Something Else! sneak peek: Neal Morse, "Crossing Over" (2011)

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Former Spock’s Beard frontman Neal Morse confronts the triumphs and pain of his tenure and ultimate departure in 2002 from the band on Testimony 2. The forthcoming album, to be issued on May 24 by Radiant/Metal Blade, isn’t simply an epic sequel to his initial solo release; in many ways, its grace and striking honesty make Testimony 2 the better record.

Morse has crafted a moving meditation on acceptance, on managing change, on embracing the past even as you move on. And he’s done it without sacrificing anything musically. For all of its underlying messages on faith — a conversion to Christianity precipitated Morse’s decision to go solo — the record remains firmly rooted in the prog-rock tradition, from soaring keyboards to thrilling calculus-equation guitars to classically inspired compositional excursions.

The new set’s emotional crest can be found on “Crossing Over,” a track that focuses on his split with Spock’s Beard, before revisiting the album’s opening theme. Rather than descend into easy melancholy, though, Morse seems to genuinely relish those times. The tune, at first, plays like an idyllic memory, a quiet reverie.

But Morse goes on to reference a life-changing personal struggle – confiding, quietly, that God “gave me a new heart, just like my daughter.” Her miraculous healing from a birth defect, Morse says, led him to a renewed focus on his faith. As deeply as he so clearly cared for his former bandmates, Morse can’t escape – doesn’t want to, really – the voice calling him elsewhere. “I can’t describe how hard it was,” Morse admits, “or how much we loved each other. But to go on, I must surrender the fullness of my life. I will love you forever, but I must say goodbye.”

Looking back now, almost a decade later, he sounds utterly at peace — no easy thing. It’s hard not to feel a communal joy.

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Testimony 2 features Mike Portnoy on drums and vocals, and Randy George on bass. Morse is also joined by members of Spock’s Beard, including Nick D’Virgilio, Alan Morse and Dave Meros, on “Time Changer,” a tune that celebrates his former band’s early successes. Guitarist Steve Morse is showcased on a three-song cycle that makes up all of the second disc. A special-edition package will also include a DVD on the making of album.

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