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Morse, Neal: ? Live!

You can say what you want about Neal Morse's lyrical direction in recent years to a much more religious focused product, but you gotta give it to the guy...he can sure crank out prime progressive rock arrangements. This 2CD live set (Berlin 2006) from Neal and his band (Morse-vocals/keys/guitar, Elisa Krijgsman-guitar/vocals, Collin Leijenaar-drums/cajon, Jessica Koomen-vocals/keys, Wilco van Esschoten-bass/vocals, and Henk Doest-keys) sees them tackle all of the Question Mark album on the first CD, and the second heavy on the tracks from One.

Disc 1 is surprisingly aggressive, with the young bunch of Dutch musicians Morse has assembled really helping him kick things up a notch to an almost vintage era Genesis meets progressive metal sound. Wild keyboard passages congregate on "Sweet Elation", while "In the Fire" sees the band getting into some intense jamming duels that wouldn't sound out of place on a Return to Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra, or Elektric Band live album. "Solid As the Sun" rocks really hard, and the majestic "The Temple of the Living God" is a great mix of heart-tugging melodies and symphonic arrangements. Neal's vocals are quite strong as always, especially on the poignant "Outside Looking In" and "12", but there is a fair amount of banter and preaching going on here, especially on the overblown "Entrance".

The epics come out on Disc 2, as the band digs into some of the older Morse solo pieces like "Creation", "Help Me/The Spirit and the Flesh", "Reunion", plus a sprawling near 19-minute medley of "We All Need Some Light/Open Wide the Flood Gates/Solitar". Featuring plenty of gorgeous 70's styled keyboard passages (Mellotron, Hammond, & Moog sounds abound!), sinewy bass lines, stinging guitar riffs, and tricky drum fills, these songs again show Neal's penchant for classic prog arrangements, and the band really delivers.

It's understandable that some fans have abandoned Neal Morse's solo works since leaving Spock's Beard due to the religious themes (and I'll admit I have a hard time with the lyrics on occasion), but musically, not much has changed here since The Light all those years ago. ? Live! is a very good live album from a musician who has grown and ventured into higher spiritual leanings, but still hasn't forgotten his prog roots.

Track Listing
Disc: 1
1. Temple of the Living God
2. Another World
3. Outsider
4. Sweet Elation
5. In the Fire
6. Solid as the Sun
7. Glory of the Lord
8. Outside Looking In
9. 12
10. Entrance
11. Inside His Presence
12. Temple of the Living God
Disc: 2
1. Creation
2. Man's Gone
3. Cradle to the Grave
4. Help Me/The Spirit and the Flesh
5. King Jesus
6. Reunion
7. Encore Medley: We All Need Some Light/Open Wide the Flood Gates/Solitar

Added: March 29th 2008
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Neal Morse Website
Hits: 1714
Language: english

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