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Morse; Neal: Songs From November

Having a broad musical taste is an important thing for a songwriter, the ability to combine unexpected influences into a signature style, a true skill that many artists strive for, but few fully achieve. However asking your fan-base to follow you down an unexpected genre path is a request fraught with danger, some utterly confused, others embracing, while many simply shrug their shoulders. With Songs From November, Prog mainstay Neal Morse, best known for contributing hugely to acts such as Spock's Beard, Transatlantic and Flying Colors, steps away from the Prog and invites his followers to meander down a "feel good" singer-songwriter path akin to Jackson Browne or Graham Nash.

Whether the Morse masses feel inclined to trade in their 23 minute keyboard solos for this much simpler fare is open to question, yet there's no denying Morse gives them enough to get their teeth into if they so desire. To the list of influences, I'd also add a touch of the less Jazzy, yet also less commercial fare Bruce Hornsby sometimes provides, the ultra smooth vocal melodies John Elefante specialises in, the more obvious Crosby Stills and Nash references and the merest hint of John Cougar. So no, this is not the "expected" new solo effort from Neal Morse.

The question has to be then, is it any good? The answer being that for the most part, yes it is, although that has to be tempered with the thought: would we be that interested if it wasn't provided by one of Prog's greats? That said, "Love Shot An Arrow" and its sultry melodies, huge backing vocals and piano motif, wouldn't be out of place on the Flying Colors debut, so it's not exactly as if we've entered another dimension completely here. "Song For The Free" is much more overtly a Jackson Browne inspired piece, although the production feels more "modern" and there's a hint of restrained Peter Gabriel, while, as a father to three beautiful daughters, I can't help but connect with the simple yet hugely effective lyrics and Elefante/Kansas with added strings feel of "Daddy's Daughter". Yet, it would be a stretch to honestly say that I'm completely sold on this album, "Tell Me Annabelle" teetering towards the twee, "Wear The Chains" just a little too obvious (even if the lyrical sentiment of hope and ideals being replaced by practicality and corporateness as we grow older and gain "responsibility", is a sound one) while "Flowers In A Vase" simply illustrates why Neil Young is as lauded as he is, the quiet Country vibe crying out for his fragile touch.

However factor in the patient build of "When Things Slow Down", the bold brass driven Hornsby like "Whatever Days" and its tales of carefree youth, or the heartfelt and poised "Heaven Smiled" and the good outweighs the not quite so.

Neal Morse is an undoubted master of his genre, with the part he's played in many a Progressive outfit over recent decades beyond question. Songs From November proves he can easily and reasonably convincingly step outside his comfort zone, even if the end results aren't quite as jaw dropping as we're used to.

Track Listing
1. Whatever Days
2. Heaven Smiled
3. Flowers In A Vase
4. Love Shot An Arrow
5. Song For The Free
6. Tell Me Annabelle
7. My Time Of Dying
8. When Things Slow Down
9. Daddy's Daughter
10. Wear The Chains
11. The Way Of Love

Added: November 23rd 2014
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Neal Morse online
Hits: 2222
Language: english

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Morse; Neal: Songs From November
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2014-11-23 13:58:40
My Score:

There are two sides to Neal Morse; the prog rock side and the pop rock side. Songs From November clearly falls in the latter. Does that mean this is not a worthy effort from Mr. Morse? Not at all. In fact, this is a most enjoyable confection from the legendary prog rocker.

Instead of the lengthy epics you will find shorter songs with tremendous melodies and uplifting lyrics. These songs just feel good to listen to. I don't know how anyone could listen to this album and not be at least a little moved by its personal nature and super catchy tunesmith. Morse is such a versatile musician (he handles vocals, keyboards, bass, percussion and drums) and no matter who he works with he always seems to get the best out of his band. You will find no Portnoy or Steve Morse, or any other proggers he has worked with in the past. Instead we have names like Gabe Klein, Jim Hoke, Steve Herrman, Eric Darken, Wil Morse and a few others who have lent a helping hand.

The album's first track "Whatever Days" is an ideal choice to begin the proceedings as it is a fine uplifting slice of pop flavoured rock. Trumpet and saxophone add plenty of vibrancy and a little R&B flair. "Heaven Smiled", a nice choice for the first single, is a poignant ballad with lovely gospel tinged background harmonies. "Flowers In A Vase" is an acoustically driven countrified snippet of pop with an ultra-catchy melody and nice pedal steel from Hoke. The emotional "Love Shot An Arrow" is another pretty piano led ballad while "Song For The Free" is an up-tempo pop rocker with soaring vocal harmonies and lush strings. This one has got to be one of the catchiest tracks of the bunch. More gentleness continues with The Beatles flavoured ballad "Tell Me Annabelle" and the lush string drenched "My Time Of Dying" with catchy acoustic guitar and a sing along chorus.

Not much else to say really other than Neal has done it again. It seems the man can do no wrong as he has produced another set of highly personal songs that are a just joy to listen to. Excellent stuff!

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