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(10/10) Some releases are already impressive even before you open the case and put the disc into your player. I got this impression when I received Neal Morse newest masterpiece “Morsefest 2015!" You literally have to unfold this package of six discs, depending on which version you go for.

But of course, this stunning release has far more to offer than ‘just’ an unusual packaging and a high quantity of music. Neal Morse is a very well-known musicians and introducing him feels like carrying sand to the beach. The multi-instrumentalist from Nashville, Tennessee is an icon in progressive rock, being part of bands like Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic and many more. Next to all the involvement in other bands and projects, Morse always maintained his solo career as well with records that are released under with a header of Neal Morse or The Neal Morse Band.

Next all the studio activities Morse also love to play live and therefor he initiated a festival called ‘Morsefest’ back 2014. The second edition followed one year later, an event that was also recorded and filmed. The footage of this two days event, that took place in September 2015 in Cross Plains, Tennessee, is the base for this overwhelming live release that basically covers the entire show – both, day one and two.

The core band during these two night has been The Neal Morse Band – Neal Morse (V, key, g), Mike Portnoy (d), Randy George (b), Eric Gilette (g) and Bill Hubauer (key, v). That these guys can even give the most complex material a certain ease is as amazing as also know by fans of progressive music. Already listening to this tight working five-piece band is already a treat for ears and mind. However, Morse would not be Morse, if he wouldn’t try to lift things to a next level. In the context of ‘Morsefest’ this led to additional musicians he invited to join the two show, adding strings, horns and more instruments to the great songs that have been performed. And last not least it’s a bigger choir that supports the band, something that leads in total to 39 artists being involved in this epic release.

The core of both shows have been two longplayers – "?" and “Sola Scriptura”. The DVD starts with night one when The Neal Morse Band put the entire focus on “?”. But before the first notes of the  "?" album started filled the room, Neal Morse and band added some songs mainly “The Grand Experiment” to the set. “The Call” was the first song performed that night, followed by the outstanding title track. Via highlights like “MacArthur Park”, re-arranged by Bill Hubauer based on a ‘Portnoy challenge’, the show came closer to its core – the “?” record from 2005. The scenery is kept quite simple, supported by a rather video projection and some spotlights. Morsefest isn’t about fancy gimmicks and crazy light shows. These two nights are about compositions and harmonies that are performed in perfection with Neal Morse being the leader of the pack. And you get a lot of these great songs since night one means a 2,5 hours prog rock firework that is an impressive masterpiece.

Halftime.

Night no. 2 was build around the “Sola Scriptura” release, an album telling the story of Martin Luther. And what else should start such a show than the epic “The Door” which is done as 34 minutes jaw dropping ‘prog symphony’. I’m not sure if the two dancers during “The Conflict” added so much to the general experience, but who cares. The song is awesome and a beautiful way to spend 25 minutes. As on the album “Heaven in My Heart” follows and it’s “The Conclusion” that brings it home. With the last note of “Sola Scriptura” played, the show moved on with the acoustic “Waterfall”, before “At the End of the Day”, a Spocks’ Beard song that came with a surprise. Instead of Mike Portnoy it was Mick D’Virgilio who took place behind the drum kit. And the fact that both, Morse and D’Virgilio also sang, “Wind at My Back” together brought back old Spock’s Beard memories.

All in all it's these two nights that gives you almost 5 hours of finest prog rock. This DVD shows the beauty of music. It’s a pleasure to listen to these guys when performing songs that are multi-layered and approachable.

After having seen these two show the bonus material feels almost trivial. It’s another hour that provides background information and some insights into the preparations. Everybody of The Neal Morse Band has sections when they talk about the Morsefest, private stories and much more.

“Morsefest 2015” is more than just a DVD release; it’s lifts the bar. It’s a monumental and comprehensive release covering creative milestones of a musician (and band) that belongs to the group of main influencers in contemporary progressive rock music.

 

(10/10)

 

Tracklist:

DVD 1:

  1. Intro (1:56)
  2. The Call (10:25)
  3. The Grand Experiment (7:36)
  4. Go the Way You Go (14:01)
  5. MacArthur Park (13:36)
  6. A Whole ‘Nother Trip (24:14)
  7. New Jerusalem (8:33)
  8. Question Mark Intro (3:16)
  9. Temple of The Living God (6:35)
  10. Another World (2:16)
  11. The Outsider (2:52)
  12. Sweet Elation (2:46)
  13. In the Fire (8:02)
  14. Solid As the Sun (7:57)
  15. The Glory of The Lord (3:05)
  16. Outside Looking In (5:12)
  17. 12 (7:00)
  18. Entrance (6:14)
  19. Inside His Presence (7:16)
  20. The Temple Of the Living God Reprise (1:14)

DVD 2:

  1. Intro (2:06)
  2. The Door (34:28)
  3. The Conflict (27:55)
  4. Heaven in My Heart (5:42)
  5. The Conclusion (17:34)
  6. Waterfall (7:56)
  7. At the End of the Day (17:07)
  8. Wind at My Back (7:02)
  9. Whirlwind Medley (16:37)
  10. Additional: Behind the Scene Documentary

CD 1:

  1. Intro (1:56)
  2. The Call (10:25)
  3. The Grand Experiment (7:36)
  4. Go the Way You Go (14:01)
  5. MacArthur Park (13:36)
  6. A Whole ‘Nother Trip (24:14)
  7. New Jerusalem (8:33)

CD 2:

  1. Question Mark Intro (3:16)
  2. Temple of The Living God (6:35)
  3. Another World (2:16)
  4. The Outsider (2:52)
  5. Sweet Elation (2:46)
  6. In the Fire (8:02)
  7. Solid As the Sun (7:57)
  8. The Glory of The Lord (3:05)
  9. Outside Looking In (5:12)
  10. 12 (7:00)
  11. Entrance (6:14)
  12. Inside His Presence (7:16)
  13. The Temple Of the Living God Reprise (1:14)

CD 3:

  1. Intro (2:06)
  2. The Door (34:28)
  3. The Conflict (27:55)
  4. Heaven in My Heart (5:42)

CD 4:

  1. The Conclusion (17:34)
  2. Waterfall (7:56)
  3. At the End of the Day (17:07)
  4. Wind at My Back (7:02)
  5. Whirlwind Medley (16:37)

 

Label: Radiant Records / Metal Blade

Genre: Prog Rock

Release Date EU: March 24th, 2017

 

BluRay/DVD review THE NEAL MORSE BAND "Morsefest 2015"
Tag(s) : #The Neal Morse Band, #Prog Rock, #Prog Metal, #Rock, #News, #Live Review, #DVD Review, #Spock's Beard, #Transatlantic

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