Today we jump into a sporadic feature of my blog called “Now Playing.” I can’t say that today’s Now Playing is something recently released. In some ways, you could…call this an album review. But there are plenty of them around if you search the internet.
One of the styles of music that has always intrigued me is Progressive Rock – that may come as a surprise to you. One of the first bands that listened to was a band called Glad. Most of you may know Glad as the band that was an a capella band. But in the late 70’s, Glad had a unique mix of rock, classical, and jazz elements. I always enjoyed this combination. In the early 80’s, I learned that Kerry Livgren had become a Christian. Livgren was one of the founding members of Kansas and wrote most of their well-known catalog, most notably “Carry On My Wayward Son,” and “Dust In the Wind.” The first album that I really listen to from Kansas was the Vinyl Confessions album. Due to the departure of Steve Walsh, Livgren wrote most of the songs, with the rest being written by Walsh’s replacement John Elefante. My favorite song from that album was Crossfire. While Vinyl Confessions was not nearly as progressive as Kansas’ earlier works – it was still within the Prog/Rock category. By this time in the 80’s prog/rock had nearly disappeared. By the way, one of my favorites from their earlier releases is the epic 10 minute track Song for America from the album of the same name. After leaving Kansas, Livgren organized AD and now has release several solo albums. In the 90’s Livgren returned to his prog roots, even writing all the tracks for a Kansas album “Somewhere to Elsewhere.”
So all of that brings us to Similitude of a Dream by the Neal Morse Band. Neal Morse was one of the co-creators of Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic (along with Mike Portnoy), and Flying Colors. These are all prog-rock bands from the current century. In the early 2000’s Neal Morse had a conversion experience. Following that, he quit the band Spock’s Beard and his music reflected his new-found faith. Drummer Mike Portnoy joined Morse for many of these projects. Also joining Morse and Portnoy for many of these projects was bassist Randy George. Morse, Portnoy and George have been working on quite a few projects for almost the last 20 years.
In 2015, keyboardist Bill Hubauer (who also founded Apologetix) and Eric Gillette joined Morse, Portnoy, and George to become the Neal Morse Band. They release the album The Grand Experiment.
Finally we get to the point – The Similitude of a Dream is a double CD project that is loosely based on John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. The project clocks in at over 100 minutes. I think I discovered it about six months ago and it has been getting heavy play from me – there are classic prog rock moments on this album – jazzy sections – a bluegrass styled song and more. The musicianship is superb. I finally purchased the project and burned it to CD that I listen to in the car. It has been my go to running music. Yes, it is interesting running to prog/rock with the time changes and all, but many times the music matches my stride which is cool.
It’s not music for everyone, but I’ll share a couple of Youtube videos from Neal’s official channel. The first is one of the several instrumentals on the album called “The Slough.”
Clip #2 is Ways of a Fool – a little Beatles influence, a little Beach Boys, a little Kansas.
One last song – “Makes No Sense.” One of my favorites. This theme repeats several times during the rest of the album.
If you like this style of music I encourage you to check it out. By the way, Part 2 titled The Great Adventure, also a double CD project – a sequel to Simitude of a Dream is also available.