Declaration of principles:
- “Snow” is one of the best albums released this decade. I'm sure that Neal Morse planned to make a new and actual “The Lamb lies down on Broadway” and, in my opinion, he made it in an amazing way.
- Neal Morse has become a real bastion of this genre's rebirth. He has been working a lot, and on different fronts, and we haven´t even thanked him for that.
- I have complete faith in Neal Morse and I'm sure of all the reasons argued when he decide to give all up. I was fortunate when, along with Alfonso Algora, I interviewed Neal before his last (and first) show in Madrid. He´s a very humble, sincere and approachable. You can't compare him to leaders of mega-bands (Peter Gabriel, Roger Waters, Roger Hodgson, etc) looking for a lonely leadership that brings more benefits. I don't think Neal is rolling in money.
- When reviewing an album there are two perspectives for the reviewer: the veteran and die-hard fan, and the newcomer. We can't say that one album is bad only because it´s similar to the previous album or because there isn´t any big evolution. The album could not be interesting for the veterans but it can be very interesting for newcomers.
- And last but not least: an album can be considered very long – the famous 80 minutes – and sometimes there are lots of useless fragments. But we don't have to listen to it in a row necessarily, sometimes it´s better to listen twice discovering lots of details.
All of aforementioned came from the expectation generated inside our progressive world when we knew that both Spock’s Beard and its former leader were going to release their respective albums at the same time. More expectation than quality?. I'm not sure. Everybody knew that with “Feel Euphoria” the “forgotten guys” were going to loose the North. But otherwise I don´t agree with most part of the reviews. I´m sure that if this album were released by a newcomer band, we´d talking about the discovery of this year. The album is great, with good instrumental moments, great sound quality and lots of details created for every prog-head´s taste. I also disagree when people say that the album is not innovative.. perhaps one of the mistakes of the album is that sometimes is too innovative. In short, the album is better than I expected.
And what about “Testimony”?. From the die-hard fan´s point of view, we won't find new things. “Snow”´s musical concept is repeated here, as well as some old ideas taken from previous Spock or solo albums. Perhaps this album could be similar to “Snow” (ideas and length) but it doesn´t reach the high level. There aren´t highlights such as “Solitary Soul”, “Wind at my Back”, etc. In the same way I think it hasn´t a typical conceptual structure – there are no solid links between tracks and it´s not clear the distribution of calm and rock tracks. The creativity of a band is completely lost but the sound is more compact (it´s obvious when all the instruments are at one person´s service). There are fragments unnecessarily extended and lots of instrumentation. In the same way rumors pointed that the faith Morse had found, leaving his main band and side projects, was going to decrease the quality of this new album (I can´t see the link between one thing and another, but..).
This double CD consists of five parts where Morse relates all his life and how he found God. Even it´s a serious subject, the lyrics are sometimes very puerile, a sort of “I was a bad guy but now I'm saved”. Finally there´s a special edition of the album with a couple of bonus tracks and boxset.
The album lasts for more than two hours and the musicians, apart from Neal, are absolutely unknown (at least for me) except the special guests Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater and the “star” of the sleeve´s sticker) on drums and Kerry Livgren (ex Kansas and Neal´s brother in faith) who plays an amazing guitar solo in “Long Story”.
Those who already know the artist will enjoy with what they´ll find here. I can´t find a band of reference for those who don't know this guy (maybe a blend of Gentle Giant, ELP, Genesis, Kansas), because the style is very personal and original: lots of different styles played under a US sympho-prog vision, orchestral moments, millions of changes, vocal interplays, backing vocals, rich arrangements. Definitely this is not the best album if you want to get into this artist (I´d recommend “Snow” or “Beware of Darkness”, but the album is very good.