Reviewed by Anthony Longville
A new album from progressive rock stalwart Neal Morse is always one to be anticipated. Including his final album with Spock's Beard, 'Snow', Morse has now recorded five consecutive concept albums. In many ways then the latest release is a welcome change, with no concept, the songs being allowed to stand alone. Also, whilst its predecessor 'Sola Scriptura' was an excellent recording, the musical and lyrical landscape was a dark one. So here we have a brighter album, with a number of shorter songs (of course there's a 28 minute one thrown in so we don't forget who and what we are dealing with here!). After repeated listenings, it is difficult to escape the feeling of déjà vu. Many of the musical themes are familiar, much of 'Lifeline' reminding me of 'One', "God's Love" reminiscent of Transatlantic's "We All Need Some Light", whilst thematically the epic "So Many Roads" revisits the classic 'Testimony'. Lyrically, I would say this is definitely Morse's most blatantly evangelistic release. The quirky "Leviathan" featuring metal guitars and funk horns and sneezing sea monsters has its novelty value but doesn't really hit the mark. So a disappointing release? Well ironically enough, no. Turn it up loud, it just sounds great - there are plenty of high points to savour. Morse seems to underrate his own lead guitar playing, using guests on recent recordings, but here he takes the lion's share, and this man can play. Some of the soloing is inspiring. "The Way Home" builds steadily and recalls Phil Collins' anthem "Take Me Home". The harmonies on "Children Of The Chosen" are truly beautiful. The trio of Morse, Portnoy and George is as tight as ever. Is this a classic album from Neal Morse? I don't think so. Is it a thoroughly enjoyable rock album? Yes it is.
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