Neal Morse must be the most prolific prog artist around at the moment. Not so long ago we had Momentum (2012, see review) followed by Kaleidoscope (2014, see review) with Transatlantic. There is a new Flying Colours album (Second Nature) due soon following on from their live album and he also appears on the new Spock's Beard live album (Live At Sea) out at the end of August. Now Neal releases his new solo album Songs From November, so titled apparently because all the songs were written last November.
Beware.........this is not an album of twenty minute prog epics. There are no fancy instrumentals, no synthesiser wig outs or soaring guitar solos. This is Neal going back to his songwriting roots and this is an album of straight forward songs. It is in a similar vein to the album It's Not Too Late (2001).
This is a very personal album. Yes I know that his albums usually are personal but more about his relationship with God. This time it is about his relationship with his family and friends. There are times when it gets so personal that you start to think that you shouldn't be listening in to what he is saying. But Neal is so obviously proud of his family and wants us to share in that joy. So we rejoice in his love for his daughter growing up, for the memorable times he has spent with his wife and we worry about what's going to happen to Annabelle and if she will be OK.
The music is very simple yet very effective. As Neal says;
“I listen to a lot of different kinds of music for various occasions...prog albums when I really want to focus on intricate music...sometimes jazz and classical. But then many times I find myself attracted to singer-songwriter albums like a Jackson Browne or Graham Nash record. So one day I thought to myself...I'd like to make an album like that! Songs from November is that album.”
There are times when Crosby, Stills and Nash heavily influence the album especially when the pedal steel features on Flowers In A Vase which is his Our House. But at the end of the day this is a Neal Morse album full of strong songs, simple but effective playing and great vocals. A special mention must go to Regina McCrary and Alfreda McCrary who provide the gospel style backing vocals on Heaven Smiled and Love Shot An Arrow. Stunning. Another newcomer is the drummer. Neal says;
“I could've gotten together with a bunch of studio musicians in Nashville and banged this thing out, but I felt like the thing to do was to get together with this young drummer named Gabe Klein and work on it as a team. He is only 18 years old and amazing! We had a great time recording these songs and many more. We actually recorded twice as many songs as we needed and picked the best ones. It was the first time I've ever done that and it was very fruitful. I sent out 21 songs to a bunch of different people that I trust and chose from their lists. So that was also a totally new approach for me.”
Take this album for what it is; a really enjoyable set of songs; and wait to see what Neal comes up with next. Whatever it is I am sure it will not be a long wait.
**** Dave Smith
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