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November 2004 Pick of the Month

Artist:  Neal Morse
Label:  Radiant Records
Length:  Standard Edition-1 Disc/8 Tracks/79:55, Special Edition-2 Discs/17 Tracks/79:55 & 39:14

An admission:  as a reviewer and DJ there is precious little music I’ve heard lately that really blows my hair back. 

And then I received Neal Morse’s One in the mail and put it in the CD player…

Hear that?

That’s the sound of my jaw dropping.

Wow.  One is a multi-faceted album that works well on many levels: as a touching spiritual chronicle, a powerful vocal and instrumental showcase, and a flat-out fantastic rock CD.   There is a rare musical, lyrical, and spiritual depth to One that takes the listener on a satisfying journey.  I can’t name many albums that have touched the heart, mind, soul, AND gratify the rock ‘n’ roll fan in me.  One does all of the above.

One begins with a haunting, grand, sweeping orchestral theme that is revisited throughout the CD (tying the music in with the lyrical theme).  “The Creation” starts the journey at the literal beginning…in the Garden of Eden as sin separates the man from his creator.  The eighteen-plus minute epic thunderously shares the grandeur of the Creation instrumentally, then visits the first couple’s relationship and One-ness with God. Around fourteen minutes into the song we hear the voice of God after the fall proclaim powerfully (and mournfully):

Why are you hiding?
You were ashamed 
You fled my eyes
I gave you life
And all that I wanted
Was just one thing
But you chose a lie
Morse retells the Genesis story in a fresh perspective.  As the man leaves paradise the story shifts to a point of view that could apply to Adam, or any man or woman today.

In the short acoustic “The Man’s Gone” the man is on his own and participating in some very modern sin.

The man's gone to make his way alone
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
The hard-driving “Author of Confusion” features one of Morse’s heaviest compositions musically.  The song rocks immensely and then heads into a unique multi-layered vocal treatise on the Devil (along with a musical oasis featuring the voice of God longing to be One with the wayward son).  The cacophonous musical tone of this song fits nicely with the subject matter.

In “The Separated Man” we see the man lost in a cage of his own making and hear his sad proclamation “Look how far I’ve come…I believe in myself!”  “The Man’s Gone” is then reprised and the song closes with the powerful message of “Something Within Me Remembers…” as the man remembers that there is a better way.

One then springs its biggest surprise-a lovely, tear-inducing acoustic song featuring a duet with Neal Morse and Christian music legend Phil Keaggy.  Morse cries out as the man who is lost and thinks God “doesn’t care for me anymore.”  Keaggy is the voice of God sharing in a tender, and moving way.  Both voices join as the man and God share their hearts:

How I wish (Child how I love you)
I could be relieved (but you’re so far away)
Fall on God’s doorstep (won’t you come home to me)
And be received (I will give you my robe)…
The man then hits rock bottom in the catchy flamenco/Latin/jazz-rock influenced “Help Me.”  The percussion and acoustic instrumental sections in this song are not to be missed.  The ballad “Father of Forgiveness” is the poignant story of the prodigal’s return. 

One closes strongly with “Reunion,” a watermark performance that features an unforgettable celebration of the restored relationship made possible by the Savior.  Lyrically this song will put a smile on your face, and the instrumental section at 3:20 brings the house down with an insane horn, keyboard, drum, and orchestra showcase.  You have to hear this one to believe it.

Morse’s possesses a true gift musically and lyrically, and his collaborators bring a great deal to the table as well.  The phenomenally talented Mike Portnoy (of Dream Theater, undoubtedly one of rock’s best drummers) provides a hurricane backbeat of thunderously powerful drumming, and assists with arranging the epic songs.  Gifted bassist Randy George creates a rumbling low-end that adds a terrific depth to One.  Randy also helped with lyrics and arranging.  Rick Altizer joins in with background vocals, Chris Carmichael adds some tasteful orchestral sounds, and Phil Keaggy provides incredible guitar and vocal assistance.

A special note:  The standard edition of One features the songs described above.  I highly recommend the _One_ Special Edition with an additional CD of bonus songs.  The bonus CD features 3 original songs that did not fit on the 79 minute One CD (including a wonderful Beatle-esque romp called “Nothing to Believe,” and the rousing “King Jesus”).  There are 4 covers as well:  George Harrison’s “What is Life”  (with Keaggy on duet vocals), U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name,” Badfinger’s “Day After Day,” and a rousing rendition of The Who’s “I’m Free/Sparks.” 

_One_ is an album that I enjoyed enormously the first time I heard it.  And I haven’t taken it out of the player since.  One receives my highest recommendation.  Lovers of good music of quality and depth will want to add this to the collection immediately.   One is unlike anything available in the Christian or mainstream market, and in these days of cookie-cutter music that is a very welcome thing.

Read all about Neal at his web site here.  Listen to samples of the tracks here.  And place your order here

DJ Barry 10/31/2004

DJ Barry hosts Soul Frequency (, a weekly FM and Internet free-form radio show showcasing progressive rock, instrumental rock, Christian rock, power-pop, Psychedelic rock, rock classics and more—great rock for the ages!



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