Neal Morse - Morsefest 2014

Neal Morse Morsefest 2014 cover
Neal Morse
Morsefest 2014
Radiant Records
Morse-fan, here is your gift! This mind-blowing release encompasses everything this great modern musician is about: prog rock, contemplation, navigation of the internal self, finest musicianship, lyricism and “exorcism” of personal “ghosts”. What we get is his musical cornerstone “Testimony” and the follow-up “One” played in their entirety at Moresefest, a two night musical extravaganza at Neal’s local church. A two-night festival fitted in four CDs / 2 DVDs, accompanied by a sixteen page booklet with an impressive array of photography and a short essay detailing the genesis of the event, housed in a slipcase. And you know what? At a very low price, that makes the whole package very “tasty” and “attractive”!
The former leader of Spock’s Beard parted ways with the band in 2002, in search of his inner shelf. It would need guts for anyone to leave their “spiritual child” and explore other paths. This “cleansing” journey for Neal is mirrored in the “Testimony” album, which was basically his personal purgatory and a cornerstone in his musical career. “One”, on its part, is a wider exploration of Christianity. Both records are labours of love for Neal, and this is how they should be dealt with by the public. The moral principles and personal perceptions about faith mirrored should never interfere with the musical aspect and would never undermine the total focus of the records – either you agree or not with them and the composer.
Art is and should always be the ultimate means of expression and should be seen as… art and not as a means of religious persuasion, dogmatic perceptions, etc. – Neal’s stories are far from such activities: he is just a romantic person who expresses his own experiences. Like a friend who tells his stories to other friends. Anyone who has seen him playing live can sense that: a gathering of friends to sing together, share experiences and create new ones.
I doubt this attractive package would interest anyone who is not a fan of Neal’s, even though this could well serve as an introduction to the personal music of Spock’s Beard former captain. What would one find in here? Exceptionally strong material from one of progressive rock’s greatest modern artists, complex and varied arrangements, musical crescendos, multiple vocal melodies and, basically, a band that ravishes with joy in delivering these monumental compositions.
And since referring to the band, Morse has indeed gathered an all-star ensemble for this: Mike Portnoy on drums, Alan Morse (Spock’s Beard), Matt Smith (Theocracy), Kenny Barnd (Nashville symphony), Rick Altizer and Wil Morse.
Having the privilege to see (half) this band live, I can only testify that music comes from the inside. Morse is stirring in his emotional deliverance of the songs; he feels every note coming out of him… real art. As Portnoy has said of Morse: the master of prog epics… he’s the master of heart-wrenching emotional ballads that can bring you to tears [and] he’s also the master of the pop ditty”.
And this is his monumental work today! Do yourselves a favour and enjoy the “Morsefest”!