Neal Morse (born on August 2, 1960 in Van Nuys, California) is a prolific American multi-instrumentalist and progressive rock composer based in Nashville, Tennessee. He is known for his musical versatility and his writing and recording output.
Morse grew up in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles as one of four kids. His sister is now a teacher in the Walnut Creek School District . His father was a choral director. Morse started to play the piano at the age of five and started to learn to play the guitar soon after that. During his twenties he wrote two musicals (Hit Man and Homeland), did some session jobs, tried to get a deal as a singer/songwriter in Los Angeles, and recorded a few country and western demos with his brother Richard.
With Spock's Beard
After about ten years, Morse grew tired of the Los Angeles music scene and traveled through Europe for several years, busking and playing in small clubs. On his return to the U.S. he formed the band Spock's Beard with his brother Alan. Their first album, The Light, was moderately successful. Spock's Beard would soon become one of the more successful progressive rock bands of the late nineties (along with Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, and The Flower Kings).
While Morse was with Spock's Beard, he also released two solo albums which contain mostly straightforward rock music. In 2000, Neal joined Dream Theater's Mike Portnoy, Flower Kings' Roine Stolt and Marillion's Pete Trewavas to form the supergroup Transatlantic, with which he released two studio albums, SMPTe and Bridge Across Forever, and two live albums, Live in Europe and Live In America, helped live by the guest artist Daniel Gildenlöw, from Pain of Salvation
Morse became a born again Christian in 2002. He left both Spock's Beard and Transatlantic immediately following the release of the Spock's Beard album Snow. The period leading to this decision is described on the solo album Testimony (2003), an epic, introspective composition which features Kerry Livgren of Kansas and Mike Portnoy. One part of his conversion to Christianity, omitted from Testimony but described in full on Testimony Live, was that his daughter Jayda had been diagnosed as having a hole in her heart that required open-heart surgery. Neal says that after prayer, Jayda is now well and the heart is normal. This is confirmed by the doctors, and they said that it was a miracle.
On May 18, 2003, Morse also took part in Portnoy's Yellow Matter Custard, a Beatles cover band, which later released a double-CD and DVD.
In 2004, Morse wrote and recorded a new concept album featuring Portnoy and Randy George (on bass guitar). Guitar virtuoso Phil Keaggy made a guest appearance on guitar and vocals. The album, titled One, is about man's relationship with God from his Christian perspective and was released on November 2, 2004.
In 2005, Morse released two non-prog Christian albums. In January, Morse recorded Lead Me Lord with the Christian Gospel Temple Choir, his children, and his friends. Morse wrote about half of the tracks. This was released in February and is available for a donation. In July, Morse released God Won't Give Up, which was written around the Snow period. This is a pop album similar to It's Not Too Late, but with Christian lyrics.
In the summer of 2005, a member of his church approached Morse to tell him that he should make an album based on the tabernacle and that he should keep it a secret. Morse mentioned that he was working on a secret project before he had written a note or was convinced that he should do the project, and mentioning it during a radio interview created enough buzz to convince him to make the album. There was a contest on his message board to guess the participants, theme, and meaning of the album based on a series of clues. The secret project was finally revealed to be ? (also known as The Question Mark album, rumoured to be influenced in title by The White Album) and is about the tabernacle in the wilderness and the tabernacle of the heart. The main band is Neal, Mike Portnoy, and Randy George with guests Mark Leniger, Alan Morse, Roine Stolt, Steve Hackett, and Jordan Rudess.
In early 2007 Morse released his latest Christian Progressive rock album entitled "Sola Scriptura" which is a concept album detailing the life and struggles of the German theologian Martin Luther. Mike Portnoy and Randy George once again teamed up with Morse for this album, and were also joined by guest musician Paul Gilbert (of Racer-X and Mr. Big) who played guitar parts for a few of the songs from the album.
Immediately following the release of "Sola Scriptura", Morse released an acoustic folk album entitled "Songs From The Highway".
According to a video clip on Morse's official website; He, Portnoy, and George have finished recording their latest album, due for release in 2008.
In 2000, Morse provided vocals for the song "The First Man On Earth" on The Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer, one of Arjen Anthony Lucassen's Ayreon albums. Neal Morse tracks have also appeared on the CPR Volume 1 (2004), CPR Volume 2, and The Tsunami Projekt anthologies. Morse was also participated in recording the ProgAID single "All Around The World". The profits for both The Tsunami Projekt and the ProgAID single were donated for victims' relief from the 2004 Asian Tsunami. Morse has been a guest musician on several 2005 albums, including Ajalon's Threshold Of Eternity, Roine Stolt's Wallstreet Voodoo, Salem Hill's Mimi's Magic Moment, and Mark Leniger's Walk on Water. Morse was one of several musical guests to appear on Dream Theater's 2007 album Systematic Chaos, on the song "Repentance". These guests were recorded apologizing to important people in their lives for wrongdoings committed in the past. Morse provided vocals for the first track on Jordan Rudess' tribute album The Road Home.