Neal Morse – Testimony 2

Neal Morse has been one of the most celebrated figures in the progressive rock scene of recent years. Developing a strong following with Spock’s Beard, Morse has also met some heavy acclaim for his solo work, where he shows no signs of letting up. Although I am an avid fan of prog rock, I have found it often difficult to get into the music of the artists who choose to express themselves through the sound of the original prog legends, rather than truly progress rock music forward. First hearing the work of Neal Morse through the Transatlantic supergroup, that has been my biggest gripe with the man’s work, but while the epic scope of symphonic prog here is far from original-sounding, Neal Morse writes his music with conviction and passion, refusing to compromise his expression even so far into his career. ‘Testimony 2′ is doused in Yes-inspired prog rock instrumentation, recurring themes and skilled musicianship. What I find myself most enjoying about the album however, is Morse’s ability to take these ingredients and make a personal journey out of it all.

For much of what I have heard from Neal Morse in the past, it seems as if the greatest thing he has going for him when compared to the rest of the prog scene is his incredibly sincere attitude towards music. While many artists that create twenty minute suites of music (as Morse does here) go down the route of making their music about some spaced out fantasy or vague philosophy, Neal sings about things that are quite clearly dear to him and his life. As many may know, this includes a great dose of religious themes, since Morse has deemed himself a born-again Christian. Even taking a look at the track listing here may turn off the more secular listeners right off the bat, but unlike a couple less successful Morse releases, ‘Testimony 2′ does not focus solely on his beliefs in God. I am atheistic and was not sure how Morse’s religious themes would strike me before listening, but if anything, they are certainly tastefully done. Instead of blindly shouting out praise to his religion, Neal Morse only moderately dabbles in lyrics about his religion; the songs here are about much wider topics in his life. Among these are songs about his daughter nearly dying in childbirth, or missing his family while he is out on tour, and the straightforward, human way that Morse conveys these topics to the listener is touching.

The music here is very well arranged, but perhaps ‘Testimony 2′s greatest weakness is the fact that it is far, far too long for its own good. While there are albums out there that can make grand use of their long lengths, ‘Testimony 2′ does not feel as if it has enough musical dynamic or rising action to warrant such a long musical experience, which is nearly two hours long. Although the first disc has a nice narrative throughout the three epic chunks of music and Morse keeps the sound nicely arranged and lush, ‘Testimony 2′ stays mainly stays focused on upbeat symphonic prog, staying fairly fixated on vintage prog rock conventions throughout the whole thing. While I can certainly see the revivalist school of prog rock finding no qualm in this, the retrogressive style here tends to leave nothing to the imagination, and becomes very predictable, despite the great musicianship from everyone involved here. As for the second disc, the epic ‘Seeds of Gold’ is as strong- even perhaps a little stronger- than the three parts of disc one, but when compared to the already-lengthy first disc, the latter portion of ‘Testimony 2′ feels like it may have been better left off the record entirely, in order to make this expression from Morse a little more effective.

I was not originally sure what to expect from what was first reaching my ears as a religious album, but it is clear why Neal Morse is one of the rightful kings of the modern-day prog rock scene. While there is still a little fat on the edges of this steak that could have been trimmed off for the sake of ultimate flavour, ‘Testimony 2′ has made a believer out of me.


CD 1
Part Six: (22:50)
1. Mercy Street
2. Overture No. 4
3. Time Changer
4. Jayda
Part Seven: (22:54)
5. Nighttime Collectors
6. Time has come Today
7. Jesus’ Blood
8. The Truth Will Set You Free
Part Eight: (32:36)
9. Chance of a Lifetime
10. Jesus Bring Me Home
11. Road Dog Blues
12. It’s For You
13. Crossing Over / Mercy Street Reprise

1. Absolute Beginner (4:39)
2. Supernatural (6:11)
3. Seeds of Gold (25:59)


* Neal Morse – lead vocals, piano, synthesizers
* Randy George – bass
* Mike Portnoy – drums


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