Artist: The Neal Morse Band
Album: Alive Again
Label: Radiant Records
Release Date: 08/05/2016
In the middle of a vibrant progressive-rock spectacle, vividly recorded and filmed for the new DVD/2CD live set Alive Again, Neal Morse takes a solo acoustic turn on “There is Nothing That God Can’t Change.” An emotional Morse, on the verge of breaking down, gingerly wades into this affecting song of redemption and miracles – the part about the healing of his daughter’s heart condition touching a nerve.
Amid a strong, frenetic storm of virtuoso musicianship, mind-boggling complexity and sweeping melodic grandeur, here was an unguarded Morse on an island, quiet and unsure at first and then simply, but vigorously, strumming his guitar with life-affirming joy. It was a moving display of unabashed sincerity and gratitude, an overwhelming catharsis where Morse soared and the audience flew with him. The rest of Alive Again is a more expansive realization of an acrobatic group dynamic that, as a whole, works together like the steam-punk gears and wheels that raise the curtain on the video of this galvanizing performance.
Playing to an appreciative Netherlands audience on March 5, 2015, that had no qualms with overtly Christian proselytizing or excessive prog-rock bombast, the Neal Morse Band – featuring ex-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy – dazzled the faithful, making tricky transitions appear seamless, navigating unusual time signatures with ease and building wild, stunning crescendos, like those found in “The Creation” and “The Call.” Heavy, metallic riffing muscles its way into “In the Fire,” a whirling amalgam of sounds that appears schizophrenic, as does the title track – its celestial intro giving way to more frantic movements. Even more powerful, the massive “Leviathan” plumbs watery depths, where “Waterfall” enters a lush dream world of breathtaking beauty and their version of the Spock’s Beard deep track “Harm’s Way” is honeycombed with gorgeous passages of melody.
Uplifting and entertaining, Alive Again may win new converts, but those turned off by long-winded jams and unnecessarily fussy arrangements won’t ever get the Neal Morse Band or prog-rock for that matter. Those that do might find this release a religious experience.
– Peter Lindblad