Reviewed by MJBrady on 23 Sep 2003
After the storied Spock's Beard break up, Neil Morse's career as a musician was in question, as his road to self-discovery and religious convictions had him contemplating not only his involvement with the notorious progrock band, but his contributions to the music industry in general. It seemed that only time would reveal where he would take his talents, and I am pleased to say that on Testimony, not only has Morse found a new inspiration to draw his lyrical content from, but he has not in the least lost any of his progressive tendancies.
As true to form as he ever was, Morse stepped away from the band he had so dilengently helped form, and found himself recreating the very essence of the band he left on this solo album. Granted there are no Spock's members involved here, but old TransAtlantic buddy Mike Portnoy turns in some great drum performances on this long 2-3 cd set. It is obvious that Neil Morse has become a dedicated Christian, as the full message from song to song truely are a Testimony to a life that led him to the revelation of his religious choice. Call it a story of fate, each song describes a page in his life, how he was affected, and the transformation of the heart. All revealed for the world to hear.
He employs a long list of musicians and vocalists to assist in the musics' direction, which in the end, has every bit as much to do musically with TransAtlantic, Spock's Beard, the only real difference is the lyrical content, which I found to be quite engaging. Spiritual awareness is often the inspiration behind many a great musical and artistic works, as if revealing the very power of God in it's content, from the great symphonic works of classical composers, to great murals, paintings, poetry, etc. Even the modern music world has it's share of artists that convey the effectual benefits of spiritual gifts in their music: Phil Keaggy, Kerry Livgren(who also appears on this cd), FlowerKings, etc. Simply put, these artists are all talented, gifted performers and composers, who need not apologize for what motivates their very being. Such is the case for Neal Morse's new found inspiration, as from what I can tell, is still making great music, maybe even more refreshing than some of the last few Spock's Beard releases.
I wasn't sure what to expect from this cd, sometimes when a cd has this much music, my attention suffers, but I found it very pleasant as each song led me into the next with nary a dull moment. This is some very progressive music in the fullest definition of the word. It is everything that progrock fans like, complex music, well conceived ideas, great performances, lot's of mood changes and a vast amount of instruments are used.
It's as good, if not better than anything Morse has been involved with, and if you have a problem with the message, well, you may be missing out on a great musical work here.
So a new chapter of work has begun for Neil Morse, one that will divide the fanbase of the Spock's Beard allegiance, if for nothing else, his religious convictions, but the two factions have more in common than differences, and I personnally welcome the new and inspired writing of Morse, who proves here that his contributions to the Beard were too much to ignore. This cd has all the stuff that makes progrock great, and should be getting more rave reviews. Understanding that Morse has drawn a line on musical responsibility, this is not so much preaching music, but just a simple story, or Testimony, if you will to explain why he has come to this point in his life. Nicely Done!
Reviewed by Nuno on 02 Oct 2003
Releasing an auto biography is always a mark in every writer’s life. When done by a musician, pretty capable of translating that story to music and successfully associating feelings and emotions into music art form, that mark gets even more important and, for a music lover like me, simply becomes an article to cherish and so here I manifest my admiration regarding Neal Morse.
Apart from that, my job here is to try and comment the music and so I will…in a moment.
After departing from its brainchild project Spocks Beard, for reasons well known amongst prog fans, Neal decided to express this same reasons and share his inner thoughts and impressions about his history with anyone who cares. In good time he did!
Though it becomes clear that his story is quite religious and there is the risk it can be interpreted as a guidance or as an imposing “theory”, I firmly believe that that is not the goal here. What Morse is revealing is simply his experience of life and his inner reasons for deciding the path he has taken.
But now, the music!
Testimony is, contrary to the other solo works by this artist, a true progressive suite.
In this album he his showing an increased using of prog elements and ideas, even when compared to the latest Spocks Beard he has participated on - Snow.
To be honest, I see this album as a better sequence to the excellent V than the aforementioned album. The basic sound is pretty close to the last I mentioned which comes to prove that Neal Morse was, in fact, the composing brain behind the Beard.
Using acoustic beauty to lighten some of the tracks, but also choirs, orchestrations and all sorts of tricks to enrich the music, that same music still sounds, as a whole, very much accessible to everyone’s ears, even those who do not usually listen to progressive rock.
To sum up things, I have come to the conclusion that even being very much religious in its lyrical contempt, Testimony is much more than a Christian rock album. It is a sonic trip that visits the real life of a musician and that relies on a very rich musical core that leads and complements the storyline. It comes to prove the real musical guide lines of Neal Morse, granting him a very special place in contemporary Progressive Rock genre. A place that was earned with love for well crafted music, for skilled composition writing and simply for great music.
I have come to love this album, even if my first impressions were a bit different. This is musically the album I was waiting for from SB after V.