RATINGS: A = must own B = buy it C= average D = yawn F = puke

The Neal Morse Band: The Grand Experiment (Special Edition)
Radiant Records


Rating: A+

First and foremost, I must tell you that I am a repetitive listener. I generally do not like or dislike an album at first, second, or even third listen. I always reserve judgment and allow myself to discover the nuances the musicians took the time to express. It’s usually those nuances that I find most interesting. It is a rarity for me to come to a conclusion quickly, and when I do it’s usually because I don’t like what I’m hearing.

I immediately tossed that out the window last night when I listened to The Neal Morse Band’s new release, The Grand Experiment for the first time. I casually put on my headphones as usual, got comfortable in my chair, and was instantly launched liked NASA’s next satellite into an amazing progressive orbit!

I was instantly hooked. This album comes at you like compressed steam finally finding an escape. The opening piece, “The Call”, greets you with soaring harmonies that are soon joined by a powerful accompaniment and a truly impressive drum part; and it only begins there. There are no weak pieces on this album.

Progheads will enjoy the fact that The Grand Experiment gives us several extended songs filled with wide dynamic ranges, fascinating time shifts and sweeping changes in styles. Compositions like the almost twenty-seven minute “Alive Again” take you from stylistic room to stylistic room, leaving you wide-eyed where you are, fascinated by how you got there, and eagerly wondering what’s behind the next door. The energy on this album is amazing. This is a very powerful band!

According to his website, Morse gathered some friends together with no prewritten material to start with and created from scratch the works we hear on this album. Well, score one for freeform creativity, as well as having excellent taste in friends!  Critics can arrogantly claim that Morse having high powered artists like Mike Portnoy, Randy George, Bill Hubauer, and Eric Gillette to work with pretty much guarantees a good product. That may be true to a point. But then again, placing a novice in the highest powered Formula One car only guarantees an ugly crash into the wall of the first turn. Talent is essential; but what is done with it determines the final product. The Grand Experiment is a shining example of what talent, synergy, and being open to working with whatever is being created in the moment can produce. The contributions of each musician are abundantly clear in these tunes. What is also abundantly clear is the sum of this album is even better than its parts. 

I highly suggest putting up the extra cash and getting the Special Edition of this album (mine is an iTunes download). It includes a second disc with some amazing material. Among its many other gifts, Disc two gives the listener two live tracks that are very compelling reasons for buying tickets to the next Morsefest. The live tracks have pretty much cemented a trip for me from Las Vegas to Los Angeles to catch this band live during their upcoming North American tour.

Progheads and rockers, don’t let this album go without a listen. Get it immediately.

Track Listing:

The Call
The Grand Experiment
Alive Again

New Jerusalem
Doomsday Destiny
MacArthur Park
The Creation (Live)
Reunion (Live)

By Roy Rahl