On the same day they released their third album of covers; Morse Portnoy George also released an anthology which also includes remastered versions of the first two albums. The first album was released in 2006, the second in 2012, with the third out in 2020 so although it is unusual for musicians to release so many cover albums it has been done over a period of time. One thing which needs to be remembered is that these guys have loads of fun with these, and in many ways it is a step away from the more serious music they record together. I am hoping against hope that one day Yellow Matter Custard will record another album, as their live sets when they play Beatles all night is just sublime (Morse, Portnoy, Paul Gilbert and Matt Bissonette/Kasim Sulton). They do not need to do this, but have loads of fun together when doing this so why not?
Portnoy and George have been playing with Morse since 2003, and they have played countless shows together over the years, so they all know how each is going to play and can react to that and slot in. Here they mix and match the styles and type of songs, so the listener never knows what is coming next (unless they read the track listing). Take for example the latest disc, where they start with “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed”. Although Morse is a good multi-instrumentalist it is something else altogether to take parts originally made famous by Peter Banks and Tony Kaye, but here he just goes for it, and makes it through to the other side ably abetted by one of the best rhythm sections around, while Jon Davidson guests on vocals. Songs such as “Hymn 43” get turned into something far ballsier than the original, with Portnoy taking every opportunity to fill up the space up as he powers through the kit. This means that while they are staying true to the original, they are definitely not trying to reproduce it but coming at it from their own backgrounds. “Baker Street” feels slightly off, as does “Life On Mars”, but to be honest here is a band having a blast and “Runnin’ Down A Dream” is sublime.
I’ve lost count of how many Neal Morse albums I have, including his band permutations, the Beard, Transatlantic etc, but this isn’t one to be take seriously but just to play and hear here guys paying tribute, knowing they can never better the originals but that is not what this is all about. As Portnoy explains: “One of the first things myself, Neal and Randy usually start talking about what we can cover when we gather for one of Neal’s solo albums, should we have some leftover time at the end of the session. Most of the songs are rooted in the 60s and 70s and are songs / bands we grew up with.” Explains George, “We all share an attachment for this era of music, so we each throw out song ideas, see what sticks, and record the ones we like the most!”
7/10 | Kev Rowland