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


Spock's Beard


Symphonic Prog

3.75 | 459 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Spock's Beard has regressed in my own music library from Prog Rock standard bearers to guilty pleasure, but the band's third studio album is still a sentimental favorite: the first one I bought after hearing their performance on the "Progfest '95" twin CD set. This 1997 effort was a more or less characteristic blend of shorter, catchy Prog-Pop tunes bracketed by longer, multi-section suites, with a token acoustic ballad (the lovely "June") positioned as a sort of fulcrum.

It's an arrangement that would become all-too formulaic on later Neal Morse projects, although here the songwriting was more relaxed and natural than on either of the band's two previous albums. But it's true that the music improves if you ignore the singing, and sometimes even the singer himself: Morse was always a gifted composer but a ham-fisted vocalist.

Titles like "Into the Source" and "The Radiant Is" hint at a growing spiritual awareness, but don't worry: Morse's songwriting was at the time still untainted by any born-again tunnel vision. In classic Prog fashion (and unlike his later solo output) the gist was more high- than narrow-minded, and no more explicit (if a lot less poetic) than Jon Anderson crooning about the Heart of the Sunrise.

But as usual with Spock's Beard I wish someone in the band would have insisted they just relax and play, preferably after tying a polite gag around their lyric writer. There are moments throughout the album (for example the 'pretty maids' section of "Harm's Way") when the music arises organically from the performances instead of being forced to accommodate the words, and these are the moments when The Beard is at its best.

The extroverted sound of the band, in songs like "Cakewalk on Easy Street" and "In the Mouth of Madness", will certainly command the attention of ardent old-school Progheads. The style may not wear too well after repeated exposure, but the album nevertheless makes a good starting point for curious newcomers, and provides a more than welcome pit stop for established fans.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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