Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Masterpieces of Music: The Door

It was a day in early 2007 and I was anxiously sitting at my computer downloading a radio program that was going to play two whole tracks from the upcoming Neal Morse album, Sola Scriptura. This was the first new Neal Morse CD to come out after my mission, and I was dying of anticipation to listen to it. The radio program finally downloaded and I pressed play and fast forwarded through some chit chat from the radio DJ. Then, I started with the first track of the album, "The Door" and was completely blown away. It was 30 minutes of pure elation- every thing I love about prog is included in this one track. Neal Morse is a true genius and this is my favorite of his solo albums, and my favorite song on that favorite solo album. It holds a special place in my heart.

Sola Scriptura talks about the story of Martin Luther and the evil that he observed in the church during that time. In this track, we go back and forth between the evil practices of the church and Martin Luther's own conversion to the truth and his obligation to share that truth with the world. The introduction is the first part of the song, and it is a musical powerhouse. Neal starts right off with an insanely fast keyboard riff that develops into a full hard prog opening that blows my mind. All three of them (Morse, Portnoy and George) are going at full speed and it is breathtaking.

This section flows right into "In The Name of God" where we get our first look at the evil doctrines of the church at this time. Neal is very bold in this section and throughout the whole album and he doesn't hide anything. Lyrics like "Calls himself the Bishop-Prince and blood's his favorite wine" and "We'll take the Roman Gods except the names will all be changed" are particularly biting. This section also involves one of my favorite chorus's where Neal exclaims "In the Name of God you must die!" I also love the punchy keyboard bits towards the end of this section.

This heads right into the next section which contains one of Neal's best chorus's to date, "All I Ask For". This is our first glimpse at Martin Luther and his desire to be with God and live the life that God wants him to live. This shows Martin's faith, which provides a foundation for the rest of the album. I love the beauty of this section with the acoustic guitar and sublime harmonies. It is great at showing God's love and Martin Luther's sincerity in the gospel. It ends with what I consider the "God's Theme" of this album, which is repeated during different sections of the album to show that God is with Martin Luther in his quest. This is a wonderful melody that really connects to me emotionally.

Then, we are thrown right back into the heavy section that preceded "All I Ask For" with the same great punchiness. Then we get more biting lyrics in "Mercy For Sale" which is a fun section musically. This section once again shows the evils of the church and how they are trying to sell the gospel. There are some great vocal harmonies here similar to Gentle Giant. This leads to a bouncy section that always reminds me of Kansas. There is also a great guitar solo in the midst of this bouncy fun.

This leads to the next section, "Keep Silent" which starts with a great groove and goes into a more gospel oriented section. This section talks about how Martin Luther has to share the truth that he has found in the gospel. He can't just keep this truth to himself, he has a calling to bring this truth to the world, even though it might bring persecution from the church. I love the laid back feel to this section and there are some great guitar licks. It is really a cool section.

This finally leads to the finale of the song, "Upon the Door". This starts with a slow buildup with some beautiful strings carrying the melody. Things then get really quiet and there are some keyboard chords that closely resemble "Watcher of the Skies" by Genesis. Then, Neal's voice comes in and he sings alongside his piano. This is the moment where Martin Luther put the 95 theses, which show all the problems with the church at the time, on the door. It is a big moment of Martin Luther's life, and it is beautifully captured here. Then, there is the best guitar solo I have ever heard by guitar virtuoso Paul Gilbert. I cannot describe how wonderful this guitar solo is- it manages to be emotionally beautiful and technically brilliant all at the same time. It gets to me every time. Then, this song is brought to a close with the words, "I will write my words upon the door."

It is an amazing piece of art that is technically brillant and emotionally poignant. It has some of the fastest, heaviest riffs I've ever heard Neal play, but also with the most emotionally charged lyrics I've ever heard. It is a great balance that showcases the contrast between the evils of the church and the righteousness of Martin's divine calling. This is prog at its finest and I never get tired of listening to this masterpiece.

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