“Let the great adventure now begin…”; the closing lines of The Neal Morse Band’s last and widely acclaimed 2016 album The Similitude of a Dream (TSOAD), have proved to be strangely prophetic.
The band faced the enviable problem (like Pink Floyd, The Eagles and many other great bands before them) of having to follow up a hugely successful album, as drummer Mike Portnoy explains, “How doyou follow an epic double concept album??? Well, create another epic double album!! I always knew topping The Similitude of a Dream was going to be difficult, if not impossible, as I held it in such high regard… but I am absolutely blown away with what we have achieved here! We’ve created the ultimate companion to TSOAD.”
The new album – appropriately entitled The Great Adventure – is exactly that: a perfect companion piece to TSOAD’s partial retelling of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress.
True to the album’s title, the creative process was indeed a ‘great adventure.’ Unlike many previous Morse albums, which have often been recorded in around a week, as many as 21 days of initial recording were laid down by these prolific and world-class musicians, producing an abundance of top quality material – enough for an album lasting well over two hours. This meant some ruthless decision-making: some already completed songs and characters had to go, and with studio time running out, new links and ideas were being composed and recorded up to the eleventh hour. “A lot of work and re-work has gone into this,” says Morse, “but I know that some of the most successful and far-reaching albums I’ve been involved with have been just like that – Sola Scriptura and Spock’s Beard’s Snow album come to mind.”
Another key question that had to be addressed was how to pull all the ideas together into a coherent whole. In the end, what unlocked this ‘adventure’ for Morse was the realisation that The Great Adventure needed a new voice and perspective. This time, it is that of the Pilgrim’s abandoned son, a younger, perhaps angrier, voice than was heard on TSOAD, as George explains, “The Great Adventure is nothing short of a miracle: it’s similar to TSOAD in concept and form, but it’s tougher and deeper in tone! It’s a very powerful work and I look forward to playing it live!”