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Neal Morse - NMB: Innocence & Danger CD (album) cover


Neal Morse


Symphonic Prog

3.96 | 168 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars They honestly got me again. I was hoping for potentially a third part to the Similitude/Adventure saga, and when I heard about the Innocence and Danger concept, I really didn't think they could possibly have enough material for a legit double album. Then I read that Neal was not the driving force for writing, and that Bill had brought the most material. No doubt that Bill is an essential part of NMB, but my lasting impression of his contributions was the 15 minutes of the (in my opinion) twee melody that was the majority of Alive Again. That's a personal preference, sure, but I can't deny that it didn't shape my expectations.

Well, there are surely some funky, Supertramp inspired melodies, which largely work, but there are also some powerful chord progressions that really represent some highlights for me, so congratulations to Bill for his contributions, and to the band for making them largely work in terms of building a theme without relying on repeated melodies to heavily. I wouldn't say that there is some great step forward for this band, but they are clearly still innovating, and the result is more compelling music that gets wormed into my head, in the best of ways, largely without the filler and repetition that can mar other similar efforts.

I normally do a highlights and lowlights section, but for this album, there are no real lowlights to my ears, and the highlights are memorable, but perhaps not as much as previous NMB albums, so I'll focus on the individual performances. (Also, seeing many of these pieces performed at Morsefest 2021 has had a positive influence on my impressions...I should probably know not to do this for any album, but in particular NMB has publicly released a lot of this material online, and you can't fully appreciate it until you can really feel it on something other than computer speakers, so please keep that in mind: it really makes a difference).

Neal really brings it on this album, both in terms of pushing himself on keys and guitar. My first impression on parts of Beyond the Years was that he was pushing a bit too much vocally and sounded flat, but I have been less bothered by that on repeated listens. Eric seems to be cautious when going beyond what he does best, and while his playing seems a bit (but not entirely) the same (lots of clean wails and shredding, back and forth), he does push himself a bit more vocally at cathartic moments, to entirely positive effect. Bill deserves much credit for many of the musical ideas on the album, although I think he's a bit limited vocally in terms of either harmony (which works very well) or solos, which few words and slow phrasing, which can slow momentum in places. Mike and Randy are top notch throughout, as always, and do get their spots to shine, which of course plays best live, although there's otherwise nothing terribly innovative to my ears.

Look, I'm an unabashed Neal fan, so take my thoughts for what they are worth, but this is a mix of mostly very good pop-prog and symphonic prog. It's not trying to pretend to be anything else, and who doesn't appreciate when some of the pretentiousness is taken out of the prog experience? Given all that Neal has been doing in the last couple of years, it's impressive that NMB has it's own sound, as does his solo output, as does Transatlantic...that is not easy to do!

Flucktrot | 4/5 |


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