194. Lifeline – Neal Morse

LIFELINE (2008)

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.

 

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  1. Shawn McLaughlin
    January 26, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    I think that the Neal albums are somewhat interchangeable. The two that you have listed so far would not be on my top 3 list, but I suspect the upcoming entry will be the same as my highest choice. The other two I would include are One and, Sola Scriptura. I also would have “Snow” the last Spock’s Beard album with Morse on my list. Regardless, you can’t go wrong with Neal.

  2. January 26, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    This is a solid choice for me. “Sola Scriptura” is one of my favorites as well!

    “God’s Love” is one of my all time favorite Neal Morse songs!

  3. Ted Patterson
    January 29, 2011 at 6:18 am

    Love his stuff !!!

  4. Ted Patterson
    January 29, 2011 at 6:19 am

    You should listen to Spocks Beard – V…..great album as well. Just for the music.

  5. Sundog
    February 17, 2011 at 6:29 am

    As someone who has listened almost exclusively to nothing but Christian music since the 70’s, I feel I have a pretty good handle on who many of the better artists are, and there are many great artists. I discovered Neal and his music just a couple of years ago, believe it or not, and for the least couple of years have nearly abandoned most other music in my life to listen to Neal. Although I have an extremely broad taste in music in general, Christian music, for me, now starts and ends, rises and sets, with Neal Morse. His musicianship is awe inspiring. His ability to craft a melodic hook and combine it with some of the most intelligent lyrics is nearly unparalleled in any genre. I love progressive music, and yes, there is most certainly an element of Kansas/Kerry Livgren in his writing. If you don’t like progressive, 20-30 minute songs, then Neal is definitely not for you. Still, he has other non-progressive projects out there to be had. I doubt you will find any artist in Christian music as prolific (and epic) as Neal Morse. As a musician, I sometimes feel like he’s slapping me in the face with his superb musicianship. Yes Neal, I get that you know your scales. We all get it! Now go out and write some more epic prog rock for my listening pleasure.

  6. January 22, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    I bought this album as a Christmas present for my friend the year it came out. We both like it very much nowadays. “The Way Home” is one of my favorite Neal Morse songs.

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