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Spock's Beard - Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep CD (album) cover

BRIEF NOCTURNES AND DREAMLESS SLEEP

Spock's Beard

 

Symphonic Prog

4.03 | 709 ratings

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Warthur
Prog Reviewer
5 stars This is the album which inaugurated a new era for Spock's Beard, with the departure of Nick D'Virgilio leaving both the frontman's microphone and the drummer's stool vacant. With Jimmy Keegan having served as a touring drummer, that post at least was fairly easy to fill; the new lead singer would be Ted Leonard, vocalist of Enchant, who had taken on the role at some festival appearances that Nick hadn't been able to make.

But wait, who's that in the corner, offering some songwriting notes and a guest appearance here and there? Why, it's Neal Morse! Don't get too excited: Neal didn't come back to the band full-time for this one, content to swing by in a guest role to do a little songwriting on Afterthoughts and Waiting For Me, on the latter of which he provides a little guitar.

Neal had, in fact, performed with this exact line-up of Spock's Beard at the High Voltage festival in London - this being one of those times when Ted filled in - when the band brought him onstage to play The Light and June. Nonetheless, his presence is not overbearing here - he doesn't even sing, perhaps not wanting to overshadow Ted on his debut studio album as lead singer.

As it stands, the selection of Ted seems to be an inspired choice - he may be my favourite Spock's Beard vocalist to date - and the band seem to be in fine songwriting form, mingling their customary prog influences with touches of funk and soul - the sort of thing that they've always dabbled in a bit but which they'd never managed to make work to this extent before. Just listen to Submerged and tell me you can't hear just a pinch of Prince in it, particularly in how Ted Leonard handles the lyric. (I'm reminded, in particular, of the psychedelic-tinged approach Prince would take on albums like Around the World In a Day.) It's not that their past is gone - a Gentle Giant-esque bit of interwoven vocal play, a trademark of their early years, shows up on Afterthoughts, for instance - but it's now set in a new framework.

It all adds up to a fresh new sound for Spock's Beard, rather than a rehash of the Neal-era approach, which means that Neal's guest appearance is able to enhance the album without dominating it; it's an album which respects the band's past (and, via Neal's involvement, receives a certain approval from perhaps the biggest figure from their early years not still with the band) whilst at the same time pushing forward into a new future. Confidently presenting a new sound, it might well be the best put-together album the band have produced since V, even as it's sonic worlds away from that territory.

Warthur | 5/5 |

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