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Neal Morse - Songs from November

Neal Morse
Songs from November
by Daniel Fox at 05 September 2014, 12:58 PM

It's not as uncommon as you may think for artists like NEAL MORSE to do a complete 180° (or incomplete 90°) on their new album and release something like "Songs from November". Prog elitists beware; once again Neal shows us his singer-songwriter side; not a step down for the intricate Prog-rock he is renowned for, but a smooth shuffle to the side.

"Whatever Days" shocked me; to put it bluntly; when it comes to reviews, I generally dive into the music without preliminary research, so, naturally, I had no idea what kind of album "Songs…" was going to be. However, the smooth, easy-listening, AOR-styled jives tided me over, with lilting touches of horns and delicious rhodes lines. Neal proves that, vocally, at the very least, he can apply himself to anything; apparently, groovy, light-hearted, easy-listening is no exception. The vocal melodies of "Love Shot an Arrow" instantly reminded me of a New Zealand band, OPSHOP, and their country-wide favorite track, "One Day". This piece, however, does well to incorporate rich string arrangements, courtesy of multi-instrumentalist Chris; combined with the keyboard work and the earnest gospel-like performances of the McCrary sisters, it manages to not place itself in a gospel setting, but still retaining the inescapable happiness.

"When Things Slow Down" is exactly that; a ballad among ballads. Neal takes an organic, minimalist approach to this piece, with a thin, floating arrangement, that sits gentle-as-can-be under what is one of the best vocal performances on the album. Never before would I have expected something like this from the man who released "Sola Scriptura", yet here we are. "Wear the Chains" had to be my favorite piece on the record; the poetry of the lyrics at hand is truly humbling. Simply put, the track is perfectly crafted, and almost anthemic, almost some form of catchy, groovy mantra. The vocal deliveries are astounding, even powerful in parts, with graduating thickenings of the arrangement deviously hinting to his Progressive tendencies. The metaphorical place he is referring to in the track, I feel it appeals to all of us "dreamers with dayjobs". Title and lyric; two and two together.

Come now, a metalhead is allowed to enjoy something different now and then. When an esteemed artist like Neal steps in such a direction with this kind of unassuming and unexpected flair, we can't help but be open-minded, a trait which I feel this album is trying to impart on us. Musically, it seems to suffer slightly from the "singer-songwriter syndrome"; repeated loops starting to sound homogenised and samey, but it was nonetheless a welcomed change.

4 Star Rating

1. Heaven Smiled
2. Whatever Days
3. Flowers in a Vase
4. Love Shot an Arrow
5. Song for the Free
6. Tell Me Annabelle
7. My Time of Dying
8. When Things Slow Down
9. Daddy's Daughter
10. Wear the Chains
11. The Way of Love
Neal Morse - Vocals, Keyboards, Guitars
Chris Carmichael - Violin, Viola, Cello
Jim Hoke - Horns
Gabe Klein - Drums
Ann McCrary - Vocals
Regina McCrary - Vocals
Record Label: InsideOut Music


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Edited 28 January 2023

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