Morse Band; Neal: Alive Again
You could be forgiven for thinking that Neal Morse is a musician who never spends any time in the studio, the 2CD/DVD Alive Again his sixth 'in concert' release in under a decade. However, to his credit, there have also been five studio records in that time; two of which appeared under the banner of The Neal Morse Band, as this set does also. That band is made up of some of the strongest contributors to the prog scene of recent times, Mike Portnoy on drums, Eric Gillette on guitar, Randy George on bass and Bill Hubauer on keys. The same line-up was also responsible for the studio album, The Grand Experiment and, even with all those previous live discs over such a short space of time, it is the heavy plundering of an album that has really been embraced by Morse fans, and a wider audience, that ensures Alive Again retains more than enough individuality to stand apart. Add in that some lesser celebrated solo Morse cuts also receive an airing and even the Spock's Beard number "Harm's Way" is dusted down, the set list is hard to argue with. Factor in musicianship of the highest order being revealed at every turn and a crystal clear, yet still completely honest sound and mix, finding fault with this three disc release is quite a task.
The sheer enthusiasm on stage comes across at every turn, as does the chemistry, as solo sections are backed by the full band, instruments swapped (mid song sometimes) and an undeniable energy level achieved. The show itself was recorded in Holland in 2015 at a stage where all the early kinks any tour throws up had obviously been ironed out of sight or sound and while the DVD doesn't attempt to compete with the hundred angle, hi-tech shows often committed to disc these days, what makes Alive Again so engaging is that the songs and performances alone keep you fully engrossed throughout.
The twin CDs are a great listen and yet they are trumped by seeing these Morsemen rampaging with such vigour on stage. For the uninitiated, the praising, Christian lyrics may feel a little blunt and yet long time Morsers will know (and accept, no matter their beliefs) that this is what fuels this band's fire. What else may be at least a slight surprise is just how heavy and uncompromising TMB can be, although they are just as likely to keep things intimate and intricate as they are to go for the throat. Previous Morse DVDs have come with an 'on the road' documentary and this is no different, the fun and games between bend members off stage letting you understand where the unbreakable camaraderie comes from on it. From the band's mini-bus slowly but surely sliding off the road after a snow storm, to on bus jams and sing songs and the (at the time) somewhat controversial incident where Portnoy attended the Accident and Emergency department in a hospital in England, and left again without even being seen by a doctor due to the length of time they had to wait and an impending show time, all aspects are covered. And along with excellent, varied, if much less 'pro shot' footage from some of the shows themselves, the hour long section proves most enjoyable.
It is debatable exactly how many Neal Morse live albums you really need. However there's no way that long time fans of the man's music will want to miss out on this excellent release, while for those just picking up on his works through The Grand Experiment, this is a wonderful way to experience the power and precision of this expert band on stage. From this type of release, can you really ask for more?
1. Alive Again Intro
2. The Call
4. The Grand Experiment
5. Harm's Way
6. Bill's Keyboard Solo
7. The Creation
8. There Is Nothing That God Can't Change
2. Eric's Gtr Solo
3. In The Fire
4. Alive Again
6. Oh Lord, My God
8. King Jesus
Added: November 10th 2016
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Alive Again at Radiant Records
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|Morse Band; Neal: Alive Again
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2016-11-10 23:59:21
The Neal Morse should need no introduction with our readers. The man has a resume in progressive rock that cannot be questioned whether you like his music or you don't. Of course the big divide occurred with his transformation into a devout Christian which is certainly revealed in his music which some people find a little 'too preachy'. Setting that aside, on March 6, 2015 the band played a show at the Cultuurpodium Boerderij, Holland, in celebration of the recently released The Grand Experiment.
Playing that night were:
Neal Morse (vocals, keys, guitar)
Mike Portnoy (drums, vocals)
Randy George (bass, bass pedal, vocals)
Bill Hubauer (keyboards, guitar, clarinet, sax, vocals)
Eric Gillette (lead guitar, vocals)
And play they did. These guys are absolute monster musicians utilizing every second available to bring forth an exceptional progressive rock show. There are many highlights to be had here including the memorable "The Call" with its endearing hooks and killer instrumental workouts, the incredibly addictive chorus in "The Grand Experiment", the lovely acoustics in "Waterfall" and a deep album track from The Kindness Of Strangers album titled "Harm's Way" featuring some amazing musicianship as the band goes from soft to heavy with the greatest of ease. The pinnacle of the disc is the thirty-four minute performance of "Alive Again" taken from the last studio album. This is epic progressive rock with a little something for everyone including shredding solos, bluesy interludes and great keyboard and guitar interaction. Also included as separate tracks are solos by Hubauer and Gillette on the keyboards and guitar respectively plus a few Morse worship tunes which he really puts his heart into.
Also included is a tour documentary where the viewer gets a good look at what life is like on the road. Remember that Kinks' song "Life On The Road? Anyways, there are some humorous moments that make for some good viewing.
The filming and sound quality in the entire package is excellent and we would expect no less from such a quality band. Alive Again is an immensely enjoyable audio and visual experience and is the next best thing short of being there. Excellent stuff!
• My review copy is the single Blu-ray Disc version
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