Neal Morse Band, The - Innocence & Danger

Kev Rowland

NMB is the new name for the Neal Morse Band, but it still features the same people who were involved in ‘The Great Adventure’, namely Neal Morse (vocals, keyboards, guitars), Eric Gillette (guitars, vocals), Bill Hubauer (keyboards, vocals), Randy George (bass), and Mike Portnoy (drums, vocals). It is not a follow-on to either that album or the one which preceded it, but instead this time around we have a series of unconnected songs, many of which started with Bill and Randy as opposed to coming direct from Neal. I am not sure if that is the reason why, but it definitely took me longer to get inside this album compared to many of Neal’s other works, and given I am such a huge fan that was something of a surprise to me. In fact, it was only when I started to get to the end of the first play with the two lengthy tracks which make up the second CD that it all started to gel, but when I then returned to the beginning I was right in from the off.

It is hard to know where to start with this band, as in Mike Portnoy they have one of the most accomplished drummers in the business, while Randy is a wonderful musician and along with Mike has been at the heart of all Neal’s work since he left Spock’s Beard. If that wasn’t enough, they have Eric Gillette on guitar who is simply outstanding, then on top of that you have keyboard player Bill Hubauer and then of course Neal himself. They all sing, and whoever came up with the original ideas, they have all been given the touch of Morse so have elements of Beatles, Genesis, Steely Dan, Gentle Giant, Spock’s Beard and so many more. It is the longer tracks at 20 and 31 minutes respectively which make this album, and I personally would have been happy with just those two being released as a single CD, as to my ears they are a step up from the rest of the album, as if the earlier songs are more of a taster for the main event. The overall result is a very good album indeed, but not up to the level of earlier releases such as ‘Testimony’, but in many ways this shows Morse in a very different place to where he was back then, and while there will always be elements which sound very Beardian, he has broadened his musical palette.

Fans of old-school Morse or Spock’s Beard may find this something which needs more work than many of his albums, but it is still one which is well worth discovering.

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