Neal Morse – Late Bloomer (Album Review)

Review of the new Neal Morse solo album ‘Late Bloomer’

by Prog Nick

Neal Morse’s personal story is by now well known to members of the Progressive Rock community. He found success later in life than expected, having abandoned his then most successful projects for personal religious reasons. That story has been told numerous times in various guises throughout Morse’s career, and it now finds a voice again, this time from the deepest personal family perspective, in Morse’s latest album ‘Late Bloomer’.

Morse performs all the lead vocals and instruments on the album with the exception of strings and female backing vocals, mostly performed by friends. This already makes it a deeply personal affair, but it is the compositions that reveal a Neal Morse that is prepared to bare his soul to the world in the most introspective and vulnerable manner yet.

That is not to say that there are not moments of levity and light-heartedness on the album. There most certainly are, for example ‘Chloe’s Song’ which is a jaunty ditty about Morse’s family dog. Interspersed in the song are Queen-type harmonies and comical lyrical anecdotes about Chloe that will make you smile and laugh, no matter what kind of day you are having.

Also upbeat is opener and feel-good single ‘Already There’. What I enjoy most about this track is the funk element that bounces throughout it. Morse’s keyboards and off-beat drums pave the way for some foot-tapping funk that deserves to be heard live. ‘To Love You and Be Alive’ is similarly funky and choppy, based on a catchy acoustic guitar riff. Morse knows how to jive. He is in a good mood precisely because his personal life is ordinary, so the rest of us should get ready to smile and jive with him. ‘Long Time Comin’ continues the groovy feel, as Morse’s story progresses and his autobiography is told one more time. Neal Morse is, remarkably, still surprised by his own success, and he is not afraid to admit it. ‘It isn’t how you start it’s how you end, let’s finish strong’ he declares. Indeed.

The title track tells the overall story of Morse’s childhood in California and his personal journey to finding peace and success in Nashville later in his life. A pivotal point in his story is the year 2002 when he is converted at age 42. Morse places a hazy reverb on this track that makes it sound almost like the soundtrack to a dream. With ethereal instrumentals, dreamy guitar and mirage-like imagery, this one stands out as the most polished track.

There are some moments on the album that are deeply sad and even mournful, such as ‘I’m Gonna Miss You When You Go’, a paean to the inevitability of losing a loved one to change and the progress of life. Morse sings ‘I’m happy you found your peace and your heart is moving on, I hope you find your true destiny, but I’m sure gonna miss you’. Any parent that has gone through Empty Nest Syndrome will identify with this heartfelt work. ‘Canice Cathedral’ is similarly a personal tale of loss, this time a description of resignation to love lost, perhaps at the altar. The backing vocals are a beautiful counterpoint to Morse’s lower register and the strings fill the production perfectly.

‘One Child Born in Heaven’ speculates on the meandering roads of life, leading to Morse’s conviction that, no matter what his travails, there is life and hope at the end. Morse gives the drums a prominent place in the mix, and one instantly imagines the slow clap-along that will inevitably happen when this one is performed live.

‘I Can’t Find the Words’ is a dedication to Morse’s marriage and provides a beautiful demonstration of the fact that music relays personal messages better than anything else. Morse’s voice literally breaks in emotion during the second verse, and one feels that it was better that this was left in than edited out. This is authentic stuff.

‘You Can Have It All’ is a solid mid-tempo rocker that ends the album on a suitably positive note, with Morse’s now-familiar philosophy of religious hope expressed again, though with a fresh perspective.

‘Late Bloomer’ is an album that Neal Morse began working on in late 2023 when he apparently experienced a sudden burst of singer-songwriter creativity. He debuted a few of these songs at the London Morsefest in early 2024, and their positive reception spurred him on to record the album. It therefore is truly a labor of love in respect of his fans, his family and his faith. The album is intentionally diverse, ranging from blues and soul to funk and rock, but always, in each track, offering a glimpse into Morse’s personal journey.

With album artwork by Levi Pippin and the entire production performed by Morse himself, family or friends, this is an intimate affair indeed. Don’t expect Prog, but excellent folk-rock in spades. Grassroots authenticity abounds on this album. ‘Late Bloomer’ is currently available for streaming directly to the faithful through Morse’s own streaming service, Waterfall. It just doesn’t get more personal than that.

Released on May 17th, 2024 exclusively available on the waterfall streaming network –  but will be available later in the year on CD and Vinyl.

Allready There – 4:03
Late Bloomer – 5:07
To Love You And Be Alive – 4:41
I’m Gonna Miss You When You Go – 4:17
Long Time Comin – 4:58
Chloe’s Song – 3:30
Canice Cathedral – 5:02
One Child Born In Heaven – 4:18
I Can’t Find The Words – 4:36
You Can Have It All – 4:11
Performer Credits
Neal Morse
All Instruments, Vocals


Amy Pippin: Backing Vocals
Julie Harrison: Backing Vocals
Chris Carmichael: Strings

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