Fancy yourself a musician of any significant caliber? Are you a fan of bands whose musicians know how to command their instruments with authority and grace, and leave you breathless with their musical delivery? Do you love music that can take you on a journey from classic rock to prog rock to pop, with lush, multi-part vocal harmonies and intricate musical passages? Do you yearn for new rock music composed and performed at a level like the classic records you love from the '70s and '80s?
As you might surmise, these leading questions are rhetorical, especially if you’re already familiar with the work of The Neal Morse Band. It would be easy to write them off as a progressive rock supergroup, but don't call them that in mixed company. The term “prog rock” is likely to scare away thousands of music aficionados who would otherwise love this group if they simply ignored that misunderstood genre label and you simply informed them, “Imagine if Kansas, The Beatles, ELO, and Dream Theater had a classic rock influenced baby.”
Personally, my favorite bit is when long-time Dream Theater fans discover that Mike Portnoy has recorded twice as many records with Neal Morse than with his more widely known, previous band. Or maybe I just love the fact that the remaining band members all came from relative obscurity to become part of this incredible band unit. Bassist Randy George simply called band leader, Neal Morse, on the telephone to express interest in playing for him, while guitarist Eric Gillette and keyboardist Bill Hubauer submitted audition videos via an Internet based open call/audition. They came for the music. They stayed for the band, and the rest is history in the making.
Neal Morse has a catalog full of fantastic solo records that range from Christian rock to progressive rock to singer/songwriter pop, and prior to that, he established a catalog of extraordinary works with Spock’s Beard, the renowned prog rock group that he co-founded with his brother, Alan Morse. He also released four records (so far) with the prog rock supergroup, Transatlantic, and even a few with his other side project, Flying Colors.
But the focus today rests on Neal’s group effort, The Neal Morse Band. After playing with these guys in support of his solo material, Neal decided to take a chance writing collaboratively with the group, and their first record, aptly titled The Grand Experiment, was indeed a success. It was followed up with the extraordinary double album, concept record, The Similitude of a Dream, in 2016. The pressure was then self-imposed: how to follow up on such a monumental concept record? The band set out to create a straightforward (by prog rock standards), non-conceptualized record—a collection of songs that suited their style. However, as things developed, that idea was scrapped before it was completed, and the band went back to the drawing board, returning with The Great Adventure, a fabulous, two-record concept piece that continues the framework laid out on the previous record. We’ve already called The Great Adventure the best progressive rock record of the year, and the concert tour (now in Europe) is not to be missed if you can catch it. We spoke with everyone in the band near the start of the tour because frankly, everyone in this group is worthy of his own feature story. Without further ado, let the great interview adventure begin!
All photos © 2019 Scott Kahn/MusicPlayers.com.