Band: Neal Morse Band

CD Title: The Grand Experiment

Website: www.nealmorse.com

Label: Radiant Records (2015)

Rating: Brilliant 5/5



Around this house, I will freely admit that any new album from Neal Morse is awaited with much anticipation and he has yet to disappoint. And that’s not about to happen with this latest offering The Grand Experiment. Rather than a solo project, this recording is identified as a band and the members are Morse, Eric Gillette, Bill Hubauer, Randy George and Mike Portnoy. Reading about the creation of the music on this his 20th (!!!) studio offering (counting his Praise and Worship releases) we’re led to believe that the band entered the studio will little composed material and relied more on their musical efforts on the floor to create these five tunes and hence the writing credits go to the band rather than Morse alone. I have mixed feelings on this approach, given what it did for Genesis, but in this case the core symphonic prog sounds are in no way diminished. The album kicks off in classic fashion with “The Call” [10:15] and closes with the epic “Alive Again” [26:44] and all the hallmarks are here with the grand climaxes, the huge swells of music, the cascading notes, the busy sections, the sparse hesitant elements, the changing musical motifs, fast to slow and so forth. Long-time fans will easily reflect back to early Spock’s Beard and hear the seeds of the music Morse is crafting in 2015. Each of his albums usually includes one acoustic styled composition and that’s true here with the warm and inviting, lushly orchestrated “Waterfall” [6:32]. Like him or don’t I can’t imagine there’s many in the Prog community who are unfamiliar with Neal Morse’s brand of melodic symphonic prog. Few are as adept as crafting warm and pleasing melody lines as is Morse. There are always little surprises on each disc and the title track here “The Grand Experiment” [5:30] is a belter with more than a few hints of old Styx, although I don’t recall Styx inserting polyphonic vocals in any of their songs. Without question this is a brilliant set list made even better with the bonus second disc of five songs; two live tracks, one cover and two originals. If you go for the three-disc set you also get the obligatory “Making of…” DVD disc.  To my ears this is truly everything a symphonic prog album should be. Highly recommended.