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NEAL MORSE

Symphonic Prog • United States


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Neal Morse biography
Neal R. Morse - Born August 2, 1960 (Van Nuys, California, USA)

As a young musician, Neal's dream was like many others-to find success in the pop music world. But after years of struggling in the LA singer-songwriter scene, he realized that his dream would not materialize. Eschewing conventional wisdom, Neal took a courageous step: he about-faced and devoted himself to progressive rock, the music truly in his heart. The obscure and fiercely competitive genre held little chance of commercial success. Undaunted, he formed the quirkily-named SPOCK'S BEARD with his brother, Alan. They recorded The Light with what money they could scrape together. Against all odds, it was a breakout success, sending shockwaves through the small genre's community.

Over the next 10 years, Spock's Beard released 10 critically acclaimed CDs and 2 concert DVDs, ascending to the top of the "prog" world. Neal also released 6 CDs and 3 DVDs with TRANSATLANTIC, the heralded prog "supergroup" comprised of the world's finest prog musicians. The proverbial wayward son, Neal had finally found the success he dreamed of. But something was missing. While on the outside Neal had it all; on the inside, something was missing. Morse came to realize that for him, embracing the Christian faith was the fulfillment of his spiritual quest. His walk was at once gradual and sudden-and like with so many, completely unexpected. As he continued, his path increasingly revealed more of what his heart had sought all along. Yet he also began to find his career growing at odds with his faith. The rising spiritual tension and increasing commercial success finally came to a head with the release of Snow (2002), Spock's Beard's (with Morse) magnum opus.and swan song.

The extraordinary 2-CD rock opera, composed by Morse, was widely acclaimed as the group's finest. But it was the end of the era: Neal made the agonizing decision to leave Spock's Beard. After also leaving Transatlantic, the transformation was complete. Despite having finally achieved the success he had long sought, Morse began all over again; musically, emotionally and spiritually. Neal then embarked upon the most ambitious musical project of his career. Entitled Testimony (2003), it chronicles his spiritual and musical journey in words and music. The 2 CD set (3 CDs for the Special Edition) spans over two hours as one continuo...
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NEAL MORSE discography


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NEAL MORSE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.15 | 141 ratings
Neal Morse
1999
2.78 | 108 ratings
It's Not Too Late
2001
4.05 | 497 ratings
Testimony
2003
4.12 | 522 ratings
One
2004
4.20 | 665 ratings
? [Aka: Question Mark]
2005
2.96 | 64 ratings
God Won't Give Up
2005
2.35 | 51 ratings
Lead Me Lord - Worship Sessions Volume 1
2005
2.78 | 50 ratings
Send the Fire - Worship Sessions Volume 2
2006
2.94 | 91 ratings
Morse, Portnoy & George: Cover to Cover
2006
2.62 | 54 ratings
Songs from the Highway
2007
4.19 | 688 ratings
Sola Scriptura
2007
2.56 | 41 ratings
Secret Place - Worship Sessions Volume 3
2008
3.11 | 309 ratings
Lifeline
2008
2.65 | 43 ratings
The River - Worship Sessions Volume 4
2009
2.58 | 36 ratings
Mighty to Save - Worship Sessions Volume 5
2010
4.00 | 616 ratings
Testimony 2
2011
3.96 | 474 ratings
Momentum
2012
2.89 | 62 ratings
Morse, Portnoy & George: Cover 2 Cover
2012
3.39 | 37 ratings
The Prog World Orchestra: A Proggy Christmas
2012
2.96 | 89 ratings
Songs from November
2014
3.85 | 332 ratings
The Neal Morse Band: The Grand Experiment
2015
4.16 | 487 ratings
The Neal Morse Band: The Similitude of a Dream
2016
2.64 | 39 ratings
To God Be the Glory
2016
2.74 | 65 ratings
Life & Times
2018
3.90 | 320 ratings
The Neal Morse Band: The Great Adventure
2019
3.75 | 137 ratings
Jesus Christ The Exorcist
2019
3.04 | 27 ratings
Morse/Portnoy/George: Cov3r to Cov3r
2020
3.90 | 130 ratings
Sola Gratia
2020
3.88 | 139 ratings
NMB: Innocence & Danger
2021

NEAL MORSE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.20 | 15 ratings
Nick 'n Neal - Two Separate Gorillas - Live in Europe - The From the Vaults Series Volume 2
2000
3.78 | 60 ratings
? Live
2007
4.40 | 96 ratings
So Many Roads
2009
4.42 | 87 ratings
Testimony Two - Live in Los Angeles
2011
4.69 | 20 ratings
The Neal Morse Band: The Great Adventour Live in Brno - 2019
2020
5.00 | 2 ratings
Living Colors & The Neal Morse Band: Morsefest 2019
2021
5.00 | 4 ratings
Morsefest 2021
2022

NEAL MORSE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.51 | 99 ratings
Testimony Live
2004
4.36 | 99 ratings
Sola Scriptura and Beyond
2008
4.45 | 60 ratings
Live Momentum
2013
3.73 | 36 ratings
Morsefest! 2014: Testimony & One Live
2015
3.99 | 38 ratings
The Neal Morse Band: Alive Again
2016
3.90 | 24 ratings
Morsefest 2015
2017
3.84 | 22 ratings
The Neal Morse Band: The Similitude of a Dream - Live in Tilburg 2017
2018
4.50 | 12 ratings
Morsefest! 2017: Testimony Of A Dream
2018
3.33 | 11 ratings
Jesus Christ The Exorcist - Live at Morsefest 2018
2020

NEAL MORSE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.84 | 36 ratings
The Transatlantic Demos
2003
1.96 | 8 ratings
Sing It High
2007
3.73 | 12 ratings
One Demos
2007
3.50 | 4 ratings
The Grand Experiment Demos (Inner Circle March 2016)
2016
3.09 | 2 ratings
The Neal Morse Collection
2019
4.00 | 2 ratings
The Neal Morse Band: The Neal Morse Band Collection
2019
3.04 | 4 ratings
Hope and a Future
2020
2.97 | 10 ratings
Morse/ Portnoy/ George: Cover to Cover Anthology (Vol. 1-3)
2020

NEAL MORSE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.13 | 25 ratings
Merry Christmas From The Morse Family
2000
2.90 | 20 ratings
A Proggy Christmas
2011
0.00 | 0 ratings
Morsefest 2016 Storytellers (Pt. 1) - Inner Circle March 2018
2018
0.00 | 0 ratings
Morsefest 2016 Storytellers (Pt. 2) - Inner Circle May 2018
2018

NEAL MORSE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Neal Morse Band: The Grand Experiment by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.85 | 332 ratings

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The Neal Morse Band: The Grand Experiment
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Although Neal Morse did put out a couple of albums of singer-songwriter material before he left Spock's Beard, his solo career really kicked into high gear after he left that band, with Neal rapidly developing an extensive and very varied discography. Some albums were of avowedly Christian worship music; others were progressive rock that musically saw him further develop the direction he'd been working in towards the end of his Spock's Beard tenure, but lyrically focusing on avowedly Christian themes. Still other albums were of cover versions of favourite songs, or of poppy singer-songwriter material.

This can mean that albums under the "Neal Morse" name offer a bit of a minefield - that's not so, however, with "The Neal Morse Band". Debuting on The Grand Experiment, the group sits squarely in the prog realm, so you can be pretty sure of what you're getting so long as their name is on the label. One could be forgiven for wondering if this isn't just canny marketing on Neal's part - a scheme to better guide listeners to the parts of his discography they're likely to respond well to. That's not the case, though; as the title of The Grand Experiment implies, the Neal Morse Band isn't just a continuation of business as usual for Neal, but a shift in his approach.

After his surprise return to Transatlantic in 2009, Neal seemed to rediscover his love of working as part of a band: he joined a new project, Flying Colors, he guested with Spock's Beard, he started this project, in which he and the titular Band went into the studio with nothing prepared in advance, with the aim of producing an album in as collaborative a manner as possible. This was a big departure for Morse in terms of his working style - hence the album title - and with all five band members credited equally on all of the album's tracks, the goal of producing the album in a maximally collaborative manner seems to have been achieved.

It's hard to understate how big a shift that is, in terms of Morse's usual musical approach. On his previous prog solo albums, Neal was credited with writing more or less all the music and lyrics, and back when he was in Spock's Beard he was very much the band leader and did the lion's share of the writing there. It must take a lot for someone who's spent a couple of decades taking primary responsibility for the compositional process to change their manner of working like this, but between this and his work in other bands from 2009 onwards Morse seems to have done it.

Moreover, he seems to be happy with the results - new Neal Morse Band albums have come out regularly after this, with the songwriting credited to the full band on each, and whilst he's put out a couple of prog albums in his old auteur-like style (Sola Gratia and Jesus Christ the Exorcist, on which he's credited with all the songwriting), they've been outweighed by Neal Morse Band efforts.

Moreover, the change isn't just cosmetic. Neal has his particular songwriting quirks and recurring tricks which we've got used to ever since Spock's Beard, of course, and his fingerprints can be widely uncovered here - the retro-prog moments, the vocal harmonies partaking sometimes of Gentle Giant, sometimes of Crosby, Stills, and Nash, the sunnier 1960s pop influences, and so on - but between having more voices providing input at the early songwriting stage and the seat-of-the-pants recording process, Morse and company are able to produce an album which, while including those touchstones, also includes much which sets this apart from Neal's prior works. Some intense moments more reminiscent of Dream Theater, deeper delves into early Genesis-esque pastoral prog than Neal usually goes for, and so on; even the execution on some of the more Morse-likes bits feels fresh as a result of having people offering new ways to get to the same destination.

There's even a shift in the lyrics; there's definitely Christian interpretations some of the songs point to, but other songs are totally open to other readings. It's not that the Neal Morse Band are deliberately steering away from that subject matter - their next two albums would be concept releases based on The Pilgrim's Progress - so much as Neal and team don't feel obliged to put that front and centre if that's not what they song they are currently playing demands.

It probably helps that Morse has picked out collaborators for the project who he has good chemistry with. The rhythm section of the Neal Morse Band is Randy George on bass and Mike Portnoy on drums. They've been at the core of Neal's team for his solo prog albums more or less from the start - Portnoy was right there on Testimony and has been a mainstay of Morse's prog output ever since, Randy George got onboard with One, Morse's second prog solo album, and has been just as consistently featured since. Both men have had their own successful band projects, so you have just the right qualities here of personnel who on the one hand have great experience in getting Neal's ideas realised, but are also no strangers to pitching in their own ideas in a band context.

Bill Hubauer on keyboards and Eric Gillette on guitar round out the band. Both of them had shown up on Momentum, Neal's previous prog solo album, but in that context they were part of a fairly expanded range of guest musicians. Perhaps these two represent the wildcard factor needed to help shift the Neal Morse Band into a distinctly different musical sphere from Neal's prior work; having put in their time on Momentum, they'd shown an ability to work with Morse, George, and Portnoy, but because they hadn't been such regular staples they're better positioned to perhaps throw in a few curveballs and nudge things in a direction which perhaps Neal, Mike, and Randy wouldn't have spotted, having gotten used to a particular way of working together for this long.

Either way, the end result is tremendously musically refreshing; if you're one of those who drifted away from Morse because you felt his albums were starting to feel samey, perhaps give this a try, because this manages the trick of feeling like a logical further development of his musical direction whilst at the same time feeling fresh and different from what's come before.

 NMB: Innocence & Danger by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.88 | 139 ratings

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NMB: Innocence & Danger
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars NMB is the new name for the Neal Morse Band, but it still features the same people who were involved in 'The Great Adventure', namely Neal Morse (vocals, keyboards, guitars), Eric Gillette (guitars, vocals), Bill Hubauer (keyboards, vocals), Randy George (bass), and Mike Portnoy (drums, vocals). It is not a follow-on to either that album or the one which preceded it, but instead this time around we have a series of unconnected songs, many of which started with Bill and Randy as opposed to coming direct from Neal. I am not sure if that is the reason why, but it definitely took me longer to get inside this album compared to many of Neal's other works, and given I am such a huge fan that was something of a surprise to me. In fact, it was only when I started to get to the end of the first play with the two lengthy tracks which make up the second CD that it all started to gel, but when I then returned to the beginning I was right in from the off.

It is hard to know where to start with this band, as in Mike Portnoy they have one of the most accomplished drummers in the business, while Randy is a wonderful musician and along with Mike has been at the heart of all Neal's work since he left Spock's Beard. If that wasn't enough, they have Eric Gillette on guitar who is simply outstanding, then on top of that you have keyboard player Bill Hubauer and then of course Neal himself. They all sing, and whoever came up with the original ideas, they have all been given the touch of Morse so have elements of Beatles, Genesis, Steely Dan, Gentle Giant, Spock's Beard and so many more. It is the longer tracks at 20 and 31 minutes respectively which make this album, and I personally would have been happy with just those two being released as a single CD, as to my ears they are a step up from the rest of the album, as if the earlier songs are more of a taster for the main event. The overall result is a very good album indeed, but not up to the level of earlier releases such as 'Testimony', but in many ways this shows Morse in a very different place to where he was back then, and while there will always be elements which sound very Beardian, he has broadened his musical palette.

Fans of old-school Morse or Spock's Beard may find this something which needs more work than many of his albums, but it is still one which is well worth discovering.

 Lifeline by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.11 | 309 ratings

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Lifeline
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

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.

 Testimony Live  by MORSE, NEAL album cover DVD/Video, 2004
4.51 | 99 ratings

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Testimony Live
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by MaxnEmmy

5 stars This is Neal post Spock's, forging a path totally different from the really interesting musical ideas he fostered with the band he spent the 90's developing turning them into a Neo-prog force, that has created tremendous art over the years. In 2003, he created a new path that was more personal and more to the heart. He assembled a great ensemble to forge his vision into something that was truly endearing to the listener. Neal wanted to make his testimony as strong as he could and bring his passion to the world. He probably felt Spock's Beard wasn't the right vehicle to achieve his statement, thus we have a solo project that goes to new places. Many feel it's his masterpiece. 4.5 stars.
 The Neal Morse Band: The Neal Morse Band Collection by MORSE, NEAL album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2019
4.00 | 2 ratings

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The Neal Morse Band: The Neal Morse Band Collection
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by DangHeck

4 stars An apparently 100% digital release compilation for The Neal Morse Band, I have to be honest, this is actually my first serious listen to any of their material. The majority of Neal I've known before this listen (and before my review for the other Neal Morse Collection) was in the form of early early Spock's Beard and Transatlantic, the former I could really use a refresher, I feel, and the latter of which I'm a big fan. There's just so much to love about/in Transatlantic, and really, regardless of his focus, Neal at his best is really a phenomenal performer and composer. It's certainly been well proved. [I just realized that there is a second keyboardist, Bill Hubauer, now of We Came From Space, and so there may be solos that I should have but ignorantly could not attribute to him. Who knows? They do! haha.]

The compilation starts off with the heavy "City of Destruction". Vocally, there's something that was immediately reminiscent of Tommy Shaw of Styx. This is rooted in a sort of late-70s Hard Rock, equally tying the music to them as well in my mind. I'm not super into the verses. The chorus on the other hand is pretty solid. Pretty impressive performance from guitarist Eric Gillette in the middle, specifically, he a member of newer Neo-Prog band Lazzleitt. Best part of the song was, the bridge and the ending. It very rapidly ends for the piano-led "The Ways of a Fool", featuring a different vocalist (forgive my ignorance, but I am new to this band). This track features a very cool rhythm and a sort of quirky Psych Pop feel. All of the instrumentation, from Mike's drumming to the keys, is very satisfying. I really like this sort of style. The middle section is sort of Beach Boys-esque vocally. Great vocals, unsurprisingly. Reminiscent, too (and therefore?), of '90s legends Jellyfish. The sort of... breakdown?... and the organ solo with it is just... *chef's kiss* haha. Fantastic. Neal takes the fore vocally in this second half.

"The Call" then starts right off, with big group vocals a capella. This is our sole mini-epic at just over 10 minutes' length. Pretty immediately we get the Proggy bigness I anticipate we would all love. Delicious instrumentation here. Such a groove, thanks to Mike's counterpoint to the main rhythm. My mind once again goes to Styx and then... to... I dunno. It's very Neal haha. In the best way. Very bright track with sweeping, emotive optimism. The main theme, just as bright, follows a sweet guitar solo from Gillette. Goodness... This just makes me want to listen through The Whirlwind again. It's been a long while for me. Around minute 6, we get a compositional shift, a forward-driving, fairly heavy section. It's a bit spacy and very intense. Another great solo from Gillette, this one more a melodic line. This is then followed by a swelling improvised solo. A real scalp-scratcher. Goodness... He's so good. Like Steve Morse meets Steve Vai? This is then followed by a very DeYoung-esque synth solo from Neal [or is it? Likely yes.]. Good God! So intense. Then we're back, in this same full force, to the vocal passage. Big swells at the end. Epic.

"Agenda" is a very electric song. Neal's vocals are compressed and effected pretty heavily, and it features more synth padding than the norm, etc. etc. Overall, not a whole lot here. The vocals toward the end are actually quite nice. Regardless, not bad, but nothing to write home about. Next, "Welcome to the World" starts off as many others seem to, with solo vocals but then rapidly we are into heaviness... This though does not last here. Syncopated instrumentation falls under Neal's verses. The chorus is pretty good. Very... uh... pessimistic song haha. In the middle section there is an exchange of different lead vocalists and then... we have a pretty awesome instrumental bridge, plenty dark, with an amazing solo from Gillette. I have to hear more of him, for sure! Up next then is "Vanity Fair", and it is right up next. This song starts with some really cool vocals over piano. Alternatively, compared to what came before, back to super optimistic, though, of course, knowing Neal and where he's coming from theologically/philosophically, this is ironic. A great song though, regardless. Very infectious melodies throughout, in the verse and chorus. I feel some more Styx, but mixed with some Beatlesesque, thankfully and unsurprisingly. Bright Second Wave Prog meets Psych Pop here--but significantly more the former. Love the instrumentation at the end. Sort of... Fair-like. How 'bout that! haha.

Close to the closing out of the compilation, we have the very heavy "I Got to Run". But... the verse... hmmm... The second verse is better than the first haha. I think because the instrumentation there is fuller, as it is before and between the verses (which is metallic and... just real good). I will still say that the verses are still super weak compared to all else. The chorus is pretty solid though. All falls away after the middle. And we have a different lead vocalist--very interesting voice. Almost Gabriel-esque? I can't place it. Finally, we have the upbeat and bright "The Great Adventure". The instrumentation here, for me, is much superior to the vocal parts. The latter is fine. The former is excellent. Great synth solo. And Mike's backbeat is complex and so tasteful over, specifically, the second, very weird synth solo. I love that.

So yeah, of course, unsurprisingly, at their worst here the NMB is either not too too interesting or provide less than satisfactory vocal melodies, but almost always, quite consistently, the instrumentation is Prog par excellence, really. Unsurprising.

True Rate: 3.75/5.00

 The Neal Morse Collection by MORSE, NEAL album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2019
3.09 | 2 ratings

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The Neal Morse Collection
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by DangHeck

3 stars This is an apparently solely digital compilation album for Neal Morse throughout his career, released in 2019. I think, especially after the first few songs, it is a great showcase of the best of the best that this man can offer in composition and truly excellent performance, of course with others included.

In title and in certain flavors, our first song, "My Time of Dying", is like some quieted homage to Led Zeppelin in my mind. It is more overtly reminiscent of Kansas' radio hit "Dust in the Wind", if I can put my finger on it. Pretty, but nothing to write home about. "Daddy's Daughter" is exactly what you'd expect from the title. I mean, it's certainly no regular Prog fodder and... it's certainly not something I would ever want to listen to free from this compilation. Next, "Wear the Chains" is a glowing, clean track with triumph and optimism. No surprises here, but a pretty nice song.

With "Momentum", we get the first true-blue glimpses of Prog Rock officiel on this album. This is a booming song with full instrumentation and a wide open composition. Very fun. A real head-bopper with a beautiful Peart-esque tom roll from Portnoy followed by a blazing synth and (then) guitar solo... Sheesh. The classic, yet modern Prog continues in fullness on "Lifeline", a 13-minute epic. The references range from American bands such as Kansas and Styx and even Happy the Man to more classic feels that might evoke bands like Gentle Giant (not a group I associate with the sound of Morse or many of the bands in which he's played). This latter eclecticism, specifically here, is a rarity still, to be clear. Fantastic performances over an expectedly excellent composition, thanks to Mr. Morse. Christian or not, don't miss this one, ye fellow fans of Symphonic Prog.

From that so-called 'mountaintop experience', nothing really to report here on "There is Nothin' That God Can't Change"... This is an unabashed ballad praising the works of God, as he do, with just Neal and a guitar. That's it. More folksy still, and undoubtedly in a sort of Dylan style, Morse lightly makes fun of those of his own ilk on "Talkin' Mega-Church Blues", all the while railing on the universally condemned sins of the modern American Mega Church: "At first I thought he might be a crook / But then I found out he has a best-selling book". Just a regular ol' folk tune about the emptiness of the so-called Jesus buildings that they like to fill up the most haha.

And gratefully, we have another return to Proggings on "The Door". Praise be! This is a long one(!), at a whopping 29 minutes' length! And certainly epic it is, right from the start. A much darker track, at first, than those it follows. I'm into that. In the first 4 minutes alone, we see something like 3 different movements, all interlinked seamlessly together. Delicious stuff. The first vocals can be heard around minute 5. Y'all know what that means: Prog! hahaha. I'll quit cheesin'. It shifts to a half-time groove around minute 6 with sweet group vocals singing, "In the name of God you must die", which is... pretty metal really. This is later repeated with vocal parts reminiscent to Gentle Giant (there they are again!), though with no counterpoint to be found [grateful to say, as you'll see below, this is rectified haha]. It's around minute 8 that the darkness comes back with some sweet riffage and a blazing organ solo. Around minute 11, there is a section that is increasingly gospel-esque but more overtly classic CCM, which, really, I don't mind at all. Like very '90s sort of Pop, though, again, just overtly CCM. I'm unsure I'd be able to unveil what exactly it is that makes that sound 'that sound'. I'm now thinking, it was back with Rick Wakeman where these really churchy sounds were fit into the context of Progressive Rock back in the early-70s (though in a much different musical landscape). Around minutes 15 and 16 is a really really sweet section: just awesome. This track offers a lot. I wish I could speak on every section, but I know it will only get monotonous and repetitive. Great song. Truly epic.

"Author of Confusion", I saw elsewhere and I must concur, is a bit of a Dream Theater-type of song [at least at first], everything heavier and being propelled forward by all parts present. This thing that happens around minute 1 is... just amazing. So good. This song, as implied with my first statement, just goes and does not let up. Around minute 4, we do get that Gentle Giant-esque contra punto. And this madness then subsides all of a sudden with the most stunning smoothness [I realize now I didn't know how to refer to this] around minute 5, like... holy hell... Wow. Just blown away here. Some more CCM somethings going on here with "Entrance", but overall a lot of great Prog throughout. Like seriously, if this was a thing for Christian Radio, I think that would be a good thing. But I guess that would also require Prog Rock itself to not be so niche... Perhaps a moot point? The next few tracks are from Testimony 2 (2011), and starting with "Mercy Street" we have some Dennis DeYoung up in here [not literally]. I love it. I guess to me it most sounds like "Sing for the Day". I think that's the one that's coming to mind most. Very upbeat and melodic song. Seamlessly from "Mercy Street", "Overture No. 4" has a much more grand feeling, with a more prominent feature of strings. Another awesome showing of Morse on synth. He really is such an impressive figure, so it's no wonder he ended up with folks like Portnoy and, most notably for me, Roine Stolt (Flower Kings, Transatlantic). Another clean transition, we have "Time Changer", another more metallic track from Portnoy's blaze and some very quirky instrumentation. Love it. They got me into frisson territory on this one. There is something, too, that is actually reminiscent of his Transatlantic bandmate's band, Roine Stolt's The Flower Kings, which is a compliment to me. This track, though, as on another before it (my apologies I've forgotten), features a violin solo. Much welcomed to me. And then more than welcomed Gentle Giant counterpoint... I am in heaven with this one! These other vocalists are none other than Neal's brother Alan Morse, Dave Meros and Nick D'Virgilio of Spock's Beard! Lovely! The final track from Testimony 2's 'Part 6', "Jayda" is far more quieted and personal. I didn't have a whole lot to say about this track until around minute 4, with some simply grandiose instrumentation. Very Yesque on this one.

Our final epic of the compilation, at 26 minutes, is "Seeds of Gold", a song of epic proportions... of course. There is something perhaps Power Poppy about some of these vocals, this being one of the best performances in that arena from Neal. This is going to fly over some of your heads (or just appear as super odd), but some of these vocals are reminiscent of Newsboys' Peter Furler. Much of their early material in the '90s was really just great Pop music. I have to know if they know each other... [With a quick Google search, it appears they don't.] Welcomed, I'd say. This track features absolutely stupendous and stupefying guitar from Flying Colors bandmate Steve Morse (Dixie Dregs, Kansas, Deep Purple), no relation. Just wanted to have an opportunity to say that haha. Pleased to see him here, of course. This track just gives and gives. Awesome awesome awesome around minute 12 and on... Sheesh. A tad neo-classical, a tad Crimson-esque. Very nearly a perfect epic in my book. Can't stress it enough: fantastic.

Another song cycle, this time from 2003's Testimony [1], is kicked off with "The Land of Beginning Again". Not a whole lot to say here. Pretty nice introductory track, if anything. Eerie thereafter, "Overture No. 1" starts like an incessant swarm of strings, which quickly opens up from its claustrophobia. This is like a film score. Epic. And praise be to Mike Portnoy. He's had many a strong performance, but this is one of 'em for certain. Love the more orchestral instrumentation here. This element is all apparently due in great thanks (or full thanks?) to longtime Morse collaborator Chris Carmichael, appearing on much of his albums throughout the last 20+ years. This is a huge song for only being 6 minutes long... Perfecto. Naturally, this flows into the sort of quirky intro of "California Nights". Some really cool rhythmic complexity here. I guess with all that complexity, I wish the song itself had more to offer me.

Despite being more or less a Pop Rock song, the very early Morse track "Nowhere Fast" is pretty solid. I mean, if I can place it anywhere, my mind goes to AOR. Love it or hate it, it does have something solid to offer. Very different from anything else on the album here. Finally, we have "Emma", certainly a very pretty, personal song. A decent way to finish off an album that doesn't necessarily have a singular thematic or stylistic focus. Because this album certainly did not.

True Rate: 3.5/5.0

 NMB: Innocence & Danger by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.88 | 139 ratings

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NMB: Innocence & Danger
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by A Crimson Mellotron
Prog Reviewer

2 stars The fourth album by The Neal Morse Band (now rebranded to NMB) is unfortunately one of these albums - one of the albums that perfectly display the reasons why people avoid progressive rock and dismiss it as unfashionable, overindulging, and overblown. After two very intense and masterful double concept albums, the band returns with a third two-disc set, split between the shorter and the two longer tracks, totaling at some 100 minutes of playtime (or in other words, quite a challenging endeavor).

Joined by Mike Portnoy, Eric Gillette, Bill Hubauer and Randy George, Neal Morse shows us what an unstoppable creative force he is, releasing album after album each year, whether it be solo material, NMB, Transatlantic, or virtually any of his numerous projects. In spite of the massive amounts of music he presents to the world every now and then, the quality of his projects seems to be declining with each new one, and 2021's 'Innocence & Danger' is no exception, in my humble opinion. There really is not that much to be said about the record, except for the fact that on it I hear three things I have already heard multiple times before ? re-hash of 70s Genesis, reminisces of early 2000s Spock's Beard, and Neal Morse's personal signature take on the symphonic prog genre; There is hardly any progression in the band's sound, as it is quite hard to distinguish between NMB and Neal Morse solo releases at this point, with the sound of both being pretty much the same (as is the band). We all know how good of a songwriter the main man behind the project is, we all know what a fantastic vocalist, guitar player, and a talented multi-instrumentalist he is, but he seems to be in a creative limbo - repeating himself way too often, mainly in the phrasing, often also lyrically, the end results are enjoyable, but in the music, there is nothing new, it is the stale proggy sound he has been presenting for a couple of years now.

As much as the album has its great moments, whether these be some short instrumental passages, or catchy, upbeat and memorable verses, the songs do not work overall; Most of the choruses are barely listenable and strangely corny; The energy of the previous two records by the band is gone, the adrenaline and the suspense, too, and all that is left seems to be the directionless self-meditation that sticking to the unusual prog formula would work once again. Unfortunately, it does not, as I do not find anything too challenging or exciting in 'Innocence & Danger'. The longer songs hardly save the record from these impressions I have, falling far behind some much greater epics Neal Morse has been involved in throughout the years - 'The Water', 'The Great Nothing', 'World Without End', 'The Conflict', or 'Into the Blue', just to name a few.

 NMB: Innocence & Danger by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.88 | 139 ratings

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NMB: Innocence & Danger
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by revrandy55

4 stars This is my first ever review.....hope it helps you when considering this recording. Well, it all started years ago when a friend told me about Neal Morse's first "Testimony" CD. Well, that's not exactly true. Back in the late 60's and 70's I LOVED the classic prog of Genesis, ELP, Pink Floyd, Yes, Renaissance, Moody Blues, King Crimson, etc. but I got so sidetracked with all sorts of other great rock n' roll that I lost sight of 'other' prog (other than the aforementioned 'classic prog' bands continued output). THEN I was told about "Testimony". I loved it, which then opened the door to Spock's Beard (purchased them all!), and then Flower Kings, IQ, Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson, Pineapple Thief, Dream Theater, Riverside, Hawkwind, Iona, Marillion and on and on it went!

So, loving Spock's Beard and Neal (and it helped that I was a Christian minister) I started buying everything that Neal produced. Gosh, talk about prolific!!! Solo stuff, NMB, Flying Colors, Transatlantic, Covers....how does he do it? And it's just not just a regurgitation of cookie cutter prog - it's powerful and melodic stuff. I will admit that at times some of the longer tunes get redundant, but over all, it's just good prog.

Then came "Innocence and Danger"....I thought I knew what to expect, but was truly blown away about every single song. I'm not a music 'expert' that can talk about the technical aspects of the construction of a song, so you won't get that kind of analysis from me....I'm just hear to tell you that I have listened to this recording - from beginning to end - constantly- and I haven't grown tired of it yet. The melodies are memorable; musicianship is superb; and the one thing that Neal et al do amazingly well - are cover songs! I wondered what they would do with "Bridge Over Troubled Water", and I was pleasantly surprised at how powerful their version was. I just wish they would now cover two Moody songs (Neal likes the Moody Blues) that I believe "need"to be redone - "Steppin' In A Slide Zone" and "Gemini Dream". Both songs need some real "umph" - some powerful, loud bass, keyboards and drums - like the Doors "Hello I Love You" and Genesis' "Abacab". Please Neal - redo these!! I digress....

Articles that I've read about "Innocence and Danger" have all mentioned: 1. This album was a collaborative efforts by all band members; and 2. Consists of individual songs without a general over-riding theme. Although I enjoy Neal's thematic albums, I think that for these two reasons this album is above and beyond all other efforts. Every song can stand alone as great works, especially (in my opinion) "Another Story to Tell", "Emergence", and Not Afraid, Part 1 (best track on the album). Each of the songs on the first disc are shorter, but still good average 'prog' length, but then you come to disc two, which contain two EPIC prog songs: "Not Afraid, Part 2" (clocking in at 19:30 in length) and "Beyond the Years" (31:29!!!). I had some initial doubts about a thirty-one minute song, but boy, was I proven wrong!! It is fresh and exciting from beginning to end.

Please, if you have a hard time with Neal's Christian views (but then, few seem to have a problem with other prog bands singing all about fairies, aliens, voodoo, magic, and other esoteric and philosophical topics...why do they only avoid the 'Christian' themed songs? Please, please, please don't allow that to keep you from this album - it is truly a masterpiece of 21st-century prog. Just listen....I believe you will be persuaded....it's "that" good!

 Sola Gratia by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.90 | 130 ratings

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Sola Gratia
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by Flucktrot
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I almost thought of this as a 5-star...I really did! First off, it's not really a great sequel (prequel?) to Sola Scriptura, in that when Sola melodies are introduced, they do seem a bit forced, and they are largely limited to interludes. Having said that, this album--to me--represents a milestone in terms of comparing where Neal was 15 years ago to where he is now. Back them, he was hungry with the spirit, driving very creative and energetic writing. Now, he may still be as hungry with the spirit, but the tenor has changed, at least to my ears. Rather than browbeating the world into seeing his light, he is more accepting and understanding. The goal is still to lift glory to God, but the method seems different.

Thematic storytelling in music is risky. Rick Wakeman's versions? No thanks. Neal's story of Saul's conversion from Christian slaughterer to Jesus disciple? It took me over a year, but I will give that a try...

...and thank goodness I did! Fans will expect a reprise of Sola, but what we get to my ears is a great combination of early solo Neal (dainty melodies from Testimony and ...Nother Trip) and the more recent JC Exorcist (featuring choirs and roots/thumping tunes) that genuinely take me back in time. I'd also like to discuss Neal's voice. What used to be a softer register tone that could amp up for climactic moments has become the opposite: a very rough experience at low volumes that becomes an absolute assault rifle when cranked up. Being able to pierce through metal-based music isn't just something you can practice. You can't predict how your voice will age, but you can adjust based on the passage of time, and I think Neal has provided an exceptional example of how to do that effectively.

To me, what Neal has accomplished here is nothing short of astounding. It really hit me at my first Morsefest. He has had incredible ideas throughout his professional life, but the mechanics of bringing them to life have been difficult. Now he has a mini choir, and mini orchestra, ready to record, not only as session musicians, but as believers in the cause, and the result clearly comes through on the albums. No one is cashing a check...the passion is there, and believer or not, that makes a difference in the music, and amazingly that edge is still there in this album. I did not think Neal could deliver and album like this, in these circumstances, but he freaking did, and I will treasure it forever.

 NMB: Innocence & Danger by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.88 | 139 ratings

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NMB: Innocence & Danger
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by Flucktrot
Prog Reviewer

4 stars They honestly got me again. I was hoping for potentially a third part to the Similitude/Adventure saga, and when I heard about the Innocence and Danger concept, I really didn't think they could possibly have enough material for a legit double album. Then I read that Neal was not the driving force for writing, and that Bill had brought the most material. No doubt that Bill is an essential part of NMB, but my lasting impression of his contributions was the 15 minutes of the (in my opinion) twee melody that was the majority of Alive Again. That's a personal preference, sure, but I can't deny that it didn't shape my expectations.

Well, there are surely some funky, Supertramp inspired melodies, which largely work, but there are also some powerful chord progressions that really represent some highlights for me, so congratulations to Bill for his contributions, and to the band for making them largely work in terms of building a theme without relying on repeated melodies to heavily. I wouldn't say that there is some great step forward for this band, but they are clearly still innovating, and the result is more compelling music that gets wormed into my head, in the best of ways, largely without the filler and repetition that can mar other similar efforts.

I normally do a highlights and lowlights section, but for this album, there are no real lowlights to my ears, and the highlights are memorable, but perhaps not as much as previous NMB albums, so I'll focus on the individual performances. (Also, seeing many of these pieces performed at Morsefest 2021 has had a positive influence on my impressions...I should probably know not to do this for any album, but in particular NMB has publicly released a lot of this material online, and you can't fully appreciate it until you can really feel it on something other than computer speakers, so please keep that in mind: it really makes a difference).

Neal really brings it on this album, both in terms of pushing himself on keys and guitar. My first impression on parts of Beyond the Years was that he was pushing a bit too much vocally and sounded flat, but I have been less bothered by that on repeated listens. Eric seems to be cautious when going beyond what he does best, and while his playing seems a bit (but not entirely) the same (lots of clean wails and shredding, back and forth), he does push himself a bit more vocally at cathartic moments, to entirely positive effect. Bill deserves much credit for many of the musical ideas on the album, although I think he's a bit limited vocally in terms of either harmony (which works very well) or solos, which few words and slow phrasing, which can slow momentum in places. Mike and Randy are top notch throughout, as always, and do get their spots to shine, which of course plays best live, although there's otherwise nothing terribly innovative to my ears.

Look, I'm an unabashed Neal fan, so take my thoughts for what they are worth, but this is a mix of mostly very good pop-prog and symphonic prog. It's not trying to pretend to be anything else, and who doesn't appreciate when some of the pretentiousness is taken out of the prog experience? Given all that Neal has been doing in the last couple of years, it's impressive that NMB has it's own sound, as does his solo output, as does Transatlantic...that is not easy to do!

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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