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Spock's Beard - Gluttons For Punishment - Live 05 CD (album) cover

GLUTTONS FOR PUNISHMENT - LIVE 05

Spock's Beard

 

Symphonic Prog

4.01 | 62 ratings

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Gatot
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars GREAT LIVE ALBUM!

In the midst of my full enjoyment listening to and writing some reviews of late sixties and seventies rock music (as I told you when I wrote a long review on Jethro Tull's "This Was"), my mobile phone beep. A short message from my prog mate Tatan who was visiting Singapore: "I am at HMV and seeing Spock's Beard CD live 2005 - do you want it?". It was 9:30 PM Jakarta time and I knew he was going to fly back Jakarta next morning, so my answer was simple "Gluttons? Of course I want it! How much?". Yep, he did buy it for me for an expensive price but it's OK with me because I heard that this live album was terrific and was recorded during the band's "Octane" Tour. The next day, the CD was on my hands already as I picked it up from his house right away after he hit his home - I could not wait any longer! Once I spun it the first time . oh man . unbelievable! This CD is truly awesome!

Judging from its cover, this CD reminds me to Genesis "Seconds Out" where the main feature of front cover is the stage with the lighting occupies most of the area while the band member pictures look very small. Even the cover is so lively. As some of you may have known that the band has just recorded their second album "Octane" after their frontman and main composer Neal Morse left the band. During the Neal era, the band produced six studio albums plus many live albums. "Gluttons for Punishment" is their first live album post Neal era. As Nick takes Neal's position as the band's new frontman, Jimmy Keegan looks after drum set. Even though I am a collector of all the band albums, I was not really into their early albums because (probably) the band lacked originality. So many influence from Gentle Giant that the band failed to avoid, especially on choirs as well as punctuated and syncopated music. So for me Spock's Beard was jus a good prog band - that's it. No emotional bonding whatsoever. I tried to - as most my prog mates down here recommended me - but I failed to love Spock's Beard as a band that has "something in it" for me.

When the band released "Octane", my perception about the band changed. The album gave me another perspectives on two things: 1.) They still survived without their mastermind in the band any longer. This is the spirit that I expect from any prog band: they should not disband or going nowhere after the critical member left the band. It happened with Genesis, Yes, Hamadryad and many other examples. They should keep on proggin'.! 2.) The music is totally different with Neal Morse era because the band is now emphasizing on more symphonic in its most composition, bringing back the traditional mellotron sound as integral part of the music. Well, it's wrong to generalize this way as actually "Octane" is much diverse in style. But what I like is that the band said goodbye to Gentle Giant / Yes like music. That relieved me; not that I don't like Gentle Giant - but I don't really like the way Spock's Beard composed their music. Echolyn is a good example of Gentle Giant influenced band but they compose their music differently. I experienced some shifts in emotions about "Octane". It had grown on me steadily until it settled down firmly at spin 10 onwards. Excellent album.

The PERFORMANCE

This live album starts off with a crowd ambient and soft keyboard followed with an epic "A Flash Before My Eyes" (Octane) that comprises seven tracks and represents half of "Octane" album. My first five spins of this "Octane" gave me a perception that each track seemed like a stand-alone piece that had a loose - or even none - tie with the others. But, it then grew slowly on me with more spins I did. I could then see some connections of loose ends through musical nuances and it created a sense that all of 7 tracks should be enjoyed in its entirety as one epic.

The Ballet Of The Impact is a very nice song with strong symphonic style. It begins with mellotron-like keyboard sound followed with dynamic music combining energetic drum, inventive bass-line, howling and rocking guitar sound and stunning keyboard. Howling guitar at background soars and brings the music in a rocking style. Guitar style is a blend of Hackett and Fripp - it's really stunning. It has a relatively long intro in fast tempo; excellent sound harmony of all instruments used. The opening tagline melody brought by guitar and keyboard is really catchy and uplifting for my personal taste. Approaching minute 2, the mellotron brings the music quieter followed by keyboard and piano sound. The transition to quieter segment happens smoothly. I'm touched with the catchy melody created by keyboard / mellotron that sounds softly like a flute. What a killing melody this line is! It's amazing. It reminds me to the 70s prog music mixed with modern technology. When Nick's vocal enters the music, it projects a strong nuance of the music with his powerful voice. Honestly, I prefer Nick's voice than Neal's. It's excellent- one of my favorite tracks! It flows to next track I Wouldn't Let It Go with ballad style.

Surfing Down The Avalanche is a great rocking tune! It starts with Dave Meros' fantastic bass line followed by rocking guitar sound that blasts the music off in up-tempo. The music reminds me to Led Zeppelin / Audioslave. The band has pushed their style further with this tune - it combines the classic rock sound with a touch of prog vibe excellently. The voice line is excellent with great high and low registers - I salute Nick on this. This track is performed much lively and it's more rocking than the original studio version.

She Is Everything starts with an ambient music with a rhythm that reminds me to Peter Gabriel's music. The keyboard / mellotron that produces a sort of flute sound before vocal line has accentuated the song beautifully. The more I listen to this song the more I like it especially as part of overall epic. It continues with Climbing Up That Hill which combines hard rock and prog styles. As far as the rhythm and melody concerned there is no question that this is a straight forward rock music. But when I observe how the bass guitar is played, it produces an image of prog sound. Fantastic work, Mr. Meros! The drum and guitar works are also excellent. All musical instruments accompany rocking voice line in excellent harmony. Clearing off all musical boundaries, this is an excellent track! One of my favorite tracks! Letting Go is a short track that consists of keyboard / mellotron work that serves well as concluding part of previous track and it could have been made as part of it.

Of The Beauty Of It All is really my best favorite track out of all tracks by Spock's Beard. The composition is very tight with a song-oriented style, powerful and memorable melody, great lyrics. The song has really satisfied me and has fulfilled my personal taste. It has everything I want from a great song. As I can recall, this is one of the finest tunes after I found a really great prog song from Marillion's "Heart of Lothian" in 1985. The other great tunes in the same vein are: "Reality of Misanthropy" by Cast and "Junk and Donuts" by Citizen Cain. The melody really kills me. "Of The Beauty Of It All" is a superb track! It kicks off with an excellent and melodic vocal line "I'm drifting off the water ." backed with a soft keyboard sound that reminds me to the nuance of Mike Rutherford's solo album. The opening line flows smoothly and it continues with a very catchy keyboard sound (minute 0:58 onwards) right after the lyrical section "..of the beauty of it all .". What a magic melody! This catchy melody has made me totally hooked to this track (for me, this part reminds me to "It's getting late ." part of Heart of Lothian in Marillion Misplaced Childhood). That's not the end of my ultimate satisfaction. The next excellent segment (second part of this song) is when the music shifts into a faster tempo with stunning guitar, dynamic bass line, great drumming augmented with mellotron and orchestration (this part reminds me to "Wild boys! . " part of Heart of Lothian). Wow! It's a top notch musical composition: tight structure and very strong melody. This is the kind of music that I want the band to pursue in the future and craft it as Spock's Beard sound.

Harmīs Way is a song from Neal's era and the band could perform it excellently. It comes back again to Octane with another top notch instrumental composition NWC. WOW! What a great track and a great performance! It opens with a spacey soundscape followed by symphonic keyboard with firm drum beats augmented with stunning guitar rhythm. Simple opening but it works well to set the overall nuance of this tune. It turns to a complex piece with punchy keyboard / effects and returns back to original rhythm. The interlude part with African music nuance is really great. The solo guitar was mixed thin so that it appears only at background but it serves really well to accentuate the music. This is the kind of music that fully satisfies my need. Awesome! The track is extended with great drums solo which I presume it's played by both: Nick and Jimmy. It's great! It reminds me to double drums solo of Phil Collins and Chester Thompson in Genesis concerts. The song reminds me to Genesis "Duke's Travel" especially with the drum style.

Disc Two starts with a song from Neal's era At The End Of The Day with great drumming and stunning keyboard work by Ryo augmented with groove rhythm. Through this track Nick proves his potential as new singer of the band, perfectly. Major attraction of this track is when Meros gives in his inventive bass lines solo in the middle of the track with Nick's introduction "Ladies and gentlemen .. We'd like to introduce the ROCK of SPOCK's BEARD!!!! Mr. Dave Meros!!!". WOW!!! It makes the track much more lively. As this is an audio CD, I'm not sure who's actually playing acoustic guitar in the middle of this track; it might be Alan himself. Well, I start liking the old stuffs after hearing this live version. This live is a great version.

The Bottom Line from the band's seventh album "Feel Euphoria" starts with rocking guitar riffs by Alan Morse (who plays wonderfully during this live show) followed with Ryo's keyboard solo. It's a song with a bit of ballad and a bit of prog rock music with some classic mellotron sound at the background and some symphonic style. It then continues with Ryo's Solo with a touch of classical music and good melody.

Ghosts Of Autumn from "Feel Euphoria" continues the music in a melodic way with ballad style; starting with nice piano and melodic singing augmented with acoustic guitar. Very nice. Salute to Nick's quality voice! The song moves smoothly and lightly like any ballad song but this time the melody is so strong and memorable. The key attraction of this track is the stunning electric guitar solo by Alan Morse. Overall, this is an excellent track accessible to many ears; quite melodic. As Long As We Ride is originally a straight forward hard rock music. This time the band plays differently. It's not the kind of track that I expect the band plays. But probably the band created this for a change.

The live album concludes with the band's legendary track The Light which initially I hated because it's so disjointed in nature, combining Gentle Giant, Yes and Gypsy King! Oh my God... Luckily, this time I really like how the band plays this song. Nick could sing wonderfully in this track. With this, I might revisit my CD collection on SB early albums and have another listen. Thanks to New Spock's Beard who has opened my mind to revisit the other old albums. I might be able to enjoy them now, I think.

The PRODUCTION

This live album was recorded live in 2005 on March 18 at Colos-Saal, Ascaffenburg, Germany, March 20 at 27, Pratteln, Switzerland and March 21 at Substage, Karlsruhe, Germany. Mobile recording by Markus Teske and Bazement Studio, assisted by Christine Wolf. Mixed & Mastered by Rob Aubrey at Aubitt Studio, Swaything, Southampton Hampshire, England. Why bother listing this? One compelling reason: the sonic quality of this CD is really "top-notch"! I have, in most cases, played this CD in very LOUD volume and it gives me a perfect sound! I especially love the bass and mid range sounds. Great sound quality! Yes, as I notice there are 3 "glitches" from Nick's microphone but it's OK - it's natural as a live record.

SUMMARY

What can I say after writing this long review? Of course, it's HIGHLY RECOMMENDED live album that I suggest you purchase it now! This CD has been with me for one week and I still always play it everyday: at home, in my car or on travel (through p-tunes at LifeDrive pda) or while working at my laptop. In total, I have played this CD more than 10 times in its entirety - with "Of The Beauty Of It All" being repeated 3 to 5 times everytime it reaches this track. Well, I need to humbly send a big apology for you on this novel-long review. I could not help it. It's a terrific live album that will become my true favorite in 2005 onward. This album deserves a very long review! Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Gatot | 5/5 |

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