- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2004 1 Nov
- The Creation
- The Man's Game
- Author of Confusion
- The Separated Man
- Cradle to the Grave
- Help Me / The Spirit and the Flesh
- Father of Forgiveness
- Back to the Garden
- Nothing to Believe
- Cradle to the Grave (Neal's Vocal)
- King Jesus
- What Is Life?
- Where the Streets Have No Name
- Day After Day
- Chris Carmichael's Aria
- I'm Free / Sparks
It's easy to surmise why progressive rock is a rare genre that hasn't enjoyed revival in the last thirty years. We live in a society that's grown more and more accustomed to concision in music—most people only make time for music in between daily routines, so they only want hits and they want them on demand. Today it seems that only self-confessed music geeks (like myself) are willing to make time for an 80-minute rock symphony. Indeed, I held off listening to the latest from Neal Morse for weeks before finding the time to properly savor it.
Recall last year, the gifted artist behind progressive rock bands Spock's Beard and Transatlantic reached out to the CCM scene with his magnus opus
The project begins with an eighteen-minute, four-movement piece called "The Creation." Though possibly the most dated sounding track on One because of the analog-sounding synths, it presents some impressive epic and visionary songwriting. Like an overtly Christian version of Genesis's "Supper's Ready," it goes back to the Garden of Eden to depict life between God and man as originally intended, leading into a dramatic fall to sin.
The gargantuan opening sets the stage for sixty more minutes of reflection on the nature of sin and restoring mankind's relationship with the Lord. The short acoustic "The Man's Gone" expresses the effects of life apart from God: "The mind got large beyond its station/Took full charge of his destination/Became a god of his own creation/Everything was his/In the stocks he made a killing/Invented games that he kept winning/But never really quite fulfilling/On who he really is." Next is the hard-rocking "Author of Confusion," an appropriately cacophonous and (seemingly) chaotic sounding struggle with The Devil and temptation. My, don't those layered a cappella breakdowns recall classic Yes?
With "The Separated Man," humanity begins to recognize its failings, eventually longing for restoration in another eighteen-minute symphony. The almost Latin and jazz sounding "Help Me / The Spirit and the Flesh" is an outpouring of contrition and faith, continued with a moving worship ballad called "Father of Forgiveness," which recognizes that we are reunited with God through faith in Christ Jesus. Things conclude with the joyous rock of the spiritual "Reunion."
It's all delivered with absolutely jaw-dropping musical prowess. Mike Portnoy's drumming is reminiscent of the thunderous fills from the late Keith Moon of The Who and the precision of Rush's Neal Peart. He's complimented by Randy George's quick and confident bass work. But Morse is the true musical journeyman here. With a voice that sounds like Brent Bourgeois and Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, he offers slick keyboard solos alongside elaborate guitars that would surely make Phil Keaggy proud. Apparently so, since Keaggy himself contributes a couple solos of his own, along with a vocal duet on "Cradle to the Grave," singing the part of God in a beautifully candid conversation with man.
Unfortunately, the average listener doesn't have enough patience for Morse's sprawling and nuanced style, which doesn't lend itself to background music and three-minute bursts. He should someday release a more accessible album of 3 to 9 minute songs, which might sound something like the bonus disc included in the exquisitely packaged special edition of
The sad irony is that thirty years ago,