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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Neal Morse

One

Review by Josh Turner

While Testimony is spoken in the first person, One is in the third. Neal has the knack for relaying meaning through song. He tells a smooth flowing story, yet it's nowhere near a monologue.

I have one curiosity when I'm listening to the music. Where in the world is Roine Stolt? The guitar licks aren't completely flat. Don't get me wrong, Neal is an above average guitarist. However, he might be spreading himself too thin, and the guitars seem to be slightly neglected. This is probably one area that could use improvement. With this small and subtle issue aside, the words are well-chosen, the compositions are complex and creative, the singing is passionate, and the keyboards are splendid. Also, to be perfectly fair, the acoustic guitars are certainly alluring in a number of places. As for the other members, Randy George plays the bass with a demeanor that closely resembles Dave Meros and Mike Portnoy grooves with Nick D' Virgilio's flair. Neal is the rare breed of coach who can not only make the right picks from the playbook, but he is successful in his casting duties as team's general manager. He puts together a solid crew who executes effectively on each and every one of their plays.

While Testimony may have been a little hokey being spread between two discs, this album is completely hands-free. The story is self-contained to one disc and the music moves along swiftly.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Creation
The album starts off with the symphonic sweetness of Transatlantic's Bridge Across Forever mixed with the invigorating instrumentals from Testimony. A scant of Spock's Beard's Snow is stitched into the material. This epic is comprised of four enriching pieces. As it continues along and through many repeated listens, it becomes apparent that new themes are weaved into its interworkings. This is a culmination of all Neal's past epic, and it grows with each listen.
The Man's Gone
This is a short segue that works more as a break between the previous epic and the next piece. It's not entirely filler as the chorus is catchy, but the same verse is repeated many times over. Due to the format of the song, the hem is skillfully trimmed to tailor length.
Author of Confusion
Neal slashes on the guitars while Mike slams on the drums. This has a closer likeness to Dream Theater than Neal. I suspect there is some influence from Mike on this one. Then again, there are some claps from the keyboard that you'd never hear permeating from Jordan Rudess' Kurzweil. Halfway in, we hit a harmony that sounds a bit like Spock's Beard's "Gibberish" and has a curious connection to Sid's Boys Choir from Feel Euphoria (the album "after" Neal left Spock's Beard). The puzzle pieces of voices are broken up with a mellow passage and a series of verses before the edgy harmony returns for another cycle. Neal tips his hat to Spock's Beard in many places on this track. In parts, there are even some traces of Thoughts.
The Separated Man
Like the first epic, this also consists of four pieces. There are more references to the Beware of Darkness album right from the onset. The opening is clearly influenced by Spock's Beard's "Time Has Come". The segment to follow called "I'm in a Cage" has a tempo that's animated, but the words are quite discouraging. This transfers into an uplifting section called "I am the Man" that flashes a lot of Latin glitz. Neal takes us to the summit before returning back to base. Clever enough, the opening of the album and "The Man's Gone" return for a reprise. Themes that will be revisited later are first introduced here. This track is a textbook example of how to properly combine the separate pieces of an epic. The transitions are easy on the ear. The epic is lightweight pieces of fiberglass glued together with resilient resin. The resulting fuselage is sleek, smooth, and strong.
Cradle to the Grave
This duet with Phil Keaggy is hidden deep inside the belly of this creature. It is a surprise to encounter such a priceless gem at this stage of the album. After seeing how it sparkles, you'll want to show it off to as many people as possible. This is clearly the best song on the album.
Help Me | The Spirit and The Flesh
The piano, melody, lyrics, basically everything clicks in the first part of this double-edged ditty. If you thought the album was good before "Cradle to the Grave", it is readily apparent you've reached the most wholesome part of the album. The second part, on the other hand, is unquestionably the holiest. Like Testimony, the religious connection becomes unmistakable in the fourth quarter of this game.
Father of Forgiveness
The spirituality continues from the last song. Neal sits alone under the spotlight with a grand-sounding piano. Later, he is accompanied by a violin, bass, and some deft drums. His sings like Billy Joel in a song that has close relations to the title track off Bridge Across Forever. While the epics carry themselves like princes, the ballads are the kings of this album.
Reunion
The opening of this mini-epic reminds me of the musical Grease, the part where the students run into the carnival. This song is probably closest to his work on Transatlantic's "Suite Charlotte Pike". Many of the earlier themes are revisited. Once the switch is flipped, the light and laser show begins. It is broken into three distinct parts with an excellent and extravagant finale. On a more serious note, the track time (the song ends exactly at 9:11) stirs up suspicion as it ends with several seconds' worth of silence. I take this to be an honor, a salute, and a moment of silence to those who have suffered through trials and tribulations. They will not be forgotten in our prayers for their sacrifices. While this could be a strange coincidence, I honestly think otherwise. From what I know of Neal and the messages expressed in this album as well as the last, this is most likely another indication of his spirituality and the compassion he holds for his fellow man. The album will give you goosebumps when you hear the genuine emotion Neal gives off when he tells you the tale he duly dubs "One".
 
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