Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography


Neal Morse

Symphonic Prog

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Neal Morse Testimony album cover
4.05 | 512 ratings | 54 reviews | 39% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

Write a review

from partners
Studio Album, released in 2003

Songs / Tracks Listing

CD 1 (72:42)
- Part 1:
1. The Land of Beginning Again (3:10)
2. Overture No. 1 (5:58)
3. California Nights (5:46)
4. Colder in the Sun (6:20)
5. Sleeping Jesus (5:32)
6. Interlude (1:56)
7. The Prince of the Power of the Air (2:43)
8. The Promise (2:52)
9. Wasted Life (6:50)
- Part 2:
10. Overture No. 2 (2:31)
11. Break of Day (6:55)
12. Power in the Air (5:03)
13. Somber Days (5:06)
14. Long Story (5:35)
15. It's All I Can Do (6:25)

CD 2 (50:56)
- Part 3:
16. Transformation (3:00)
17. Ready to Cry (4:17)
18. Sing It High (4:48)
- Part 4:
19. Moving in My Heart (3:06)
20. I Am Willing (6:28)
21. In the Middle (2:27)
22. The Storm Before the Calm (7:31)
23. Oh, to Feel Him (6:17)
24. God's Theme (2:31)
- Part 5:
25. Overture No. 3 (1:05)
26. Rejoice (2:28)
27. Oh Lord My God (3:54)
28. God's Theme 2 (2:10)
29. The Land of Beginning Again (0:54)

Total Time 123:38

Bonus CD from 2003 SE:
1. The Fang... Sings! (0:18)
2. Tuesday Afternoon / Find My Way Back Home (13:21)

Total Time 13:39

Line-up / Musicians

- Neal Morse / vocals, guitar, synth, piano, organ, producer

- Johnny Cox / pedal steel guitar
- Kerry Livgren / guitar solo (14)
- Eric Brenton / violin, viola, flute
- Chris Carmichael / violin, viola, cello, string arranger
- David Henry / cello
- Mark Leginer / saxophone solo (22)
- Jim Hoke / saxophone
- Neil Rosengarden / trumpet
- Katie Hagen / French horn
- Byron House / string bass
- Mike Portnoy / drums, vocals
- Glenn Caruba / percussion
- Pamela Ward / backing vocals
- Aaron Marshall / backing vocals
- Rick Altizer / backing vocals
- Terry White / backing vocals (23,26)
- Gene Miller / backing vocals (23,26)
- Jerry Guidroz / sampling, handclaps

Releases information

Artwork: Thomas Ewerhard

2CD Metal Blade Records ‎- 3984-14451-2 (2003, US)
2CD Inside Out Music ‎- IOMCD 139 (2003, Germany)
3CD Inside Out Music ‎- IOMSECD 139 (2003, Europe) Bonus CD with 2 tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy NEAL MORSE Testimony Music

NEAL MORSE Testimony ratings distribution

(512 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(39%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(38%)
Good, but non-essential (13%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

NEAL MORSE Testimony reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by lucas
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I entirely agree with Andy Welsh. Unlike Spock's Beard last album and Neal Morse's previous records, this album ranks among the best records ever recorded since the revival of the progressive movement in the nineties. It is very close to 'Snow' and ingredients specific to Spock's Beard are here : beautiful vocals, pop sections, a latino section and symphonical parts (but no canon à la gentle giant this time). This is a concept album that will appeal to all fans of Spock's Beard featuring Neal Morse.
Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars Hear the word

What a terrific album. Morse's well publicised simultaneous departure from Spock's Beard and Transatlantic due to his religious awakening had many fearing the worst for both those bands, and for Morse himself. While Transatlantic appear to sadly now be defunct, it's good to see that Spock's Beard have found a new lease of life without their main man.

As for Morse, he uses this his first solo album since going solo (but not his first solo album if you follow me!) to bear his soul (literally) over a double CD. The lyrics are clearly very personal, and written from the heart. The music however has been the subject of no less effort, and that's what makes this album so damn good.

Whether or not you have the slightest interest in Morse's rebirth is as irrelevant as it was when Rick Wakeman decided you wanted to learn about "The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the round table". At the end of the day, it's whether you like what you hear that matters. Yes, at times Morse can appear to preach a bit, such as on "Sing it high", but above all this is a fine prog album. The melodies are stronger and more diverse than when he was with Spock's Beard and there are plenty of superb instrumental breaks. Morse's singing, which can at times be weak, is about as tuneful as he has ever got.

While a host of musicians support him this is very much a solo album, with the other musicians performing backing duties.

This album will be a challenge for many, Morse does not attempt in anyway to disguise the subject matter, quite the opposite in fact. It is therefore incumbent upon the listener to set aside any personal prejudices, and hear it for what it is, quite simply an essential prog rock album.

Review by Clayreon
5 stars I honestly thought that after hearing the news in October 2002, that Neal MORSE of SPOCK'S BEARD had left, that it was the end of the band or, at least, their music would be much worse.

But after "Feel Euphoria" appeared in June of this year, it gradually became obvious that SPOCK'S BEARD was capable of continuing to make good music without their former front man.

I also thought that we wouldn't be able to expect any more prog-music from MORSE until "God" had converted. But nothing is less true. From a musical point of view, "Testimony" is the best album ever (until now) that Neal has made. Of course, the lyrics are mainly about Jesus, God and the discovery of "the divine way", but I'll be happy to accept that as the only "negative" point. One guy can sing about "The Love of Satan" and another can sing about "God", but what does it matter as long as the music is good? And believe me, this is good!!!

It was obvious that there was a change in the state of mind of Neal MORSE on the "Snow" (8/2002) album. We had thought that it was there that he had given the best of himself. The split of Neal and SPOCK'S BEARD was even suggested on the album cover, like our reviewer (Piet), had also noticed long before it was even common knowledge. How long had he been playing with the thought? Did the figure on the cover of "V" (out in 2000) know in which direction he was going (at least it did seem that he knew) even though he was going through a desert? And who has ever found himself in a desert? Maybe I'm stretching it a bit too far here, but still it's a brain teaser.

Weren't you satisfied with "Feel Euphoria"? The opinions over that album are divided. Did you miss the contribution of Neal MORSE, who lifted SPOCK'S BEARD to that higher level? Well, this is generously compensated on his solo album. This is just SPOCK'S BEARD, but without the name. Now we can assume that we're talking about two different bands, like at the time that FISH left MARILLION. The difference is that FISH really couldn't reach the same level of quality as before. Then, after a few albums, MARILLION ended up going in a completely different direction. Neal just continues where "Snow" stopped. Again, this is a double concept album.

It's the known complex compositions, orchestral parts and the harmonized singing that are so typical of SPOCK'S BEARD.

But there's more. On "Testimony", you definitely hear a relaxed Neal MORSE. This is noticeably obvious, especially on CD 2, quieter songs with fabulous arrangements. The grand piano sounds like it has never sounded before and the guitar pieces on this album are so beautiful with even more divinely sounding solos (like on the last part of the forgotten, and almost never live-played, but oh so beautiful first album, "The Water"). It's all a lot less exciting, therefore calmer. I'm not saying that there are no songs with balls. On the contrary, it's just a beautifully balanced CD. Even more, the drummer, Mike Portnoy (DREAM THEATER) gives his own input. And together with guest musician Kerry Livgren (KANSAS) ("Interlude", "Break of Day"), you can understand why this CD was so carefully composed.

What I need to say about the promo version isn't going to be easy. Somewhere, in every song, there was an interruption that lasted a few seconds (probably as a protection against illegal copying). This makes it distressing and incredibly bothersome. I really hope that this is a one time experiment that won't be repeated in the future. Besides, it doesn't offer any solution for the problem because any one who has a bit of technical experience can easily solve this "defect".

Starting with the first song, "The Land of Beginning Again", it seems that Neal's voice has progressed and that the instrumental "Overture No. 1" marks the start of setting forth the SPOCK'S BEARD tradition. It starts with orchestral pieces and continue with the typical and unique BEARD sound, a real masterpiece. The big difference here with SPOCK'S BEARD is that all the violins, arranged and directed by Chris Carmichael, the trumpets and the choir are real, replacing the use of synthesizers. And you can hear that. On the whole, that gives a much bigger dimension. All the songs are top quality, no exceptions. The everyday prog-lover is just going to feel pampered. Some songs, with those Spanish guitars, tend to lean towards the very first SPOCK'S BEARD CD ("Sleeping Jesus" and "The Promise"). There is no lack of those recognisable harmonious or multiple vocals. The difference with the first albums is that different themes now occur in separate songs whereas before they were processed in larger songs. It's easier to separate them, but actually, it's just one song because they all flow into each other, just like on "Snow".

In summary, it comes down to this: all resources have been exhausted in order to surpass all the former albums. In essence, Neal MORSE has passed with flying colours. Actually, the only question that remains is why he left SPOCK'S BEARD. And I don't think that any other member of the band would have objected to having made this album with him. Therefore it must be something else. but what? I've already listened to several different demos from Neal MORSE with his so called basic ideas, and have found that they were produced down to the very last detail. I wonder what input the other musicians could possibly have had. Neal is just an all-around pure bred musician who needs no one in order to do his thing and he has proven it here to this "witness"! Most people can, in the best of circumstances, repeat themselves, but it's the very few who are able to surpass themselves. Apparently, this man has no problem with that. Super fantastic CD!!!

>>> Review by: Jany (9,5/10) Translated by Jennifer Summer<<<

Review by diddy
2 stars Well, now I will go against the general stream because I have several problems with this release. Neal Morse left Spock's Beard and Transatlantic because he made a major, evocative exprerience which changed his life completely. That's something you have to respect. The difficulty is, that this experience is a religious one. Thus it is, so to speak, intersubjectively not accessible. Neal Morse fails because his subjective, individual experience is, to an extremely high degree, ineffable. Songs like "Oh lord my God" or "(God take me) I'm willing" may mean endlessly much to him but the individual meaning of the lyrics stays barred for all others. At best, Morse could have tried to explain how much it means to him, but the intention to explain WHAT it means to him is foredoomed and leads to banality. Parts of which Morse says they bring him to tears are supremely banal for the listener. That's what I blame Neal Morse for.

But also the music suffers. Testimony provides a lot of cheesy pop songs. It shows that there is a difference between Neal Morse music and Spock's Beard's prog rock. And I don't think that Neal Morse made the (quasi-) better Spock's Beard album. The prog elements unique to the so called "Overtures", "Colder in the Sun" and some bridge passages. There's nothing of it integrated in the songs.and that's what accounts for "Beware of Darkness" and other Spock's Beard albums. The sample Mp3 "Colder in the sun" really draws a misleadingly positive pattern. The song features everything I'm missing on the remain of the album and thus is everything but representative.

So that's my humble opinion, different from others but what can I do. Important is that Testimony has nothing to do with Spock's Beard and that it is, at least for me, lyrically banal. Many reviewers said that the lyrical content isn't as bad as they expected, but what did they expect then? So two stars for "Colder in the sun", the "Overtures" and some short parts in between. My personal recommendation: Stay away from it unless you have a fondness for "Jesus loves you records".

Review by Muzikman
5 stars Neal MORSE has put together his "Testimony" for the world to hear. You will know Mr. Morse by the time you are through listening to this new two CD set. This is a very ambitious project and in more ways than I could possibly count. First and foremost is Neal's belief in Jesus and his teachings, this subject is the focus of this recording. Most important is how this belief system has affected his life and the current transformation he is going through. There will be music fans that will not appreciate or understand his viewpoint and surely many of the SPOCK'S BEARD faithful will shrug their shoulders and not take a serious look at this music for what it is worth. That group will be few in comparison to the people that will enjoy this recording. Quite simply this is some of the best progressive/symphonic rock music that you will hear this year. Look at the credits you will notice some names.

With two discs packed with music you would think that there would be at least one dinger, a throw away tune, it does not happen. Every track is symbolic of not only a personal belief system of the artist . it is in fact an abundant musical statement that begs for your attention. Not once did I become complacent or bored listening to any of this music. The variety offered is magnificent and it maintains a strong semblance of consistency without ever losing an ounce of positive energy. If MORSE's intention was to captivate his audience and offer quality musicianship with a variety of styles, he has hit the mark.

Neal took the time to send this CD set to me personally and I thank him for that. I really appreciated his vision and musical statement. I am glad that the road he took led him to happiness and the truth. The reason that this project is his best work is because it comes straight from the heart without any misgivings or pretentiousness, you know that this is the real deal, all Neal MORSE.

The combination of guitars, keyboards, orchestrations and great vocals makes for a classic prog-rock album that should receive generous and positive reviews worldwide. If you happen to read something to the contrary, I could only attribute it to sour grapes because he suddenly left one of the most successful recording bands, leaving people stunned and disappointed. My advice is . get over it; this man is the epitome of courage and his voice rings true and proud. The icing on the cake is that the music is incredibly good. It does indeed support his newfound direction in life and we all should be glad he wants to share it with us.

Review by maani
4 stars There is very little I can add to all the wonderfully written and spot-on 5-star reviews - except for the fact that this is not a 5-star album. Not to say it isn't great - it is. But on the same level as In The Court, Selling England, Close to the Edge, Thick as a Brick and Dark Side? I think not.

Rather, it is an exceptional first solo album from someone who has proven himself among the most creative, expressive progressive songwriters currently making music. It is a tour- de-force "concept" album (if conversion is considered a concept...), with superb arrangements and tremendous musicianship all around. It contains equal amounts of prog- pop songs with heart-felt lyrics and deep-prog instrumental sections full of shifting time signatures, symphonic elements, and some of Morse's absolutely best guitar work.

That Morse was able to take his very personal conversion and create such a fantastic album is a testament (...) to just how talented - and, quite literally, "inspired" - he is. As an aside, if "I Am Willing" doesn't make even the most hard-core atheist's spine tingle (if not outright convert them...), then they are already dead.

This is one for the record books: the first true, unarguable Christian prog album. And it has set the bar so high that maybe only God can reach it...

Review by Zitro
3 stars 3.6 stars

Testimony is a pretty good and heartfelt album dealing with Morse´s personal life before and after he found God.

Why is Testimony good?

1_ First of all, Neal Morse poured his heart into it. This is a very important theme to him. This is not only his life, but also his life when accepting God. This helps the music: the melodies are memorable, and the music is very beautiful.

2_The album has variety. You can hear songs ranging from classical music to progressive rock to country to ballads. There are many different genres of music fused together to form this musical journey.

3_The band is filled with excellent musicians. Even Dream Theater's Portnoy is here!!

The Lyrics: I won't spoil them.

The Music :

Disc I begins with a ballad that will later be revisited at the end of the album. Then, the first Overture amazes the listener. It is a very tight progressive rock song that is made even more powerful with a small orchestra. This overture introduces many themes later heard in the album including the symphonic groove that will repeat itself in Colder In The Sun. California Nights is a more straight-forward rock/pop song, that introduces some other later themes. It is probably a bit too long maybe. The song ends with a majestic symphonic outro that leads to a very important song of the album called Colder In The Sun. Musically, this song recalls Spock's Beard, divided into many different sections. The melodies are strong, the synth lines are aggressive, the acapella vocal harmonies are among Neal´s finest vocal performances, and the Symphonic groove from the overture is played again with the same synth solo. Sleeping Jesus is another powerful track that relies on its melodies, which give plenty of space for background instrumentation. The acoustic guitar riff is very good, and the buildup is highly emotional. After such overwhelming emotion, the band plays a nice jam (Interlude) that leads into a good song "The Prince" with a distorted guitar riff. The Promise begins with a highly catchy vocal hook and leads into an acoustic guitar solo that is later followed by mellow melodies and the riff found in the Interlude. Very tight song! Wasted Life is a moderately long emotional ballad. Overture II is as amazing as the first one with symphonic arrangements and a brilliant electric guitar solo. In Break Of Day, Neal uses his talents in making vocal harmonies with his own voice. This song also contains an unusual prog moment at the end. Power In The Air is important to the plot but not musically. It just plays again the themes of the Overture I and Colder in the Sun. Somber Days is a mellow tune with good melodies as always, but it doesn't touch me as much as songs like 'Sleeping Jesus'. Again, this song ends in an unusual way. Long Story is a typical good song from Neal, and the last song from the first disc is a very powerful track emotionally and musically. This mellow tune contains the vocal hook "This is all I can do" and the musical explosion at the middle of the track. The song ends with a mighty chord.

Disc II is almost as strong as the first Disc. Neal proves that he can make an album consistent in quality even with over 2 hours of music. Transformation is like an overture, thanks to the energetic symphonic arrangements. Ready To Try is more positive than the musical mood of the first disc. Sing it High is even happier with its western flavor, acoustic arrangements, joyful lyrics, and Neal enjoying himself with an acoustic guitar solo that is very memorable. Moving In My Heart is like 'Power In The Air' .. it doesn't bring anything new, but the next song redeems it. I am Willing is one of the album's finest moments, featuring solid melodies, emotional singing and a perfect electric guitar solo in which every note seems to have a meaning. In The Middle is a piano solo followed by a very short prog/pop tune. The Storm Before The Calm may be the musical climax of the disc. Beginning with a latin piano solo, it leads into a track with a very loose structure which lets itself remind the listeners to the themes of the album. Unlike the two tracks I have criticized for bringing back themes, this song differs by the fact that it brings back the old themes in short moments instead of whole verses/choruses. The next tracks are like a bunch of worship songs. Oh To feel Him is an emotional ballad-like one. God's Theme is an excellent short instrumental and one of the best songs dedicated to God I have heard up to now. Its main melody is among the best Neal has written, and the electric guitar soloing during the song is fabulous. Rejoice is a happy track that unfortunately is the weakest of this section of the disc: quite irritating to me. However, Oh Lord My God is cool! I want to hear this song in a church. It is a number that begins with great chord progressions and leads to a great rock and roll song. The instrumental break in the middle is worthy to mention too. The God's Theme is played back again and I would criticize it for repeating itself, but it is too beautiful to ignore it and the arrangements are different. Finally, the song ends with the same melodies as the first song in the album.

So, there you have it : A very well done concept Album that is likeable at first listen and stays with you. It can't be ignored, especially in Christian music. This obscure album is outstanding. It is a shame it sold so little. It has one weakness tho: it's reliance on verse/chorus for most songs in such a long disc make it a bit tiring sometimes, especially for the first songs.

PS : I am agnostic, so I don't necessarily believe in God. However, Neal Morse is not trying to convert you. He is just telling his story. Give him credit for that. If Yes' lyrics do not bother you (they are strange, sometimes embarrassing, and yes : religious/spiritual), why would this album do so?

My Grade : B-

Review by E-Dub
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The first Neal Morse solo disc that I ever picked up...and what a great way to start. From beginning to end I was enraptured by Testimony: a disc that chronicles Neal's troubled life through to his delivery to the Christian faith.

Disc one essentially follows Neal's struggles from his early days as a musician and battling his demons. Anchored by drummer Mike Portnoy and bassist Randy George, we're launched into "Overture No. 1", and it really smokes--a truly progressive instrumental with raw energy and unyielding power. "California Nights" is a bit on the light side lyrically, but one really gets a sense of Neal wanting to express what he was going through at the time. Like I said, "California Nights" is a bit sketchy, but that's the only downside. Kansas' Kerry Livgren (and fellow Christian) even lends a hand on lead guitar on "Long Story". Disc 1 comes to a close with "It's All I Can Do", which is a somber, dark song bordering on the fragile. Accompanied by a quiet drum machine, Morse is teetering on a complete breakdown and questioning why God isn't with him during his most desperate times of need. The answer lies on disc 2.

As powerful as disc 1 is, disc 2 is probably even more powerful. It's on disc 2 that Neal is conflicted between what he knows is right, but just can't give in to God. By this time he's met his wife and they begin attending church, but it's this time where we see a change in the music that is actually a breath of fresh air. Entitled "Sing It High", it's a fast paced acoustic track that just bounces and lifts the spirit. Much like his life at that time, however, the good time doesn't last. So embroiled with his inner demons, Morse slips back and is having a hard time between his heart and his mind. "The Calm Before The Storm" is a turning point, and it expresses through music the turbulence Morse must've been experiencing. Over 7 1/2 minutes, it goes at such a furious pace and is simply amazing to listen to...and a highlight of the 2 disc set.

As "Calm Before The Storm" comes to a close, Morse's giving his life to God is close...and he surrenders all in "Oh, To Feel Him". Absolutely stunning is this song and it just about brings me to tears every time. Especially during the section where he "says goodbye to the past, and walks into the Kingdom". Pure magic and I get goosebumps every time. It's one of those rare moments where a song can be life altering for the listener.

Part 5 is pure celebration and basking in God. "Rejoice" just lifts the spirit with Neal's voice literally lifting towards heaven. Part 5 is the shortest section of all, but he packs nothing but joy in this short amount of time. It's all been leading up to this moment of not only giving his life to God, but being so full of the spirit and having all those years of pain and suffering releasing and yielding to the love of God. Testimony ends as it began with the answer Neal was seeking the wish of a land where all is forgiven unconditionally. Neal has finally found the answer to it all.

Testimony is simply one of my favorite discs of all time. I was considering giving it a 4 star rating simply because of some of the lyrics in certain spots. Then again, this is autobiographical, so it's possible he's simply telling the story without feeling the need to flower it up. He's a bit more comfortable, which is evident in One and ?, but Testimony is a great first edition in his spiritual journey. Just a phenomenal disc and highly recommended. Is it possible to give 8 stars?

Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Rebirth, Reformation, Transformation

After Spock's Beard's release and subsequent live outings of their two disc concept album Snow, chief composer and frontman for the group Neal Morse left the group for personal reasons. In that time, he found Jesus as some would say. Testimony, his first solo album after leaving Spock's Beard, is essentially an autobiographical tale about his journey to becoming religiously reformed again. In the process, Morse seems to throw in every possible cliche he's ever written about and weaved them together wonderfully with lush and vibrant music with the help of two of his main collaborators, Mike Portnoy and Randy George.

Throughout the two discs of a man pouring his soul out and telling his story so that everyone can understand how he feels, there are a lot of varying moods, but they all have that Neal Morse touch and flare that makes his music immediately identifiable. Tracks like Overture No. 1 reveal his rocking nature, filled to the brim with symphonic overtones and superbly crafted melodies. Like many Neal Morse tracks to come, there is some reference to the sun. In this case, there's Colder in the Sun, a song that at its core is about Neal becoming discontent with life in California. Songs like Sleeping Jesus and The Land of Beginning Again so his soft, acoustic nature that are improved upon on the song The Man is Gone on his next album, One.

I can't say that there is a specific part of the album I like the most, as the entire thing works superbly as a whole. However, that being said, the tracks in Part 1 seem to have the most appeal to me. To add to that, the entire second disc of this album is one of Neal's most inspired and heartfelt moments in his career, you can hear the man pour his soul onto every vocal, every riff, and every solo. Guest guitarist Kerry Livgren (Kansas) also shows some great chops with his solo on the song Long Story at the end of the first disc.

The album isn't without its faults, though. One can easily notice the cliches within Neal Morse's writing, and sometimes it may seem somewhat derivative of his previous works. Also, this album may come as a bit preachy to some, although to others this album really speaks to them. In conclusion, I find that this album is an excellent debut for Neal is his works as a deeply religious musician paying respect to the thing that seemed to help him through his darkest hour. Fans of Spock's Beard will enjoy this work, as it has most of the same characteristics of a Beard album. That said, fans of symphonic progressive rock can also find much to like with this magnificently crafted work. Recommended highly.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A concept album with grandiose design .

I was not really "into" Spock's Beard music when Neal Morse was there for reason that was not logical at all. Basically I did not like how the music of Spock's Beard flow from one segment to another as it did not sound natural to my ears and my mind. I was also aware that Neal's voice was not bad at all but I did not really favor the way he sung therefore I did not really admire the band's early albums. After Neal Morse left the band, I started liking the Spock's Beard's music especially when "Octane" was released. The band was in limbo to strive for new frontman and composer but they were okay with their life without Neal.

As for Neal's solo I did not really expect that he was going to release an album as I understood from some friends that Neal would focus his life on religion activities. This album shocked the prog world at that time or at least right here in my country. Most of my friends who admire Neal's tenure with The Beard were surprised and very happy with the release of this album. I was not interested at all to buy this CD even though most of them told me that it's worth owning this album. Having owned "One" and "?" albums which both sound good to me, it's kind of weird of not having this "Testimony" album. But I'm quite reluctant with the double CD for merely listening to Neal's music and voice. It's gonna be boring, I think. Finally, I purchased it anyway. The first time I spun the CD, it did not attract me but it grew with number of spins. Most of the time, I get bored with the first CD and not willing to continue with CD 2. I still got trouble with the flow of the music which sounds to me like being forced like this way.

Why Liking this Album?

Storyline. I believe some people adore an album with strong storyline, which is the case with Neal's "Testimony". As a person who believes in God, I always admire people who can make a music with orientation towards God and how human being behave in their relation to God and other lives. For this, I don't need to talk about prog or rock music, even I also love other kind of music which has an orientation about God. Neal seems quite serious with the storyline as it can be heard clearly right from the beginning of his story with a thought provoking title "The land of beginning again" (3:10). Through this opening track he conveys a message if we can start it all over again with totally new life where all the bad things we have done are truly gone.

He then brings his story through a journey with music with "Overture no. 1" (5:58) which then leads to his praise on God's grace through following track "California nights" (5:46) where he says "IT's ONLY BY THE GRACE OF GOD THAT I AM STILL ALIVE!" . well, you bet, Mr. Morse! And the story goes on his life journey and his relationship with God until his praise "Cause you are / You are the tongues of angels / And you are / You are the winds of time / That's what you are / The soul that feeds my freedom ." ini his ending part of the story "Oh lord my God" (3:54) at CD 2.

Composition. Of course, one of Neal's strengths is his virtuosity in composing his music. From the opening until the end you might find the variety of styles he presents through "Testimony" even though some of them are not new and very similar with Spoc's Beard music during his tenure. You might find at Disc One track 8 "The promise" (2:52) which has proximity with Gentle Giant's choir. It's really nice and it reminds me to the music of early Spock's Beard. He combines segments with complex arrangements and those with simple ones which comprise acoustic guitar and / or piano. My favorite track which has excellent composition is track 10 of Disc One: "Overture no. 2". Oh yes, it proves that Neal Morse is a good composer.

Why (you are) NOT Liking this Album?

It's hard to believe a progger that does not like this album because it offers variety of styles as well as changing tempo from one song to another or even in between music segments. But I can understand that some people do not favor the kind of music that Neal delivers because I also experienced it myself. If this is the case, it's a matter of taste only. But frankly, I cannot find any way to dislike this album.


It's definitely a concept album with grandiose design, composed with rich textures. It favors those of you who can appreciate music album with strong storyline and well-crafted composition. The only caveat, probably, is that you might get bored listening to the story with double CDs (or even three CDS!). Keep on proggin' ..!

"Oh You are my soul, You are my soul. Thank You."

Review by Flucktrot
3 stars Just another overblown double album that should have been condensed into one.

I don't care if an album is about conversion to Christianity or any other topic--if it's an interesting story and put concisely to music, I'll eat it up. What Morse delivers here is by no means concise. In fact, this may be one of the most overblown albums I have heard. I really don't know what to make of this, because I have so much respect for most of the rest of Morse's notable output.

There's no doubt--Morse put a gigantic amount of love and thought into laying out this album: recurring themes, nice instrumentation, and a personally relevant topic. However, in my mind, many of those themes are revisited too many times, and with too little meaningful additions, and eventually it feels like playing a good album, and then playing the album over again (which usually spoils the initial experience). We also have a diversity that leads to incoherence rather than variety: of course the slightly Latin-tinged segments, but also some country (Sing it High), and also an inordinately large amount of praise music toward the end.

Here's my basic take: if Morse can't put a concise and musically inspiring account of his conversion together, I'd rather read it in a biography (if I'm interested) than a supposedly "prog" album. That's certainly not his fault: he didn't claim to be making a prog album, but instead a musical journey of his experience. Either way, if you want a tender and (I have to admit) inspiring story, you should look into this album. On the other hand, if you are are hard-core progger in it for the music, then it would be difficult to imagine this flipping your trigger.

Review by progrules
4 stars I remember the time I bought and judged this album for the first time a few years ago. I expected a lot of it but got disappointed at first. I have an extremely high opinion about this man's abilities so that's why. I expected something like the best Spocks Beard material or like Transatlantic but I got my hopes up a little too much there.

Recently I decided to give it some more tries and I have to say I was a little harsh in the beginning. Because this is not a bad doubler at all. Maybe it was the absence of those great epics he used to write for his band and the Transatlantic project that put me off at first. But that's not quite fair of course, it's much more reasonable to listen to the music thoroughly (and at least quite a few times) and then give the opinion. So that's what I recently did and it made me change my mind I have to say. This is very good music for over two hours. Even the bonus track in my edition is outstanding. Sadly it had to be a cover (Tuesday Afternoon) to do the job (I disdain covers because it's easy scoring to me) but what a cover this is ! I already loved the original by The Moody Blues but this one is even much better so that eases the discomfort.

But the two main disks are more important of course and also with these two he does an unbelievable job. I don't think I will be exaggerating if I call Neal Morse (at least one of) the best progressive composer of the last 25 years. If you can do the trick over and over again without repeating one self or start to bore people then you're doing a magnificent job that deserves all respect and credit.

The only downside to me (but that's very personal, no offence) is the fact that he went solo because of his conversion. To me that killed Spocks Beard and also has as consequence he will be writing lyrics about God and Jesus and I can do without that really. I'm not trying to interfere with his personal life and decisions here I'm just a bit sick of the consequences of it. Although fortunately it didn't really influence his quality of composing music in general I have to admit.

Does all of the above mentioned result in the maximum score ? No, it doesn't because of the mentioned downsides but also the music is still not good enough for the maximum (after all: Transatlantic and Spocks Beard never got the full 5 from me and they were really better). But a solid 4 is well deserved.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Not many words to be written about one of the major figures of modern-era progressive rock.NEAL MORSE was born in Van Nuys,California on 2 August,1960 and he is mostly known as one of the founders of SPOCK'S BEARD and key member of the supergroup TRANSATLANTIC.He left both (succesful) bands in 2002,after feeling that he wanted to introduce through his music a more spiritual state of mind,undoubtfully connected with his deep faith in Christianity.''Testimony'',his awaited concept release,was presented in 2003 by ''Inside out'',where NEAL MORSE was helped by great musicians such as Kerry Livgren of ''Kansas'' and Mike Portnoy of ''Dream Theater''.

Dedicated to his daughter Jayda (following her serious heart problems),''Testimony'' is a 2-CD album,containing the well-crafted sounds met both in SPOCK'S BEARD's and TRANSANTLANTIC's works.The album is somewhat split between heart-felt song-based parts and and fully progressive-oriented themes.The quieter moments are led by MORSE's sensitive vocals,ethereal piano passages,melodic guitars and touches of the mighty mellotron with an evident pop/rock feeling and focusing on the introduction for the listener to the concept's atmosphere.However,there is also a mass of superb progressive rock in this one,featuring tons of MORSE's beloved Hammond organ and mellotron,a very tight rhythm section,nice guitars,multi-vocal harmonies and even some good violin solos pop-up here and there.These parts are characterized by the beautiful interplays,the awaited sudden breaks and the constantly alternating rhythms.NEAL MORSE was partly asided from the big lights,but didn't forget to compose and performe some great music and ''Testimony'' is the strongest proof for that.Strongly recommended!

Review by Chicapah
5 stars Say what you will about brother Neal but you have to give him props for staying true to his progressive roots throughout his transformation into a Christian and beyond. Many people who become "born again" drop all ties to their former self and get so conservative, narrow-minded and holier-than-thou that they're a pain to be around, much less listen to. Not so with Mr. Morse. I've been collecting his music in the last few years CD by CD and I have yet to want my money back. There's no American prog artist who is producing better material than he is here in the 21st century and, wanting to investigate his personal journey further, decided to spring for this double disc set and let him clue me in. It was worth every penny.

First off, Neal isn't preaching. He's not out to convert you or scare you with dire warnings of Hell and Damnation. He's just offering up his progified testimony and laying it out there for all to see. (If you're really interested in perusing a rational argument for the Man from Nazareth may I suggest spending time with C.S. Lewis' intriguing "Mere Christianity." I'm just sayin'.)

Morse starts Part One with a lone Rhodes piano and a simple concept that everyone can relate to in yearning for "The Land of Beginning Again," where "no one knows/the bad things that you've done/the past is truly gone." Before you know it he's off and running with the first of three rousing orchestral overtures that are bold and energy-filled. And here, for those who somehow don't know him, MEET MIKE PORTNOY! His drumming is legendary, beyond reproach and he's also a huge reason that this project works so well. "California Nights" is a funky, jazz-tinged track with sentiments that all struggling musicians who are "longing to seize the day/that big record deal in the sky/surely a heartbeat away" know all too well. (I was in L.A. in the late 70s, doing the same thing.) But habits are hard to break and, on the strong rocker "Colder in the Sun," he sings that he steadfastly kept "waiting for the day/I might get that major part/and when things didn't go my way/I did what I did yesterday" i.e. running in circles. The intertwining harmonies and the Who-like interlude are most impressive here. (Neal's Who influence has never been so evident than on this album and that's a big bonus in my book.) After one of many of his deceptively smooth transitions you're treated to the lighter, acoustic guitar-driven "Sleeping Jesus" that features conga and tasteful steel guitar lines before sliding into a furious, Pete Townsend-ish instrumental section. Here he reveals that he "began to feel His guidance/when I was deep in my sin," a predilection I detected in some of his earlier Spock's Beard- period lyrics. "The Prince of the Power of the Air" is, appropriately, an ominous, riff-led rock cut in which he tells you the evil "creep's creepin'" back into his mind. It's followed by the hot Samba feel of "The Promise" where he sings of hope in that "there's a light that we can see/there's a new reality" and where he also shows off his admirable Spanish guitar skills. The segment ends with "Wasted Life," a deep, resonating ballad with a heartbreaking vocal in which he cries "I'd become just another heart without a home/and I was angry that God had left me alone." The atmosphere is sad but the acoustic piano ride is beautiful.

Part Two begins with cellos rumbling under bright synthesizers as Portnoy drives the bus with a lead foot and Morse delivers a scorching electric guitar ride, leading into "Break of Day," a popish but nonetheless well-written song with a smart harmony arrangement that eventually transitions into a cool jazz violin movement. It's one of the highlights of the proceedings. A growling Hammond organ fuels the rockin' "Power in the Air," an obvious reference to an earlier theme (Neal is liable to resurrect melodies at any time, no matter how brief they may last) in which he describes the gut-wrenching struggle going on in his soul. The low-key but powerful "Somber Days" is next with a full, symphonic score that's amazing and where he tells us of "so many somber days I was so unaware/of almost anything but my suffering." The snarling Hammond slaps you in the face with a wakeup call on "Long Story" as he returns to a Salsa groove and guest Kerry Livgren jumps headlong into a fiery guitar duel with Morse at the end. But he was reading the writing on the wall by now. "For fifty dollars I'd play five hours in the desert air/some of us have to hit bottom/before we'll ever see above the ground" he confesses. (I know the feeling firsthand.) "It's All I Can Do" is a solemn ode to futility underscored by a droll Rhodes piano and a pained vocal singing "there's no future that I can see here/the dream has gone away." In other words, there aren't a lot of 35 year olds receiving the "best new artist" title at the Grammys these days. What a drag it is growing old.

Part Three shoots out of the gate with the eyebrow-raising "Transformation," a tumultuous instrumental with thundering orchestration and Mike Portnoy kickin' it hard as if he were John Bonham reincarnated. On "Ready to Try," an aggressive rock ditty with a pop flavor, he tells of leaving behind all but his guitar, dog and tape recorder and relocating to Nashville because he was finally convinced that he had to change his surroundings and start anew somewhere else. To emphasize that drastic change of direction, Neal offers a slice of what I'd call "Prograss" music in the stomping "Sing It High," a lively song of worship wherein he proves he can pick with the best of 'em.

Part Four ensues with a John Entwistle-like French Horn blaring into the short "Moving in my Heart" where he describes getting married and starting a family but still feeling the prideful allure of potential fame and fortune tugging at his mind. "Well, maybe it's not too late," he ponders. (A reference to the success of his involvement with Transatlantic?) What follows is the best tune on the album, the overwhelming "I Am Willing." It draws from all of Neal's talents in one sumptuous track and he delivers what may be his most emotional vocal ever, backed by a gorgeous chorale. Here he's attempting to surrender his will to God's, singing "all I want is the life you have spoken/let the sleeper be awoken. now." Gives me goose bumps every time. But just spouting the words and expecting magic to happen isn't enough as we learn in the jazzy "In the Middle," a very proggy cut with sizzling organ and snappy kicks/accents throughout. He reveals that "there was still more that I was clinging to/that fear you feel/like when you're almost gone/when you want to jump/but you're still hanging on." The album's most complex piece follows, the spicy and mostly instrumental "The Storm Before the Calm" in which piano, trumpet and saxophone join together in a wild blowout and Mike demonstrates what a monster he is. Mind-boggling drum fills abound. A surprisingly subtle string quartet movement leads you to "Oh, To Feel Him," a lush ballad that describes his personal moment of clarity in all its glory. The pretty "God's Theme" ends the segment.

Part Five opens with the ambitious, forceful, symphony-filled third overture of the project, then evolves into the large-scale, freewheeling song of praise, "Rejoice." While you may not share his religious beliefs it's nearly impossible to deny him his infectious, exuberant excitement as he shouts "His glory lives in senssurround!" Just when you think you've heard everything along comes the almost grungy "Oh Lord, My God." (Man, I just love Portnoy's crisp, snapping snare!) I think what Neal wants to convey here is that he came to realize that "the ultimate musician" didn't want to take his music away from him at all but, rather, wanted to enhance it. "God's Theme 2" is a reprise of the same melody except this time it's nothing but symphony and it's great. The short and simple coda of "The Land of Beginning Again" is a fitting, poignant finale.

Not every track is an absolute stunner in itself but, when taken as a whole, the sheer magnitude and scope of over two hours of high quality music, arrangements and production that has no filler ("not a speck of cereal" as Frank Zappa would say) is staggering. Therefore, "Testimony" earns my 5 star rating. I'll admit that sometimes Morse writes some confusing lyrics but not here. This is as earnest and straightforward as any bio you'll ever come across and after it's over you'll have no doubt as to what kind of person he is and where his allegiances lay. I've yet to find anything else quite like it in all of progdom.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars I'm not a big fan of concept albums or double albums. So I guess this one had two strikes against it right off the bat. It does boil down to the music for me though, but i've been let down too often by concept albums where the concept takes priority to the music. And by far most double albums could have been condensed down to one have been way better.That's my rant for today. I'm a big fan of Neal Morse and SPOCK'S BEARD. I also applaud him for telling his story through this record. His testimony. I also think it's so awesome that he found God. The music is the bottom line though and for me this is a tough one to really enjoy. Sure there are many parts of this recording that are excellent, but there are more passages that I find very average and tedious. I think it's so cool that Mike Portnoy is playing drums on this album, knowing the subject matter and knowing that there would be all these Christians around. Haha. Kerry Livgren (KANSAS) a Christian himself plays some fantastic guitar on one track. There's a lot of orchestration on "Testimony" as well, that for me isn't a positive. The first disc is taken up with how unhappy Neal was with his life, while the second disc deals with his life changing decision to follow Jesus. A lot of these songs on both cds blend into one another.

Some highlights for me include the final 3 minutes of "Overture No.1" where Portnoy's having some fun. "Interlude" is an instrumental and one of the heaviest tracks. Some great organ and violin in this one. "The Prince Of The Power Of the Air" features more amazing organ and the drumming is killer. "Overture No.2" has one of the few ripping guitar solos on it. "Break Of Day" reminds me so much of SPOCK'S BEARD that it is a definite highlight. "Long Story" has some powerful organ early, and I like the guitar after 3 minutes. "It's All I Can Do" features Livgren's guitar solo as Portnoy pounds away 4 minutes in.

Disc two is really about the lyrics and features some uplifting and emotional moments. "Ready To Cry" quotes Tom Petty with his words "She's a good girl, loves Jesus..." I really like the lyrics as he talks about this girl taking him to her church. The next song "Sing It High" continues this topic. Fun stuff. "I Am Willing" is really the big moment where he talks to Jesus and God and gives his life, his heart to both. This is emotional with a powerful ending. The apex of the album and Neal's life. "In The Middle" is fantastic instrumentally. Dramatic lyrics as well. "Oh, To Feel Him" is the moment where "His Spirit enters my soul, like nothing i've ever known, like stillness on the water." This is all so personal and detailed. Not surprisingly the last 6 songs are praise songs to God.

As I go over the highlights of this double album and consider how meaningful this truly is, I want to give it 4 stars, but the fact is there is so much that needs to be here in order to tell the story that is average at best, and musically it brings this down to 3.5 stars. I much prefer the follow-up "One".

Review by LiquidEternity
3 stars Many seem to feel that Testimony is Neal's defining solo work, but in truth, it doesn't seem to stack against some of his other solo albums for a few reasons.

First, though the music is pretty solid, it does not vary nearly enough to justify its two disc length. There are some really great tunes here, some wonderful melodies, some neat ideas, and some impressive instrumental breaks. However, these are spread out and worn thin by excess of balladry and sappy singing (and I am a fan of Neal's voice, usually). Parts 2 and 4 feature this bland blankness most prominently, with the interesting bits of music coming too far apart to truly get the listener very interested in what's going on.

Secondly, I feel that the album's being divided into five songs does not work. While, true, most of Neal's longer works end up covering a wide variety of similar songs that kind of pull apart but stick together, I think only here on Testimony do these mega tracks not work as wholes. Parts 1 and 3 are manageable, but the other three chunks end up featuring too much (or too little) to truly factor as epic, impressive, or even just particularly cleverly written.

It must be noted that there really is very little of progression anywhere on this album. Yes, it's fun music. Yes, the tracks combine into long (and prog-looking) suites. Yes, there are a number of ideas and themes played with throughout. However, most of this album is just clever pop rock, with an abundance of acoustic balladry. This is not a detractor to the album as a whole, but as a prog album, it ends up making it kind of lackluster and not that unique.

This is a good album, even though my review might sound pretty negative. Almost every time the singing stops and the instruments take over, it's raw fun. Sing It High features one of my favorite acoustic jam sessions I've ever come across. If you like Neal Morse's style, you'll like this album. Loving it, though, is not remotely guaranteed.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
2 stars A bit pretentious and self-indulgent perhaps

Many people think that progressive rock is pretentious, self-indulgent and overly bombastic. An artist making a two hour long concept album about himself and his own 'spiritual awakening' is indeed extremely pretentious and self-indulgent and the music is aptly often quite bombastic too with several symphonic, almost orchestral 'overtures'. In that sense this is a rather stereotypical Prog album living up to people's prejudices about what progressive rock is all about.

Testimony is Neal Morse telling his own story about how he 'found God'. As in much Christian music, the lyrics often come across "preachy". For me as an atheist and secular humanist who strongly believes that you can live a good and ethical life without believing in God, the theme of this album tends to make the album a rather tedious listen. However, the religious theme would not have been a problem for me if the lyrics had been less literal and direct allowing the listener to make his very own interpretation and find his own meanings. The beautiful The Land Of Beginning Again is a notable exception though, this song could mean different things to different people. In my view really good lyrics leave a lot for the listener's imagination. Some of the lyrics also feel quite banal with lines like 'If I played that terrible Eagles song one more time I thought I was gonna die'!

As with many concept albums in general the story here tends to take over the music and the otherwise often very good music suffers as a result. The vocals and lyrics are in the forefront and the music and instruments takes a backseat. There are several excellent musical moments on the album, but the major problem (apart from the lyrics) it the fact that it is far too long to keep the listeners attention throughout its running time. There are certainly enough weaker moments to prove that it would have been easy to compress this album into a single disc instead of a making it into a double album. In that way it would have been made much more consistent and much easier to listen to.

Morse eventually learned from his mistakes and made much more concise, consistent and also much less 'preachy' albums like One, ? and Sola Scriptura, all better than this one in my opinion. Indeed, I think that Morse got better and better with each new solo album following Testimony; first the good One, then the excellent ? and it culminated with the even more excellent Sola Scriptura which is my favourite.

Kerry Livgren from Kansas, who also is a born again Christian, appears on this album on a guitar solo. It is clear that Morse is inspired by Livgren as a songwriter and some songs sound a bit like Kansas songs. But there are several different musical styles involved here. However, the apparent variety is not enough to save the album from getting rather samey towards the middle. The first part is probably the strongest one.

In conclusion, Testimony is a rather uneven and incoherent album that has some great moments and some weaker moments. It builds on a foundation of Prog clichés as well as many religious clichés but it is a very professional recording indeed. Like many double albums it is too long for its own good and does not hold up in the middle.

I can recommend this album only to fans and collectors and to those who share Morse's strong religious beliefs. But don't let this deter you from checking out his other solo albums I mentioned.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This was the first Neal Morse solo-album I have heard and it's a tough one to review. I love many of the album's melodies and themes but being a concept album I usually prefer to listen through them in one go. This is of course very hard considering the running time of over 2 hours and, up to this day, I have never managed to achieve it. Previously I considered that The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, with its 90 minute running time, was pushing it but this album takes it to a new dimension.

Sorry Neal, as much as I love your music I wish that you could have removed some of the lesser material so that we could really enjoy all of the highlights. I realize that Snow is also almost 2 hours long but that album was divided nicely into two separate parts/chapters that started with Overtures and ended with Wind at My Back. This made it easier to split the experience into two separate sessions if I felt like it. Besides, the material on that release is way better composed and features a great deal of phenomenal highlights that kept me going from start to end of each CD without making me feel exhausted.

Testimony is the first solo concept album from Neal Morse and I tend to think that he blew this release slightly out of proportion. It was a noble intention that ultimately resulted in less than the sum of the individual highlights. A good, but non-essential release.

***** star songs: The Land Of Beginning Again (3:10)

**** star songs: Overture No. 1 (5:58) California Nights (5:46) Colder In The Sun (6:20) Interlude (1:56) The Promise (2:52) Overture No. 2 (2:31) Break Of Day (6:55) Power In The Air (5:03) Somber Days (5:06) Long Story (5:35) Moving In My Heart (3:06) I Am Willing (6:28) In The Middle (2:27) The Storm Before The Calm (7:31) God's Theme (2:31) Oh Lord My God (3:54) God's Theme 2 (2:10) The Land Of Beginning Again (0:54)

*** star songs: Sleeping Jesus (5:32) The Prince Of The Power Of The Air (2:43) Wasted Life (6:50) It's All I Can Do (6:25) Transformation (3:00) Ready To Cry (4:17) Sing It High (4:48) Oh, To Feel Him (6:17) Overture No. 3 (1:05) Rejoice (2:28)

Total rating: 3,67

Review by Tarcisio Moura
3 stars After getting One and Sola Scripta, I was eager to hear more of Morse´s work, since both albums were quite superior to anything he had released with his former band, Spock´s Beard. Testimony goes the same way, partially. It´s a concept work, telling his life before and after his conversion to christianity and is also a double CD with well over two hours of music. With so much stuff in it, what about the quality of the music? Well, it´s a gigantic enterprise and I´m glad to say that Neal Morse is talented enough to succeed in many aspects. I mean, there is hardly any filler on it, but - like almost all concept albums - it suffers from the musical standpoint, since the melodies have to follow the storyline.

So while Morse shows his great skills both as a prolific songwriter and performer (and he is backed by equally talented musicians), there is simply too much here. Testimony is probably the most musically varied of all his solo output. You can find just about everything here: symphonic rock, hard rock, ballads, gospel, country, etc. And, no matter how good he is (believe me, he is very good!), to write so many tracks in such little time means the quality of the tracks also varies wildly. CD 1 for instance is very good (several parts remind me of Transatlantic´s best moments), but things begin to drag by the second part of the story, where he gets also too preachy for my taste.

With an excellent production and tasteful arrangements Testimony could have been a killer CD if it was reduced to a single record putting together the best moments of both. As it is, it is overlong and a bit boring at the end. Still, very good overall.

Rating: 3.5 stars.

Review by EatThatPhonebook
4 stars 8/10

"Testimony" is a warm, beautiful album full of hope and joy, and love.

You don't need to be Christian or even religious if you like Neal Morse's music. He isn't one of those average Christian Rock musicians that puts it's focus only on the preachy lyrical content and doesn't give much effort in the music: he puts a heart in both of them, being the music highly progressive and beautiful too, to my surprise.

Neal Morse, for who has never heard of him, was part of a famous Neo-Symphonic Prog act called Spock's Beard, as a matter of fact he was the leader, who then decided to focus more on his solo career, as it happens to many artists. The music he made with Spock's Beard isn't that different, however I feel more artistic freedom on this album in particular, being a really personal and unique album for Neal Morse. "Testimony" is a very honest and pretty traditional Symphonic Prog album of the new era, or maybe it's just how Neal Morse makes music, as he is responsible for half of these new Symphonic Prog acts. We got strong musicianship, great orchestral arrangements such as violins and trumpets, but also strong bass lines by Nick D'Virgilio and potent, precise drums by Mike Portnoy. Despite such guests, Neal Morse is able to concentrate fully on himself, and the other two musicians stay completely in the shadow, as they really supposed to here. There is of course an immense amount of keyboards, that go from the frequent organ to wobbling ones reminiscent of old synth sounds. It is overall a traditional prog rock album with a good amount of variety in terms of sound, and maintaining a solid concept.

"Testimony"s lyrical content focuses on Morse's autobiographical story on how he converted himself to Christianity, the moments that let him down, and the moments that were crucial for him. But also, moments that were enlightening, moments he will never forget. His story, I must admit, doesn't make me having a different view on religion, in particular Christianity. I strongly recommend to put the focus in the music, even because at times the lyrics are just plain and banal, and could have been written a lot better, still maintaining the same concept. This two hour long opus, to my surprise, is worth listening to pretty much all the way through: from the beautifully soothing intro "The Land Of Beginning", you realize how great, memorable and touching the music will be. The four Overtures that are placed in the album are great interludes that just have it all: great instrumentation and musicianship, but also catchy, instrumental ideas. As it is a concept album, be prepare to hear same riffs repeatedly; this is something I'm never crazy about in an album, but then again, some of my favorite albums of all time are like this. This large selection of songs, all of them ranging between five minutes in length, are pretty much all good, others, like "Sleeping Jesus", "Break Of Day", "Somber Days" are just unforgettable. Special mention to some of the shorter, minor songs, like "Oh Lord My God" and "Sing It High" are also very pretty and, in a way, exciting.

Overall, this is a great experience, a warm, beautiful album full of hope and joy, and love, something I really like to hear in a Progressive Rock album, instead of frequent themes of despair, madness, or whatever. Easily one of the most epic and enthusiastic Symphonic Prog albums of the new millennium.

Review by kev rowland
5 stars When Neal made the decision that due to his religious beliefs he had to leave Spock's Beard there were many that were absolutely gutted at the decision, myself included. What did this mean both to the band that remained and to Neal himself? Spock's Beard have answered that with 'Feel Euphoria', which I have enjoyed immensely, but what was Neal going to do? This is his third solo album, and while his second is still one that I play a great deal it isn't one that I would overtly term 'progressive'. Then I discovered that the new album was going to be a double disc that was auto-biographical in nature, telling Neal's story and how he found Christ and became a Christian. I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about being preached at for over two hours, and musically how was this going to come across?

Well, Spock's Beard may have become heavier without Neal, but Neal hasn't changed tack but rather has buried himself further into his influences. This is the logical musical follow-up to 'Snow', and any fan of that album (me sir!!) will fall in love with this even more.

Neal had been joined by Mike Portnoy and Kerry Livgren and countless others to produce an album that is not only Spock's Beard through and through but is opening the music up to even more influences and experimentations. This album is more symphonic than previously, and even bombastic, with a large use of strings, and anyone that can put in a country song and have it make total sense within the overall concept has to be doing something right.

The move to using 'proper' strings instead of synthesised has given the music a more dynamic edge, and Neal is obviously happy with what he is producing so that the songs are packed full of emotion. This is his story, one that he lived through and is living again with the telling. The one moan I have with the promotional copy is that it doesn't contain the lyrics, and they have yet to be posted on Neal's site (

Musically many themes are returned to, which gives the album shape and form, while the lyrics are pushing through the story and message. Yes it is a testimony, yes it is very much an overtly Christian album, and if you are anti-religious then I would say that you probably won't enjoy this very much. But if you have an open mind or are a Christian then this is an album for you. I used to listen to a great deal of White Metal and Christian music when I lived at home years ago as my sister used to play it, but this is far removed from anything I used to listen to back then. Rock, jazz (with some blasting horns), country, classical, Beatles-style pop, this has had everything thrown into it and then some ? Spock's Beard that has been expanded.

Neal has exorcised the demons, and has managed to convey a very personal message in an exciting and dramatic way that will leave all SB fans hungry for more. This is much more of a new beginning than a continuation of his previous solo career. He has taken his music into a new area, and with Spock's Beard moving in their own direction there are two kids on the block who are vying for attention. I have been an SB fan since I first heard 'The Light' and I am sure that I always will, but I for one will now always be looking primarily to see what Neal is doing.

I have listened to literally hundreds of albums this year. This is my number one. Truly superb.

Originally appeared in Feedback #77, Dec 03

Review by Warthur
4 stars It's kind of apt that Neal Morse's first solo album after leaving Spock's Beard is topped and tailed with the bookending pieces "The Land of Beginning Again", because this was basically Neal starting a whole new phase of not just his music career, but his entire way of doing things.

Although he'd previously put out a couple of solo albums and made a bunch of demo recordings (much of which have been released via his fanclub over the years), it was really with Spock's Beard that he'd made his big splash - but he'd dramatically stepped away from the band which had won him recognition in the first place, and was shifting overtly into the world of Christian music.

It takes only one look at Neal's discography to see that here's a guy who just loves making music - you might take him away from a project or two, but his creativity seems to be near-unstoppable. One thing I have to give him of respect for is his willingness to try his hand at a range of different styles - glance over his discography and you'll find his prog albums, his pop-rock albums, his Beatles tribute project (Yellow Matter Custard), and a pretty extensive selection of full-on gospel and worship music.

From the title of Testimony you might think it was his first collection of straight-ahead worship music. It's not - instead, it's his first solo prog album, a piece of autobiography exploring his personal journey, his reasons for exiting Spock's Beard, and the new role of religion in his life. Obviously, in thematic terms there's going to be a certain level of crossover with his devotional tunes - Christianity had become a big deal for him, part of the point of leaving Spock's Beard was that he wanted to concentrate on material with Christian themes and didn't think it would be fair to expect the whole band to pivot in the same direction, and there's a long-standing tradition in Christianity of people sharing their personal stories of their spiritual journeys.

I'll put my cards on the table and say that I find most "Christian" music that is explicitly marketed to a Christian audience to be somewhat vapid - largely devoted to endlessly reiterating a very limited set of themes which largely won't appeal to you unless you are either already an adherent or already fairly close to being converted. That isn't to say there isn't lots of music with Christian themes which is highly enjoyable - but I think most people would admit that there's a chunk of artists in the Christian music field who are able to make a living off music which just wouldn't hack it to a broader market, simply because they're skilled at "preaching to the converted" and marketing their material to an audience that largely wants to buy into things specifically because they are Christian.

That was certainly the biggest barrier to me previously exploring Neal's solo work, and I'm not to proud to admit I was wrong to do so. This isn't Neal doing some cheap knock-off Spock's Beard stuff for the sake of pandering to his new co-religionists - in terms of the musical backing, this is very much him picking up back where the Neal Morse era of Spock's Beard left off. In retrospect, that should be unsurprising, since for the run from The Light to Snow he'd been their main songwriter, but it's tremendously reassuring to find that a new perspective on life hasn't prompted Neal to dilute his prog instincts or abandon his old approach.

Lyrically speaking, sure, it ain't subtle, but I find "Here's my personal story, maybe you've felt the same" to be an interesting enough thematic prospect that I can listen along and enjoy even if I don't feel myself moved to adopt the same worldview Neal had taken on at this time. (Similarly, when addressing the subject of sin Neal comes at it from the angle of "there was something wrong with me and I found that my religious experiences really helped me with that", which is much more palatable than a more condemnatory approach would be.)

As Testimony 2 would go on to reveal, we only got half the story as to why Neal left Spock's Beard at this point in time: as well as his own religious shift, the Morse family were also dealing with Neal's daughter Jayda being diagnosed with a life-threatening heart condition, only for it to apparently resolve itself without the surgery which would have otherwise been required. One can see how this would redouble your religious convictions if you believed that prayer had been helpful - but you can also see why Neal would want to back away from the life of a touring musician and work more from home in the wake of that, just for the sake of being close after such a terrible scare.

This becomes relevant to Testimony when one considers the recording process; Neal had already established a home studio at the Morse house (some of Transatlantic's SMPTe was recorded in it, for instance), which put him in a good position to simply go in there and make music with whoever was willing and able to swing by to contribute. His old Transatlantic bud Mike Portnoy swung by to do drums, Kerry Livgren of Kansas provides a guitar solo on Long Story, and a fair number of guest musicians add their own parts, to the point where Neal has a pocket orchestra backing up his own multi-instrumentalist flair.

It's interesting to compare this to Spock's Beard's Feel Euphoria, their first Neal-less album, which released a few months before this came out: that kept the secular lyrics but shifted the band's musical approach appreciably. By comparison, Testimony finds Neal Morse continuing on the same trajectory he was on with his Spock's Beard work in terms of the music, but making this big shift in his lyrical themes.

With the passage of time, Neal was eventually able to see his way back to working on projects which didn't necessarily have an overtly and directly stated Christian focus - Transatlantic got back together and have now produced more albums than they recorded before the breakup, and he's even guested with Spock's Beard from time to time. But Testimony demonstrates that fans of Neal's work with the Beard needn't have been too worried. I'd even give it the edge over Snow, if it weren't that the ending kind of drags - once Neal's accepted Jesus in I Am Willing then the story is basically over, but the album keeps going for another half hour. (It's still quite good musically, but it does feel like Neal wrote more music than he had story for.)

Latest members reviews

5 stars Testimony is Neal's first solo album after leaving Spock's Beard and in the same time the album that marks the start of Neal's journey as a new-born christian. It is his testimony, his most intimate and delicate album because it tells the story of his life, especially the story of his new life after ... (read more)

Report this review (#1823914) | Posted by emisan | Thursday, November 16, 2017 | Review Permanlink

5 stars A blessing for christian prog rock Neal's first prog solo album. I am touched by his testimony and music! It's a very personal concept album about his spiritual journey and finally becoming a follower of Christ. Some people are turned away by the christian lyrics (especially on second CD), others ... (read more)

Report this review (#1254580) | Posted by terramystic | Thursday, August 21, 2014 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Neal Morse's first 'prog' solo album sees him tackling yet another concept album, a lengthy one at that. Only a year after Snow was released, Neal comes up with over two hours of material, which is a true testament to his songwriting ability. Being a master composer and melody writer, surely h ... (read more)

Report this review (#914000) | Posted by Mr. Mustard | Thursday, February 14, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Blown Away at first Listen! I must set the stage a little bit first. I had not listened to any "NEW" prog since the 70s to late 80s as I was musically elsewhere after that. In the mid-2000s, through a winding "Kansas" related path, I discovered this album and did not know anything about t ... (read more)

Report this review (#819857) | Posted by AEProgman | Thursday, September 13, 2012 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Reading back through my previous Neal Morse reviews, I think it's a good thing I waited to get this album until a few months ago. Had I gotten it at time of release, I would have hated it. The reason is obvious, if you've read my previous reviews. The lyrics would have irritated me greatly. ... (read more)

Report this review (#578408) | Posted by infandous | Tuesday, November 29, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The first album for Morse after leaving the band he founded, Spock's Beard, for a more clearly Christian slant, this is a very personal and amazing album, telling the story of his struggle to seek fame and fortune as a musician and getting caught up in the party lifestyle of California rock mu ... (read more)

Report this review (#442799) | Posted by BobVanguard | Wednesday, May 4, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Neal Morse is the kind of artist you have the pleasure of their listen.Be it uplifting spiritual lyrics (although these do not appeal to everyone) for the melodies are powerful and well-inspired.His always been ahead of two of the greatest progressive rock bands today: Spock's Beard and Transatlanti ... (read more)

Report this review (#319907) | Posted by voliveira | Sunday, November 14, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Though not a Christian myself this album really had a lot to offer me when I first listened to it when it came out. Morse outdoes himself with his incredible songwriting abilities keeping motifs and themes relevant throughout the work without it becoming tiring. The full sound from the vast ass ... (read more)

Report this review (#179920) | Posted by merrickyoung87 | Monday, August 18, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Neal Morse is one of the most gifted musicians I know of. With Spock's Beard, Transatlantic, Solo career, he has generated a vast body of work that is diverse, beautiful, inspired, and creative. I am beginning my review of his influence with this album because it tells his life story. Now, I pers ... (read more)

Report this review (#159440) | Posted by The Ace Face | Monday, January 21, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Testimony". Yeah, that's what it is. On a personal level, it was an album that I listened to a lot for a couple of years recently, while I was I was living and working in South America. It really inspired me at times when I needed inspiration, So that's my starting point when trying to sum up my ... (read more)

Report this review (#159341) | Posted by sanjuansueco | Sunday, January 20, 2008 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Considering the high rating I saw here on prog archives, I was expecting to hear a great piece of music, something at least worth the value of Transatlantic's "SMPTe", but I got something else instead. I really wasn't impressed of this album. I always enjoyed Morse's music with others (Spock's B ... (read more)

Report this review (#155887) | Posted by proglil49 | Tuesday, December 18, 2007 | Review Permanlink

1 stars I have to say I really respect Neal Morse's spiritual journey. Even more I respect making an album in praise to God; it's one of the greatest gifts one could offer. While I'm sure that God really appreciates it; I'm also equally sure that I don't. I see no progressive value in this whole album b ... (read more)

Report this review (#129281) | Posted by Equality 7-2521 | Thursday, July 19, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I wrote this review on my blog back in Decembre of 2005, and I thought it would fit here perfectly. Here it is: I snapped this album up a while back in 2003 right after it came out. After I got out of college, I wasn't feeling to great about my situation or my future at that point. Before I al ... (read more)

Report this review (#112340) | Posted by | Friday, February 16, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars A brilliant digression from Spock's Beard. As intended Testimony tells Neal's life story, aberrant Christianity and all. The overtures rise and fall like the waves. California Nights, Colder in the Sun and Somber Days both move and energize. While The Land of Beginning Again evokes feeling ... (read more)

Report this review (#102518) | Posted by davemuttillo | Sunday, December 10, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This work first of the mentioned one was Christian of this American musician, the Testimony that this musician presents/displays in 5 parts the stages to us of his spiritual encounter that I take to the Christianity this counted one to it of a form that in the personnel I am pleased much so th ... (read more)

Report this review (#88664) | Posted by Shelket | Friday, September 1, 2006 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I really like Neil Morse's music. There's a strong feel for melody and arranging. This man puts his heart into the music and that's very rare in the modern music world. I'm not his biggest fan though as I am not the biggest fan of his former Spock's Beard- band. I buy their records, listen to th ... (read more)

Report this review (#70525) | Posted by Achim | Sunday, February 26, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I will be as short as this album is long... More than 2 hours of very very good music. Every listener will undoubtely like a part or another (or all) in this long masterpiece of (neo-)prog music. I was particulary attracted by the words. Thanks to the leaflet one can read and (try to) sing wit ... (read more)

Report this review (#58965) | Posted by BronDune | Friday, December 2, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars For me this is one of the greatest music ever made. I was touched, by the pure emotion and especially the spiritual power. OK anyway I`m a big fan of all the music with Spock`s Beard and Transatlantic too. But I think "Testimony" is a real masterpiece, musical and especially lyrical. This is a ... (read more)

Report this review (#57311) | Posted by | Monday, November 21, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Talk about a slice of life! An amazing concept and a very big one to tackle... but Neal Morse has pulled it off with amazing clarity of such themes that can be very hard to convey into a musical setting. This is one of the landmark albums in prog rock to me. I don't say that lightly but thi ... (read more)

Report this review (#49700) | Posted by tennyson | Sunday, October 2, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Neal Morse is one of most great composers of prog-rock. Absolutelly. This "Testimony" is a perfect disc from a genious. Brilliant, inspired, with a terrific songs like "Somber days"... incredible, "I am willing", spiritually best, or "It's all I can do", a perfect song. I recommended this doub ... (read more)

Report this review (#44196) | Posted by | Thursday, August 25, 2005 | Review Permanlink

Post a review of NEAL MORSE "Testimony"

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.