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Neal Morse - Lifeline CD (album) cover


Neal Morse


Symphonic Prog

3.13 | 284 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
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.

Gerinski | 2/5 |


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