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Spock's Beard - The Kindness Of Strangers  CD (album) cover

THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

Spock's Beard

 

Symphonic Prog

3.75 | 368 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars After all, it's just a cake walk on easy street

That's how they make it seem, anyways. With the release of The Kindness Of Strangers Spock's Beard established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the progressive world. Often taking fire from some critics over sounding too poppy, this band has also received flak for trying too hard and coming off as a clone of the old 70s prog giants. While it may seem this way with their winding keyboard driving compositions, the band has enough of it's own style to seem unique against the symphonic crowd. Adding a bit of a modern touch to the older bands, this is a band whose upbeat songs can really keep the attention of most prog-heads.

This particular album capitalizes on what the Beard is very good at -- mid-long pseudo-epics mixed with a bundle of shorter prog-driven rock songs that break up what could become a wall of sound to make the album very accessible while still maintaining replay value that comes with more complex tracks. Opening with the key driven The Good Don't Last the Beard gets things off to a flying start. A semi-religious track thanks to its lyrical undertones the song manages to stay more on the poetic side of things than blatantly bashing the listener with ideals. Music wise this is a very strong track that doesn't ever let down and doesnt ever become boring thanks to it's speed changes and unique melodies.

Opening on a long track the band decides to let off for some breathing room. Let the short songs begin.

The shorter tracks on this album represent a group of songs very well constructed and intricately arranged as to make even a prog-head bob their head along with it. Starting with In The Mouth Of Madness the short songs get off to a quirky start as Morse's synths drive the song into a frenzy when the rest of the band picks up only letting down to allow Morse time to sing out some crazy lyrics. The chorus allows for a more organized chaos as the bass seems to bring everything together only to be blown apart again by the synths. Cakewalk On Easy Street follows this fairly closely if more melodic than it's predecessor. Then we make our way to the obligatory slow song.

Saying that I heartily enjoy a slow song on an otherwise upbeat album would be a terrible lie. Taking the pace of an album and slamming it headfirst into a wall with a slow track which takes away its momentum completely is a crime that has been committed far too many times. However, I would also be lying if I said that there aren't times when this is completely appropriate and actually contribute to the overall album. While Spock's Beard is usually a band who can't pull off the slow-song-stuck-in-the-middle, June is a surprising treat that makes an excellent addition to the overall mix. A beautiful ballad with some excellent acoustic parts and a very pleasant pace make this one a very big standout on the album.

But then we're back into the frantic pace.

With some well placed synths and guitars Strange World opens blissfully and continues in the same vein with some well done vocal and piano parts from Morse as the track progresses. Likely the most rockish track on the album, this is still an excellent listen. But now we're onto the longest tracks on the album. Will they be able to stand the test?

In short, yes. The next two tracks are what take an already great album and push it up that extra mile. Harm's Way opens with some malicious sounding bits and then picks up it's pace faster and faster until it gives way to some nice piano and guitar bits before letting off into some vocals. Continuing on this pace until just near the end when it starts to pick up like there's no tomorrow, Harm's Way is the definitive standout on the album.

The other long track on the album, Flow is another good one. Opening with the same fast pace as it's predecessor, this one gets some keyboarded feet under it and simply runs. A fast paced beauty who only slows down at the last part of the suite before picking up again for a cataclysmic finish, Flow takes the mark that makes this an excellent album and sets it in stone.

Though comparable to bands like Yes, Spock's Beard have acquired a unique sound that sets them apart from many others in the genre. This is an album that shows off very well what they're capable of. Not a masterpiece, but still an excellent addition to any progressive collection, this one gets 4 stars. Recommended to Beard fans, Symph-prog fans and anyone who likes a good fast paced, upbeat album with a pinch of quirk.

Queen By-Tor | 4/5 |

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