THE NEAL MORSE BAND – Innocence & Danger (2021)

THE NEAL MORSE BAND - Innocence & Danger (2021) full

Innocence & Danger” is the upcoming, fourth album from the NMB / THE NEAL MORSE BAND (Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Randy George, Bill Hubauer & Eric Gillette). After two sprawling back to back double concept albums in a row, it is refreshing to hear that ”Innocence & Danger” is a collection of unrelated individual songs in the vein of their first album… And what quality songs…
This band is so extraordinary and such an amazing team that you not only admire the individual performances, but as a whole THE NEAL MORSE BAND is simply outstanding.
We dare to say ”Innocence & Danger” is a classic in the making. Yes. It’s that good.

The first disc titled ‘Innocence’ is comprised of “shorter” songs, that cover the broad spectrum from heavy, upbeat, and chock-full-of-chops rockers, to more pop-centered mellow and acoustic selections.
The second CD, ‘Danger’, brings 2 epics totaling almost 51 minutes. There is something for every prog music fan. Also to not be understated, the band’s sixth member behind the mixing board, Rich Mouser, gives the perfect presentation of power and clarity to the album.

Lead-off track “Do It All Again” is an uplifting anthemic group effort, these opening nine minutes encapsulate the essence of the group’s magic. A clear strength of the band is the trading off of lead vocals, a technique which is employed more on “Innocence & Danger” than ever before. While other bands are known for multiple lead vocalists, NMB are carving a unique and powerful niche in their ability to engage three (or at times, even four) vocalists in the same song, “Do It All Again” being a leading example.

“Bird On A Wire” is an uptempo prog rocker with an arena-rock flair. As previously experienced, Portnoy and George establish the foundation, with Gillette’s guitar prowess and Hubauer and Morse’s keyboard mastery rounding out the sound which is very familiar, while maintaining a fresh approach. The vocal duties are shared with Morse typically taking the verses, Gillette taking the choruses, and Hubauer taking the bridge sections. This comes across very naturally in the material. Of course, the chops are aplenty and intense instrumental segments with tasteful solos from the guitars and keys are the flavor of the moment.

A couple of shorter, poppier songs are welcome follow-ups – the breezy “Your Place In the Sun” taking us to that ELO place these guys love so much (and Portnoy getting to sing a verse in with the rest of the guys), while “Another Story To Tell” has some of Morse’s singer-songwriter leanings, even as Hubauer shares the writing credit.
Then “The Way It Had To Be” is a highlight, an atmospheric piece utterly spellbinding. Hubauer’s lead slide guitar playing on Jordan Rudess’ Geo Shred app lends an intoxicating opening to the piece before Gillette’s smooth solo vocal spot takes center stage. The impeccable production and arrangements of well-placed keys, guitar and fretless bass add to the song’s etheric nature.

Morse then injects some acoustic guitar goodness in “Emergence” as it prepares the setting for “Not Afraid Pt.1”, where Neal’s acoustic guitar chops are showcased in which thick vocal harmonies deliver a great performance. Disc 1 is brought to a close with a bombastic prog-version of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”. Fans should except something just epic.

As if one impressive 50-minute album of “Innocence” wasn’t enough, the “Danger” album offers up another 50 minutes of NMB excellence, this time divided into two epics.
Of the two, “Not Afraid, Part 2” follows more along the traditional Morse long-form blueprint, yet manages to be one of his better epics. The middle part of the song is replete with Styx, Supertramp and Spock’s Beard influences, but perhaps most noteworthy is when the vibe is brought down low and less notes are played for an extended section. Here NMB takes a path less traveled, working the dynamics to climactic effect.

Considering all of the above, it’s remarkable that the best has been saved for last. The 31-minute “Beyond the Years” is a triumph for NMB. Much of the material was brought in by Hubauer and thus has a slightly different approach than the numerous other Morse and Transatlantic epics.
The highlight comes halfway through, during Hubauer’s haunting drifting-through-the-years section, the electric guitar playing off his moody vocals and then opening up into the most sizzling keyboard solo imaginable, only to be followed by Gillette’s impeccable shredding.
If the song has a flaw, it’s that it has to continue another 10 minutes after this crescendo, which seems almost unfair.

With ”Innocence & Danger” NMB successfully bring a little bit of everything ultimately delivering another excellent double album. They have maintained a familiar sound with a slightly different and more collaborative approach resulting in a breath of fresh air.
The question to ask: What is your preference? Innocence or Danger? BOTH.
This is sure to be on the 2021 top albums list.


CD One : Innocence
01 – Do It All Again
02 – Bird on a Wire
03 – Your Place in the Sun
04 – Another Story to Tell
05 – The Way It Had to Be
06 – Emergence
07 – Not Afraid, Pt. 1
08 – Bridge over Troubled Water

CD Two : Danger
09 – Not Afraid, Pt. 2
10 – Beyond the Years
I. far From Home
II. The Jar That’s always Near
III. Kings & Queens
IV. Islands in The Sun
V. Drifting Through The Years
VI. Watercolor Sky
VII. Worlds Away

Neal Morse
Mike Portnoy
Randy George
Bill Hubauer
Eric Gillette


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2 Responses

  1. Windmill says:

    Big thanks for this , but only the 1st album in download …..cheers

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