This is a fun one. Mike Portnoy’s latest collab finds him drumming with the Pan Rocks Steel Drum Orchestra on an instrumental cover of Rush’s classic “Spirit of Radio.” It pretty much sounds like Rush on a Caribbean vacation, and it is super fun. Check it out!
Tracks: Changeling (6:35), My Evolution (6:47), I’m A Refugee (4:02), White Matter Recess (4:24), Everyone’s Charade (5:19). You are the Peacemakers (4:33), Song of Aleppo (10:08), Silence (4:58), Write Your Name (4:22), Help Me (4:21), Silence For Humans (14:26)
Casey McPherson’s latest Alpha Rev album, Cas.e Sessions Volume 1, sees the extremely talented singer and multi-instrumentalist tackling music-making in a unique way. Modeled loosely off Neal Morse’s groundbreaking Inner Circle concept, the Cas.e Sessions membership program finds Casey making one song per month, creating a mini documentary about its creation, and presenting it to the members. After receiving positive feedback and seeing that the songs meshed together fairly well, he decided to release season 1 (2016) of the Cas.e Sessions music as a new Alpha Rev album.
Some might call this album pop, but I see it as prog in the vein of a band like Muse. There are a lot of similarities between this and Muse, such as the melodies and vocal lines, but this is a unique album that clearly comes from the heart. One might call this group of songs eclectic, but they work really well together, even though they were all written separately as a single project per month.
Mike Portnoy’s new supergroup, Sons of Apollo, is the prog metal bombast we have been waiting from the legendary drummer ever since he left Dream Theater. While DT have struggled to define their sound moving forward, Portnoy has dabbled in seemingly disparate genres in an endless number of bands (all of them admittedly amazing). Sons of Apollo finds him coming home to the wonderful world of prog metal with a lineup of extremely talented musicians.
Featuring Portnoy on drums, Bumblefoot (formerly of Guns N’ Roses), on guitar, Derek Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater keyboardist circa “Falling Into Infinity”), Billy Sheehan (Winery Dogs) on bass, and Jeff Scott Soto on vocals. I initially was hesitant when I heard Sheehan would be playing bass, because I’m not the biggest fan of his heavily distorted bass tone, even though I think he is a brilliant player. However, in a heavy metal setting, his tone works quite well. Soto’s vocal range matches the music quite well. He can go from Brian Johnson-esque screams in the beginning of “Coming Home” to Steve Perry highs later in the same song.
In a way, Sons of Apollo reminds me of AC/DC if they were super proggy, super complex, and had a keyboard master. Sherinian really is a brilliant keyboardist, and I like that he uses more traditional organs rather than the nintendo theme-song keyboards that other DT keyboardists have overused. In the music videos, it is clear that Sherinian is thrilled to be working with Portnoy again, and based upon the drummer’s Twitter feed, the feeling is mutual.
I kept my expectations pretty low for Sons of Apollo’s “Psychotic Symphony” because there seemed to be a lot of hype surrounding it. After listening to it several times, the album has grown on me, and I can honestly say the hype is justified. This is a fantastic metal album well worthy of any progger’s collection.
As many of you probably already know, Mike Portnoy–drum and compositional demigod–turns 50 in April. Mike, Happy Birthday! We love you, man!!!
I’ve had the great privilege of seeing Portnoy live many, many times, and it’s never anything but an absolute treat. For 25 years, Mike has been driving prog rock forward and bringing to the fans, delight after delight. My wife (who has gone to all of the concerts with me) agrees completely.
This entire two-hour episode of Progarchy Radio is dedicated to the inspired genius of Mike Portnoy. I play the entire twelve-step suite as well as music from Flying Colors, Big Elf, Transatlantic, the Neal Morse Band, Yellow Matter Custard, and the Morse-Portnoy-George Cover-to-Cover project.
Radiant Records has announced a live release of Morsefest 2015, featuring two concerts covering Sola Scriptura, ?, and selections from the catalogs of Transatlantic and Spock’s Beard. One of the concerts even finds Mike Portnoy and Nick D’Virgilio on the same stage together.
You can pre-order the set now over at Radiant’s website. My only beef with the variety of sets on offer (besides the high price) is the fact that they aren’t offering a 2 Blu-Ray/4CD set. All they have is the 2DVD/4CD set or the 2 Blu-Ray set. Why they aren’t offering a DVD/Blu-Ray/CD set (much like the excellent Transatlantic KaLiveoscope box set from a couple years ago) is anyone’s guess.
A fired-up and ready-to-rock Neal Morse Band kicked off its 2017 Similitude Of A Dream Tour last night at RockeTown in Nashville, TN. They performed the entire album before an ecstatic crowd, most of whom knew every word of the 2-disc magnum opus.
This was a different kind of show than Neal and his band mates have performed before. It’s clear that they want the album as a whole to take center stage, and not the musicians themselves. For instance, Neal did not even address the audience until after Shortcut To Salvation, which was in the second half of the set. Mike spoke briefly before Freedom Song. Other than those breaks, the focus was entirely on the songs.
The performance began with a darkly cowled Neal singing Long Day off to the side, illuminated with a handheld light. Then the entire group exploded into Overture, and we were off on an adventure through all kinds of trials and tribulations. Throughout the show stunning videos complemented the songs, and Neal wore various masks and outfits.
As a group, Neal, Mike, Randy, Bill, and Eric have melded into a mighty musical force. When Randy George and Mike Portnoy lock into their groove, the result is ferocious thunder. Eric Gillette has matured into an extraordinary guitarist and vocalist (give him more lead vocals!), and Bill Hubauer’s keyboards and vocals are always rock-solid. Neal, of course, is the consummate showman – singing, pulling off amazing guitar solos, and mugging for the crowd before every keyboard showcase.
But the real star of the evening was The Similitude of a Dream. Everything was done in service to the tale of a pilgrim on a spiritual journey – one that went from the City Of Destruction through doubt, fear, confusion, sloth, and battle until he reaches the shining city on a hill. When I first heard TSOAD, I liked it, but I wasn’t knocked out – it was just too sprawling a work for me to take in. After last night’s performance, I get it now. It all holds together as a unified work of art, and it is a beautiful allegory.
Highlights of the show were So Far Gone, where everyone takes a turn on lead vocals; a very moving Breath of Angels, which ended the first half; Shortcut to Salvation; a heavy Man in the Iron Cage; an all-acoustic Freedom Song; and the concluding Broken Sky/Long Day. By the end, everyone was wrung out and happy.
For an encore, the band tore through rip-roaring renditions of Momentum, Agenda, and The Call. Lasting nearly three hours, it was a very satisfying evening. The boys travel to Seattle and other parts west before heading up to Canada and then over to Europe and Israel. If there is any way you can catch this show, do it – it’s an amazing visual and musical experience.