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Morse, Neal: Momentum

Just when you think an artist like Neal Morse has released a career defining album he turns around and releases one that is even better. With Momentum Morse has done that, again.

The title is fitting because Neal felt very strongly that he had more momentum now than ever before during his recording career and now was not the time to rest on his laurels but to seize the moment and continue writing and recording music. His blend of spiritual progressive rock has swept across the world like a musical tsunami bringing along anyone within range of its awesome powers.

Morse is in the prime of his career now recording solo albums and performing and recording with super group Transatlantic. His longtime friend and drummer extraordinaire Mike Portnoy has been along for the ride. It goes without saying that the drumming on this recording is outstanding. Also the ever present Randy George is on bass, the other half of the powerhouse rhythm section that sets Morse and his songs on fire. The guitar playing comes via the six strings of legendary Paul Gilbert and Brazilian Adson Sodré. The chemistry for this recording is undeniable and the end result is proof that it all worked.

The music is incredibly good on Momentum. What you get is spiritually infused electrifying prog rock and metal, basically everything you would expect and more. It comes at you like a smart bomb and just explodes from your speakers, making every word count with full impact. The nearly 34 minute suite "World Without End" is a bona fide prog rock magnum opus and some of Morse's best work to date not to mention every other musician making contributions on another level, which separates them from so many others with profound emphasis. Morse finds inspiration and endless creative energy through his faith and we as the listeners are the fortunate recipients of that blessing.

I have to give the nod to the title track and "Smoke and Mirrors" as well, they are standouts that spotlight the precision instrumentation and power of Morse and his band. To be perfectly honest, there is not a moment of holding back on this recording and that includes not only the musicianship but the finely crafted lyrics behind all that energy and sheer musical force. There are some real heavy instrumental passages on this recording and I found it very pleasing as they offered both the complex, hard edged and mellower aspects of the genre. From the brute force of heavy metal at its peak to the more refined and syncopated complexities of keyboard laced prog, sprinklings of classical and jazz, this album covers the gamut of progressive music. Morse is no stranger to the elements of prog and what makes it tick.

With Momentum Neal Morse shows the world that not only is it befitting the title of the recording, he exemplifies the very meaning. When many artists his age are pulling in the reins, getting off the road and slowing down in every aspect of their careers, he seems to be hitting his stride with no end in sight. This is classic prog rock by one of the brightest stars of our generation.


Track Listing
1. Momentum
2. Thoughts Part 5
3. Smoke and Mirrors
4. Weathering Sky
5. Freak
6. World Without End
7. i Introduction
8. ii Never Pass Away
9. iii Losing Your Soul
10. iv The Mystery
11. v Some Kind of Yesterday
12. vi World Without End

Added: September 22nd 2012
Reviewer: Keith Hannaleck
Score:
Related Link: Artist Website
Hits: 1864
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Morse, Neal: Momentum
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-09-21 19:19:11
My Score:

I know that for many Neal Morse is a prog legend who can do no wrong and in many ways I understand why. However I have to admit that, truth be told, I find his music amazingly easy to be impressed with, but amazingly elusive on the engagement side. Never can it be said that Morse doesn't know how to put together a song, or album of epic proportions, or that he's shy of intricate, or indeed wildly bombastic arrangements. However songs that draw you back for more, or stick in the mind long after the album has finished have, for me, been thin on the ground. I even prefer Spock's Beard since his departure. Morse's newest super group (or am I behind the times already?),Flying Colors on the other hand, excite, dazzle, impress, keep you singing their melodies for days and demand you revisit on a regular basis. So it with renewed faith (pun intended) that I approached Momentum, deep in the hope of discovering the elements I have missed with Morse's previous work. And I did. Although not as many as I'd hoped for.

First up, as suggested by my colleagues already, if you love Morse and his music, you are going to be a slavering mess by the time you've lost yourself in the uber-epic "World Without End", as it shimmers for over thirty minutes, crescendoing at will and climaxing on numerous occasions, with multi-layered vocals, swirling keyboards and roaming bass and drum duels. So too will you froth at the mouth at the amazingly uplifting intro to the album "Momentum", as keyboards positively dance out of your speakers, heralding the arrival of stinging riffs as they jostle, jape and jest with your senses.

For Morse aficionados, the deal has already been signed sealed and gleefully delivered. So why do I find myself, well, slightly bored on occasion? A little non-plussed you could say, or distracted to the point of daydream? Well, purely and simply it is the lack of variation from song to song. The keyboards sounds are always bright, always flashy, the guitars always bristling and bold and Morse's voice, well, always a weak link. That doesn't mean that all of these songs aren't better than decent slabs of out and out prog. However as an hour long experience, it just drags in too many places. Maybe the fact that I don't have an mp3 player, or ever hit shuffle, or make playlists, means that I am in a minority of music buyers these days, although in prog circles, maybe not. However, while I can dip in and out of this album and thoroughly enjoy the experience, the prospect of sitting through 60 minutes worth of Momentum, just doesn't completely thrill.

Morse is a keen and clever lyricist and while his spiritual subject matter may not appeal to all, I have to say I find his thoughts, ideas and wordplay to be very enjoyable, even when I don't agree. On Momentum, I found, in a good way, some of the themes confrontational and the delivery of the lyrics, to be almost angry. Which is a definite plus, but I just can't get away from the fact that I'd rather have someone else belt out the mutli-layered voices on "Thoughts Part 5", or the very Beatlesy string laden "Freaks".

Love Morse? Love Momentum. Have your doubts? Then tread with care. You will definitely get a lot out of most of what has been presented here, but just maybe not all in one sitting.

Morse, Neal: Momentum
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-09-03 08:35:58
My Score:

I've been a little hard on Neal Morse the last few years; though there's no doubt that his brand of christian prog rock is surpremely well executed and delivered, I've found his last few releases a bit heavy handed and a tad overbearing, from both a musical & lyrical perspective. However, on Momentum, the former Spock's Beard leader is making me reconsider my opinion a little. This is easily the most rocking affair from Morse in a while, and most challenging musically. There are some musical passages and arrangements here on Momentum that are simply astounding (the epic "World Without End" suite comes to mind first), and show how well he understands classic progressive rock and how to make it engaging and exciting for modern audiences. Having the always dependable Mike Portnoy on hand to lay down the drums is always a plus, and ace guitarist Paul Gilbert also joins the fun for some sizzling axe work (nice to see him on a prog release...sign of things to come perhaps?) At the center of it all is Morse and his gymastic keyboard work and instantly accessible vocal delivery; this guy still knows how to write a catchy melody, and even though he's surrounding those melodies with complex prog rock arrangements, the songs are no less engaging. A few of these songs are also quite heavy, making them appealing to even prog metal fans.

Momentum is a complete winner from Neal Morse. Along with his fine work in Flying Colors, he's having himself quite a year here in 2012.



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