Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Spock's Beard - Spock's Beard CD (album) cover


Spock's Beard

Symphonic Prog

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
3 stars NOT BAD AT ALL! Hey SB fans, I have to say this is not a bad effort at all, I found that it was up there with Octane, maybe even higher, I think this is SBs best effort since Neal Morse left the band. Their sound is still very keyboard heavy but getting heavier and maybe even darker. This is definitely an album to get even if you just enjoy SB and you are not a big fan of them, the music is highly enjoyable and very progressive indeed.

My only complaint is that the band has not yet reached a fine level of "feeling" in their songs, most of the songs just evoke the same feeling in me and it's that slightly-theatrical-maybe-even-a-little-hyperactive feeling most of their songs have had until up to date.

Overall a very good release though, most fans will be pleased!

Report this review (#98126)
Posted Friday, November 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is definitely the best post-Neal Morse album to date. Spock's Beard always had a somewhat playful, rather zany quality which worked beautifully for some folks, yet repelled others who saw the ocean of talent being "wasted" on "frivolous" progressive rock music. After Neal departed there was a hole in their sound, leaving a shadow of the band that turned out "V".

Well, I'd say the've just about filled in the gaps, although they are sounding a lot less like their original crazy selves and much more like the kind of serious, solid progressive rock band that many lamented they never were. Neal seems to have taken most of the zanyness with him. There is a more rock 'n roll sound to several of the tracks that flies right into your face on "Is This Love?" Nick does a great job as lead singer, easily filling Neal's shoes. The band's backup singing has improved as well. All of the familiar sounds that define the Beard are still here in full force, particularly in the later tracks.

The worst thing that can be said about this album is that some of the tracks just aren't much different from prog you've heard before, or for that matter from the other songs on the album. I wouldn't say they've realized their full potential yet, but they are certainly making progress, and there are a few pleasant surprises on this album. At the end of the day, they are doing just fine indeed.

(This hasn't been released, but I have friends at radio stations...)

Report this review (#98726)
Posted Tuesday, November 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Thest most musical SB so far!

They have come over the departure of Neal, finally. This is strongest and most musical SB I've ever heard. The band really takes time and cheriss and develop those themes. There is a heavy element in the music but it doesn't destroy the melodic qualities. There is air enough and moments of gentle acoustic guitar, piano as well. I can hear influences from past, Yes, Genesis and even some blues, but yet the music rocks more then before. This is serious symphonic prog and one of the best albums of the year. The songs are of a wide variety: ballads, synphonic epics, bluesy rock, metallish art prog pieces, and suddendly the rock song turnes into moog prog. Extremely interesting and stimulating music! Get yours, as soon as it comes to your store!

Report this review (#99401)
Posted Saturday, November 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I have to say, the Kansas influence on this one is overwhelming. 'Wherever You Stand' sounds like it could have been a bonus track on 'Song For America' while the intro to the epic track "As Far As the Mind Can See" sounds like it might be part of a more recent Kansas effort such as 'Somewhere to Elsewhere.' Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining or anything. I've always throught that The Beard, especially when it was headed by Neal, was influenced a bit heavily by Livgren and company, but you can definitely hear a nod in their direction with this release.

Apart from that, the album itself is very well executed. There are some sleeper tracks, but the ones that aren't more than make up for it. In fact, I think this one contains two tracks that are the best works the Beard has ever done, with Neal or without (and I'm a huge fan of Neal's solo and transatlantic stuff)! Skeletons At The Feast is the instrumental track of the album and it blew me away the first time I heard it. The other one that will go down in the Beard hall of fame is 'With Your Kiss'. All I have to say on this one is wow. The song takes you through all the emotions of a relationship, from beginning to end in 11+ minutes. You just have to experience this one for yourself. Spectacular stuff.

This one will be in my cd player for a long time before it's replaced. I'll be hard put to find a better album this year.

Report this review (#99847)
Posted Tuesday, November 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars As a long time fan of SB, I admit to being underwhelmed by their early efforts after the departure of Neal Morse. Although both Feel Euphoria and Octane have their moments, they seem to lack the mix of strong melody and "controlled madness" that has always been a hallmark of the SB's music. For me, the often-chaotic soloing of the band members is best appreciated when it is frequently counterpointed by equally prominent melodic lines. Prior to Neal's departure, this formed the essence of the band's music, and I have always considered this dichotomous approach to making music to be a large part of their appeal. However, in the absence of Neal, the melodic underpinning seemed to fall away and "noise" was given precedence... until now.

The good news is that with this release, SB have recaptured the magic. In my opinion, this is easily the best post-Neal album, and rivals the better albums in the Beard's impressive catalog. The songs range from simple and catchy to complex and layered, with a wide variety of styles. Most importantly, the melody is back and the hooks are everywhere - but the insanity is always lurking, ready to strike! Alan Morse's guitar work moves from tasteful melody to white noise and back again just like the old days, and Ryo Okumoto and Dave Meros show equal versatility on their respective instruments. Nick D'Virgilio sounds better than ever on vocals, and his drumming is mind-blowing as always.

For me, this album joyfully affirms that SB will continue to be a potent force in progressive music, and have survived and prospered after the departure of founding member Neal Morse. Love live the Beard!

Report this review (#100438)
Posted Saturday, November 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I will be flat out honest in this review. Since Neal Morse left I really didn't like any of spock's albums. I thought Euphoria was trash (harsh I know) and Octane had its moments but overall wouldn't be something I would want to add to my collection.

This album however had me pleasantly suprised. I heard thy were spending a lot of time in the studio trying to really pust something good out, but I thought, eh probably won't be much. I was wrong, dead wrong! This album is phenomonal. Not much more I can say it is a definate buy for those who love prog.

The one thing I miss though is like others have posted, the feeling in their music. It's like there is just a piece missing and they haven't quite got it totally, but this album was a HUGE step towards it. Great job indeed. They just reclaimed a fan.

I gave this album 5 stars simply cause there is no 4.5, but I couldn't justify giving it a 4, it's better than that.

Report this review (#101551)
Posted Monday, December 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars If I can do anything in this review, it is to congratulate the band and to recommend this to anyone who has ever liked anything the Beard has ever done. Coming off of the excellent Octane quasi-concept album, this self-titled release is a testament to the band's originality and power. It always seems as if the follow up release to a concept album is anticlimactic, but the band was able to avoid this with this CD. Instead of trying to work off of the orchestral sound of Octane, the band has gone with a much smaller sound here. If Octane conjured images of the band playing in front of an orchestra, then this album brings forth pictures of the band jamming together in a small studio.

Honestly, "On a Perfect Day" is one of the best Beard openers they've ever put out. This song has a little bit of everything: pure rock power, emotional Hackett-esque soloing, and epic keyboard/mellotron playing. The highlight for me, though, is "With Your Kiss." This song takes the listener on a musical and lyrical journey through the emotions of a fallen relationship. The transition between the first and second major sections of the song has to be heard to be appreciated. Lyrics like, "Just when I thought I knew everything. Just when I thought I had it all going on" send chills down my spine everytime as they're backed with gothic mellotron and electronic sounds.

I really feel the musicianship should be highlighted in this review. This is not the most complex Beard album. In fact, I would argue that it's probably the most accesibile. But at the same time, I feel that Nick's drumming and vocals may be at their best. And I'm convinced that Alan's guitar playing is his best so far. We here classical sauce, powerful rock solos, heavy riffs, and the Hackett- esque simplicity mentioned before. All in all, this album is one of the biggest surprises of the year. A few flatter songs keep this from a five star rating, but it's as close as it can be for what it is: a great Beard album.

Report this review (#101885)
Posted Wednesday, December 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars After the first enthusiastic reviews of this album submitted during the first days after the release, I wonder if I am the only one to think that this is not the masterpiece it's expected to be. The main problem with this album is that ther first and second track are so brilliant that they create great expectations, but the listener may be disappointed after that, as the rest of the album doesn't live up to that expectations. That said, I consider this as a good album, on the same level as Octane, but definitely weaker than any Morse-era SB album. And it's a pity: On A Perfect Day is the best and more progressive track they have released since the Morse era, with a stunning powerful beginning, great vocal melody and quality singing from Nick,and interesting arrangements. The instrumental Skeletons At The Feast begins with an exciting heavy Hammond line in an odd time signature and crazy guitarwork from Alan, then the piece suddenly evolves into a Flower Kings-like synth tune and at the end it enters into a modern King Crimson-influenced atmosphere. Very enjoyable. After this one we have some straight forward hard rock tracks (Is This Love and Wherever You Stand) which are OK with a certain Deep Purple style provided by Ryo's Hammond, but nothing special really; a repetitive but forgettable and uninteresting Alan's song (Sometimes They Stay...) and some melodic and atmospheric slow songs (All That's Left, With Your Kiss and Hereafter" which are also OK but not brilliant, although the mini epic With Your Kiss has some interesting instrumental moments and great guitar playing. After all that songs, the "great epic" of the album, As Far As The Mind Can See, comes finally. Well, I don't dislike any of the four the parts of the suite, in fact there are very good ideas here and there, The "Here's A Man" part has a really interesting rythm with great drumming and outstanding bass lines and some fantastic Hammond playing, and the "They Know We Know" part is rather catchy, but I think that these four tracks would work better as individual songs, and I don't see the relationship between them from a musical point of view. It seems that they were forced to make a multi-part epic and they decided to put these four different compositions together but it wasn't necessary really, and they doesn't flow properly as a single piece. As for the last track, Rearranged, it's also a good but not great song, as many of the others. Maybe this is their best effort without Neal Morse, I'm not sure, but if only they could keep the quality of the best tracks on the whole album we would be able to dream of returning to the masterpieces of the golden era of SB. At the moment I'm afraid that these Spock's Beard are only capable of making good but non-essential releases.
Report this review (#101940)
Posted Wednesday, December 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Ok, so it's been long enough since the departure of Neal not to think of Spock's Beard as "Neal Morse's former band" and instead taking it as a different thing. Still, we are here in this progressive rock forum reviewing prog albums, so what happens when we begin to doubt that what we're listening to is really prog rock? Don't intend to get into the lifelong question of what's prog and what's not, but listening to Spock's latest album I cannot help but think that the band's style has steered away far too long from what I'd personally like to hear from them.

As someone else has pointed out, the album's first two tracks are in my opinion, by far, the best. "On a Perfect Day" brings back shades of the extraordinary The Ballet of the Impact/Of the Beauty of it All melody from Octane (an album that I enjoyed a LOT, I might add); and "Skeletons at the Feast" has the band reaching for a Dream Theater/Liquid Tension Experiment frenzy that might go a little too far at the end but has the kind of energy that makes you think Gosh, this album will be great.

And then a voice shouts: "It's not!"... when right away we get a 3-minute all-too-simple rocker, and the "What was that?" feeling kicks in. The rest of the album is uneven; we get the obligatory "epic" (As far as the Mind Can See) and once again (as it was the case with "A Flash Before my Eyes" which nevertheless carried some great songs inside) it's a just a bunch of pop songs mildly linked together, making me think if the guys just feel pressured to take some songs and glue them together because they HAVE TO release an epic. Listening to it, it doesn't feel like they have their hearts into the epic style anymore, so why pretend?

Before this review gets too negative a feeling, check my rating. The album IS ok, but... do we expect "ok" from these guys? "Feel Euphoria" was disappointing, and then "Octane" kind of got my hopes back, as even the simple pop or rock songs kinda worked. Here, I fear they've settled for a simple-rock approach that I can't say it's bad, but it's just not what I expect from what I can still call a great prog band. So if "ok" is enough for you, give it a try. If you wanna keep away from nostalgia and not get back to the Morse (Neal, that is) era, try "Octane". And if something closer to "old-school" prog is what you expect (sort of like I do), let's just wait for Neal's next prog beast.

Report this review (#102177)
Posted Friday, December 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars "Sometimes a dream gets wasted..." This is a good album. Do not get me wrong. I do enjoy it.

Spock's Beard always was my favorite band... but it pains me to give this a simple 3 star review. Unfortunately, I think that it is necessary. I cannot say that this album as a whole would be an excellent addition to any prog collection, because simply it woulnd't. It is far from being a masterpiece, but this album does have some highlight tracks (which alone are splended prog pieces) among the more poppy-sounding songs.

Overall, however

As with the others, I would say that this disc sets you up for a grand album. Then, as if being hit in the face with dirt, you are faced with some of the weakest stuff in their collection.

ON A PERFECT DAY -- A nice opening, with great acoustic parts and a strong affort on all the member's parts. Nick (and the rest of the Beard) is spot on here. A highlight track for sure. SKELETONS AT THE FEAST -- Wow. Dave Meros is a genius. This song is fantastic. In an odd 11/8 time signature, Ryo begins with his keys, then Nick comes in on drums, soon to be followed by the rest of the band. Each and every note and beat is nailed perfectly. It carries a spoooky feel throughout the first and last sections of the song, but in the middle it turns into a jocular, playful little tune. Great transitions, great stuff, and great prog. IS THAT LOVE -- When I first heard this in the car on the way home from the store, I said to myself "What is this?!" It was a shocking song. It is so radically different from anythign they had ever done before. It had very hard edges, and is clearly a simply rocker. The lyrics are terribly cliche "squash me like a bug." Although its not a terrible song, one would think that the Beard would be able to do something more... interesting with this theme. ALL THATS LEFT -- Eh, another ok song. The beginning really made me feel like the 80's meet early Christina Agulera. It was sad. Again, I am not impressed with the lyrics, and I think a lot more could have been done with the theme. It is nice, but almost too simple. Luckly at the end, a nice guitar solo redeems this song that was disappointing in the beginning. The song definately gets better the later you get into the song. WITH YOUR KISS -- By this point, I was getting sick of three cheesy titles in a row. This song, however, is a nice change of pace form the last two. Within the 12 minutes, SB takes the listener to many different areas, and thevocals are very nice. There is some good soloing, and a VERY interesting mellotron-sounding section coming from Ryo. This song contains great transitions, and I would consider this the 3rd best song on the album for sure. Though it still dosent hold the magic of ON A PERFECT DAY, it still manages to hold my attention much more than the others. SOMETIMES THEY STAY, SOMETIMES THEY GO -- "Eh." That is all I could say about this one. Again, not a terrible track, but I would have expected more from the Beard. There is yet another bit of good guitar, but overall the track sounds like a broken record -- sometimes they stay, sometimes they go, sometimes they stay, sometimes they go...." Rather boring. THE SLOW CRASH LANDING MAN -- This song may contain Nick's best lyrics on this album. It has a very nostalgic feel to it, almost bringing one back to the Neal days. There is a nice keyboard solo in it. Though the song is very slow, it is fun and rather interesiing. One of the few songs with some emotion! WHEREVER YOU STAND --Another song that picks up at the very end. I really dont have too many comments on this song. It dosen't stand out, it is just your standard rocker. It dosen't really have any very interesitng parts in it. It's a fun song, just lacks interest. It is unfortuante that there is this usleless screaming before the end. (Japanise?). I think that so much more could have been done with this theme! HEREAFTER -- Honestly, I think this track is a waste of time. Sure, nice piano, nice voice, Nick. But this song is so boring and uninteresting. AS FAR AS THE MIND CAN SEE -- This "epic" does not go as far as the mind can see. Rather, it stays pretty close to home. Way to popish. The lyrics are far too uninspired. The playing is unemotional. The second part may be the only interesitng part of the epic, save the very beginning of part five. If your into the whole "broken record" thing, go for part three. REARRANGED -- I like this track.Nick has a nice voice, and the keys seem to be very inspired. The end of the song is a great capper for an album that could have been at least a 4.5 star album. Awesome song and great end.

The only "excellent" tracks are ON A PERFECT DAY AND SKELETONS. WITH YOUR KISS is worth your time as well. There are many nice songs on here., they just come off as uninspired and less interesitng then they could be. Rockers are not bad. This CD is not bad. I just wish the band would have explored more into the material.I am not a fan at all of the "new" Spock's Beard. I know that is not a legitamate excuse becuase they are a totally different band, but the "harder-edged" stuff is not working for me with them. I miss the "rounder" sounding days of Neal.

As I am typing this conclusion, another SPcok's Beard song (At the End of the Day) just came on my player, and I notiece the sharp contrast. This new CD is lacking a "full" soung. Many of the tracks seem empty. This has the potential to be a great album. It is only decently good.

Report this review (#102199)
Posted Friday, December 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've had about three weeks with this Beard album and it's certainly a very good listen. The opening track has a very strong central melody, as did the opener on Octane, but the arrangement is less convincing. I wonder why the second lovely tune in this song (Alan's Steve Howe style solo near the end of the track) is not further developed. If those two tunes could have been welded together more convincingly the whole track could have been even better. Skeletons at the Feast is quite fun with its 11/8 time, but the link with the next sections seem artificial. Again, some great ideas but somehow not pieced together as well as they would have been three or four years ago. I find the straight rocker tracks okay, but nothing out of the ordinary. Older Spocks albums had very little filler. The final epic does not hang together well for me, but has some great moments anf some great playing along the way. The jazz fusion direction is an interesting one for the future maybe.

I enjoy the vocals on this album. Nick seems more and more confident and I always enjoy his drumming. Nick doesn't do the exciting Mike Portnoy thing, but he grooves well and does enough interesting and subtle snare work to keep drum fans happy. Dave and Alan play some great stuff, but I am less impressed with Ryo who can be lyrical on the piano, agressive on the Hammond, but not as flashy as I would like!

This is a very good album: prog which is quite easy on the ears, but lacking the flair, panache, originality of the Neal era material. As Dave once said in an interview, Neal bursts with musical ideas, whereas the other guys have to work harder to extract rather fewer ideas.


Report this review (#102269)
Posted Saturday, December 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
The T
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Three weeks after getting it, I finally can sit down and share my comments about the new release by one of my favorite bands, Spock's Beard. I thought I had to give the album time and space to grow on me (or not) before being able to actually give my opinion about the music in it. So, I've given SB's latest time, I've given it space, and now I've come to a few conclusions of my own, the most important being:

It needs a trim-job.

First, the overall sound. If Feel Euphoria felt like a weak attempt by the remaining band members to adjust to the departure of original- frontman and mastermind Neal Morse,without achieving much success in doing so, then Octane was more of a relief for us The Beard's fans: the band could still make good music, the band could manage to overcome the weight of Morse's shadow by creating a sound of their own. I don't know if many people agree, but for me Octane was a very, very good release, and actually third in my SB's ranking just behind The Light and Snow. Octane had some flaws, but unlike Feel Euphoria, those flaws were more of a still-not-sure-how-to-do-it kind of way (still don't knowing how to write a flowing, totally connected epic) than a still-trying-to-sound-as-if- Morse-hadn't-left-the-band ones. Feel Euphoria had its moments but in the big picture, it was a failure; Octane, on the other hand, was a success, for D'Virgilio finally showed us he could sing like D'Virgilio, not like Neal, and the band showed us they could write great non- Morse-sounding music. So, after considering this, how does "Spock's Beard " come out? Well, let's say it from the beginning, Morse is all but forgotten in this group's music. Yes, finally, and after some trial-and-error, the band has shaken itself free of Morse's shadow and the sound of their music is virtually Morse-free. This music is pure Spock's Beard (the new version, that is), still with some references to bands like Kansas and others, but not to the sound that Neal created. That is almost gone. With maybe the exception being the first song (a great song by the way). So, prepare yourself for some pure american-style prog- rock like only The Beard can deliver. Prepare yourself to listen to an album with almost no Morse references. But also,...

... prepare yourself to endure some of the band's WORST songs of all time.

Yes, sadly, this album is TOO LONG. It seems like A.Morse, D'Virgilio, Meros and Okumoto decided to record as many songs as possible, with no regards as to the QUALITY of some of them. So, alongside the great tracks, we have not only a couple of fillers, but a couple of DISASTERS. Let me say a word about each track:

On A Perfect Day (10/10), outstanding track! This one, as I've already said, is the only Morse-era-sounding song, and very good at that, because it's not pure-Morse: it is like a mix of the best of the first era with the best of Nick's era. But some parts could easily be mistaken as being taken straiight out of Kindness of Strangers or Beware of Darkness, were it not for D'Virgilio's throat-rasping voice to reminds us this is the NEW Beard. A short mini-epic, great melodies, great singing by Nick (I have to say he's very good at times in the mic, at times he's flawed... but as a drummer he's underrated: he's a MASTER). It has all the ambiguity, the happy-yet-not-that-much aura typical of Morse-era songs... lots of acoustic guitars, piano... Wonderful song, great epic-sounding chorus. . I should give it a ten. Yes, ten it is!

Skeletons At The Feast (9/10), An instrumental mostly in odd time signatures. A riff in full hard-rockin' (almost metallic) sound starts this song in a blast! Actually, it seems as if The Bearders have been listening to Dream Theater as of late, for there are elements there to be recognized as coming from the New York Greats' textbook. After the anger, the riff continues with some soloing before changing to regular 4/4 with some keyboards that sound like The Flower Kings. The track alternates between hard and soft, with ELP's references along the way, too. This, above all the other numbers in the album, shows us how fantastic these 4 musicians are.

Is This Love (7/10), the first sub-par song although this one is not bad, just not very good. A straight rocker, the prog elements are almost missing here. It's just good ol' rock n'roll played by one of the best bands around. The chorus is catchy and the song in general is better than what most people would think if I just toldl them that it sounds a lot like a mix between U2 and some American band a la Skynard.

All That's Left (9/10) a melancholic, moody song with great jazzy, soft drumming by underrated master D'Virgilio; the chorus, very melodic, reminds me of Kino's Picture album. Very good short and quiet song. The piano sound is prominent here. And, again, Nick's singing passes the test.

With Your Kiss (10/10), the longest single-track-song in the album, it starts with dreamy landscapes with the vocals over guitar arpeggios. Suddenly some electronic drumming puts us off with surprise... but we soon get used to it because the melody over it is GREAT. This section reminds me of Mullmuzzler (LaBrie's solo project). Later on the acoustic drums will return, but the overall atmosphere of this great song remains. The middle section with distorsions and D'Virgilio speaking rather than singing is not a high point but it barely makes a dent in the song's quality. Now D'Virgilio plays a pure tom-tom-driven rhythm, with some vocal accents that add to the festive ambient. Suddenly the noise recedes and, over acoustic guitars, Nick delivers some of his best singing in the album. Another brilliant song that makes us believe this is going to be THE album... but,

Sometimes They Stay, Sometimes They Go (3/10), but they had to include this! Man, this is the most UNINSPIRED AND BORING song in all of The Beard's discography... the dull rhythm makes me want to go watch a lightbulb's entire life cycle instead. And the lyrics: AWFUL AT ITS MOST AWFUL. Just the worst lyrics this side of... well, this side of my cat trying to write a poem about catching mouses with no claws... I just can't believe how they could have "created" this... Atrocious. The Slow Crash Landing Man (5/10), as if the preceding song wasn't boring enough, this track is so SLOW and DRAGGING that conciousness starts to abandon us. The melody in the chorus is somewhat decent, but it's so mundane, so run-of-the-mill, so I-could-have- written-it that it really doesn't make this track worthy of attention. What is happening? After such a great start, the album is falling, crashing down to pieces! Will the next song save this album from utterly collapsing?

Wherever You Stand (5/10), No, it didn't. Another any-joe's-band track, this pure rocknroll number is like a copy straight out of Octane but without the good melodies and hooks. What a bland, lame song. It's better than "Sometimes they go" because at least it has some energy, but don't keep your hopes high for this one. It ultimately fails, too.

Hereafter (7/10), it turns out that some silence was the key! Well, not really. But here, with just D'Virgilio singing over piano, we finally get back, if not to greatness-territory, at least to good-territory. Very inspired performance by the master drummer... his singing by itself makes this track a welcome addition... The only problem is, after such awful tracks as the last three, this one, a SLOW track, doesn't manage to wake us up completely. Yes, the damage is done...

As Far As The Mind Can See, (8/10), I will rate this as an epic and not as four different tracks. It starts very energetically, in what feels like a caffeine relief after the insomnia- medicine we ingested a few moments ago. The melody in the first chorus is decent, and finally we start to open our eyes again. The second section is more urban-jazz oriented, a great bass funky bass by Meros (another underrated master), with great guitars by yet another underrated performer as A. Morse, great keyboard accents by Okumoto, and precise-as-always drumming by artisan D'Virgilio. Very, very good section, this one reeks of "progness". The third one is more hard thumping than the other three, with some metal wind instruments making us remember the Morse-era. At last we get another good chorus by The Beard a la Octane. The final part is faster, blazing keyboards very much like The Flower Kings. Some fanfares by the winds take us back to the melodies of the beginning, and we finsih the song in pure climatic fashion. Now, the song is very good. But there are two problems: one, we're still half-awake, half-sleep after the three tragedies we experienced just some 20 minutes ago... and, two: it lacks cohesion as an EPIC. It's not a good EPIC. Like A Flash before my Eyes in octane, but specially like A Guy named Sid in Feel Euphoria, this one feels more like a collection of good songs than a true, single- content epic. I, for one, loved A Flash Before My Eyes, mostly due to some beautiful melodies to be found in it, but never regard it as a true smooth-flowing epic like The Light or At the End of the Day... Let's face it: in this department, Neal Morse was (is) a master; D'Virgilio and Co. still aren't.

Rearranged (6:07), this one is decent but it seems like an afterthought. There was no point to include any song after the "epic". But no, The Bearders HAD to keep on recording tracks. Actually, let's be fair: this is a very good song, with a great main verse, lots of kinetic energy, a competent chorus, and that's it. The album FINALLY is over.

Why the "finally"?, you may ask. Don't you like long albums? Well, yes, I do. I love long albums. Someone that owns all The Flower Kings' albums HAS to learn to love LONG records. But then again, sadly, this one is NOT a TFK's album, nor it reaches the same level of quality. Roine Stolt is Roine Stolt: he's just crazy with what I call "elephantism", that is, making the longest possible albums, but he's a genius at that! I've never dozed while listening to a TFK album... with SB, I started to venture into Freud's Territory more than a couple of times. The biggest drawback is, there aren't just a couple of fillers: what we have is a couple (three, actually) of ATROCITIES. For 15 minutes that actually feel like 60 we are subjected to the worst EVER SB's songs. 15 minutes of boredom, of mediocrity... and what for? For the sake of... what? For the sake of being "prog" by ading as many tracks as the cd format's capacity allows for? Bad, bad decision.

What was starting to sound like a masterpiece, ended up being a very good album, an excellent addtion to your collection, that sadly requires the listener to drink lots of caffeine before listening to it, lest the latter half of the cd gets lost in oblivion.

I'll give it four stars just because the good tracks are GOOD. And just because this is The Beard. And just because I think your collection will benefit rather than suffer when you add this album to it.

Recommended for: All fans of Spock's Beard. All fans of good prog that don't mind having to listen to a few awful tracks.

Not recommended for: People with their stereo's remotes broken.... You will damn and curse yourself till the end of time for not being able to press SKIP when marvelous "Sometimes they go" starts hurting your ears....

Report this review (#102693)
Posted Monday, December 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Spock's beard is moved on without their leader Neal Morse. Finally they sound confident among themselves, developing a more mature sound without many of the characteristics of early Spock's Beard. The music sounds much more serious than before, with the musicians being able to show better musicianship and style here, instead of some questionable sounds of guitars and synths that plagued the great songwriting in the Morse-era. Speaking of Morse, I think the drummer has a better singing voice. This album is not without its flaws though. There are quite several tracks that I find dull and uninteresting, and the "epic" is not really an epic, just four songs that don't have much in common.

The opening track On A Perfect Day is in my opinion better than any song before this album and after V . A flawlessly executed song that features a mighty opening riff (heard throughout the song), extremely memorable melodies, a great acoustic break, and most importantly, confidence and unity within the band.

Skeletons At The Feast is the prog of the album. A shapeshifting instrumental piece with odd-time signatures. It has the guitar technicality and heaviness of Dream theater, then unexpectedly, the song offers a synth melody that sounds like if Tomas Bodin (The Flower Kings) guest-starred as it sounds like the exact same instrument. The second half is slower and more chaotic. While technically superb, I think the ending is too long and overproduced.

All That's Left is an effective ballad with vocal harmonies that recall Dream Theater. Pretty nice.

With Your Kiss is probably the highlight of the disc. Virgillio's singing is at his best here, and the vocal melodies are wonderful throughout the whole song. The first half of the song is mostly laid-back and simple, putting Virgillio in the spotlight. After a few minutes, an upbeat guitar solo kicks in and the mood of the song completely turns upside down. "Just when I thought I knew everything, just when I thought I had it all going on", the music is driven by sound effects and a slow guitar riff until it turns into a hard rock section with electric guitars, pounding drums, and male choral screams. The next and last section is the best. Just D'Vigillio with an acoustic guitar singing softly at his best with magical melodies. The line "Don't change a THIIIIIING for meeee" is sung with such emotion and power that it sends shivers down my spine, and what makes it better is that the mellotron kicks in at that point and later a very inspired guitar solo.

As Far As The Mind Can See is an epic divided in four parts. The first being a rock tune with a wonderful theme played by bass at the end. The second being a fast-paced song with excellent bass playing and an organ solo at the end. the third being a n uninspired pop tune, and the fourth having some melodies from the first part and ending on a high note with the guitar playing the theme that was initially played on the bass, yet explored deeper. This ending is very climatic and well-done.

I have a problem with the rest of the tracks though. Is This Love is a terrible hard rock piece that makes "Surfing Down the Avalanche" from their previous album seem like a great song. Sometimes They Stay Sometimes They Go is really pedestrian, uninteresting, and irritating. The Slow Crashing Man has good arrangements and nice chorus melody, but is a bit dull. Wherever You Stand is a rocker that while it is superior to "Is This love", it's still mediocre. Hereafter has pretty piano playing and great vocal performance, but it is way longer than a simple piano tune should be, losing my attention. Rearranged is much better than these songs, but I think it is anti-climatic after the last part of the epic. I love the use of electric organs in the beginning though and the singing is excellent.

Overall, I find this album longer than it should be, with the Beards depleting their material, recording uninteresting songs throughout the album, making the great songs standout, especially when sandwitched by uninteresting tunes. Despite the "filler", I find this album to be the best effort up to date since their "V" album, with outstanding tunes like the opener and With Your Kiss.

Highlights: With Your Kiss, Skeletons At the Feast, On a Perfect Day

Let Downs: Is This Love, Sometimes they Stay Sometimes They Go, They Know We Know, Wherever You Stand

Report this review (#103127)
Posted Thursday, December 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
Man With Hat
Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
3 stars The Beard keep getting better. This is their third studio album since the Neal Morse's leave, and in my opinoin, it is their best of this era. However, it is by no means a trip back to their roots. Spock's Beard contains a lot of new ideas (although it does throw it back to the "classic" era for the opening two songs). Personally that what really makes this album such a hit, the new ideas. The jazziness of part two of the suite, the laid back grooveness of All Thats Left, the flow of the closer (with an awesome keys job). All their new ideas really shine on this record. Sadly, there is alot more then just new ideas.

I'll start with the good: "On A Perfect Day" and "Skeletons At The Feast", pure prog in action. These two songs really take you back to the N. Morse days, but still keeps things sounding fresh and modern. Also, With Your Kiss is another excellent progressive song, however very little of it harkens to their past. (And thats another new, fresh idea). All three of these songs weave back and worth through wonderous soundscapes and really make you think that the Beard have still got it. "As Far As The Mind Can See" (this albums "Epic") is certainly the best one yet. Even though its not entirely progressive, nor entirely coherent as an epic, its still shines through as a high spot on this album (especially parts two and four).

Unfortuantly, IMO, the Beard also try their hand at a few hard rock and ballad like songs once again. Most of them do not work. Is This Love, is certainly a low point for this band. The "Middle Four" ("Sometimes They Stay, Sometimes They Go", "The Slow Crash Landing Man", "Whereever You Stand", "Hereafter") contain a few snipnets of interestingness, but for the most part fall flat. (As a side note: The first few times I listened to this I didn't like most of the lyrics nor Nick's vocals. However, over the course of time they have grown on me, and while certainly not the best are pretty good overall).

All in all, this is a decent release. Tracks like "Skeleton's At The Feast", "Rearragned", and "With Your Kiss" could be considered SB classics. Although I expected more out of this album (it was hyped well), I was not disappointed with repeated listenings. (If Octane was a giant leap from FE, Spock's Beard is only a small hop in front of Octane...but that small hop still covered alot of ground). Fans of post-Neal should find plenty to like about this album, and even old Neal- era diehards should be able to latch on the opening two tracks. Their potential continues to rise. 3.5 stars.

Report this review (#103722)
Posted Tuesday, December 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This album by Spock's Beard represents the band's ninth studio album and the third studio album after the departure of frontman and composer Neil Morse - approximately four years ago. Despite three studio albums, the band also released a phenomenal live double CD album "Gluttons For Punishment" which represented Octane Tour. The first studio album after Neal left the band, "Feel Euphoria", indicated how strong the existence of Neal in the band because this album was not as strong as albums where Neal was still around. But I was really happy when the band released the eighth album "Octane" in which the band repositioned their musical maturity in their own destiny leaving away the shadows of Neal's existence. In fact I'd rather like "Octane" than previous albums of Spock's Beard when Neal was around. With "Octane" the band pursued two poles of music styles: one with symphonic-textured music with song like "The Beauty of It All" (my best favorite track from any Spock's Beard album) and the other pole with hard rock music. But overall "Octane" has satisfied me even though there are some tracks that I do not favor - that's okay.

Having experienced with "Octane" and wonderful live album "Gluttons" my further expectation of their upcoming album revolves around music with symphonic nuance. So I did pre-order this album and hoping that my expectation would be fulfilled. And . this is the way I view this album .

On A Perfect Day (7:47) represents exactly what I have expected the kind of music Spock's Beard should create and play. It resembles old sound of the band in its early years but this time there is much symphonic texture that has been infused by the band to this track through the excellent keyboard work by Ryo. The intro part represents great music where the combination drums, bass guitar and organ bring forward the music in melodic way - inserted with guitar work. The keyboard solo right before the musical break is really melodic and memorable followed with guitar fills that remind me to the music of Genesis. Nick low register notes voice enters the music beautifully backed with excellent music that accompanies. This song has a strong melody and tight composition. No one would ever argue that this is a perfectly composed music. This song has many breaks with various instruments used: from guitar fills (acoustic and electric), keyboard, and drum work. I especially like the break that occurs at approx minute 5:25 where after excellent acoustic guitar solo, keyboard gives its solo wonderfully. It's a full five stars rating for this song!

Skeletons At The Feast (6:33) is the band's exploration on lyric-less composition with dynamic and uplifting styles. It kicks off with Ryo's great organ solo in ambient style followed with Nick's drumming which enters in crescendo the song moves into upbeat tempo energetically. The keyboard provides its solo followed with Alan's guitar solo and supported by Dave Meros tight basslines. Oh, what a great instrumental track this one is! I can see the combination of old-style organ work with modern sounds produced by other instruments. In away this song reminds me to Genesis' "Duke's Travel" even though it has totally different style. Oh my God . I love the part with pondering music riffs which starts at approx minute 3:30. I believe the riffs are mainly provided by Meros tight basslines, strengthened by Ryo's organ. Again, I choose to give this flawless track with a full five stars rating.

Is This Love (2:51)was the turning point for me for not continuing the CD spinning further because it's to me a straight rock'n'roll track with no prog elements at all in its composition. For me, this track is like the one played by 60's / 70s group called CCR and I have never expected this kind of song is created and performed by Spock's Beard. One star rating is appropriate for this one.

All That's Left (4:45) has a style that is very similar with the song by Toto, I believe. Many people would love this song because it's quite accessible. But it's not the case for me even though this song is actually a nice one. Two stars rating would be appropriate for this track.

With Your Kiss (11:46) - the opening part of this song almost falls into a category of Toto music. Luckily the band crafts this song with guitar fills at the back so that it sounds like old style Genesis music. It's a slow moving music which by minute 4 it takes off into more energetic form with stunning guitar solo. Otherwise it's so boring in its first four minutes. The music interlude using guitar and keyboard is really good. Entering the minute 6 the music almost changes significantly with the entrance of low register notes vocal. It turns into a style with percussion as main rhythm section and distance vocal style. Quite honest, this part is really excellent. It's not what I expect that Spock's Beard would play but it's really nice. The ending part of this track is melodic and memorable. The guitar solo is stunning - backed with symphonic keyboard work. Four stars rating for this track!

Sometimes They Stay, Sometimes They Go (4:31) is a blues-based music with nice guitar solo at opening. Musically, this is the kind of stuff that I like but it's not something that I expect Spock's Beard would have ever created and played. It's not bad track at all but it's quite strange and funny for me having the band performs this blues-rock tune. It should be a band lie Trapeze, or Glenn Hughes or any other classic rock bands who suit playing this stuff. Don't get me wrong, I like this track - especially the guitar solo that reminds me to classic rock tunes in the 70s. Three stars rating for this track.

The Slow Crash Landing Man (5:47) is completely a pop song in the vein of Toto with practically straight-forward structure, no prog element at all. It's an easy listening tune with soaring keyboard sound at the back which gives ambient nature. This is the kind of track that many can digest quickly. Those who love prog might be disappointed with this track. It's just a good track, nothing special about it, and three stars rating is appropriate.

Wherever You Stand (5:09) brings the music with more upbeat tempo. The style of music reminds me to Deep Purple's "Come Taste The Band" album. Yes, it's basically a straight-forward rock song with good vocal quality. Alan provides his excellent guitar work accompanied with Ryo's keyboards and dynamic singing style of Nick.

Hereafter (5:01) is a piano-based composition performed in mellow style demonstrating nick's excellent vocal job. Classical music influences the songwriting of this track as it can be identified easily on the piano work. Nick handles low register notes as well as the high ones perfectly. It's an excellent song that deserves four stars rating.

As Far As The Mind Can See is an epic which comprises four short tracks. The first part "Dreaming In The Age Of Answers" (4:49) is basically a pop song which serves as introduction to the epic. I can see here how Meros plays his bass guitar in a bit of jazzy mood. It is then becoming firmed that at the opening of Part 2: "Here's A Man" (3:28) he provides a completely jazz-rock bass guitar work, combined wonderfully with drums and inventive organ / keyboard work by Ryo. Well I do like part 2 very much - it's so dynamic and it reminds me to Canterbury music or the music that The Tangent has made so far. Ryo organ solo is truly stunning - backed with Meros tight bass lines. Oh yeah, the two gentlemen play their own instrument excellently during music interlude. Part 3: "They Know We Know" (3:18) is kicked with the drum work, followed with duo vocal lines, based on piano. The ending part, Part 4: "Stream Of Unconsciousness" (5:23) moves the music in faster tempo with pulsating keyboard solo. It then turns down slowly into a symphonic-based music with soaring keyboard sounds. It's quite dynamic in nature. Overall, this epic is excellent and it deserves four stars rating.

Rearranged (6:07) has a simple structured intro basing its composition on keyboard and drum beats and nice melody line through vocal. The music moves in crescendo with all instruments play together in relatively upbeat tempo. The ending part is very interesting where the combined work of keyboard, guitar, bass and drum accompany the vocal in relatively fast tempo.


I know that there are masterpiece tunes coming out from this album but the other tracks do not seem to measure up with the masterpiece standard. Some tracks are excellent and some are just good and one track has only one star. It's quite difficult to aggregate the rating but I'm sure that this album is in between three to four stars rating. For me personally, this album deserves 3.5 stars rating overall. Spock's Beard is willing to provide music with wider spectrum through this latest album. Keep on proggin' ..!

Progressively yours, GW

"Never confuse movement with progress."

Report this review (#104321)
Posted Sunday, December 24, 2006 | Review Permalink
King of Loss
4 stars I must say, before you judge new Spock's Beard, you have to say to yourself, this is not the old-fashioned Spock's Beard with Neal Morse's catchy pop-proggy hooks and the lack of his traditional sound (Heard with everything Neal has been associated with). Just admit to yourself that you can only picture Spock's Beard with Neal Morse playing keyboards and singing. But this is not the Neal Morse Spock's Beard anymore, it does not have Neal Morse's familiar voice or his often lopsided lyrics on them, but we still have 4 very talented musicians + Boeghold (the 5th beardle). With all their talent, we have here the first self- titled Spock's Beard album. I see this self-titled album as a start, a start in their new sound. I found myself not comparing this album to the Spock's Beard of the old or one of my favorite Progressive musicians, Neal Morse, but with what the new lineup has put out. I think what they have put out this time, is special compared to the last two releases.

1. They have got rid of trying to sound like the old Spock's Beard and adopted a newer sound that was somewhat heard on Octane and non-existent on Feel Euphoria. I applaud the lads for doing so, their new sound is great and I love it.

2. They have gotten Boeghold for the orchestrations, which is greatly appreciated by me. His orchestrations on the last Spock's Beard album, Octane, which was not so great at all, but in fact very mediocre.

3. The new Spock's Beard is not very Prog at all.

Why did I mention the last number, with Spock's Beard not being Prog? Other than the first song and parts of the other songs, this is not a typical Prog Rock release. Is This Live is included, which is an almost 3 minute purely Hard Rock piece. I do not appreciate it at all , but I can appreciate how Spock's Beard have changed. The epic does not sound Neal Morse-era at all, but instead introduces us to a new era, a new era where Spock's Beard sounds great without the Neal controlling the songwriting.

Overall, I find this album to be very satisfactory, in fact I find it an excellent addition not to just a prog music collection, but to every music fan's collection.

3.8 stars

Report this review (#105168)
Posted Monday, January 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Awesome.

Easily the best thing they have done since Neal Morse left, Spock's Beard's self-titled 9th studio album took me by surprise.

Overall, this is a very feel-good album. Very catchy and melodic. It is not, however, perfect. Far from it, in fact. Songs like "Is This Love", "Sometimes they Stay, Sometimes They Go", "The Slow Crash Landing Man", "Wherever You Stand" and "Hereafter" really bring down this otherwise amazing album. Thankfully, there is enough good stuff here to make up for those stinkers. I would compare this album to Dream Theater's Falling Into Infinity in that you have to skip some tracks to get to the good stuff.

SB is a very rewarding album, but just make sure you don't write it off because of some of the more sub-par tracks. You'd be missing out.

Report this review (#106084)
Posted Friday, January 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars 'Spock's Beard' was not the best album to begin my exploration into the band's studio material. However, this self-titled album is great in its own way: if you listen to the right songs.

'On A Perfect Day' is the album's opener, and it's a stellar track. Everything is great: the entire vocal department shines, everything played by every instrument is played with clear purpose, every melody fits together with the perfect sort of defined fluidity. 'Skeletons At The Feast' is an above-average instrumental, very proggy but lacks purpose and begins to sound like an elaborate jam after a while.

Then it begins. With 'Is This Love?' and 'All That's Left', we see Beard drift into semi-icky poppish songs that don't come across well.

Once the listener is fed up with these selections, 'With Your Kiss' begins. Yum. It's a great song with definitive movements, very emotional, and the introductory vocal melody is top-notch. 'Sometimes They Stay, Sometimes They Go' is a surprisingly interesting song that is reminiscent of 70's blues-rock (sorta) and wins with a subtle twist on convention.

Then it begins. Again. 'The Slow Crash Landing Man', 'Wherever You Stand', and 'Hereafter' fail to impress, often being too simple, too cheesily written, or just too boring. There's nothing wrong with simple songs, if they're done right, and this is not the case with these tracks. The off-tempo arrangement in 'Wherever You Stand' sounds like Beard tried too hard for a fresh song but did not succeed.

The epic that follows, 'As Far As The Mind Can See', is an excellent suite, and joins the opener in style and true progressive style. The highlight is 'They Know We Know', an excellent piano driven, anthemic piece. The closer 'Rearranged' has a very stadium sound, and turns out very nice, witha good vocal melody in the chorus. It contains itsself, giving a mini-epic affect to the listener, with the occasional wince at a cheesy lyric but an overall uplifting feeling.

After all, it's a delicious album, if listened to correctly. The production value is excellent, the arrangement, songwriting and depth of musicianship is ace on the good songs, but the album is tainted by some substandard pop ramblings. Verdict: it's worth it, buy the album if you're a fan, and if you're not, I'm sure you'll find it interesting and uplifting.

Report this review (#106672)
Posted Monday, January 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars So, we have a new self-titled album by these guys, meaning that they believe in a new beginning. I still don't know if there is such a great change but the album is outstanding, a step forward for them without Neal Morse.

Drummer's voice fits nicely to the music, which is great, sometimes simple and sometimes complex. It is progressive rock but with the exception of some songs that you feel that simply exist in this record. Without being bad some songs don't add to the result. In the finale it is a fabulous album with great compositions, various styles and clever lyrics.

It's not a masterpiece and it's not their finest work but it is far better than Octane and in the right direction. I surely enjoy it. Great effort.

Report this review (#107516)
Posted Monday, January 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
Chris H
3 stars This self-titled release by Spock's Beard was among my first purchases of modern music in a very long time, and I truly did not know what to expect as this 9th studio album was the first SB album I had the chance to listen to.

The album starts out in a fine fashion with "On A Perfect Day". The opening to this song reminds me of a good 70's synth intro, as Ryo is a very capable keyboardist. Then the lyrics come in, and although Nick's voice is short of spectacular, he seems to bring some life into a seemingly depressing song. "Skeletons At The Feast" is an excellent instrumental, filled to the brim with excellent progressive elements such as more keyboard art by Ryo and a magnificent bass line from Dave Meros that reminds me of an early Chris Squire. "Is This Love?" is not a bad song by all means, but it fits terribly within the confines of this album. This album being progressive cannot have a 3 minute hard rock song fueled by intense guitars and drumming. It just does not mix well. "All That's Left" is a nice reminder of the progressive elements on the album, although I must say that this is one of the most depressing things I have listened to. This would fit fine on Porcupine Tree's "The Sky Moves Sideways". Do not listen to this song if your relationship just ended!! "With Your Kiss" is the first of two epics on this album, although the second one is broken into parts while this stays as a whole. Another depressing tune for the first 4 or so minutes, it really picks up into a nice rocker at around 5 minutes with some good riffs and tight drumming. "Sometimes They Stay, Sometimes They Go" starts out with an excellent guitar intro, but the is quickly ruined by some of the worst vocals I have ever heard. More great guitar, but the vocals overwhelm any of the musical advantages. "The Slow Crash Landing Man" is just the polar opposite of the previous song, as it features some excellent vocals with very little substance backing it up for the duration of the song. "Wherever You Stand" is another hard song that does not belong on this album. It completely breaks up the flow and feel of the album. "Hereafter" is a very slow song, and it is one of the most boring 5 minutes I have experienced. I listened to it once and then never again.

I need a second paragraph to explain the second epic, as it was an amazing piece of music. This epic definitely lifted the rating of the album. "As Far As The Mind Can See" is the name of the entire epic, but it is broken down into 4 differently titled parts. "Part 1 - Dreaming In The Age Of Answers" is absolutely mind-blowing compared to the previous work presented on the album. The lyrics actually make sense, and every instrument is in sync with everything else. For the first time on the album, Nick's vocals are crystal- clear. "Part 2 - Here's A Man" starts off with some nice percussion and an excellent bass line, but then Ryo quickly takes over with some fast keyboard work. The vocals are very disappointing compared to those on the previous part, and they bring the quality of this whole section down. "Part 3 - They Know We Know" is the most accessible part of the whole epic, and it features some nice musical passages as well as the return of Nick's good singing voice, which occasionally lapses. "Part 4 - Stream Of Unconsciousness" is worth a star in itself. A flurry of instruments open up this final part and then Ryo's keyboards quickly fill the speakers as the song takes off. The song is amazing from beginning to end, especially when you find that Nick's vocals don't disappoint here, either. "Rearranged" is the last song on the track, and it reminds me of "Hereafter" in the intense lack of substance presented in the work. Well, at least in the beginning. The song really does pick up at around 2 minutes, but then it starts to sound like "Is This Love?" and ruins the impact of the progressive epic that came before it.

So, as you may have picked up from my review, I wasn't exactly ranting and raving over this album. Nick's vocals were very inconsistent, and the compositions of the minor songs got lazy at points. However, I feel that it was exceptional in some spots and contained a very progressive feel to it in some spots. Both epics were amazing pieces of works, especially considering the lack of brilliant music released in 2006. "Is This Love?" and "Hereafter" take this average album down to 2 stars, but the incredible "As Far As The Mind Can See" lifts it back up to 3.

3 Stars! Some excellent music on here!

Report this review (#108583)
Posted Tuesday, January 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well this is a really good album of post-Neal era. Because the band is recovering that "proggy sound" lost in Feel Euphoria (the one that follows the masterpiece and Neal Morse's swan song: SNOW), and Octane, both OK albums but nothing special.

Besides here we found a compilation of good and catchy songs. Nick D' Virgilio sings really well and his drum playing is very good (drums specially on Skeletons At The Feast and Here's A Man)

Alan Morse is a very versatile guitar player and can make very beautiful solos (remember the one in She Is Everithing from Octane?) and here shines in With Your Kiss and The Slow Crash Landing guitar solos.

Dave Meros plays a Rick, need more to say?

Ryo Okumoto is a really good Keyboard player, with nasty Hammond sound.

Conclusion: In this band the fabulous musicians stay. This time they came with good ideas and the result is good music. This album is very listenable from begining to end.

Report this review (#109819)
Posted Tuesday, January 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Surely this can't be what was expected of them! I mean really, to label them as prog as of late is a bit of a stretch. Since the departure of Neil Morse, The Beard really hasn't been the same. This album truly shows this in a new light. It had its moments, for instance the begining was excellent with "On a Perfect Day" and Skeletons at the Feast", leading listeners to believe that they had rediscovered the "spark" that had made them so great before. After that comes "Is this Love" and "All that's Left". Pure mediocrity. Then "With Your Kiss" kicks in, and it shows that SB has something left, because it ends up becoming one of my personal favorites of all their songs. Then, they had to go and put in "Sometimes They Stay, Sometimes They Go", "The Slow Crash Landing Man", and "Wherever You Stand". Those have to be, by FAR the worst SB songs ever released!!! I went through them twice, just to see if possibly there's something I missed, but no, just absolutely terrible. "Hereafter", just mediocre again. Then, "As Far as the Mind Can See" comes on. It sort of makes up for the disasterous middle of the album, but not quite. You can still hear some of the mediocrity of the other tracks in there. Lastly, "Rearranged" ends it all. It's one of the better tracks on the album, and has a solid end, but doesn't get rid of that bitter taste the rest of the album leaves. All in all, it has it's moments, but not enough to get more than a three. Spock's Beard fans can only hope that next time they kill the bad fillers and really go for something more creative.
Report this review (#113270)
Posted Friday, February 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is the third album since the departure of co-founder Neal Morse. We get a mixture of straight ahead rockers, epics and ballads. I agree with other reviews in that there is too much music at 77 minutes. The band should have recorded less material and done a better job on what they did record.

On a Perfect day is pure prog with a superb instrumental mid section with acoustic guitar, then piano and flute and other band members joining in. Stunning opener.

Skeletons at the Feast is an instrumental and starts off with driving bass lines and drumming. The ending isn't so good though, it needed more work. It reminds me of the frenetic freak-out style soloing that mired the Feel Euphoria album.

Is This Love is a straight forward rock song. They setup a great up-tempo groove but at less than three minutes it's far too short. They should have developed the song more. All That's Left, Sometimes They Stay Sometimes They Go and Wherever They Stand are also more accessible and although there are some good moments they are all reasonably uninspiring. Three lacklustre tracks is just too many to forgive.

With Your Kiss is one of the highlights. There is a laid back opening with some stunning keyboard work. The music becomes more ominous and changes to a darker section with jungle drumming and tribal chanting and driving bass lines - a complete revelation this section. The song ends with a superb symphonic style sweep. Brilliant.

The Slow Crash Landing Man is the other highlight. Great song title and lyrics and has that dramatic symphonic style. Reminds me of Ghosts of Autumn from Feel Euphoria (which was the highlight of that album). Hereafter is a ballad and offers a nice change of pace and is well done.

The obligatory epic is As Far as the Mind Can See. The music flows well between the sections I especially like the jazz inspired section and the intelligent use of other instruments (string quartet and brass). The track is very good but still not up to the standard of the Morse-era epics, especially lyrically. They included another track after the epic. The song starts off well enough but the ending is awful.

On the whole I really like the album and it stands up well against Day for Night or Snow. Meros and DiVirgilio consistently deliver the goods, especially Meros (he is this band's best asset) but the most improved musician on this outing is Ryo Okumoto. He has finally moved out of Neal Morse's shadow. Alan Morse has some great moments but he lacks creativity on occasions. This album finds the band still searching for that tour de force recording as a four piece. Do they have that magnum opus in them, we will have to wait and see....

Report this review (#116086)
Posted Friday, March 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars I am a huge Spock's Beard fan, but have not been willing to give the post-Neal Morse albums a try. Well, due to many reviews calling this album a "return to the former days", I figured it was worth giving this version of the Beard a chance.

First of all, losing Neal Morse as a vocalist does not seemed to have hurt the band at all. Nick D'Virgillio's vocals are outstanding and work very well. But the overall songwriting has taken a noticeable hit, in my opinion. On this self-titled album, there are some very good songs...and there are some very bad songs. And to reiterate what has been said numerous times, the current lineup does not seem to be able to make truly progressive music like they were able to when Neal was the primary songwriter. Whether this is good or bad, you be the judge.

I'll be somewhat brief in this review by dividing the songs up based upon whether I thought they were good, average or bad and then designate whether I would consider them "prog."

Good: On a Perfect Day (prog) Skeletons at the Feast (prog) All that's Left (not prog) With Your Kiss (prog) The Slow Crash Landing Man (not prog)

Average: As Far as the Mind Can See (prog) Rearranged (prog) Hereafter (not prog)

Bad: Is this Love? (not prog) Sometimes They Stay, Sometimes They Go (not prog) Wherever You Stand (not prog)

I think it is worth pointing out that the song "On a Perfect Day" is outstanding and is a wonderful start to the album. But due to the inconsistency of the rest of the album (and the painful additions of the three "bad" songs), I don't feel that this album warrants anything higher than 3 stars. I noticed that Gatot's review mentions many of the songs sounding like Toto and I must say that I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. Who would have thought that the Beard would turn into Toto?

Report this review (#118288)
Posted Friday, April 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This self-titled Spock’s Beard album is their latest, or the third after the departure of Neal Morse. Given that I haven’t heard any of Neal era albums, and after experiencing the post-Neal era with Octane, I became more interested in their music even more. Even their latest works aren’t considered as a good as their earlier (at least that was I know so far), they still create great music and albums.

And now, as for the tracks:

‘On a Perfect Day’: A good opening track, with some nice keyboard and acoustic guitar in the beginning and some beautiful guitar melody in the middle. This song also has a nice melody, as well as good vocal which make it a really an enjoyable song.

‘Skeletons at the Feast’: Simply beautiful. This is a great instrumental track which shows great musicianship by Spock’s Beard. A bit heavy at the beginning, and then turned into a nice track with the keyboard works, bass lines, and guitar solos. This track is likely one of the highlights of the album.

‘Is This Love’: This is a heavier track that sounds like some classic rock. Personally, I don’t think that this is a bad track at all; it just didn’t really work well with the rest of the album. ‘All That’s Left’: A quite nice and enjoyable soft track.

‘With Your Kiss’: Another great track. This song is likely divided into three sections. The opening section of the song starts slowly, with some nice tunes, and vocal. Then on the middle section, you’ll hear some percussion beats that give you a jungle-like atmosphere to the song. This section has a quite nice keyboard and guitar sounds as well as the percussion. The ending section of this track has some great guitar melody and solos.

‘Sometimes They Stay, Sometimes They Go’: A blues sounding like song. This is an average track, not bad but not really good either. Still a quite enjoyable track though. ‘The Slow Crash Landing Man’: This is a quite nice track. It sounds like a pop-rock song, but still a good track.

‘Wherever You Stand’: Another heavier track. This one has a bit of melody from ‘Surfing Down the Avalanche’, only played with faster tempo. There're some nice keyboard solos here. ‘Hereafter’ is a beautiful piano track. Great melody and vocal.

‘As Far as the Mind Can See’: The ultimate track of this album! This is a great epic which consists of four parts. The first part, ‘Dreaming in the Age of Answers’ starts soft and then paced up a bit with some nice melody. Then the tempo becomes a bit faster, and the music turn into a jazz-like song in the second part, ‘Here’s A Man’. Nice keyboard works in the middle section of this part. The third part, ‘They Know We Know’ starts with some drum beats. This part has a nice and catchy melody. The epic is closed nicely with ‘Stream of Unconsciousness’. The tempo in this part is fast in the beginning, and then slows down near the end and ended with some great keyboard sounds. This epic is really a stand out from this album. Well arranged and composed.

‘Rearranged’: This album is closed nicely by this track. Opens softly, the pace then builds up throughout the song. Nice melody provided from keyboard, bass, guitar, drum and vocals.

Overall, this is a great album. Apart from ‘Is This Love’ (which actually isn’t that bad), there’re lots of great tracks in this album. There’re bit of varieties in styles too, like pop rock, blues, or jazz. I like this one equally (if not better) as Octane. Spock’s Beard have shown that they are going in the right way with this album.

Report this review (#118498)
Posted Monday, April 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Spock's Beard is back. This is an album I wasn't expecting to emerge after the departure of the mastermind Neal Morse. Following the lame Feel Euphoria and the total let down Octane, this self-titled SB album is a very positive surprise. It seems they have revealed their true songwriting skills which probably were pushed aside when Neal was still on the lead and writing stuff continously. It took three records for the remaining Beard to make this achievement, but it certainly was worth it. I say this is one of the best progressive rock records released within few years, while many other bands like Pain Of Salvation have been totally drying out of ideas. I don't think this band really needs Neal Morse anymore, which takes a lot from me to say.

The first two tracks offer inspired composition and wicked musicianship, especially the guitarist extraordinaire Alan Morse (one of the best rock guitarists of our time, actually) shines with his without-pickup-technique doing some great acoustic passages on the first track, fast-speed but unique solo on Skeletons At The Feast (which in terms of composition reminds me a bit of the Flower Kings) and a bunch of other things. Anybody who's interested in some influential guitar playing should also check out Alan's new solo album which came out recently, not a long time after this album. Nick D'Virgilio's drum patterns on the second track are also very clever and the time signature hard to keep up with, so I most eagerly wait to hear this song in a live set. I was also amazed by Nick's wide vocal capabilities, having a good tone in both baritone and tenor range, and it seems he has got back his high range which was a little lost on Gluttons For Punishment -live record. He's certainly one of the most talented vocalists out there.

Is This Love and All That's Left are embarrassing pop-songs which should have been left out of because there would have still been 70 minutes stuff here. When I first time listened the record through, during these two songs I already thought that the two amazing opening songs had promised more than this album actually could give and SB wasn't getting any better after all. Thank God I was wrong! With Your Kiss is a very original prog epic with no prog-cliches included and have three moody sections, reminds me of The Bottom Line from Feel Euphoria except is done far more better. Especially the first part is moving and is what I believe the New Beard will sound like in the future. This band is clearly making a way of it's own.

Sometimes They Stay, Sometimes They Go is an OK blues track with a fine vocal spot from Alan and The Slow Crash Lading Man isn't either anything wonderous, but keeps up with the overall quality of the album having an interesting orchestration within the realms of a pop composition. Wherever You Stand is a brilliant rock piece and proves that SB did not forget how to rock hard. A melodic intersection gives the song a proper balance and reminds that this is no Led Zeppelin after all, this is progressive rock! Also I'm glad to hear on this song that the Beards haven't lost their sense of humour and sometimes lightweight attitude towards their music.

Even though Ryo Okumoto doesn't stand out on this record with his keyboard playing having too little solo spots, he contributes with the most beautiful song of the album, Hereafter, an outstanding ballad where we have just Ryo's piano and Nick's heart-wrenching vocals. After hearing this you can't even believe that they have done before something as boring as Ghost Of Autumn!

The Epic of the album, As Far As The Mind Can See may be their best output ever since Neal left, actually this one even stands up with such old epics as Time Has Come or At The End Of The Day, and completely outrules A Guy Named Sid and A Flash Before My Eyes. Surprisingly, Dave Meros has taken the writing credit on this one, so it seems that he could be the next mastermind of the band who writes the most over blowing and "sky's the limit" stuff which we prog fans like so much. Standouts of the epic are the symphonic intro which becomes a recurring theme and Here's A Man which has a good touch of jazz and proves how widely talented these guys really are.

The closing track is a poppier tune with a few prog elements. Not mind blowing, but a good way to end this mind blowing album. All in all, this is the best album of 2006 along with Paradox Hotel from the Swedish comrades The Flower Kings. Great work!

Report this review (#124534)
Posted Sunday, June 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars When Neal Morse left Spock's Beard I didn't have high hopes for the survival of the band. Not only was he lead Vocalist, but he also contributed Keyboards, Accoustic Guitar and was also the chief songwriter. Fortunately Drummer Nick D'virgillio was able to do a Phil Collins and step out from behind the kit to take on Vocal duties and an excellent singer he is too. Of course Morse's Keyboard and Guitar duties were easily taken care of by Ryo Okumoto and Alan Morse but what of the songwriting? Their first two post Morse albums had some very good moments but on this, their eponymous third release the Beard have really hit their stride with a superb album of modern Symphonic Prog of the highest order. In fact a fair amount of the material here is as good as much of what they did in the Morse era.

The first two tracks are absolute killers with great playing and very strong vocal melodies in the case of On a Perfect Day, second track Skeletons at the Feast being an instrumental. With your Kiss is a bit of a mini epic at 11 minutes and another album highlight and again strong on melody and a great trademark Alan Morse Guitar solo before going into a tribal drumming mid section and the more laid back coda.

I keep mentioning the strong melodies on here, that's because they're so abundant but perhaps the strongest of all is on The Slow Crash Landing Man which is totally sublime. Alan Morse really shines again with an excellent solo showing that fewer well chosen notes is often more. The guy is just brilliant!

Of course all the band are superb musicians and I'm also a big fan of Dave Meros' Bass playing which has just the right balance between top and bottom end and really cuts through the mix the way Geddy Lee or Chris Squire does. The band is able to show their chops to good effect on the almost obligatory epic As Far as the Mind Can See which is around 16 minutes long and divided into four parts and is another album highlight.

There isn't really any really bad tracks on the album and I was almost tempted to give it 5 stars but I restrained by the inclusion of a couple of fillers, Is This Love being a prime example. Overall though a very strong 4.

Report this review (#144040)
Posted Friday, October 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Spock's Beard's ninth album can be summed up in one word: uninspired. Not only could they not think of a proper title for the album, but it's just like the last two Morse-less albums, except this one is even longer. And what bothers me the most about it is that they put the two best songs the band has made since Morse left in the very beginning of the album. After experiencing something positive and building up my expectations during the first 14 minutes of this CD, I'm left with utter disappointment.

Really, the first two tracks are prime Spock's Beard. The rest of the album tailspins into an endless series of AOR tracks lacking inspiration and bordering on being totally monotonous. Remember the comparisons with a post-Gabriel Genesis? Well, Spock's Beard's parallel has already reached the 1983-1986 Genesis period. You get maybe 2-3 prog rock tracks (sometimes good, sometimes not), and the rest is radio friendly fodder any rock band could come up with (ballads and heavier stuff). What a waste of talent. You would think that after three albums of this, they'd realize that this isn't going to get them onto MTV or VH1 and at worst, alienate a large following of die-hard fans (admittedly only in the thousands, by that's big for a prog rock act nowadays).

Octane had some potential, but this self-titled album seems like a regression back to Feel Euphoria. The band may have matured, but is clearly lost on the wrong road. Two stars, for collectors and die-hard fans only. Very disappointing.

Report this review (#151823)
Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
2 stars A big let down for me, due mostly I think to the fact that the new Beard sounds much, much too similar to the old. The old bombast is back, except it simply isn't exciting anymore.

The first half of this (for some reason) self-titled album stand out as being passable, with the slinky All That's Left and genuinely beautiful/creative With Your Kiss standing out as some of this era's best work; however, the once the horribly plodding Slow Crash Landing Man starts up things go down hill. The extended piece is mired in a repetitive sameness which hardly gets off the ground, and the few fleeting moments of creativity sprinkled throughout the other songs simply aren't enough to salvage the album.

Disappointing-- give us back the new Beard!

Songwriting: 2 Instrumental Performances: 2 Lyrics/Vocals: 2 Style/Emotion/Replay: 2

Report this review (#161711)
Posted Wednesday, February 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars So I popped this CD in hoping to God that the Beard wouldn't let me down a second time. I was completely wrong, this album is so lackluster, I have listened to it only three times. It saddens me to say that Spock's Beard is a dying band, that can not function without its creator. Neal, please for the love of your God, come back and make the Beard come back to life. Even the 17+ minute song, As Far as the Mind Can See, couldn't save this ill-fated album.
Report this review (#162749)
Posted Tuesday, February 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
The Pessimist
2 stars Not as bad as people make it out to be. Not the worst Spock album (*coughs* Octane *coughs*), but certainly not the best either. The album kicks off in usual Spock style with On A Perfect Day. I really like the delicate acoustic guitar part in this song, and also the build up from there. It then continues with Skeletons At The Feast, which is up and down. It's only really worth listening to for the ending chromatic riff. Is This Love? is abismal rubbish, I cannot stand it, and neither should you! The following five aren't really memorable enough to deserve a mention, there just ain't really much to them, apart from the progressive vein in With Your Kiss. The suite from tracks 10-14 is excellent, but has nothing on previous epics like At The End Of The Day or Harm's Way, so don't be expecting much! The album finishes with a brilliant keyboard song, Rearranged. This is the only song I'm not bored of yet, and probably the best on the album.

Overall an inconsistant album, and I can see why people hate it, but I don't mind it. It brings hope for the future, and hopefully the next album will improve on the downspiral they've been going through without Neal. The highlights are definitely On A Perfect Day, As Far As The Mind and Rearranged, although even they're not exectly prog gems. 2stars, collectors/fans only.

Report this review (#165893)
Posted Sunday, April 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Oh yes, have they ever been rearranged!

Spock's Beard's third offering without (Neal) Morse at the helm is one that has always been received with controversy (and it's not even that old yet!). With the band finally taking control over where they want to go and taking the music in a decidedly NON-Morse direction the band is almost using this self-titled release as a way to reinvent themselves. Where their first output in this incarnation, Feel Euphoria, leaning heavily towards the AOR feel of things and their concept album Octane saw them leaning towards the melancholic and slow Spock's Beard sees the band taking things in a full rock direction, so say goodbye to the AOR feel in most any beard release. Still defined by lush keyboards and an almost Satriani feel with Alan Morse's guitar the band has made things heavier with drummer turned singer (a la Genesis) Nick D'Virgillio proving that he can belt out the heavy parts even better than Morse was able to do (probably thanks to the more aggressive vocal parts on Octane). All around this album shows the band re-ignited with a passion and looking to rock some homes.

While mentioned before that the band has finally made their way out of Morse territory there are still moments where the old band shines through. Notably, the opener On A Perfect Day opens the album with a very V feel to it. Nothing wrong with this of course, and if you liked that album then you're sure to be pleased with this track. Heavier, surely, with the loud and (seemingly) intentionally messily organized guitar chiming in for some nice riffing. Those pleasant synths come in to bring the song down to earth and D'Virgillio delivers his first lines. A truly excellent opening for the album. This song is followed up strongly with the excellent instrumental Skeletons At The Feast which can only be described as pressing with the drums driving the song like there's no tomorrow under a crunching riff and some stabbing keys. The closing track Rearranged is also well worth mention here as it seems to be where the band is heading (hopefully) with their future releases - an excellent mix of prog and hard rock.

A couple of moments on the album show a much more typically "rock" side of the band. At this very point in life they seem to be deciding on which direction to take, or perhaps simply learning how to integrate a heavier side into their music. While the tracks are still split between heavy and typical Beard it's good to see them taking a new direction. Is This Love is the first evidence of this hard rock side - this quick and heavy song comes in and out leaving you thinking ''what was that just now?''. Prog heads who like rock to their prog should get a kick out of these kinds of songs - but not all will, surely. Other more rock oriented songs include the mid paced and Satriani-twinged Sometimes They Stay, Sometimes They Go with Morse's riff driving the song in a decidedly guitar showcase with a heavy blues feel. Wherever You Stand is the other song with this kind of feel, and this one is a little bit more upbeat and longer, but less of a standout than the others.

Of course, this wouldn't be Spock's Beard without the slow melancholic songs that we've been used to hearing from them all this time. On this effort there's a small but mixed bunch of them. The melodic and peaceful All That's Left has a wonderful chorus which makes good use of vocal harmonizing making for a very nice song. It's the others that have a bit of a problem. The Slow Crash Landing Man is a good track with another good chorus, but something about it just seems out of place. Perhaps it's just that the song is not as over-the-top as some of the other songs. Same goes for Hereafter.

But enough nitpicking, it's time to get to the main course. On this effort the Beard has put forth some of the best long-song suits that we've seen since their V days. Starting with the excellent With Your Kiss, which starts out worryingly (almost in AOR territory), but soon explodes into a pomp-prog suite of massive proportions with excellent soloing from every member well tied together by the melody of the track. But if that wasn't enough there's one more coming. As Far As The Mind Can See is an (unfortunately) split epic comprised of 4 parts. Each part is very individual from the other but still manages to keep theme as the story works it's way. For some reason this one gets a kind of Duke (Genesis) feel to it at points, but that really works for the track when taken as a whole. Very well done.

There's a few unnecessary tracks, but in general this is a great album from a band in transition. Even the cover art (below the cardboard slipcase) shows a band very different from what we've seen before. A very welcome and excellent release whose future could have seemed uncertain if not for the band finally finding some feet under them to run with. 4 stars! This is an excellent addition to any prog library, just don't expect it to sound anything like the Beard you're used to.

Report this review (#171827)
Posted Wednesday, May 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
3 stars Spock´s Beard self titled album was the first post Neal Morse work by those guys that I bought. Like so many others I doubt if the band could handle things without their former charismatic leader. As far as I knew (and I think a lot of people), Neal Morse WAS Spock´s Beard. Everyone I know thought him as the actual lifeforce behind the band´s name, the others, as talented as they were, were not much more than HIS backing band. Well, I had to change that opinion after a few spins.

There are good and not so good news: first, I was amazed that there was no substite for Morse´s place, with the other former group´s members filling his functions (Ryo Okumto now playing all keyboards and alan Morse handling every guitar duties). And they did it very well, by the way. But the biggest surprise was hearing that drummer Nick D'Virgillio assumming lead vocals. Upon hearing the album I was even more amazed by the fact that the guy does have a fine voice and dilivers his interpretation like a seasoned crooner. The band was indeed better than I thought.

What about the songs? Well, those are the not so good news. Although they surely can write great tunes (like the opner, Perfect Day, a typical fina Spock´s Beard classic), the album itself suffers from a general lack of direction. Or, to be more precise, some focus and personality. Every song is good, but they don´t have a unity, sounding too much like a different band on each track. By the end of the CD you don´t really know what this CD is really about. Like we say in Brazil, they were shooting in all directions. The resultas are mixed: sometimes they hit the target, sometimes they don´t. Fortunatly, the good moments are really memorable and form the majority of the CD.

conclusion: a good album, no doubt about it, sometimes very good. But it is more promising than fulfilling. They overcame most of the problems they faced when Morse left the group, but they still have to find their own personality without him. If you like this Spock´s Beard already you should give a try on this. If you´re new To the band I recommend you hCar the CD before buying it. 3,5 stars.

Report this review (#173433)
Posted Tuesday, June 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I must say, I was worried about listening to Spock's Beard after Neal Morse left. And I was not alone in that. I'm glad, though, that I waited till this one came out to try out their sound. This is their strongest album since Snow, and ever despite some throwaway tracks, I feel it has to be given four stars for a band doing something I figured nearly impossible.

With the exception of Is This Love; Sometimes They Stay, Sometimes They Go; and Wherever You Stand; the songs are full energy and creative songwriting. Very refreshing songwriting in many cases. The vocals are absolutely amazing, with Nick rivaling Neal for frontman prowess. Even those commonly slammed pop bits sound nice and deep. They Know We Know, out of As Far as the Mind Can See, for example, is very simplistic and straightforward, but the balance between prog and straight rock is very well preserved in this one. Only the three tracks above give me any issues, and somehow they do not seem to drag down the quality of this one at all.

In short, this is one of the Beard's best releases, Neal or no, and it stands on its own as a band that can make good music that is both fun for them to play and interesting for us to listen to.

Report this review (#173762)
Posted Thursday, June 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Despite a fair amount of filler, this eponymously-titled 9th studio album by the legendary US Prog- heroes contains some of their strongest group-work yet of the post-Neal Morse era. It also happens to be one of their longest too, featuring over 75-minutes worth of new material spread over 14 tracks, as well as featuring a 4-track mini-concept piece at the album's tail-end named 'As Far As The Eye Can See'. All in all it is all good news for the fans, and, especially in this age of short, sharp indie-punk, thumping dance-nonsense and 3-minute pop wonderment, reflects genuinely good value for money and is yet another reflection of the modern prog-scene as one of music's most fan-orientated sub-genre's. But what of the music? Album opener 'On A Perfect Day' may steal it's title from Lou Reed, but that's the sum of their similarity. It's an excellent start, featuring SB's penchant for strong hooks and overlapping melodies and manages to project the core, quintessential sonic feel of the band. In fact OAPD may just be a contender for the definitive SB tune. Nick D'Virgilio's voice is smooth, almost jazzy, and his ability to mimic and, yes, improve on Neal Morse's vocal style is spookily akin to Phil Collins gradual usurpation of Peter Gabriel's front-man role in NDV's childhood heroes Genesis, a move best summed up by the pastoral UK progger's then-label-manager Tony Stratton-Smith exclaiming that "He[Phil Collins] sounds more like Peter Gabriel than Peter Gabriel!". Indeed, NDV has achieved exactly what most fan-boy rockers rarely do, i.e. follow in almost the exact same footsteps of one of his heroes and attain almost the same comparative degree of success. It's a genuine feat, and it once again goes to show just what an accomplished, enthusiastic and important progressive rock band SB have morphed into over the years. Album no.9 may not be their best, but it is both accessible and steeped in the history of prog, a tricky combination that is incredibly hard to pull of in this modern, digital age. But back to the tracks. Sophomore song 'Skeletons at the Feast' is a funkier affair than its predecessor, with Ryu Okumoto prominent, but it isn't until the gorgeous pop-flavoured harmonies of 'All That's Left' that we are treated to another near-classic. NDV pushes the Phil Collins-style-and-feel-quotient to the limit here, with strong, impassioned vocals gliding over the top of Ryu's soaring keyboards. The song may rankle with some die-hard proggers, but there is no denying that it's a piece that wouldn't look or feel out of place on a latter-day Indie-pop album or in the top ten of the US and/or UK charts. Just with synths and more noodling. Help is on hand however, for those wanting something meatier, and the electric-rock of 'Sometimes They Stay, Sometimes They Go' duly supplies. Alan Morse lets rip with a killer zeppelin-inspired riff, brimming with his usual invention, the slamming guitar-sound founded on the steady, tricky bass-work of Dave Meros, whilst NDV's powerful drumming cleverly compliments yet more highly intricate keyboard-and-moog histrionics from the Osaka-born finger-wizard. The highlight of SB though has to be the four-song cycle that completes the set. Aptly-named 'As Far As The Mind Can See', each song takes on a different style, from straight-ahead prog to uplifting CSNY- inspired chorus-rock. 'They Know, We Know' continues the albums pattern of giving all the best songs a comma in the middle, with the famous SB harmonies - Morse, NDV, Ryu - working yet again in almost- perfect harmony. 'Rearranged' closes things nice and mellow and tops off a highly-satisfactory effort. The down-side though, has to be the claims and counter-claims that the band's sound is inching towards a poppier west-coast sound, and maybe it's true. Several songs simply amble along, either taking the straight-highroad thru commercial rock territory, faux-metal mumblings or summery schmaltz, but they still retain the bands unique sound. Maybe it's an experimental approach, maybe the guys are getting older and chilling out in their wiser years. Who really knows. But one thing is for sure. It doesn't make their tunes any less enjoyable and it doesn't make their style any less progressive. It's prog-rock people and the hint is in the name of the music.


Report this review (#176519)
Posted Friday, July 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars

Spock's Beard's ninth studio effort is one of inconsistencies. The music goes off in too many directions thus the album lacks direction. It would seem like the band cannot decide whether it wants to be a progressive rock band or a straight forward rock band. This was never and issue during the Neal Morse era. With their terrific previous album, Octane, the band's identity issues seemed to be a thing of the past, but it seems there might be some soul searching left to do. If there is something I have learned over the years is that you cannot please everyone.but I digress. Through the 11 songs on this album, Symphonic Prog fans will most likely be distracted by the standard rock tracks which are generally strong but don't fit Spock Beard's well-established mould.

The production level is great all the way through. As always the musicianship is top notch and the vocals are consistently strong. The keyboard and guitar sounds took me back to the late eighties and early nineties, which I liked quite a bit.

On a Perfect Day and With Your Kiss are probably the strongest prog tracks on the album, while As Far as the Mind Can See, the longest song on the album at 16 minutes, probably should have been cut in half.

All That's Left and Rearranged are probably the strongest rock tracks on the album, while Is This Love and Sometimes They Stay should simply have been left off the CD.

In the end, the album is probably 15 minutes too long. Though still a strong effort for the most part, Spock's Beard lacks some texture which I like in symphonic progressive rock albums. I would still recommend this album, but you may find yourself skipping over a few tracks.

Report this review (#201534)
Posted Tuesday, February 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
2 stars There are four SPOCK'S BEARD album that I rate very highly, they're all personal favourites of mine. And that's what makes listening to this album so frustrating. Unless Neal comes back to this band this is the last SPOCK'S BEARD I purchase. Of course it's not all bad, but an average album that's over 77 minutes in length is tough to swallow. That's why 2 stars for me is the right rating,fans only.

"On A Perfect Day" recalls the good old days when it opens with guitar and keyboards leading in a bombastic way. It settles with reserved vocals after 1 1/2 minutes. Some good contrasts here actually and themes are repeated. Not a bad opener. "Skeletons At The Feast" is a top three.This thing rocks when it kicks in. A heavy rhythm section with synths sounds amazing.The guitar rips it up before 1 1/2 minutes. It's not as good before 3 minutes as synths lead the way but the bass is good. It's heavy again 3 1/2 minutes in with some great organ. Check out the guitar and mellotron late. Just a killer track ! "Is This Love" is the first mistake. A straight up rocker with bad vocals. Just not a fan. "All That's Left" makes up for it though. Another top three tune.This is my favourite, it just hits me emotionally. I like the keyboards too that make me think of PORCUPINE TREE. Gorgeous chorus. "With Your Kiss" is pretty good and the longest at almost 12 minutes. It's mellow early but it gets fuller. I like the sound after 4 minutes. The song continues to change.

"Sometimes They Stay, Sometimes They Go" is ok with the drums and vocals standing out. It sounds Alternative. "The Slow Crash Landing Man" is my other top three song. It has a relaxed melody and I like the lyrics.The organ is good too 3 minutes in. Nice guitar late. "Wherever You Stand" is a straight-up rock song that's fairly aggressive. "Hereafter" is a ballad with piano and fragile vocals. "Part 1:Dreaming In The Age Of Answers" kicks in before a minute with vocals in tow. A calm with piano 3 1/2 minutes in. "Part 2 : Here's A Man" is my fourth favourite. I like how jazzy and intricate it is. "Part 3:They Know We Know" is a fun song with a children's choir. "Part 4 : Stream Of Unconscoiusness" is uptempo with synths early. It settles as the tempo continues to change. It's ok. "Rearranged" features these reserved vocals, keys and mellotron early. It kicks in after 1 1/2 minutes.Contrasts continue.

Just too many misses on this album. Maybe i've just lost patience with this band.

Report this review (#229143)
Posted Thursday, July 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Believe it or not, this was my introduction to Spock's Beard. I happened upon it in the mall, and knew the band name from a certain website I frequent. I had always been interested in hearing this band, and decided this would be a perfect opportunity. Of course, those who know the band would argue that this was not at all a perfect opportunity, since this album is three albums into a lineup missing the man most would consider the key member. Well, I guess that's too bad, because for what it's worth, this record whetted my appetite and made me all the more eager to hear what this excellent group sounded like with Neal Morse at the helm, and led to me acquire all their albums (although I still picked up Octane second- and I enjoy that one a little bit more than this). I feel like this is a mixed bag- it contains some of Spock's Beards best work after Morse's departure, but also contains some of the worst, as well as some okay, mediocre songs. The pieced-together "epic" is like Frankenstein's monster; it's certainly "alive," but is lumbering and none of the parts seem right together. All said, this is an excellent album, but only just.

"On a Perfect Day" By far the very best on the record, this first track opens with a powerful electric guitar riff and organ that lead into an amazing synthesizer melody over a bed of Mellotron. Dave Meros has a wonderfully gritty bass that cuts through the mix. The verse incorporates warbling, clean guitars and the capable voice of drummer Nick d'Virgilio. The instrumental interlude occurs in three parts. The first is an acoustic guitar duet. The second is piano, strings, and Mellotron, all culminating in a soothing guitar solo. The third is a more upbeat take on the introduction and verse using clean electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and organ. The song concludes with a commanding recitation of the chorus.

"Skeletons at the Feast" The instrumental on the album consists of Ryo Okumoto lighting it up with the organ, ushering the band into one of their heaviest performances ever. This is Spock's Beard doing progressive metal, pure and simple. And guess what? It works. The band does morph into symphonic rock bliss midway through, however, adding perfect variety to the piece, sounding quite a bit like The Flower Kings along the way.

"Is This Love" This hard rocker belongs in a dingy biker bar, not on a progressive rock album! It's not bad for what it is, but is completely disposable- I would probably find myself skipping it if it weren't so short.

"All That's Left" The first soft song on the album, this one shows Spock's Beard's ability to take the pop music they write and really make it shine. The chorus is very memorable, even if the lyrics are on the melodramatic side.

"With Your Kiss" The second soft song follows directly after the first, and is even mellower at first, and then becomes a heavy-handed beast of a song. It's unfortunate that the longest single track on the album is also the second weakest of all.

"Sometimes They Stay, Sometimes They Go" This track has Alan Morse on lead vocal. He has a voice that I would describe as what a love child between Eric Bloom and Donald Roeser of Blue Oyster Cult would sound like singing. Whatever the case, d'Virgilio certainly sounds miles better. Musically, this song is a pleasant rocker, but nothing more.

"The Slow Crash Landing Man" My second favorite track on the album has a steady rhythm and delightful melody. The build from the bridge to the synthesizer solo using a church organ and Mellotron is simple but effective, and the chorus is just magnificent.

"Wherever You Stand" Another filler, this track has great lead guitar work, but otherwise is chock full of goofy vocalizing, a boring rhythm section, and subpar singing- easily the worst of the bunch.

"Hereafter" Gentle piano introduces some abrupt singing. The beginning has a subtle vocal jazz feel. This is the softest song on the album, and may bore some.

"Dreaming in the Age of Answers" A gentle synthesizer lead begins the track, but soon the band enters, bringing with them great music with vocal sections reminiscent of 1980s pop rock. The instrumental section in the second half has a soft jazz flavor, with fretless bass, piano, and a brushed snare.

"Here's a Man" The second part maintains the jazz feel, but takes a fusion approach, kicking it up a notch with heavier drumming, organ, and a heavy bass groove. The organ solo is one of the most phenomenal performances on the album.

"They Know We Know" The third part of the "epic" begins starkly with heavy drumming and a decent vocal bit. The chorus is atrocious, though, and makes this the weakest segment of the four part piece.

"Stream of Unconsciousness" Morse whips things into the right direction, however, with a gritty guitar solo followed by a fabulous synthesizer lead. In the middle, a synthetic section takes over, incorporating a somewhat silly brass bit, as the band fades back in- a lackluster ending.

"Rearranged" The final track has a goofy introduction. Fortunately, the synthesizer lead makes up for it, as the music takes a heavier feel.

Report this review (#243437)
Posted Wednesday, October 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Well here you can find another controversial album, not only for the lacking creative hand of Neal Morse, but also because these American guys have already expressed their ability and music "cleverness" as well, during their first years along with the co-founder Neal Morse the same. There are too many different musical directions inside and sometimes quite far away from the mood of the progressive music-genre. For instance a few good tracks such as "On A Perfect Day", "Skeleton's At The Feast" or "Slow Crash Landing Man" are not so bad! All these songs belong to the spirit of the early albums; instead for example the song "Is this love" is a disappointing number and without a precise music direction, but is aligned with their recent works (such as "Octane"), which don' t include neither pop hits nor creative progressive tunes. Perhaps it could be an exception an easy good track like "All That's Left", a normal pop song characterized by an interesting chorus and a good arrangement too, but thinking of "With your kiss" I immediately change idea about it, as this latter tune is a very weak music perform and at the end it makes me listen to another kind of modern prog music, like for instance that one incredible inside "Suffocating the Bloom" by Echolyn... it's a question of preferences nowadays, but of course I prefer spending my spare time listening to something odd or intelligent, even though it could be another usual attempt to make a renewal of the classic prog genre...make your own choice as usual!
Report this review (#247823)
Posted Monday, November 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
2 stars After Neal Morse left Spock's Beard I thought that the band was over and done with so naturally I ignored their releases Feel Euphoria and Octane. Then came 2006 and the release of this self-titled album...

Naturally I considered the self-titled album-move to be as a sort of reboot of the band just like the self-titled Genesis album marked the complete transition into a pop territory for Banks/Collins/Rutherford, as if it wasn't obvious enough with the release of Abacab. I remember hearing a brief sample of On A Perfect Day and thinking to myself that this truly sounds like the new Spock's Beard have finally found their direction. Unfortunately, listening to the album I quickly realized how wrong I was.

The album kicks of with the amazing track called On A Perfect Day which is the followed up by another pleasant instrumental entitled Skeletons At The Feast. But once track number three starts the whole release goes downhill from there on. As Far As The Mind Can See was another one of those compositions that I was really looking forward to but, once again, was really disappointed by such a disastrous and disjointed composition. Only the last two parts of that composition have something new and exciting to offer but they don't make up for all the terrible material featured on the rest of this album.

***** star songs: On A Perfect Day (7:47)

**** star songs: Skeletons At The Feast (6:33) Stream Of Unconsciousness (5:23) Rearranged (6:07)

*** star songs: All That's Left (4:45) With Your Kiss (11:46) Sometimes They Stay, Sometimes They Go (4:31) The Slow Crash Landing Man (5:47) Hereafter (5:01) Dreaming In The Age Of Answers (4:49) Here's A Man (3:28) They Know We Know (3:18)

** stars songs: Is This Love (2:51) Wherever You Stand (5:09)

Report this review (#259620)
Posted Wednesday, January 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is the only post Neal Morse release of the Beard I have, so what's my opinion.

Pretty good, not the same as Neal's period, but it doesn't matter, these guys are still amazing.

I have also heard some of their other post Neal stuff, and this seems to be their strongest material.

At times, it seems these guys try too hard, but I think they should be more confident with their material, but these songs are really good.

I also think that Nick is a better singer than Neal, but even Neal knew that (he admits it in the linear notes).

1. On A Pefect Day - The closest these guys will get to the atmosphere Neal used to create. Amazing song, incredibly cathcy and very interesting. They also do this song amazing live. 10/10

2. Skeletons At The Feast - A good instrumental with some very King Crimson like eccentric passages. 7/10

3. Is This Love - Not to be confused with the Whitesnake song. A very bluesy influenced song. Very kickass. 7/10

4. All That's Left - I really love this song. I love the melody in the chorus. The lyrics are wee bit weird to be honest. 9/10

5. With Your Kiss - An amazing Marillion influenced song. I love the amazing changes in time and the odd percussion sections. A fantastic modern prog song. 9/10

6. Sometimes They Stay, Sometimes They Go - Doesn't Alan sing a litle like Elvis Costello. He does sound a lot like him. Oh yea, it's a great song. 8/10

7. The Slow Crash Landing Man - Love the chorus in this song. Very mellow and laid back, a great song, and they do this song amazing on their most recent DVD. 10/10

8. Wherever You Stand - A more rocking song. It's ok. 7/10

9. Hereafter - A beautifull ballad with some amazing piano work and some great vocals from Nick. I also love the weird chord changes throughout. 10/10

10. As Far As The Mind Can See - An amazing modern prog song, with some very cathcy moments and fantastic instrumental passages. The best parts of this song are 2 and 4. 10/10

11. Rearranged - Nice way to end the album, with some kick ass riffs. 7/10

CONCLUSION: Nothing compares to Neal's stuff, but this is a great album.

RIP Toady Payne

Report this review (#285771)
Posted Wednesday, June 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Spock's Beard bounced back after the unimpressive "Octane" album, with this eponymously title album that shows (finally) that even without Neal Morse, the band can come up with some very good prog.

The album begins well, starting with On A Perfect Day, a song that is so good that it could have fit on any of the earlier albums. Skeletons At The Feast follows, a strong prog-metal songs that bristles with energy.

After that, the album wavers some, as Nick D'Virgilio seems to be pushing the band back toward the mundane ballads of the last album. But after a shaky start, With Your Kiss actuall turns into a good piece. The rest of the middle of the album again goes up and down, with the tunes getting way too close to arena rock.

But it gets better again, with As Far As The Mind Can See, a prog suite. The second section, Here's A Man, a funky fusion piece, is particularly good.

It's a mixed bag, but there is enough great material for me to give this three stars, round up.

Report this review (#452372)
Posted Thursday, May 26, 2011 | Review Permalink

I expected more from the eponymous album from Spock's Beard.Bom in some parts, but also dissapointing.Definitely is something that had potential, but so far the weakest album I ever heard.

The best moments here belong to the first two tracks, "On a perfect day" and "Skeletons at the feast" and the epic multi-part "As Far As The Mind Can See, "which is definitely one of the best songs of the band, even though sometimes is somewhat irregularly.The rest is average or bad, but I do not attention as these songs.

5 stars: On a perfect day, Skeletons at the feast, As far the mind can see pt.1: Dreaming In The Age Of Answers, As far the mind can see pt. 2: Here's the man

4 star: Slow crash landing man, Rearranged

3 stars: With your kiss, Sometimes They Stay, Sometimes They Go, Wherever you stand, Hereafter, As far the mind can see pt.3: They know we know, As far the mind can see pt. 4: Stream of unconsciouness

1 star: Is This Love, All that's left

Average: 3.49

3 stars

Report this review (#461984)
Posted Wednesday, June 15, 2011 | Review Permalink

SPOCK'S BEARD Spock's Beard ratings only

chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of SPOCK'S BEARD Spock's Beard

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives