When I saw the latest Neal Morse solo album was another Christian musical I inwardly groaned, as his ‘Jesus Christ The Exorcist’ is probably the weakest he has been involved with in all his musical ventures. I have loved his concept albums, both secular and Christian, yet that one managed to fail on so many levels. It may still be a good album but there was just something about which did not gel. Now, I may not be a religious person in any way, but when I was younger I saw my fair share of Christian musicals and loved both ‘Godspell’ and ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, while Neal’s own ‘Testimony’ album is a triumph, so the religious aspect has never worried me, but how would he approach a story made so familiar even to those who do not read the Bible thanks to Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber?
In his own imitable way, that’s how. Here we find Neal fully back on form with one of his most powerful concept albums ever, which in places also reminds me of his wonderful 2002 album, ‘It’s Not Too Late’. That may not be one of his most proggy, recorded mostly by himself with Nick D’Virgilio, but there are bits and pieces here which remind me of that. He, of course, plays the role of Joseph and has been joined by Ted Leonard (Spock’s Beard) as Judah, Matt Smith (Theocracy) as Reuben, Jake Livgren (Proto-kaw, Kansas) as the slave driver, Talon David (who appeared on ‘Jesus Christ The Exorcist’) as Potiphar’s Wife, Wil Morse (Neal’s son) as Simeon and Mark Pogue as Jacob. Among the musicians are Eric Gillette and Steve Morse, while drummer Gideon Klein also deserves a special mention. This does not feel like one of his more recent solo releases but takes us back to his early solo days when he was full of confidence of having done the right thing of leaving Spock’s Beard and surrounding himself with top musicians to produce a series of albums which showed a direct continuation of ‘Snow’.
Interestingly, this album has received a variety of different reviews in that some love it while others think it is quite weak, but there is no doubt in my mind that it has put his last Christian opera deeply in the shade and I for one cannot wait for part two. Here is a rock opera full of passion and wonderful complex and complicated prog which is Morse to the core. If you have enjoyed any of his work over the last thirty years, then this is essential.