InsideOut Music
Release date: December 19, 2006

User Review
0/10 (0 votes)

A successful cover song is defined by more than mere objective criteria. People who know the original tend to have a rather long list of such criteria, plus a handful of totally subjective thoughts, in order to approve of a cover version. Then there are cases where the cover is just so damn good (and the original perhaps wasn’t?) that people hardly speak of its origin. Take “Hey Joe,” for example. Where would that song be if it wasn’t for Jimi Hendrix? The collection presented by gentlemen Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, and Randy George as Cover To Cover hardly aims to serve any other purpose than three guys playing songs they like.

The Music

Because it all started during the recording of Neal Morse’s first Cprog (Christian Progressive Rock) album, Testimony, where Mike Portnoy was the designated drummer. Jamming together, the two realized they shared the love for Classic Rock songs out of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Recording some of these common favorites back then, they kind of started a tradition, and three Neal Morse solo albums down the road, they now proudly present an album full of covers. When Randy George joined the two during the 2004 One and 2005 ? sessions, he proved to share the same interest, and thus became a valuable contributor to their “tradition.”

The selection of originals ranges from material by David Bowie to The Who alphabetically, and from The Monkees to U2 chronologically. Supposedly, all members of the trio have contributed to the selection, and somehow they have managed to make choices that really bring the album together. Thus, this album should work well whether you know the originals or not.

It’s hard to pick favorites from this album, since all songs have individual qualities and the Morse/Portnoy/George interpretations are ditto. But, worth mentioning in particular are perhaps “I’m Amazed,” “Rock And Roll Suicide,” “What Is Life,” and a simply brilliant version of “I’m Free / Sparks,” with no disrespect intended for the remaining 9 songs, of course.

The Band

Gentlemen Neal Morse and Mike Portnoy hardly need any introduction, considering the influence both have had on the Progressive Rock scene for nearly two decades with the bands Spock’s Beard and Dream Theater, respectively. Bassman Randy George is perhaps a little less known to the wide audience, except those familiar with his Cprog band Ajalon (and, of course, his work with Neal Morse since 2004). Common for them all is exceptional instrumental handling skills. And then there is the divine voice of Neal Morse, which words just cannot serve justice …

On a collective level, however, this album really rocks! Especially the songs from the ? sessions display a band which is tight, spiritual, and just very well put together. It sure sounds like they had a lot of fun!

There is a handful of guests onboard as well, with perhaps the most prominent one being Phil Keaggy (alternate vocals on “What Is Life?”), whose career nearly spans over four decades.

The Verdict

Whether you like cover songs or not, this is an album to appreciate. The trio has taken their own spin on the songs and successfully added new life to already rather vital songs. And, if that’s not enough, the album is worth it just for the sake of hearing Neal Morse’s unique and soulful vocals (and his fabulous guitar playing), Mike Portnoy’s dynamic and enthusiastic drumming, and Randy George’s versatile and expressive bass playing coming together like this. Enjoy!

Songs (original performer):
1 Pleasant Valley Sunday (The Monkees)
2 Badge (Cream)
3 Maybe I’m Amazed (Paul McCartney)
4 Where Do The Children Play (Cat Stevens)
5 I’m The Man (Joe Jackson)
6 Feeling Stronger Everyday (Chicago)
7 Rock And Roll Suicide (David Bowie)
8 Where The Streets Have No Name (U2)
9 Day After Day (Badfinger)
10 What Is Life? (George Harrison)
11 I’m Free / Sparks (The Who)
12 Tuesday Afternoon (Moody Blues)
13 Find My Way Back Home (Blind Faith)

Neal Morse – keyboards/guitars/vocals
Mike Portnoy – drums
Randy George – bass

Also contributing: Phil Keaggy (vocals), Chris Carmichael (violin, viola, & cello), Jim Hoke (saxophone), Neil Rosengarden (trumpet), & Bill Huber (trombone).



  • Frode Leirvik

    Frode was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio, based out of Norway. His headbanging experience started when his brother-in-law gave him Deep Purple’s Fireball at the age of ten. Since then, he has also been a fan of and active in several other musical genres, resulting in a deep and profound interest in music. Some of his favorites, among all of those who have somehow managed to tap into the universal force of Progressive Music are (in no particular order): Thule, Dream Theater, King Crimson,Pink Floyd, Rush, Spock’s Beard, Jan Hammer and Jerry Goodman, Ekseption, Focus, The Beatles, Deep Purple and Frank Zappa.

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