Spock's Beard


V

Spock's Beard - V ©2000 Metal Blade
1. At The End Of The Day
2. Revelation
3. Thoughts (Part II)
4. All Of A Sunday
5. Goodbye To Yesterday
6. The Great Nothing

This year has seen some great releases for fans of progressive rock. The next generation bands following on the heels of bands like Kansas, Yes, Rush, Nectar and Pink Floyd have built huge fan bases in Europe and are just now starting to make in-roads in the US. This year has seen releases from Ayreon, Transatlantic, Rocket Scientists, Porcupine Tree and other "new" prog-rock bands to the delight of many who want more from their music than the gruel being offered on the pop radio stations. Bands like Spock's Beard which are huge in Europe are finally seeing the beginnings of attention from US labels with the wisdom to sell CDs to fans here as well as overseas.

This newest CD from Spock's Beard is another in a series of wonderful releases from the band. The CD focuses on the compositional strength of the group's writing talents. The first and last tracks comprise two-thirds of the material on the CD, being over sixteen and twenty-seven minutes long respectively. Much of the lengthy composition is light and smoothly flowing, full of atmosphere. There is also a delicious bit about eleven minutes into the opening track where the band shakes the cobwebs loose and makes certain you are paying attention. This CD is a very impressive outing from a band whose history is filled with impressive work.

Another of the many strengths of Spock's Beard are the vocal melodies. These abound plentifully on this CD. The singing is crisp and clear, emotive and impassioned. It is skillfully woven into the music, never taking center stage in an inappropriate way.

This CD will fit neatly into the hearts of fans of Rush and Kansas alike. There are sounds form Kansas' early works and also Rush from the Hemispheres and Farewell to Kings era. Bits from The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway-era Genesis are sprinkled in too. Spock's Beard are another band that doesn't work hard at producing something to fill the airwaves and deaden the mind. There is thoughtfulness and purpose behind these songs. While the music is easily accessible, it still calls you to stretch a bit and work for a fuller grasp of the content. This is no spoon fed schlock. You'll find it growing on you with each listen and soon you'll be humming a bit from this chorus or that melody. Fans of Enchant, Genesis, Porcupine Tree, Transatlantic, Ayreon, Rush or other progressive rockers will want to give this album a spin.

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 12/2000

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Review #2:

When Spock's Beard played in Oslo last year, they delivered one of the greatest concerts I've ever had the pleasure of attending. Naturally I was quite excited when I picked up this album, but was unfortunately a bit disappointed with what I got. Whilst the concert showed a very talented quintet obviously having the time of their life, the album just floats by, feeling somewhat sterile and uninspired.

Musically you get a sort of modern mix of 80s neoprog ala Marillion and IQ, and the more symphonic 70s bands like Genesis. Add in a dash of early Beatles and you'll have some idea what to expect. The music is generally quite pretty, catchy and well-composed, but it suffers from being overly-derivative from its influences. I tend to end up trying to pick out where I've heard parts in the past. It is, however, a good way for someone not acquainted with the genre to ease themselves in, as the album is very listener-friendly.

The musicianship on here is impeccable, though they boys are quite able to hold themselves back for the good of the song, unlike, for example, Dream Theater, who'll rather try to dazzle you over with their technical prowess. Alan Morse occasionally tries out some really strange things on his guitars, but those experiments tend to be in the background while the focus stands on some other instrument. They are appreciated though. The lead-singer is Alan's brother Neal, who in my opinion is the low-point on here. His vocals in themselves are okay, pretty much being a mid-range clean approach. The problem is that they just seem so ordinary, and his melodies tend to be overly typical and cliché. It's almost as if he just took the first melody that popped to mind while recording them.

There are some great moments on this album, like the instrumental sections of sixteen minute opener "At the end of the day", or the Gentle Giant-like vocal harmonies of "Thoughts (part 2)". Naturally there are more, but for most of the time this album trots by in a rather pedestrian manner. It's good, but it tends to feel uninteresting and like you've already heard it before. The worst moment on here is the ballad "Goodbye to yesterday", which is one of the dullest popsongs I've heard since Travis' last single. The album ends with the twenty-seven minute "The Great Nothing", which is pretty nifty, and doesn't fall into the trap of feeling like they just threw together five different songs in a single long track. Certain themes are repeated and varied upon at several times, usually to great effect, since it really binds together the song into a cohesive unit. The song does feel a bit too long though, particularly during the "majestic" ending, and the quiet and somewhat dull two minutes that follow it. The song as a whole is chockful of neato moments though, and makes for a quite enjoyable listen, which is probably a good thing since it makes up almost half of the album's running time.

Overall we get a good, but not great album. It probably was a hell of a lot of fun to make, but is a bit too up-and-down in its quality. The production is very good, and supports all the different changes throughout the album, never placing too much emphasis on any instrument. Thankfully the vocals aren't mixed too far up, so they're easy to (mentally) tune out if so should be wished. If you like the latest crop of the more popular bands in todays progrock scene, like Flower Kings and Transatlantic, this might be a band you should check out. If you're more into progrock bands like Univers Zero, Henry Cow and Gentle Giant, you'll probably be better off spending your money elsewhere.

Review by Øystein H-O

Review date: 03/2001

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Feel Euphoria

Spock's Beard - Feel Euphoria ©2003 InsideOut Music
1. Onomatopoeia
2. The Bottom Line
3. Feel Euphoria
4. Shining Star
5. East Of Eden, West Of Memphis
6. Ghosts Of Autumn
7. A Guy Named Sid: Intro
8. Same Old Story
9. You Don't Know
10. Judge
11. Sid's Boys Choir
12. Change
13. Carry On

So Spock's Beard decided to pull a Genesis and feature a singing drummer after the departure of Neal Morse, their former singer. Word on the street is that Morse was off to be a Christian, as opposed to pop-art singer. But in the meantime, Nick D'Virgilio figured he was as apt as anyone to take over the vocal role. Ironically, D'Virgilio served as touring drummer for Genesis on their ill-fated Calling All Stations tour. And speaking of ill-fated, he released a very bland solo album and now is providing Spock's Beard with even more of the blandness that illustrates his career.

For a band that seemingly has a dedicated fanbase, Feel Euphoria does nothing to explain why. What we have here is a lengthy, by-the-numbers regressive rock album that is polished and unimpressive all at the same time. Like so many of their labelmates, Spock's Beard spends an awful lot of time rehashing AOR rock with slightly better musicianship with varying degrees of energy. Granted, Spock's Beard tries to kick it up every so often, but it is sort of like watching two Geo Metros drag race. The slower songs might as well be featuring on your local "lite rock" station that plays only songs for the fun-incapacitated.

At its worst, Feel Euphoria is a drag but even at its best, the album is still just another bland release from a label that has cornered the market on inoffensive, neutered AOR rock for the new century.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/3004

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