Think of prolific prog artists and the name Steven Wilson will inevitably spring to mind. In those stakes Neal Morse cannot be far behind in terms of the volume of music he creates and the diversity of styles in which he is proficient.
Between the epic excesses of supergroup Transatlantic‘s “Kaleidoscope” album and tour and the forthcoming Flying Colors collective’s return to duty comes an album of more direct rock songs. Harking back to 2001’s “It’s Not Too Late”, “Songs From November” eschews the evangelism of the man’s many Christian rock “Worship Sessions” albums and the overt prog bluster of his intervening solo albums with long-time sticksman and bandmate Mike Portnoy. Instead we have a collection of deftly crafted accessible songs which are as straightforward and free of fat as can be expected from an artist who has delivered a plethora of side-long epics in his other projects.
While these tunes may be refreshingly free of widdly Hammond solos and abacus-necessitating time signatures, Morse‘s compositional flair ensures that there is plenty to elevate his melodies beyond the average singer-songwriter fare. As the album progresses it delights with its variety. The uptempo blues of ‘Whatever Days’ features soulful horn section blasts and sax solos. ‘Heaven Smiled’ and ‘Love Shot An Arrow’ recall Pink Floyd with their gospel backing vox. The latter features a stirring string section and is as powerful as any of Morse‘s ballads from his Spock’s Beard days.
Those who balk at Neal‘s proclivity to proclaim his faith can be assured that this is kept to a minimum here. What can be perceived as sermonising can (mostly) be as easily interpreted as positivity and affirmation of simple truths of love, happiness and family. The cynical will smirk and “Songs From November” isn’t for them. Having said that, even ‘Daddy’s Daughter’ had this listener reaching for the sick bucket.
That aside it is difficult to criticise Neal Morse whose affability and humanity shine through each of these beautifully-honed songs. They may have come from November but they live in the sun. Grab this album before summer ends and simply smile.