Album review: The Neal Morse Band – “The Great Adventure”

The Neal Morse Band
The Neal Morse Band (Photo by Robert Smith)

How do you follow an acclaimed double-disc progressive rock tour-de-force? With a double album conceptual sequel of course. 2016’s “Similitude of a Dream” ends with the line “Let the great adventure now begin…”, a promise at last fulfilled.

Initially, the band wanted nothing to do with another double album, and even finished a single disc follow-up. It was at Morse’s insistence, who felt that the story needed to continue, that they started expanding it into a full blown sequel that ballooned to 2 ½ hours before being trimmed down to an hour and forty-five minutes. 

Led obviously by multi-instrumentalist Neal Morse, with Eric Gillette on guitar, Mike Portnoy on drums, Randy George on bass and Bill Hubauer on keyboards, the Neal Morse Band has once again raised the bar and outdone itself. “The Great Adventure” is a perfect combination of catchy songwriting and complex instrumental passages. While many double concept albums lose steam in the second half (something I would even use to describe “Similitude of a Dream”, an opinion shared by Morse himself), “The Great Adventure” is arguably stronger in its second half.

Stylistically, it’s of course in sync with the band’s first two records, mixing progressive rock and metal with a great sense of melody. Some passages recall “Awake”-era Dream Theater, and the keyboards gave me a Derek Sherinian vibe a few times, but this isn’t a derivative album. You can feel the influence of each band member, and it truly feels like a group creation. The songwriting is really strong, offering many standout songs that help to hook in the first-time listener, making it an easier album to digest than its predecessor.

Like its predecessor, it draws from “The Pilgrim’s Progress”, but with some of Morse’s personal views added. It’s a sequel in spirit, using the former as a springboard to expand the story by following the Pilgrim’s abandoned son. It goes through some very dark moments, contrasted by the adventurous nature of most of the songs, and that opposition creates a multi-faceted album that flies by despite its 105-minute running time.

I highly recommend “The Great Adventure” to any fan of these fantastic musicians, and progressive rock in general. Dream Theater fans should also check it out, especially if you miss their early material.

“The Great Adventure” comes out January 25 2019 on Radiant Records via Metal Blade Worldwide. It will be available in three formats: a two CD package, two CD/DVD Special Edition featuring behind-the-scenes video clips of the making of the album, and three vinyl LPs. 

The Neal Morse Band goes on tour starting February 2nd 2019 in Nashville, and will play Club Soda in Montreal on February 18th2019. Neal Morse has confirmed they will play “The Great Adventure” in its entirety, which means that fans will get an amazing show.

Jean-Frederic Vachon
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