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Neal Morse - Jesus Christ The Exorcist CD (album) cover


Neal Morse


Symphonic Prog

3.75 | 137 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
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.

Flucktrot | 4/5 |


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