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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 | 365 ratings

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stefro
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Even the die-hard fans admit that Neal Morse's Christian defection was a huge loss for the US Prog- titans to take, and even though the bands's output since has still been good, it's just that it's not extra- special anymore, and even though I hate to say it, lacks the fire and the god-to-honest faux-emotional candour filled with insanely-catchy pop/rock hooks that so epitomised Morse's work. The first three SB albums are the jewels in the groups sparkling crown; 'The Light' proved to be the prog-debut of the 90's and the last truely great US prog epic. Sophomore record 'Beware Of Darkness' continued were it's predecessor left off, only shorter, sharper, more concise. And then there was 'The Kindness Of Strangers'. Many asked whether the prolific prog-rock hit-making machine could continue with such un-broken and ruthless efficiency. They'd beaten the 'difficult-second- album' thing, unlike a thousand different bands, and then they went and, gasp, gave their third album a very non-prog cover, a cover that resembles a strange european travel-brochure and was completely out-of-kilter with everything they had ever done. Gone too was the mystic cartoons and ambiguous omens of 'The Light' and 'Beware Of Darkness'. Were the tunes still there too? Or had they been jettisoned in this new-look fury? The answer is, emphatically, no. 'The Kindness Of Strangers' is up there as one of the most consistent, inventive and, even, dare I say it, definitive Spock's Beard studio albums to date. It stands proudly, shoulder-to-shoulder with Morse's personal-favourite 'V' and the groups most popular, their brilliant debut, the afore-mentioned 'The Light', and is a kind of sonic tour through their trademark best-of-beard moments, which range from the gutsy, odball pop-metal of 'In The Mouth Of Madness' to the sheer, delectable prog-brilliance of the slow-starting 'Harm's Way' and the steel-prog- funk inventiveness of 'Flow'. Shorter songs start to appear more frequentyly too, giving the album as-a-whole a great overall and individual feel, which the predecessor 'BOD' didn't really achieve(despite it's excellent tunes). Ultimately, it's an album which has, in time, become a testament to the brilliant musical skills and ideas of Neal Morse. His recent life-change has, in some opinions, taken away something truely unique, i.e. his collaborations with NDV, Alan Morse, Ryu and Dave Meros which have undoubtedly created some of the greatest modern progressive rock yet. That collaboration is no more now, and yes, it's sad. The beard are still great, it's that edge, that glint in the collective band's eye that has faded now. But the culmination of that fruitful period, spread across six superb albums, will live on for a long time and will influence many, many musicians, just like it's been doing for the last 10 years. 'The Kindness of Strangers' is peak of sorts for the band as whole, a band being lead by Morse. The soothing beauty of 'June' sparkles and shines from the albums middle, it's tearful, maudlin yet wonderfully up-lifting tones stretch out across the albums remaining 6 tunes, acting as a kind of reference point to the records themes. It's a joyous moment of thrilling beauty and it's legacy will live forever. As for the album? Yes, it is one of their greatest, and yes, it is a watermark reached that will never be reached again(unless we are REALLY lucky). But like all the best albums, we will rarely get bored of it, and it's timeless glory will relect throughout their music for years to come, and that, my friends, can only be a very, very, very good thing. A great record. STEFAN THOMAS TURNER, LONDON, 2008
stefro | 5/5 |

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