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.
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.