I consider Neal Morse current progressive rock’s best composer, and this is yet another winner in a long line of great albums that he has taken part in. The sound quality is better on One than on Neal’s previous album Testimony, which is a plus. The electric guitar, bass (played by Randy George), and drums (played by Mike Portnoy) all sound better this time around.
The opening track, “The Creation,” reminds me of Neal’s past work like “All of the Above,” “At the End of the Day,” and even “The Water.” It’s a good epic but isn’t one of my favorite tracks on the CD. The emotionally-charged part with the line, “Why? Why are you hiding?” is its highlight. The short “The Man’s Gone” is a pleasant atmospheric acoustic song. “Author of Confusion” is full of crazy rocking mayhem, with Gentle Giant-esque vocal arrangements and a section with Hammond organ that would have fit in on a classic Kansas album. Fans of Neal’s Spock’s Beard songs like “Thoughts Part II” or “Gibberish” should love this one.
Next comes an astonishing extended track: “The Separated Man.” The first part, I’m in a Cage, is a great toe-tapper with a classic Beard feel. I Am the Man has an Egyptian mood in both understated and rocking ways. Next comes possibly the best part of the album, a reprise of “The Man’s Gone” that whips into an astonishing acoustic frenzy similar at times to “Sleeping Jesus” from Testimony but better. “The Separated Man” ends with the return of an Egyptian motif and the haunting and poignant Something Within Me Remembers.
“Cradle to the Grave” is an extremely touching and beautiful ballad with shared vocals between Neal and Phil Keaggy. “Help Me” has a Latin feel like “The Promise” from Testimony and “Senor Valasco” from The Light. More nice acoustic guitar work is on display here. It transitions into “The Spirit and the Flesh,” bringing back themes from “The Creation.” “Father of Forgiveness” sounds like a refugee from disc two of Testimony, but it is still a very beautiful and meaningful ballad in its own right. One ends on a positive note with “Reunion” which goes from driving rock with brass to a reflective repeating vocal section.
Neal’s knacks for writing compelling, catchy melodies and singing with real emotion are as apparent here as they’ve always been.