It’s been a long day. A very long day. But luckily, The Neal Morse Band’s newest release, an immense double-LP concept album, The Similitude Of A Dream, is the perfect companion. I have been glued to this album for two weeks straight, and I can assure you that this piece of work is nothing short of breathtaking. The foundation of the story is John Bunyan’s 1678 The Pilgrim’s Progress (specifically Part 1), with a little artistic license thrown in, and it’s beautifully done. One might expect that telling such an old story would come across feeling anachronistic, and that we might not be able to connect with the material. But Morse, along with Mike Portnoy [drums], Randy George [bass], Bill Hubauer [keys], and Eric Gillette [guitar], have modernized and made mesmerizing what many might find to be a dated, historical Christian narrative.
I can sense some of you turning off right about now. Did I say that this album is a Christian narrative? Yes, I did. But before you turn away, let me say that you certainly don’t have to be a Christian, or even religious, to enjoy what these fellows have created. Similitude is such an organic release that it carries you along effortlessly. This is a tale, more than anything else, of a man who is moved to live his life in a way that others don’t understand. His desire and goals scare those around him, simply because he doesn’t fit their way of life, and he is constantly impeded by those who would rather see him let his dreams slip away. I think we can all empathize with the Journeyman, as we’ve likely met resistance at least once in our lives when reaching for our dreams.
Perhaps there are those of you who are more in the loop than I am. I will shamefully admit that this is my first foray into the world of Neal Morse. But what a foray it has been! It was immediately clear that I was listening to a collection of masters. Each member of this ensemble is here for reasons quickly evident, most of which are made known by the second track! But there’s are things more important than being proficient at a musical instrument. It’s called chemistry, and this collection of individuals have it! Perhaps more astounding to me than the buttery guitar solos, the beautifully crafted piano arrangements, or the funky basslines that litter this release, are the utterly astounding vocal harmonies. The blending of vocal harmonics in this group is stunning, as evidenced in “The Ways Of A Fool” (a personal favorite). Not just that, but the trade-off of one vocalist after another, such as in “So Far Gone,” allows not only for this concept album to make great strides in character development, but to keep it fresh as well.
I know I’ve gotten a bit sappy, so let me reel things in. The Neal Morse Band has created a truly delightful release with The Similitude Of A Dream. While it certainly possesses a Christian message, it is far from preachy and lines up with what I can only imagine so many of us desire ourselves: a little less resistance and a little more encouragement for us to achieve our dreams. But just like the Journeyman, many of us aren’t on an easy road. Life is tough, and full of those who would gladly have us fail, or even unintentionally divert us from our goals. But the message in the music is, to quote Shia LaBeouf, “Don’t let your dreams be dreams.” The Similitude Of A Dream is out November 11, and I think my recent foray has turned into a journey itself. I encourage you to take that first step.