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Spock's Beard - Gluttons For Punishment - Live 05 CD (album) cover


Spock's Beard

Symphonic Prog

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5 stars The new live album Gluttons for Punishment is the proof of that and shows that this band is still a force to be reckoned with. It was recorded over two gigs in Germany and the set contains a good mix of old and new, starting with their latest 30-minute epic A Flash Before My Eyes and finishing with their very first epic from their first album The Light. The seven part A Flash Before My Eyes is delivered particularly strong. I prefer the live version over the studio version, as the band plays much stronger (and heavier). Only Nick D'Virgilio seems to have some problems coping with the different vocal styles he used on the studio version. While it seems that Al Morse is always tripping on something other than his guitar playing when he plays on a Dutch stage, it is nice to hear on this album what his contribution to the music is supposed to sound like. He is on great form, and fills the music with loads of little riffs and licks not heard on the studio version.

Of the other tracks from their latest album the instrumental NWC is particularly fun. It includes both Ryo's portable keyboard solo, and a drum duet between D'Virgilio and tour-drummer Jimmy Keegan, which inevitably reminds of the similar stuff Phil Collins and Chester Thompson used to do at Genesis gigs.

Their previous album Feel Euphoria is only represented with two tracks on this live album: The quirky The Bottom Line, which works excellently in a live setting with all the different bits and pieces this miniature epic contains, and the post-Neal Morse song Spock's Beard has written, Ghosts of Autumn. Like the rest of the tracks it is delivered with much more power than the studio version. As for the oldies in the set, there were a lot more of them than on their previous tour. First up is an epic from The Kindness Of Strangers album: Harm's Way. Neal who?? While Nick's voice may seem a bit odd the moment he starts singing, you will forget all about the other guy before the sentence is finished. Talking about making a song your own. At The End Of The Day, was never one of my favourites (V simply isn't their best album), but it is a nice inclusion on the album anyway. Once again, Neal Morse's vocals aren't missed the slightest bit.

The Light is probably the hardest Neal Morse-era song to tackle, as this was pretty much a Neal Morse solo track conceived back in 1995, for which the rest of the band were called in to play their instruments. This is the only time on the album where you do miss Morse's vocals. I would say D'Virgilio is a stronger live singer than Morse, whose voice often wears out throughout the course of a gig, but D'Virgilio's voice does miss the aggression and venom needed for The Light. The Light is extended nicely with a long piano solo, and a full band jam at the end, keeping the Beard tradition of concerts becoming real parties onstage.

Ironically, Spock's Beard never released a particularly good live album when Morse was still in the band. All of the live albums the band released previously (and that's quite a lot of them) failed to capture the live spirit of the band. Fanclub bonus outtake album Don't Try This @ Home Either being the only exception, but that wasn't a proper album. Now, with Gluttons For Punishment Spock's Beard finally managed to release a live album which truly captures the spirit of the live Beard. Highly recommended!

Report this review (#49669)
Posted Saturday, October 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator

In the midst of my full enjoyment listening to and writing some reviews of late sixties and seventies rock music (as I told you when I wrote a long review on Jethro Tull's "This Was"), my mobile phone beep. A short message from my prog mate Tatan who was visiting Singapore: "I am at HMV and seeing Spock's Beard CD live 2005 - do you want it?". It was 9:30 PM Jakarta time and I knew he was going to fly back Jakarta next morning, so my answer was simple "Gluttons? Of course I want it! How much?". Yep, he did buy it for me for an expensive price but it's OK with me because I heard that this live album was terrific and was recorded during the band's "Octane" Tour. The next day, the CD was on my hands already as I picked it up from his house right away after he hit his home - I could not wait any longer! Once I spun it the first time . oh man . unbelievable! This CD is truly awesome!

Judging from its cover, this CD reminds me to Genesis "Seconds Out" where the main feature of front cover is the stage with the lighting occupies most of the area while the band member pictures look very small. Even the cover is so lively. As some of you may have known that the band has just recorded their second album "Octane" after their frontman and main composer Neal Morse left the band. During the Neal era, the band produced six studio albums plus many live albums. "Gluttons for Punishment" is their first live album post Neal era. As Nick takes Neal's position as the band's new frontman, Jimmy Keegan looks after drum set. Even though I am a collector of all the band albums, I was not really into their early albums because (probably) the band lacked originality. So many influence from Gentle Giant that the band failed to avoid, especially on choirs as well as punctuated and syncopated music. So for me Spock's Beard was jus a good prog band - that's it. No emotional bonding whatsoever. I tried to - as most my prog mates down here recommended me - but I failed to love Spock's Beard as a band that has "something in it" for me.

When the band released "Octane", my perception about the band changed. The album gave me another perspectives on two things: 1.) They still survived without their mastermind in the band any longer. This is the spirit that I expect from any prog band: they should not disband or going nowhere after the critical member left the band. It happened with Genesis, Yes, Hamadryad and many other examples. They should keep on proggin'.! 2.) The music is totally different with Neal Morse era because the band is now emphasizing on more symphonic in its most composition, bringing back the traditional mellotron sound as integral part of the music. Well, it's wrong to generalize this way as actually "Octane" is much diverse in style. But what I like is that the band said goodbye to Gentle Giant / Yes like music. That relieved me; not that I don't like Gentle Giant - but I don't really like the way Spock's Beard composed their music. Echolyn is a good example of Gentle Giant influenced band but they compose their music differently. I experienced some shifts in emotions about "Octane". It had grown on me steadily until it settled down firmly at spin 10 onwards. Excellent album.


This live album starts off with a crowd ambient and soft keyboard followed with an epic "A Flash Before My Eyes" (Octane) that comprises seven tracks and represents half of "Octane" album. My first five spins of this "Octane" gave me a perception that each track seemed like a stand-alone piece that had a loose - or even none - tie with the others. But, it then grew slowly on me with more spins I did. I could then see some connections of loose ends through musical nuances and it created a sense that all of 7 tracks should be enjoyed in its entirety as one epic.

The Ballet Of The Impact is a very nice song with strong symphonic style. It begins with mellotron-like keyboard sound followed with dynamic music combining energetic drum, inventive bass-line, howling and rocking guitar sound and stunning keyboard. Howling guitar at background soars and brings the music in a rocking style. Guitar style is a blend of Hackett and Fripp - it's really stunning. It has a relatively long intro in fast tempo; excellent sound harmony of all instruments used. The opening tagline melody brought by guitar and keyboard is really catchy and uplifting for my personal taste. Approaching minute 2, the mellotron brings the music quieter followed by keyboard and piano sound. The transition to quieter segment happens smoothly. I'm touched with the catchy melody created by keyboard / mellotron that sounds softly like a flute. What a killing melody this line is! It's amazing. It reminds me to the 70s prog music mixed with modern technology. When Nick's vocal enters the music, it projects a strong nuance of the music with his powerful voice. Honestly, I prefer Nick's voice than Neal's. It's excellent- one of my favorite tracks! It flows to next track I Wouldn't Let It Go with ballad style.

Surfing Down The Avalanche is a great rocking tune! It starts with Dave Meros' fantastic bass line followed by rocking guitar sound that blasts the music off in up-tempo. The music reminds me to Led Zeppelin / Audioslave. The band has pushed their style further with this tune - it combines the classic rock sound with a touch of prog vibe excellently. The voice line is excellent with great high and low registers - I salute Nick on this. This track is performed much lively and it's more rocking than the original studio version.

She Is Everything starts with an ambient music with a rhythm that reminds me to Peter Gabriel's music. The keyboard / mellotron that produces a sort of flute sound before vocal line has accentuated the song beautifully. The more I listen to this song the more I like it especially as part of overall epic. It continues with Climbing Up That Hill which combines hard rock and prog styles. As far as the rhythm and melody concerned there is no question that this is a straight forward rock music. But when I observe how the bass guitar is played, it produces an image of prog sound. Fantastic work, Mr. Meros! The drum and guitar works are also excellent. All musical instruments accompany rocking voice line in excellent harmony. Clearing off all musical boundaries, this is an excellent track! One of my favorite tracks! Letting Go is a short track that consists of keyboard / mellotron work that serves well as concluding part of previous track and it could have been made as part of it.

Of The Beauty Of It All is really my best favorite track out of all tracks by Spock's Beard. The composition is very tight with a song-oriented style, powerful and memorable melody, great lyrics. The song has really satisfied me and has fulfilled my personal taste. It has everything I want from a great song. As I can recall, this is one of the finest tunes after I found a really great prog song from Marillion's "Heart of Lothian" in 1985. The other great tunes in the same vein are: "Reality of Misanthropy" by Cast and "Junk and Donuts" by Citizen Cain. The melody really kills me. "Of The Beauty Of It All" is a superb track! It kicks off with an excellent and melodic vocal line "I'm drifting off the water ." backed with a soft keyboard sound that reminds me to the nuance of Mike Rutherford's solo album. The opening line flows smoothly and it continues with a very catchy keyboard sound (minute 0:58 onwards) right after the lyrical section "..of the beauty of it all .". What a magic melody! This catchy melody has made me totally hooked to this track (for me, this part reminds me to "It's getting late ." part of Heart of Lothian in Marillion Misplaced Childhood). That's not the end of my ultimate satisfaction. The next excellent segment (second part of this song) is when the music shifts into a faster tempo with stunning guitar, dynamic bass line, great drumming augmented with mellotron and orchestration (this part reminds me to "Wild boys! . " part of Heart of Lothian). Wow! It's a top notch musical composition: tight structure and very strong melody. This is the kind of music that I want the band to pursue in the future and craft it as Spock's Beard sound.

Harm´s Way is a song from Neal's era and the band could perform it excellently. It comes back again to Octane with another top notch instrumental composition NWC. WOW! What a great track and a great performance! It opens with a spacey soundscape followed by symphonic keyboard with firm drum beats augmented with stunning guitar rhythm. Simple opening but it works well to set the overall nuance of this tune. It turns to a complex piece with punchy keyboard / effects and returns back to original rhythm. The interlude part with African music nuance is really great. The solo guitar was mixed thin so that it appears only at background but it serves really well to accentuate the music. This is the kind of music that fully satisfies my need. Awesome! The track is extended with great drums solo which I presume it's played by both: Nick and Jimmy. It's great! It reminds me to double drums solo of Phil Collins and Chester Thompson in Genesis concerts. The song reminds me to Genesis "Duke's Travel" especially with the drum style.

Disc Two starts with a song from Neal's era At The End Of The Day with great drumming and stunning keyboard work by Ryo augmented with groove rhythm. Through this track Nick proves his potential as new singer of the band, perfectly. Major attraction of this track is when Meros gives in his inventive bass lines solo in the middle of the track with Nick's introduction "Ladies and gentlemen .. We'd like to introduce the ROCK of SPOCK's BEARD!!!! Mr. Dave Meros!!!". WOW!!! It makes the track much more lively. As this is an audio CD, I'm not sure who's actually playing acoustic guitar in the middle of this track; it might be Alan himself. Well, I start liking the old stuffs after hearing this live version. This live is a great version.

The Bottom Line from the band's seventh album "Feel Euphoria" starts with rocking guitar riffs by Alan Morse (who plays wonderfully during this live show) followed with Ryo's keyboard solo. It's a song with a bit of ballad and a bit of prog rock music with some classic mellotron sound at the background and some symphonic style. It then continues with Ryo's Solo with a touch of classical music and good melody.

Ghosts Of Autumn from "Feel Euphoria" continues the music in a melodic way with ballad style; starting with nice piano and melodic singing augmented with acoustic guitar. Very nice. Salute to Nick's quality voice! The song moves smoothly and lightly like any ballad song but this time the melody is so strong and memorable. The key attraction of this track is the stunning electric guitar solo by Alan Morse. Overall, this is an excellent track accessible to many ears; quite melodic. As Long As We Ride is originally a straight forward hard rock music. This time the band plays differently. It's not the kind of track that I expect the band plays. But probably the band created this for a change.

The live album concludes with the band's legendary track The Light which initially I hated because it's so disjointed in nature, combining Gentle Giant, Yes and Gypsy King! Oh my God... Luckily, this time I really like how the band plays this song. Nick could sing wonderfully in this track. With this, I might revisit my CD collection on SB early albums and have another listen. Thanks to New Spock's Beard who has opened my mind to revisit the other old albums. I might be able to enjoy them now, I think.


This live album was recorded live in 2005 on March 18 at Colos-Saal, Ascaffenburg, Germany, March 20 at 27, Pratteln, Switzerland and March 21 at Substage, Karlsruhe, Germany. Mobile recording by Markus Teske and Bazement Studio, assisted by Christine Wolf. Mixed & Mastered by Rob Aubrey at Aubitt Studio, Swaything, Southampton Hampshire, England. Why bother listing this? One compelling reason: the sonic quality of this CD is really "top-notch"! I have, in most cases, played this CD in very LOUD volume and it gives me a perfect sound! I especially love the bass and mid range sounds. Great sound quality! Yes, as I notice there are 3 "glitches" from Nick's microphone but it's OK - it's natural as a live record.


What can I say after writing this long review? Of course, it's HIGHLY RECOMMENDED live album that I suggest you purchase it now! This CD has been with me for one week and I still always play it everyday: at home, in my car or on travel (through p-tunes at LifeDrive pda) or while working at my laptop. In total, I have played this CD more than 10 times in its entirety - with "Of The Beauty Of It All" being repeated 3 to 5 times everytime it reaches this track. Well, I need to humbly send a big apology for you on this novel-long review. I could not help it. It's a terrific live album that will become my true favorite in 2005 onward. This album deserves a very long review! Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#51933)
Posted Sunday, October 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Excellent disc in I live, to me it's the one that has better sound of so many live album that they have. Besides Octane, is an excellent album and to better than that it to be able to listen completely in alive.
Report this review (#64642)
Posted Friday, January 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Gluttons for Punishment is the first live Spock's Beard album from the D'Virgilio era. And unlike the studio albums from this period in the band's history, this one is a keeper. I credit that mostly for the selection as it isn't filled with AOR rubbish from those aforementioned studio albums. Instead, the Beard selected mostly their "proggiest" from this period and a few good ones from the Morse era. Included is the Flash Before My Eyes suite, Harm's Way, NWC, At the End of the Day, and The Light. The selection isn't entirely perfect, as a couple shorter insignificant numbers are on disc 2.

The production on this album is far superior from any prior Beard album and as usual, the energy is ever present in each song. Since Spock's Beard followed in the footsteps of Genesis by having their drummer be their lead singer, the Beard needed another drummer for their tour and that's Jimmy Keegan (who has played with Santana). Keegan does a very nice job, as similar in quality as Chester Thompson's skills at filling Phil Collins' shoes.

I haven't been very impressed with the post-Morse Spock's Beard, but I have to say they did a remarkable job on this live album. Not quite a masterpiece, but clearly and excellent live album. Four stars.

Report this review (#152066)
Posted Wednesday, November 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Don't miss this one.

I just got my hands on this and boy am I glad I did. I wondered more than anything how the band would sound live without Neal Morse. Well, all I can say is if they were going for a great live sound, high energy, and flawless performance of Neal-era, material mission accomplished. I wish I could have seen this show.

The album is very much Prog even with the new D'Virgilio sung material. What got me though was how much Nick sounds like Neal during At the End of the Day. I never would have thought he could do it. Many of the same inflections and vocal textures.

I am a fan of both SB eras and of all live releases by these guys. This takes numbero uno. Bravo to the remaining guys and their ability to pull it off.

This is a must have for any Prog fan.

Report this review (#164852)
Posted Monday, March 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars A recent re-emergent Prog listener, this is my first review. I've been experimenting with some of the highly rated albums from the 90s and 00s, including Ozrics, PT, Epica, Nightwish, The Tangent, Dragonforce, Pure Reason Revolution, and this, Spock's Beard's acclaimed 2006 live album. Wow. If this is some of the best "modern" progressive rock has to offer, the pickens must be pretty slim. The music lacks complexity, layers, surprise, innovation, SUBTLETY, and effects (a la "Enossifications"). The best piece, "The Light," has such awful lyrics and vocals---is so corny over-the-top theatric, that I thought I was listening to Spinal Tap. I find it hard to believe that these guys are taking themselves seriously! Perhaps Americans just lack the sophistication, the vocabulary, the literate presence of English/British groups. While the musicianship displays technical competency and even flashes of brilliance, there is very little innovation or inspiration---often playing music that feels forced, as if they're trying too hard to be a prog band. Though influences of Tull and even Genesis are present, they sound more like Kansas, neo-Tull (a la "Bungle in the Jungle"), Starcastle, Journey, and several Christian rock bands. When Yes played in the 70s they needed very little theatrics: their amazing musicianship and very layered, complex music did all the showmanship for them. Where are those bands now?
Report this review (#174169)
Posted Tuesday, June 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Spock's Beard being let loose on a novice.

I have really never embraced this band. Mostly due to lack of time, but Spock's Beard is on my to-do list for next year. I am warming up with this live album. Please note that I only know the Snow album and have had little exposure to the rest of the albums. I am a 'Beard novice.

On the basis of this live album; my introduction to the rest of their material, I am really looking forward to explore their stuff. This is really my cup of tea. Their music is dynamic and symphonic throughout. I find their stuff a blend of latter days THE BEATLES and symphonic prog. Their new vocalist is as good as NEAL MORSE. I have no gripes with the new vocalist. I enjoy tracks like She is Everything, Of the Beauty of It All, Harm's Way, NWC, At the End of the Day, As Long as We Ride and The Light. Actually, there is nothing here I do not like. The sound is excellent and the musicianship brilliant. Spock's Beard status as one of the best prog rock bands in today's scene is deserved, as far as I am concerned.

This live album is a brilliant introduction to Spock's Beard and I am flashing my credit card in the direction of the rest of their albums. Come joy, come life.

4 stars.

Report this review (#188714)
Posted Monday, November 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Another excellent offering from Spock's Beard.

The musicians need no presentations and their play is as tight and inspired as usual. The quality is certainly as good as studio versions and in some cases higher. Take "The Bottom Line" for example. Considering the complexity of some songs, I'm always amazed to see that they can perform them live with such self-assurance. A mention needs to be made for Alan Morse, he really shines. No wonder why he's my favorite guitarist.

The style varies throughout the double album and comes even close to? Gun's and Roses at times. The parallel is especially true for Nick D'Virgilio's voice (in "Climbing up that Hill" or "As Long As We Ride" for instance). But NDV shows us that he can play with his voice and can vary his singing depending on the needs. Listen to his interpretation of "At The End Of the Day", brilliant! More on the vocal aspect, Spock's Beard are renowned for their vocal harmonies and they prove it here.

To sum up, you can't go wrong with that one if you appreciate good shows with lots of energy and passion. Okay, sometimes it rocks harder than it "progs" but to me it's not an issue at all. See it as a full plate of prog rock seasoned with a dash of hard rock. This is a perfect blend! 4,5 stars.

Report this review (#267927)
Posted Wednesday, February 24, 2010 | Review Permalink

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