People who love the music recorded by Neal Morse should pay attention while reading this review because the debut album of the American band The Twenty Committee has everything to do with this musician. The band started in January 2012 and at the time they worked on material previously written by Geoffrey Langley (lead vocals, keyboards). The other band members are Stephen Kostas (lead guitar), Joe Henderson (drums, backing vocals), Justin Carlton (guitar, backing vocals) and his brother Richmond Carlton (bass, harp). They began to collaborate on more original material and playing shows in the greater Philadelphia area, building up a catalogue and a reputation.
In April 2012 Neal Morse launched his Chance Of A Lifetime series of videos on YouTube. Musicians who thought to have enough musical talent and whose music is related to prog could send him a video tape. This way Morse could look for unknown talent to do an audition for his touring band. One of the people who dared to challenge Morse was Geoffrey Langley. He went to Neal's home town Nashville and performed some of his songs for him. Well, to cut a long story short, Neal Morse liked it and before they knew it the entire band was busy recording their debut A Lifeblood Psalm. They did it in two week's time at the Radiant Studios led by producer Jerry Guidroz, who had already worked with Flying Colors and Transatlantic, both bands in which Neal Morse participates.
The forty-five minutes of recorded music was released in April 2013. Right from the start I noticed that the album has been perfectly recorded. The excellent compositions came crystal clear out of my speakers. You might say that the songs on A Lifeblood Psalm have two different aspects. Firstly the singer-songwriter elements; these are the rather uncomplicated songs having a more commercial and pop-like sound. These tracks have largely strong harmony vocals. Secondly the true progressive rock tunes that contain the power and the strength which lovers of the genre like so much. Those songs have strong instrumental parts performed on the electric guitars and synthesizers. The good thing is that they succeeded in blending both styles perfectly, so you can't say that the pop-like tracks sound too pop-like, whilst the prog rock tracks hold some pop-like elements as well!
However, there's one exception namely The Knowledge Enterprise, the longest track on this CD. It's a five-part suite that lasts over 21 minutes. I think this is the absolute highlight on A Lifeblood Psalm ; a true progressive rock tune that to some extent made me think of Magnum Opus from Leftoverture (1976), an album recorded by Kansas. Magnum Opus has a playing time of almost nine minutes but it sounds like a longer epic piece. Thanks to the many different moods and the strong instrumental parts such beautiful compositions never get bored. That could also be said about The Knowledge Enterprise. Sometimes it doesn't only sound like Kansas, but it also contains strong instrumental parts and several interesting breaks similar to Magnum Opus.
It's obvious that a lot of tracks come pretty close to the songs written by Neal Morse in the past with Spock's Beard, Transatlantic, Flying Colors and as a solo artist. Then again other acts could be mentioned as well since I also heard touches of Yes, Echolyn, Steely Dan, Gentle Giant and Coldplay, just to name a few. Well, I don't mind if they got their inspiration from these acts. For me the only thing that matters are the strong prog rock compositions that occasionally contain some pop-like parts.
A Lifeblood Psalm recorded by The Twenty Committee is a strong debut album on which the music could be labelled as American crossover prog. Highly recommended to all fans of Neal Morse!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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