Breathtaking Live Work from the Master of Prog Rock NEAL MORSE — Morsefest 2014

The Nashville progressive rock singer songwriter, composer and multi-instrumentalist Neal Morse (originally of Spock’s Beard) is about to release a superior live recording of Morsefest 2014

Neal Morse has been a prog-rock entertainer and superband leader since the 1990’s.

He joined with former Dream Theater co-founder Mike Portnoy and the Flower Kings Roine Stolt and with Marillion’s Pete Trewavas to form the supergroup named Transatlantic in 1999.

And in September 2012 he released a solo studio album entitled “Momentum” together with his “Flying Colors” — another Morse led super-band.

Now Neal Morse has now revealed his new live album titled “Neal Morse — Morsefest 2014 Testimony and One Live.”

It is released this week as a SPECIAL EDITION 2 DVD/4 CD collection.

We had a listen:

The album is a record of a very special performance — Morsefest 2014.

When the longtime collaborators, including the amazing Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy plus Randy George, as well as anchors from the Neal Morse band, Bill Hubauer and Eric Gillette, joined Neal to perform the classic albums “Testimony ” and “One.”

Complete with 4 piece horn section, 6 member female background vocal section, violin and cello, full orchestra, percussion with timpani and chimes, dancers, special guests and incredible staging — this was the most elaborate release concert of Neal Morse’s career. You can now re-live it all with this extraordinary release.

Neal even flew out Rich Mouser who mixed the original studio albums to do the front of house mix!

The first part of this recording bundle is the ‘Testimony’.

“Testimony” (as perhaps the title suggests) was a 2003 concept album based around Neal’s life and his journey of self-discovery, which led him to find faith. It consists of five movements, with themes, motifs and openings.

The Land of Beginning Again” has a cinematic look. With several golden moments, thumping drums help strengthen guitar-work effervescence laid down by Grand Experiment bandmate Eric Gillette. Bill Hubauer (keys) also adds emotions, chirps, squeals and talkative licks.

Morse fans will know that we get a slice of Hotel California on ‘California Nights’ but the mention is purely derisive as the cynical mind of Morse critiques the work and realizes there must be something more than an Eagles play-list to believe in.

Testimony - Neal Morse
Testimony – Neal Morse

The recitative is in ‘diary form’ with the words clearly enunciated. Morse is no Jon Anderson —he does not use his voice as an instrument. The vocal is basically used to act out the story. His voice reminds us Bryan Adams (in pitch and dimensions) and is quite robust enough to bring out the nuances in each song.

Curious audiences should be aware that this concept piece is full of Christian Message and affirmation of the Gospel.

There are assorted superb little hymns and spirituals. Sometimes these take the form of barnhouse jigs. For example, there is an excellent fiddle-solo by maestro Eric Brenton (who also worked on the original album and with Spock’s Beard.)

At other times things become grander and more theatrical.

Sometimes (for example on the magnificent ‘Rejoice’ ) the clever Baroque Variations morph into a special kind of energetic musical energy.

Listening to this again, we became more aware of Morse’s undoubted talents as a composer. The sounds might easily be associated with the work of Rick Wakeman and especially with his great symphonies such as the secular Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

It is significant that some of the pieces on this collection remind us of Bach, who created some of the most beautiful religious music in the world. However, even if this is sacred music, it’s not particularly moralistic or “sermonizing”. It is filled with lighter moments, humour and jokes — and it is invested with the kind of rock’ n ‘roll attributes that give it an raw edge.

Testimony - Neal Morse
Testimony – Neal Morse

The overall message of this magnum opus is that we should not waste our time here on earth.

Our existence must be understood … Opportunities must be grabbed and lived out.

Disc Two contains ‘One’ performed live last year (orginally issued in 2004.) This is also ambitious, passionate and filled with delicate instrumentation.

This amazing collection is all about instrumental prowess.

Some moments are less angry, more sublime.

And, even though the story is a personal one, the often surprising and always invigorating musical content serves as a sign (or indeed proof) that Morse is certainly blessed.

Blessed with talent. Blessed with courage. Blessed with foresight. Blessed with conviction. Blessed with friendship.

And most importantly… Blessed with faith.

The 6-disc DVD and CD set, with 2-disc Blu-ray set is released by on August 21.

Words: @neilmach 2015 ©
Images provided by artists agent or representative.


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