Neal Morse has been making progressive rock concept albums for nearly 20 years, bringing his knack for melody and inventive instrumentation to topics as wide ranging as his personal testimony, the place of the temple in Old Testament worship, and Pilgrim’s Progress. In 2007 his album Sola Scriptura told the story of Martin Luther and the protestant reformation. This year, while isolated during the pandemic, he produced a companion album on the conversion of the Apostle Paul, Sola Gratia.
This album does a remarkable job of giving us insight into the inner life of Saul as he, with great righteous indignation, sought out and persecuted Christians. In “Ballyhoo (The Chosen Ones)” the Pharisees sing about how they see that “these Jesus people are worse. / They’ve been taught the law,” making them more than just convenient bad guys. Musically, the highlight of the album is “Seemingly Sincere,” in which Saul muses about the death of Stephen and how Stephen could “believe a lie and yet appear seemingly sincere.”
The album ends on an anthemic note with “The Glory of the Lord” and “Now I Can See / The Great Commission.” Morse uses musical themes that reappear throughout the album, even including snatches of themes and lyrics from Sola Scriptura, to present a thoughtful and enjoyable portrait of Saul-becoming-Paul with music that is complex and accessible. (Insideout Records)
About the Author
Robert J. Keeley is Professor of Education Emeritus at Calvin University and a music leader at 14th St CRC in Holland, MI.