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Neal Morse - 'Momentum' Hot

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Written by Central Electronic Brain     November 22, 2012    
 
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Neal Morse delivers another gem.

To me Neal Morse is probably the most talented musician the Progressive Rock scene has ever produced; he also happens to be one of the most prolific. The sheer volume of his output, be it solo, with Transatlantic or more recently Flying Colors (sic), could lead to a diminution in quality but in Morse’s case there has never been an album where the songs or performances have faltered in any way: a quite remarkable feat.

With ‘Momentum’ I detect a slight change in approach; firstly there are five short songs (three are very short for Morse at under 5 minutes) which hark back to his first two solo albums, made when he was a member of Spock’s Beard (SB) but there’s also an occasional extra edginess. On his previous album ‘Testimony 2’ there was a particularly eclectic and ‘full on’ track, ‘Leviathan’ and he’s brought something of that song’s ethos into this album’s overall vibe. There’s a fraction less polish and a touch more grit. That said, the wondrous melodies for which he is renowned are very much in evidence. His knack of writing themes that are immediately memorable never ceases to amaze me, and here he’s done it again. Indeed, just one listen to ‘Smoke & Mirrors’ and ‘Weathering Sky’ and the refrains were stuck in my head.

Usual cohorts Mike Portnoy (drums) and Randy George (bass) are again in evidence and their performances are truly spectacular, the former delivers some of his trademark runs that remind me of his Dream Theater days. The use of woodwinds and strings at various times also adds very tasteful flourishes to the album’s sound.

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The title track opens proceedings with a typically wonderful synthesiser refrain that along with a glorious riff tells you this is something special, the song also features a sensational guitar solo from Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big). It’s a rip roaring song that sets the scene for a fabulous album. ‘Thoughts Part 5’ reprises the Gentle Giant inspired song from SB’s ‘Beware of Kindness’ album with its superb a capella vocal arrangement. ‘Smoke & Mirrors’ is a beautiful ballad, even if the enunciation of the word ‘mirrors’ grates. ‘Weathering Sky’ has another huge and infectious chorus while ‘Freak’ has plenty in common with a similarly titled song from SBs ‘Snow’ album, both lyrically and musically.

The rest of the album (33 minutes plus) is devoted to the epic (there had to be one, didn’t there?) ‘World Without End’ a track comprising six sections all making a rather glorious whole. The ability to create such seamless and effortless pieces where the music flows so naturally is another Morse trait, one that he pulls off time and again with superb themes, choruses and outstanding musicianship. Virtually every aspect of Prog is present during the track’s length including some heavy moments and several delicious themes.

In conclusion, Neal Morse delivers another gem. To quote Portnoy ‘this may be the best Prog I have ever played.’ Enough said…

Gary Marshall

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