NEAL MORSE ‘Testimony’ (Inside Out IOMCD139) (2003)
Songwriter/vocalist/keyboard player Neal Morse caused a stir late
last year when he left Spock's Beard after he found he couldn't carry
on with the band and keep his religious ideals intact. It was an
amicable spilt and indeed Spock's Beard have just released their
first album without Neal Morse, where drummer Nick D'Virgilo steps up
to the mic. Neal Morse plays most of the instruments on here with
help from Kansas founder Kerry Livgren, Dream Theater's drummer Mike
Portnoy and a string section.
It's a very personal album, almost too personal at times, as Morse
explores his faith and looks back over his life so far. It clocks in
at over two hours of music spread across two CD's and there is so
much musically going on in here. Strings are used to great effect,
especially on the three overture tracks (think ELO's
excellent 'Elderado Overture') as are female backing vocals.
Highlights on disc one include the AOR of 'California Nights' (which
includes a dig at the Eagles' 'Hotel California'), the keyboard and
harmonies overload on 'Colder In The Sun' and the very mellow refrain
on 'Sleeping Jesus'.
Over on the second disc, there are fewer 'instant' tracks but give
it a few listens and it reveals more gems. Try the 70's prog
of 'Ready To Fly', accessible pop rock on 'Moving In My Heart'
(complete with horns!) and the biting rocker 'Oh Lord My God' (touch
of Butch Walker in here!).
Don't let the overtly Christian lyrics put you off a fine album
that covers so many musical bases. A must for Spock's Beard fans and
those who enjoy Kansas, 70's era ELO et al. The production is top
notch, allowing the listener to hear all the numerous instruments and
time changes clearly. You need time to listen to this album but its
well worth your effort and highly enjoyable.