In the music spotlight: The Neal Morse Band

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The Neal Morse Band — Eric Gillette (from left), Randy George, Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Bill Hubauer. | ROBERT SMITH PHOTO

Neal Morse established his credentials as a formidable musician, songwriter and producer with the grassroots success of Los Angeles-based progressive rock band Spock’s Beard. Morse left the quintet in 2002 shortly after releasing its sixth album “Snow,” a conceptual tour de force worthy to stand alongside Genesis’ “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” or The Who’s “Tommy.”

At the time, he wasn’t sure he’d continue in the music industry. Since 2003’s “Testimony,” however, Morse has released albums under his own name and gained worldwide recognition among prog’s leading artists.

Morse’s projects including 2012’s “Momentum” and 2007’s “Sola Scriptura” are potent combinations of dazzling instrumental chops, yearning melody, compositional influences ranging from classical masters to Frank Zappa, and faith-based lyrical themes. New album “The Similitude of a Dream” is the second album credited to the Neal Morse Band. The 107-minute epic tells a story inspired by John Bunyan’s enduring Christian fable “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” first published in 1678.

Morse recognizes his own experiences with inner turmoil in the book, and spins them into songs like “So Far Gone” and “Broken Sky.”

“I can relate to a lot of it,” he says. “I’ve had that feeling like, ‘Oh, man, I’ve blown it. Maybe I’m too far gone to get back.’ When I write, ‘I have been tormented, and I have been deceived,’ I see my own questions in things the guy goes through. I’ve also found myself in wonderful places in the Holy Spirit where I felt delivered.”

The Neal Morse Band includes longtime partners in bassist Randy George and Winery Dogs drummer Mike Portnoy. The group also features guitarist Eric Gillette and keyboardist Bill Hubauer, who share vocal and instrumental responsibilities with Morse. Key track “The Ways of a Fool” originated with Hubauer. The song boasts a bevy of classic pop influences, including the Lovin’ Spoonful, Zombies, Beatles, Queen, Beach Boys, ELO and Pink Floyd.

“Bill had written that for consideration for [2015 album] ‘The Grand Experiment,’” says Morse. “We reshaped it and added the big progressive section in the middle. It was originally written about the guy who put balloons on his lounge chair and flew up into the LAX airspace. They had to get helicopters to bring him down. I reconstructed the lyric to be about Mr. Worldly Wiseman from ‘Pilgrim’s Progress.’ The main part of the hook was the same – ‘All the ways of a fool, they are right in his own eyes.’”

* The Neal Morse Band, 8:00 p.m., Friday, Jan. 27, Arcada Theatre, 105 E. Main, St. Charles, Tickets $19-$69;

Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer. Email:

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