THE NEAL MORSE BAND—singer/guitarist/keyboardist Neal Morse, drummer Mike Portnoy, bassist Randy George, keyboardist Bill Hubauer and guitarist Eric Gillette—is releasing their latest project, a double-disc concept album “The Similitude of a Dream” Nov. 11.
This will be the eighth studio album with Morse, Portnoy and George, and the second as a true collaboration with this current lineup. Their latest round of worldwide tour dates start Jan. 15 in Morse’s current hometown of Nashville. Here are some of Neal’s favorite places in the country…
My favorite place in the U.S. to visit is…Bandon, Oregon. When I was a kid my family looked up and down the west coast for a beautiful but affordable place to build a second home. My father, being quite adventurous for a music teacher from L.A.’s San Fernando Valley, knew some other professor/anti-war activist types that “dropped out” of society and relocated to southern Oregon in the early 1970s and one visit to Bandon sold the whole family on the crazy idea of building a house there. The house we built is gone now, torn down for something more sensible, (what could be more sensible than a geodesic dome covered in urethane foam?). Did I mention my father was adventurous and it was the ‘70s?), but I still love to go to this sleepy little coastal town known for its lighthouse, crabbing and cheese factory.
The first thing I do when I go to (above place) is I go to…Face Rock. There’s a big rock out in the ocean that actually looks like someone’s massive face, if they happened to weigh several tons and be sleeping in the ocean. (It could happen.) Aside from being the resting place of the sleeping watery giant, it is also one of the most breathtaking beaches on the southern coast of Oregon, which is saying a lot as the entirety of that stretch of strand is libel to leave you gasping from its sheer majesty of vibrant color and unparalleled beauty. Waves explode like white fireworks against rock formations that would perhaps seem more at home in Monument Valley, but here they are jutting right out of the sand with a rainbow assortment of sea anemones and starfish clinging to them for dear life. A walk from Face Rock beach toward lighthouse point across the jetty is sure to clear the mind of all knickknacks and unwanted thingamajigs and leave you ready to go crabbing from the small pier in the mini-marina.
Probably everyone shouldn’t (visit) because then, well, there wouldn’t be any crabs left for the normal people, but you should go. You should go because it is extraordinarily beautiful and has a unique charm. Oh, did I mention the town? It only has a few streets but my wife loves the shopping, and the Cranberry sweets shop has some of the best candies and they ship anywhere. Then on to the cheese factory! Man, I think I should write their travel brochure…if they even have one.
Eugene OR, or “hippy-town” as some people call it...is quite the surprise hang as well. Crazy, groovy, sustainable vegan paint-your-own-pizza-box jazz art while eating a voodoo donut. How’s that for a description! It’s the only place I’ve ever seen a museum devoted to art made exclusively out of real bones and an organic mattress store. Great stuff!
My favorite restaurant in the U.S. is…Roy’s Beachhouse on the northshore of Oahu, HI because the food is from another planet. A really good planet. Not the goo they fed Charlton Heston in the apes movies…(oh, but wait, that was earth, wasn’t it?) My wife and I both had the filet and it was like someone was rubbing melted butter on our eyelids. Plus, Roy’s is in fact ON the beach. Best atmosphere and best food I’ve ever had. Acknowledgements to my friend Hal who hipped us to this sick find.
The best place to find…New England Clam Chowder…is at….at Chef’s Market in Goodlettsville TN. Really? Really! I think they probably make the broth out of pure butter..ok, maybe a little heavy whipping cream to boot. I hope they never make Chef’s put up the caloric intake level on this baby, because it’s bound to be screamin’! It’s thick like a stew and better than any I’ve had even on the Oregon coast. Hand to God. In Goodlettsville. Who knew?
Some great towns people may not know about that they should visit are…Along with Bandon there are also many great towns to visit on the Oregon coast. Standouts are Florence, (dune buggy ride is not for the faint of heart), Brookings (Get your Starbucks and walk on the beach), and Gold Beach. There is a place called Cape Perpetua a short trek north of Florence that has a blow hole and the best hiking in the world. If you are like me and can sit and watch waves crashing against rocks long after everyone else has gotten bored, then allow yourself several hours at this stunning spectacle of churning white water. Just don’t stand too close to the blowhole. Ask me how I know.
What’s a great truck stop? Man, I can’t remember the name but there was a place in the middle of nowhere in New Mexico that had a buffet of Indian food that was outrageously good. Bathroom was filthy and I thought to myself “my wife would run screaming from this place” but my son and I loved it! I guess my dad isn’t the only adventurous one, huh?
“My favorite airport in the US is…Gotta be my home airport of good old BNA. Nashville International. I think it’s only international, because they have like one flight a week to Mexico or something. But, it’s the greatest airport in the world. I very often call my wife and say “I’m at the gate honey!” It’s so exciting because it’s only been ten minutes since she dropped me off! If you travel a lot like I do, that’s quite a thrill. Plus it’s got everything from southern barbecue to a build-your-own burrito joint to Noshville, Nashville’s answer to Katz’s in NYC.
My favorite places to get a burger…are still on the West Coast. Gotta be In-N-Out Burger and Tommy’s. Classics from when I was a kid, but still the best. Double cheese with extra chili at Tommy’s is the very best, but don’t plan to run any triathlons any time soon after consumption, better have plenty of time to recuperate! It’s an event all its own.
Best burritos are…at El Taco De Mexico in Oxnard, CA. The breakfast burritos are especially insane…and cheap, too. Stand and watch gnarly Mexican dude right out of central casting for Nacho Libre sling massive ingredients onto a slab of a tortilla the size of those weird giant pancake aliens on Star Trek. He keeps sloshing out beans and eggs and cheese til you’re thinking “Oh my God, he’s not going to able to actually contain all of that in one burrito?!!!” Then he asks the pivotal question with a slight hint of a challenge in his south of the border smile, “Hot or mild?” “Hot” I say with a knowing nod as if I’ve now passed some secret initiation into the land where REAL burrito eaters rule and reign, and he begins to pour out even more unrestrained concoctions into one steaming pile that he then in one sweeping sleight of hand motion rolls into the perfect burrito. I give him 5 bucks and say “gracias” then take the beast to our hotel where we cut it in 3 parts and all are completely satisfied. Until the next morning anyway. :)