December 15, 2011

Review: Neal Morse Testimony 2: Live in Los Angeles (3 CD/2 DVD Box Set)

Neal Morse has had quite a year. If there was an awards event for progressive rock similar to the Grammy’s he would be nominated for Artist of the Year for all of the projects his has been involved in. His contributions to the growth of the genre and basically creating the sub-genre Christian Prog, are enough to put the man at the top of the musical mountain. The humble Morse would likely react by saying something like “I am just following my path and spreading the word of God,” which would be absolutely true but you get the idea.

Testimony 2: Live in Los Angeles is a massive  3 CD/2 DVD Box Set covering Neal’s triumphant return to Los Angeles and tremendous performance at the cozy Whittier Theater on May 28th  2011.

Neal fronts a remarkable band that reminded me of Kansas at their peak. Neal (keys, guitar, vocals), Nathan Brenton (cello, guitar, vocals), Eric Brenton (guitar, violin and flute), Mark Leniger (saxophone, percussion and vocals), Randy George (bass), Nathan Girard (keys and vocals), Rick Altizer (keys, guitar and vocals) and the world’s greatest (and busiest) drummer Mike Portnoy is the lineup you will enjoy on this release. Now some of you may only recognize Morse and Portnoy as names in the world of prog however this band is strong at every position. Their sound is “BIG” although very well thought out, precise, powerful and at the same time beautiful musically and lyrically.

The spiritual message that Morse conveys is like a shining star that just keeps getting brighter with the passing of time and the music finds a way to make it all become a super nova of progressive rock exuberance. Music and performances simply do not get better than what is offered on this set. You even get Morse on stage again with his old mates Spock’s Beard at the High Voltage Festival. That footage was rather odd as it starts with Spock’s Beard in the middle of a song then Neal comes out. The performance was not memorable because the magic that was once there for Neal and the band is obviously long since disappeared but nevertheless a treat for those in attendance. The magic of Morse’s music thankfully is fully blossomed with his own recordings and performances and there is no indication of that momentum changing.

For those of you that are Morse fans that have been waiting for the ultimate live recording to listen to or watch this is the one to get. With 3 CDs and 2 DVDs that total a immense 295 minutes of footage and over 187 minutes of audio, how could you possible walk away wanting for more? Well, if you do you could always watch one of the Transatlantic packages that came out this year too.

This full performance of Testimony Two and other Morse classics is a big slice of prog rock and another statement from the Morse camp that is proof positive of the talent and impact this man has every time he either steps into the recording studio or on stage. This set captures the essence of Neal Morse and his band. Its more than just music, it is a complete experience of audio and visual jaw dropping performances so do not miss it.

4.5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Mercy Street, Overture No. 4, Road Dog Blues

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck

December 13, 2011

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