Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Neal Morse - NMB: Innocence & Danger CD (album) cover


Neal Morse

Symphonic Prog

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
4 stars This band (NMB) continuously evolves with extraordinary musicianship and interesting themes. The current release : Innocence and Danger, is a mixture of accessible beatle-esque harmonies with prog/jazzy flavors. It is a very fine collaboration of the personal and sounds better with each hearing. Neal and Mike can make pop music as evidenced with Flying Colors, but their tendency is to steer in the direction of more complex arrangements. It may not be what techno pop people like as it is definitely organic in nature. The guitar work by Eric is tremendous and he appears to be the perfect fit to round out this group. Randy and Bill complete the sound with excellent work. The longer tracks are the stand out highlights on this album. The shorter tracks compliment the entire project. 4.25 stars.
Report this review (#2591395)
Posted Thursday, September 2, 2021 | Review Permalink
4 stars Back in February, Neal Morse (ex-Spock's Beard) and Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater) brought you the new Transatlantic record, 150 minutes of prog extravaganza divided across two, differently arranged versions of the same album. Since then, the prog wonder pair did not waste any time, and on August 27th they hit the shelves again with a new The Neal Morse Band's album, Innocence & Danger, a double-disc release that clocks in at nearly 100 minutes of music. This is supposed to be a "simpler", more spontaneous release compared to the band's previous three records, which is probably the case considering how their two prior LPs where a pair of interconnected, double-disc concept albums sprawling across 200 minutes of music in total. Instead, Innocence & Danger is a self-contained, song-based affair, written without a specific overarching theme in mind and with a more relaxed, "let's have fun in the studio" attitude that certainly transpires through the fresh and diverse material of the album.

This is not to say that the 10 songs of Innocence & Danger fall very far from the tree of metallic prog rock that has characterized a great deal of Neal Morse's discography, especially since he joined forces with Portnoy back in the early 2000s. On the contrary, the new songs are still very much anchored in Morse-Portnoy's trademark sound: a blend of prog rock intricacies, robust rhythmical acrobatics, grandiose melodies, and madly skilful playing. Yet, some of the material opens up to new and unexpected influences, like the 80s pop vibes of "Another Story to Tell" and the otherwise Beatles-esque "Your Place in the Sun". Meanwhile, "The Way It Had to Be" is a great bluesy ballad that brings to mind Pink Floyd as well as some of the singer-songwriter material one can find on Neal Morse's solo albums. And then there is "Bridge over Troubled Water", an incredible prog adaptation of Simon & Garfunkel's classic piece. This is actually one of the highlights of the album. The complex instrumental histrionics added to the song structure are absolutely spot on and the vocal arrangements are superb too.

These injections of new and diverse influences give the album a freshness and levity that a lot of contemporary prog rock/metal records lack. However, this does not come at all at the expense of depth and substance: Innocence & Danger contains some extremely rich prog material, that is structurally complex and thoughtfully arranged. Miraculously, however, the music does not feel complex or studied, even when one faces multi-part mammoth pieces like the 31-minute long "Beyond the Years" or the nearly 20 minutes of "Not Afraid Pt 2" (both contained on the second CD). These compositions are so well-thought out and so tastefully arranged that time literally flies by while one listens to these songs. The flow of these tracks is nearly perfect and the songs contain so many moments of melodic brilliance that verses and choruses stick with you only after a couple of listens.

Still, 100 minutes of music ask a considerable time investment to the listener, so the inevitable question is: is all the material consistently high-quality, or could have they slimmed down the album by leaving out some of the weaker songs? To these ears, the opening four tracks of the first CD ("Do It All Again", "Bird on a Wire", "Your Place in the Sun" and "Another Story to Tell") do not quite match the level of quality of the rest of the material, especially of the two long pieces of the second CD. Although these four songs have all some interesting moments, the melodies are somewhat weaker and, despite listening to each piece multiple times, I still cannot remember any specific vocal line or instrumental passage from any of these tracks. The rest of the songs on the first CD are more memorable, but overall I cannot help but feel that there is a slight imbalance between the two discs: the stronger material, the "meat" of the album so to speak, is clearly on disc 2, while disc 1 feels almost like a looser collection of "bonus" tracks, and I notice that I inevitably tend to gravitate towards the second disc in my repeated listens, often skipping altogether the first disc. It's a pity because some songs from disc 1 are truly excellent, like the aforementioned cover of "Bridge over Troubled Water" and the ballad "The Way It Had to Be". I feel that a little more quality control could have make this excellent album, a real masterpiece.

One aspect of the album that initially took me by surprise is the alternation between three vocalists: Morse, guitarist Eric Gilette and keyboard player Bill Hubauer. In nearly all tracks, the three singers swap vocal lines continuously throughout a song, which at first I found slightly unsettling, also in part because they each have slightly peculiar, "acquired taste" voices that takes some time getting used to. But I quickly got into the groove and after a few listens it is actually fun to have three vocalists instead of one in each song. Speaking about things that require getting used to, since the early 2000s a lot of Morse's lyrics revolve around strongly Christian religious themes, and this album is no exception. It's nothing overly preachy and I personally do not care too much about lyrics, but it is something that some people may not find to their liking, so be warned.

Overall, Innocence & Danger may not be perfect, but it is still a great album that will no doubt satisfy progressive rock fans. The main strength of the album are its freshness and diversity. There is something for every taste, from the whimsical corners of prog-pop, to bluesy Floydian ballads, to harder-edged rockers, to full-blown, multipart prog epics. The metallic undertones of much of the material contained on this LP will also appeal prog metal lovers, especially fans of bands like Dream Theater, Fates Warning, Pain of Salvation or Threshold. If you are prog-inclined, give this one a try, you won't be disappointed.

[Originally written for The Metal Observer]

Report this review (#2592356)
Posted Sunday, September 5, 2021 | Review Permalink
4 stars Innocence and Danger is quite a varied selection of songs, some poppy, some with prog elements, and a couple of full- blown prog epics. Lots of great melodies, as you always get with Neal Morse, and really good vocal harmonies. Stylistically there is more than a hint of the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Yes and other great bands of the past.

There are 10 songs here spread across two CDs. The first CD consists of eight "short" songs between three and eight minutes long. Of these, my personal favourites would be the beautiful Not Afraid Part 1, the Pink Floyd - like The Way It Had To Be, and a very clever progressive version of Bridge Over Troubled Water. The one song I would skip would be Emergence, I just find it a little boring, although as an introduction to Not Afraid Part 1 it does fit in.

On to CD2, and we have two magnificent long songs clocking in at 20 minutes and 30 minutes. Not Afraid Part 2 is the most immediately accessible, but the more I listen to Beyond The Years the more I like it. There is a five minute section halfway through the song, involving Hammond organ and a guitar solo, which is absolutely brilliant and for me is the high spot of the album. Eric Gillette in fact has some wonderful solo spots, Bridge Over Troubled Water is another one that springs to mind.

Finally, for those who are put off by the preachiness of some of Neal Morse's lyrics, you won't be troubled here. There are clearly spiritual references in some songs, but nothing blatantly Christian if that's something that bothers you.

Report this review (#2596301)
Posted Thursday, September 23, 2021 | Review Permalink
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!

Report this review (#2607894)
Posted Monday, October 25, 2021 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is my first ever review.....hope it helps you when considering this recording. Well, it all started years ago when a friend told me about Neal Morse's first "Testimony" CD. Well, that's not exactly true. Back in the late 60's and 70's I LOVED the classic prog of Genesis, ELP, Pink Floyd, Yes, Renaissance, Moody Blues, King Crimson, etc. but I got so sidetracked with all sorts of other great rock n' roll that I lost sight of 'other' prog (other than the aforementioned 'classic prog' bands continued output). THEN I was told about "Testimony". I loved it, which then opened the door to Spock's Beard (purchased them all!), and then Flower Kings, IQ, Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson, Pineapple Thief, Dream Theater, Riverside, Hawkwind, Iona, Marillion and on and on it went!

So, loving Spock's Beard and Neal (and it helped that I was a Christian minister) I started buying everything that Neal produced. Gosh, talk about prolific!!! Solo stuff, NMB, Flying Colors, Transatlantic, does he do it? And it's just not just a regurgitation of cookie cutter prog - it's powerful and melodic stuff. I will admit that at times some of the longer tunes get redundant, but over all, it's just good prog.

Then came "Innocence and Danger"....I thought I knew what to expect, but was truly blown away about every single song. I'm not a music 'expert' that can talk about the technical aspects of the construction of a song, so you won't get that kind of analysis from me....I'm just hear to tell you that I have listened to this recording - from beginning to end - constantly- and I haven't grown tired of it yet. The melodies are memorable; musicianship is superb; and the one thing that Neal et al do amazingly well - are cover songs! I wondered what they would do with "Bridge Over Troubled Water", and I was pleasantly surprised at how powerful their version was. I just wish they would now cover two Moody songs (Neal likes the Moody Blues) that I believe "need"to be redone - "Steppin' In A Slide Zone" and "Gemini Dream". Both songs need some real "umph" - some powerful, loud bass, keyboards and drums - like the Doors "Hello I Love You" and Genesis' "Abacab". Please Neal - redo these!! I digress....

Articles that I've read about "Innocence and Danger" have all mentioned: 1. This album was a collaborative efforts by all band members; and 2. Consists of individual songs without a general over-riding theme. Although I enjoy Neal's thematic albums, I think that for these two reasons this album is above and beyond all other efforts. Every song can stand alone as great works, especially (in my opinion) "Another Story to Tell", "Emergence", and Not Afraid, Part 1 (best track on the album). Each of the songs on the first disc are shorter, but still good average 'prog' length, but then you come to disc two, which contain two EPIC prog songs: "Not Afraid, Part 2" (clocking in at 19:30 in length) and "Beyond the Years" (31:29!!!). I had some initial doubts about a thirty-one minute song, but boy, was I proven wrong!! It is fresh and exciting from beginning to end.

Please, if you have a hard time with Neal's Christian views (but then, few seem to have a problem with other prog bands singing all about fairies, aliens, voodoo, magic, and other esoteric and philosophical topics...why do they only avoid the 'Christian' themed songs? Please, please, please don't allow that to keep you from this album - it is truly a masterpiece of 21st-century prog. Just listen....I believe you will be's "that" good!

Report this review (#2635870)
Posted Sunday, November 21, 2021 | Review Permalink
A Crimson Mellotron
2 stars The fourth album by The Neal Morse Band (now rebranded to NMB) is unfortunately one of these albums - one of the albums that perfectly display the reasons why people avoid progressive rock and dismiss it as unfashionable, overindulging, and overblown. After two very intense and masterful double concept albums, the band returns with a third two-disc set, split between the shorter and the two longer tracks, totaling at some 100 minutes of playtime (or in other words, quite a challenging endeavor).

Joined by Mike Portnoy, Eric Gillette, Bill Hubauer and Randy George, Neal Morse shows us what an unstoppable creative force he is, releasing album after album each year, whether it be solo material, NMB, Transatlantic, or virtually any of his numerous projects. In spite of the massive amounts of music he presents to the world every now and then, the quality of his projects seems to be declining with each new one, and 2021's 'Innocence & Danger' is no exception, in my humble opinion. There really is not that much to be said about the record, except for the fact that on it I hear three things I have already heard multiple times before ? re-hash of 70s Genesis, reminisces of early 2000s Spock's Beard, and Neal Morse's personal signature take on the symphonic prog genre; There is hardly any progression in the band's sound, as it is quite hard to distinguish between NMB and Neal Morse solo releases at this point, with the sound of both being pretty much the same (as is the band). We all know how good of a songwriter the main man behind the project is, we all know what a fantastic vocalist, guitar player, and a talented multi-instrumentalist he is, but he seems to be in a creative limbo - repeating himself way too often, mainly in the phrasing, often also lyrically, the end results are enjoyable, but in the music, there is nothing new, it is the stale proggy sound he has been presenting for a couple of years now.

As much as the album has its great moments, whether these be some short instrumental passages, or catchy, upbeat and memorable verses, the songs do not work overall; Most of the choruses are barely listenable and strangely corny; The energy of the previous two records by the band is gone, the adrenaline and the suspense, too, and all that is left seems to be the directionless self-meditation that sticking to the unusual prog formula would work once again. Unfortunately, it does not, as I do not find anything too challenging or exciting in 'Innocence & Danger'. The longer songs hardly save the record from these impressions I have, falling far behind some much greater epics Neal Morse has been involved in throughout the years - 'The Water', 'The Great Nothing', 'World Without End', 'The Conflict', or 'Into the Blue', just to name a few.

Report this review (#2691301)
Posted Friday, February 11, 2022 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars NMB is the new name for the Neal Morse Band, but it still features the same people who were involved in 'The Great Adventure', namely Neal Morse (vocals, keyboards, guitars), Eric Gillette (guitars, vocals), Bill Hubauer (keyboards, vocals), Randy George (bass), and Mike Portnoy (drums, vocals). It is not a follow-on to either that album or the one which preceded it, but instead this time around we have a series of unconnected songs, many of which started with Bill and Randy as opposed to coming direct from Neal. I am not sure if that is the reason why, but it definitely took me longer to get inside this album compared to many of Neal's other works, and given I am such a huge fan that was something of a surprise to me. In fact, it was only when I started to get to the end of the first play with the two lengthy tracks which make up the second CD that it all started to gel, but when I then returned to the beginning I was right in from the off.

It is hard to know where to start with this band, as in Mike Portnoy they have one of the most accomplished drummers in the business, while Randy is a wonderful musician and along with Mike has been at the heart of all Neal's work since he left Spock's Beard. If that wasn't enough, they have Eric Gillette on guitar who is simply outstanding, then on top of that you have keyboard player Bill Hubauer and then of course Neal himself. They all sing, and whoever came up with the original ideas, they have all been given the touch of Morse so have elements of Beatles, Genesis, Steely Dan, Gentle Giant, Spock's Beard and so many more. It is the longer tracks at 20 and 31 minutes respectively which make this album, and I personally would have been happy with just those two being released as a single CD, as to my ears they are a step up from the rest of the album, as if the earlier songs are more of a taster for the main event. The overall result is a very good album indeed, but not up to the level of earlier releases such as 'Testimony', but in many ways this shows Morse in a very different place to where he was back then, and while there will always be elements which sound very Beardian, he has broadened his musical palette.

Fans of old-school Morse or Spock's Beard may find this something which needs more work than many of his albums, but it is still one which is well worth discovering.

Report this review (#2780312)
Posted Saturday, July 30, 2022 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Neal Morse Band ride again on this fourth studio album. Having spent a while in concept album land with their two releases (The Similitude of a Dream and The Great Adventure), this finds them enjoying the freedom to just cook up a brace of great songs and not worry too much about conceptual structure.

The two concept albums saw the songwriting pendulum creep somewhat more towards Neal Morse, and indeed between The Great Adventure and this the band put out Sola Gratia, a concept album under Neal's own name rather than under the Neal Morse Band flag, because that was entirely written by Neal and the band were just there to enact his vision. By contrast, there seems to have been an attempt here to correct that balance - Neal deliberately didn't turn up without any demos of his own, so as to give more space for the other band members' ideas after they'd indulged him with that piece and the two John Bunyan concept albums (the latter of which had been largely demoed by Neal before the band got involved). Indeed, a chunk in the middle of Not Afraid (Part 2) is improvised on the spot!

Between these two factors, then, one might expect the album to be a bit broader in stylistic range and something of a sonic depature, and you get exactly that here. The group have always shared vocal duties, but it feels like they go out of their way here to bring that diversity of voices to the fore, making this a real breath of fresh air. It's clearly a departure from the conceptually structured John Bunyan duology, where Neal ended up exerting a lot of influence over the "big picture" structure of the compositions even though the band all contributed ideas, but because other band members brought their demos to the table their material has the chance to get a bit more polish than the ideas on The Grand Experiment (where *nobody* brought demos and the whole point was to see if they could create an album working together right there in the studio).

There's only two real exceptions to this very democratic working approach. Emergence is a short piece composed by Neal alone, knocked out at a time when the band were contemplating taking the Fragile approach and including solo numbers from each member, whilst there's also a cover of Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water, which is a nice fit for Neal and the group's obvious appreciation of the sunny 1960s sounds which fed into the early prog scene.

It's also, perhaps, the clue to where the band are coming from this time - for their approach to covering the material owes a fair amount to Yes's cover of America, and between that and toying with the idea of basing the album's structure on Fragile, this album feels a little like a Neal Morse Band take on Yes - not in terms of blandly imitating Yes's classic style (though there's obviously influence which can be detected here and there), but recapturing that sunny, optimistic, ethereal atmosphere which permeates the best Yes material. (Even the album title might hint to this - "Innocence" and "Danger" being two qualities which might go with the idea of being "Fragile"...)

I don't think it quite holds together as well as prior Neil Morse Band albums - in particular, I think the conclusion to Beyond the Years drags on too long - but it's still a very enjoyable prog album, and one which leaves me interested to see what they do next.

Report this review (#2849633)
Posted Thursday, November 3, 2022 | Review Permalink
5 stars Fantastic double album from Prog veterans The Neal Morse Band (Neal Morse-vocals, keyboards, guitar), Eric Gillette (guitars, vocals), Mike Portnoy (drums. vocals), Bill Hubauer (keyboards, vocals), Randy George (bass). Unlike their past couple albums, this one is not a big concept album with an overarching theme, but just a collection of songs, which seems to have freed the band to do more exploring and playing with different styles and sounds, resulting in some more varied and interesting tracks. But the album is still divided into 2 distinctly different sets: Disc 1 (Innocence) consists of 8 'shorter' songs (3-8 minutes each) of varying styles, some more poppy, some more jazzy, etc., but all with strong melodies and virtuoso playing, culminating in a great progressive adaptation of Paul Simon's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water). Disc 2 (Danger) consists of 2 epic Prog tracks, 'Not Afraid Pt.2' (nearly 20 min). and 'Beyond the Years' (more than 30 min), both of which are just fantastic and shows what great bands can do with multi-part, extended length tracks. Whereas disc 1 is very good, disc 2 just takes off and soars with these incredible epic tracks, running the gamut from classical, blues, rock, jazz, pop, all worked into cohesive songs. A highpoint in this band's already impressive discography. 4.5 stars
Report this review (#2984021)
Posted Friday, January 19, 2024 | Review Permalink

NEAL MORSE NMB: Innocence & Danger ratings only

chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of NEAL MORSE NMB: Innocence & Danger

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.