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NEAL MORSE

Symphonic Prog • United States


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

As a young musician, Neal's dream was like many others-to find success in the pop music world. But after years of struggling in the LA singer-songwriter scene, he realized that his dream would not materialize. Eschewing conventional wisdom, Neal took a courageous step: he about-faced and devoted himself to progressive rock, the music truly in his heart. The obscure and fiercely competitive genre held little chance of commercial success. Undaunted, he formed the quirkily-named SPOCK'S BEARD with his brother, Alan. They recorded "The Light" (1995) with what money they could scrape together. Against all odds, it was a breakout success, sending shockwaves through the small genre's community.

Over the next 7 years, Spock's Beard released 6 critically acclaimed CDs, ascending to the top of the "prog" world. Neal also released 2 CDs and 2 live albums with TRANSATLANTIC, the heralded prog "supergroup" comprised of the world's finest prog musicians. The proverbial wayward son, Neal had finally found the success he dreamed of. But something was missing. While on the outside Neal had it all; on the inside, something was missing. Morse came to realize that for him, embracing the Christian faith was the fulfillment of his spiritual quest. His walk was at once gradual and sudden - and like with so many, completely unexpected. As he continued, his path increasingly revealed more of what his heart had sought all along. Yet he also began to find his career growing at odds with his faith. The rising spiritual tension and increasing commercial success finally came to a head with the release of "Snow" (2002), SPOCK'S BEARD's (with Morse) magnum opus and swan song.

The extraordinary 2-CD rock opera, composed by Morse, was widely acclaimed as the group's finest. But it was the end of the era: Neal made the agonizing decision to leave SPOCK'S BEARD. After also leaving TRANSATLANTICc, the transformation was complete. Despite having finally achieved the success he had long sought, Morse began all over again; musically, emotionally and spiritually.
While SPOCK'S BEARD decided to continue without him, TRANSATLANTIC disbanded (though this would later turn out to be a hiatus. Neal then embarked upon the most ambitious musical project of his career. Entitled "Testimony" (2003), it chronicles hi...
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NEAL MORSE discography


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

3.16 | 144 ratings
Neal Morse
1999
2.79 | 111 ratings
It's Not Too Late
2001
4.05 | 509 ratings
Testimony
2003
4.12 | 534 ratings
One
2004
4.20 | 678 ratings
? [Aka: Question Mark]
2005
2.91 | 69 ratings
God Won't Give Up
2005
2.37 | 53 ratings
Lead Me Lord - Worship Sessions Volume 1
2005
2.79 | 52 ratings
Send the Fire - Worship Sessions Volume 2
2006
2.95 | 95 ratings
Morse, Portnoy & George: Cover to Cover
2006
2.62 | 57 ratings
Songs from the Highway
2007
4.20 | 709 ratings
Sola Scriptura
2007
2.58 | 43 ratings
Secret Place - Worship Sessions Volume 3
2008
3.11 | 321 ratings
Lifeline
2008
2.67 | 45 ratings
The River - Worship Sessions Volume 4
2009
2.61 | 38 ratings
Mighty to Save - Worship Sessions Volume 5
2010
4.00 | 625 ratings
Testimony 2
2011
3.96 | 486 ratings
Momentum
2012
2.89 | 65 ratings
Morse, Portnoy & George: Cover 2 Cover
2012
3.34 | 41 ratings
The Prog World Orchestra: A Proggy Christmas
2012
2.97 | 95 ratings
Songs from November
2014
3.85 | 346 ratings
The Neal Morse Band: The Grand Experiment
2015
4.17 | 503 ratings
The Neal Morse Band: The Similitude of a Dream
2016
2.63 | 43 ratings
To God Be the Glory
2016
2.79 | 70 ratings
Life & Times
2018
3.96 | 339 ratings
The Neal Morse Band: The Great Adventure
2019
3.64 | 154 ratings
Jesus Christ The Exorcist
2019
3.13 | 30 ratings
Morse/Portnoy/George: Cov3r to Cov3r
2020
3.90 | 145 ratings
Sola Gratia
2020
3.91 | 162 ratings
NMB: Innocence & Danger
2021
3.95 | 46 ratings
The Dreamer - Joseph: Part One
2023
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Restoration - Joseph: Part Two
2024

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

3.25 | 16 ratings
Nick 'n Neal: Two Separate Gorillas - Live in Europe (The "From the Vaults" Series Volume 2)
2000
3.78 | 63 ratings
? Live
2007
4.39 | 98 ratings
So Many Roads
2009
4.42 | 88 ratings
Testimony Two - Live in Los Angeles
2011
4.71 | 25 ratings
The Neal Morse Band: The Great Adventour Live in Brno - 2019
2020
5.00 | 6 ratings
Flying Colors & The Neal Morse Band: Morsefest 2019
2021
5.00 | 11 ratings
NMB: Morsefest 2021
2022
4.06 | 12 ratings
NMB: An Evening of Innocence & Danger - Live in Hamburg
2023

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

4.51 | 101 ratings
Testimony Live
2004
4.36 | 101 ratings
Sola Scriptura and Beyond
2008
4.45 | 62 ratings
Live Momentum
2013
3.75 | 37 ratings
Morsefest! 2014: Testimony & One Live
2015
4.00 | 39 ratings
The Neal Morse Band: Alive Again
2016
3.94 | 26 ratings
Morsefest 2015
2017
3.91 | 25 ratings
The Neal Morse Band: The Similitude of a Dream - Live in Tilburg 2017
2018
4.60 | 15 ratings
Morsefest! 2017: Testimony Of A Dream
2018
3.41 | 13 ratings
Jesus Christ The Exorcist - Live at Morsefest 2018
2020

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

2.88 | 37 ratings
The Transatlantic Demos
2003
2.14 | 10 ratings
Sing It High
2007
3.79 | 14 ratings
One Demos
2007
3.80 | 5 ratings
The Grand Experiment Demos (Inner Circle March 2016)
2016
3.05 | 3 ratings
The Neal Morse Collection
2019
4.00 | 3 ratings
The Neal Morse Band: The Neal Morse Band Collection
2019
3.08 | 5 ratings
Hope and a Future
2020
3.00 | 11 ratings
Morse/ Portnoy/ George: Cover to Cover Anthology (Vol. 1-3)
2020

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

2.14 | 27 ratings
Merry Christmas From The Morse Family
2000
2.86 | 21 ratings
A Proggy Christmas
2011
3.00 | 1 ratings
Morsefest 2016 Storytellers (Pt. 1) - Inner Circle March 2018
2018
3.00 | 1 ratings
Morsefest 2016 Storytellers (Pt. 2) - Inner Circle May 2018
2018

NEAL MORSE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Dreamer - Joseph: Part One by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2023
3.95 | 46 ratings

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The Dreamer - Joseph: Part One
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

5 stars When I saw the latest Neal Morse solo album was another Christian musical I inwardly groaned, as his 'Jesus Christ The Exorcist' is probably the weakest he has been involved with in all his musical ventures. I have loved his concept albums, both secular and Christian, yet that one managed to fail on so many levels. It may still be a good album but there was just something about which did not gel. Now, I may not be a religious person in any way, but when I was younger I saw my fair share of Christian musicals and loved both 'Godspell' and 'Jesus Christ Superstar', while Neal's own 'Testimony' album is a triumph, so the religious aspect has never worried me, but how would he approach a story made so familiar even to those who do not read the Bible thanks to Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber?

In his own imitable way, that's how. Here we find Neal fully back on form with one of his most powerful concept albums ever, which in places also reminds me of his wonderful 2002 album, 'It's Not Too Late'. That may not be one of his most proggy, recorded mostly by himself with Nick D'Virgilio, but there are bits and pieces here which remind me of that. He, of course, plays the role of Joseph and has been joined by Ted Leonard (Spock's Beard) as Judah, Matt Smith (Theocracy) as Reuben, Jake Livgren (Proto-kaw, Kansas) as the slave driver, Talon David (who appeared on 'Jesus Christ The Exorcist') as Potiphar's Wife, Wil Morse (Neal's son) as Simeon and Mark Pogue as Jacob. Among the musicians are Eric Gillette and Steve Morse, while drummer Gideon Klein also deserves a special mention. This does not feel like one of his more recent solo releases but takes us back to his early solo days when he was full of confidence of having done the right thing of leaving Spock's Beard and surrounding himself with top musicians to produce a series of albums which showed a direct continuation of 'Snow'.

Interestingly, this album has received a variety of different reviews in that some love it while others think it is quite weak, but there is no doubt in my mind that it has put his last Christian opera deeply in the shade and I for one cannot wait for part two. Here is a rock opera full of passion and wonderful complex and complicated prog which is Morse to the core. If you have enjoyed any of his work over the last thirty years, then this is essential.

 The Dreamer - Joseph: Part One by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2023
3.95 | 46 ratings

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The Dreamer - Joseph: Part One
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by strangelybrown

4 stars As is so often the case with Neal, this record - for me - took a few listens for it to fully marinate - much like with Sola Gratia and even TSOAD. In my humble opinion it is yet again a great album of feel-good prog rock.

Before The World Was, Wait on You and the last track are total Morse classics. Such emotive vocals and pleasing chord sequences. Not crazy about a couple of them but you can't have everything! Long live the one semitone down key change! (which has such an epic effect, and was previously used at the end of Sola Gratia after its guitar solo)

Can't wait to see him at Morsefest UK!

 NMB: An Evening of Innocence & Danger - Live in Hamburg by MORSE, NEAL album cover Live, 2023
4.06 | 12 ratings

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NMB: An Evening of Innocence & Danger - Live in Hamburg
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars Recorded in Hamburg on their 2022 tour to promote the 'Innocence & Danger' album which was released the previous year, we again find Neal Morse Neal Morse (vocals, keyboards, guitar) in the company of Eric Gillette (guitar, vocals), Bill Hubauer (keyboards, vocals), Randy George (bass, bass pedals, vocals), and Mike Portnoy (drums, vocals). Of course, this being a live album we expect it to be fairly lengthy, and we are not disappointed as this is a triple CD set with a running time of nearly 2 hours. The gig itself was divided in two, so we get eight shorter songs (seven of which are from the latest album ) followed by the two epics from 'Innocence & Danger' before it concludes with the "The Great Similitude Medley" which features highlights from the band's previous two records 'The Great Adventure' and 'The Similitude of a Dream'.

This means that anyone into Morse is going to find plenty on here to enjoy. I was lucky enough to see the original line- up of Spock's Beard a few times, before first seeing Neal on his amazing 'Testimony' tour, which of course also featured Randy and Mike, his long-time sparring partners. That he is one of the most important songwriters and performers to have come into the prog scene in the last 30 years is never in doubt, and the album is all one would expect. I have no idea how many live albums I have featuring Neal (the technical terms is "lots") and he always seems perfectly at home no matter who he is performing with. However, there are some times when it is appears he is almost performing to his own formula, and while there are plenty of fans there who love what he did to "Bridge Over Troubled Water" I must confess to not being in the same boat, as there was something magical about the original which has been lost here. However, that can almost be forgiven when we get into the last three numbers, which have a running time of 22 minutes, 34 and 30 respectively. It is when he allows himself to fully expand and go full prog that he really comes to life as he creates music which is dynamic, full of contrast and power, and it is these where the listener can truly be lost inside.

That this is a great album is never in doubt, but due to the material it is never totally indispensable, albeit thoroughly enjoyable at all times. It is nice to listen to, but there are other live albums of his which are superior.

 The Dreamer - Joseph: Part One by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2023
3.95 | 46 ratings

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The Dreamer - Joseph: Part One
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by AlanB

3 stars Is Neal Morse trying to emulate Andrew Lloyd-Webber? A few years ago he released a rock opera based on the life of Jesus, now he turns his attention to Joseph (yes, he of the technicolor dreamcoat). So what to make of this latest release?

The first thing to say is that only one member of the Neal Morse band is utilised here. Eric Gillette contributes some drum parts and one guitar solo. Most of the vocalists from Jesus Christ The Exorcist are involved, and I have to pick out Talon David (who sang Mary Magdalene in JCtE) for particular praise. Here she sings the part of Potiphar's wife on three tracks. Slave Boy is the outstanding one for me. If there is any justice in this world, this young lady should have a stellar career. What a voice!

As for the quality of the music, I would put this as middling in Neal's catalogue. Not up to the heights of Sola Scriptura, Question mark and Similitude, or even its predecessor JCtE, but pretty good nonetheless. Top tracks Gold Dust City, Slave Boy and Heaven In Charge Of Hell. Disappointing tracks the Overture and its reprise, it's not one of Neal's best overtures.

The CD only tells half the story, leaving Joseph in prison after being wrongly accused of sexual assault. Part 2 is due out next year.

 Sola Scriptura by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2007
4.20 | 709 ratings

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Sola Scriptura
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by PriestOfCyrinx

5 stars I have been listening to this album for years, and have heard nearly all of Neal Morse's discography. This one is by far my favorite of all of his work (from what I have heard so far).

This is the album I would definitely use to try to introduce people to Neal's style. In my opinion this album showcases all of his best elements at the top of their form.

The album is so well structured musically from start to finish. The power of the music can be felt from the get-go with beautiful melodies, hard hitting guitar riffs, and inspirational lyrics. The sections done by the master guitarist Paul Gilbert are 2 of my favorite moments on the album, especially the flamenco section (Two Down, One to go).

In closing, I strongly believe this album is a masterpiece in that it has a little something that would appeal to almost any prog fan!

 Momentum by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.96 | 486 ratings

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Momentum
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by Sidscrat

4 stars I am amazed that after seeing so many artists reviewed on this site, I am impressed to see so many 4 and 5 star reviews of Neal Morse's music. I do not normally see this on other artists' albums consistently. I do have to admit he has his niche in this genre pegged. Being a fan first and foremost of early prog I grew weary of artists that came after trying to reignite a candle that had already run its course. The instrumentation was usually more of the same and there was not much new ground forged.

But then came bands like Pendragon, Dream Theatre, Galleon and others who really started taking prog to a different level and Spock's Beard was one of those bands. Neal was one of the chief songwriters and the albums in his time (Other than Snow) were the best in my opinion. When he became born again I was expecting the usual contemporary Christian music but NO! This guy launched into full scale prog warfare and I am astonished that even today (2022) he is still putting out amazing stuff. Surrounded by top notch musicians, he cranks this stuff out with amazing creativity. Not all of it warrants a WOW rating but no artist does.

Mike Portnoy sticks by his side even today and he plays his instrument as though he was a lead guitarist so much of the great reviews are not just the songwriting but the people who are putting it out. Their work with Transatlantic and now Flying Colors continues his streak of fresh music.

Before I review this album I am going to address artist creativity and their choices on themes and topics. My intention is not to offend any of the esteemed members of this amazing site but to point out that prog is not limited to certain topics. I am someone who doesn't normally listen much to lyrics. I have trouble understanding the words. Since I am a classically trained musician, I tend to listen to prog for the instrumental talent but I do take note of the lyrical content.

I am a Christian but spent over half my life not being one so I have been on both sides of the argument of faith- based lyrics. I applaud Neal for being bold in his music. I am not a big fan of most Christian music as it is so repetitive without much emphasis on instrumentation.. Neal is someone who goes deeper in the lyrics than most artists and he is one of the few prog Christian artists and the best in my opinion. It is important to remember that the artist puts out music as a reflection of who they are so it is very personal to them so when we criticize that we forget that the words are not necessarily meant for the listener. Sure, he wants the words to affect us but there are only so many who will be affected in a positive way. I feel he is challenging us to look within at what we believe and most non-Christian artists do the same thing with their music when they write about causes and suffering and other things that they believe in.

There are many artists whose themes are very dark and even satanic in nature. I believe I cannot be critical of one and praise the other as a measure of the talent and quality of the instrumentation and songs themselves. That is me. I listen to artists who put out music whose lyrics I disagree with as that is their choice and I accept the music for its merits. I could be "offended" since it goes against what I believe but I choose to allow the artist their freedom to choose and see their talent as God given.

I think a testament to his music is that so many here on this site have rated his works with 4 and even 5 stars even though his lyrics may rub them the wrong way. So thank you for being objective in the content of the music.

As far as the album is concerned, it is pretty good but not among his absolute best. The title track comes out of the shoots strong and could qualify as a hit single if it were cut down. Again the instrumentation is full bore on this album and Portnoy's drums on this song are punchy and tight. "Thoughts Pt 5" is another part he does to rehash and add to the SB song. I like the sudden changes in it as it keeps me surprised from one moment to the next. "Smoke & Mirrors" and "Weathering Skies" do not do much for me. These 2 tracks seem to drag the album down some. "Freak" is bit abrasive and the lyrics are clever. I think many of us can relate to it. The highlight is "World Without End" and it soars from one part to the next. It is more predicable and classic Neal but it is delivered well. I love the radical opening; Adson Sodre's guitar work is stellar.

The guitar work is fantastic through the album and Randy George's bass work fits well with Mike's drumming. It is like listening to a bunch of lead players all at once! I do love the fact that Neal doesn't hog the show with his own instruments and allows each member to play off their leashes! I would consider this work as a weak 4.

 NMB: Innocence & Danger by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.91 | 162 ratings

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NMB: Innocence & Danger
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The Neal Morse Band ride again on this fourth studio album. Having spent a while in concept album land with their two releases (The Similitude of a Dream and The Great Adventure), this finds them enjoying the freedom to just cook up a brace of great songs and not worry too much about conceptual structure.

The two concept albums saw the songwriting pendulum creep somewhat more towards Neal Morse, and indeed between The Great Adventure and this the band put out Sola Gratia, a concept album under Neal's own name rather than under the Neal Morse Band flag, because that was entirely written by Neal and the band were just there to enact his vision. By contrast, there seems to have been an attempt here to correct that balance - Neal deliberately didn't turn up without any demos of his own, so as to give more space for the other band members' ideas after they'd indulged him with that piece and the two John Bunyan concept albums (the latter of which had been largely demoed by Neal before the band got involved). Indeed, a chunk in the middle of Not Afraid (Part 2) is improvised on the spot!

Between these two factors, then, one might expect the album to be a bit broader in stylistic range and something of a sonic depature, and you get exactly that here. The group have always shared vocal duties, but it feels like they go out of their way here to bring that diversity of voices to the fore, making this a real breath of fresh air. It's clearly a departure from the conceptually structured John Bunyan duology, where Neal ended up exerting a lot of influence over the "big picture" structure of the compositions even though the band all contributed ideas, but because other band members brought their demos to the table their material has the chance to get a bit more polish than the ideas on The Grand Experiment (where *nobody* brought demos and the whole point was to see if they could create an album working together right there in the studio).

There's only two real exceptions to this very democratic working approach. Emergence is a short piece composed by Neal alone, knocked out at a time when the band were contemplating taking the Fragile approach and including solo numbers from each member, whilst there's also a cover of Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water, which is a nice fit for Neal and the group's obvious appreciation of the sunny 1960s sounds which fed into the early prog scene.

It's also, perhaps, the clue to where the band are coming from this time - for their approach to covering the material owes a fair amount to Yes's cover of America, and between that and toying with the idea of basing the album's structure on Fragile, this album feels a little like a Neal Morse Band take on Yes - not in terms of blandly imitating Yes's classic style (though there's obviously influence which can be detected here and there), but recapturing that sunny, optimistic, ethereal atmosphere which permeates the best Yes material. (Even the album title might hint to this - "Innocence" and "Danger" being two qualities which might go with the idea of being "Fragile"...)

I don't think it quite holds together as well as prior Neil Morse Band albums - in particular, I think the conclusion to Beyond the Years drags on too long - but it's still a very enjoyable prog album, and one which leaves me interested to see what they do next.

 Sola Gratia by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.90 | 145 ratings

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Sola Gratia
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Whilst in his early solo career Neal Morse put out a fair few prog albums under his own name, for the last ten years or so he's actually been more sparing on that front. He's kept up the pace of his singer-songwriter releases and his "worship music" series of mainstream Christian faith music, but ever since his surprise return to Transatlantic for The Whirlwind it seems like he actively prefers to make prog in a band context - thus putting out less prog albums as "Neal Morse" and more as part of "The Neal Morse Band". (There was the Jesus Christ the Exorcist album, but that was a full cast prog-gospel rock opera, and so whilst it differed from the Neal Morse Band's approach, it also wasn't very much like Neal's earlier solo prog albums.)

And, in a way, Sola Gratia kind of is a Neal Morse Band album, because the gang is all here (or at least are present virtually - due to this being recorded in the early phases of the first COVID lockdown, all the participants recorded their parts separately and Neal assembled it all together).

At the same time, it's not presented as one, and for good reason. All the Neal Morse Band releases include extensive sharing of the songwriting duties. Sometimes the extent to which is the case has varied - their first album was very much a collaborative effort, since they deliberately went in the studio with nothing prepared, whereas on The Great Adventure, Neal already had demos of the entire thing worked out and the band's contribution largely came down to putting flesh on those bones.

For Sola Gratia, however, Neal composed everything and the band are really here simply to put his vision into effect - so it's credited to him, not the group as a whole. (They would go right back to a very band-oriented, collective approach on Innocence and Danger, which they'd release under the band name.)

It's a sort of thematic sequel to his earlier solo album, Sola Scriptura - in that both albums are based on major theological concepts in Protestant Christianity, and both of them are concept albums based around the stories of major figures in Christian history, Martin Luther in the case of Sola Scriptura and Saint Paul on this album.

What you get here, then, might not be all that surprising; designating this a "Neal Morse" album was apt. If you've taken in his solo prog work from Testimony to Momentum, you'll recognise a lot of the schticks and techniques he works in here - but he's also picked up a few new tricks up his sleeve. This might be the benefit of working more in a band context - not only does this help Neal pick up new ideas better than him doing all the songwriting work himself, but it also means that when it comes time to put together a solo album the "old way" he could come back to it with fresh eyes, making this one of the stronger releases in his discography under his own name.

 Jesus Christ The Exorcist by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.64 | 154 ratings

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Jesus Christ The Exorcist
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Some parts of Neal Morse's solo discography are easier to pigeonhole than others. There's the prog albums - either under his own name or, as has tended to be the case since 2015, put out through the vehicle of the Neal Morse Band - there's the worship music albums of much more straightforward Christian music, there's a few singer-songwriter releases and collections of cover songs and so on. For the really hardcore fans, there's also his various fan club releases, including both demos recorded for solo and band projects and more obscure bits and pieces from his personal archives.

Jesus Christ the Exorcist, however, doesn't fit easily into any of these categories. For one thing, it's a musical, one which Morse first drafted in 2008 but was not performed in any form until 2018. Morse has written musicals before - one of the early Inner Circle Club releases was Hitman, presenting the songs from a musical he devised in the early 1990s (a music industry satire about a record company executive who bets one of his peers that he can make a band that doesn't exist world-famous) - but this is perhaps the first time such a project had come fully to fruition.

As the title might imply, it's based on the life of Jesus, so we're definitely in the realm of his more overtly religious material. At the same time, it's a rock opera, so there are some shades of his prog work here - but it's perhaps the first of his prog-leaning solo releases not to see Mike Portnoy behind the drumstool (though his regular sideman Randy George is there on bass).

The end result is something which doesn't quite sound like anything Neal has done before. There's certainly elements of his prog work here, but it's also shot through with flavours of classic musical theatre and worship music. Both of these are genres which Neal has injected into his prog work before, but usually for extra spice or gravitas where it was called for; here, those influences are more prominent, in effect forming the other two legs of the tripod on which the album rests.

Of all Neal's prog peers, perhaps the project this release can best be compared to is the work of Ayreon - not necessarily in terms of musical style, but in terms of presenting a rock opera with a full cast, with a host of singers portraying the different characters. Neal himself gives voice to a disciple, a demon, and the more ambiguous figure of Pontius Pilate himself, and I don't know whether that triple casting is simply reflecting a need to fill out the roles or a genuinely clever move which allows Neal to embody the mixture of saint, sinner, and confused man-in-the-middle that we all find ourselves being at different times in our lives.

Another fun twist with the casting comes with the involvement of Ted Leonard and Nick D'Virgilio, who play Jesus and Judas respectively; Nick took on the lead singer role in Spock's Beard after Neal left, and Ted picked up that spot when Nick left, so you end up here with the three major "voices" of the band all playing roles on the same project.

Giving such an important central role to Ted is a pretty strong statement of approval on Neal's part - even if you set aside the obvious gravitas necessary to play Jesus in a musical written from a reasonably sincere religious perspective, that's the starring role right there! - and perhaps that indicates just how much Neal respects Ted's work. (Neal would provide a guest appearance on Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep, the first Spock's Beard album to feature Ted on lead vocals, and it's notable that he avoided taking any vocals himself, yielding the spotlight to Ted to give him a clear run at it.) Leonard, for his part, certainly steps up to the plate, and does a fine job with the role.

Still, I can't quite get into this release; I respect what it's trying to do, but it's ultimately taking an approach which isn't entirely to my taste. It's a competent rendition of a story you likely already know very well, and it stands out in Morse's discography more as a result of being different from his usual fare rather than being a cut above his average standards.

 The Neal Morse Band: The Great Adventure by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.96 | 339 ratings

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The Neal Morse Band: The Great Adventure
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars The first Neal Morse Band album was a departure from Neal's usual writing process, because he and the band went into the studio with nothing prepared whatsoever, a situation which demanded that everyone step up to the plate and offer creative contributions - a real shift from Neal's previous approach in his solo career (and during his leadership of Spock's Beard), which entailed writing almost all the material himself.

The second album, The Similitude of a Dream, saw Neal working out a concept and broad structure for the album, and then the band as a whole worked out on fleshing out those bones. This was refreshing in its own right, because it was still a very band-oriented process, but at the same time ensured that there was more overarching structure than on The Grand Experiment.

For this sequel to The Similitude of a Dream, Neal seems to have gone back to his old way of working - presenting the band with some two and a half hours of demos for the concept. These would then be workshopped rigorously; the final album weighs in at about 100 minutes, meaning a fair amount had to be cut. Neal's acknowledged that these cuts were sometimes painful, with everyone involved needing to lose bits they loved, but the end result is a release which is broadly in line with the general approach of Neal's earlier solo career (at least in terms of the prog albums), but has been subjected to sufficiently ruthless editing to keep things tight.

I think the later stretches album are a bit stronger musically than the earliest, which are a little too "business as usual" for Neal, but on further reflection I actually think that sneakily a somewhat neat structure which suits the concept - the album starts out in Neal's comfort zone and then he and the band go out into the hinterlands as things progress.

As far as the concept goes, as mentioned it's a sequel to The Similitude of a Dream, which was based on The Pilgrim's Progress. It's not a spurious, tacked-on sequel, mind; Bunyan's original novel consists of two parts, the titular Pilgrim's journey, and then the journey of the family he left behind to join him in the wonderful realm he's discovered. For the first album, Neal and the Band just dealt with the first part - which meant the second part was ripe for exploration on this album, as a sort of companion piece to the first.

This was an instance where Neal had to persuade the band a little - initially he and the group had been satisfied with Similitude, and were happy to leave Bunyan there and move on to other things - but the end results are on a par with the preceding album, and just shows that having this tight band around him continues to do Neal Morse a world of good. Even though this was largely sprung on them as a fait accompli, you can still detect touches here and there which feel more reminiscent of Neal Morse Band work than Neal Morse solo work, as it were - fleeting moments which don't seem necessarily what Neal would have come up with by himself - but at the same time, the shift in approach means that when the three Neal Morse Band albums up to this point are considered, each has its unique and distinctive character and none of them seem superfluous or redundant.

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

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