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Neal Morse - Testimony CD (album) cover


Neal Morse


Symphonic Prog

4.04 | 433 ratings

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Symphonic Team
2 stars A bit pretentious and self-indulgent perhaps

Many people think that progressive rock is pretentious, self-indulgent and overly bombastic. An artist making a two hour long concept album about himself and his own 'spiritual awakening' is indeed extremely pretentious and self-indulgent and the music is aptly often quite bombastic too with several symphonic, almost orchestral 'overtures'. In that sense this is a rather stereotypical Prog album living up to people's prejudices about what progressive rock is all about.

Testimony is Neal Morse telling his own story about how he 'found God'. As in much Christian music, the lyrics often come across "preachy". For me as an atheist and secular humanist who strongly believes that you can live a good and ethical life without believing in God, the theme of this album tends to make the album a rather tedious listen. However, the religious theme would not have been a problem for me if the lyrics had been less literal and direct allowing the listener to make his very own interpretation and find his own meanings. The beautiful The Land Of Beginning Again is a notable exception though, this song could mean different things to different people. In my view really good lyrics leave a lot for the listener's imagination. Some of the lyrics also feel quite banal with lines like 'If I played that terrible Eagles song one more time I thought I was gonna die'!

As with many concept albums in general the story here tends to take over the music and the otherwise often very good music suffers as a result. The vocals and lyrics are in the forefront and the music and instruments takes a backseat. There are several excellent musical moments on the album, but the major problem (apart from the lyrics) it the fact that it is far too long to keep the listeners attention throughout its running time. There are certainly enough weaker moments to prove that it would have been easy to compress this album into a single disc instead of a making it into a double album. In that way it would have been made much more consistent and much easier to listen to.

Morse eventually learned from his mistakes and made much more concise, consistent and also much less 'preachy' albums like One, ? and Sola Scriptura, all better than this one in my opinion. Indeed, I think that Morse got better and better with each new solo album following Testimony; first the good One, then the excellent ? and it culminated with the even more excellent Sola Scriptura which is my favourite.

Kerry Livgren from Kansas, who also is a born again Christian, appears on this album on a guitar solo. It is clear that Morse is inspired by Livgren as a songwriter and some songs sound a bit like Kansas songs. But there are several different musical styles involved here. However, the apparent variety is not enough to save the album from getting rather samey towards the middle. The first part is probably the strongest one.

In conclusion, Testimony is a rather uneven and incoherent album that has some great moments and some weaker moments. It builds on a foundation of Prog clichés as well as many religious clichés but it is a very professional recording indeed. Like many double albums it is too long for its own good and does not hold up in the middle.

I can recommend this album only to fans and collectors and to those who share Morse's strong religious beliefs. But don't let this deter you from checking out his other solo albums I mentioned.

SouthSideoftheSky | 2/5 |


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