Thirteen years ago, Neal Morse left Spock's Beard and released his first “real” solo album Testimony, as he already made a solo album in 1999 called Neal Morse. I still consider Testimony to be Morse's best album ever, as all of the follow up albums are merely not more than nice attempts to reach that excellent musical level Testimony achieved. I mean, how often can you repeat your musical ideas and not bore your listeners to death with it?
As I listened to The Similitude Of A Dream for the first time I immediately had that déjà vu feeling that I had with all Morse albums after Testimony; the same melodies, the same keyboard solos and most of all the rather, same annoying preaching lyrics that really get on my nerves while listening to this new album. Of course this album is made by The Neal Morse Band, consisting of Mike Portnoy, Randy George, Eric Gillette and Bill Hubauer, but it definitely is a Morse album and also, again (yawn), a concept album. The Similitude Of A Dream is based on a book called The Pilgrim's Progress From This World To The That Which Is To Come; Delivered Under The Similitude Of A Dream written by John Bunyan, way back in 1678; need I say more?
The music on this album sounds, as I stated before, very familiar; in my opinion too familiar, but you know what you can expect from Morse. Luckily there are also a couple of great songs on this album which goes to show that the Neal Morse Band is of course a great progressive rock band with brilliant musicians. The guitar solos by Gillette are sometimes out of this world on this album and Portnoy is still the best rock drummer on this planet, but he definitely has to return to Dream Theater... Musical highlights on this bombastic and sometimes too dramatic album are the instrumental Overture with amazing hooks, riffs, solos and melodies, City Of Destruction, a classic Morse prog rock song with a catchy chorus, The Slough, being another instrumental song, So Far Gone, The Man In The Iron Cage with breathtaking guitar work, the third instrumental called The Battle and the last, also the longest track, called Broken Sky; a dramatic ballad-like song with two of the best guitar solos on the entire album. However the rest of the songs are not really to my liking and sound as though I have heard them before a couple of times on other albums..... Take for example songs like Shortcut To Salvation (hymn-like), Sloth (too dramatic and dull), Freedom Song (a blue grass-like, utterly boring acoustic track), Makes No Sense (sounds too familiar) or the last song of CD1 called Breath Of Angels, which is an emotional hymn-like ballad with typical, annoying religious Morse lyrics.
Mike Portnoy quoted that The Similitude Of A Dream is the absolute creative pinnacle of his cooperation with Morse and he is so bold as to say that we can compare this new Morse Band album with classic concept albums like The Who's Tommy or Pink Floyd's The Wall. With all due respect to Portnoy, but what was he thinking when saying that, as that is a little bit (watch the irony here) over the top...
Furthermore you will find a sticker on the CD with the following rather pretentious text: “This is it!, the juggernaut flagship masterwork from the Neal Morse Band.” I can only say, I beg to differ, for me this is just a new Neal Morse album with some good musical stuff played by excellent musicians, but most of all it is again a repetition of his earlier work. I know that I will get a lot of “nice” reactions on my rather, maybe sometimes too critical, review, but that is alright as there is no account for taste and it is just my humble but sincere opinion.
*** Martien Koolen (edited by Robert James Pashman)
Where to buy?
All Rights Reserved Background Magazine 2016