I wish there was a way to start again
Just blink and count to ten
In a land
of beginning again
no one knows the bad things that you've done
is truly gone
land of beginning again...
Bloom tears open the envelope..."And the Grammy for 2003 album of the year goes to-Neal Morse for TESTIMONY!"
Freddie Prinze Jr. looks astonished
as he reads the name on the paper "Wow, this is a shock-the MTV music award for best album goes to...Neal Morse?!?"
Sigh...I can dream can't I? In a perfect world with musical justice these scenarios would be the stunning crescendo
of the swell of popularity that would surround the groundbreaking stunning release Testimony from Neal Morse. Hey, it could happen!
In the meantime though I suggest
you wait on your favorite CD emporium's doorstep on the morning of September 23 to purchase a copy of Neal Morse's latest
work Testimony the second the store opens. Or bribe a clerk to get it
early (ONLY kidding!). Neal Morse was the main creative force behind Spock's
Beard for a number of years (no slight intended to the other fine musicians that carry on in SB) and after becoming a Christian
several years ago felt at tug from God to leave that band and do something different.
Thankfully for Spock's Beard fans, Testimony is not COMPLETELY different in style from Morse's Spock work...but different
enough for Neal to gain more than a few fans from genres of music other than progressive rock.
Testimony is a two hour-plus
sharing of one mans journey and transformation through Gods grace and mercy. The
CD is a digital version of the age old practice of testifying in the congregation-where you stand before the Church and share
how God has changed your life and brought you out of the mud and mire. Or if
you prefer, Testimony can be thought of as visit with Neal Morse as he relates his struggles in life over the years
and the victory he has experienced. Either way you look at it Testimony
is a work of intense breadth and depth-Morse shares his heart in an open, willing and honest manner that draws the listener
in for a journey from LA to Nashville and ultimately Heaven. The sheer length
of the project can be daunting-but do yourself a favor. Find a nice quiet place,
unplug the telephones and listen to this album as a whole. From the opening strains
(and bookend piece) The Land of Beginning Again you will be amazed at this fascinating story in song.
Testimony is broken down
in five parts/movements-the first two on disc 1 and the last three on the second disc.
Disc one covers the B.C.-Before Christ phase on the surface-but upon deeper inspection Neal details how God was working
with him even during the times he was seemingly farthest from his Heavenly Friend while gigging, partying and searching for
that one big break. Disc two covers Morses conversion Transformation, his struggles with whether to go to the next level in
his relationship with God or whether to walk in his old ways. Disc two also features
my favorite section-part 5 featuring an effervescent and joyful group of worship songs directed to the Father.
Musically and stylistically Testimony
is a veritable smorgasbord of styles ranging from piano-based, hook laden power-pop rock, classic sounding rock, several goose
bump-raising, tear inducing heartfelt ballads, towering symphonic progressive rock, and even acoustic/Celtic/Bluegrass influenced
prog (think a joyful Riverdance here on the song "Sing it High"). Powerful drumming
by Mike Portnoy (of Dream Theater fame as if ya didnt know), swirling majestic orchestral parts, tasty Mellotron, surprising
slide guitar parts and even a bit of flamenco classical guitar are all thrown into a spectacular and memorable mix of music
that is unforgettable. You will find yourself singing along to Morses infectious
melodies upon your first listen.
Morse is refreshingly candid about
his thoughts, life, beliefs and relationship with the Lord. I hope that this
will not keep some folks from listening to what Neal has to say. The conviction
that Neal Morse shares in Testimony and the powerfully creative way that he expresses that conviction deserve to be
heard-by millions of folks hopefully, but by you and I at the very least.
Testimony has my vote for
CD of the year. It is that good, and has risen to the coveted status of Desert
Island Disc IMHO...alongside the other favorite works featuring Neal (Spock's Beard Snow and Transatlantic Bridge
Across Forever). The CD is available for preorder from Radiant Records,
Neal's label at http://www.radiantrecords.com. I have
preordered the very cool 3 disc Limited Edition featuring a 3rd disc of covers...a 13 minute version of "Tuesday
Afternoon" by the Moody Blues and "Can't Find My Way Home" from the super group Blind Faith.
Even the cover of the CD is thought provoking-Neal and what I guess are his children standing in the greenery and looking
thoughtfully towards the sky, hands raised to the God of all Creation!
I only have one complaint though...someday
I want to ask God why it is fair that Neal can write two hour classic progressive rock epics, play guitar, bass, and direct
symphonies while I can barely finger an F chord on my guitar!
I rate this CD a perfect 5 Cups o Java on the patented Soul Frequency Java-meter scale! Look for Neal on tour with a traveling band featuring Mike Portnoy on Drums and Randy George of the group
Ajalon on bass.