A relative latecomer into the prog game, Neal Morse nevertheless built up a
reputation for himself in the community through Spock’s Beard and
Transatlantic. Even after abandoning said bands in the noughties to follow the
calling of Christ, Morse’s music still showed him as anything but a one-trick
pony. The man’s new pop-rock album ‘Songs
From November’ is just the latest entry in his varied repertoire.
a good “pop” song is a far cry from the repetiitive clusterfuck of EDM and/or
“indie” rock guitar that’s popular today. When he writes and sings pop songs
about love, freedom, sadness, etc., he backs them up with some real, if not
traditional, instrumentation. And that is definitely a breath of fresh air.
kicks off the first track “Whatever
Days”, a happy summer jam with some nifty saxophone solos to boot. This
positivity is carried on in the gospel/soul flavour of “Heaven Smiled”, not least with the uplifting choral section in its
later half. The light Country groove of “Flowers
in a Vase” is a definite highlight as well.
Things start to slow down in the middle of this album, as
Morse starts to make room for more emotional soft rock ballads. This formula
does work really well for songs like “Tell
Me Annabelle”, which acts as a sobering trip after the energetic,
almost-religious fervour of “Song for
The Free”. “My Time of Dying” is
by far the best of Morse’s slow numbers here, due to the juxtaposition of his
hopeful-sounding voice with the mournful tone of the violins in the background.
“When Things Slow Down” is one of
the minor setbacks in this album, as it sounds pretty bland compared to its
predecessors here. The other one is “Daddy’s
Daughter”, which sounds a bit too sticky-sweet for my taste; but maybe
that’s because I don’t have a daughter of my own (none that I know of, anyway).
Otherwise, it would perhaps be just the thing for an emotional father
witnessing his daughter’s graduation or wedding.
To its credit, ‘Songs
From November’ does end on a good note. Morse’s lyrics on “Wear the Chains” about free-spirited
people growing up to become part of the system they abhorred are very
relatable, and are further bolstered by the song’s string arrangements. Then,
he finally brings back those joyful brass instruments for one final run on “The Way of Love”; a satisfying ending
to a satisfying album.
back to the days when simple, emotional songs with real jazz and soft rock
instruments ruled the airwaves before it all started going to pot with the
advent of electronica. In the right head-space, this album will be absolute
bliss for the listener.
well. Will this album’s unabashedly positive and wholesome tone still find an
audience in today’s tawdry “popular music” scene? There is no doubt over his
musical chops of course, but his subject matter here is so jarring from modern
pop’s “love, sex, money, party” cookie cutter, that I wonder if pop fans will
even recognise this bygone era of music. Only time will tell.
“Whatever Days”, “My Time of Dying”, “The Way of Love”