Neal Morse
   
Lifeline
   
   

Release Date: September 30, 2008
Produced by: Neal Morse
Format: CD

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05/15/2009
Mark Squirek


 

Between Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic, Yellow Matter Custard and everything else he has done, Neal Morse has established himself as one of the most prolific musicians in rock. Yes, that’s right, I said rock. Before punk came along and demolished the idea that someone should be able to play their instrument adequately before ascending to the top of the charts, rock used to mean anyone who wasn’t playing Lawrence Welk on an accordion or singing along with Mitch on NBC every Friday night. But, that was a long, long time ago, back when the concept of rebellion wasn’t packaged to sell everything from macaroni and cheese to bus tours at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

You want real rebellion? Try being Neal Morse. Somewhere around middle age he found the one thing guaranteed to drive away fans and critics, comfort in the Judeo-Christian version of God. To make matters worse he just couldn’t shut up about it! He sang openly about his conversion. It doesn’t matter that Elvis regularly sang gospel, or that U2 started out with their Christianity almost on their sleeves, or that George Harrison had a big hit with "My Sweet Lord," to sing about God today is a cultural anathema, a career killer.

The only way to make this worse is to sing about God while playing music influenced by Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Genesis and any other band who stacked harmonies on top of massive keyboards coupled with fleet-fingered guitar riffs. You can hear his influences in a lot that Morse does. Leviathan holds a horn line that touches back to 21st Century Schizoid Man. Xylophones that recall early seventies Zappa and a touch of solo Peter Gabriel are hidden in "Children of the Chosen."

If you replaced the name of God in the chorus to "God’s Love" with “your,” lighters would be waving across the arena. The song cycle "So Many Roads" contains hints of Kansas, ELP, Yes, The Who, Beatles, Solo Beatles and even Styx. The string arrangements (by Jonathan Willis) for "The Way Home" and "Fly Home" would make Gus Dudgeon proud.

While Morse’s name is on the cover, Lifeline is backed by some of the best players around. Always good in Dream Theatre, Mike Portnoy is the secret strength to the CD. His restraint inside "Children of the Chosen" help keep the song from crossing over into a crap 80’s metal anthem. He shines on every cut. As does the bass work of Randy George. In a genre rightly condemned for occasional excess they provide an unwavering and immovable foundation for Morse to jump off from. The guitar solo by Paul Bielatowicz at the end of "Fly High" somehow balances sweetness and harmony with something knocking on the door of shredding.

His music may remind you of something you have heard before, but this is not a bad thing. Morse’s work is still very original and the cycle of his personal life- changing events is not only thought-provoking, but a great listen. Even to an agnostic who occasionally finds accidental comfort in the prayers and rituals he learned as a child.  

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 



 
     
     
     

 

 

   
 
     

 

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