Morse, Neal - Jesus Christ The Exorcist-Live At Morsefest 2018

Kev Rowland

Normally the more I play an album the more I enjoy it, but now I look back at my review of the studio version, I cannot believe I gave it 4*’s. That feeling has definitely come through onto the live version as well, as while the performance from all those involved is wonderful, the complete set is just way too clunky, with the story being shoehorned into the music, none of which have stand out tunes. This was an experiment for Neal, in that he plays the part of composer and musical director and only gives himself a few small roles to play. The lead role of Jesus was taken by Ted Leonard (Enchant, Spock’s Beard) and he was joined by Nick D’Virgilio (Spock’s Beard, Big Big Train), Jake Livgren (Protokaw), Matt Smith (Theocracy), John Schlitt (Petra), Rick Florian (White Heart), Mark Pogue, Wil Morse and Talon David. I remember when my sister started getting heavily into Christian music some 30 years ago, she used to play Petra all the time, one of the greatest proponents of that style of music.

I am not sure if it is my own personal religious beliefs have changed dramatically over the years, or whether it is down to Morse providing music which is far more theatrical and less of the style I associate with him, but very little on this album works for me. When I hear a Neal Morse album I really do want to hear the complexity and style I expect which he first cemented in Spock’s Beard and then took into much of his solo work. Unlike ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, this really does have an air of being preached at, in a very American style. Everyone provides a great performance, with his normal guitarist Eric Gillette showing he is one of those guys who can seemingly do anything as he is the drummer on this performance, while bassist Randy George has been at the top of the game forever. This is an album which will be appreciated far more by Christians than progheads, while the subset of that venn diagram will have a blast. I can appreciate it, but that is way different from actually enjoying it.

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