Sep 072019
 

Neal Morse is a storied musician, having started his career as a member of Spock’s Beard in the nineties. He became a born-again Christian in 2002 and his religious convictions steered him on a path to start producing music infused with his faith. Neal has a prolific discography, and 2019 sees the release of his progressive rock musical, Jesus Christ the Exorcist. This double album has been 10 years in the making.

At first I thought Jesus Christ the Exorcist, what a curious title! When I listened to “The Woman of Seven Devils” and “The Madman of the Gadarenes” I understood that it’s about how His compassion for the sinner sets the sinner free. By rebuking their devils He helped both that man and woman become whole again.

The music of Jesus Christ the Exorcist sounds like it’s meant for stage, not only in terms of the number of musicians on the roster but also because the songs gel together in a compelling story, much like Jim Steinman and Meatloaf’s “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. The Introduction places the listener at Jesus’ crucifixion before returning us to John announcing the coming of the Christ in the desert.

I particularly like the emphasis on the relationship between Jesus and Peter. Peter, the apostle who on the one hand affirms that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and on the other denounces Him while he observes Jesus’ trial at the hands of Pontius Pilate. I also find it interesting how Neal Morse humanises Judas. With the musical as an art form in mind, Neal has room to dramatise events and to allow us into the thoughts of some of the disciples. He also goes to the effort of sketching the context of that time in Judea; the longing for a saviour and the
expectation that the Messiah would be a warrior king who would deliver his people from Roman oppression.

I find it refreshing how the various instruments colour and comment on what happens. During “Jesus’ Temptation” for instance, the rock and roll organ features prominently, embodying (for me) the nature of the devil. It is also interesting how his voice can be at once sweet and menacing, revealing himself as the father of the lie. “The Madman of the Gadarenes” showcases how studio tools can be harnessed to enliven Biblical characters and events – it’s pure ear candy! Once Jesus appears before Pilate, it’s like the trial has become a circus. The orchestration pokes fun at the pompous Romans and at the same time comments wryly on the wicked manipulation by the Sanhedrin.

There is much to look forward to in the music. The musical passages vividly tell both the elation experienced when the prophesied Messiah arrives in Jerusalem and the bitter loneliness of Jesus who obeys His Father’s will, handing himself over in the garden of Gethsemane to be tried and crucified. Songs like “Free at Last”, “Love Has Called My Name” and “The Greatest Love of All” also allow the listener an opportunity to celebrate salvation with the cast in what I can already hear as a massive chorus of voices. The musical had its live world premiere in
2018. Neal Morse’s “Jesus Christ the Exorcist” is sure to appeal to fans of progressive rock music and for me shares the same delightful exuberance that albums like “Point of Know Return” (Kansas) and John deGroff’s “SALT” have.

“Jesus Christ the Exorcist (A Progressive Rock Musical)” scores 8/10.

Written by Karakul

Tracklist:

CD1

Introduction
Overture
Getaway
Gather The People
Jesus’ Baptism
Jesus’ Temptation
There’s A Highway
The Woman Of Seven Devils
Free At Last
The Madman Of The Gadarenes
Love Has Called My Name
Better Weather
The Keys To The Kingdom
Get Behind Me Satan

CD2
He Must Go To The Cross
Jerusalem
Hearts Full Of Holes
The Last Supper
Gethsemane
Jesus Before The Council And Peter’s Denial
Judas’ Death
Jesus Before Pilate And The Crucifixion
Mary At The Tomb
The Greatest Love Of All
Love Has Called My Name (Reprise)

Cast:
Ted Leonard – Jesus
Talon David – Mary Magdalene Nick D’Virgilio – Judas Iscariot Rick Florian – The Devil
Matt Smith – John the Baptist
Jake Livgren – Peter and Caiaphas
Neal Morse – Pilate, Demon 1, Disciple 1
Mark Pogue – Israelite 1, the Madman of the Gadarenes, Pharisee 2
Wil Morse – Israelite 2, Demon 3, Pharisee 1
Gabe Klein – Demon 2, Pharisee 4
Gideon Klein – Demon 4
Julie Harrison – Servant Girl

Band members:
Neal Morse – keyboards, guitar
Paul Bielatowicz – lead guitar
Bill Hubauer – keyboards
Randy George – bass
Eric Gillette – drums

Studio albums/EPs (abbreviated):
Neal Morse (full-length, 1999)
Merry Christmas from the Morse Family (full-length, 2000)
It’s Not Too Late (full-length, 2002)
Testimony (full-length, 2003)
The Transatlantic Demos (2003) One (full-length, 2004)
God Won’t Give Up (full-length, 2005)
? (full-length, 2005)
Hitman – A musical by Neal Morse (full-length, 2005)
Whispers In The Wind – Acoustic Improvisations on Piano and Guitar (full-length, 2006)
Hodgepodge (full-length, 2006)
One Demos (2007)
Sola Scriptura (full-length, 2007)
Songs From The Highway (full-length, 2007)
Homeland (full-length, 2007)
With A Little Help From My Friends (full-length, 2007)
Lifeline (full-length, 2008)
Testimony Two (full-length, 2011)
A Proggy Christmas (full-length, 2011)
Momentum (full-length, 2012)
Get In The Boat (full-length, 2013)
Songs From November (full-length, 2014)
To God Be The Glory (full-length, 2016)
Inner Circle 2015 (full-length, 2017)
Life & Times (full-length, 2018)
Jesus Christ The Exorcist (full-length, 2019)

Release Date: 14 juni 2019

Record label: Frontiers Music Srl

Social Media: Facebook / Twitter / Website

Buy the album here:
Holland: First Paradox
Norway: Nordic Mission

Video for Jesus Christ The Exorcist – Three Song Medley

Video (audio) for ‘Love Has Called My Name ‘

Video (audio) for ‘There’s A Highway’

Video for ‘Get Behind Me Satan’

 

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