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Andy Rawll

andy rawll

neal morse band

I'm still trying to crack the code. Simply put, how the hell, or rather, in sweet Jesus' name, does Morse do it? A continuous flood of almost biblical proportions of class material and quality performances, year on year, release upon release, solo band, side projects, super-groups, multiple genres, he truly is one of creation's musical greats that just keeps on giving.

Yet again, last year's 'The Grand Experiment' saw him in scintillating form from the quirky ear-worm that was 'Agenda' to another epic Morseterpiece in 'Alive again'. It's therefore both inevitable and welcome that the resulting tour has been captured for posterity in this latest addition to his awesome body of work.

With the longstanding backbone of Morse's band of bassist Randy George and dreamy drummer Mike Portnoy still intact, it's great to see the strong line-up from the previous Momentum tour in place with Eric "the best a band can get" Gillette on guitar and multi-instrumentalist Bill Hubauer on pretty much everything else.

Tellingly, as with the recent studio release, this is the first live album credited to the Neal Morse Band. Indeed, from the latest updates on, this line-up is very much an ongoing concern with a new epic concept album already recorded and in the mixing phase, in Neal's words: "The band dug in and brought to the surface a wealth of new ideas and musical symmetries!" Watch this space for release details and news of an equally epic world tour.

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Not only that, it maintains the high standard of packaging, content and audio visual quality that we now associate with every Morse-related DVD release, from Spocks through Flying Colors via Transatlantic. The single disc DVD features not only the full show, but includes extended on and off-stage video footage adding up to over three hours of proggy goodness. For a few more pieces of silver, you get the complete package that adds two audio CDs so you can immerse yourself in the full aural aura.

Filmed in the Netherlands towards the end of an extensive tour schedule, this is a stunning performance from beginning to end, encompassing the bulk of the 'Grand Experiment' album plus a selection of strong progressive tracks from older releases, such as 'Lifeline' and 'Testimony'.

neal morse band

As with any Morse release, it's important that you approach the more overtly faith-related material with an open heart and mind. For some, the lyrics will have deep resonance, but for others the subject matter may feel too personal and can engender an irrational, yet real resistance to enjoy the music, given the force of the spiritual undertow. It's high time to cast such pre-conceptions aside.

Esoteric, but undoubtedly spiritual themes have always abounded in the beloved and broad church of prog: 'Hymn' by Barclay James Harvest; 'Awaken' by Yes; 'Supper's ready' by Genesis; 'Crossfire' by Kansas, the list is endless, yet the lyrical content is far from listless.

With that perspective, don't fear the reaper or whatever higher being you may or may not believe in - just enjoy the music. For example, the portentously-titled 'the Creation' is no kumbaya round-the-campfire confection, it's a 16 minute highlight of the first half of the show. It's a bona fide epic, riven with booming ricky bass, saturated with moogish keys, and fired by dextrous guitar and heavenly vocals. All the key elements brought to feast at the empirical high table of prog.

By contrast the uplifting 'King Jesus' that closes the show is a straight-up AOR-style anthem, that I'd liken to the Alarm channelling Brian Adams. After all, if you read that number one selling book, you'll read that everything he did, he did it for you.

All in all, this is a superb audio-visual record of yet another memorable tour from Neal Morse and Band. I can't wait to see, feel and hear what they do next.

Neal posted the following message on 15th July: "At present we are in the mixing phase of the new album. We are really pleased with the results. This is going to be a concept album which tells an epic tale presented on two CDs. The band dug in and brought to the surface a wealth of new ideas and musical symmetries! And what prog concept album would be complete without artwork by an artist known for some very well known prog album covers!

"It is with great excitement that we are bringing everything together along with the largest world tour we have ever done to date in a forthcoming press release! Stay tuned for details."

August 2015: Review of Morsefest 2014
July 2015: Announcement of 'Morsefest 2014' live DVD
February 2015: Review of 'Grand Experiment'
December 2014: Announcement of 'Grand Experiment' album
September 2012: Review of 'Momentum' album

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