Another epic outing for Neal Morse and his dedicated band of foot soldiers with a record of the tour of another double album’s worth of fizzing prog rock.
Release Date: 6th March 2020
Label: Inside Out Music
Formats: 2CD/2BluRay package
How on earth do you follow up a 2CD rock retelling of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the subsequent tour where the whole album was played live, and the release of two live recordings of the event?
When you’re Neal Morse, it’s easy. Just do the same all over again. The Great Adventure was the companion piece to 2016’s The Similitude Of A Dream. As with its predecessor, it continues the story with the Pilgrim’s son, Joseph, taking up another 2CDs of Morse inspired prog rock. And now we have the live version spread across two more CDs and a couple of discs of footage of the show too.
A new great adventure now begins with a twelve-minute overture, (recalling like the Land Of Beginning Again on his Testimony album, that incidentally is reprised on The Great Medley encore), raising the curtain for a lengthy performance.
The band of Morse, regular right hand man Mike Portnoy, regular left hand man Randy George and the now established pair of Eric Gillette and Bill Hubauer has to be applauded for delivering on such a huge piece of music. They are well-tuned and gig-fit as an outfit now and earned that cricual ‘band’ status rather than just be musical backers to Morse. Not that anyone could ever imagine Mike Portnoy as just a backing musician…
Packed with alarming musical chops, Portnoy and Gillette are virtuosos. Morse darts round swapping between keys and guitar while donning various costumes (not quite in the early Genesis/Gabriel class though) and all the band (bar George) add vocal elements; backing, harmony or lead.
Quirky vignettes joust with longer pieces, never standing still for long, the time signatures and harmonies constantly evolving through passages of good old school keyboard driven prog; the title track sitting in the same ballpark as the title track of The Grand Experiment album – more straightforward rock. On the one hand not always an easy listen, but anyone who wears their prog colours with pride will lap up every note, every searing Gillette solo and raise their hands every time Morse makes his own trademark signal.
The Neal Morse Band stand red-handed and guilty as charged of creating progressive rock music at it’s most prog. The lyrical concept may be a little highbrow for some of us and a case of pushing his luck after a double helping of Similitude, but whether it’s prog rock or Jesus, you don’t question Neal Morse’s commitment.
Not just satisfied with The Great Adventure and The Great Despair, as an encore, we get The Great Medley. The (not small) Morse catalogue gets trawled in a half-hour containing snippets from every Morse/Morse Band album and perhaps acts as a nudge to times when Morse wasn’t turning out works of such enormity. Ripping through the excerpts of The Call with arms held aloft triumphantly you can feel the passion. It feels like a reward for making it through the Great Adventure, the Long Day climax
While Neal Morse is a musician, dedicated as to the prog rock cause as he is to his spiritual leanings. He creates music that’s undoubtedly grand and uplifting (there are enough snippets here), and there’s no denying that some of the recent work has certainly been challenging in its scope. Less can sometimes be more and there may be some fans who long for a return to the likes of the ? and One albums rather than the sprawling epics which he seems to be able to churn out with amazing regularity.
Yes he has many irons in the fire and many strings (possible twelve) to his bow. No doubt there will be anther NMB epic before too long, but as a collective fan base, we await, mouths watering, his next move with Transatlantic.
Watch the rather dramatic version of Fighting With Destiny here: