Multi-instrumentalist/vocalist/composer Neal Morse once again conveys his spirituality, set to progressive rock music, on this multifaceted presentation. He's an eloquent storyteller, regardless of whether he's being dogmating or simply dishing out a good-natured vibe. And there's no doubt about it: Morse's conviction cannot be reproached. Together with the ensemble's knotty time signatures and flair for the dynamic, the leader also gets his word across via sanguine intervals and appealing melodies. Think of classic Yes mixed with a contemporary progressive rock stylization, awash with propulsive rhythms, weighty crunch chords, and layered keys. Morse also implements the now ancient, but still popular mellotron to garner a grandiose wall of sound effect to complement a few pop/rock choruses.
Heavy hitters such as Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess and ex-Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett lend an additional element of professionalism to the project. Along with other notables, Morse plies his talent in various ways, blending acoustic-electric movements, strings, and horns to complement gloriously executed motifs. Naturally, it would be easy to refer to this session as a rock-opera jaunt. Yet in the past, these characterizations sometime reduce music to a status that belittles its intentions, suggesting that an artist engages in superfluous nonsense. Thankfully, that is not the case here.
It's a heady but analogously comprehensive showing that stands rather mightily compared to much of the mindless drivel inundating the market. But the key to Morse's success is not easily attainable for many others in this business, where general know-how, technical acumen, and a clearly-stated message all culminate in a idiosyncratic manner. The artist also manages to have fun during the process, an attribute that translates into a substantial foundation for this exceptional production.
Track Listing: 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; Entrance; Inside His
Presence; The Temple of the Living God.
Personnel: Neal Morse: lead and backing vocals, keyboards, guitars; Mike Portnoy: drums and
percussion; Randy George: bass guitar;
Guests: Jordan Rudess: keyboards; Roine Stolt, Alan Morse, Steve Hackett, Mark Leniger:
With Chris Carmichael: violin, cello; Michael Thurman: French horn; Rachel Rigdon: violin;
Jim Hoke: saxophone;
Debbie Bresee: background vocals; Jay Dawson: bagpipes; Revonna Cooper, Joey and Amy
Pippin, Debbie Bressee, Wade Brown: choir.
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.