Neal Morse

Metal Blade Records, 2004

REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk


Former Spock’s Beard frontman Neal Morse declared his faith with the epic album Testimony, chronicling his path to Christianity. His stunning follow-up, One, explores the separation of man from God. Morse explores the concept from several perspectives including the Old Testament; modern man’s devotion to technology, and the idea of power and wealth as personal virtues.

The first piece, the 18-minute epic "The Creation" goes back to Genesis and the fall of man, man’s original separation from God. It begins with the creation story, featuring bright, swirling keys and guitar creating an uplifting and majestic mood. As God confronts Adam -- "Children where are you? / Why are you hiding? / You were ashamed/ You fled my eyes" -- the music darkens and becomes violent and stormy, reflecting the images of man cast out from paradise.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Modern man is presented first in "The Man's Gone," a melancholy acoustic piece, and continues with "The Separated Man." As man becomes enamored with success, and discouraged by his perception that God has abandoned him; he draws further away, eventually exalting himself; "Look how far I've come / The poor abandoned Son / My cities scrape the sky / I believe in myself / I believe I can fly!"

The thoughts that often plant the seeds of man's distancing himself -- the crux of divine guidance vs. free will -- are expressed perfectly in "Cradle To The Grave":

"How I wish I could be relieved
Fall on God's doorstep
And be received
But it seems he doesn't care for me anymore
So I'll be on my way
Live from the cradle to the grave
On my own

Son you must understand
Why I would let you fall
It isn't because I don't love you
It's not that I want you to crawl
But the silence between us has grown
And your towers have grown so tall
'I let you choose; you have chosen'
You don't seem to want me at all"

The essence of the album is very much a retelling of the Prodigal Son. Man eventually returns to God, seeking forgiveness and the shelter of God's grace. The lush, orchestral "Father Of Forgiveness" and the rousing finale "Reunion" bring the album to a climactic finish.

Like Testimony, Morse' impeccable skill for arrangement shines through. Fans of his former band Spock's Beard will devour this stunning musical achievement. In fact, I will venture that this album surpasses his work with SB. He pulls out all his best prog-rock chops backed by returning Testimony collaborators Mike Portnoy and Randy Jackson. Guitar virtuoso Phil Keaggy also makes an appearance, adding his incredible skills to several tracks.

This album stands as yet another masterpiece of modern progressive rock. I don't care what you personally believe in, this is one incredible album. A stirring testament of Christian faith, and a meticulously crafted, beautifully performed musical achievement.

Rating: A

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© 2008 Bruce Rusk and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Metal Blade Records, and is used for informational purposes only.