Thursday, August 04, 2016

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Review: The Neal Morse Band - Alive Again (2016)


Information:
Artist: Neal Morse
Album: Alive Again
Release date: August 5, 2016
Label: Radiant Records

Running time: 273:58 (2 CD/DVD)

Production details: Recorded at the Cultuurpodium Boerderij, Netherlands - March 6, 2015
Audio mixed by Rich Mouser

Packaging details: Special 3 discs Jewelcase.
Packaging layout by Man In The Mountain
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Review by Diego Camargo      Rating:

Thoughts: Neal Morse is a well known figure in the Prog world of the last 2 decades, so there's not a lot I can say about him that hasn't been said before. He playes on Spock's Beard, plays on Transatlantic and has a solo career that spans over 15 years.

It is also no surprise that this Alive Again album is being released this year. Since the beginning of his solo career, and more prominently so in the last 5 years or so, after each studio album he goes on tour and release a live record out of that tour. Recorded in Match 6, 2015 in the netherlands, Alive Again catches Neal Morse and band on the tour of his latest studio album The Grand Experiment (2015). The line up is still the same: Neal Morse (vocals, keyboards, guitars), Mike Portnoy (drums, vocals), Randy George (bass, vocals), Eric Gillette (guitar, vocals) and Bill Hubauer (keyboards, guitars, vocals).

I would like to point out how nice is the package on this Double CD/DVD bundle. I am not sure if this is something new or not, but I have a bunch of triple discs bundles and it's the first time I see this new 3 discs jewelcase and I must say it looks great. The Digipack model can be very fragile and be damaged easily, not with this set!

Anyway, when it comes to the music Neal Morse is at the same time walking new paths while keeping firm in his own ground. That means that you'll find his classic sound on this album, nothing really changed sonically, but the repertoire is very different from the last tours. You will hear on this album the whole of The Grand Experiment (with exception of 'Agenda'), including the mammoth that is 'Alive Again' and its 34 minutes, and tracks from his solo career like 'Leviathan' from Lifeline (2008) or 'In The Fire' from ? (2005). But you'll also hear an old Spock's Beard tune 'Harm's Way' from the album The Kindness Of Strangers (1998) and plenty of his Christian music.

And that my friends, is my warning and the big difference here. Neal always walked through a thin line between secular and 'faith music' (vide 'Lifeline', for instance) but he usually left this tracks out of his Prog tours. It seems to me that since he started his Morsefest events this changed a lot. Now he's mixing his church music into the set. If that's a problem for you it can be hard to go through the whole set.

The DVD is my favorite part, aside from the show that is very competent, my favorite part in Neals DVDs is always the extras, the Making Of. The fact he and the band shot everything themselves makes you really into their daily lives on tour. For this alone Alive Again (2016) is well worth your money, honestly.

All in all, if you're a fan you should get this bundle. If you're not a fan of Christian music maybe you should get the Blu-Ray version only. Anyway, I think it portraits very well where Neal Morse is right now as a musician.

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