Neal Morse : One quality that must come to mind when thinking of him is prolific. If you check his artist page on ProGGnosis, you will see he has been involved in no less than seven projects (cds, live cds, dvd) in the last two years. Add to that the touring he has done and you can easily guess that Neal is not a lazy person. So, about one year after Sola Scriptura, Neal Morse is back with another Prog album... Lifeline, his fifth since leaving Spock's Beard in 2003.
In my humble opinion, Neal Morse's solo output (his Prog related work) has been pretty much in line with what he was doing with Spock's Beard and the short lived Transatlantic, the main difference being in the lyrics, now mainly inspired by his religious beliefs. Sure, if you compare his albums, important differences are present. For example his previous record, Sola Scriptura was much heavier than what he usually does. But still, it was "signature" Neal Morse music, a very recognisable style indeed. Compared to it's latest predecessor, Lifeline is more in the middle of Neal's musical palette, featuring some energetic and heavy passages, but in the whole being pretty melodic and even "acoustic". Another thing that changes from album to album are the lyrics. If I'm not mistakened, all his post Spock's Beard solo projects feature lyrics that are inspired by Neal's religious beliefs. Sometimes this is done in a subtle way, on other occasion it is very obvious. This is the case with Lifeline, the religious references being quite clear on most of the tracks.
All in all I think that Lifeline will not surprise Neal Morse's fans, but it won't disappoint either. Lifeline features most of the ingredients we have learned to expect from Neal. A couple of epic tracks, a nice acoustic ballad, some good rocking, a lot of hearth felt singing... As usual the musicians are excellent (Mike Portnoy's presence on drums is always a plus), the production is very good and the material is strong. If you are a fan of Neal Morse's work, Lifeline will be a welcomed addition for sure.
Note : There is a deluxe edition of this record that offers a second cd with bonus material. I have read that it is very interesting stuff, but the copy I was sent did not include it.