The Neal Morse Band – “The Similitude of a Dream”

nmbI need to make a few disclaimers before I even get into this album. Neal Morse is a Christian, I am an Atheist. I did the whole Christian thing when I was younger but I guess I had my own Spiritual journey that ran the opposite of Neal. Regardless of that, I do own the entire Spock’s Beard discography, the entire Transatlantic discography and yes even some of Neal’s solo albums. As long as “The Similitude of a Dream” didn’t get too obviously Christian, I’d be okay.

I’d also read all of Mike Portnoy’s statements about this album being a classic and the best thing he has been involved in. I know Portnoy does talk a lot so I took it with a grain of salt. This is not the best thing he has been on nor is it even close to being one of the greatest prog concept albums of all time. However, it does fall in line with many of Neal Morse’s past albums both musically and (unfortunately for me) lyrically. “The Similitude of a Dream” is a mix of “One,” “Testimony” and a little bit of “Snow.” Not much new ground is covered.

Despite all of that, there are plenty of good songs on the album. But like just about every double concept album ever made, it has it’s share of filler and goes on too long. The funny thing is there are at least two songs that AREN’T the last track that made me think I was ON the last track, “Sloth” and “Confrontation.” Either would have been a good place to stop. I would have preferred “Sloth” since “Freedom Song” was a country Christian Jesus hoedown that I had to skip about halfway in.

The key player on all of this is guitarist/vocalist Eric Gillette who has easily the best voice on the album, with all due respect to Neal. “So Far Gone” is easily my favorite track and his vocal on it is definitely a reason. The song has a bit of a standard rock riff but it actually works because Neal never really does that. Speaking of riffs, the main riff on “The Man in the Iron Cage” is WAY too close to “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin.

Is this a good time to mention that Portnoy gets a lead vocal? Why do people think he has a good voice? Great drummer who would be better served by sticking to that. Portnoy gets a lead vocal on the somewhat metal track “Draw the Line” and it just doesn’t work for me. Keyboardist Bill Hubauer gets a few vocal spots as well and while he is an upgrade on Portnoy, he has an odd tone that puts him a rung below Gillette and Morse.

So by now, you are asking yourself “why did you review this?” I suppose I should have expected the lyrics to be a crapshoot and at times they don’t bother me, while other times I do cringe. I bought into the hype. But this album is not THAT much better than anything Neal Morse has done. Now that’s fine for those who love everything he has done. “The Similitude of a Dream” will DEFINITELY please the core fanbase.

What makes an album great is to transcend that fan base and appeal to the greater populace (in this case) of the prog world and beyond. Why do people love the classics that Portnoy compares this album to? Because they have something universal that everyone can identify with. Not everyone has had some religious awakening and let’s face it, Neal has explored that on both “Testimony” albums and “One.” So the whole concept has been done, by him a few times.

Still this is well crafted, well executed and well produced. Yes it could have been a single disc like any double concept album, in my opinion. There are some songs on here that musically rank up there with anything Neal Morse has done. “The Similitude of a Dream” isn’t a revelation but just another chapter in the prog holy book of Neal Morse.

Rating: 6.5/10


Disc 1
1. Long Day
2. Overture
3. The Dream
4. City Of Destruction
5. We Have Got To Go
6. Makes No Sense
7. Draw The Line
8. The Slough
9. Back To The City
10. The Ways Of A Fool
11. So Far Gone
12. Breath Of Angels

Disc 2
1. Slave To Your Mind
2. Shortcut To Salvation
3. The Man In The Iron Cage
4. The Road Called Home
5. Sloth
6. Freedom Song
7. I’m Running
8. The Mask
9. Confrontation
10. The Battle
11. Broken Sky/Long Day Reprise

Label: Radiant Records

About Rob

I have been a fan of progressive metal and progressive rock for most of my life. My music collection is insanely large. My passion for life is music!
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7 Responses to The Neal Morse Band – “The Similitude of a Dream”

  1. Judy Humphries says:

    Appreciate the thoughtful review here- I also have the ‘Neal Morse Christian cringe’ reaction but at least now I have been intelligently forewarned about Similitude (on its slow way to rural Australia – because there have always been gems hidden amongst it with his previous albums). With this one I might break my own ‘entire album or nothing’ rule and edit out the tracks I don’t like…shhhh….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anonymous says:

    It’s more than 6.5, at least it’s 8.5 out of 10. Double concept album, that I listen without skipping any track. The whole idea is perfectly composed and delivered. No narration, no interludes. Short and sharp numbers. Not so much prog- shredding. About the lyrics. I expect such content from Neal Morse. Normally I don’t give a damm about what others singing. Don’t care about mockers, haters, atheists, satanists and etc. Music first


  3. Nobody seems to twig that Neal Morse is using Bunyan’s “A Pilgrim’s Progress” as the source material. I wonder whether he’s had it on his “to do” list for awhile, since its low-church English Protestantism seems to really resonate with Neal’s American Evangelism. Waiting for the right band to form, perhaps?

    As for things being “already done”…..aren’t we pretty far down that road already? In my view, setting “A Pilgrim’s Progress” musically is a perfect task for Neal Morse. It’s probably the recording towards which his career has been building. So I’d view TSOAD as a culmination, not a mere revisiting. And really, what’s more universal than an Everyman?


    • progmanrob says:

      I disagree. Source material is still Christian and he has done the pilgrimage storyline himself. This is the same old thing from him. This isn’t a masterpiece and not even close to any of the classics that Portnoy claimed it was. Glad you like it but it’s another over hyped effort from Neal.


  4. Michael Strawn says:

    Totally agree. I am put off by Morse’s blatant proselytizing but think it’s toned waaay down on this album. Love the concept, how the songs seamlessly blend into each other. Also appreciate the multitude of vocals…having Gillette and Hubauer compliment Morse’s vocals adds a theatrical element to everything. Even Portnoy’s vocals don’t bother me as I feel they fit in.

    But mostly it’s the songs. Just feel they’re strong. Yeah, each individual piece isn’t covering any new ground…but the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

    My favorite album (along with Steven Wilson’s Hand Cannot Erase) of last several years.

    Liked by 1 person

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