Neal Morse - One

8 songs
79:53 minutes
***** ****


Every prog rock fan should be familiar with who Neal Morse is: founder of the legendary Spock's Beard, bridging the gap between prog rock and rock metal from the early Nineties on, they somehow lost their energy at the beginning of the new millennium. One day I read that Neal Morse turned Christian, left Spock's Beard and would never make another album again… While the first two bits of information turned out to be correct, the last one was fortunately not true. One is already Morse's fourth solo album, and proves, next to the countless albums he recorded with Spock's Beard and Transatlantic, that even God couldn't prevent this man from releasing new music. While Morse's first two solo outings were not yet considered Christian works, they also were not that interesting for prog fans. It was his double-album Testimony that outed Morse as a Christian and somehow brought him back to the prog community.

One may only be a single album, but the eight songs nearly make the CD spill over with 80 minutes of music. Already the opener The Creation is an 18-minutes monster piece, showing Morse from his best side. With Randy George (from fellow Christian proggers Ajalon) on bass and especially Dream Theater's Mike Portnoy on drums, Morse has a perfect rhythm section, emphasizing Morse's varied guitar style and his use of myriads of keyboards. The following The Man's Gone is a shorter mellow piece, barely preparing you for the sonic onslaught of Author Of Confusion, the hardest track on the album, combining crimsonesque edginess with choral chants the way we learned to love them from Gentle Giant. The Separated Man is another 18-minutes epic song, somehow making you wonder how Morse is weaving all those wonderful songs together. Cradle To The Grave is the reason why this album doesn't get the maximum rating: it's a rather dispensable acoustic guitar / piano ballad. The following Help Me / The Spirit And The Flesh is also built strongly on piano, but with a more driving, nearly jazzy rhythm. Father Of Forgiveness shows again why Morse should stick with epic stuff. It's one of the weaker tracks, although still more than decent, with strong vocals, like the Beatles if they made gospel music. The album ends with Reunion, where the first part comes with a soulful brass section.

I am not going into the lyrics here. I don't care about Morse's private opinions and if you want to know more, check out some Christian websites. But when it comes to the music, I even dare to say that this is not only his best solo offering so far, but is just as good as the best stuff he did with early Spock's Beard. What is most astonishing is the fact that there are so many different styles, from brit prog (Yes) to old school (Kansas) and new school (Echolyn) yank prog, with an added flavour of Beatles, and always with a coherent production that makes you enjoy the variety instead of being irritated by so many involved styles. Of course, with a running time of 80 minutes, not every second can be overwhelming, but compared to V, Snow or Feel Euphoria (of which he was clearly not guilty though), One is a true masterpiece that should be checked out by every single prog fan!

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