So I think the most difficult part of writing this review will be trying not to sound too sophomoric and gushy (arguably the two most prevalent traits of most of my reviews). I’ll do my best. I will say without reservation that if you have any passion at all for live prog music you will find Alive Again to be an incredible album.
Alive Again covers all the bases for a great live album. No matter how great the performance may be the music itself has also to be strong. The music on this album is top quality prog material. Alive Again is a concert recorded in The Netherlands in March of 2015 to promote the newly released album, The Grand Experiment. Of course, much of the music comes from that album, and that’s a very good thing. However, there are some other outstanding additions to the set list from Morse’s past, such as the masterful “Leviathan” from his 2008 Lifeline album and “The Creation” from off of the One album. Morse also reaches back to his days in Spock’s Beard in 1998 to perform “Harm’s Way”. Prog fans will also be in heaven as this album features an extended thirty-four minute long “Alive Again”, complete with the band members taking their turn at individual contributions. I’m telling you, folks, this is classic stuff performed to perfection in a modern setting in front of a small but energized audience.
The Neal Morse Band is a comprised of incredibly talented musicians. Aside from Morse, who to many is the current standard bearer for prog music, the band features greats such as Eric Gillette, Bill Hubauer, and Randy George. It also features the man who must be the hardest working drummer in the business, Mike Portnoy. Here’s a fun exercise, take a moment to list your favorite prog and rock groups past and present. How many of them have Portnoy as their drummer? At the time of my last interview with him he was in six working bands! As with his other five, Portnoy does not fail to deliver his classic style in this band. The combination of all these great musicians leaves no weak spots in the music compositionally or performance-wise. The parts are both strong and well blended, and the vocals are spot on.
Fans of Neal Morse know that he is a very spiritual person. He uses his music as an expression of his spiritual devotion. This expression is even more present on this live album. You know he profoundly believes in what he speaks; you can feel it in the music and hear it in his voice. This energy is amplified exponentially in the live setting, especially in highly emotional pieces such as “There Is Nothing That God Can’t Change”. It is important to note, however, that Morse is blessed to be a person who can express those deeply held convictions without becoming overbearing and thereby alienating those who simply enjoy listening to incredible music created by gifted songwriters and performed by ridiculously talented musicians. There is enough meat in this music to satisfy many different levels. Those who may not hold Morse’s strong beliefs should not be deterred by the titles of some of these tracks. The music alone is powerful enough to allow the listener to enjoy the ride and decide on their own how deeply to interpret the message.
Alive Again is a two-disc set that has a DVD that will be available as well. If you love prog music and enjoy hearing it performed live you will thoroughly enjoy this album. My only regret is that I was not able to see them perform live on their last tour. I hope I get the opportunity to see them the next time around.
1. Alive Again Intro
2. The Call
4. The Grand Experiment
5. Harm’s Way
6. Bill’s Keyboard Solo
7. The Creation
8. There Is Nothing That God Can’t Change
2. Eric’s Gtr Solo
3. In The Fire
4. Alive Again
6. Oh Lord, My God
8. King Jesus
By Roy Rahl
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