The Neal Morse Band: The Similitude Of A Dream
With so much hype surrounding this album The Similitude Of A Dream was indeed more than worth the wait, although it's hardly surprising given the consistent high quality of past releases by those responsible. As for prominent drummer Mike Portnoy's claim that they have "topped Dream Theater's Scenes From A Memory and "Transatlantic's The Whirlwind" The Similitude Of A Dream is an excellent album no doubt about that, but no I don't think that it's better than Scenes From A Memory but they may very well have surpassed The Whirlwind, although Bridge Across Forever is my favourite Transatlantic album. Also in reference to Transatlantic I just wasn't feeling that draw so much with their last album, and in comparison The Similitude Of A Dream is a fresher sounding recording. So I can understand Portnoy's enthusiasm and he deserves to be proud of what they have accomplished here as there is so much to like, and also his resistance at first to release a double album due to comparisons with his former group Dream Theater's latest album. Whilst I'm not the best one to compare the two as I really haven't heard The Astonishing in a such a long time, but the fact is that I haven't been able to stop listening to Similitude Of A Dream and yet despite my best efforts I really haven't felt the urge to continue listening to The Astonishing.
The Similitude Of A Dream is an engaging progressive rock concept album of epic proportions with twenty three tracks and clocking in at over one hundred minutes. Despite this substantial duration the album flows so effectively, and goes by quite promptly which speaks volumes about the contents. As for the concept "The Similitude Of A Dream is loosely and sometimes directly based on the book, Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan. The book's original title was The Pilgrim's Progress from this world to the that which is to come, delivered under the similitude of a dream, and it was originally published in 1678. The book chronicles the spiritual journey of a man from the City of Destruction to the place of Deliverance. " It would seem that there still is a good deal of material that remains having only covered part of this book, so maybe further releases are a possibility.
The Similitude Of A Dream is not another Neal Morse solo album and sure there are some similarities as Neal still plays a sizeable role, but this is very much a band pooling their ideas and influences. Both classic and modern inspiration that is with The Beatles, Queen, Deep Purple, Dream Theater and more, and not to mention the wealth of rich melodies, those customary odd time signatures and reoccurring themes . As with the first Neal Morse Band album The Grand Experiment the high caliber line-up consists of Neal Morse (vocals,guitars and keyboards), Mike Portnoy (drums and vocals), Randy George (bass), and Eric Gillette (guitar and vocals) and Bill Hubauer (keyboards and vocals). So as you can see there are plenty of options on the lead vocal front and that's one of the great aspects of this album, sure the musicianship is top notch but the vocals also deserve their own share of the accolades just like those wonderful combined harmonies. Eric Gillette and Bill Hubauer who has quite a distinct style have really added something special to the vocal stocks.
One of the other great things about The Similitude Of A Dream is that the songs are so good in their own right that it can be listened to as a complete package or as individual tracks. There's a great deal of variety not to mention those very tasty instrumentals where they get to lay down some serious chops and it's all very tastefully done and not over the top. I'm not going to go into the tracks on The Similitude Of A Dream as I don't want to spoil it for anyone who has yet to hear this fine recording, just be prepared to completely swept away by what The Neal Morse Band have recorded on The Similitude Of A Dream.
See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!
4.City Of Destruction
5.We Have Got To Go
6. Makes No Sense
7. Draw The Line
8. The Slough
9. Back To The City
10.The Ways Of A Fool
11. So Far Gone
12. Breath Of Angels
1. Slave To Your Mind
2. Shortcut To Salvation
3. The Man In The Iron Cage
4. The Road Called Home
6. Freedom Song
7. I'm Running
8. The Mask
10. The Battle
11. Broken Sky/Long Day Reprise
Added: November 21st 2016
Reviewer: Scott Jessup
Related Link: Band Website
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|The Neal Morse Band: The Similitude Of A Dream
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2016-11-20 19:11:33
Much has been made of Mike Portnoy, a drummer often known for his infectious over enthusiasm, stating prior to release that The Similitude Of A Dream, the second outing from The Neal Morse Band, is the best album he's recorded in his career. Now, forgive the cynicism, but how many times have you heard that from a musician with new product to promote? Countless… Then take into account that with that statement Portnoy is suddenly swiping aside albums such as Dream Theater's Images And Words, or Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory, or indeed, the entire Transatlantic catalogue and a huge swathe of Morse's post Spock's Beard work. Suddenly that becomes quite a thought, doesn't it? Can Similitude Of A Dream, an album based on, but not bound by the book 'Pilgrim's Progress', live up to that pressure? Well, in fairness it does as good a job as any album can against those odds. Can I hand on heart promise DT fans that they'll dismiss that band's early back catalogue? That lovers of Transatlantic will stay firmly rooted to the spot in favour of SOAD? Is it possible to tell Morse aficionados that their man has gone further than ever before? Hmmm…. Probably not, because this isn't a Dream Theater record, it doesn't sound like Transatlantic… but it may well top Morse's work from before!
Sit down and take a breath, for this two disc, 100 minute-plus concept piece that covers a huge amount of ground is huge undertaking. However it's also clever enough to revisit itself often enough to keep you hooked in musically to the story unfolding. And with that being one of (and I'm paraphrasing here…) the journey from this life to the afterlife via many characters and various pitfalls, lyrically we have an intricate, uplifting collection that yes, as you'd expect, celebrates Morse's Christian faith, but also questions the actions of modern religion and those proclaiming to follow it. Preaching this is not.
With the solid band line-up of Morse (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Portnoy (drums, vocals), Eric Gillette (guitar, vocals), Randy George (bass, vocals) and Bill Hubauer (keyboards, vocals), the stunning work this band began on their previous outing has been stepped up quite considerably. That album, The Grand Experiment, was something of an, as it's name suggests, experiment in off the cuff song writing, however Similitude feels much more structured, focused and honed. Yet throughout this is a natural sounding album that runs the gamut from the traditional US prog Morse is known for, through the pomp-prog of Styx (just listen to those vocal harmonies), almost Prog Metal (Morse has never been so heavy) and even the bluegrass-country vibe the mainman has utilised in his solo work before. The variety is key, the sheer weight and amount of work presented requiring that level of diversity to keep you completely hooked into its message, as it does. With all band members taking on lead vocal duties as different characters come and go (Gillette superb, Portnoy a bit of a revelation), the constant shifts in tone and attack are not only welcome, but expertly handled so they don't sound pinned on for effect.
Is there a point in picking out songs for special praise? Well "Long Day" and "Overture" instrumentally introduce the album, immediately showing the cohesive variety you can expect, as guitars sting, drums pound and strings swoop, while "City Of Destruction" is every bit as foreboding as its title suggests. "Make No Sense" adds a pensive insight, before "Draw The Line" digs out the fattest groove you can imagine and rides it with an evil glint in its eye, while it's passages such as "The Slough" through "Back In The City" that illustrate the uplifting nature of the first disc. Although the Collins era Genesis meets The Beatles of "Way Of The Fool", simply can't be ignored.
Disc two offers up equal delights, "Slave To Your Mind" intense and throbbing, "The Road Called Home" languid but focused as it waddles into sight, before "Freedom Song" jangles with delight, acoustic guitar and lap-steel causing you to whoop and clap your hands. "I'm Running" is as straight Hard Rock as this album gets, but then juxtaposing that against the pastoral piano of "The Mask" makes both even more effective. Fittingly, the album closes out in majestic style, "Confrontation" and "The Battle" bullish and bold, giving off an air that if early Queen had gone down a more prog oriented path, this might be where they'd have ended up. "Broken Sky/Long Day Reprise" closing the album out in beautiful, tender, uplifting style.
How The Similitude Of A Dream stacks up against the rest of the works that the collective which makes up The Neal Morse Band has produced, is going to be a personal and considered judgment. However there's little doubt that it has to be amongst the best any of the five musicians involved have been a part of. Ginormous in scope, but intricate, varied and precise in execution, what really matters is that The Similitude Of A Dream is a release that engages you on an emotional level from start to finish and, in truth, how many albums can we truly say that about?
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