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Neal Morse

Symphonic Prog

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Neal Morse The Neal Morse Band: The Grand Experiment album cover
3.80 | 329 ratings | 14 reviews | 25% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2015

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Call (10:12)
2. The Grand Experiment (5:27)
3. Waterfall (6:31)
4. Agenda (3:45)
5. Alive Again (26:44)

Total Time 52:39

Bonus CD from 2015 SE:
1. New Jerusalem (Freedom Is Coming) (7:30)
2. Doomsday Destiny (5:27)
3. MacArthur Park (11:07)
4. The Creation (live *) (18:40)
5. Reunion (live *) (9:42)

Total Time 52:26

* Recorded at Morsefest

Bonus DVD from 2015 SE:
1. The Making of "The Grand Experiment" (45:40)
- Music Videos :
2. Agenda (3:47)
3. Grand Experiment (5:28)

Total Time 54:55

Line-up / Musicians

- Neal Morse / vocals, keyboards, guitar
- Eric Gillette / guitar, vocals
- Bill Hubauer / keyboards, clarinet, vocals
- Randy George / bass, bass pedals, bodhrán
- Mike Portnoy / drums, vocals

- Jim Hoke / saxophone
- Chris Carmichael / strings
- David McKee / industrial loops (4)

Releases information

Artwork: Thomas Ewerhard

CD Inside Out Music ‎- 0507062 (2015, Europe)
CD Radiant Records ‎- 3984-15365-2 (2015, US)
2CD+DVD Inside Out Music ‎- 0507068 (2015, Europe) Bonus CD + DVD w/ Making Of & 2 videoclips

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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NEAL MORSE The Neal Morse Band: The Grand Experiment ratings distribution

(329 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(25%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(45%)
Good, but non-essential (22%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

NEAL MORSE The Neal Morse Band: The Grand Experiment reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars I'm not ashamed to admit that I miss Neal Morse's compositions with Spock's Beard. His guest appearance on "Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep" helped, I believe, to make that one of this decade's best (so far) prog albums. His previous studio album, "Momentum", was quite good, so I didn't hesitate to pick this one up when my local CD store gave it a good sale price.

While instrumentally, this is a fine album, it gives me the feeling that Morse is getting into a rut.

First, there is the format. It seems that just about every Morse project consist of two epic tracks framing three shorter, poppier tracks. And that's exactly what we get here. Second, I really do like the music Morse has written here, but, for the most part, it all sounds made up of riffs from old SB tracks. And third, the lyrics. While I am an atheist, I have no problem with religious lyrics, if they are artfully done, but here, Morse's words are ins... insp... ins... oh, insipid.

I feel like I need a Christian Buzzword Bingo card when I'm listening to this. Morse's epics are both inspiring tales, hoping to convey to the poor listener the idea that if you are down and out, the way to raise your spirits up is to give your soul to some imagined supernatural being who controls everything. Okay, I've heard other songs of this type, and they don't have such a negative affect on me, but these are downright trite.

In The Call, Morse uses simplistic evangelical catchphrases to try to entice you into the fold, but I'll I can think of is "What call is he talking about? The one that wants me to consolidate my debt? The one where I am qualified for a "free" security system, or some other "unbelievable" offer? Or how about the guy who claims to be from Microsoft, who think I believe him when he says that he sees a virus on my computer?"

That song doesn't compare to Alive Again, where Morse panders with a character described as the "wounded warrior", who, of course, is in a bad way, and only getting washed in the sea, by a guy walking on water, will bring him back. Come on, Neal, get some originality. You once were good at that.

And Neal? I understand that you are proud of your Agenda, but isn't pride supposed to be one of your sins?

Despite the obvious buzzwords, Waterfall is actually a nice track. It has a CSNY feel, with great harmonies, and is the most original song on the album.

Don't get me wrong. I like the music (not the words) on this album. I just don't love them.

For a Neal Morse fix, if you can block out the vocals, it's not bad.

Review by Flucktrot
4 stars First off, I'd just like to say that I'm happy for this group of guys at the result of this album. The gimmick was that Neal did not have any new material, and that what we have here was the result of total group collaboration. I highly doubted that it was true in the first place (and it appears that, at least with Agenda, it wasn't), but I didn't know enough about the band members to know whether this would be a productive strategy.

I remember seeing Neal's band live a few years back on the Momentum tour, and my takeaway from that show- -other than being only able to hear bass and drums due to the terrible house sound--was that it didn't seem like a very cohesive group. Neal and Mike hammed it up, Adson Sodre would lay down some killer solos here and there, and Eric and Bill did not seem to have consistent roles to fill.

Now, imagine my skepticism upon hearing that Adson was not going to be on the album! Couple that with the material that was released before the full album: the average title track (despite the interesting chorus, the rest involved the band trying to hard to rock, and I could only picture Neal mean-mugging his was through the intro) and the playful Agenda. There was not much room for optimism, especially since I thought Neal was bordering a bit on staleness in parts of Momentum.

(Side note: I was planning on Agenda being absolutely terrible from reviews, but I like it as a playful throwaway song. It's meant to be cheesy! Watch the video that came out with it, and if you still can't appreciate it at least a little bit, then you could treat it as a bonus track, perhaps.)

However, all of my skepticism was unwarranted, as the rest of the album is quite good. Eric happens to deliver a great lead, full of a variety of tones and creativity, as well as a strong top harmony. Bill provides a more consistent presence in providing layering and texture to the keys, as well as an interesting vocal counterpoint. Notice a theme building about the vocals, because that's the highlight of the album in my book. They perhaps are not great by themselves, but together to combination is quite nice...sometimes I hear some Styx, sometimes some Eagles.

Highlights: The Call, Waterfall, Alive Again. The Call kicks off the album with a great deal of energy, and even if the song doesn't hang together perfectly toward the middle, to my ears it is very refreshing in terms of how it compares to previous material from Neal. Just a really fun song, and you can tell it's a true group effort. Waterfall is a slower tune that features the stacked harmonies, which is quite nice, and then morphs in to a bit of a Genesis Entangled vibe that I appreciate. Finally, Alive Again represents the epic, and I think it it quite a success. To be clear, it is not perfect, but I don't think perfection was really a possibility if the group was trying to maintain a team effort. For example, Bill's vocals in the "Man I'll Never Be" section get a bit rough and mush- mouthed, but he comes around nicely. Also, the middle theme that is revisited in what feels like dozens of times is just not good enough to be featured so heavily. Fortunately, there is enough creativity and variety to make the journey quite listenable, particularly because the finale is absolutely soaring and huge. The stacked harmonies, the majestic interpretation of the original chorus, the killer tempo's all great to my ears. I would nitpick the fade-out, but I just don't have the heart to do that here (you could argue that I just did, but it's not my intent to make this a backhanded compliment!)

Overall, I believe this represents a needed change of sound, the cohesion of a true band, and the potential for great things! Of all of Neal's solo and collaborative material, I have heard little that reminds me of Spock's Beard, but I swear there are sections here (fat, groovy bass from Randy, energetic but understated drums from Mike, for example) that really take me back, and in a good way. Here's hoping for Grand Revival in the future!

Review by rdtprog
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Heavy / RPI / Symphonic Prog Team
4 stars The idea of changing the songwriting formula by writing the songs all together instead of Neal Morse writing alone before bringing his ideas seems to be a refreshing idea. The result is not obvious in the first song "The Call" who has all the trademark of a typical Neal Morse song with it's ambitious symphonic style. But in the the songs "Alive Again" and "MacArthur Park", there is something different from the usual Neal Morse style with interesting instrumental passages. But at the same time, there is some less progressive songs that are more classic rock like "The Grand Experiment" and "Agenda". "Waterfall" is the ultimate ballad to put you in a different mood. The major change to me was the idea of letting Eric Gillette take the lead vocals role. And he has done a very good job in that department. The bonus CD is as good as the first CD but with another too repetitive and simple song :"New Jerusalem", in which the only bright spot is the drums parts that recall Manu Katché or some late period of Genesis. Finally, the longest tracks are the best ones, the others are taking a more standard rock direction and while have a certain appeal don't have the grandeur of the other tracks. I am happy that Neal Morse has brings something new to his music. The production and the musicianship are flawless, especially the bass and drums parts.
Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars `The Grand Experiment' of the title is not only Neal Morse's personal reference to his Christian lifestyle in the track of the same name, but also how this disc, technically his twentieth studio release (yes, really!) came to be composed. The musicians involved entered the studio with no prior written material and recorded their results in a short time, meaning that this experimental approach was a true group collaboration. Billed here as `The Neal Morse Band', the core line-up of keyboardist Morse's solo albums including bass virtuoso Randy George and master drummer Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater's loss turned out to be a gift for general prog fans!) were joined by Eric Gillette on extra guitar and vocals and Bill Hubauer on additional keyboards, clarinet and flute this time around, and it's wonderful to discover the group came up with a very punchy and concise work in the end. While some of the five pieces here still, of course, follow some of the usual Morse format, there's a freshness and a variety of sounds and styles not often found on his prog albums, no doubt due to the new song-writing approach of the others and their additional influences.

The ten minute `The Call' is a classic Neal Morse opener, all spiralling keyboards, frantic drumming, pulsing bass and wailing guitars to be found in the lengthy instrumental runs, yet never forgetting to incorporate catchy melodies and a winning chorus. Relentlessly upbeat and up-tempo, the aggressive guitar grunt and delirious synth noodling just before the six minute mark is especially tasty, the joyful and slick AOR vocals are easy to enjoy and there's just a dash of country to the harmonies here and there as well! The title track `The Grand Experiment' is a heavy guitar driven plodding rocker with a catchy chorus, and as often with Morse, some of the multi- layered sighing honey-dipped harmonies recall retro-rocker Matthew Sweet, and `Waterfall' is a warm and dreamy acoustic ballad with a reflective, pleading spiritual lyric and sublime group harmonies.

The tongue-in-cheek `Agenda' playfully alternates between heavy slab-like guitar verses and falsetto psychedelic pop choruses, the chest-beating lyric delivered with great self-pride and a wink in the eye! This is Morse cheerfully sticking it to his critics and giving them the middle finger...well, as politely as a Christian can! But it wouldn't be a Neal Morse album without at least one lengthy epic (Hey, it's prog - size matters!), and `Alive Again' runs just short of twenty-seven minutes. Reaching victorious electric guitar runs deliver a collection of grand symphonic themes and big dramatic builds, with a strong mix of muscular heavy workouts and softer thoughtful breaks, some fleeting classical pomp, even an addictive funky horn break, and the powerful recurring `I can see the light, burning in my soul' chorus truly soars.

Is this one of his Morse's best prog releases? `Sola Scriptura' and `One' definitely tower over it, but `The Grand Experiment' is certainly one of his warmest, most relaxed and fun. The quick turnaround of writing and recording means some of the lyrics occasionally come up short by falling back on awkward rhyming words (and the 'She's like the secret sauce' line in the title track is a particularly awful clunker!), but the material Morse and company came up with is exciting and yet more evidence of his keen melodic skill and ability to surround himself with other talented musicians to deliver it. It's also refreshing to see a 52 minute vinyl length release from him (excluding the wealth of extra outtakes, demos and covers across a range of deluxe and expanded editions), making the album more focused and compact with none of the bloat that sometimes pads out his other solo and Transatlantic works, and the shorter running time will also mean the disc gets plenty of replays and becomes more familiar quicker too. This particular line-up has proven especially fruitful and rewarding, so let's hope The Neal Morse Band gets another outing in the future!

Four stars.

Latest members reviews

4 stars The Grand Experiment is the first album credited to The Neal Morse Band. Neal and his long-term musical partners Mike Portnoy and Randy George are joined by two new permanent band members. Eric Gillette and Bill Hubauer add a new dimension to the sound, particularly in the vocal department, alt ... (read more)

Report this review (#2406634) | Posted by AlanB | Monday, May 25, 2020 | Review Permanlink

4 stars A small warning before reading, this is review is far from unbiased' I have to admit, I'm not a fan of Neal Morse. I lost interest in the band Transatlantic after the first 2 albums, Spock's Beard doesn't get me and I do not agree with Neal Morse's statements when it comes to religion. I was ... (read more)

Report this review (#1421138) | Posted by Ier | Friday, May 29, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I feel compelled to write this review as it is mistake to overlook this excellent album. I have been a fan of Neal Morse since his Spock's Beard time. To me The Grand Experiment is his best solo work second only to "?" Yes, one of the songs "Agenda" is not by any means a good song but do not l ... (read more)

Report this review (#1419422) | Posted by Spook76 | Sunday, May 24, 2015 | Review Permanlink

2 stars I had a very odd year with Neal Morse in 2014. He's always been a bit of a divisive figure in many circles, and he even retains his divisiveness within me, when I go ahead and call 2005's Question Mark one of the best albums of modern symphonic, and at the same time point out all four Transat ... (read more)

Report this review (#1392773) | Posted by Gallifrey | Friday, April 3, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Wow. It's been half a decade since I have been so blown away by an album I was expecting to be 3-4 stars in quality. I have long seen Neal Morse's importance to prog rock, but have never been a natural member of his fan constituency. This album tempted me as a Dream Theater fan, due to its billing a ... (read more)

Report this review (#1382387) | Posted by Einwahn | Saturday, March 14, 2015 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This is a great album. I would love to give it 5 stars, but it comes up just short. The Neal Morse Band delivers with a very creative album that is probably like no other album you have heard....ever. It's got a little bit everything and that everything is quite good to my ears. Track 1: T ... (read more)

Report this review (#1370919) | Posted by Lofcaudio | Friday, February 20, 2015 | Review Permanlink

2 stars (in case it matters, I'm reviewing the special edition) I only gave this two spins so far, but I'm already regretting my purchase and the ticket I bought for their upcoming tour. Well, at least it will be an opportunity to discover Beardfish. The first track and the last track (namely, "The Ca ... (read more)

Report this review (#1370626) | Posted by Ieshee1i | Friday, February 20, 2015 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The last prog rock album by Neal Morse was Momentum in 2012. After 3 years, Neal Morse came back on the prog side with The Grand Experiment. And it's surely one of his best effors. The album begins with The Call (or Following The Call) which is a ten minutes song. It's very proggy, with many solos ( ... (read more)

Report this review (#1368736) | Posted by floflo79 | Saturday, February 14, 2015 | Review Permanlink

3 stars As this is my debut review (please forgive the rhyme), I'll keep it brief. BAD NEWS: There are two stinkers on this much anticipated (by me anyway) record. The title track is a bit weak (okay - truth is it's pretty bad) but the other song, "Agenda" goes way beyond bad - it's PUTRID! I'm mortified ... (read more)

Report this review (#1367038) | Posted by The Ploot | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I think is time for Neal Morse to take a little break from writing music. An album (sometimes 2 or 3) a year, can be exhausting. While not a bad album, definitely not one of his best either. My main concer is that he is using the same formula again, and again, and again, at least in his last two ... (read more)

Report this review (#1366770) | Posted by guillermo68 | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 | Review Permanlink

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