Mascot Label Group
Review by Rick Ossian
This latest project from the supergroup or prog collective unit or whatever you want to call them, is fantastic for the most part. There are extended workouts from all, even vocally as well as instrumentally. Those of you who are familiar with the personnel here will know of what I speak even before listening to this, well, ‘live’ rendition of the bulk of their eponymous studio debut. The reason I question the ‘liveness’, if you will, is because of the unparalleled musicianship contained herein. While we’re at it, we may as well introduce the lads.
Some of you may dispute that these cats need no introduction(s) – well, for the newbies, punters, etc, here we go: On vocals, rhythm guitar and keys, Mr. Casey McPherson, who some of you may know from Alpha Rev. He turns in several brilliant vocal performances here, in addition to his myriad of musical duties. Also on vocals and keyboards, the Maestro, Neal Morse (Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic). I would wager there is a good chance that this fellow wrote some of the music and words to these selections. On the other guitar, Monsieur Steve Morse (Dixie Dregs, Kansas, Deep Purple), he of the shelf full of Best Guitarist Awards. He shines par excellence on these tunes, especially the long, proggy workouts (Blue Ocean, Kayla, Infinite Fire). Seems Morse brought along probably the most bad-ass bassist for leagues around with him from Dixie Dregs – none other than Dave LaRue. Check out the bass lines on this stuff and you won’t be disappointed. Our drummer is none other than the amazing Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Avenged Sevenfold, Adrenaline Mob, Transatlantic, Neal Morse’s solo output — I’m sure I’m forgetting someone, aren’t I?). Portnoy may lay down the occasional gratuitous drum solo (Shoulda Coulda Woulda), but he is without question also the group’s emcee, for lack of a better word. He will assault your wits as well as your ears if you give him the chance! That being said, his behind-the-drums wordplay between songs is the stuff of legend from his days with Dream Theater.
Portnoy is also given the chance to sing lead here (Fool In My Heart). In his defense, he retorts ;”Neal made me do it!” While it may be one of the lackluster moments of the show (Love is What I’m Waiting For, a ballad-y sort of tune), it is by no means a dud. Perhaps I should be more critical, but sometimes we need to not be selfish just because there’s no slamming guitars or drums or whatnot. That being said, Forever In a Daze is more non-partisan rock, if you will, while Hallelujah is a spotlight for the ‘new guy’, Casey McPherson. Vocally he does not disappoint throughout the entire recording.
The Storm features a building of structural piano lines, then pounding drums and a wicked solo from Monsieur Morse. The Odyssey is an instrumental featuring the other Morse (Neal – confused yet?), but the others soon each take their turn(s). It’s interesting when there is an instrumental workout with these fellows, you never know quite what is going to occur! Fascinating in the very least. Kayla is beautiful, perhaps one of the more poignant moments herein. June is dedicated to Neal Morse’s former cohorts in Spock’s Beard, and is a decided spotlight on Neal and his array of keys.
All Falls Down features an intro full of Steve Morse/Dave LaRue fireworks; Everything Changes includes a poignant vocal and a wicked guitar solo from Steve about half way through. Can’t Find A Way is another ballad of sorts, though the instrumentation is spot-on. Vocally it is superb, as I’m rapidly becoming used to with this aggregation. Well, folks, I hate to say it, but that brings me to the end of this particular missive. By the by, if you plan on purchasing this magnificent recording, you must first decide which of the myriad of format (s) you wish to procure! As per usual, there is the requisite Mp3. There is also a double CD package, a limited edition run of a triple-vinyl package, and, of course, DVD and Blu-Ray formats. I plan on trying to nail down a copy of the vinyl, myself! Enjoy! I would give this a higher rating, but alas, there is no rating higher than a fiver, is there?