Neal Morse
?


4.5
superb

Review

by Friday13th USER (12 Reviews)
June 25th, 2013 | 26 replies


Release Date: 2005 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Neal takes us on a seamless journey through history, spirituality, and proggy goodness.

The concept album is a nearly extinct art form. It’s hard to believe we live in the same world that at one point saw albums like Thick as a Brick and Wish You Were Here hit #1 on the Billboard Charts. Even when it is attempted by the likes of mainstream rockers like Black Veil Brides and, most recently, Skillet, it is done in the most radio friendly, no-risk-taken approach of portraying the life of a teenager. Listen, kids, if you want a concept album, leave it to the pros, the pretentious prog rockers.

Neal Morse has been progging since the early ‘90s with the neo prog heroes Spock’s Beard. That’s right, Spock doesn’t even have a beard and they don’t care. They’re just that confident in their prog. Neal Morse’s claim to fame is probably with Transatlantic, a supergroup featuring the dexterity of drummer Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater and two other guys (who honestly, no one remembers). While Neal Morse wrote his first progressive rock concept album “Snow” (often considered a neo-prog classic) while in Spock’s Beard, Neal went all out when he quit Spock’s Beard to focus on his solo career.

One after another, Morse released the concept albums Testimony, One, Question Mark, and Sola Scriptura. Okay, so he also threw out a couple sappy worship albums in that time frame, but his main works never suffered. While Genesis and Rush took inspiration from English literature and Yes took inspiration from New Age/Buddhist works, Neal Morse takes inspiration from the Bible and Christian tradition. This could have gone very wrong, which is why I praise Neal Morse highly for doing it very right. Though I think he surpassed himself in the heavier, longer, and more complex Sola Scriptura, Question Mark is his first fully enjoyable concept album that keeps the listener interested till the finale.

On Question Mark, Neal Morse guides the listener back in time to the ancient Hebrew temple. People for centuries have wanted to see it rebuilt, and though it is neigh impossible due to Muslim/Jewish relations, Neal Morse illustrates its wonder and majesty with both his lyrics and music. The songs seamlessly flow into each other and key themes repeat. Like any good concept album, Question Mark should be consumed whole.

The opening song “The Temple of the Living God” opens a scene for the senses that describes the throng of peoples that have come from afar to see the temple. Throughout the album, Neal tries to be as accurate as possible given the historical texts we have about the temple. On the flip side, this is a very personal journey. Neal takes the role of a wide-eyed foreigner, feeling bewildered, lonely, but eager to see what he has been told about and longing to meet with God. He finds out the symbolic meaning behind the temple and how it relates to himself and all mankind.

A story this historical in scope and spiritual in its emotions requires attention to detail, and it is not fumbled by the musician’s department. It will please prog fans that Neal Morse employed an all-star cast. Mike Portnoy, Jordan Rudess, and Steve Hackett of Genesis among others display their talents here. I will say that Mike Portnoy doesn’t showcase his complex prog metal rhythms to his full capability like on Scenes from a Memory or even Neal Morse’s next album Sola Scriptura. The album stays on rather straightforward 4/4 beats, slowing down here and there, and then changing to 3/4 time for three songs starting with the epic choral piece “The Glory of the Lord.” Great fills and all but it isn’t one of his strongest performances. On the other hand the guitarist, keyboardist, and even bassist show off a delightful feast of winding riffs and solos throughout the album, bringing back memories of ELP, Genesis, and occasionally King Crimson on a few jazzier numbers like “The Temple of the Living God” and “Solid as the Sun.” Overall, Neal Morse sounds more like Pink Floyd or Genesis in that he gives his prog room to breathe and knows when the music calls for a good chorus or a piano interlude.

Highlights would be the opening song, the keyboard/guitar solo fest “In the Fire,” the best stand-alone track “Solid as the Sun,” and the last two songs that conclude the album with a mouth-watering harmonized guitar duel and epic reprise of “The Temple of the Living God.”

This album is quite a cerebral journey that isn’t too hard to follow or too long (sorry Lamb Lies Down on Broadway). With the final chorus:
And now that it’s done
the heart of everyone
can be the temple of the living God
You’ve taken a journey quite unlike any other. That’s how a concept album should be.



Recent reviews by this author
Neal Morse The Grand ExperimentTourniquet Onward to Freedom
Univers Zero HeresieJudas Priest Redeemer of Souls
Kerry Livgren Seeds of ChangeMagma Mekanïk Destruktiw Kommandoh
user ratings (31)
Chart.
4.2
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
June 25th 2013


51326 Comments


lol a lot of people get this artwork when they put "?" in a list

Friday13th
June 25th 2013


3698 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

haha Neal Morse knew what he was doing.

KILL
June 25th 2013


73775 Comments


dudes a dude

Jethro42
June 25th 2013


12948 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

great review for a great album

pizzamachine
June 25th 2013


12632 Comments


yeah this rules

NightmareCinema16
June 26th 2013


2016 Comments


Yes, agreed. I need to give this a relisten.

Mad.
June 26th 2013


4421 Comments


"The Glory of God" "The Temple of the Living God" ewww this sounds like it could be abominable...

Friday13th
June 26th 2013


3698 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@Mad it's not, but it is for prog fans. I see you rated 2112 and Court of the Crimson King 3.0 and 3.5 so you might not be ready.

Jethro42
February 11th 2015


12948 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

My second fave album of his, even if it finishes to slowly for my taste near the end... to much ''praise ballads''. Bumped up to 4.5 nevertheless. There is enough prog to be satisfying in there!

Friday13th
February 11th 2015


3698 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Agreed, though I don't hear any clear weak spots. It is overall lighter than One and Scriptura. I know what you mean, Neal's biggest flaw in other albums like Testimony or Whirlwind is he draws the end out for too long, but I think this one ends the best. I really dig the dual guitar soloing at the end.

Jethro42
February 11th 2015


12948 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

omg, I didn't notice that guitar dual. I only had one ear opened for this passage haha. Really well done indeed.

Is Whirlwind a studio album? I can't find it even on Progarchives. I'm almost done with Testimony. It's a fair share blend of ''praise ballads'' and prog blasts, and I think it remains 4/5. It's more like a 4.25/5 actually. I revisit ''One'' tomorrow if I can.

Friday13th
February 11th 2015


3698 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Whirlwind is by Transatlantic, but we all now who's hand was firmly over that sucker ;)

Jethro42
February 12th 2015


12948 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah, Neal is their captain. I think that just like for Spock's Beard, he temporarily left the vessel when he gave his life to God, but since then he came back again (to record The Whirlwind?)



The Whirlwind's ending is much too long, and has nothing to do with the rest of the music, so you give another good example of his unecessary and excessive laid back music mixed with his energetic, powerful prog stuff. He should gather most of these ballad songs into his ''gospel'' records instead.

Friday13th
February 12th 2015


3698 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yeah I mean sometimes it works really well like the gospel moments of the "The Door" where you actually feel what Luther must have been feeling. But yeah, like in Whirlwind "Dancing in Eternal Glory" or whatever it's called is like the worst epic he's done lol totally anticlimactic.

Jethro42
February 12th 2015


12948 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I don't know what's the story about Luther's feelings and what lyrics are related to him (or would the whole album be a concept based in memory of the Martin's whole implications?), but I probably enjoy every minutes of The Door. I could say pretty much the same thing for The Conflict and The Conclusion.

Friday13th
February 12th 2015


3698 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Well an example is the part in "The Door" at about 10:24, "This is all I ask for/ to live a life that's pleasing to you/ and be there ever after/ you know my heart, you know it's true." If you know the story of Luther it gets easily bogged down by the whole Protestant v. Catholic thing. Lyrics like that take a step back from the complexity of the story and into the heart of a man who just wants to please God no matter what. I think it's brilliant, anyways.

Jethro42
February 12th 2015


12948 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Ah ok I see. I've edited my comment above while I was asking myself if the entire album was referring to Martin works (as a concept album), or only few passages were about his life and devotions here and there... I wish my English could get improved faster.

Friday13th
February 12th 2015


3698 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah, glad I can clear it up! It's about a section of Luther's life. Not gonna lie, it is a little confusing at first because Neal changes perspective frequently. For example, every word up till about 9:40 in "The Door" is the voice of the "fallen church." Talking about indulgences, religious corruption, and customs that Luther opposed. Then it switches to Luther's perspective on the pretty sounding part after that. You have to really understand the history for it to make total sense, but it does and I love it!

Jethro42
February 12th 2015


12948 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks for the infos buddy. I intend to visit the Wikipedia' Martin's page. His murder is surely one of the biggest tragedy of the last century. -R.I.P. But he's now close to God. You seem to be a born again Christian yourself. I accepted Christ as my personal savior in 1987. But for now, I'm not active. I returned into the world among the lions as we say.

Friday13th
February 12th 2015


3698 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yes, I am. Glad to hear, Jethro! Well except for the "world among the lions" part. Do you mind explaining "not active"? I believe God looks at your heart, so you don't have to be "active" in a literal sense.



Jethro...one really important thing needs to be cleared up...I think you will begin to understand this album by "leaps and bounds" (a lot more). Sola Scriptura is about Marting Luther and NOT Martin Luther KING JR. who was named after the man talked about here :D He lived in the 1500s in Germany.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy