Neal Morse

Coming off the greatest year I can ever recall, where he put out the epic masterpiece “Kaleidoscope” with Transatlantic, a brilliant solo album in “Songs From November”, and another great Flying Colors album, there was the inevitable question of what was to come next for Neal Morse.  The last five years or so, he has been on such an incredible roll that it's hard to fathom the amount of amazing music he has been responsible for.  My shelves are filling with his albums, as it seems everything Neal touches turns to gold.

As a critic, it's easy to become jaded about music, given the amount of albums I get the chance to hear in a given year. When you hear so much, it begins to blend together, and the special spark that you're always looking for becomes continually more difficult to find. Both age and attrition make it so that we should be able to pull less and less out of each year, but that is not what I have found. Over the course of my time writing about music, the opposite has held true.

It’s been a busy year for Neal Morse. First, he helped put out the new Transatlantic record which my cohort Chris still believes (and not erroneously,) to be one of the best albums of the year. Then he popped out a solo record (as seen this week on this site!) and now he’s also gearing up to release the new Flying Colors record in the fall. Flying Colors, for those who may not know, is the on-again, off-again, whenever-we-have-time project that Morse works on with apex drummer Mike Portnoy, Steve Morse (no relation,) Dave LaRue and newish vocalist Casey McPherson.

Progressive musicians are not known for their songwriting acumen. The nature of the music means that most of the artists who trade in it are likely to indulge their creative freedom, writing songs that are more interesting for musicians than for listeners. It is one of the main reasons why progressive music is often derided by people who haven't succumbed to its charms. There are exceptions, of course, and chief among them is Neal Morse.

Rare is the occasion when a 'supergroup' lives up to the hype. Most of the time, they wind up being a collection of pieces that don't really fit together, cobbling together music that can be very good, but never matches the expectations we have built up. Transatlantic is one of those supergroups that obliterates the doubts I have over such projects. After a debut that showed promise, but was a band obviously finding their way, they released back-to-back modern classics in the form of “Bridge Across Forever” (my favorite prog album of all time), and the immense “The Whirlwind”.