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

THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

Spock's Beard

 

Symphonic Prog

3.75 | 375 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Wicket
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Considering "The Kindness of Strangers" and "Day for Night" are not exactly the most popular Spock albums, both precede the highly touted and highly praised "V" and Snow" (the latter being Neal's last album with the group), so identifying the evolving sound of Spock must continue with this album.

"Beware of Darkness" took the monolithic epics from "The Light", condensed them and tried to put more of a songwriting approach to the lyrics as opposed to just the crazy instrumentation, with mixed results. "From pressing play on this album's opener, "The Good Don't Last", I'm proud to say the quality issues seem to be completely absent once and for all this time. Which is excellent. What I find about this track that's so interesting, though, is that while the lyrics and melodies sung by Neal are very catchy, the whole 10 minute song doesn't seem to lose its proggy origins (despite Neal's 'Ode to Nirvana 4 minutes in). It's a very good song, but I feel it's a major foreshadow to "Day for Nights" more conventional, radio-aspiring approach. Hmm...

"In The Mouth Of Madness" doesn't begin that way at all, though. The whole song is laced with abrupt synths and crashing waves of guitar licks and heavy chords that have a slight whiff of Dream Theater about them, without entirely going off the deep end, and thus the verses sound very Spock-like, very similar to those off "The Light".

"Cakewalk on Easy Street" sounds like the title of a New York-based sitcom series, and even the intro sounds a bit like a hipster's theme song (in 1998, which in reality is impossible since hipsters are more of a 21st century thing, but I'm getting off topic). This definitely sounds like a radio song (again, in 1998, and even then it'd probably be rare to hear it), which doesn't surprise me because of Neal Morse's affection with short, catchy songs (which is one reason why some of his first solo outings were all radio-friendly alt rock songs, before his conversion to Christianity, obviously). "June" is constructed in a similar, radio-friendly way, a nice, lovely guitar-ballad with Morse overlapping his voice, creating wonderful chords and choruses in a very light track. Brilliant songs. Except, they're not really what you'd call "prog rock". "Strange World" is probably the most proggy of them all, but it just doesn't echo the Spock's Beard from the previous two albums. And since this IS a progressive rock focused website...

Oh dear...

Still, we have two long songs to go, so maybe things will shape up, starting with "Harm's Way". Perhaps not my most favorite intro of Spock's epics, but Ryu Okumoto does show off some flying fingers with chromatic down-sweeping licks. Neal's voice, once again, steals the show, but the slow jam, the first half is entertaining. Overall, it's a very laid-back tune. Basically, about 7 minutes in is where the tempo picks back up again and then a minute or so later a quick little tribal drum ditty from Nick D'Virgilio. It's a very happy song, and I like a lot, while I definitely consider it prog, it still feels more accessible and less spastic than "The Light", "The Water" or anything of "Beware of Darkness", in fact.

"Flow" sounds constructed along the same philosophy. It's a bit more of a mature prog epic. It's not just about spastically changing meters, changing mood, adding and subtracting different instruments, speeding up, slowing down, etc. It has catchy verses and choruses, mature sounding guitar solos, groovy jams, the lot. And that's fine. Apart from one, small thing.

Is this the reason why this album isn't getting enough praise or respect?

VERDICT: One of my prog friends (well, actually, my ONLY prog friend) is always skeptical whenever he finds a new band that claims to play progressive rock. To him, the lines seem so blurred, so irregular, he doesn't know what to think half the time, and this album is down that similar way of thinking. Yes, to me, it sounds like prog, but opinions may vary. Do you want the crazy, constantly changing goliaths of tracks like on "The Light"? Look elsewhere. Want a bit of catchiness and normality to your prog? This is your album. In fact, this could probably be one of the first prog albums in which every song could sound great while driving or on a road trip.

Hell, that actually sounds like a good idea right now. Be right back...

Favorites: The Good Don't Last, June, Flow

Wicket | 3/5 |

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