Morse, Neal - ?

Year of Release: 2005
Label: InsideOut
Catalog Number: SPV 48622 CD / IOMCD 226
Format: CD
Total Time: 56:23:00

You know that this is going to be a religious album. If that represents a problem for you then don't get this CD, don't criticize it, and stop reading this review now.

On the other hand if you can ignore the lyrics and enjoy the music, if you don't mind the spiritual overtones or if you actually appreciate the sentiments, then be advised - this is one of the best records of 2005.

The oddly titled ? is in very much the same musical vein as Testimony and One, and the quality of Neal Morse's songwriting and execution has improved steadily - making this new album the best of an already outstanding catalog. It may not be as musically complex as One, but it struck me as a more rewarding listen.

Another oddity is the track counter. ? is 12 songs spread across 56 minutes - yet there are really 7 songs here. Perhaps a message about the twelve tribes of Israel (mentioned in the lyrics, and track 9 is called "12") and the biblical perfect number 7?

Although Morse plays many of the instruments himself, a glance through the list of guest artists will quickly convince you of the standard of musicianship you can expect: Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater) on drums. Roine Stolt (Flower Kings), Alan Morse (Neal's brother, from Spock's Beard) and Steve (!) Hackett on guitar. Randy George (Ajalon) on bass. Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater) on keys. Portnoy and George have featured on the last three of Morse's solo studio albums, and although they share some of the some songwriting and arranging credits, and although they and the other progressive music luminaries deliver an outstanding performance, make no mistake - the songwriting style and the vocals and the spiritual message are pure Neal Morse. The sound is closer to classic Spock's Beard than the current incarnation of Spock's Beard are themselves.

Don't expect ? to be upbeat and peppy because of its Christian overtones. There's plenty of angst and heart-rending emotion here. Personal favorite goes to the dual "Temple Of The Living God" tracks that bookend the album. Other favorites? Well, it's hard to single any of them out because of that odd track counting, because ? is a concept album and most songs flow into one another yielding a continuous body of work with reprisals and recurring themes, and because - frankly - the high standard is consistent across the whole album. But listen for the huge choir and orchestral sounds on "The Glory Of The Lord," the wall of sound on "Deliverance," and the pure jazz interlude in "12."

This record just may be progressive rock written and played the way God always intended.

The Temple Of The Living God / Another World / The Outsider / Sweet Elation / In The Fire / Solid As The Sun / The Glory Of The Lord / Outside Looking In / 12 / Deliverance / Inside His Presence / The Temple Of The Living God (2)

Neal Morse - vocals, guitars, keyboards
Mike Portnoy - drums
Randy George - bass
Jordan Rudess - keyboards
Mark Leninger - saxophone
Steve Hackett - guitar
Alan Morse - guitar
Roine Stolt - guitar

Spock's Beard - The Light (1991)
Spock's Beard - Beware of Darkness (1995)
Spock's Beard - The Beard Is Out There Live (1995) (cd/vid)
Spock's Beard - Official Live Bootleg (1996)
Spock's Beard - The Kindness of Strangers (1997)
Spock's Beard - From The Vault - 1995-1998 (1998)
Spock's Beard - Day For Night (1999)
Spock's Beard - Live At The Whiskey and NEARfest (1999)
Neal Morse (1999)
Spock's Beard - Don't Try This At Home (2000)
Merry Christmas From The Morse Family (2000)
Neal Morse and Nick D'Virgilio - Two Separate Gorillas - Live In Europe (2000)
Spock's Beard - V (2000)
Transatlantic - SMPTe (2000)
It's Not Too Late (2001)
Transatlantic - Live In America (2001)
Transatlantic - Bridge Across Forever (2001)
Transatlantic - Bridge Across Forever - Special Edition (2001)
Spock's Beard - Snow (2002)
Testimony (2003)
One (2004)
Lead Me Lord (Worship Sessions Volume One) (2005)
? (2005)
Morse Portnoy George - Cover To Cover (2006)
Sola Scriptura (2007)
?: Live (2007)
Lifeline (2008)
Testimony Two (2011)
Testimony 2: Live In Los Angeles (CD/DVD) (2011)
Cover 2 Cover (2012)
Momentum (2012)
Neal Morse Band - The Grand Experiment (2015)
Neal Morse Band - Alive Again Tour 2015 (2016)
Neal Morse Band - The Similitude Of A Dream (2016)
Neal Morse Band - Morsefest 2015 (CD/DVD) (2017)
Life & Times (2018)

Transatlantic - Live In America (VID) (2001)
Testimony Live (DVD) (2004)
Sola Scriptura And Beyond (DVD) (2008)
Neal Morse Band - Morsefest 2015 (BR) (2017)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: November 13th 2005
Reviewer: Duncan N Glenday
Artist website:
Hits: 978
Language: english


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