Tuesday, November 02, 2004

 

Neal Morse's One

Some very good stuff on this album, first rate musicianship (Morse's guitar work is terrific, and Phil Keaggy guests on several tracks) and terrific sonics. Some very good long epics on here including "The Creation" and "The Separated Man". Morse has a terrific sense of dynamics, which was very apparent on his "Testimony" set, and seamlessly transitions between traditional prog-rock, acoustic ballads, some ethnic influence (one section of The Separated Man has a cool Celtic influenced picking bit) and for want of a better term, spirituals. No, not "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" but songs that reflect Morse's faith. This is where the only caveat for this record comes in. As you can guess by the title of this blog and if you've been a regular reader you know where my theological leanings are, however, this is music that is trying to tell a story of religious faith and it's a positive message, so I can put up with a few references to Yashkele even though that's not my religion. Some folks might be turned off by the overtly religious message of some of the lyrics here, but there's no proselytizing going on here. This is Morse talking about himself (in pretty much the same way Keaggy does) and although he's of a different faith than me, he's creating a very positive message very much missing in a lot of pop music. It's good stuff, take the word of a landsmann.

Mike Portnoy's drumming was excellent on this album (as usual) and he played with a somewhat lighter touch than I'm used to from him (as cool as the "Yellow Matter Custard" set was, the drums were too heavy on it). The strings and horns are very tastefully done, reminding me of George Harrison's "What Is Life" (which is of course covered on the bonus disc in the special edition only available from Radiant Records). Morse gets great tones on the guitars (a Parker, an ES-335 and a Strat), with a very eclectic set of amps (I caught at least one Orange head and a tweed Bassman in the studio photos). Keaggy of course is playing his Zion and gets that amazing tone on his wild solo on "The Creation" (I would've liked to have heard him with the Les Paul as well, but I guess he reserves that for Glass Harp).

An interesting thought occurred to me as I listened to this - this is one of those records that grabs you on first listening and you want to listen to it straight through. With "Be", when the inevitable interruptions (phone call, meetings) happened, going back to it was a bit jarring in that there wasn't any great hook or melody that I could immediately get back into. While the interruptions came during the first listen to "One" it was easy to fall right back into listening to it. The songs were melodic and powerful enough that I actually wanted to recycle a bit into the album to get back into the groove where I was when I was interrupted. It's that cool to listen to. The only other time recently that I've felt like that when listening to a new CD was when I picked up "Smile", but that's an album that demands a lot of the listener and pretty much a dedicated listening. I daresay I won't be listening to "Smile" in the car, but this might just make it into the changer. It works on both the dedicated and casual listen levels.

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