Morse, Portnoy and George ‘Cover 2 Cover’

 

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#786 in the Series) is Morse, Portnoy and George, Cover 2 Cover

I can’t remember the last time I was so excited about a new release that as I was listening to each track for the first time, I kept thinking of more and more people I had to turn on this incredibly unique, won’t believe it until you hear new record from a trio of rock gods that are so talented, I am almost at a loss for words, so let me just say, Transcendent!

Neal Morse is the talented singer/songwriter known in the progressive rock community for his work as founder and front man of both Spock’s Beard and Transatlantic, which in the prog rock universe is equivalent in my opinion to being the quarterback of a Super Bowl champ and the Cy Young Winner of the World Series champs. His solo career often is mistakenly overlooked because it’s often branded as “God Rock”.  He is at mega/muti talented singer, guitarist and keyboard player who should be more widely known, but at least I am telling you about him now!  Before I introduce you or reintroduce you to the other two players, let me tell you why I am so high on this new release.These guys did an album of covers 7 years ago, many of  those songs included here. But the songs are by artists you would least expect, mostly pop from the 70’s and 80’s, AOR if you will.

The first track is Boz Scaggs “Lido Shuffle” that here gets a faithful and creative twist that pounds your ears in a most pleasant way.  It is followed by cool hit after hit, perfect music to play at a party, but get used to telling everybody who it is. “I Saw The Light” is next and great, then Steely Dan’s. “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number” in which drummer Mike Portnoy comments in the liner notes he used to hear on the radio when he was a kid between “Kung Fu Fighting” and “Billy Don’t Be a Hero.” He remarks aren’t you glad we didn’t cover those and the answer is a resounding yes. Jethro Tull‘s “Teacher” becomes the student as Neal adjusts his vocals to sound more like Ian Anderson, then in the middle of the song rips a tantalizingly short guitar solo. They follow with the Police, Styx and last a rock block of Neil Young, read the funny note from MP on that one too.

What makes this record so appealing is they don’t flex prog rock muscles very often, keep the versions faithful with just enough creative twist to say, as good at least and probably better than the original. Maybe more original than the original if that makes sense. Randy George does incredible bass work (always has, if you check out some of his solo work you will wonder what planet you were one before ). And Mike Portnoy of course is so respectful behind the drum kit, he admits reticence to doing a Police cover before this due to his enormous respect for Steward Copeland.

After the first 7 tracks they add the earlier sessions covers ranging from the ridiculous (Osmond’s and Bee Gees) to the sublime (The Letter, Joe Cocker version is giving me spine chills as I write this) and Nick Lowe’s “Peace Love and Understanding,” which you will want to turn way up. They end with King Crimson’s “Starless,” gorgeous. Portnoy sent a copy to Bill Bruford who loved it!

What causes the wonderment of this work from this project is how can they be so diverse in their coverage? Well they are not quite faithful as some hope and at times incredibly sound-alike at other times. The vocal range of Neal gives them a lot of the versatility, as he was in a lot of LA rock club cover bands when he was a budding musician. But that same vocal range gives both familiar imitation and new innovative sound to various artists. The Todd song is not an attempt to mimic, but adds a new instrument to an old classic. And the Neil Young tribute which starts with some ferocious guitar on “Southern Man,” segues into “The Needle and the Damage Done” with a couple sweet falsettos, including a personal nod to the connection between spirituality and demons of dependency, and finishes with a nailed down version of “Cinnamon Girl” reminds you of what it’s like for great music to be recorded once that button is pressed.

One of my only disappointment is they did not include the cover of Chicago‘s, “Feeling Stronger Everyday” or Joe Jackson’s “I’m the Man” from that earlier release as I could do without Osmond’s or Bee Gees. (Forward from track 7 to 10 and you will be none the wiser!)

As the liner notes state in the closing words, how on earth do you improve something that is already perfect? These guys find a way!

— John Driscoll, Chicago, Illinois, USA

 Track listing

  1. Lido Shuffle
  2. I Saw the Light
  3. Rikki Don’t Lose That Number
  4. Teacher
  5. Driven to Tears
  6. Come Sail Away
  7. Southern Man Needle and the Damage Done Cinnamon Girl
  8. Crazy Horses
  9. Lemons Never Forget
  10. The Letter
  11. (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding
  12. Starless

Personnel

Morse, Portnoy, George

  • Neal Morse – Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
  • Mike Portnoy – Drums, Vocals
  • Randy George – Bass

Additional Musicians

  • Paul Bielatowicz – Guitar, Soloist
  • Paul Gilbert – Guitar
  • Jim Hoke – Horn
  • Ivory Leonard- Vocals
  • Steve Royce – Flute
  • Danielle Spencer – Vocals

Related Links

Posted by Larry Carta

2 Comments

  1. federico (29 Sep 2012, 21:45)
    Reply

    a real BOMB! funny, musical and joyous… thanks

  2. Foster (30 Sep 2012, 13:37)
    Reply

    This is the first knew music I will have bought in along time. Seeing that I have the originals and all. These guys are covered in talent and style.



Leave a Reply

Before you post, please prove you are sentient.

what is 3 in addition to 8?