In the year 2002 Neal Morse left Spock's Beard and I have to say that I was devastated at that time... But fortunately The Beard survived and has made some great albums since then and Neal of course has been doing a great job as a solo artist.
In 2003 he embarked upon the most ambitious musical project of his career called Testimony 1 and although I had to “struggle” with the religious lyrics, I found the music absolutely superb. Following his first master piece were albums like: One (2004), Question (2005), Lifeline (2008) and his second best solo album so far Sola Scriptura (2007).
Now eight years after Testimony 1 Neal releases Testimony 2 on which Mike Portnoy and Randy George have returned to revisit the trio's unique and powerful musical chemistry. Further special guests are: Nick D'Virgilio, Alan Morse, Dave Meros (all of Spock's Beard), Steve Morse (Deep Purple), Paul Bielatowicz (Carl Palmer Band) and members of the Nashville Symphony.
CD 1 features Part Six, Seven and Eight and here Neal tells his story about his days with Spock's Beard, his personal battles in his private life and his heart ridden journeys of self revelation and religious awakenings. The album kicks off with the amazing Mercy Street, opening with a beautiful piano melody followed by typical Morse prog rock characteristics. Follow up Overture No.4 belongs to one of my favourite songs on the album already as it is filled with lots of bombastic orchestral passages, a fast guitar solo and many catchy hooks and riffs. Time Changer features three members of The Beard and it really is an SB song with acapella parts, great keys and some rather heavy parts.
Jayda deals with the birth of Neal's daughter and is a deeply emotional ballad filled with lots of strings and nice melodies and it also marks the end of Part Six. On Part Seven, Neal's expedition of religious faith goes on and one of the highlights is the stunning Jesus Blood which contains an amazing breathtaking guitar solo. Road Dog Blues swings and also features a saxophone solo while Crossing Over is pure progressive rock at its best. Mercy Street Reprise ends the first CD and leaves you grasping for air to listen to the second CD, which is, by the way, not necessarily part of the Testimony sequence.
Absolute Beginner opens the second CD and it is a very recognisable Morse prog rock song with the key element being: melodic. Supernatural is probably the “weakest” song on the entire Testimony 2 album with its rather catchy, addictive chorus. But Neal saves the best for last because Seeds Of Gold is another musical epic gem like I have only heard on Transatlantic albums. This is perhaps the best music Neal has ever written and check out the mind boggling guitar solo by Steve Morse; this is very impressive indeed.
Conclusion: Neal did it again! The key element of this album is variety as you can listen to blues rock, technical jazz stuff, ballads, seventies symphonic prog rock and some very, very tasty and delightful guitar solos. The emotional vocals of Neal adds the awesome rest.
This the best album of 2011 as I do not think that anyone can top this truly amazing prog rock gem. Get it as quickly as you can and get hooked like yours truly.
***** Martien Koolen (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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