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NEAL MORSE

Symphonic Prog • United States


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Neal Morse biography
As a young musician, Neal's dream was like many others-to find success in the pop music world. But after years of struggling in the LA singer-songwriter scene, he realized that his dream would not materialize. Eschewing conventional wisdom, Neal took a courageous step: he about-faced and devoted himself to progressive rock, the music truly in his heart. The obscure and fiercely competitive genre held little chance of commercial success. Undaunted, he formed the quirkily-named Spock's Beard with his brother, Alan. They recorded The Light with what money they could scrape together. Against all odds, it was a breakout success, sending shockwaves through the small genre's community.

Over the next 10 years, Spock's Beard released 10 critically acclaimed CDs and 2 concert DVDs, ascending to the top of the "prog" world. Neal also released 6 CDs and 3 DVDs with Transatlantic, the heralded prog "supergroup" comprised of the world's finest prog musicians. The proverbial wayward son, Neal had finally found the success he dreamed of. But something was missing. While on the outside Neal had it all; on the inside, something was missing. Morse came to realize that for him, embracing the Christian faith was the fulfillment of his spiritual quest. His walk was at once gradual and sudden-and like with so many, completely unexpected. As he continued, his path increasingly revealed more of what his heart had sought all along. Yet he also began to find his career growing at odds with his faith. The rising spiritual tension and increasing commercial success finally came to a head with the release of Snow (2002), Spock's Beard's (with Morse) magnum opus.and swan song.

The extraordinary 2-CD rock opera, composed by Morse, was widely acclaimed as the group's finest. But it was the end of the era: Neal made the agonizing decision to leave Spock's Beard. After also leaving Transatlantic, the transformation was complete. Despite having finally achieved the success he had long sought, Morse began all over again; musically, emotionally and spiritually. Neal then embarked upon the most ambitious musical project of his career. Entitled Testimony (2003), it chronicles his spiritual and musical journey in words and music. The 2 CD set (3 CDs for the Special Edition) spans over two hours as one continuous piece of music. It ranges in style from a full gospel choir to hard rock; from a symphony orchestra to contemporary pop. A deftly woven musical tapestry, the album takes th...
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Alive Again [Blu-ray]Alive Again [Blu-ray]
Metal Blade 2016
Blu-ray$19.98
Alive AgainAlive Again
Metal Blade 2016
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The Grand Experiment - Super Deluxe EditionThe Grand Experiment - Super Deluxe Edition
Metal Blade 2015
Audio CD$22.98
$22.97 (used)
Sola ScripturaSola Scriptura
Metal Blade 2007
Audio CD$30.08
$14.99 (used)
OneOne
Metal Blade 2004
Audio CD$9.71
$6.98 (used)
TESTIMONYTESTIMONY
Metal Blade 2003
Audio CD$15.98
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??
Metal Blade 2005
Audio CD$10.35
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Testimony 2Testimony 2
Metal Blade 2011
Audio CD$13.97
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Momentum LIVEMomentum LIVE
Box set
Metal Blade 2013
Audio CD$20.49
$18.88 (used)
MomentumMomentum
Metal Blade 2012
Audio CD$12.67
$8.95 (used)
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NEAL MORSE discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

NEAL MORSE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.24 | 94 ratings
Neal Morse
1999
2.75 | 72 ratings
It's Not Too Late
2001
4.04 | 390 ratings
Testimony
2003
4.11 | 415 ratings
One
2004
4.19 | 543 ratings
?
2005
3.00 | 44 ratings
God Won't Give Up
2005
2.29 | 37 ratings
Lead Me Lord (Worship Sessions Volume One)
2005
3.04 | 38 ratings
Send The Fire (Worship Sessions Volume 2)
2006
2.94 | 67 ratings
Cover To Cover
2006
2.57 | 37 ratings
Songs From The Highway
2007
4.18 | 541 ratings
Sola Scriptura
2007
2.82 | 28 ratings
Secret Place (Worship Sessions Volume 3)
2008
3.10 | 241 ratings
Lifeline
2008
2.64 | 28 ratings
The River (Worship Sessions Volume 4)
2009
2.64 | 25 ratings
Mighty To Save (Worship Sessions Volume 5)
2010
4.02 | 516 ratings
Testimony 2
2011
4.02 | 375 ratings
Momentum
2012
3.02 | 42 ratings
Cover 2 Cover
2012
3.04 | 50 ratings
Songs From November
2014
3.76 | 223 ratings
The Grand Experiment (as The Neal Morse Band)
2015

NEAL MORSE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.33 | 9 ratings
Nick 'n Neal - Two Separate Gorillas - Live In Europe - The From The Vaults Series Volume 2
2000
3.76 | 51 ratings
? Live
2007
4.46 | 72 ratings
So many Roads
2009
4.47 | 65 ratings
Testimony Two - Live In Los Angeles
2011

NEAL MORSE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.50 | 77 ratings
Testimony Live
2004
4.38 | 78 ratings
Sola Scriptura and Beyond
2008
4.35 | 44 ratings
Live Momentum
2013
3.44 | 15 ratings
Morsefest! 2014: Testimony & One Live
2015
0.00 | 0 ratings
Alive Again (as The Neal Morse Band)
2016

NEAL MORSE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.75 | 27 ratings
The Transatlantic Demos
2003
2.04 | 6 ratings
Sing It High
2007
3.71 | 10 ratings
One Demos
2007
3.28 | 23 ratings
A Proggy Christmas - The Prog World Orchestra
2012

NEAL MORSE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.05 | 20 ratings
Merry Christmas From The Morse Family
2000
2.76 | 17 ratings
A Proggy Christmas
2011

NEAL MORSE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 One by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.11 | 415 ratings

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One
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Neal Morse is one of the major figures in progressive rock in last 20 years, with each band where he was involved done great things and inventive and monumental passages. He was member of world known Spock's Beard, Transatlantic and also other colaborations with other bands, always keeping high standards. He also has a prolific solo career for more then 15 years, where we can find from mediocre to good and even realy brilliant releases. One of his most acomplished album he done over the years and one of the best of the last decade in symphonic prog field is without doubt One released in 2004 through Inside out. The songwritting the musicianship is top notch, reminescent of his former band Spock's Beard but also from Transatlantic elements taken, he did a great job here, from vocal department to the excellent instrumental passages. The album is like a single ong track dicided in 8 pieces, the flow from one piece to another is natural and very well performed. Also here is a great list of guests. What strike me on this album is how easy musician play or how great is integrated in the music the lyrics, who has like on other solo album of his a spiritual context, nevertheless great used here. The music is great and complicated passages, from mellow and acustic portions to more uptempo, the musicians are always in top form every second they play. The instrumental sections are great, the complexity of some parts are truly amazing, like on The Creation nearly 18 min pure bliss. Well a great album for sure, and desearve to be this way, because he realy done it with this album, 4 stars for sure a real listning experience. Recommended , I guess among his best workd since the beggining of his career, and in same league with his another solo works as ? or Sola scriptura.
 One Demos by MORSE, NEAL album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2007
3.71 | 10 ratings

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One Demos
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by strangelybrown

4 stars I recently decided to buy Neal Morse's The One Demos album during a prog spending binge, which also extended to the new greatest hits DVD of Spock's Beards - which has a new Neal Morse epic on which I am planning to play LOUD this Christmas. My money's on it being a bit terrific.

I wanted to write this review not only out of love for Neal Morse, having been a huge fan of everything he has been a part of for years, but also as part of my new fascination with demo albums themselves. I really enjoy hearing where the artist decided to alter certain parts, and hypothesising why said parts might have been; that's part of the fun! Subsequent tempo changes (no doubt down to Portnoy's genius), changes of certain licks and riffs, and complete alterations of large sections (like with the end passage of The Reunion on this album) all are naked for analysis.

Neal's writing can be so dense with ideas that you don't hear the underlying clever chord progression beneath on the mastered record. Both the softer accompaniment here on the demo on both keyboard and piano, plus the softer voicing from Morse are really refreshing - and I must say I prefer Neal's clean vocal phrasing on the Reunion- as you can tell I am a bit of a fan of that closing song!

I wish he'd bring a demo one out for Question Mark actually come to think of it!

The rest of the songs are really pleasant and interesting with some sweet guitar solos and differing chord emphases. Again, I just love hearing the "before shot", prior to them realising that the winning missing note was right there waiting to go on the tablature!

Obviously it doesn't have quite the bombastic impact of the real mastered version (which is brill), but it's so pure and seemingly spontaneous that I have to give it 4 stars.

Peace y'all Bradders :)

 Morsefest! 2014: Testimony & One Live by MORSE, NEAL album cover DVD/Video, 2015
3.44 | 15 ratings

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Morsefest! 2014: Testimony & One Live
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by rdtprog
Special Collaborator Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

3 stars This double show weekend was done after only four days of rehearsal at Neal's home church in Nashville. Neal is surrounded with his usual band and many back up singers. The intimate venue here has played a major role on how those shows would unravel. It offer the possibility for Neal to get some interactions with the crowd that was already sold to his charm. Maybe people that only visits this church for religious purposes could have been there, because of the religious beliefs of Neil.The story of Testimony 1 is connected with Neal's evolution in his life and the man is comfortable showing his devotion to God, especially for a man that has seen his daughter miraculously cure. The music reflects this evolution with songs that are the expression of a man searching for the truth during difficult times, and other songs that are more upbeat on a more festive side when Neal has found happiness in his life. This live release is more enjoyable with the DVD or Blu-Ray presentation, if you want to see those emotional moments, when Neal is in tears at times, or when he goes in the crowd letting people touch him, or when he show his affection for Mike Portnoy after his 15 years collaboration with him... Mike will return the favor later in the show with a speech. Sometimes when the female choir was singing, i had the impression to be in a gospel celebration in Harlem, but with a complete Rock band. So the music of the band was fitting like a glove in this church. Who wouldn't go to the church every Sunday to see the priest Neal Morse with his little orchestra?

The second disk is the complete "One" album with one additional track unreleased. We have heard previously the two best track : "Author of Confusion" and "The Separated Man" on others live releases, which contains long instrumentals passages of greatness. "Cradle to the Grave" is a ballad with Neal's son singing with him, when the latter was again very emotional. In the encore, the music was a welcome change to the atmosphere of the intense world of Neal with the song "The Light" of Spock's Beard and the final song "Strangers in Your Soul", where we're witnessing a crazy moment when almost everybody are playing others instruments. I didn't know that Mike Portnoy could play bass, unless he was faking... So another tour for Neal and another live release, i would have prefer to wait and hear something new from the latest "The Grand Experiment" album, but i can understand that Neal would jump on the opportunity to record something at home. 3.4 stars

 The Grand Experiment (as The Neal Morse Band) by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.76 | 223 ratings

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The Grand Experiment (as The Neal Morse Band)
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

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.

 The Grand Experiment (as The Neal Morse Band) by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.76 | 223 ratings

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The Grand Experiment (as The Neal Morse Band)
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by Ier

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 listening to Prog Britannia (a show on Progzilla Radio) and the track 'Agenda' was played. My first thought was 'Wow, what an awesome track! It's not really 'Prog' (but what is Prog nowadays anyway?), but this really has my attention. Hmmm, that voice sounds very familiar, who is this?'' Neal Morse' Neal Morse? Really? I had no clue it was a track from Neal Morse! I really need to listen to that album! So, here I am, listening to the complete album from The Neal Morse Band. I have to say, listening to this album puts a smile on my face. Not a dumb wide grin and no 'This is the best album everrrr', just a 'yeah, this is pretty cool'.

First track of the album is called 'The Call' and starts with an A Capella piece, which is not bad, and later turns into a musical piece that really reminds me a lot of early Transatlantic (which isn't odd, half of Transatlantic is playing on this album). It contains a lot of 'clever' bits and pieces that emphasize the word 'Prog': Guitar solo here, keyboard solo there, semi-bombastic ending' You know what I mean. The second track, called 'The Grand Experiment', really got my attention. It starts as a track Deep Purple could have written. The chorus, however, isn't Deep Purple-ish at all, but is quite catchy and makes you want to sing along.

'Waterfall' is the third track and is, what you call, a typical acoustic track every 'Prog' album needs to have, to give the listener some kind of break, to 'catch some air' after all that 'Prog violence' in the previous tracks, and to prepare the listener for more that has to come. It is very sweet and tender, a track you would give to your mother and say 'Here, listen to this, my music taste isn't that bad, right?'' Ok, fasten up your seatbelt, because after 'Waterfall' it's time for 'Agenda'' But after a while you realize you have tightened up your seatbelt too tight because the chorus isn't that rough as the beginning of the song suggests. Still, it is a great 'more rocky than proggy' track and very radio friendly. Most reviewers don't like this song but I actually do! I tried to find out what this song is about, but I don't have a clue what's so important about his 'Agenda'.

The fourth track, 'Alive Again', is the longest track of the album. I really love the intro, it's quite an epic start with a lot of power. After two minutes the song takes an unexpected twist (I don't like that twist, they could have made the intro last much longer in my opinion) and turns into another intro, and roughly after three and a half minutes from the start, the song turns into another intro (There must be something epic coming if you need 3 different intros). Anyways, the track itself is very enjoyable and 'Transatlantic' like and I'm glad intro number one comes back again in this track as some kind of outro.

Neal Morse and band actually should have turned the 2 disc special edition into one great album by removing the live tracks that are on the second disc. The track 'New Jerusalem', which can be found on the second disc, is actually on of the best tracks I've ever heard from Neal Morse. I even sing along when I'm very sure nobody is watching ('What? You singing along with Neal Morse? Ier, are you crazy?'). The 'MacArthur Park' cover (which also can be found on the second disc) is also very entertaining and not as boring as the original.

Final conclusion? It is a lovely album to listen, but I don't know if I would recommend it to people who are not interested in Neal Morse in the first place' Still, I give it 4 of the 5 stars because it is a great album which maybe ends in my top 10 albums of 2015.

 The Grand Experiment (as The Neal Morse Band) by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.76 | 223 ratings

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The Grand Experiment (as The Neal Morse Band)
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by Spook76

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 let that put you off from what is otherwise a great symphonic prog album. The addition of Eric Gillette to handle some of the vocals like Neal's last album "Monentum" provides a sonic diversity that really makes this album shine. I would rate this album with 4.5 stars but since that is not available, I rounded up to 5. As I stated, it behooves you to give this album a spin.
 The Grand Experiment (as The Neal Morse Band) by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.76 | 223 ratings

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The Grand Experiment (as The Neal Morse Band)
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by Gallifrey

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 Transatlantic albums being the reason modern symphonic gets a bad reputation. 2011's Testimony Two is a solid album that overstays its welcome a bit, but 2003's Testimony couldn't even pull 30 minutes of solid material out of its two- hour runtime. And most confusing part about all that is the fact that most of those albums pretty much sound the same. Morse straddles the line of crap and good so close that even a slight wobble to one side will make an album great or terrible, even if the ingredients within it are more or less the same. And this peaked early last year with Transatlantic's Kaleidoscope, an absolute mess of ridiculously cliched ideas and recycled songs, and while it wasn't the most awful thing in the universe, I can honestly put it quite high in the list of the most uninspired albums I have ever heard.

I thought that it was just Morse's time to fade into obscurity. Like his good friends in Dream Theater, what he's doing never really changed, he basically just ran out of melodic ideas, and his ambition (or lack of) to make the exact same set of songs every few years meant that his songs wanted to be grandiose and epic but fell flat every single time, to herald the emotional and compositional depth of a cheap pop tune. Morse would continually put out records and with each one more and more people would say "meh, I'm not even going to bother with the next one". But we know what happened next.

Second Nature. The surprise of the year 2014. As much as I did like the first Flying Colors record, I knew that Morse had lost a lot of his flair since then, but this was stellar. Absolutely phenomenal. The elements from all the members came together brilliantly to create what is without a doubt the best album of Morse's very ancient career. And when someone releases both their worst and their best album within a calendar year, you really do start to wonder what's up. Obviously, Second Nature wasn't a Morse solo effort, and neither was Kaleidoscope. I could then pit the success/failure, on the other members, but there was a distinct feeling on a track like "Cosmic Symphony", that we could finally hear what Morse had been aiming for for so long.

Now, we have his first solo album since 2012's Momentum. Um, well, sort of. The Grand Experiment has been advertised under a new moniker - 'The Neal Morse Band', and has credited the rest of his group, featuring regulars Randy George and Mike Portnoy, as well as live members Bill Hubauer and Eric Gillette (whose solo album I did quite enjoy) in the composition and arrangement of this album. So my interest was slightly piqued once more - perhaps this is what Morse needs to pull himself out of this rut. Even though these "new members" have been in the Morse camp for ages anyway, this is the first album they've had any real say on anything, and that could be a good thing.

Is it a good thing? Well, I honestly can't tell, because show this album to me blind and I'd call it as yet another Neal Morse solo album. Any contributions the "new" band have made have been incredibly stuck to the Morsian blueprint of how to make uninspired but occasionally good slabs of cheese. The format is the same as well - three of short pieces, bookended by two long ones, one of them being at least 25 minutes (for some reason). It's like old Neal just doesn't want any form of change, whatsoever.

And honestly, aside from "Waterfall", this is possibly his worst album yet. Kaleidoscope was uninteresting and uninspired, but rarely was it honestly bad. And while this still isn't bad, there are far more moments of poor composition here than ever before. On previous solo records he's been able to pull out a handful of deliciously catchy choruses, even on the most recent Momentum, but here there just aren't any. Musically, there's not much that has changed, but I quite honestly cannot think of a single moment that I enjoyed, because any remotely good parts are dulled due to the fact that they are almost all note-for-note rehashes of previous Morse songs. "Waterfall" is actually a pretty great piece, and single-handedly saves this album from being absolutely terribly, but with the gospel touches thrown into it, all the delicacy of the subtle instrumentation is undermined by some really cheap pseudo-emotional undertones. But I really like the violin in it, and even the solos are pretty well placed

The bad here? "The Call" is pretty damn embarrassing, I must say, although I can't tell how much of it is actually bad and how much is just bad because it sounds like so much else. The a cappella vocal section in the intro is quite frankly sickening, from the cheesy lyrics to the uninteresting melody to the cheap as anything sus4-to-major chord resolution that is just so overdone, the only thing that tops that cheese is 10 seconds later when the dreaded organ shows up, or maybe the quite terrible solo at the 6 minute mark. The title track is just as bad, with a riff that sounds straight out of a post-grunge album, with the inclusion of the standard Morse cheese organ. "Agenda" has been the subject of much talk, and although I can agree that it's poor, I do still prefer it to the first two. It reminds me a bit of the last few Muse songs we've got, when we are asked to question Matt Bellamy's sanity. But hey, at least the song is slightly different.

I suppose I should talk about "Alive Again", considering it's 27 minutes long, and on most albums that would make it a bit of a centrepiece. It's another Morsian exercise in excess and length and achieves absolutely nothing on its journey. "Agenda", although that song blows, is a far more interesting piece. The middle section of the song, with the horns and the great chorus is pretty solid, but that's about three minutes in 27, and doesn't really make the sea of genericism worth swimming through.

No doubt one of the weakest albums of his career, but at the same time it's not too difficult from before. I'm not ready to fully write of Morse yet, because with Second Nature he proved that he isn't completely spend as a composer, but this album nearly pushed me there. A forgettable, overlong piece of the same old stuff, The Grand Experiment on the whole isn't worth anybody's time.

4.2

Originally written for my Facebook page/blog: www.facebook.com/neoprogisbestprog

 The Grand Experiment (as The Neal Morse Band) by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.76 | 223 ratings

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The Grand Experiment (as The Neal Morse Band)
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by rdtprog
Special Collaborator Prog Metal / Heavy 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.
 The Grand Experiment (as The Neal Morse Band) by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.76 | 223 ratings

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The Grand Experiment (as The Neal Morse Band)
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by Flucktrot
Prog Reviewer

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 kick...it'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!

 The Grand Experiment (as The Neal Morse Band) by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.76 | 223 ratings

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The Grand Experiment (as The Neal Morse Band)
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

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.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to NotAProghead for the last updates

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