- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2003 1 Sep
They say that what goes around comes around, and it's been true of nearly every genre in the history of pop/rock. One exception to that is the progressive rock of the '70s-rock-pop-jazz-classical fusion made famous by bands such as Yes, Genesis, and Kansas. Such music unfortunately went out of style in the '80s, relegating prog-rock bands to underground status. One such band is Spock's Beard, formed in 1992 by Neal Morse. The son of a choral director, this gifted singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer left his band behind in 2002.
But Morse is hardly done.
And that's just Part 1—40 minutes and an album in itself. Morse's story doesn't end there since he was unable to escape the guilt of his shameful past at that time. Beginning with Part 2, Morse dares to reveal what many Christian artists forget: that conforming to Christ involves lifelong surrender. The 30-minute suite begins with joy carried over from Part 1, but eventually finds the artist slipping back to his old self and becoming depressed for it. The first disc ends with Morse leaving his hometown of Los Angeles in search of purpose and meaning.
Disc 2 continues the journey with Morse moving to Nashville, meeting his future wife, and coming to understand grace through faith from attending her childhood church. The epiphany culminates in the joyful "Sing It High," colored with country-folk-gospel instrumentation to indicate the change in venue. From there, Morse wrestles with faith and reconciling his past one more time, finally expressing the joy of surrendering it all to Christ and truly being born again with the marvelous ballad "I Am Willing." Part 5 wraps things up with prog-rock praise that is as joyous as a Sunday morning Easter service. Both "Rejoice" and "Oh Lord, My God" may be the coolest worship songs I've heard all year. He ends
That anyone could put his life story to music so openly and effectively is a tremendous feat in itself, and something for the entire Christian music industry to behold. It's all the more amazing that Morse pulls it off with stellar musicianship and arrangements, capturing the vintage prog-rock style without sounding too dated. It's not for everyone; if you prefer 3-minute pop songs, look elsewhere. But if you have diverse musical tastes in rock, pop, classical, folk, jazz, and Latin (in that order) and are looking for intelligently written, complex music, check it out.