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Articles Home » 2012 Articles » Morse, Neal - 2012 Momentum
Morse, Neal - 2012 Momentum

ARTIST: Morse, Neal
ALBUM: Momentum
LABEL: Radiant Music
SERIAL: 3984-15146-2
YEAR: 2012


LINEUP: Neal Morse - keyboards, guitars, vocals * Mike Portnoy - drums * Randy George - bass * Paul Gilbert - guitar solos 'Momentum'

TRACK LISTING: 01 Momentum * 02 Thoughts Part 5 * 03 Smoke And Mirrors * 04 Weathering Sky * 05 Freak * 06 World Without End, i - Introduction, ii - Never Pass Away, iii - Losing Your Soul, iv - The Mystery, v - Some Kind Of Yesterday, vi - Never Pass Away (Reprise)



In the past Mr Morse and myself have not always seen eye to eye. You see I have always enjoyed Spock's Beard post Neal. To me Nick D'Virgilio was a more melodic vocalist and while I enjoyed parts of 'Snow' (Neal's finale), I was totally consumed by the fumes of 2002's 'Octane', while I only dipped in/out of his solo career, which over the years has littered my collection, only to find them locked in their present alphabetical location and rarely to be played again. Well after listening to 'Momentum' I have revisited these lost albums and actually purchased more and have come to realise that 'Momentum' was no fluke. What's good about this new release, which incidentally was recorded over a very short period time, is that I found the songs reached out to me only after a few listens. No restless nights but free flowing progressive tendencies that managed to cling on instantly and have failed to wiggle their way loose. You can enjoy this album without the need of a university education because it contains the basic classic elements that appeal to non-prog fans. Easy to spot in this glorious patchwork are some of my favourites, ranging from Kansas, Styx, Jethro Tull and Starcastle. This album stopped my buying anything for a week; it really fed my musical hunger. I found no reason to pick over the bones of the lyrical content, I would be totally out of my depth. Anyway you can instantly realise Morse always puts up a strong argument.

The Songs
Trains of Hammond organ roll into the siding. The vocal delivery of the verses chosen by Morse seems like he is holding a conversation with himself, maybe an imaginary twin brother. Free flowing prog rock, you can't even see the joins on the opening title track. This is like jumping into a melodic rock whirlpool, refreshing, exhilatering, Saga like melodies, ELO choral effect just a glimpse but it's enough to recognize, with simply beautiful AOR, yes AOR keyboards lines. The guitar solo, played by Paul Gilbert sees he has included all the necessary power tools to provide a cutting edge solo, at this stage everything in fine in the world, while Mike Portnoy has really got nothing to prove, but he obviously feels he still has.

A jumpy beginning to 'Thoughts Part 5', which creates an image of the strangeness, and the craziness of one Devin Townsend somewhere lurking in the shadows, infecting the proceedings. The complex nature of the vocals multiplying, hitting you from all directions, some totally out of your eye line. I found myself initially grasping to understand what was going on, but with concentration on the fine melodies you begin to breathe in the musical interludes and breaks.

A gentle opening to 'Smoke And Mirrors', with a soothing acoustic interlude, when the bong crashes and I am sent sailing down the slide to find the Von Hertzen Brothers, sitting there on the mat grinning. Add in the fact that this reminds me of John Elefante's great tune from his 1995 'Windows Of Heaven' being 'We Will Find Our Way', 'Smoke and Mirrors' points to the future being the brothers Von Hertzen Brothers and the past to Kansas, but still individual enough to leave its own footprint in the melodic sands. Just listen to the parping keyboards, then put them to one side for a moment (um) and listen to the Kerry Livgren (him and Matthew Ward both appeared on 'Testimony Part 2', Morse knows his history!). Inspired melodies, which obviously are injected again with Kansas and violins, seriously what is there not to like?

'Weathering Sky' is like a ship in a force 10 gale, buffering you between the headphones. It has the odd Enuff Znuff moment, the chorus is simple and catchy, also so much guitar twiddling to guitar hammering, both perfectly executed. By this time Morse is running with the wind on his back, there is no stopping him, careering down song structures, leaping over lyrical fences.

'Freak', this is no Chic, or a kitchen in sight, this is violins, The Beatles and even the great Swedes being Big Money. This comes across as a short interlude like Queen would do on anything between 'Queen II' to 'The Night At The Opera'. After initially parting the waves, it all comes crashing down, swept up in the sheer power and you are riding on the white horses.

That brings us to the end of the first half of the album, so how's your stamina?

The thought of such a gargantuan challenge, over 30 minutes is 'World Without End', well maybe approach it like Adam Richman does on Man V Food; first Neal has conveniently broken it down into eatable chunks. Being of such a length, it's like your musical senses facing Barcelona defending a slender lead, and worst still, you are down to 10 men, Neal and the boys are always probing, sustaining wave after wave attack, always looking for openings until you have no option, but let the floodgates open and your facing a whitewash, 7-1 is the final score line. They just have the skills, the shimmies, and the musical dexterity to carry off such a large task. Like a jigsaw puzzle of great bands and over the 33 minutes they all seem to find their home, piecing together to complete the puzzle and you are left with a belief in music that can be used as a force and pleasure mountain. I find it amazing that one person can put together over half an hour of music and have the foresight and understanding of just what they want to achieve, it is said that Jeff Lynne has the skill of knowing exactly what he wants from a song, like already hearing it in his mind before even adding the physical music, well Morse can't be far off that position, if not already achieve that pinnacle already.

To finish this part off, all I can say is that in the never-ending fight that is Man against Music, this time Music won! Man still came off with a pretty good second though.

In Summary
I am fast becoming a Neal Morse magnet, especially been finding very attracted the likes of the excellent Flying Colors, which I hope to cover before the end of the year, actually you may want to choose that album, which also contains Portnoy, if the thought of this album is too great. This album has the legs of the Mexican Tarahumara Indians, the world's greatest distance runners. If the truth be known, I have never been a true Morse disciple , however since this I have been immersing myself into his recordings,' Sola Scriptura', 'Testimony Part 2', have all been recent purchasers added to my appreciation library of Neal. Whether this is just a temporary infatuation or something more long term, I don't honesty know at this time, I can be so fickle, so I could easily be described by this Oscar Wilde quote, 'he knows the price of everything, but the value of nothing'. However after listening to Morse I have beginning to understand his values, not that I agree 100%, but it's an interesting debate which I am still considering and digesting.

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#1 | gdazegod on December 09 2012 05:05:31
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#2 | gdazegod on December 09 2012 05:06:32
I'm one of the few that can't get into any of Neal Morse's music. I don't know why that is. helpless
#3 | DEMONAOR on December 09 2012 11:04:58
Me neither but this is a good album.
#4 | Eric on December 09 2012 15:13:34
It took me a long time to get into Spock's Beard and I'm still not swayed into believing they were 'all that'. The references above have peaked my interest, but like George, Morse's stuff has never thrilled me either.
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