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Neal Morse - One

Metal Blade Records/Radiant Records

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I've never been all that into progressive rock.  I'm a metal man myself, and progressive rock just always seemed too slow and boring for my taste.  However, the last couple years I've tried to be a little more open-minded.  Earlier this year I got the new album by Tiles and ended up really loving that disc.  Now don't get me wrong, I will NEVER give up metal for the lighter stuff, I'm just starting to realize that it is possible to have good music in other genres. 
 
Today I'm getting the chance to review the new album by Neal Morse.  Now Neal also has a past with some other bands like Spock's Beard and Transatlantic.  I won't try to be fake and act like I have any kind of knowledge of either of those bands.  I've checked out some samples on the net and both bands have some good points, but I didn't care for them for the most part.  Although it's tough to get a good feel from samples.
 
Anyways...this new album One is actually a pretty good listen.  To sum up the sound of Morse's music, take a mixture of his other two bands, Shadow Gallery, and the Galactic Cowboys (minus most of the heaviness) and that will give you a slight idea of the sound.  The band, which consists of Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Randy George, and many guests, use all types of instruments in addition to the guitars, bass, and drums.  You'll find violins, violas, french horns, cellos, saxophones, trumpets, and trombones on this disc of many sounds.
 
The opening song "The Creation" is a long, eighteen minute, four part tune.  The first two thirds of the song are kinda hit and miss for me.  There are some moments of some heavy guitars and some hints of aggressivness, but there is a lot that just doesn't hold my attention.  About halfway through part three, the band picks up the intensity and Neal's usual nice-guy vocals take on a Alice Cooper type feel.  Part four of the song goes back to Neal's more standard vocals, but with a more powerful, forceful feel, while the music becomes more dramatic...at least for a while.
 
The next track, "The Man's Gone" goes for a more mellow, acoustic sound.  Before you get too lulled to sleep though, "Author of Confusion" comes in at track number three and ups the aggressiveness considerably.  Heavy guitars saturate the opening of the song and might even get some heads banging.  However, those heavy guitars are combined with many keyboard "leads".  Then they throw you for a loop by singing the first verse accapella before heading back to the heaviness for a moment.  Mid-song they go with a mega mellow sound before unleashing more agression near the end of the song.  These drastic movements within a single song make for an interesting listen, but can really limit your audience by making metalheads lose interest fast.
 
Probably my favorite track on this disc is the fourth track, "The Separated Man".  The track is an epic eighteen minutes that goes through many different changes.  The first part of the song ("I'm in a Cage") sounds like one of the softer rock songs that could've been found on the Galactic Cowboys' last album, Let it Go.  The song's second part "I am the Man" starts out with a really cool mellow sound before getting very intense....and then back to the mellow soft guitar and almost whispered vocals.  The song even gets better as Phil Keaggy makes two appearances in the song with an electric and acoustic guitar solo.  For those unfamilar with Keaggy, this guy is a master at playing guitar and does nothing but improve this song.  Speaking of Keaggy, he makes another appearance (vocally) in the song "Cradle to the Grave".  Other memorable songs on the disc are "Help Me/The Spirit and the Flesh" and the album closer "Reunion".
 
Packaging and production are both very well done and lyrically it's obvious that Morse and company put a great deal of work into the story line.  The lyrical journey ends up being something very encouraging and uplifting.
 
While I'd probably take the Tiles album over this album in a head-to-head competition, One is a really solid album by a very talented group of musicians.  There were some parts that didn't quite grab me, but there were other parts of this album that I enjoyed a great deal.  I'm sure that fans of Neal Morse's previous material will probably be all over this.  (Review by Matt)   

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