From Out Of A Progarchist’s Hometown: Tim Morse’s “Faithscience”

faithscience_album

I’ve never been a huge follower or fan of Sacramento’s music scene. Even with popular groups such as Cake and Tesla hailing from my hometown, the only local group ever I really dug was ’80s eclectic pop group Bourgeois Tagg (I highly recommend their two albums).

So, some 25 years later, it was a lovely surprise to see that Tim Morse’s second CD, ‘Faithscience,” the follow-up to his 2005 debut album, “Transformation,” was generating buzz among fellow progheads.

I’ve known of Morse for years through his involvement with Parallels, a Yes tribute band that I believe I once spoke to him about drumming for (but regrettably skipped out on). Since then, Morse has occasionally popped up on my radar either for Parallels or for After The Beatles, a group that covers the solo work of the Fab Four.

So, it’s fitting and with a strong dose of local pride that “Faithscience” is my first album review.

Initially conceived as a concept album about the life of Charles Lindbergh, the themes on “Faithscience” grew to include themes of love, spirituality and loss taken from Morse’s real-life experiences.  It kicks off with an instrumental opener, “Descent,” calling to mind a Neal Morse/Spock’s Beard overture. It’s clear that Morse has no shortage of ideas to present and here he makes a bold statement about his progressive rock prowess.

“Voyager” feels much like a a two-movement track. The first part combines traditional prog stylings with a tight, song-oriented arrangement, leading to a dense, anthemic solo section – a chill-inducing moment.  As the section gradually winds down, one would think the next song is about to begin. Rather, a second section of “Voyager” begins, fueled by a melodic bass line, leading to some fine soloing before an intricate synth sequence picks up an earlier acoustic guitar pattern and leads us out.

“Closer” is another prog showcase with its many twists, tuns and tones, and just when I think the track might leave us in a sonic place far from where it began seven minutes prior, Morse reprises the song’s intro to wrap things up nicely.

Morse provides a soft landing to the thrill ride that are the first three tracks with “Window,” a nylon-string guitar interlude that immediately reminded me how Steve Howe’s “Masquerade” on Yes’ “Union” – yes, a “Union” reference; sue me – broke up “I Would Have Waited Forever” and “Shock To The System” on one side and “Lift Me Up” on the other.  The accompanying crickets provide a dreamy background for the guitar to lull us into a daydream, which Morse then extends with “Numb,” the companion to “Window,” that features wonderful piano/acoustic guitar interplay accented by strings and oboe.

“Myth” shakes us from the daydream with an arena rock intro, haunting verses sections and even a touch of “prog swing” – Progarchists, I hold a copyright on that term – to lead us out.  “Found It” and “Rome” are tracks where Morse’s songwriting skills really stand out. He kicks off “Found It” with a MiniMoog-esque solo over a synth soundscape, then thunders into the track with arguably the heaviest riffs on the album, plus we’re treated to fantastic guitar soloing over the last half of the song.

“Rome” gives us a lyric delivery reminiscent of the late, great Kevin Gilbert in the verses and chorus. Again, Morse has no shortage of ideas in his “prog arsenal” but I found these more traditional song arrangements more to my taste.  The track closes with a fine violin solo courtesy of guest David Ragsdale of Kansas, blending soulful playing with technical prowess.

Morse throws the proverbial kitchen sink at the instrumental “The Last Wave,” kicking off with a Beard-like section of stops and starts, along with syncopated melodies and rhythms. A quieter guitar section takes over in the vein of “Thrak”-era King Crimson with its chorsed, delayed guitar parts, and from there it’s more prog goodness to the end.  This one is really all over the place yet Morse makes it work, ending with a heavy riff we heard at the start.

The album closes on emotional notes, first with the soulful “Afterword,” a tribute to those who help shape one’s life, beginning as a ballad and ending on an more upbeat tone. Finally, Morse brings us to “The Corners,” inspired by the tragic death of a former student of Morse’s and somewhat structurally reminiscent of “Exit Song,” the emotional epilogue to It Bites’ “Map Of The Past.” An oft-quoted passage from Thornton Wilder’s play, “Our Town,” is spoken over a moving piano part – perfectly fitting for this – then transforms into an anthemic, symphonic conclusion, taking us from grief to a sense of hope…all in just under two minutes. Beautiful.

The fine collection of progressive rock songs on “Faithscience” showcase Morse’s command of the genre. My hometown is all the much better with a talent like Tim Morse making great music in it and we’re all better off that he shares his talents with us. Do give it a listen.

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