Morse, Neal - Neal Morse

Year of Release: 1999
Label: Metal Blade
Catalog Number: 3984 14278 2
Format: CD
Total Time: 55:40:00

If you like Spock's Beard's mellower moments, and are a fan of tuneful yet cynical music, then you are sure to like Neal Morse's solo release. Though I'm sure the time really has passed for this comparison, Morse has a dry style like the late Kevin Gilbert. This music that is deep in its simplicity. By that I mean sparse, clear arrangements, a small compliment of instruments, and honest feelings. No pompousness, no posing, no over orchestration for the sake of it. This is music that speaks on the human level - we've been there, we've done that, we've felt this.

And here's a comparison that Morse probably won't appreciate, but I mean it in the kindest possible way - his vocal delivery on "Lost Cause" is very much like "Weird" Al Yankovich. Of course, there's that same dry sense of humour that Yankovich has. You could almost imagine that this is a parody of some other song sang in earnest, that Morse has twisted to his own ends. That isn't to suggest that the song sounds like a rip off of something out there, but has that keen, self-effacing quality that parodies often take. Of course, Morse gets serious on the next track, the bittersweet, tension filled "Landslide." This is a great track and one of my favourites. Although I wish the lyrics for this one had been included (some are, some aren't), Morse sings clearly enough that there's no trouble figuring them out. Like Gilbert, Morse has a voice that makes the emotion in the delivery clear and very effective.

Overall this album is less progressive rock than it is intelligent pop (though that phrase often seems to be an oxymoron) - rarely does he stray into the same territory he does with Spock's Beard, despite the presence of Nick D'Virgilio on drums, though you cannot deny the connection to the band ... Glenn Caruba handles percussion on one track ("A Whole 'Nother Trip"), and Chris Carmichael provides strings for "Emma" and "...'Nother Trip." Otherwise, its Morse - guitar, piano, etc.

"Emma" is another one of those standout tracks, and one that cuts right to the heart - a heartfelt reflection on a tragic life. The strings, the acoustic guitar, and the gentle vocals all add to the melancholy of this tune. Another stellar track on this stellar album.

"Nowhere Fast" is a melding of Gin Blossoms, Goo Goo Dolls (and others of the same ilk) and 60's pop - tuneful, poppy, not quite Beach Boys and not quite the Beatles - a radio hit if there was one. And very, very wry.

"A Whole 'Nother Trip" is the closest to the quirky keyboard sound of Spock's Beard that Morse gets. "'Nother Trip" is one, a trip through a variety of quirky textures and tones, funky and fun, and a chance for the band to 'kick out the jams' as they say. Well, that's just the first part of "Bomb That Can't Explode," that moves into that expansiveness that SB has, that wide open epic feel.

This "trip" is too diverse to try to summarize or take a verbal snapshot of, so I'll just tell you that this is great, and varied, mixing elements like chugging guitars, whistling, vocal effects, audio effects, flamenco guitar and whatnot ... the final movement has a mid to latter day Pink Floyd feel about it (Dark Side of The Moon is one thing that came to mind).

This is a great album that doesn't suffer from the over-indulgence that a lot of solo albums do. There's genuine warmth here, both in his vocals and the arrangements - the sense that Morse respects both his built in audience (SB fans) and new fans that may come to him from this album is evident throughout.

Perhaps the weakest track, but not by much, is "Everything Is Wrong." Even so, this is a very strong contender of my favourite album of the year, and comes recommended to Spock's Beard fans and non fans alike.

Living Out Loud (4:31) / Lost Cause (5:01) / Landslide (5:27) / That Which Doesn't Kill Me (4:42) / Everything Is Wrong (5:02) / Nowhere Fast (3:45) / Emma (3:16) / A Whole Nother Trip: a) Bomb That Can't Explode (9:02) b) Mr. Upside Down (4:40) c) The Man Who Would Be King (4:22) d) It's Alright (5:52)

Neal Morse - guitars, keyboards...lots more
Nick D'Virgilio - drums (except 1)
Glenn Caruba - percussion (8)
Chris Carmichael - strings (7, 8)

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: October 25th 1999
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1056
Language: english


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