The Progarchy website has posted a review of the new album by the Neal Morse Band, A Grand Experiment. It was written by Brad Birzer and below is an excerpt:
Birzer rating: 9.5/10.
The bonus disc has three new songs—“New Jerusalem (Freedom is Coming)”; “Doomsday Destiny”; and “MacArthur Park”—as well as two songs recorded from last November’s Morsefest, “The Creation” and “Reunion.” Each of the new songs is absolutely gorgeous, and I’m not at all sure they didn’t make it as a part of the original, main album. While “New Jerusalem” has a bit of a Relayer aspect to it, nothing on the entire album has been shy about paying homage to earlier bands. Musically, this might very well be the best song on the two discs. There’s a bit more funk in “Doomsday Destiny,” for example, than anything on the main disc, but it would still fit well with the lyrical themes of The Grand Experiment. “MacArthur Park” seems to be an homage, at least musically, to Kansas, Yes, Jethro Tull, and ELP, despite the rather Peartian title.
My advice, make sure you get the entire package—the main disc as well as the special edition. The only reason I’m not giving this release a perfect 10 is simply because the album is confusing with its variations. But, the bonus disc is every bit as good as the main disc, and you’ll kick yourself in the future if you pass up these “bonus” songs. They are, to my ears, absolutely essential.
One last thing. I must praise the individual musicians. Morse might be the leader, the touchstone, and the fountainhead, but he has created a community of artists around him, artists who clearly love Morse, the art, each other, and the listener. No one of the five members of the Neal Morse Band gives only a part of himself. Each gives every single thing he has. George’s bass, Gillette’s guitar, Hubauer’s many, many instruments each boggle the mind.
But, I have to single out Portnoy. I’ve been listening to him since 1992. Since, I have regarded him as one of the three greatest drummers in the rock world, along with Peart and D’Virgilio. Over the past 23 years, though, I would’ve always put the caveat that Portnoy is the best hard rock drummer, lacking the subtly of Peart or D’Virgilio. For what it’s worth, I now officially revise that claim. Portnoy’s drumming and percussion absolutely, completely, and totally blow me away on this album. Holy Moses! The drumming and percussion is just so, so good that words fail me. Portnoy reveals sides to himself that I had no idea existed. On a personal note, he is just three or four months older than I am. I can’t tell you–the reader–how happy I am to see his growth, his desire to become what he is capable of. Thank you, Mr. Portnoy. I bow to your excellence.
Whatever the reason–Morse’s charisma or God’s grace or some mixture of both–“The Grand Experiment” is a true success, an explosion of enthusiasm, a true work of art. Nothing halfway here. This is the real deal. This is what we proggers live for.