Coming off of a highly successful 2011 marked by the release of the critically acclaimed “Testimony 2” and an enthusiastically attended tour throughout the U.S., Mexico and Europe, Neal Morse could easily have justified going on a creative hiatus to catch his breath. But that would fly in the face of his convictions and the sense that he is being led to build upon the swell of success he is experiencing.
In January 2012, Morse was pondering the possibilities of a change in direction. After all, it had been a decade since he left the progressive rock stalwart Spock’s Beard to pursue a solo career that would allow him to write more freely about his personal faith. And in that time he had recorded 6 impressive studio records that were heralded for their unique hybrid of epic compositions that tested the boundaries of musicianship while maintaining a remarkable sense of melody through irresistible hooks and addictive choruses. He could have taken a break. Or gone in an entirely new direction. But he felt led otherwise, as summed up in the new record’s title track: “You’ve got some new momentum, you better keep going.”
Morse’s long time studio partner and friend Mike Portnoy had a small window in January 2012 when he could record. The only problem was, there was only one song and a few bits and pieces written. Taking a leap of faith, he scheduled a recording session with the drumming legend and longtime bass player Randy George in two weeks, hoping that the music would arrive before the musicians. And boy did it ever.
“Momentum” features five exceptional stand alone songs and one longer conceptual piece. In addition to the accessible title track, there’s the quirkily clever, Gentle Giant-inspired “Thoughts Part 5,” which follows in the footsteps of the previous “Thoughts” tracks penned by Morse with Spocks Beard. “Smoke and Mirrors” trods an introspective, acoustic path, while “Weathering Sky” offers a raucous cry for deliverance and renewal from a searching soul. Rounding out the shorter tracks is “Freak,” an upbeat, strings-charged song unlike anything Neal has recorded to date. Last comes “World Without End,” a near 34-minute, six-part epic that contains everything that defines Morse as a master of the genre.
Another highlight of this record is that, in addition to a masterful solo by guitar wizard Paul Gilbert, there are contributions from Adson Sodré, Bill Hubauer and Eric Gillette—three musicians who were selected as members of Morse’s new touring band through an exciting YouTube driven open audition process.
While “Momentum” propels Morse forward and further cements his standing as a prolific progressive rock icon, it steers clear of the potential “more of the same” trap, and features fresh musical angles and some of the finest performances to date by the Morse, Portnoy, George team.
The release of “Momentum” on September 11 will be quickly followed up by a North American tour that spotlights the fresh talent of his new live band, with stops in such cities as Nashville, Jacksonville, New York, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle and Mexico City.
Much to the delight of progressive rock fans around the globe, Neal Morse is moving ahead with “Momentum,” and there doesn't appear to be any kind of end to his unique creative talent in sight.
Hampered by ill health, but never ones to retire shyly, The Who continue celebrating their 50th anniversary as they contemplate retirement.
Guitar Planet grades the creative comebacks from three iconic artists who are attempting to give 2015 a much-needed injection of impetus.
Guitar Planet takes on new albums by southern stars Blackberry Smoke, nu-metal icons Papa Roach and the legendary Venom.
The music industry’s glamorous state of the union address was delivered this weekend, but what did the Grammys have to say about guitar music?
Enter Shikari renew their archly political assault while expanding their sonic horizons on The Mindsweep.