The Postmodern Christian Story-telling Album of the Year
Neal Morse "ONE"
We’ve been talking a lot in the emerging church about telling stories instead of propositional statements as our form of gospel-telling (following what seems to us as the model given in Scripture). We’ve been also talking a lot about using the arts to do so.
Well, if you like rock music, and you like epic story-telling, then have I an album to recommend to you.
Neal Morse has been recognized critically as one of the greatest progressive rock artists of the past decade. He headed up the band Spock’s Beard (which has released two albums subsequent to Morse's departure). Spock's Beard was the key band in the 90's that revived the prog rock genre (a genre that had lain dormant since the ‘70s). Morse then converted to Christianity and is now using his talents at song-writing and expert musicianship for the purpose of telling Christian stories (of course, for fans of Spock’s Beard, we saw this happening before the launch of his solo career—the double-CD concept album “Snow” was an allegory of messianic proportions, as were a few of the epic songs on earlier Spock’s Beard albums).
Morse’s latest release, ONE, tells the sweeping tale of the union, separation, and reunion of humanity with God. This album features not only the tremendous artistic diversity of Neal Morse (he sings, plays keyboards and guitars), but also the superior rock drumming of Mike Portnoy (leader of the prog-metal band Dream Theater and arguably the greatest rock drummer of our day--Mike's in the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame and has won 21 Modern Drummer Magazine Reader's Poll Awards including: Best Progressive Rock Drummer [10 years in a row], and Best Clinician [twice]). ONE also features the guitar skills of Phil Keaggy (perhaps one of the most admired guitarists in music today) offering an extended acoustic guitar solo (and also singing in a duet with Morse on one song).
Listening to this album is like attending a rock opera. Drama is found in the story telling; drama is found in the musical themes repeated so that you feel the weight of the story. It’s hard to define Morse’ musical style, because the variety of sounds that Morse offers to the listener defies narrowly defining him and would not do him justice. Think of the best of prog legends Pink Floyd, old-time Genesis, Kansas, Yes, and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer…add the best of Rich Mullins or Michael W. Smith from the Christian sector…add the kind of rock-opera feel that Transiberian Orchestra has accomplished with their Christmas albums…and then add the pop-music sensibilities and sophistication of The Beatles at their creative height and you are just scratching the surface of what you’ll be hearing.