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'Songs from November'
(Inside Out)
Release Date: 18th August 2014

Ian Sutherland

ian sutherland

neal morse

Neal Morse is best known to rock fans as one of the founders of American proggers Spock's Beard and for his work with prog supergroup Transatlantic. However he also has a thriving solo career and since leaving Spock's Beard has produced a varied series of albums, some based around his Christian faith and with differing styles.

'Songs From November' sees him returning to a kind of mainstream singer/songrwriter style reminiscent of his 2002 release 'It's Not Too Late'. Inspired by, amongst others, Jackson Browne and Graham Nash this is not a progressive rock record in any way.

The songs are lyrically very personal and seem to have been written when Mr Morse has been feeling good about his life with a mellow, positive vibe throughout. 'Flowers In A Vase' has an almost country vibe and has pretty music to go with the picturesque lyrics.

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Album opener 'Whatever Days' is funky and grooves along, even featuring a saxophone solo while 'Song For The Free' is a bouncy, singalong kind of tune exorting everyone to celebrate life. Of course you can read an undercurrent of religious belief through all this. While not evangelical he has never hidden his beliefs and with this song and the likes of 'Heaven Smiled' they inevitable seep into the songs.

'Tell Me Annabel' is a beautiful ballad with a nice hookline and for me sounds like Morse-era Spock's Beard in quiet reflective mode while 'My Time Of Dying' is a surprisingly upbeat song with some lovely violin.

There are times when the positive, feel good lyrics here slide over into sentimentality and mawkishness and 'Love Shot An Arrow' and 'Daddy's Daughter' while heartfelt made this admittedly cynical old writer cringe. Album closer 'Wear The Chain' is much better though and has a big, marching drumbeats almost fist pumping chorus without threatening to be heavy in any way.

This is an album which has a lot going for it. Beautifully crafted songs with heartfelt lyrics and some excellent singing and playing. It is however one that only just about manages to stay within the confines of the rock genre and is a million miles away from the progressive rock normally associated with Neal Morse.

I think whether it's for you depends on how wide your tastes are and how much respect you have for this American musician's talents. 'Songs From November' is definitely worth a listen if either of those factors apply for you.


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