CD Review of Cover to Cover by Morse Portnoy George

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Cover to Cover
starstarstarno starno star Label: Metal Blade
Released: 2006
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Progressive rock stalwarts Neal Morse (Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic) and Mike Portnoy (Dream Theatre, Transatlantic, Liquid Tension Experiment) have worked with Randy George (Ajalon) on Morse’s solo records. Is Cover to Cover a progressive rock album that will amaze and challenge you while bending your mind? Is it a continuation of the Christian progressive concept albums that Morse has focused on since leaving Spock’s Beard? Well, no. During each of Morse’s solo sessions (in 2003, 2004 and 2005), the boys got around to cutting a few classic rock cover songs, and now, these frighteningly gifted musicians have finally released the material in one package. Seven of the 13 songs, culled from sessions for the ? album, are released for the first time here.

The Monkees, Chicago, Joe Jackson, Cream, the Moody Blues and the Who are among the artists paid tribute here. Does it contain anything earthshaking that would make it an absolute must-have? No. However, you can hear the good time had by Morse, Portnoy and George they bust out straightforward tributes to some of their heroes. There’s nothing particularly innovative about the arrangements or versions collected here, but it’s all very well done.

Morse’s voice sounds best on songs in which his voice is similar to the original artists. He does a good Clapton on “Badge” and nails George Harrison on “What Is Life?” Badfinger’s “Day After Day” sounds great, and he pulls off McCartney on “Maybe I’m Amazed.” The album’s highlight, though, has to be Mike Portnoy’s drumming during the Who’s “Sparks/Amazing Journey.” But not everything works – “Tuesday Afternoon” sounds weird with the added violin, and “Can’t Find My Way Home” really should be just left alone; it was perfectly recorded the first time by Blind Faith.

Portnoy’s liner notes are very cool, and deliver a bit of insight into the selection of each track. Spock’s Beard and Dream Theatre fans have probably grabbed this already, but anyone who still digs a classic rock tune might want to add this to their collection.

~R. David Smola