194. Lifeline – Neal Morse
It is way too easy to run out of superlatives when discussing Neal Morse. This album, the second of three that will appear on this list, is no exception and repeating one self when discussing this artists can be too easy. Amazing. Original. Fascinating. Electric. Dynamic. Epic.
One of the few Neal Morse releases that cannot be considered a “concept” album, Lifeline is filled with banner epics while keeping a melodic and thematic story arch. There are few artists that can make one or two songs that extend beyond 5 minutes worthy of repeated listens, but making an album that only has two songs under five minutes (albeit one of them falls just 5 seconds short) is unheard of. Oh yeah, and one song last nearly 30 minutes!
On Lifeline (like most of his projects) Morse calls on the support of friends to accentuate his own guitar and keyboard work. Most notable is one of the worlds great drummers in Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater fame. Portnoy continues to be one of the most respected and creative drummers on the planet and it his work that truly drives Morse’s diverse and creative compositions.
Prog rock is admittedly a sub-genre within rock that many have ignored or avoided for its excesses and lengthy compositions. Many within the genre forget melody and hooks, but Morse is not one of those. He writers prog rock with a sense of great melody like Kerry Livgren while extending beyond Livgren’s musical interest to include jazz, fusion and world music influences along with the common classical and classic rock.
Lyrically the album is Psalm like in its praise, adoration and humility before an almighty and Sovereign Lord. Only Leviathan, with both its musical and lyrical oddities, strays from the Psalm like approach. The title track is incredibly memorable, especially for a 14 minute song, but it is “So Many Road” that is the centerpiece of the album. Nearly 30 minutes in length the song is divided into six distinctly different songs with similar melodic strains unifying the piece.
Even if one does not love prog rock, it is worth the time to discover Morse and appreciate the genius it takes to create such lasting and moving musical compositions.