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Spock's Beard - The Light CD (album) cover


Spock's Beard


Symphonic Prog

3.85 | 684 ratings

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5 stars The Light self-describes not only a way of prog, but also a path of prog. It stands on its own as a piece unbarred by overflowing influences and by pure inspiration and desire to shine. As stated by Morse, the band took a long while to get this album out there; it is pretty evident by song length and style that the album is fairly polished. The album can be tedious to listen to with its only 4 tracks, but it is manageable and a memorable 60 minutes. Morse is real driving force in the atmosphere of the album in his singing and piano/synth skills, while his brother wails some pretty mean guitar. It also is before the band gets any of that later heavy use of Mellotron and weird synth sound, though there is some dabbling in it on this album. D'Virgilio is a not yet a tour- de-force, but shows that he can become one and is very lenient in throwing in some complex drumming. Meros keeps the backing, but doesn't get much to work with except for On The Edge and some solo lines with D'Virgilio.

The version I have is the 2004 remaster, and I will state the mastering is pretty good, but if you're an audiophile, you will detect a bunch patches throughout the album where there's dynamic range distortion (This is only a small quip and doesn't really matter unless you're listening through headphones). It's not perfect, but the sound quality is definitely good.

The Light/Title track has to be one of the greatest songs in prog history, not for just the musicianship, but the style in which it's executed. This is also debatable on each person's perception of prog, but every listener should hear what this song has to say. The light piano introduction tugs the listener in to the forthcoming epic. Morse passionately sings about the Dream and its potential, then we sail onto a journey to make another/ change one. The opening instrumental sports a nice distorted solo from Alan, and the succeeding section One Man is probably the best point of the song (and its reprise). We get Morse singing a bout of solipsism, along with a nice chorus of counterpoint. Truly pleasing to listen to, then Garden People, which is the only piece of this song I can cite influence from Genesis; the kind of interludes they used. There is some weird singing here. More piano soloing with Looking Into The Light and an over-the-top blasting in the end of the section. The Man In the Mountain reprises the previous section and is a calm piano only piece, until they find "The Light" and throw a silly party. The song fully swings towards a Latin sound for Seņor Valasco, and more reprising; the whole section is a nice detour due to the humor of it. Then we have The Return of the Catfish Man, a reprise of One Man, but much more aggressive; the Dream reprises as well and Morse finally discovers that the one we went on was okay. The reason this song is so good because it is a mix of lyrics that are only linked by song composition; and it works so well.

Go The Way You Go is hard to put my finger on, but follows the same pattern of The Light; it constantly changes composition. The only difference is that it returns to the main chorus frequently. It opens with mostly instrumental before sinking into a tranquil and low verse, and a chorus of "Go The Way You Go". The song is mostly centered around this verse and chorus, but does delve into a spat of righteousness and a groove piece that sounds live. I would have to say that, in my opinion that this is not a pleasurable song to listen by its depressiveness. Though considering it was composed well, it should be counted as a good composition and fits well with the whole of the album (which had many depressing points)

The Water is a masterful epic, though kind of pretentious to put out on a debut album. The opening theme is a long lead into a long and exhausting journey of a track. Some overpowering leads and Alan ripping some solos leads into When It All Goes To Hell. Morse uses some vocal encoding on top, which is recreated later on the same track. This section is rather slow, spacious and contains some unneeded amounts of noodling, but the point Morse tries to get in this story of "The Water" comes across clean. While this section is a little more brighter than the next section, A Thief In the Night, the two sections share similar tones and lyrics. A Thief in the Night contains the first instance only influence I could find on this album. Pink Floyd. The use of gospel singers is a nice touch, but they used them much more in this song than Pink Floyd did for any song. This sort of hymn is a good showcase of Morse's singing power. FU/I'm Sorry has to be one of those sections that comes out of the blue and you least expect it, it's what makes this stuff prog. I really happen to like this section for its wailing guitar, Morse's screaming, and the the sound cacophony that leads into the corny I'm Sorry section. I'm Sorry plays some acoustic guitar; and it is sort of an indicator of Morse's earlier tastes in music. The Water (Reprise) is just a much more beaty rephrasing of the opening lyric, with churning bass and drums. Running The Race is a reprise of When It All Goes To Hell, but ten times more groovy, pulling from the city jazz genre of the 40's - 50's. It's fun to sing along to and has some quips here and there that are bound to make the ear want more. There's all this vibrant energy while the main character realizes life more that he did before. Then the collapses into a 6 minute ballad, Reach For The Sky. More gospel singers and Morse's powerful singing. The last two minutes are truly unique in the song compared to the rest of the album, as the song climaxes and all the energy is slowly released. A very unique kind of epic, the qualities of prog, and creating a sound collage from different pieces.

After the brooding power of The Water, hopefully if you didn't fall asleep yet from the carrying on, comes a rocker called On The Edge. It opens with some quick piano triplets and soon reels into madness. D'Virgilio and Meros are the power duo on this song, where D'Virgilio shows his drum prowess and Meros plows the beat with his bass. Morse again has his unique voice with yelling and shouting the song out. Alan also puts out a really good, Van Halen-inspired solo. It gets your blood moving after listening to over six minutes of slow music. And one scream and a chord end the album on a high-note.

From the remaster: The Light (Home Demo) is not all different from the final product except for the glazed over production the album version was. A real gem about this one is that not only are the solos slightly different, but also the lyrics/ singing are vastly different in some places. Especially in sections of One Man, Garden People, etc. It is helpful as it plots the evolution of the song.

This album is a cornerstone of progressive rock in its nature, as it tries to resurrect the Symphonic Prog genre in a different way (their contemporaries like Dream Theater and Marillion were in different mindsets). Overall, it is a definite must-have for any of those that have listened to Genesis (and maybe Yes, not sure). BUT be wary, as many of the succeeding albums pale in comparison in terms of sound and format (except for maybe V); not really in a bad way though. It's enough to make you believe in the beard forever.

FromAbove | 5/5 |


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