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Neal Morse is a prolific American multi-instrumentalist and progressive Rock composer based in Nashville, Tennessee. He is known for his musical versatility,his writing and recording output. The album features performances from Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater) on drums and Randy George (Ajalon) on bass as well as special guest appearances including Paul Bielatowicz on guitar and Paul Gilbert (Racer X and Mr. Big) who features on a bonus cut. Neal and his band played the title track, 'Lifeline', live at at the Night of the Prog festival in Loreley, Germany.
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Not counting DVDs, Lifeline is the fifth explicitly Christian album Morse has produced. His own personal journey to Christ is a compelling story, yes, but he has taken to flogging a dead horse. Long-time fans certainly are aware of where he stands and so many of us wonder how many times he needs to reiterate the story of his conversion. That quibble aside, at least he has been consistent in the proclamation of his faith.
With Lifeline, you get over an hour's worth of enjoyable Christian prog music that includes two major pieces in the best tradition of the genre that amount to two-thirds of the album's playing time. You'll note that many passages sound like they are nods to earlier compositions. You'll also notice Morse's habit of taking a phrase from a once-popular song and inserting it into one of his own songs. On this CD, that phrase comes from Woodstock.
I like the album well enough but deduct a star because on Lifeline, Morse fails to say anything new both musically and lyrically. That being said, any one of his Christian albums stand head and shoulders above most of the rest of what that genre has to offer. The CD comes housed in a standard jewel case and includes an attractive insert containing pertinent album information, lyrics, and lots of pictures.
I hope that Neal listens to his fans and gives them something more original the next time around. In the meantime, I am going to order the import of Lifeline that contains the bonus disc and give this one to a Christian friend who has never heard Morse.
Note: I have now acquired that import with the bonus disc, and since amazon will not allow another review of another version of the same product, I will tack my additional comments here: GET THE IMPORT!
The bonus disc contains several songs you won't want to miss: a marvelous, Beatlesque take on the Bee Gee's Lemons Never Forget, a Joe Cocker-like take on the Box Tops' The Letter, and a high-spirited and very heartfelt rendition of Elvis Costello's (What's So Funny Bout) Peace Love and Understanding. Additionally, there is another excellent piece of Christian prog with Set the Kingdom and for those who first sit through several minutes of silence, an amusing hidden song possibly entitled I'm A Heavy Metal Long-Haired Blue-Beard Tattooed Jew!
The import version comes with an expanded booklet but it sadly contains nothing about the songs on the second disc. Despite that, it makes sense to get this version as this raises the rating to 4 and a half stars.
Anyway,compared to the other reviews that state that Neal should take a break or try something different in his next album,it just shows me what this world is made up of! The lyrics in this recording should be the main concern over how it sounds or how one plays or even what draws a person to keep on listening!!
I give this recording 5 stars not because I enjoy Neal's writting and happen to be a drummer for over 30 years either. Neal loves God and He happens to play a big role in his life anymore! ( that's simply 'AWESOME' ) Give this recording a chance,if you get the one with 2 cd's - you will see that the guy's just had alittle fun while they were together on the 2nd disc - That's all -
Looking forward to the next album you have for us Neal!
The production is top notch and Mike Portnoy's drumming is phenomenal as usual. Neal handles all the guitar and keyboard parts and I have to say that I'm impressed, I didn't know Neal could play lead as well as he does. "Leviathan" is a fun heavier quirky styled rocker that kind of reminds me of the Galactic Cowboys or the Flower Kings. There's also some nice acoustic ballads like "Gods Love." The song "So Many Roads" is the longest and most emotive song on the album, there is plenty of solos and instumental breaks on this 28 minute opus.
I know that some of Neal's fans don't dig the Christian lyrics, but being a Christ follower myself I am so happy that Neal provides top-notch progressive rock that just so happens to be Christian. Good Christian rock bands are few and far-between, let alone good prog bands. I'm a musician and I love bands like Dream Theater, Rush, Genesis, Symphony x etc. So one could imagine how overjoyed I am to discover someone like Neal Morse, especially since he's so frickin good!!! God Bless!!!
of keyboards and blazing guitar work with lyrics that mean something.
Neal Morse is at the top of that list. Yes he is considered Christian
Rock, but I promise you'll never get bored with Neil. He know's what to
do to make his musical vision jump out and grab your ears.