal approach, overall there has been a dramatic change in how Neal approaches things. Literally.

This is an album which is designed to appeal to people who wouldn't normally know who Neal is, and instead this is a rock musical to be viewed as a logical updated version of 'Superstar'. Consequently, we have music which flows and ebbs, taking the listener with them. Songs such as 'Get Behind Me Satan' are out and out rockers, while others are designed to get the audience clapping in time, others more prosaic and gentler in style. By now Neal has become a dab hand at producing the odd concept album, and this isn't the first time he has approached a Christian story either, but here he has moved further in both directions. This is bound to be listened to by progheads and White Metal fans alike, but really this is aimed at a new audience altogether, namely Broadway as opposed to the Garden.

In 2002 Morse was responsible for what is undoubtedly one of the finest concept albums of all time, 'Snow'. He followed it up the next year with his first solo release since leaving the Beard, with 'Testimony', which is still my favourite solo album. That told his personal story, and I don't think anyone who saw him perform it in London and hear him talk about his daughter Jayda could fail to be moved. She is referenced again in this album, just briefly, but it shows again just how personal this for him and just what it means. Regarding the idea behind the musical, Neal explains, "Sometimes providence comes with a whisper; sometimes it comes with an unexpected phone call. A friend of mine who works in the music business called me from New York one day in 2008 and said, "Hey man, a friend and I were listening to Jesus Christ Superstar last night and were saying, 'Man, somebody ought to do a new rock opera based on the Jesus story'. I told my friend, 'I know the guy!' He went on to tell me I ought to write an epic prog piece based on the gospels. With a New York accent he said, 'Ya gotta do it!' I laughed and said, 'Well, I'm busy right now, but I'll think about it.' Over the next couple of months, I began to feel that "yes" inside and spent a few months writing the first draft. The strong sense that I was onto something continued to grow and the people that sang on the original version were really into it.'

For me, this is an interesting idea, and there are undoubtedly some good songs on it. But there are times when it feels clunky, something I never expected from him. The story is pushed very hard, as one would expect, but sometimes this is to the detriment of the music. On a personal level I have always enjoyed his vocals, but here he is asking to be judged as a songwriter and arranger as opposed to a performer. The result is something which is probably going to gain him a much wider audience than normal for his work, and is a very good album indeed, but from a personal perspective I think I'm just going to go back to 'Testimony' and pass on this for now.

Review by Warthur
3 stars Some parts of Neal Morse's solo discography are easier to pigeonhole than others. There's the prog albums - either under his own name or, as has tended to be the case since 2015, put out through the vehicle of the Neal Morse Band - there's the worship music albums of much more straightforward Christian music, there's a few singer-songwriter releases and collections of cover songs and so on. For the really hardcore fans, there's also his various fan club releases, including both demos recorded for solo and band projects and more obscure bits and pieces from his personal archives.

Jesus Christ the Exorcist, however, doesn't fit easily into any of these categories. For one thing, it's a musical, one which Morse first drafted in 2008 but was not performed in any form until 2018. Morse has written musicals before - one of the early Inner Circle Club releases was Hitman, presenting the songs from a musical he devised in the early 1990s (a music industry satire about a record company executive who bets one of his peers that he can make a band that doesn't exist world-famous) - but this is perhaps the first time such a project had come fully to fruition.

As the title might imply, it's based on the life of Jesus, so we're definitely in the realm of his more overtly religious material. At the same time, it's a rock opera, so there are some shades of his prog work here - but it's perhaps the first of his prog-leaning solo releases not to see Mike Portnoy behind the drumstool (though his regular sideman Randy George is there on bass).

The end result is something which doesn't quite sound like anything Neal has done before. There's certainly elements of his prog work here, but it's also shot through with flavours of classic musical theatre and worship music. Both of these are genres which Neal has injected into his prog work before, but usually for extra spice or gravitas where it was called for; here, those influences are more prominent, in effect forming the other two legs of the tripod on which the album rests.

Of all Neal's prog peers, perhaps the project this release can best be compared to is the work of Ayreon - not necessarily in terms of musical style, but in terms of presenting a rock opera with a full cast, with a host of singers portraying the different characters. Neal himself gives voice to a disciple, a demon, and the more ambiguous figure of Pontius Pilate himself, and I don't know whether that triple casting is simply reflecting a need to fill out the roles or a genuinely clever move which allows Neal to embody the mixture of saint, sinner, and confused man-in-the-middle that we all find ourselves being at different times in our lives.

Another fun twist with the casting comes with the involvement of Ted Leonard and Nick D'Virgilio, who play Jesus and Judas respectively; Nick took on the lead singer role in Spock's Beard after Neal left, and Ted picked up that spot when Nick left, so you end up here with the three major "voices" of the band all playing roles on the same project.

Giving such an important central role to Ted is a pretty strong statement of approval on Neal's part - even if you set aside the obvious gravitas necessary to play Jesus in a musical written from a reasonably sincere religious perspective, that's the starring role right there! - and perhaps that indicates just how much Neal respects Ted's work. (Neal would provide a guest appearance on Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep, the first Spock's Beard album to feature Ted on lead vocals, and it's notable that he avoided taking any vocals himself, yielding the spotlight to Ted to give him a clear run at it.) Leonard, for his part, certainly steps up to the plate, and does a fine job with the role.

Still, I can't quite get into this release; I respect what it's trying to do, but it's ultimately taking an approach which isn't entirely to my taste. It's a competent rendition of a story you likely already know very well, and it stands out in Morse's discography more as a result of being different from his usual fare rather than being a cut above his average standards.

Latest members reviews

4 stars I do believe it won't be an exaggeration if i say that "Jesus Christ | The Exorcist" is probably Neal Morse's best solo album. Before delving into the music, i would like to talk about the line-up a bit and why it makes the key difference between his other records. Probably the most devastating ... (read more)

Report this review (#2243120) | Posted by The Duke of Prunes | Sunday, August 11, 2019 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Back in the 1970s there was Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell, but as far as I'm aware no one has written a rock opera based on the life of Jesus since then. Until now, when along comes Neal Morse with Jesus Christ The Exorcist, and in my opinion it stands up well beside its famous predecessor ... (read more)

Report this review (#2233108) | Posted by AlanB | Monday, June 24, 2019 | Review Permanlink

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