- Available for the first time on vinyl!
- Originally released in 2003
- NEAL MORSE was a founding member, lead vocalist, keyboardist, guitarist and primary songwriter for the critically acclaimed progressive rock outfit SPOCK’S BEARD
- Features MIKE PORTNOY (DREAM THEATER) on drums
- Features performances by KERRY LIVGREN
- Performances by a host of top Nashville session players and members of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra
- Over 2 hours of music!
- Extremely loyal fan base
- Top sales markets include: NY/NJ, LA, CHI, BOSTON, PHILLY, BALT/DC, SEATTLE, DENVER, PHOENIX, DETROIT, SAN FRAN/SAN JOSE/OAKLAND
No Words. That is how I need to describe Morsefest 2015. Of course, that would not leave you with the total picture of what occurred. “Morsefest” is the event put together by Neal Morse and his label, Radiant Records, in his hometown of Cross Plains, TN. If I have to sum it up in one word, it would be extraordinary. It was an extraordinary weekend of Prog music, an extraordinary show for Prog fans, and an extraordinary experience that brought together and uplifted the Prog community as a whole. Not having attended Morsefest 2014, I had only heard what, by most measures, seemed like an elaborately put together event. This time the weekend was to be built around 2 big concerts featuring entire performances of Neal Morse albums, “?” (Question Mark) on Friday night and “Sola Scriptura” on Saturday night. Considering that I am a Neal Morse and Mike Portnoy fan, it only seemed appropriate to check it out first hand. I was not disappointed. In fact, it far surpassed my expectations, and I would go so far as saying that it rivaled the Prog Nation Cruise as getting top scores for every aspect of the event. The main Friday show began with the Neal Morse band performing the “The Call” and “The Grand Experiment” from the album of the same name. To hear these songs was a real treat. The 5 piece band sounded tight and powerful and nailed their harmonies with ease. They ran through a few obscure tracks, including the Spock’s Beard classic “Go the Way You Go”, “ A Whole Nother Trip” from an older Neal solo album, and a few B-sides from The Grand Experiment album, one being a cover of the disco classic “Macarthur Park” done in full Prog fashion. A full choir and horn section joined the band on stage and performed the song “New Jerusalem” before the band left the stage. The sound, with over 10 musicians on stage, was jaw-dropping and made quite an impression on the audience. These extra musicians helped elevate the music throughout both shows. The band then returned to perform the entire “?” album. Tracks like “In the Fire” and “12” featured some of the best playing I have seen in person. Eric Gillette is a guitar whiz and a name that will be well known in the Prog world in due time. Multi-instrumentalist, Bill Hubauer, continues to surprise with his skill set, while bassist Randy George is the glue pulling it all together. Of course, Mike Portnoy, is always beyond adjectives. The star of the show is Neal, who commands the stage like the seasoned pro he is, captivating the audience with every note and showcasing his immense talent. The night ended without an encore but with an almost 3 hour performance. We knew there was more to come Saturday night, and were trying to figure out how they would possibly top Friday night’s show. With the Saturday night performance, the band switched it up. They opened with the whole “Sola Scriptura” album. It is a 4 track piece with the first 2 songs lasting approximately 30 minutes. The album is based on the story of Martin Luther’s challenge of the corrupted church leaders of his time and contains some dark subject matter, which is representative in the music–some of Neal’s heaviest and most complex. For many fans brought to Neal’s work through Mike Portnoy, this is their favorite album as it is his album that most closely resembles anything Dream Theater ever released. The guitar solo at the end of the first song,“The Door”, is performed by Paul Gilbert on the album, so there was some question as to whether Gillette could pull it off. That speculation was futile. He nailed it note for note and with as much feel and emotion as the album version. The band tore through the rest of the album, pulling through some technical glitches with ease (like Neal’s keyboard shutting down in the middle of “The Conclusion”). Without any concern, Neal played his keyboard part on guitar until the keyboard was brought back up and the band played on. Once “Sola Scriptura” was done, the band performed the acoustic “Waterfall” from The Grand Experiment. Then the real fun began. Everyone knew Nick D’Virgilio was in the building and was going to play with the band but no one knew what or when. Then, the opening notes of “At the End of the Day” came on and there was the answer, and a roar from the audience. Nick took his seat behind the drums and the roof nearly lifted off the building. This was an historic moment. The band ran through the 16-minute song with perfection as if things had never changed. Neal and Nick fell right back into sync with each other like old times. Nick then came out from behind the drums and joined Neal in singing the SNOW classic “Wind at my Back.” It makes for a great campfire style crowd sing-along. The applause was deafening. We had all witnessed something truly special. The band left the stage, and we thought for sure they were done, but then they returned to perform a medley of songs from Transatlantic’s The Whirlwind. We were all thinking, “Wow, Are you kidding?!” For another 20 minutes, the crowd was treated to the ultimate Prog extravaganza. Once they were done, the band and the crowd were exhausted. The shows were incredible and made Prog seem as important and relevant as anything in the last 20 years. – PROG REPORT.com
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Vinyl Longplay 33 1/3