Album Review: The Neal Morse Band- The Great Adventure

By Yarin Cohen

The Great Adventure is the long-awaited follow-up to The Neal Morse Band’s 2016 release The Similitude Of A Dream.  The question is, “will this album measure up to its predecessor?”  After all TSOAD is one of Progressive Rock’s jewels, which drummer Mike Portnoy called the album of his career.  The good news is that The Great Adventure totally meets expectations, and then some.  I think we can agree that the last album is very much a band effort where all the musicians’ input is essential. The Great Adventure continues that trend, and finds the band: Neal Morse, Eric Gillette, Randy George, Mike Portnoy and Bill Hubauer, becoming an even more cohesive unit with an even more organic collaboration!  Let’s get started!

I’m sure many of you were surprised as I was when it was revealed, that the new album was going to be a sequel to the band’s latest effort The Similitude Of A Dream. The band made a very bold decision to follow one of their greatest works of their career with a sequel to the same story! This album’s greatness lies in the tiny details. After listening to it many times over the last few weeks I realized how much work was put into this record by everyone involved.  Every aspect, from sound to songwriting, to plot development is well thought through. This album, together with the first part is a must hear for every Progressive Rock fan.

The album’s style is darker and more dramatic than its predecessor, but in no way is it stale. The fact that the atmosphere is more dark, only brings forward the positive moments, creating a balanced emotional experience. There is a saying “it’s always darkest before the dawn”, and I think the atmosphere of this album captures this perfectly. The album’s dark moments make happy, optimistic moments so much more intense. This album features endless experimentation. The fact that this band has five unique views and creative approaches from equally top-notch musicians, brings forward an interesting combination of different styles. After the release of this album, I can honestly say that the band’s identity is well established and put together even more so.

Different melodies and themes appear and reappear throughout the album, combined perfectly with the different moods where the music takes us. There are melodies that really stick out. These melodies help to intensify the emotional experience and pull the listener into many different places. Some parts are epic, some are adventurous, some are sad and some are unbelievably happy.

The plot continues where we left off. The last album ended with the phrase “Let the great adventure…now begin…”. This album carries on exactly where we left off, telling the story of the protagonist’s son, Joseph. Joseph is angry at his father for leaving him behind in the City of Destruction. The album follows his journey. It’s amazing how well the album manages to integrate opposite concepts into the story. Dark but beautiful, bleak and optimistic, all at different times. Desperate yet hopeful, cynical and naive. The ability to bring all these aspects and have them flow into one another so naturally is no small feat by the band and it is exactly what pulls the listener in.

The Great Adventure flows really well and is able to combine different themes and melodies in a very elegant way. This is only possible because of the talent and musical presence of each band member. Neal Morse, is an amazing creative force. A truly gifted composer. His playing is really interesting in this album, and his signature sound and style does not disappoint. Eric Gillette’s amazing musicianship is felt throughout this album. With unbelievable playing ability, and amazing singing talent, he manages to create many emotional experiences and intense moments. Bill Hubauer is an incredible musician. His playing is very dominant in this album and his solos are inspiring and fresh. Randy George is one of the coolest bass players I know. You can’t imagine an album by The Neal Morse Band without his signature bass sound. Mike Portnoy is one of my favorite musicians. His contributions are invaluable, both in the playing and creative aspects.

Let’s go over the list of songs:

  1. “Overture”: Starts with the sentence “Let the great adventure… now begin…”. This is a pretty standard overture, with different themes appearing together as a way to create the right mood. It’s a great overture, but it’s something we’ve heard from The Neal Morse Band before, and not very original in that respect.  That doesn’t diminish the greatness!
  2. “The Dream Isn’t Over”: This is a short acoustic song that gives us a time and place at the beginning of the plot. Even though it’s short, the song creates a nice atmosphere.
  3. “Welcome To The World”: You all probably know this one. I think it’s a great single! I love how the song shifts different scales between the verse and chorus. This is the “City Of Destruction” of this album. Very original sounding single.
  4. “A Momentary Change”: This song starts off with one of the main melodies of the album. It’s really beautiful and can be heard in the most of the more emotional moments in the album. You can actually hear it in the second single “The Great Adventure” at 1:07. The song then takes a very sharp shift to a very eclectic and interesting riff.
  5. “Dark Melody”: This is really one of the coolest moments in the album in my opinion. The melody featured in the song also appears in different moments in the album. Very dramatic and dark. The song ends with a HUGE solo by Eric Gillette leading up to the next song
  6. “I Got To Run”: Also very cynical and dark. The protagonist realizes he has to escape and can’t go on living there. The song evokes a really desperate mood.
  7. “To The River”: Epic song. the sound is huge, and very orchestral. Really reminds me of “World Without End”.
  8. “The Great Adventure”: You all probably know this one too. I really love this song, especially in the context of the entire album. After the dark, desperate song “I Got To Run”, and the epic “To The River”, we get to start again, free and ecstatic!
  9. “Venture In Black”: Interesting song. It carries a very unique mood and really shines through. It’s hard to describe.
  10. “Hey Ho Let’s Go”: short, fun song. It features a cool, optimistic mood, with a catchy melody.
  11. “Beyond The Borders”: this is Bill’s moment! This song features Bill on vocals. It’s very climatic, and like “To The River” it has a very epic feel to it.
  12. “Overture 2”: After the climactic ending of CD !, this song helps to build up the music again. Features a couple of very cool riffs.
  13. “Long Ago”: I love this song. This composition is led mainly by an acoustic guitar and piano. That, together with the vocals and mood creates a very happy, optimistic atmosphere.
  14. “The Dream Continues”: Similar to “The Dream Isn’t Over”, this song captures the moment in the plot, describing what’s going on.
  15. “Fighting With Destiny”: I would love to see this one become the album’s third single. This is a fast-paced song with aggressive moments. Mike’s drumming really shines through this one. The song features two great moments for Eric Gillette and Bill Hubauer with amazing solo spots.
  16. “Vanity Fair”: This is such a cool song! It’s not for everyone, and it’s definitely not something we have gotten to hear from the band before. The song has a very catchy chorus that you can’t get out of your head. The vocals are outstanding here, and the band did a particularly fantastic job on this one.
  17. “Welcome To The World 2”: This is a reprise of the first part. The riffs and verses are different, and the chorus is pretty similar. I think it’s positioned well in the album and advances the development of the plot. This second part feels a little more sinister than the first part.
  18. “The Element Of Fear”: This song is short and atmospheric. It does really well in creating the mood after the last song. We go back to a dark, sinister atmosphere.
  19. “Child Of Wonder”: Although short, this song is very emotional. The melody is great!
  20. “The Great Despair”: This is another one where Eric’s presence really shines through, and one of my favorite songs on this album. This composition could easily be a single too. The vocals and guitar on this one are superb in particular, and the sound of the band as a whole is amazing.
  21. “Freedom Calling”: The last three songs of the album are relatively long ones. It feels like after taking the time and freedom to explore the plot from all these different angles, the band realized they have to wrap up a lot in the last 3 songs! Naturally, this song goes through different moods and themes. It’s a good song but it feels like it’s trying to unpack a lot in very little time
  22. “A Love That Never Dies”: This song is the best ending I could’ve hoped for this album. Amazing finale. Fits incredibly well to be the end to this amazing saga, and is probably the most emotional moment in the entire album. Everyone’s playing and singing is top notch. Very climatic and epic.

This is it. This album is really different than the first one, but I’m really glad that this is the direction they decided to take. Seeing this album played in full live will probably be an amazing experience. After hearing this album I can say that this is an amazing start to 2019. So, after TSOAD and #BelieveTheHype I can honestly say about this one: Believe The Hype !

Grade: 9/10

The Great Adventure is due out on January 25, 2019 on Radiant Records via Metal Blade Worldwide and is available for pre-order HERE.