CD Review – Neal Morse – Sola Gratia

Scary man with the scythe is the winter snow.

It would be more than accurate to describe Neal Morse as a prog rock veteran. He’s noted for his work with Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic, Flying Colors, The Neal Morse Band, besides his own solo efforts. (Anyone remember Yellow Matter Custard?) Twenty years ago, or there abouts, Morse followed his born-again Christian beliefs and began to release religious themed works along side his other work (although he did leave Spock’s Beard of course).

There has been some criticism that Morse does allow the evangelism of his beliefs to get the better of him and that some of his works are overly preachy. Rather than drawing out the philosophy, meaning, and power of his subject he tends to evangelise. On this, his eleventh solo outing, the balance is better. It is true to say that when the lyrical side of his output shifted considerably in a religious direction, the music itself retained the typical Morse signatures. There are the bombastic moments, the pure rock outs along with the folksy feel that makes for a colourful listen. Indeed, on Overture, Sola Intermezzo and Warmer Than The Son the music is allowed to do the speaking, whilst elsewhere the storyline is one of persecution and the Biblical story of St Paul. The work also has some links with Morse’s 2007 release Sola Scripta.  

The sound of the album is top notch, with the production values sky high thanks to Rich Mouser. Regular musical comrades, Randy George and Mike Portnoy provide excellent back up on bass and drums respectively, and there’s some sterling strings too from Eric Gillette.

This is a strong work then, but it doesn’t really do anything new or novel. In that sense it is a very safe album that makes you wonder if it’s really progressive at all? The strength of the album is the musicianship though. Lyrically there’s less of a RE lesson than at other times with Morse (and he has every right to do so I might add). One of Neal Morse’s more palatable releases.

1. Preface (1:28)

2. Overture (5:59)

3. In the Name of the Lord (4:27)

4. Ballyhoo (The Chosen Ones) (2:43)

5. March of the Pharisees (1:40)

6. Building a Wall (5:01)

7. Sola Intermezzo (2:10)

8. Overflow (6:27)

9. Warmer Than the Sunshine (3:22)

10. Never Change (7:52)

11. Seemingly Sincere (9:34)

12. The Light on the Road to Damascus (3:26)

13. The Glory of the Lord (6:17)

14. Now I Can See / The Great Commission (5:17)

Bonus DVD includes “The Making of Sola Gratia Documentary” (61:10)

Neal Morse – keyboards, guitars, vocals

Mike Portnoy – drums

Randy George – bass

Eric Gillette – strings

Formats: CD, limited CD/DVD Digipak, gatefold 2LP+CD, digital album

Label: InsideOut

Release date: 11th September, 2020

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