Neal Morse is a phenomenon. Since he arrived, fully formed as a musician, in 1995 with Spock´s Beard´s monumental debut album “The Light” he has spearheaded prog like no other. Well almost, any way. After leaving Spock´s in 2002 on the cusp of stardom and commercial breakthrough, he followed his heart and became a born again christian. This ushered in a completely new era for him as an artist, now focusing solely on making music praising God and actually leaving the secular music scene for a couple of years.
His fans need not to worry however as his songwriting didn´t suffer in the least, only the subject matter changed somewhat. And yes, if you have a hard time listening to lyrics about all the ways Jesus is awesome, this record and most of his solo material will be a hard pill to swallow. Which is a shame as the music is absolutely incredible.
This is a belated successor to his 2007 concept album “Sola Scriptura” about the life and trials of Martin Luther. While it doesn´t connect storywise since this recent effort concerns the story of the apostle Paul and the two were separated by more than a millenia, it however reuses some of the musical motifs of its predecessor.
Big, epic themes is Morse’s thing and he doesn’t disappoint this time around either. He playfully introduces these recurring melodies on the second track, simply called “Overture” and they pop up during a couple of the songs throughout the album with a huge crescendo during the last two songs “The Glory of The Lord” and “Now I Can See: The Great Commission” where also some of the themes introduced on “Sola Scriptura” beautifully reappears.
If I have to rate this against his other soloalbums this would rank somewhere in the middle. It doesn’t reach the amazing heights of “? (Questionmark)” or “Sola Scriptura” but I like it better than “One”, “Lifeline” and “Testimony” for instance.
Even though this is Neal’s lockdown album where he recorded all vocals, keyboards and guitars all by his lonesome with bassist Randy George and drummer Mike Portnoy adding their parts in their own studios it still has that fantastic livefeel which says a lot about just how well they know each other musically. Wonderful stuff!
Artist: Neal Morse
Title: Sola Gratia
Label: Inside Out Records
Land of origin: USA
Stand out track: Seemingly Sincere, Now I Can See: The Great Commission