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 one 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.
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Check the official video clip of the track The Grand Experiment: