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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Neal Morse

It's Not Too Late

Review by Steve Alspach

 Neal Morse is showing that there are two sides to his musical persona - one as the leader of Spock's Beard, but another that shows that he is at home writing well-crafted rock numbers. There really isn't anything on this album that one could label as progressive, but the album still deserves a listen. This collection of thirteen songs, written over a period of 20 years, are heavy on melody, without pretense, and can be used as a primer on songwriting and arranging.

The artists on this album are: Neal Morse, vocals, guitars, bass, piano, organ, synthesizers, mellotron, percussion, and drums; Nick D'Virgilio, drums; Susanne Christian, vocals; Debbie Bresee, vocals; Letty Jones, French Horn; Jim Hoke and Neil Rosengarden, horns; Greg Westall, electric guitar; Brad Wetmore, bass; Jordan Zimmerman, drums; and Chris Carmichael, strings.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
It's Not Too Late
This piano-heavy song sounds a bit like Elton John on one of his gospel kicks. Morse has a fun time with this one, in fact exclaiming towards the end "I've been wanting to do this for years!"
All the Young Girls Cry
About as tuneful as it gets, this is a hook-laden rocker that explores teen love. Morse takes a "that's life" approach, as though he is the parent who is seeing his daughter go through her first pangs.
Leah
A slow ballad about a man caring for a young girl after her mother leaves, this song is indicative of Morse's willingness to explore human emotions. To his credit, though, he doesn't get maudlin or go for empty tear-jerking. This is another song that's heavy on keyboards.
The Angels Will Remember
The sentiment on this one would make a good prom theme: "If time forgets when we were together / I hope the angels will remember." This is a not-too-slow number that's heavy on keyboards.
So Long Goodbye Blues
The mood gets slower on this one, but Morse packs an appropriately bluesy punch on the track. The use of horns in the bridge to back up the organ solo is a good touch.
The Change
This may be the most likely to appear on a Spock's Beard album, but it's still a straight-ahead number. Morse makes this an acoustic rock song with a great hook. The acoustic guitar, optimistic lyrics, and female backing vocals add a sense of warmth, and the latin-tinged percussion tops things off quite well.
Broken Homes
This is solo Neal - simply the man and his guitar. A rather poignant look at men who abandon their parental responsibilities, this number can be filed under "folk rock." Like Springsteen's "Nebraska", it works best in an understated environment.
Oh Angie
A Beatlesque rock piece, "Oh Angie" has everything that makes a good pop song - simple verses, catchy choruses, and all in 3:15.
The Eyes of the World (George's Song)
Dedicated to a friend of Neal's who passed away in February 2001, this song explores a spiritual side to the loss of a friend. Morse plays all the instruments on this one, and it has a simple George Harrison-like solo with a touch of slide.
Ain't Seen Nothing Like Me
An acoustic bluesy smoker that ties in biblical stories with the woman's viewpoint that "You Ain't Seen Nothing Like Me."
I Am Your Father
Neal goes back in time on this one - the song was written in 1982 and he enlists the help of his old bandmates from the 80s (Westall, Wetmore, and Zimmerman) to play on this one. It is another strong lyric set to a slow, keyboard-based arrangement.
Something Blue
Morse returns to the mid-tempo rock on this one. "Something Blue" looks at the everyday life that the protagonist muddles her way through. A string section in the break takes a few interesting turns.
The Wind and the Rain
This is a somewhat moody piece, but has some jazz inflections. The mellotron is put to good use, adding dramatic touches in the verse and chorus. Morse goes on an extended piano solo at the end, that is melodic and inventive. He and D'Virgilio play well off of each other, and it may be time to give credit where credit is due - Neal Morse could be one of the top piano players in all of rock music right now.
 
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