NMB – Innocence & Danger (2021)
Many times I have tried to understand Neil Morse's music and get a positive feeling about it. From the very first Spock's Beard album to all his solo projects, I have only partially succeeded in this. I can hear the passion and urgency and also hear the virtuosity in his keyboard work in particular and to a lesser extent in his vocals. I think his last few albums are all quite good, but I am really put off by his often very religious lyrics. Attracted by the beautiful cover of Innocence & Danger and the many rave reviews that without exception indicated that there are no strongly religious lyrics on this new album, I decided to try again if I might like it. I can say that I'm convinced now because I think it's a great record and for me everything finally falls into place. Of course the music is fabulous and the production is very good again , but there is some kind of balance in the compositions that I have not discovered before. This is a double album with two different faces. Hey, that's perfectly portrayed on the cover. Disc 1 contains some more song-like work and disc 2 only contains two songs, so epics. What is the difference with previous music then? I think that's due to the fact that Innocence & Danger has a real band feeling in which all band members have had a greater input than before. This is confirmed by the accompanying DVD (in the deluxe version) with a documentary about the creation process of the album. It becomes clear that not only Morse, on the spot by the way, provided ideas, but certainly also keyboardist Bill Hubauer and longtime bassist Randy George. Besides this the melodies are just catchier and stick more than before. Opener Do It All Again is one of the better songs I know from Morse with a nice melody and wonderful keyboard work, supplemented with nice guitar solos by the unsurpassed Eric Gillette. The following songs are all fine and even the prog version of Bridge over Troubled Water is quite good. Still, the real fireworks for me don't start until disc 2. Despite the fact that it certainly sounds very American again, so a bit over the top, these two epics really are of an exceptional quality. Not Afraid part 2 clocks in at just under twenty minutes and offers plenty of spectacle and variety. All instrumentalists are absolutely world class and Mike Portnoy shows once again how technique and groove are connected in his varied drumming. And the best is yet to come. Beyond the Years shows in more than thirty minutes how well these men can make an epic together without a moment of boredom when listening to it. The harmony vocals are really beautiful but also individually very good vocalists are at work here and the emotion can’t be missed. Perhaps unnecessary to mention, but I'll do it anyway, all gentlemen are allowed to solo until they drop and that last guitar solo by Gillette really touches me deeply. Do we have a perfect album here or are there still minor points of criticism? Well, a few maybe. The abrupt ending of Beyond the Years really makes no sense. A number of songs on disc 1 don't do that much for me, such as Your Place in the Sun and Another Story to tell. And as already mentioned, here and there it is all so intense and slightly over the top that some might find this disturbing. For me, I really have to be in the mood for it, but if that's the case then it's over one and a half hours of pure enjoyment.