INSIDE OUT MUSIC 24th July, 2020
That’s Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy & Randy George to you. Doyens of prog rock and luminaries of such bands as Spock’s Beard, Dream Theater and Transatlantic, with Neal Morse as a common factor to most. They’ve been making covers albums and with the release of the third one, are offering just it or a trio of all the albums.
Randy George, the bassist is probably best know for his work in the Neal Morse Band, outside Christian prog band, Ajalon. Mike Portnoy plays drums and tends to work in prog metal bands. Neal is the best known and, aside from Spock’s Beard, which he formed with his brother, Neal has had numerous projects, most notably his self-named band. Here, however, they ditch the names hierarchy, presumably as a signal of equality on the project.
With a pedigree like that, you might be expecting, like I was, prog-a-licious wig-out versions of loads of their favourite tunes but you’d be only half right. These are favourites, with a smattering of what you might expect and a lot of big pop hits as well, but they are played simply and for fun. It sounds like a trio of highly accomplished musicians enjoying themselves without any need to show off. Kind of a day-off album. It is a big bag of sweeties; lots of good songs, almost too many. From U2 to Paul McCartney to Joe Jackson to The Monkees to Cat Stevens to Styx, David Bowie, Rush and Jethro Tull. The seventies feature strongly but there are a few outliers.
I’m a little puzzled who this might be for, as it is lots of fun but adds nothing, following roughly the lines of the originals. Perhaps the main punters will be people who follow The Neal Morse Band, to hear their heroes with their hair down. I enjoyed it and who can’t love a cover of The Osmonds’ Crazy Horses? The extended Neil Young medley works well, from Southern Man into Needle And The Damage Done into Cinnamon Girl, though it wasn’t necessary to replicate Young’s crunchy guitar style – a change refreshes. King Crimson’s Starless is a welcome prog track. Yes get covered, with No Appointment Necessary, with the vocals up in Jon Anderson’s register, much as Life On Mars. I’d have liked to see the trio’s styles stamped on the songs a bit but that isn’t what the set is about; this is people indulging themselves at the end of the slog of assembling their normal polished studio albums.
An enjoyable diversion.
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