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Neal Morse - Testimony Two - Live In Los Angeles CD (album) cover


Neal Morse


Symphonic Prog

4.41 | 79 ratings

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Symphonic Team
5 stars The complete testimony of Neal Morse is a life changing experience.

It is not often that at the end of listening to an album that one feels a sense of emotional cleansing. It is also not often that after the album ends one simply sits in the silence with tears knowing that they have just heard something so special that it transcends music. With Neal Morse's "Testimony 2 - Live In Los Angeles" there is no doubt that this is one of the most moving experiences put to music. Neal pours out his heart in a 3 hour spectacular live performance with some of his finest compositions and some of the best musicianship on the planet.

To join him on his magnum opus is the incomparable Mike Portnoy who has a field day drumming to his best capacity, along with bassist Randy George who also plays keyboards. On the guitar performing terrific lead breaks is Eric Brenton who is also dynamic on violin, flute, pedal, steel guitar, and mandolin. Also as part of the string section is electric celloist John Krovosa. Joining Neal are keyboardists Bert Baldwin, and Rick Altizer, also playing guitar and percussion. Mark Leniger plays percussion and is particularly wonderful on saxophone. The concert was recorded at the Whittier Theater, Los Angeles, California, May 28th, 2011 and indeed is one of the more memorable concerts of late. The DVD shows the band as a unified force with some very nice parts where the band join with Spock's Beard via a video screen of the band performing at High Voltage Festival. It is a terrific moment when Neal says"Ladies and gentlemen.. Spock's Beard!" The lighting of the show is similar to Testimony 1 DVD, no frills basic colours and very little large screen interference. There are split screens at times to show parts of the stage in real time, and occasionally the screen has some colour effects. Neal raises his hands often in adoration to God, the members muck around and have fun, Portnoy often stands up and brings the crowd to their feet, and the crowd themselves are genuinely enjoying every moment as they are witness to one epic performance after another.

Every song is played like an epic, with lengthy solos and majestic music that will send chills down your spine. The music is the important thing and Neal never comes across as egotistical, allowing other members of the band to shine. Neal is a humble performer but so talented and it is a joy to watch the band interact together, especially to see Mike Portnoy after his departure with Dream Theater. He is quite an enigmatic performer and genuinely is having a good time, having a joke here and there with the crowd, who enthusiastically rise to their feet in standing ovations at certain parts of the show. The special features of the double DVD consist of a 90 minute documentary: a fascinating and humorous look behind the scenes of the Testimony 2 tour, that is a detailed look at how the band spend their time on the road, with lots of laughs and some tears, but most importantly for Spock's Beard fans, we see the incredible reunion at the High Voltage festival in London, when he sung with them including 'June' from "Kindness of Strangers", and what an emotional time it was for all.

The music itself is captured on 3 CDs and consists of high quality musicianship with Neal sounding clear and enthusiastic as he performs one incredible song after another, capturing his oeuvre of musical proficiency. There are many moments of instrumental virtuosity where the musicians are allowed to launch into lengthy solos and powerful melodies. Parts of Testimony 1 are played and an edited form of "Sola Scriptura" that Neal introduces to an enthusiastic response. There is a break in between concerts and the second part is the entire "Testimony 2" set played live which is as good if not better than the studio version. There are small surprises with songs thrown in unexpectedly.

One of the most inspirational moments is when Neal states that he had missed a large part of his testimony before, involving his daughter Jayda who was tragically born with a hole in her heart. The crowd are very subdued as Neal explains how the doctors believed she would not make it through. Neal fights back tears as he explains that he endured one of the most painful times of his life with his wife as they saw their daughter in pain. With faith and prayer Jayda did make it through and he praised God for the miracle. The crowd clap respectfully that it was a happy ending, but then the song dedicated to his daughter is so moving it brought a tear to my eye. The lyrics are poignant; "My wife laid our baby at heaven's gate, And gave her heart... in trade, Crying Jayda, Lord make her whole, But Jayda, Your mommy knows she has to let you go". It is a beautiful moment and obviously touched the crowd at the Whittier Theater. It especially seemed to move Neal as he relives the trauma of the prospect of losing a daughter and then the elation when she was healed. Neal gets very personal about certain parts of his journey coming to God, and he also knows how to inject the right amount of humour at appropriate times. It is quite humorous when the band invite the audience to sing with them in 'Make Us One'. They all sing "one heart, one mind, we worship with one spirit." Then Portnoy can't help but chip in with, "Ok all the Prog ladies now, are their prog ladies?" Then we hear the ladies begin to sing and he says "You are here!" The crowd laugh loudly as he says, "they do exist!" There is a terrific overall feel of joy and celebration as the crowd are given chances to participate in these segments. Neal also has a bit of fun with a cover of The Door's "Roadhouse Blues" with the crowd yelling out certain well-known phrases of The Doors' seminal classic.

Some of the highlights, though there are so many, include 'Leviathan', the brilliant 'Sola Scriptura' 'Lifeline' featuring Neal's sensational keyboard solo, 'Reunion' with Spock's Beard, and the 30 minute epic tour de force 'Seeds of Gold' that is a showstopping triumph finishing with an ovation. The version of all songs from the 'Testimony' albums are powerful and resonate strongly with me; the lyrics especially move me deeply. I can listen to this when I am feeling down and it will bring me up immediately, and I can listen to this when I am in a good mood and the music will feed my positive outlook on life. This is the best concert of Neal Morse because it encompasses his whole testimony, rather than just a segment, and with 3 hours of solid progressive rock it is an irresistible journey to embark on.

I believe the music will take you on a personal journey depending on where you come from; regardless of your beliefs I truly think this will speak to many listeners on a range of levels. The music is uplifting and soaring, the lyrics are powerfully compelling and moving and the visual images on the DVDs are truly inspiring, watching a band unified and enjoying their music to such an extreme. The amazing thing about this package is it delivers so much. While there are albums coming out these days running for less than an hour, here Morse is offering hours and hours of top quality music; visually and aurally this is a prog rock feast.

In conclusion, this album is a treasure chest of gems and really took me by surprise. I expected top quality performaces as I already own "Testimony Live" DVD and other CDs of Neal Morse's work, but the really astonishing thing about this CD/DVD package is how powerful an effect it had on my emotions. I really feel like I know Morse as a friend now, and he has opened up his life in a way that is rarely seen in the rock industry. It is clear that Neal has made his life an open book in order that you and I may see how a life can be turned around and how modern day miracles still occur. He uses the painful experiences of his life as didactic lessons that we can all benefit from. Immediately after the first listen I knew this was a masterpiece but it also grows on you and you remember the melodies and the emotions. Returning to this album on subsequent listens is truly edifying, like returning to an old friend. Thank you, Neal, for your musical passion, your lyrical honesty and your incredible testimony.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |


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