NEAL MORSE - Momentum

Neal Morse - Momentum

6 songs
61:17 minutes
***** ***


It’s been known for quite a few years now that Neal Morse is an evangelical Christian who quite often uses his music for proselytizing purposes. As a rational person without any religious beliefs, I obviously can’t identify with his messages. Yet I even spent than 3 Euros on his autobiography Testimony for my Kindle, as I found myself quite fascinated by this busy musician. In fact Momentum is already his nineteenth solo album since his eponymous debut from 1999. Before that he was a founding member of Spock’s Bears, and also released three studio albums (plus a couple of live ones) with his supergroup Transatlantic.

With so many albums to look back upon, it’s of course obvious that Neal Morse is not always coming up with something amazing. All too often in the past there was this overwhelming déjà-vu feeling that made the listening experience a little derivative. Not so Momentum though! Even though there is hardly anything unprecedented to be found here, I get the impression that his core band consisting of drummer Mike Portnoy and bass player Randy George has finally found its… momentum. The album starts with the title track, a six and a half progressive rock song full of dynamic energy. I especially like how the bass has grabbed a prominent role in the mix. Thoughts Part 5 is a continuation of a theme that was initially developed by Spock’s Beard back in the Nineties, and shows of course strong parallels to Morse’s previous band. While his work very often reminds me of American prog rockers Kansas, this track is very close to Gentle Giant, thanks to the excellent vocal work. Smoke And Mirrors is a ballad, and in my personal opinion the least interesting track on the record. The following Weathering Sky picks up the pace again, before the first half ends with the sweet Freak. If there were a genre called twee prog, this song might quite certainly start it.

The second half consists of World Without End, running at 33:38 minutes, and apart from Transatlantic’s album-filling The Whirlwind, Morse’s longest composition yet. The first five or so minutes are instrumental, quite jazzy and thus remind me of the Canterbury sound from the Seventies. Then it goes on like expected, but it is still a fun rollercoaster ride that actually never feels too long, despite its excessive length.

Momentum is one of Neal Morse’s more rewarding albums. It is shorter than many of his other albums, and while the concluding monster track is truly long, the remaining tracks show the artist from his most accessible side. Of course there is Christian sentiment running throughout the album, but I decided to not let that influence my rating. Momentum is a mighty fine prog rock album, and I feel that Neal Morse as a solo artist sounds more intriguing that Spock’s Beard ever did since his departure. Those of you unfamiliar with Neal Morse might still start with one of his band (Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic) albums, but as a starting point into his solo body of work, this might be a good place to begin.

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