Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Neal Morse

A few years I cam across a new generation progressive rock band called Spock's Beard and took and instant liking to them. Independently and oddly at exactly the same moment (literally the same day) I came across Transatlantic - one of the many side project bands that seem to spring up in prog circles. (Transatlantic BTW I bought because the Dream Theater drummer was also the Transatlantic drummer.)

The guiding light of both these bands was an American multi-instrumenalist called Neal Morse. I was instantly hooked and then instantly disappointed to discover he had left both . Spock's Beard decided to continue without him although diminished a great deal in my opinion although I've liked a couple of the tracks from the three albums they've released without him. Transatlantic being a side project just folded - with only two albums and a couple of live albums ever produced.

Neal is a Christian, and by that I mean mega-Christian. He felt, as is his right, that he needed to go it alone to better express his faith. I am not a Christian but I decided to give his solo stuff a go and bought Testimony. From my point of view all I can say is oh dear. Testimony was a candy-floss album to my ears - unnecesarily sweet andwith little substance. It was as though you took the last Morse Spock's Beard album (Snow), removed the edge and replaced it with syrup.

The lyrics as well were a little too God-related. Now I do not get offended by overly Christian messages - I root for the goog guys in biblical epic movies (and I rather like them) - I was raised in a Christian culture after all. But I have no easy connection to them. I cannot sing along in the car to god-worshipping songs.

So Testimony didn't do it for me. But I decided to persevere and bought One. One is also a little heavy on the worship side in the lyrics but the music is better - there's more focus in it for me. Still cannot sing it in the car though.

His third album in the series was titled ? (yes a question mark). This album was better still, he's on the way to toning the god content down whilst beefing up the music close to where it once was.

Now album four came along (Sola Scriptura) and the title put me off. I didn't buy it when it came out - I had pretty much given him up as an artist I was not going to be a fan of. Shame as I liked his voice and the way he can put somgs together but that's the way it goes.

However I decided this Christmas to give it a go after all and added it to an Amazon order (mainly to use up vouchers I have been given for Christmas). I'm glad I did. This album has taken the hard edge even further, and the mood on the lyrics has changed a little. On this album there is a still an amount of Christianity but a lot of it is told as stories and there is less of the conversation with God going on. For the non-Christian like me it makes listening to it a lot easier.

He's apparantly already recorded the fifth post-Beard album - I will be buying this one when it comes out. Hopefully it will be as good as Sola Scriptura - if not better.

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