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NEAL MORSE

Symphonic Prog • United States


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Neal Morse biography
Neal R. Morse - Born August 2, 1960 (Van Nuys, California, USA)

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 continuo...
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Jesus Christ The ExorcistJesus Christ The Exorcist
FRONTIERS MUSIC SRL 2019
$14.06
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Alive AgainAlive Again
Metal Blade 2016
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Life and TimesLife and Times
Metal Blade 2018
$11.99
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The Grand Experiment - Super Deluxe EditionThe Grand Experiment - Super Deluxe Edition
Metal Blade 2015
$73.99
$28.85 (used)
??
Insideout Music 2010
$14.30
$20.78 (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)

3.21 | 120 ratings
Neal Morse
1999
2.79 | 94 ratings
It's Not Too Late
2001
4.04 | 450 ratings
Testimony
2003
4.11 | 475 ratings
One
2004
4.19 | 616 ratings
? [Aka: Question Mark]
2005
2.93 | 57 ratings
God Won't Give Up
2005
2.30 | 45 ratings
Lead Me Lord - Worship Sessions Volume 1
2005
2.86 | 47 ratings
Send The Fire - Worship Sessions Volume 2
2006
2.93 | 78 ratings
Morse, Portnoy & George: Cover To Cover
2006
2.53 | 48 ratings
Songs From The Highway
2007
4.18 | 626 ratings
Sola Scriptura
2007
2.64 | 36 ratings
Secret Place - Worship Sessions Volume 3
2008
3.13 | 283 ratings
Lifeline
2008
2.67 | 39 ratings
The River - Worship Sessions Volume 4
2009
2.59 | 32 ratings
Mighty To Save - Worship Sessions Volume 5
2010
4.00 | 578 ratings
Testimony 2
2011
3.95 | 437 ratings
Momentum
2012
2.90 | 51 ratings
Morse, Portnoy & George: Cover 2 Cover
2012
2.93 | 78 ratings
Songs From November
2014
3.76 | 295 ratings
The Neal Morse Band: The Grand Experiment
2015
4.08 | 423 ratings
The Neal Morse Band: The Similitude Of A Dream
2016
2.39 | 28 ratings
To God Be The Glory
2016
2.55 | 47 ratings
Life & Times
2018
4.04 | 194 ratings
The Neal Morse Band: The Great Adventure
2019
4.00 | 55 ratings
Jesus Christ The Exorcist
2019

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

3.08 | 13 ratings
Nick 'n Neal - Two Separate Gorillas - Live In Europe - The From The Vaults Series Volume 2
2000
3.79 | 59 ratings
? Live
2007
4.42 | 88 ratings
So many Roads
2009
4.41 | 79 ratings
Testimony Two - Live In Los Angeles
2011

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

4.46 | 90 ratings
Testimony Live
2004
4.36 | 89 ratings
Sola Scriptura and Beyond
2008
4.46 | 55 ratings
Live Momentum
2013
3.64 | 28 ratings
Morsefest! 2014: Testimony & One Live
2015
3.96 | 32 ratings
Alive Again (as The Neal Morse Band)
2016
3.87 | 17 ratings
Morsefest 2015
2017
3.74 | 14 ratings
The Neal Morse Band: The Similitude of a Dream - Live in Tilburg 2017
2018
4.33 | 6 ratings
Morsefest! 2017: Testimony Of A Dream
2018

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

2.76 | 31 ratings
The Transatlantic Demos
2003
2.00 | 6 ratings
Sing It High
2007
3.71 | 10 ratings
One Demos
2007
3.41 | 25 ratings
A Proggy Christmas - The Prog World Orchestra
2012
3.00 | 2 ratings
The Grand Experiment Demos (Inner Circle March 2016)
2016

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

2.12 | 22 ratings
Merry Christmas From The Morse Family
2000
3.00 | 20 ratings
A Proggy Christmas
2011
0.00 | 0 ratings
Morsefest 2016 Storytellers (Pt. 1) - Inner Circle March 2018
2018
0.00 | 0 ratings
Morsefest 2016 Storytellers (Pt. 2) - Inner Circle May 2018
2018

NEAL MORSE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Jesus Christ The Exorcist by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.00 | 55 ratings

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Jesus Christ The Exorcist
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by The Duke of Prunes

4 stars I do believe it won't be an exaggeration if i say that "Jesus Christ | The Exorcist" is probably Neal Morse's best solo album. Before delving into the music, i would like to talk about the line-up a bit and why it makes the key difference between his other records. Probably the most devastating for the fans will be the fact that this album does not feature out beloved Mike Portnoy and instead, behind the drum kit, we have the young talent Eric Gillette. Odd decision, since Gillette excels in Petrucci-styled guitar fretboard excursions, but it seems like he is equally good pounding the drums. The usual suspects - the keyboard magician Bill Hubauer and Randy George on bass are presented as well. Another fresh idea - there are 12 total vocalists, and that serves to maintain the interest throughout. Of course, it can't be Neal Morse if there is no instrumental virtuosity, so, to the fans that are tired of the needless, over-the-top wankery, in some of his last albums, i will say: the symphonic and orchestral arrangements outweigh the Dream Theater-esque moments. Most of the times there is a strong, cohesive idea, melodic-wise, which the listener can get lost into, and easily follow.

The first 5 songs float seamlessly one into another and create an epic 16 minute prog tour-de-force, encapsulating the essence of Morse's music. It starts off with 1 minute bombastic symphonic arrangement introduction and the first thing i notice, are the drum fills, and overall punchy sound. They are so heavily reminiscent of Portnoy that he really doesn't feel missed. Then, Ted Leonard(Enchant, Spock's Beard), portraying Jesus Christ himself, joins with his emotional, soft vocals, leading to another instrumental part, this time feeling more dynamic. 1 minute in, and we hear Bill Hubauer's 70's oldschool, Purple-ish Hammond, leading to a really memorable keyboard melody, up to be reprised a lot later, sounding positive and uplifting, later joined by brass section, fitting surprisingly well. The overture ends in the vein of Dream Theater - Paul Bielatowicz shines with his tapping and sweep picking and Gillette shows his double bass turbulent drumming. "Getaway" introduces Mark Pogue's classic rock vocals, reminding us of Steve Lukather a bit, and Wil Morse's rasp-y vocals, contrasting well and creating that "dialogue" feel. The song ends in classic neo-prog vibe, with soaring guitar and keyboard unison. "Gather The People" features the incredible Matt Smith (Theocracy). The song alternates between his vocals and beautiful choral arrangements, symbolising Jesus coming to the people. Pretty happy atmosphere. "Jesus' Baptism" feels pop-y, with really catchy vocal lines by Ted and Matt, culminating into another heavenly choral section. Basically, that formula is applied to the whole album, with some exceptions. There is really well-thought and articulated "vocal battle", lyric-wise also, between Ted and Rick Florian's wailing high vocals in "Jesus' Temptation" - another highlight, feeling rather dramatic. Of course, there are some kind of fillers here and there, but that's inevitable given the lenght of the musical. Like "There's a Highway", which is just pop rock song on a moderate beat with acoustic accompaniments, and could've been on Rush's Counterpart for example. Absolute favourites for me are "The Woman of Seven Devils" and "Free At Last" featuring the stunning Talon David, carrying the female blues and jazz vocal style. A pleasant surprise. And just before we thought we lack craziness, we come to "The Madman of the Gadarenes", which just screames Gentle Giant, for the atonalities in the beginning, but mostly for the bizarre vocal harmonies, interweaving 4 vocalists. "Get Behind Me Satan" is heavily influenced by Rainbow, or some other classic 70's hard rock band. Another highlight is "Gethsemane", reminding of "Jesus' Temptation", since it features again the "devil" theme.

All other tracks are just revisiting themes, reprises, but that structure is what makes Morse's songwriting distinct. To sum it up: crystal production, the sound of all instruments feels more organic than ever, big amount of incredible vocalists, instrumental virtuosic parts are not everywhere, but only when they serve a purpose. Will be enjoyed by any symphonic prog fan, not minding some occasional cheesiness.

 The Neal Morse Band: The Similitude Of A Dream by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.08 | 423 ratings

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The Neal Morse Band: The Similitude Of A Dream
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by The Ace Face

5 stars I've been a Neal Morse fan ever since High School when someone turned me on to Spock's Beard, and have been following him ever since, through Transatlantic and his solo career. As a long time student of his music and discography, I can tell you this: he has many, many ideas, all of them great, but he is best when he is collaborating. I love his solo career from Testimony through One, Question Mark, Sola Scriptura and Testimony 2, but felt he slipped a little on albums like Lifeline and Momentum, and even the first Neal Morse Band album The Grand Experiment. For the first time, it seemed like he was running out of inspiration, but I think in hindsight he was just doing too much himself. Randy George and Mike Portnoy have always been excellent collaborators, but they can only do so much when it comes to the lead instrumentation. The Similitude of a Dream is, I think, one of Neal Morse's finest albums ever, and I think that credit is due to the new members of his band, Eric Gillette and Bill Hubauer. Neal's lead guitar parts have never been particularly inspired, and I think he does better work on the keyboards, so bringing in a guitar player to fill that role must have freed Neal up more to work on concept and songwriting, with the rest of the band chipping in on that second part. For the first time, as far as I can tell, the lyric credits go to Neal as always, but music is credited to all five members. It really, really shows. The sheer volume of variance of mood, theme and genre here eclipses anything even on Testimony or Snow, perhaps Neal's most broadly creative albums.

Concept and Story: I know the concept is based on a Christian Allegory called the Pilgrim's Progress, but the lyrics skew toward a more broad appeal, speaking on human nature and spiritual themes without being overtly religious. As a non-religious person, I've never had a problem with Neal's more overt religious themes, but I connect more with the journey here and the more universal application of the themes. If there's a criticism to be made here, it's that the two discs can often feel like they tell the same story in two slightly different ways: man lives in corruption, struggles, casts around searching for meaning, finds it, loses it, is at his lowest, and eventually finds redemption in spirituality. These are familiar themes to Neal, but the enhanced creative force behind this album seems to have reinvigorated the story and given it significantly more punch and depth.

Music: Overall, the first disc is much stronger, but the second disc contains plenty of excellent music. My personal favorites are City of Destruction, Makes No Sense, Back to the City, So Far Gone, Breathe of Angels, Shortcut to Salvation, Road Called Home, Sloth More, and the climactic string of instrumental pieces. As I said before, the creativity is just at a level rarely seen in Neal's other work. Admittedly, a lot of the heavier stuff reminds me of Dream Theater in the gothic metal kind of melodies, but Neal's never been one to be entirely original, and there's nothing wrong with inspiration. I also have to mention, I don't know which of the two new guys does it, but on songs like Ways of a Fool, Makes no Sense, and a couple others, there's another vocalist that takes over on the higher notes, presumably that Neal isn't able to hit anymore, and the voice is quite unique and beautiful sounding. I have to mention also, there are several instrumental sections, usually a showcase for a guitar solo, that just hit that prog sweet spot, like the second half of The Slough, a jazzy drum-piano-bass backing, reminiscent of the breakdown in "Open Wide the Flood Gates Part 1", that kind of stuff has also been absent from Neal's more recent work, and it is more than welcome to return.

Overall, this will hopefully signify a creative resurgence in Neal's work as he opens up and continues to collaborate rather than do everything himself. Again, nothing against that, but even someone like him only has so many ideas left in him, and almost all great musicians work better together. The Great Adventure is an equal album to this in almost all respects, and I look forward to seeing what they do next together.

 Jesus Christ The Exorcist by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.00 | 55 ratings

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Jesus Christ The Exorcist
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by AlanB

5 stars Back in the 1970s there was Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell, but as far as I'm aware no one has written a rock opera based on the life of Jesus since then. Until now, when along comes Neal Morse with Jesus Christ The Exorcist, and in my opinion it stands up well beside its famous predecessors. Unfortunately it's unlikely to become as well-known, which is sadly the nature of things with modern prog. Still, for those of us who love Neal's music this is a must-have album.

Jesus Christ The Exorcist is unusual for a Neal Morse prog release for two reasons. First, Mike Portnoy isn't involved (due to other commitments) but Neal's regular guitarist Eric Gillette steps in to demonstrate that he is also a more than competent drummer. Secondly, Neal doesn't feature much vocally, instead he casts guest singers in the major roles. Notable amongst these are his two successors in Spock's Beard, Nick D'Virgilio and Ted Leonard as Judas Iscariot and Jesus respectively. However the award for best newcomer must go to a young girl from Nashville named Talon David, who excels as Mary Magdalene. Listen especially for her belting out the blues on "The Woman of Seven Devils", then following on by showing that she is equally at home performing a ballad like "Free At Last".

Musically the album is a mixture of prog, pop, metal and musical theatre. The second CD (Act 2) has considerably more of the latter than the first, which is more song-based. The story kicks off with Jesus' words on the cross before flashing back (via the obligatory overture) to John The Baptist preparing the way. The 10 minute "Jesus' Temptation" is a highlight, with Rick Florian making a convincing Devil. Following this we have the first of several "earworm" type songs, "There's A Highway", where Jesus invites all the rank outsiders and lonely losers to follow him. Two of the next three songs feature the casting out of demons which the album title refers to. I have already mentioned Talon David's performance as Mary Magdalene, but the second incident concerns the madman of the Gadarenes, who famously was possessed by a legion of devils. To illustrate this Morse uses one of his favourite techniques of multiple voices singing acapello against each other (think "Thoughts" or "Author of Confusion"). Then we have Neal and Nick singing a duet "Love Has Called My Name" which is another catchy pop type song. The CD ends with Peter's confession of Christ and then Jesus' determination to go to Jerusalem, leading to the Black Sabbath influenced "Get Behind Me Satan."

Act 2 begins with a Queen - like heavy song "He Must Go To The Cross" which leads into some more musical theatre type singing. A highlight for me here is Gethsemene, which features some great Hammond organ playing in the middle section. There is also "A Heart Full Of Holes" sung by Nick D'Virglio which is worth mentioning. After the crucifixion (a reprise of the first song on CD1) Talon David returns to sing the emotional "Mary At The Tomb" followed by "The Greatest Love Of All", a duet between Mary and Jesus. Finally the album ends with a reprise of "Love Has Called My Name."

This is another great album by Neal (how does he manage to be so prolific without losing quality?) and I would love to see it performed as a stage musical. Eat your heart out, Andrew Lloyd Webber.

 The Neal Morse Band: The Great Adventure by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.04 | 194 ratings

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The Neal Morse Band: The Great Adventure
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by thesimilitudeofprog

4 stars This couldn't have been easy. The Great Adventure'is a sequel to the band's last project,The Similitude of a Dream was to me, a flawless masterpiece. A hard act to follow by'any'measure ' and yet, here we are with'The Great Adventure, an unplanned- for'part'two'of what many have called the band's finest hour. The Great Adventure is really very good, but it doesn't surpass in any way Similitude of a dream. Over all The music is sweeping, powerful, very dynamic, full of promise, and is more hard-edged and heavy than what might be expected.'To go into detail about each track would not only take way too many pages but would result in the needless frustration of knowing that the written word will not translate the power, emotion, and technical artistry of the album. The album begins where the previous left off, with the throbbing opening and closing sounds that closed the first disk (The Breath of Angels) along with the final lines sung concluding with 'let the great adventure now begin' from Broken Sky / Long Day (Reprise). This leads into 'The Dream Isn't Over' which properly introduces the main character of the story and his situation before leading directly into the first single released 'Welcome to the World.' The song is comparable to the track 'City of Destruction' from the first album, and the melody and variations of the lyrics are repeated a few times through out the album. 'A Momentary Change' features wonderful shared vocals. This is one of several stunning ballads and features beautiful, emotional guitar lines and some great, measured vocal moments from Bill Hubauer. This is followed by the intense 'Dark Melody,' a song with a very dramatic structure. Eric Gillette's guitar soars and plunges the depths of a stunning solo during the powerful organ-drenched build-up that leads to the song's climax. We are soon met with another song and piece that makes several appearances throughout, the heavier and considerably darker 'Dark Melody,' which references the lost and dark nature of the son's soul and life in general. Lyrical references to the dark melody appear several times afterwards on the first disk and also at crucial moments in the second, so the listener will do well to pay attention to its use and meanings in this first encounter.' Disc two starts with a grand, symphonic mini-overture that transitions into pure instrumental prog with some in- your-face-bass, fiery drumming and guitar-hero riffing. 'Long Ago' follows, setting us up for the resolution both musically and lyrically.The song features some very interesting rhythms from Mike Portnoy. The ominous 'Fighting With Destiny opens with some nasty, heavy bass lines and a barrage of drums ' a tour de force of prog soloing ensues'..and the battle of the soul rages through the rest of the disk. Such things are at times a bit more lighthearted as is evident in 'Vanity Fair' and its images of cardboard people and a fashion show. Things get dark in a hurry again with 'Welcome To The World 2' as Mike takes over the lead vocals for the first verse before the slightly modified chorus is brought it. This dark and heavy character continues and grows through the next few songs and highlighted especially in 'The Element of Fear' and 'The Great Despair.''The Great Despair' is also noteworthy for the vocal performance of Eric Gillette. I would say it is hands down his best on any NMB album. The album concludes with 'Freedom Calling' and 'A Love That Never Dies' and as they go together and form the final 'chapter' of the album they must be talked about together. 'Freedom Calling' is very much a transitional piece, bridging the darkness and pain of the world with the freedom and peace of embracing 'the love that never dies' and the hope and salvation that it entails. This album is destined to be on many people's best of lists at the end of next year and is setting 2019 up to be an exciting year in progressive music. Highly recommended.
 The Neal Morse Band: The Similitude of a Dream - Live in Tilburg 2017 by MORSE, NEAL album cover DVD/Video, 2018
3.74 | 14 ratings

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The Neal Morse Band: The Similitude of a Dream - Live in Tilburg 2017
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by MrMan2000

5 stars If you're a fan of The Similitude of a Dream - as I am - to me this is a must-have.

As expected from a Neal Morse DVD, you a LENGTHY show, with high quality musicianship throughout. TSOAD in it's entirety, which is my favorite Neal Morse album. Another 30+ minutes of encores from Neal's past. All played by five guys clearly having fun and enjoying themselves, the music they're playing and the audience.

Morse has become a dynamic, energetic front-man and it's terrific seeing he, Eric Gillette and Bill Hubauer trading vocals.

From my perspective, there's nothing not to like here, if you're a NM fan.

 The Neal Morse Band: The Great Adventure by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.04 | 194 ratings

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The Neal Morse Band: The Great Adventure
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by kayd_mon

3 stars Morse's solo output has been marked by a tendency to sound samey. The records often have highlights, and more than a few moments that make them worth a listen, but they often kind of blend together in your memory. Testimony, Sola Scriptura, and Similitude were all solid efforts.

Enter the Great Adventure. More than any if his other releases, this one sounds like nothing new, even in itself. The themes repeat a lot, which I understand is an aesthetic of concept records like this, but they seem to be more repetitive than normal. The worst part of thr record, however, is the repeated bits about the river and the "love that never dies." These slower parts sound exactly like the bland, singalong, slower tempo songs you hear in church. If you were unfortunate enough to grow up around the church, you'll know what I mean. Some fans might feel comfort in this, but for me, it's not only bland but brings me back to times better forgotten. I'm sorry to say that The Great Adventure lwt mw down, and I'd rank it among Morse's worst work to date.

 The Neal Morse Band: The Great Adventure by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.04 | 194 ratings

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The Neal Morse Band: The Great Adventure
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by AlanB

4 stars What other people have said really. This is an excellent album which Neal Morse fans will love, but there's nothing really new here - except perhaps a bigger emphasis on a more heavy metal sound than previous albums. Morse has a good ear for melody though, so we're not talking thrash metal or anything like that.

As with Similitude, there are repeating musical motifs throughout, including some from the previous album. The first track starts with the motif from the beginning of Slave To Your Mind, then follows on with the final lyrics from the previous album. Then we get the "Love That Never Dies" theme which has the same role as the "Broken Sky" theme in Similitude. The rest of track 1 is an overture and is the only track that breaks the 10 minute mark.

The musicianship throughout is superb, but a special mention must be given to Eric Gillette who can go from shredding to melodic guitar lines in an instant (and he also has a great voice).

My favourite tracks: Welcome To The World, The Great Adventure, Vanity Fair and The Great Despair.

After listening to the album I've stopped being a Taciturn Iconoclast and I now have some pizaaz in my pantacle pantry

(If you've not heard the album you may think that last statement sounds a bit weird) :-)

Where does this fit in the ranking of Neal Morse albums? It's probably as good as Similitude, or at least nearly as good, but I would recommend a new listener to start with the previous album as TGA is very much a companion piece.

 The Neal Morse Band: The Great Adventure by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.04 | 194 ratings

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The Neal Morse Band: The Great Adventure
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by MrMan2000

3 stars I'm shocked to see this is rated significantly higher that TSOAD. I considered that album to be genius and to rank among Neal Morse's very best work, regardless of band. I can't think of another release by him that was clearly better.

Having given it 10 listens (the minimum needed to render a legitimate grade, IMO) I can say this about TGA: it's just TSOAD (but not as good). Honestly, it's exactly what you'd expect of the exact same musicians tackling part II of an epic story they created only a couple years earlier.

All the stuff that was in TSOAD can be found here, in pretty much the same order. But nowhere does it work quite as well as it did the first time. The intro isn't as effective. The "narrator" parts that often bridge songs together aren't quite as compelling. The story itself is denser, harder to follow. The "charming" or "whimsical" parts aren't as fun or infectious.

None of it is bad; it's all competent and has all the elements that these guys are capable of. But it has zero surprise and nothing new. I would give TSOAD 5 stars without hesitation and TGA is a 3, maybe a 3.5

 The Neal Morse Band: The Great Adventure by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.04 | 194 ratings

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The Neal Morse Band: The Great Adventure
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by Flucktrot
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Prologue: Given personal, family, political and professional developments, I just don't seek out enough new prog as I should, but I'm always going to make time for these guys. I was, like most others (fans of, and members of, the band included) super surprised to see a new album so soon, and that it was another double album inspired by the Pilgrim's Progress story. I checked out the singles released on youtube and found them to be solid, but nothing spectacular. There just wasn't a lot of reason to expect this to be a great album--worth having, certainly, but you would think that creativity and inspiration is a limited resource, and both to likely have peaked during the previous album.

But damned if I don't find this to be a better album, defying the odds once again! I generally find this album to be more musical, to flow better, to more deftly integrate moments that remind of Yes, Dream Theater, Styx, Spock's Beard and Transatlantic, but don't scream "we directly wanted to show we were inspired by this song". Take the title track: it clearly is a weird combination of Momentum and The Grand Experiment title tracks from previous NMB albums, but it's just better than both of those tunes. The intro, which serves as a transition between both albums, it so artfully done that I would describe it as genius-level craftsmanship. The tempo kicks and contrasts in the overtures sound more energetic to me (and I greatly enjoyed those moments on the previous album!). The singles sound better in the context of the album as well: the wall of sound seems a little grating by itself, but in the context of the album, they fit quite nicely.

The highlights for me include the first 25 minutes, through Dark Melody--just great pacing, contrasts, performances, and songwriting. Then we have some up-and-down moments in the middle three chapters: nothing bad, but in an album that repeats themes multiple times, it's easy to feel some applications of a given theme work less well, and I find that to be the case in the middle half (i.e., Beyond the Borders and To The River, although the second overture and subsequent subdued sections, and Vanity Fair, are quite good). Then the final highlight passage from me is the last 20 minute or so. Perhaps the emotional release of the finale doesn't equal the previous album, but it's still excellent.

The album does leave with some final thoughts that genuinely surprised me, in terms of thinking about this album in the contexts of NMB specifically, and Neal's work in general. I remember at the last tour, the closer to the first album (Breath of Angels) was heavy on the chorus, and it distinctly lost some emotional punch live, and I do fear that this might happen live to the album closer to this record, but that's on the guys to figure out. More importantly, most of the highlights of the last 20 minutes are Eric's phenomenal signing and guitar parts, so much so that it almost feels weird to call this group The Neal Morse Band. I remember seeing them for their first tour, and the songs and shows were set up to feature Adson Sodre so much on guitar that I really wondered if they needed Eric. He was clearly very good, but he seemed to be a utility player who could sing, play keys, and guitar in a group that had multiple other members capable of doing those things as well, and seemed to have the songs written to feature their work more than Eric's (almost certainly unintentional, but that's what I perceived at the time).

Now that's all changed: Eric's the star here, and I think that I'll look back on this pair of albums and perhaps wish that this exceptional group had a name that better reflects what they really are doing, but I concede that this is certainly a minor point. Another surprise for me was the satisfaction of getting my copy in the mail, and simply placing it next to my Similitude of a Dream album. The artwork, the content, the emotional impact--these albums just belong together, in a similar manner to the Lord of the Rings DVD trilogy that I have on display on the shelf because it looks cool and is meaningful to me personally. I wouldn't have really recommended NMB to make The Great Adventure a year ago, but now that I have it and am really enjoying it, I'm doing a full reversal: come back to this specific creative well one more time and go all in for the Pilgrim's Progress trilogy. I truly believe they have the opportunity to secure a legacy in prog with this series--perhaps not for astonishing musical uniqueness or originality, but instead a sheer thematic triumph of ambition, inspiration and dedication.

 The Neal Morse Band: The Great Adventure by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.04 | 194 ratings

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The Neal Morse Band: The Great Adventure
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by juanvalverde

3 stars I love Neal Morse, I love Mike Portnoy, I just think they're reusing the same formula over and over again. The same motif's. Back in the day I used to anticipate every single release from these guys; today, they have so many projects that it's hard to get excited as most of them sound the same. I purchased this album (I will continue purchasing everything they release though) with no expectations, I listened to their singles, Vanity Fair and Welcome to the World and wasn't impressed. So I started listening to the Overture, it had a nice riff (expected), some cool drumming, and a lot of little peaces that I was sure were parts of other songs in the double concept album. I wasn't wrong, I continued listening and even though most songs have high quality musicianship, I could almost predict what was going to happen next. As of right now, I don't see how this album improves over The Similitude of a Dream (Which was already one disc too long) in any way. There's just too much music (I shouldn't be complaining about this, but I am)and I would rather see them get 12 solid well composed songs rather than get 22 with 10 fillers. Don't get me wrong, this is in no way a bad album. The problem is that they already have 2 or 3 very similar albums that have been released and I've listened to them hundreds of times, so I can tell that there's really nothing new with this or worth listening again. Yes, I understand that this is some sort of continuation of the last one, but really.. did we need another one based on the same story? Do we need yet another concept album? It's perfectly ok to write an album that is just a group of songs that don't have to be related to each other.

I would go into exact details on which parts are repetitions and same formulas from the past, but I'm sure that if you're a fan of Neal Morse and Mike Portnoy, you've already listened to every Transatlantic, Flying Colors and TNMB song and know exactly what I'm talking about.

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

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