Fireworks

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Neal Morse - 'Life & Times' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/6a/86/d3/neal-morse-life-and-times-71-1543867431.jpg

Added by Central Electronic Brain     December 03, 2018    
 
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Once again, Neal Morse delivers an album of depth and quality.

While Neal Morse is noted for being an icon of the Progressive genre, having produced a superb body of work with Spock's Beard, Transatlantic, solo material and The Neal Morse Band, he's no one trick pony as his early solo albums (1999's 'Neal Morse' and 2001's 'It's Not Too Late') demonstrated, these being in the singer/song-writer style (I'm ignoring his Country & Western though). Here he's revisiting that stripped-back style and displays his ability to compose songs in almost any genre with considerable ease.
He's utilised a different set of musicians (drummer Scott Williamson, bassist Richard Brinsfield) to his Prog enterprises, which helps provide some separation in styles. Apart from strings, steel guitar and some backing vocals, Morse plays everything else.

There appears to be an autobiographical element to some of the material, and as such the moods vary with 'Livin' Lightly' opening proceedings in a jaunty, upbeat fashion; it's the first of many earworms. As I listened to the songs, a few names popped into my head with the West Coast feel of the band Venice coming to mind in places and Billy Joel references surfacing from time to time, albeit from the arrangements side rather than the sound.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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'Good Love Is On The Way' is catchy, 'Joanna' and 'You, Me & Everything' are both wistful ballads, while 'Selfie In The Square' brings forth the Venice comparison; it has a great chorus and a memorable refrain. 'He Died At Home' brings the mood down as it tells the story of a young soldier who commits suicide. Despite the subject matter, it's a superb song and the lyrics wonderfully observed and constructed.

'Wave On The Ocean' is a different style of song to that heard from Morse previously; it starts like Paul Simon in his 'Graceland' period, it's quite repetitive but works nonetheless, and concludes in Phil Collins territory with stabs of brass to the fore. 'Manchester' is a fine song, but for me, the "doo doo doo" sections detract a little, they seem a somewhat lazy format for a man of Morse's calibre.

'Old Alabama' is a ballad duet with the lovely tones of Julie Harrison which adds variety and features a wonderful chorus. The Country style appears on closing number 'If I Only Had A Day', the theme of which is rather downbeat.

Once again, Neal Morse delivers an album of depth and quality.

Gary Marshall

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