Album review: THE NEAL MORSE BAND – The Grand Experiment

The Neal Morse Band - The Grand Experiment

Inside Out [Released 16.02.15]

Does Neal Morse ever sleep? Not content with his rather good 1970′s West Coast flavoured solo album ‘Songs From November’ and the excellent second Flying Colors album, both released last year, he is back again! This time with his band and the twist here is they went into the studio to write and develop songs, rather than have a set of songs already written ready for recording. Being Neal Morse, and aided by long term musical partner Mike Portnoy, you know this is going to produce some musical magic and wonder. The band is rounded out by Randy George (bass), Eric Gillette (guitars/keys/vocals) and Bill Hubauer (keys), who all provide key moments to create a whole piece of musical wonder.

There are only five songs on here, although there is a twenty five minute epic! Kicking off with the ten minute ‘The Call’ the song has lots to enjoy from the waves of keyboards and guitar solos through to moments of Queen like pomp rock. The title track is a fantastic piece of upbeat prog/pop rock and has a chorus most bands would love to have written. Easily the album highlight for me.

‘Waterfall’ harks back to last year’s solo album as the harmonies recall those 1970′s vocal giants Crosby, Stills & Nash. Makes for a mellow moment in an otherwise very upbeat and rocking album.

‘Agenda’ features the high end vocals of Eric Gillette who is the star of the show on this song. Nice stop/start melody and Mike Portnoy keeps a rhythm tighter than the proverbial gnat’s chuff. An interesting musical diversion from the usual Neal Morse music.

The twenty five minutes of ‘Alive Again ‘ do seem to fly by, although being totally honest it is the one song that slightly outstays its welcome. Still a good song, it seemed to have a solo or two too many.

The consistently high quality and frequency of new music Neal Morse keeps making is nothing short of astounding. Needless to say if you are a fan this is a must have and for fans new to his music, a good place to start as the religious side of his lyrics is lesser on here and that does put some off, there loss really as it adds to the general ‘feel good’ factor of the music. Well that’s on one of my top 20 albums of the year already booked in then :) ****1/2

Review by Jason Ritchie

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