The Neal Morse Band – Similitude of a dream
‘The Similitude of a Dream’ is a concept album. It is based on the book ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ (1678) by John Bunyan. Recently I had an interview with vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Mr. Neal Morse where you can read more about the story behind ‘Similitude of a Dream’ and about The Neal Morse Band. Several guest musicians play along this album; Chris Carmichael is heard with his cello, violin and/or viola in several tracks. Other guests are only heard in one song. I really have looked forward to be allowed to review ‘The Similitude of a Dream’. In 2.5 day I listened four times to this double album. Only then I could start to review, because every time I listened, I was completely captured by the music.
Already within a few seconds of ‘Long Day’. I am struck by the cello, followed by the singing of Neal. It completely gets under my skin and stays there. The next track ‘Overture’ follows without a pause. By the twist you definitely know that this is a different song. The sound quality is, as always with Neal Morse, very good. I turn the volume up. This instrumental track is perfectly composed and you are almost overloaded by all the beauty. The quieter ‘The Dream’ is a gem as well. You can hear the fingers glide across the strings of the acoustic guitar. The subtle layer over layer forms a sublime whole. ‘City of Destruction’ has a catchy, tight rhythm with a pleasant screaming guitar of Eric Gillette in the heavier sounding bombastic part. Also keyboardist Bill Hubauer contributes with a large part of the vocals. The Neal Morse Band consists of five people, including four vocalists. The singing of this Dream Team is a magnificent blend. The songs that follow are so overwhelming, there are hardly find words for. The Neal Morse Band knows how to touch me again and again.
‘Draw the Line’ is wonderfully bombastic. The balance between the volume of all instruments, and the balance between the speakers is perfect. There are short rests in the music where the vocals are briefly solo. With gusts, the pace of the music pretty high, but consistent with preservation of melody. A nice bass line from Randy George can be heard between all this.
I’m running from the one ‘’wow’’ moment to the other. Also with ‘The ways of a fool’. This song is more cheerful by nature, but that fits with the lyrics of hope and confidence. At last you’ll hear a light crackling sound. This disturbs the balance for a moment.
The turn to ‘So far gone’ is clearly audible. Now the lyrics are mostly sung by Eric. The singing is wonderful again. Because of the catchy and powerful chorus it’s fairly easy to sing along quickly. After you are bombarded with a lot of tones the tempo slows down in a great way. Now Bill Hubauer sings a part of the lyrics, followed by Neal. What an unimaginable harmony of voices! The music dies away, and runs super over to ‘Breath of Angels. The percussion has a particular softly staccato rhythm. Fantastically played by Eric Darken. Again the vocals are superb. In the background a choir is used as an instrument. In the end I am touched by the percussion.
CD number 2 starts where the first ended. Brilliant! By the way ‘Slave to your mind’ starts, it is immediately clear that both CD’s really belong together. In ‘Shortcut to salvation’ the story has entered calmer waters. Lyrics and music are constantly in balance. Bruce Babad’s saxophone deliciously finds its way through the whole. The high notes are in nice contrast to the bass. There’s clearly a story in this album. Both in lyrics and music. Everything is structured great. Repeatedly the music and singing have me fully occupied.
The moment of silence for ’I’m running’ feels almost unreal because the previous tracks were non-stop. The start is up-tempo. Quite surprisingly there’s the sound of the brass section. These provide a cheerful note. This too is in balance with the lyrics about relief. The pace of the music is high. Another magnificent turn, the music even goes deeper under my skin.
This is enhanced by the piano playing and singing in ‘The mask’. The twists and turns are fantastic. Same for ‘Confrontation’. Once again Mike Portnoy performs top drumming with an incredibly high pace. The other instruments go along here.
The high tempo continues in ‘The battle’. Again this Dream Team treats you on a phenomenal track. The silence between these two numbers is well chosen.
Some tender solo notes on the piano at the launch of ‘Broken Sky / Long Day (Reprise)’. Singing blends with piano, subtly followed by several instruments. The vocals are in the foreground for a moment. Yet another wow moment. You can hear the end of the album coming. What a pity! Hopefully there is a sequel in the future: this double album only describes a small part of the book.
These two CD’s, loaded with ear candy clearly belong together, they tell a story. Some lyrics contain light religious references. Often these can be understood in more ways, so that they remain accessible to the atheists too. The Neal Morse Band rise above itself, they have made their best album ever. Very, very close to perfection
(9,5/10, Radiant Records)