Nick D’Virgilio, Neal Morse & Ross Jennings share first single and video for “Julia” from debut albumNick D’Virgilio (Big Big Train, ex-Spock’s Beard), Neal Morse (Transatlantic, NMB, ex-Spock’s Beard), and Ross Jennings (Haken, Novena) are pleased to announce their debut album titled ‘Troika’ will be released on Feb 25th, 2022. The album is now available for pre-order here:
Today, the band is also sharing the album’s first single “Julia”. You can watch the video by Christian Rios here:
https://youtu.be/Y31eVTnMIxIRoss had this to say about the track:
“With my original demo clocking in at around the 8-minute mark and possibly leaning too close to ‘prog epic’ than the singer/songwriter vibe we were attempting to present on this record, Neal arranged my lengthy ballad into something more concise, in-keeping with the album’s essence and writing in a powerful new chorus in the process!
“This one was all about the 3-part vocal harmony interplay and ‘pull-at-the-heartstring’ lyrics which deals with themes of regret and forgiveness in the context of a broken father-daughter relationship.”
– Ross JenningsTracklisting:
1.Everything I Am (5:43)
2. Julia (6:07)
3. You Set My Soul On Fire (3:22)
4. One Time Less (4:53)
5. Another Trip Around The Sun (4:39)
6. A Change Is Gonna Come (4:24)
7. If I Could (4:02)
8. King For A Day (5:47)
9. Second Hand Sons (4:43)
10. My Guardian (3:43)
11. What You Leave Behind (4:16)
‘Troika’ will be available as Ltd. CD Edition / Gatefold 2LP+CD / Digital Album. Each format includes a bonus alternative version of the track ‘Julia’ and is available for pre-order here: https://dvirgiliomorsejennings.lnk.to/TroikaRecorded during lockdown, the process began with Neal Morse writing some acoustic songs that he thought would be enhanced by strong vocal harmonies. He already knew how well his voice blended with former Spock’s Beard band-mate and Big Big Train drummer/ vocalist, Nick D’Virgilio who came on board and, considering a third man, the Americans sought out Haken’s Ross Jennings from the UK to complete the trio. All three found they had songs that would benefit from the three part harmonic blend, and so they pooled their resources, inputting creatively into each others compositions.
Neal comments: “What a great pleasure it’s been to work on this album with these amazing artists! It was kind of funny… We had been working on the songs remotely for several months before I finally heard all of us singing together at the same time. The first time I brought the faders up, I knew we had the magic!“
Nick adds: “I’ve known and worked with Neal for over 30 years and I’ve been a big fan of Ross and the music he makes for a long time. I felt confident right away that this would be a fun project to be a part of. I was so right.”
Ross comments: “Receiving ‘The Call’ from Neal to participate in this project was somewhat of a prayer answered… As a long time fan of their work, I’ve been singing along to Neal’s & Nick’s records for years, so it felt really natural for my voice to slot right in.”
The tracks took shape with the musicians recording all of the music and vocals separately, yet the eclectic performances burst with the energy and excitement of the collaboration. Acoustic anthems, charged rockers and sensitive ballads are all part of the mix, and the unique blend of Ross, Neal and Nick’s voices and styles have created an album in which you will encounter these musicians in a way you’ve never heard before.D’Virgilio, Morse & Jennings ONLINE:
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Being a fundamentally HUGE (yes, it’s that large!) fan of Big Big Train, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Nick D’Virgilio’s solo album, Invisible. I proudly own his first album, Karma, his first EP, Pieces, every Spock’s Beard album, and Rewiring Genesis. To be sure, I presumed I would like Invisible, as I consider NDV our greatest living drummer, armed not only with rhythm (Holy Moses–that drum kit!) but with vocal prowess as well. And, from what I can tell from social media, he seems like a truly good and genuine person.
All of this adds up to high expectations for Invisible.
Well, it is even better than I expected. And, I expected a lot.
If you asked me to sum it up in a few words or even analyze it track by track, I couldn’t do it. This is a whole work of art—something to be digested in one sitting. Relentlessly captivating, it mixes progressive rock with classical with (ok, I was surprised by this one) with 1960’s style R&B with some mid-1970’s Styx with some punk-tinted Rush with broadway musicals with electronica with funk with straightforward rock and pop. Frankly, Invisible has it all. In this sense, it fits Andy Tillison’s definition of progressive—basically, “whatever I damn well want to throw in, I throw in” (my words, not Andy’s).
What most captures my imagination with the album, though, is NDV’s lyrics—so utterly earnest and so uplifting. In every song, NDV calls us to be our best. That NDV loves life is a certainty as certain that the sun will rise tomorrow, and his joy comes through every song.
If you’re looking for a new BBT or Spock’s Beard album, this isn’t it. And, that’s perfectly fine. Frankly, it doesn’t even really seem like a simple evolution from NDV’s previous solo efforts.
Invisible is . . . beyond all of this in ways that are very difficult to put into words.
But, if you’re looking for something gorgeous, something meaningful, something real, something inspiring. . . look no further. If anything, NDV has proven that real life is quite the opposite of being invisible. Rather, NDV calls us to be our best, to be tangible, and, frankly, to be the incarnate souls we’re meant to be.
To find out everything about NDV, click here: https://www.nickdvirgilio.com
Just when you think you have Neal Morse figured out, he throws another curve ball. His latest project is “a progressive rock musical”, and it is unlike anything else he has produced.
First, Neal himself is not a prominent voice here. He only sings the part of Pilate, along with very minor contributions as a demon and a disciple. Second, this really is a musical, where one song flows seamlessly into another. To fully appreciate it, the listener needs to set aside the time to listen to it in one setting. Third, stylistically this is the most diverse set of songs Neal has written. In his own words, “There are touching ballads, rousing ensemble pieces, classical elements, and dramatic Broadway musical type songs, as well.”
The role of Jesus is performed by Ted Leonard, and he is perfect for it – authoritative one minute, combative the next, and achingly tender in other settings. It’s one of Leonard’s finest performances. Another standout performer is Nick D’Virgilio as Judas, where he manages to convey his initial excitement at Jesus’ early miracles, and then his confusion and disillusionment when he realizes his rabbi isn’t going to overthrow the Roman oppression of Israel. His anguish in “Dark Is The Night” is palpable as he sings,
Jesus there must be some other way
Of conquering the enemy
How can you help us
If you are dead and gone?
Speaking of Jesus, Morse’s version is definitely not the same as the Jesus Christ Superstar from the early ’70s. Where Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus was the happy, hip leader of a group of countercultural provocateurs, Morse’s is a man of action. As I listened to Jesus Christ The Exorcist, the Gospel of Mark came to mind: to the point, not a lot of parables or theological discussions, but many examples of active ministry. Morse’s Jesus is the one in the title: an exorcist waging spiritual battle against the devil and his demons. In many ways, it’s a refreshing portrait. Morse strips the story of Jesus down to the bare essentials – his baptism, temptation, casting out seven demons from Mary, saving the madman of the Gadarenes, the Last Supper, his arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection. If someone who had no idea who Jesus Christ was listened to this album, he or she would have a pretty good understanding afterwards.
What about the music? Neal still has the gift of beautiful melody, and “Love Has Called My Name” is one of the catchiest songs he’s ever composed. There are some fairly heavy tracks (“Get Behind Me Satan”, for example), some singer/songwriter songs (the aforementioned “Dark Is The Night”), some blues (“The Woman of Seven Devils”), and some very nice prog (“Jesus’ Temptation”). “There’s A Highway” sounds like it could be blasting out of a late-70s FM rock radio station.
The vocal performances are uniformly excellent, especially Talon David as Mary Magdalene. Neal wrote and produced the entire piece, as well as playing guitar, keyboards, bass, and percussion. Eric Gillette from the Neal Morse Band plays drums (!), and long-time collaborator Randy George is on bass. Paul Bielatowicz plays lead guitar. There’s also a string orchestra, horns, male chorus, female chorus, and a kitchen sink (just kidding!).
If you’re a fan of Neal, you probably already have this. If his occasional flights of prog excess have made you wary of his music, give this a try – it covers more familiar musical territory. Even if you are not a Christian, give it a listen. It’s actually not as “preachy” as Morse’s earlier Testimony albums, and his gift for composing a memorable melody really shines here, making Jesus Christ The Exorcist one of the most enjoyable musical experiences of 2019.
Now that it appears Geddy, Neil, and Alex are on permanent hiatus, what’s a devoted Rush fan to do? Fortunately, there are some excellent choices available. My top recommendation is another Canadian band, Mystery.
Led by guitarist Michel St-Pere, they have been releasing wonderful albums on a regular basis since the 1990s. As is the case with many groups in the prog genre, their lineup has changed over the years, but the high level of musicianship, top-notch production, and inviting songcraft has been consistent. Past members include drummer Nick D’Virgilio (Spock’s Beard, Big Big Train) and vocalist Benoit David (Yes).
The first time I heard of Mystery was through Tony Rowsick’s indispensable podcast, ProgWatch. He posted an excellent interview with St-Pere in April of this year (you can listen to it here), and he included lots of songs from the band’s long career. My curiosity was piqued, so I followed them on Spotify. After listening obsessively to Mystery music for several days, I went ahead and ordered hard copies of some of their albums.
Call me a throwback, but I still like owning CDs of artists that are special, if only to enjoy the artwork and reading the lyrics. Besides, there is no guarantee that a particular artist’s work will always be available via streaming.
Anyway, after listening to the entire Mystery discography, I recommend the new listener begin with The World Is A Game. It features Benoit David on vocals, and D’Virgilio on drums. Song-for-song, it is an incredibly strong collection, and it ends with one of their finest songs ever, “Another Day”.
Next, the live album, Second Home, is a very good set of songs from more recent releases, and it features Mystery’s current vocalist, Jean Pageau. Finally, their most recent release, Lies and Butterflies, continues the streak of outstanding melodic prog rock.
As I’ve already mentioned, fans of Rush should love this stuff, as well as admirers of Genesis, Pink Floyd, Dream Theater, and Neal Morse. St-Pere is a terrific player who wields his guitar with admirable restraint. His lyrics touch on contemporary issues like isolation in the midst of social media, ignorance and prejudice, finding truth in a world full of deception.
Here’s a concert video of “Another Day”. I love the joy St-Pere (on the left) radiates as his band effortlessly performs this complex piece.