Review – The Neal Morse Band – The Similitude Of A Dream – By Gary Morley

Everyone has an opinion. Either carefully constructed after reading up, researching and questioning all and sundry, or shot from the hip in nanoseconds without further thought of the ramifications of the snowball as it grows.

Neal Morse. Opinions on him are as many and verbose as is his output. Unlike his output, they are binary : either the “God” thing does it for you or it doesn’t..

Well I’m not going anywhere with that construct. I’m going to review the music. And there’s a lot of it on this album. ‘The Similitude Of A Dream’ is 2 CDs worth.

I was lucky enough to get a pre release mp3 file and listened with a view to scribbling a couple of pithy one liners about style over substance, myth or mistake etc, but then the hooks in the piece caught me.

Dragged me back into the musical world of Morse and his musical fellow travellers – Mike Portnoy, Eric Gillette ( fab guitar work here) the bass of Randy George, a fine partner in crime for the much maligned Portnoy and Bill Hubauer provides  keyboards to a fine standard.

A world class band of brothers who ooze musical chops at every point, but in an understated manner.

I described the album to a friend as “A Musical symphony without the W****y ELP bits.

It has a theme that runs through and it matters not that this theme is based on a 17th Century fable. It’s as relevant as dragons, small furry creatures or starships when it comes to telling a tale.

If you loved ‘Snow’, a high-water mark in Spock’s Beard back catalogue as far as I was concerned, are familiar with Transatlantic’s epic widescreen albums and like a good melody , then this album will float your boat and tick all the boxes.

It’s epic in sound as well, great instrumentation link the themes as they get expanded and revisited across the 2 discs.

The similarity to ‘Snow’ is that once again, we have a protagonist who feels separated from all around, and sets out on a voyage of exploration.. I think? Or it’s a bad trip brought on by the dodgy narcotics offered to him in” Draw the Line”

Oops, got distracted listening again….

Where was I? Oh yes. In a (wisely) unpublished review of Dream Theater’s ‘The Astonishing’, I made reference to ALW doing prog or DT doing musical theatre, with the results as horrible as expected.

This is the opposite, an album that is a musical   in a direct, song based way, no dodgy narrative clunkers or strange interludes here, just a collection of songs that fit thematically and musically. Oh – apparently it’s referred to as a Concept album.

People like musical hooks to hang things on, for this, dust off the Genesis “Trick of the Tail” hook for the vibe in “The Ways of a Fool”. Add in Queen too for these are the first vocal harmonies to elicit them since Jellyfish popped up in the 90’s.

Then there are some very Beatles approved strings , a flash of Banksian keyboard prowess and some very Queen guitar before those harmonies kick in again. This track is rapidly becoming a firm favourite here.

The first CD builds to the climax of “Breath Of Angels”, which is the most overtly religious track , hardly surprising when you listen to the lyric, but the angel voices in harmony layered behind Neal as he exhorts us to the City Of Light… A New Jerusalem anyone?

CD 2 doesn’t let go either. Unlike my CD player which refused to give up CD 2 3 times… is this a sign?

Anyway, we rock off at full speed with a keyboard flurry that Jon Lord would be proud of in “Slave to Your Mind”, then we have an appearance of a saxophone in “Shortcut To Salvation”, a west coast vibe to this one, a vocal tour de force from Mr M.

Nice piano too.

This album is shaping up to be a contender for best of the year lists…

Then the crash out with their inner Zeppelin with the monster riff of “The Man In The Iron Cage”, it might be a Zeppelin riff ,but the vocals are pure Morse – no pastiche of Percy Plant here, Neal has a very individual voice and it makes him stand out in an army of clone vocalists raised to believe that karaoke is the way to sing.

Big keyboards again: Purple Zeppelin .This is  joy to my old ears. The guitar solo slides in, all flash and stylish restraint, linking to a gentle vocal and acoustic piece about God and faith and breaking out of self inflicted limitations – all very new age, but remember this is based on a 17th century tome, so new age is as fresh today as it ever was… Before the band crash back in with the hook laden choruses. If I was a singer, I’d be singing along… and rocking out with my air guitar, Gibson Les Paul of course.

The Neal Morse Band have a way with a tune, they sprinkle their own stardust on the tunes here. Thematically linked to the story, the songs follow the narration or rather are the narration as there’s no cod theatrical voice over needed. Listening again, it’s the natural flow of the words and harmonies that impress.

Not only have they got me contemplating life’s metaphysical journey and the pitfalls therein, they’ve also got me wanting to read the words to better follow the twists and turns they guide us through.

CD2 builds from the charging stomp of ‘Iron Mask’ to a contemplative piece with fretless bass and strings, a mellow little piece called “Sloth” which leads into one of  those “Oh So Neal” songs – all campfire acoustic guitars and sing along tune a pleasant reminder of “Wind At My Back” from ‘Snow’, here titled “Freedom Song”.

The clever use of the upbeat music to convey the joy of the protagonist unburdening himself of the burdens stopping him is simple and effective.

You get the old time gospel hoe down distilled into a song full of hope and optimism.

Appalachian mountain Prog anyone?

We then get the big finale. The crowd are warmed up by “The Freedom Song” / “I’m Running”, featuring some fabulous bass dexterity and a nod to Phil Collins big band tub thumping full spectrum production with the kitchen sink relegated to 3rd sax…

Another gentle nod to Genesis and Bank’s contribution in the piano intro to “The Mask” which veneers on the pastiche such that I was expecting Romeo to lock up his basement flat and join the journeyman…

This nasty little voice in my head is playing spot the Genesis reference now. “Confrontation” intro had me thinking ‘Eleventh Earl of Mar’, don’t know why as couldn’t hum it to win a pint, so where that popped up is anyone’s guess.

Most Un- Abacabish is the instrumental breakdown which sounds like the you tube cat got not only the Theremin but the rest of the instruments too.

‘Back to the City of Destruction’ qualifies as the most depressing hook line to any song ever, but the Deep Purple Hammond flurry after it erases such piffling triviality to a foot note.

We are into big bold grand piano chords and time changes now, classic “American” Prog where technical flash breaks free from pious restraint and madness ensues as they fight over the direction of the piece, aptly called “The Battle”, the piano and keyboard here are fantastic, a bit ELP in bombast in places, a bit Benny Hill in others (listen – you’ll know what I mean).

Sadly it means rather than the cataclysmic battle of Armageddon, it comes over more Ernie the fastest milkman for me, but it’s a small price to pay for the joy of the piece.

The climax, “Broken Sky / Long day“, delivers everything you want for the finale.

Heartfelt vocals over subdued instruments that builds , you can tell that the end (of the song) is coming, and your heart lifts as the song unfolds  it’s wings, shakes them free and prepares to soar.

And soar it does with a lovely keyboard flurry and full Morse the Evangelist vocals, with a guitar part that didn’t trigger Genesis associations …

No it’s doesn’t sound like comfortably numb….

Sorry, that little cynical voice appeared again. Ignore itt. The most iconic of guitar solos will obviously echo through space and time…

Better that than the Jonas Brother‘s attempt…

The sums of the parts with this piece greatly outweigh a few “borrows” here and there.

I loved it and I’m neither A born again American or An American Born Again.

The production, songs, package and playing on this are all woven together to create a modern classic, for once the praise surrounding this project undersells it, it is that good.

All band pictures courtesy of Robert Smith

Released 11th November 2016

Buy ‘The Similitude Of A Dream’ from Radiant Records

 

 

 

Barcelona based festival Be Prog! My Friend announce Mike Portnoy’s Shattered Fortress / Will join Jethro Tull, Marillion, Anathema & more

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30th June – 1nd JULY 2017 – BARCELONA

THE FESTIVAL WHICH HIGHLIGHTS THE WORLD’S BEST PROGRESSIVE BANDS ADD MIKE PORTNOY’S SHATTERED FORTRESS TO THE LINE UP

Since its inception in 2014 the Barcelona based festival Be Prog! My Friend has played host to the likes of Opeth, Steven Wilson, Anathema, Devin Townsend, TesseracT, The Pineapple Thief, Magma, Agent Fresco, Camel, Meshuggah, Katatonia, Riverside, Ihsahn and Alcest.

Taking place in the beautiful open air surroundings of Poble Espanyol – a huge stone built architectural museum – the site is one of the most important and striking landmarks of tourism in Barcelona. Whilst by day the Catalonian hotspot may play host to some of Barcelona’s most interesting historical articles, by the end of June to the start of July it will instead play host to some of the world’s finest progressive bands.

This year saw the festival co-headlined by Steven Wilson and fellow progressive heavy weights Opeth. So far for 2017 Be Prog! My Friend have announced the legendary Jethro Tull as Saturday’s headliner alongside Norwegian music collective Ulver, Anathema, Animals as Leaders and Caligula’s Horse. While Marillion will headline the Friday.

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Now Be Prog! My Friend have announced that Mike Portnoy’s Shattered Fortress will join the bill. Mike Portnoy comments:

‘I am so excited to be bringing my Shattered Fortress show to Spain and Be Prog My Friend! The Shattered Fortress is myself and an all-star Prog lineup performing Dream Theater’s 12 Step Suite live in it’s entirety for the first time!

This is not “a new band or project” for me, it is an exclusive event that will be making several select live appearances in select markets throughout the world in 2017…and Be Prog My Friend is one of the selected shows!

The setlist at the show will be comprised of the 12 Step Suite and select other Dream Theater songs that I’ve written the lyrics to. 

Keep in mind, I have no plans (or interest) in revisiting DT material in any of my other bands…this is not an ongoing “project” or career move…this is merely a unique event that I am doing in select markets in 2017 to share with fans around the world…so catch it while you can!!’

Tickets are on sale now at the fixed price of 130 Euros:

http://www.ticktackticket.com/entradas/goto.do?claves=.127248&origin=TTT&codIdioma=ING

Press for Be Prog! My Friend festival 2016:

‘And so Prog finds itself in love with Barcelona, the delightful weather and everything that Be Prog! My Friend has to offer’ – Prog Magazine

‘The leading festival for progressive music in Spain, showcased avant-garde music in a magnificent location’ – The Independent

‘Set in the hazy sunlit square of Barcelona’s historic and quite stunning Poble Espanyol, it certainly beats the sodden mud of the British festival season’ – Total Guitar Magazine

‘If nothing else, it proves that prog is alive and kicking. Especially in Catalonia’ – Classic Rock Magazine

http://www.beprogmyfriend.com/

facebook.com/beprogmyfriend

Be Prog! My Friend takes place in the heart of Barcelona and with an airport only 12km away, regular, cheap flights make it an easy festival to get and from the UK. Bands will start playing from mid/late afternoon each day which will also mean visitors have plenty of time to explore the stunning city of Barcelona while they are there.

http://www.barcelonaturisme.com

 

THE NEAL MORSE BAND ‘THE SIMILITUDE OF A DREAM’ THE NEW ALBUM & TOUR DETAILS

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RELEASED NOVEMBER 11 ON RADIANT RECORDS
VIA METAL BLADE RECORDS/SONY

2CD, TRIPLE VINYL AND DIGITAL DOWNLOAD

WORLDWIDE TOUR STARTS

JANUARY 15, 2017 IN NASHVILLE, TN

 NEAL MORSE: LEAD VOCALS, KEYBOARDS, GUITARS

MIKE PORTNOY: DRUMS, VOCALS

RANDY GEORGE: BASS

ERIC GILLETTE: GUITAR, VOCALS

BILL HUBAUER: KEYBOARDS, VOCALS

The journey of Neal Morse has seen three decades of musical accomplishments, the latest being the inception of The Neal Morse Band. Morse has forged many relationships over the years with his other bands, Spock’s Beard, Flying Colors, and Transatlantic. However, the most compelling and fruitful efforts have been those with drummer Mike Portnoy (The Winery Dogs, Flying Colors, Transatlantic, ex-Dream Theater).

Now the current line-up of “The Neal Morse Band”Morse, Portnoy, bassist Randy George, keyboardist Bill Hubauer and guitarist Eric Gillette—brings forth “The Similitude of a Dream”, a concept album to be released November 11 on Radiant Records via Metal Blade Records/SONY. This will be the eighth studio album with Morse, Portnoy and George, and the second as a true collaboration with this current lineup. A lyric video for the song, “Overture,” premiered on PROG Magazine’s website earlier today and will be available on the band’s official YouTube page tomorrow. Watch the lyric video for the songs “Long Day” and “Overture”

Clocking in at over 100 minutes, this amazing piece of prog storytelling will leave you breathless, exhilarated, amused and fulfilled in a way that only inspired music can. It will be available in various formats: a two CD package, a Special Edition with the two CDs and “The Making of a Dream” DVD, or as three vinyl records along with two CDs.

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The Neal Morse Band (L-R): Eric Gillette, Mike Portnoy, Randy George, Neal Morse, Bill Hubauer. Photo: John Zocco

Track Listing:

 Disc 1:

  1. Long Day
  2. Overture
  3. The Dream
  4. City Of Destruction
  5. We Have Got To Go
  6. Makes No Sense
  7. Draw The Line
  8. The Slough
  9. Back To The City
  10. The Ways Of A Fool
  11. So Far Gone
  12. Breath Of Angels

 Disc 2:

  1. Slave To Your Mind
  2. Shortcut to Salvation
  3. The Man in The Iron Cage
  4. The Road Called Home
  5. Sloth
  6. Freedom Song
  7. I’m Running
  8. The Mask
  9. Confrontation
  10. The Battle
  11. Broken Sky / Long Day (Reprise)

Together, Morse and Portnoy have launched four bands, but the one that has endured the longest and thus with the most musical output has been The Neal Morse Band. Over the years, Morse, along with Portnoy and George, always assembled musicians as needed to support Neal’s solo music. In 2012, they held auditions to find the musicians needed to fill out the band as a permanent lineup that would write music collectively. Hubauer and Gillette joined the band after three days of auditions. The fivesome went on to release The Grand Experiment in 2014 followed by the Alive Again live DVD/2 CD package in 2015.

The Similitude of a Dream is loosely and sometimes directly based on the book, Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan,” explains Neal Morse. “The book’s original title was The Pilgrim’s Progress from this world to that which is to come, delivered under the similitude of a dream, and was originally published in 1678. The book chronicles the spiritual journey of a man from the City of Destruction to a place of Deliverance. Someone had suggested to me that I do a concept album based on this book, but I kind of forgot about it. Then when I began writing new songs last December, the suggestion came to my mind. I had never read the book, so I Googled the SparkNotes story outline and began to write some little song bits and instrumentals based on what I had read. Those bits combined with the ideas that the other guys brought to the table then miraculously exploded into this double concept album. Funny thing is, this album only really covers about the first 75 or 80 pages. Maybe we should’ve made a five disc collection! Well, we’ll save that for later. Ha.”

Continues Neal, “At the conclusion of the grueling recording sessions, I remember Mike saying rather prophetically, ‘Boys, I think we just made the album of our careers.’”

“I honestly think this is THE album of my career,” declares Portnoy. “Neal and I have now made 18 studio albums together, and I consider The Similitude of a Dream the absolute creative pinnacle of our collaborations together. I’ve always had a soft spot for double concept albums such as Pink Floyd’s The Wall and The Who’s Tommy, and I can bravely say that I think we’ve created an album here that can sit side by side with those masterpieces. Bold words, I know, but after a career of almost 50 albums, I honestly consider this to be one of the defining works of my career.”

“We weren’t sure we had enough music to make a double CD, and yet it seemed as though the concept and the music wanted to go there,” bassist Randy George continues. “Ultimately, we created so much great music in the sessions that it just had to be a double album! To cap that off, we worked with a pre-imminent classic album cover artist to create painted illustrations of our concept which will grace the booklet!”

The Neal Morse Band tours worldwide almost yearly and continues to grow in popularity, attracting new listeners everywhere they go. The band has toured in North America, Central America, Europe, Israel, Mexico and India. The shows are filled with excited and extremely loyal fans, some which have regularly traveled very long distances to see the band. The band has an extensive catalog of live shows on Blu-Ray and DVD as well.

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Their latest round of worldwide tour dates start January 15, 2017 in Morse’s current hometown of Nashville, TN. More dates will be announced in the coming weeks on the band’s official website.

North American Dates

 Jan 15 Nashville, TN – Venue TBA

Jan 17 Seattle, WA – Triple Door

Jan 18 San Francisco, CA – Regency Ballroom

Jan 21 Whittier, CA – Center Theater

Jan 22 Phoenix, AZ – Nesbitt-Elliott Playhouse Theater

Jan 24 Denver, CO – Oriental Theater

Jan 25 Dallas, TX – Curtain Club

Jan 27 St Charles, IL – Arcada Theater

Jan 28 Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom

Jan 29 Toronto, ONT – Mod Room

Jan 31 Montreal, QUE – Club Soda

Feb 01 Quebec City, QUE – Salle Jean Paul Tardif

Feb 02 New York, NY – Highline Ballroom

Feb 03 Washington DC – State Theater

Feb 07 – 11 Cruise To the Edge

European Dates

March 22 Barcelona, Spain – Apolo

March 23 Milan, Italy – Venue TBA

March 24 Pratteln, Switzerland – Z7

March 25 Aschaffenburg, Germany – Colo-Saal

March 26 Berlin, Germany – Lido

March 28 Warsaw, Poland – Progresja Music Zone

March 29 Hamburg, Germany – Markthalle

March 30 Verviers, Belgium – Spirit of 66

March 31 Cologne, Germany – Stollwerck

April 01 Malmo, Sweden – KB

April 02 Tilburg, Holland – O13

April 04 Luxembourg – Rockhal

April 05 Paris, France – Divan Du Monde

April 06 Birmingham, England – O2 Academy 2

April 07 Glasgow, Scotland – O2 ABC

April 08 Manchester, England – O2 Ritz

April 09 London, England – O2 Islington Academy

 Additional

April 12 Tel Aviv, Israel – Havana Club

May 6th Gettysburg PA – RosFest

And more to be added…

 

 Internet and Social Media

www.nealmorseband.com/

www.facebook.com/nealmorse

www.twitter.com/nealmorse

www.instagram.com/NealMorse

www.youtube.com/NealMorseMusic

METAL ALLEGIANCE – FALLEN HEROES EP OUT NOW + FOURTH VIDEO TRAILER RELEASED

Metal Allegiance Fallen Heroes

On Friday, METAL ALLEGIANCE released their newest EP, entitled Fallen Heroes, which pays homage to the 3 legends – Lemmy Kilmister, David Bowie, and Glenn Frey – who impacted not just their lives but the world as well.

To celebrate the band’s new EP, they released the fourth video trailer which features Mark Osegueda talking about his cover of “Suffragette City” by David Bowie. Check it out on the Nuclear Blast YouTube channel:

Mark Osegueda comments about David Bowie: “He transcended so many more things then just the word musician. He was a true original and made people feel as if they were apart of something. He made you feel comfortable within your own skin about being different and apart from the masses.”

If you missed any of the previous trailers, please see below:
Trailer 1Alex Skolnick discusses the loss of the 3 legends as well as how the songs were chosen:
Trailer 2Alissa White-Gluz chats about her vocal cover of “Life In The Fast Lane” by The Eagles
Trailer 3Mark Menghi talks about how the EP came into fruition

Below is the track list for Fallen Heroes:
1. Iron Fist featuring Troy Sanders
2. Suffragette City featuring Mark Osegueda
3. Life In The Fast Lane featuring Alissa White-Gluz

– Guitar: Alex Skolnick
– Bass: Mark Menghi
– Drums: Mike Portnoy

Order the EP via iTunes now: http://nblast.de/MAiTunes

Recorded at Conclave Studios in New York City, Fallen Heroes was produced by Mark Menghi, Mike Portnoy,and Alex Skolnick. The album was mixed by Jay Ruston in Los Angeles, CA and mastered at Sterling Soundin New York City by Ted Jensen. The initial sketch of the artwork was created by Mark Menghi and Stephen Thompson (Anthrax) and was later finalized by Marcelo Vasco (Slayer).

METAL ALLEGIANCE took the news of Lemmy’s passing very hard as the bands very first gig was onMotörhead’s first Motörboat cruise. It was on that boat where the idea to write a record together and carry the MA flag as a brand/band rather than a sporadic, special event. The band comment, “all of us in MA are humbly grateful for the opportunity that team Motörhead gave us“.

In late 2015, the band scheduled a West Coast string of intimate club dates with a stop as the world-famous Whisky A Go-Go. The year concluded with the band heartbroken saying goodbye to their beloved friend. They later found out that his funeral and memorial services would be held the day of their performance. The band was asked by their tour agent who is also Motörhead‘s agent, Lemmy‘s management, close friends of his, and the owner of the Rainbow & Whisky to incorporate a tribute which of course, they obliged. The day of their performance, Sunset Blvd. was shut down and their bus was parked on a street filled with tears, madness, partiers and a sea of mourning metal heads. They said goodbye to their friend that evening with help fromMotörhead drummer Mikkey Dee amongst a ton of other special guests.

The next day they played their final show at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco. Mid-set they were informed that David Bowie had passed. Mark Menghi comments, “I remember coming off stage to trade bass duties with David Ellefson (we would rotate songs) and he stopped me, looked me and Osegueda in the eyes and said ‘Dude, Bowie just passed away.’ Literally in mid-set we got that news. I looked at Mark and he was in tears. Not even a minute later, he was on stage telling the Bay area crowd of the news he just learned. I turned to the side and looked over at Mike Portnoy and he just had his head down with his hands over his head trying to comprehend what Mark was saying. The next few songs was our Lemmy tribute and tears rolled off all of our eyes while paying tribute to one while learning of the passing of another.”

NUCLEAR BLAST RECORDS UK
Web:  nuclearblast.de
Facebook:  facebook.com/nuclearblasteurope 
Twitter:  @nuclearblasteu
Instagram:  @nuclearblasteurope
YouTube:  youtube.com/user/NuclearBlastEurope