Neal Morse – Live Momentum (2013)

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Touring behind Momentum, a rare, mostly secular solo effort after years of focusing on Christian prog, Neal Morse connects the dots between what has often been perceived as two separate portions of his career.

Morse opens with two offerings from his current release, the thrillingly anthematic title track and his math-rocky “Weathering Sky” — both of which provide a platform for the fleet dexterity of Morse’s new lead guitarist Adson Sodre. Morse also weaves in a thumping rendition of “Thoughts Part 5,” and the new studio album’s closing epic “World Without End” — a tour-de-force moment for the former Spock’s Beard frontman, who once again confirms his canny ability to mix ear-candy melodies with soaring episodic prog concepts.

Morse even digs back into his days with Spock’s, offering a delicately conveyed update of “Distance to the Sun” from 1999’s Day for Night — which, like “Author of Confusion” and “Thoughts Part 5,” provide ample opportunity for some Gentle Giant-style harmonizing. Morse then hands the mic over to drummer Mike Portnoy for a grinding cover of the Osmonds’ “Crazy Horses” — originally included on the bonus disc for 2008’s Lifeline, and then collected later on the Cover 2 Cover album.

Blended in between are some of the best of Morse’s faith-based compositions, including a pair of epic song cycles in “The Testimony Suite” (which closed out side one of what remains his most completely realized post-Spock’s Beard release, 2003’s Testimony) and then “The Question Mark Suite” from ?, issued two years later and presented here with a new ending.

Live Momentum is rounded out by a tremendously fun, give-the-band-some take on “Sing it High” from Testimony; “Author of Confusion” (which becomes another showcase for Sodre) and “King Jesus” from his 2004’s One; the Dream Theater-esque “The Conflict” from 2007’s Sola Scriptura; and “Fly High” from Lifeline.

Experienced as a whole on Live Momentum, Morse’s work fits together of a piece, no matter the differing subject matter. It’s perhaps the best re-entry point yet for original Spock’s Beard fans who’d like to catch up with Morse after all these years — because, combined like this, his true genius (that is to say, creating approachable versions of genre music that was previously thought impenetrable, be that progressive or Christian rock) is revealed anew.

Neal Morse may have left Spock’s Beard behind all of those years ago, but prog never left him.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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