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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

4.13 | 449 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Roland113
5 stars The Beard is back! Yep, that's right, just when you thought it was safe to head off to an alternate universe full of Vulcans with goatees, we have the third incarnation of the boys. Gone is Nick D'Virgilio and his mad drumming and his umm . . . mad singing? I don't know, it was the best that I had at the time. Joining the band on a permanent basis is their previous touring drummer Jimmy Keegan and new to the band is former lead singer of Enchant, Ted Leonard. Rounding out the band is the core of Dave Meros on bass, Alan Morse on guitar and Ryo Okumoto on keyboards.

After Neal Morse left the band in 2002, the writing duties were split among the band with Nick D'Virgilio getting at least partial credit on five songs on each of the next three albums, 'Feel Euphoria', 'Octane' and 'Spock's Beard'. These three albums were somewhat somber albums dominated by the moody voice of D'Virgilio. In 2010, the band was ready to start working on their next album while Di'Virgillio was on tour with Cirque du Soleil. The resulting 'X' was a noticeably lighter and proggier album with D'Virgilio only having a hand in one of the songs. 'Brief Nocturnes and Endless Sleep' is the continuation of that trend, the movement away from the angsty and back towards the type of music and energy that made the band so great in the first place.

'Hiding Out' leads off the album with one of the softest yet most engaging opening lines to date, a gentle rolling piano line that gives you just enough time to appreciate its subtle beauty before the rest of the band slams into the album with a series of hits. Ted Leonard has sole writing credit for this song which strikes me as a bold move for a twenty year old band, 'let's let the newbie start off the new album'. Shoot, Genesis didn't let Ray Wilson in the same studio let alone touch a pen. Jimmy Keegan's drums are mixed a little brighter than D'Virgilio's had been resulting in a tight sound that adds to the new found energy prevalent throughout the album. Dave Meros and Keegan have already had years of experience playing live shows together, as such, there was no loss of cohesion in the rhythm section, they clicked immediately. Another change is the prevalence of the acoustic guitar throughout the album, 'Hiding Out' features a nice strummed guitar on the chorus, giving it a Dream Theater feel at times. Ted Leonard had a tough job here, he had to follow not one, but two of the arguably more known lead singers of the modern prog scene. Not only does he hold his own, but he carves out his own niche adding a warm, vibrant tone that neither of his predecessors had. The band chose a lead singer that can clearly take them to the next level. This is perhaps no more apparent than on 'Submerged'. Mr. Leonard manages to sound at times like Seal, a soulful, breathy voice that commands your attention. Alan Morse gets credit for adding to the soulful feel of the song with a wonderfully timed solo. Congrats guys, this is the best ballad you've ever done.

'Afterthoughts' is the first of two songs that Neal Morse had a hand in, the next chapter in the 'Thoughts' series certainly holds its own in comparison to its predecessors. It's easily the hardest of the trilogy, Leonard delivers a raspy angry voice in the verses as he delivers some of the best lines of the album. 'They all say I'm crazy but I say 'Ha', just like a fox, but with dementia.' We also get a typical Beard call and answer vocal chaos, beautiful.

On the special edition of the album there are two very different versions of 'Something Very Strange'. The album version is all the prog that you could want, tight rhythms, obscure lines, rolling bass lines, Mellotron (yes, Mellotron, I don't want to hear it), Keyboards all over the place and a catchy chorus. The solo section features a great set of tradeoffs between Ryo Okumoto and Alan Morse, absolutely fantastic. The second version is obviously toned down for a single, but remains a catchy rock song. I particularly enjoy the vocorder at the beginning of both versions; it gives the band a modern feel that makes the excessive Mellotron and Organ a little more bearable.

As much as I love the rest of the album, 'Waiting for Me' is the song that Beard fans have been waiting for since Neal Morse left the band. This is a song on par with 'The Light' and 'The End of the Day'. Neal Morse's contribution on this song is pretty easy to see, though it melds beautifully with Leonard's writing style making this one an instant classic. I'm not going to detail this one, just give it a minute to get past the Floydian intro for twelve minutes of bliss. It's an album of bests; this song features the best Alan Morse solo that I've heard followed shortly by another wonderful solo by Ryo.

The other songs are each great in their own right and show a variety of styles and influences. If you listen closely, you can hear snippets reminiscent of Yes, Dream Theater, Pink Floyd and King Crimson. Ted Leonard and Jimmy Keegan really add a lot of energy to the group, Alan Morse and Dave Meros are their wonderful selves and Ryo is all over the place. If you're a fan of Spock's Beard, if you were disenfranchised by the NDV era, don't miss this one. Truly, the Beard is back, and better than ever. I'm happy to give this album a five star rating.

Roland113 | 5/5 |

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