Fireworks

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Neal Morse - 'Songs From November' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/83/1e/08/neal-morse-songs-from-november-98-1415220669.jpg Hot

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Morse shows his versatility and prowess as both a performer and writer.

Neal Morse is rightly lauded as a member of current Prog Royalty thanks to his considerable body of work with Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic and his many epic solo albums. It’s maybe less well known that prior to his departure from SB he released two solo albums in a different style; what you’d term singer/song-writer. Concise songs in length and arrangement, these were excellent albums and it’s been amazing to me that they’ve never featured in his set.

After a thirteen year gap (ignoring the Dylan-esque and strongly religious album ‘Songs From The Highway’ from 2007) he’s finally produced another album in this genre and it’s certainly been worth the wait. Morse likens the album to one made by Jackson Browne or Graham Nash but the influences that come through most to me are Billy Joel, The Eagles, America and Venice.

Opening number ‘Whatever Days’ bounds along in a jaunty manner, brass and saxophone accompaniment from Jim Hoke reinforcing the Joel comparison. ‘Heaven Smiled’ is an acoustic ballad typically Morse in style and creation, albeit the female backing vocals from the McCrary Sisters lends both a Gospel and Pink Floyd (‘The Great Gig in the Sky’) feel to proceedings.

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‘Flowers In A Vase’ has a hint of Country to it; like everything else here the melody is so strong that it gets into your head and stays there. Simply piano, steel guitar and brushed drums it’s gentle but effective and the harmony vocals are a delight. ‘Love Shot An Arrow’ features a very effective string arrangement from Chris Carmichael with the female backing vocals to the fore on the catchy chorus.

The equally upbeat ‘Song For The Free’ sees Morse adopting a less familiar format; it makes me think of a cross between Matchbox 20 and Train. ‘Tell Me Annabelle’ was written when Morse was in his twenties and just serves to demonstrate he was a skilful song-writer even then.

The lovely violin intro to ‘My Time Of Dying’ provides a suitably plaintive feel and evokes Kansas while the vocals on the chorus are redolent of both America and Venice. ‘Daddy’s Daughter’ could have been soppy but just manages to avoid that fate... again, the chorus is infectious. ‘Wear The Chains’ has the vibe of a section you’d hear as part of one of his Prog epics. The album closes with ‘The Way Of Love’ with verses that again bring forth Joel comparisons. It’s a bit repetitive for my taste and not being a big fan of a brass section, it leaves a slight feeling of ending on a low.

That said Morse shows his versatility and prowess as both a performer and writer.     

Gary Marshall

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