Prog Report Playlist – Top 5 Mike Portnoy Albums

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5 of the best albums featuring Mike Portnoy.

Few drummers, or musicians rather, have had such an impact on one genre as Mike Portnoy has had on Prog.  Since being a founding member of one of the most influential Prog Metal acts of all time, Dream Theater, he has also contributed to dozens of other albums, many of which are a a staple of any Prog fan’s library.  Whether he is playing on one of Neal Morse solo albums or working with another one of his supergroups, each release is as good as the last one, making this one of the more difficult lists we would ever put together.  But we decided to try it anyway.

A little behind the thought process:  We are sticking to Prog so that is why Winery Dogs or Avenged Sevenfold are not on here, although they deserve strong consideration.  We also thought it would be cool to include as many varied projects he was involved in, so that’s why only one Dream Theater album, etc.  We love them all but here is our list of the Top 5 Mike Portnoy albums (in no particular order).  Debate now!

Dream Theater – Metropolis 2: Scenes From A Memory (1999)– To pick one Dream Theater album is nearly impossible.  We could’ve chosen Images & Words for being the ground breaking album for the band, or Six Degress for its enormous undertaking. But it is Metropolis 2 that stands as the band’s best written album and features some Portnoy’s best performances including such classics as Fatal Tragedy and the incredible Dance of Eternity.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-aVCQ3bT5s

 

Transatlantic – Kaleidoscope (2014) – ‘Bridge Across Forever’ has the best Transatlantic song “Stranger In Your Soul” and ‘The Whirlwind’ as one piece of music is certainly incredible but we went with ‘Kaleidoscope’ because it is the perfect blend of everything the band does well, featuring 2 brilliant epics and 3 great shorter songs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTvOgHXbMSk

 

Liquid Tension Experiment 2 (1999) – Liquid Tension Experiment produced 2 amazing albums providing fans of Dream Theater more of the instrumental pyrotechnics that they craved.  The second album is perhaps one of the best instrumental albums ever made and includes the rocker “Acid Rain” and the epic “When the Water Breaks.”

 

Neal Morse – Sola Scriptura (2007) – Some of Portnoy’s best music has been his work with Neal Morse.  The 2 together have produced some of the best Prog albums over the last decade.  While ‘One’ would be another album to hold up as the one many fans might pick but we went for ‘Sola Scriptura’ as it incredibly impressive both in songwriting and technicality with 3 epic tracks.

 

Flying Colors – Second Nature (2014) – The second Flying Colors album took the band to another level continuing their Pop/Prog blend and improving upon it with longer tracks and more elaborate performances.  It shows Portnoy’s ability to play within the music and find his spots.

Photo by Alex Solca

11 comments

  • Great stuff. Metropolis Pt 2 represents the best I’ve ever heard from anyone. I often tell others that if they listen to only one Dream Theater album, it should be Metropolis Pt 2.

    The Grand Experiment (just released) has some great work on it as well.

  • I prefer the first Flying Colors album. That was something very fresh and very new, so much so that I hated it at first. It grew on me pretty fast, though. Second Nature is also brilliant (obviously, it’s Portnoy and Morse), but it isn’t as distinct from everything else as the eponimous album was when it came out, and of course it never had a chance to be such a revelation.

  • Kaleidoscope, while still an amazing album, is probably the weakest Transatlantic album, in my opinion. The songs don’t flow well with each other and the overall effect suffers for it. “Into the Blue” is still one of my favorite songs of theirs, though, after “Stranger in Your Soul” and “The Whirlwind”. “Kaleidoscope”, on the other hand, is not only my least favorite epic from the band, but it’s one of my least favorite songs of theirs, period. Still, in a four-album catalog of mind-blowing music, Kaleidoscope being the weakest isn’t always a bad thing.

  • Mike long ago grew out of his instrument, he is wider, bigger than just cool and charismatic drummer! And Metropolis 2 is the most warm, sincere and concept album “Theater”, in my opinion.

  • Can’t see what Second Nature is doing on that list. In my ears an ‘ok’ album, but not nearly as great or strong for consideration to a list like this as the first Flying Colors album.
    The same goes on “Transatlantic”. In my book Kaleidoscope is the weakest of TA-albums…

  • I would’ve picked Bridge Across Forever for TA. Back then MP was way more innovating than he is now, and it was a better album overall for TA. I guess the amount of praise Kaleidoscope received was what got it to be in this list, but I just don’t feel it. Also, the first FC album was better than Second Nature, too. There’s just a few tracks I still listen to from Second Nature and it came out last year, while the debut is still very solid imo. Haven’t heard anything from Neal Morse’s solo career, but the picks for DT and LTE are pretty much spot on.

  • Sola Scriptura is a very good choice, great job by Mike Portnoy and maybe my favourite Neal Morse album! Same with Metropolis Part II, it’s their final masterpiece. For the three others, I would have picked Transatlantic first or second album, Mike Portnoy sounds more… “fresh” on them I think, Liquid Tension Experiment I and then I would picked another Dream Theater which is still more interesting on a drums point of view than any other projects, it’s hard to chose but I’d say Awake.

  • Although I absolutely love Second Nature (the best album I’ve heard in a long time), I don’t belive that Mike shines on it… he’s solid as ever, but he has no WOW points in the album… drums are pretty much straight forward on it. Since you guys choose to include only one album for each band/project, SN makes perfect sense, but I’d break the rule and include another Dream Theater album just because.

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