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SPOCK'S BEARD

Symphonic Prog • United States


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Spock's Beard biography
Formed in Los Angeles, California, USA in 1992 - Still active as of 2018

SPOCK'S BEARD was formed by Neal MORSE, who wrote all the band's material and contributed lead vocals, piano, synth and guitars. This is a superb Progressive rock in the Seventies' spirit, full of contrated climates, breaks and complex compositions based on tortuous, audacious and elaborated instrumental developments. They combine strong melodies with intricate arrangements and superb musicianship. SPOCK'S BEARD should appeal to fans of the FLOWER KINGS and UK.

This adventurous band has built a solid and loyal following with their first two releases. "The Light" received rave reviews across the globe and "Beware of Darkness" was by far the best progressive rock album of the decade. The next releases ("The Kindness...", "Day For Night" & "V") were issued to insatiable fans world wide. The next album, "Snow", was the band's double CD concept album in the vein of GENESIS' "The Lamb...".

With Neal MORSE's departure in 2002, "Feel Euphoria" marked a fresh new beginning for the band. The album fueled a new creative period in the band's career. The album was followed up by "Octane" in 2005 and the band-titled release in 2006. SPOCK'S BEARD ended the decade with another discography highlight with the release of "X" in 2010. Jimmy KEEGAN provided some additional vocals on the release and later followed the band on the promotional tour for the new material. The release of "X" marked another turning point for the band seeing that the Nick D'VIRGILIO finally decided to concentrate on his solo career and thus left the band in 2011.

On November 21, 2011, it was announced on the bands official website that ENCHANT vocalist Ted LEONARD and touring drummer Jimmy KEEGAN would be joining the band. SPOCK'S BEARD will be releasing their 11th studio album, "Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep" in mid 2013.

No matter what happens next one thing's for sure, The BEARD is out there and you WILL believe!

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SPOCK'S BEARD discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

SPOCK'S BEARD top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.87 | 702 ratings
The Light
1995
3.69 | 540 ratings
Beware of Darkness
1996
3.75 | 529 ratings
The Kindness of Strangers
1998
3.27 | 458 ratings
Day for Night
1999
4.17 | 866 ratings
V
2000
3.86 | 722 ratings
Snow
2002
3.24 | 404 ratings
Feel Euphoria
2003
3.13 | 409 ratings
Octane
2005
3.36 | 384 ratings
Spock's Beard
2006
3.78 | 583 ratings
X
2010
4.03 | 711 ratings
Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep
2013
3.87 | 361 ratings
The Oblivion Particle
2015
3.63 | 143 ratings
Noise Floor
2018

SPOCK'S BEARD Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.82 | 37 ratings
The Official Live Bootleg
1996
3.73 | 61 ratings
The Beard Is Out There
1998
3.45 | 38 ratings
Live at The Whisky and Nearfest
1999
3.02 | 77 ratings
Don't Try This At Home
2000
3.75 | 24 ratings
Don't Try This @ Home Either!
2000
3.96 | 31 ratings
There And Here
2001
3.99 | 80 ratings
Gluttons For Punishment - Live 05
2005
3.69 | 62 ratings
Live
2008
2.81 | 28 ratings
Live at High Voltage Festival
2011
3.67 | 52 ratings
The X Tour-Live
2012
4.00 | 28 ratings
Live at Sea
2014

SPOCK'S BEARD Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

3.97 | 14 ratings
Live At The Whiskey A Go-Go
2000
4.24 | 56 ratings
Don't Try This At Home-Live / The Making of V
2002
4.21 | 57 ratings
Live
2008
4.79 | 9 ratings
Live at Sea
2014
4.64 | 46 ratings
Snow Live
2017

SPOCK'S BEARD Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.89 | 9 ratings
Don't Try This/Feel Euphoria
2006
4.46 | 37 ratings
The First Twenty Years
2015

SPOCK'S BEARD Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.72 | 23 ratings
From the Vault
1998
3.18 | 11 ratings
Skin
1999
3.13 | 16 ratings
All On A Sunday
2001

SPOCK'S BEARD Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Snow Live by SPOCK'S BEARD album cover DVD/Video, 2017
4.64 | 46 ratings

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Snow Live
Spock's Beard Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars It was one of the biggest shocks to hit the early 2000s prog scene: no sooner had Spock's Beard released Snow, an ambitious double concept album, band leader Neal Morse (who had composed a substantial majority of their material to date - including almost all of Snow) quit. His declared reason at the time was that he wanted to focus his time on making solo work exploring his religious beliefs, and didn't think it would be right to expect the band to follow him down that particular rabbithole; as he would later allude to on the Testimony 2 concept album, a health scare involving his young daughter may well have prompted him to want to pull out of band projects altogether and stay at home more. Ambitious plans to perform Snow live were shelved, never to see fulfillment...

...until 2016, that is. After shocking the prog world by quitting all his existing band projects in 2002, Neal shocked it again in 2009 by returning to band work, reforming Transatlantic. Between that, the brand new Flying Colors project, and The Neal Morse Band (in which, despite the name, songwriting duties are shared much more evenly than on Neal's solo albums), it became evident that Neal was now comfortable with working as part of a band again, even on projects which didn't have an overt, explicitly stated Christian focus.

He'd even make appearances with Spock's Beard, joining them onstage at a festival or two and even making contributions to the Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep album, though being careful to be credited as a guest rather than a full member of the band. This was a classy move, because that album was the debut of Ted Leonard as the group's full-time frontman (after filling in for a departing Nick D'Virgilio on some live gigs), and it's clear that whilst Neal was happy to stop by to help out, he was also humble enough not to upstage the new singer right when he needed that spotlight.

Snow Live, however, represents perhaps the biggest and most significant reunion of Neal and Spock's Beard to date: a full live performance of the album, performed at Morsefest. (Morsefest is Neal's homegrown fan convention, a bit like his version of Marillion's weekend bashes - one likes to think of him chatting with his Transatlantic bandmate Pete Trewavas between takes in the studio, picking his brains about the logistics of running such things.) This consists of the full Snow epic, plus two encores - old favourite June and Falling Forever, a track previously recorded by Neal and Spock's Beard for the First Twenty Years compilation album.

Inevitably, such an undertaking involves Neal being prominently featured front and centre - a de facto reunion, even if just for this show (and a repeat in Europe a short while later). Snow was an extremely personal concept for him - it's basically him working through his feelings about quitting the band before he actually quit the band, he wrote almost all the music and lyrics, that's just inevitable.

Nonetheless, Neal and the band do a grand job of making the show less about Neal coming back and acting as frontman for one more night, and more about a celebration of the band's entire history. Far from sitting this one out, Ted Leonard is included in the show, the group doing a fine job of finding ways for him to contribute some lead performances as well as assisting with the backing vocals where it would serve the concept to do so. Likewise, Nick D'Virgilio came back for this gig, with the band using a two-drummer setup to allow him and Jimmy Keegan to play together, and he also contributes some vocals too in keeping with his role of frontman for the run of albums between Neal leaving and Ted Leonard joining.

(Having multiple vocalists on hand, in fact, turns out to be not just a bonus, but essential - after all, as with much early Spock's Beard stuff, there's some moments where they get into intricately intertwined vocals reminiscent of some of Gentle Giant's experiments in that vein; you might be able to do that solo in a studio by multi-tracking your voice, but you need a bunch of vocalists on hand to do that live!)

In other words, the album doesn't just include Neal Morse playing with Spock's Beard again - it also includes every single person who'd been an official member of Spock's Beard on a studio album up to this point. (Original bassist John Ballard isn't on it, but John was only in the band fairly briefly, departing before they recorded The Light.) The result is a performance of Snow which is somewhat warmer than the chilly title implies - and it works an absolute treat. Some credit has to be given to the delightful acoustics of the venue - it's Neal's local church, which gives the whole thing a nice, intimate sound, and on the whole I actually think the resulting performance sounds better than the rather clean, precisely-produced studio album.

The execution is absolutely spot on; despite the fact that neither Spock's Beard nor Neal's solo backing bands have performed all this material like this, they really nail it, like they've been playing this setlist regularly since Snow originally released. Or perhaps it sounds even better than that - maybe letting the material sit fallow for this long gave Neal and the group the appetite to really get their teeth into it now this wonderful opportunity had arisen. The fact that they deliberately only planned to play this show a very limited number of times, rather than doing a full Spock's Beard And Neal Morse Play Snow tour, might have also added a certain helpful frisson - nothing like knowing that you've got limited chances to get this right to focus the mind!

Of course, it'd be foolish to write off the possibility that Neal and Spock's Beard will perform this set again in future, or otherwise collaborate again - the very existence of this live album proves that all bets are off and "never say never" should be one's motto. But at the same time, if this is the last major collaboration between the two parties and it's just occasional guest appearances on a song here and there from here on out, this is a magnificent way for the Neal Morse-fronted incarnation of Spock's Beard to bow out, and does a fantastic job of providing the closure we never got back in 2002.

 The Oblivion Particle by SPOCK'S BEARD album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.87 | 361 ratings

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The Oblivion Particle
Spock's Beard Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars The second studio album of the Ted Leonard era of Spock's Beard finds the band exploring another fresh blend of prog sounds. Minion, for instance, starts out by reminding me of what might happen if Kansas ended up jamming with Jadis, with a combination of harmony vocals, sunny neo-prog guitar lines and synth - but then adds in jazzy drum fills and heavier moments to shake up that combination just as I think I've got it figured out. Much of the rest of the album is the same - there's a deeper, richer bench of influences than just the usual touchstones that retro-prog bands often go to time and time again, and the new subtlety and sophistication in how the band blend them together showcased on Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep continues to surprise.

As foundational as the Neal Morse era was for Spock's Beard, I think it only produced two absolutely top-tier classics (The Light and V), with the other albums of the era being good - often very good - but a little patchier. As for the Nick D'Virgilio era of the band - well, I think Nick was no slouch and did a fine job of stepping into the lead vocalist role under challenging circumstances. However, there's no getting around the fact that the band had to switch from a mode where Neal Morse was composing most of their material to one where they needed to all pitch in more to get those songs pieced together - and while they quickly righted the ship, none of the Nick-fronted albums quite hit the five-star tier.

This Ted Leonard era of the band, however... that's got me intrigued. Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep I thought was the band's first five-star classic since V - in fact, I sneakily think it was better than that - and I actually think this one has the edge on it, not least because Ted Leonard gets to show more personality. (Mental note: revisit the Enchant back catalogue, this Ted guy's clearly got something good going on.) The centre of gravity of the album puts me in mind of a somewhat more avant-garde take on Crucible, whose Tall Tales so deftly mashed up the approach of Trick of the Tail-era Genesis and classic Kansas back in 1997.

 The Light by SPOCK'S BEARD album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.87 | 702 ratings

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The Light
Spock's Beard Symphonic Prog

Review by A Crimson Mellotron
Prog Reviewer

5 stars I feel there is still something that can be added to the discussion concerning Spock's Beard glorious 1995 debut album 'The Light' (released on Metal Blade and Radiant) - there are numerous examples in the universe of progressive rock where bands release their best works with their first ever try, and the Beard kind of fall into this category, too, depending on who you ask. Certainly a classic album by all means, what 'The Light' did was to open the gates for the reincarnation of the classic 70s-influenced progressive rock sensibility to writing music, and has since become a signature of that mid-90s 'rebirth'. Not only this, but 'The Light' also showed that a band can successfully blend this prog rock framework with a more easy-going (even Beatles-esque) mentality, ultimately presenting a set of highly enjoyable, experimental, and intelligently written long songs.

Just a four-piece on this album, the Beard in 1995 consisted of Neal Morse, Alan Morse, Dave Meros and Nick D'Virgilio, all of them very well-known and beloved musicians - of course, all the songs on here have been written by no other man but Neal Morse himself, presenting vividly his approach to writing 'prog epics' (and later on, we would get numerous of those).

Opening up this classic record is the 15-minute title track and this is one of the most dense, epic, and lively songs that one could ever hear, I am quite certain about this, as the band go in with full power, shifting styles, going through eight different parts comprising this phenomenal composition, and playing their hearts out. Deservedly, this is one of the band's signature songs - it has so many things going on inside, there is a myriad of characters coming in and out, and the band seem to reference so many other classic bands, that the unprepared for this prog fiesta might even get confused. Then comes the excellent 12-minute track 'Go the Way You Go', another brilliant and energetic composition, the memorable hooks and choruses are everywhere across 'The Light', the instrumental sections are mind-blowing, and the writing and production are stellar. 'The Water' is another helluva ride, once again confirming that 'The Light' is simultaneously intricate, memorable, and fun. On this 23-minute song the band dare to display some jazzier and funkier leaning, adding up even more intricacy to their masterful first album. Finally, we have the shorter 'On the Edge', perhaps eclipsed by the magnificence of the longer compositions, and therefore, a bit forgotten. Still, this one is no less excellent than what precedes it.

As said before, 'The Light' is a classic, it is a gateway and a pinpoint for progressive rock, one of its most excited episodes - Neal Morse & Co. present a stunning, sophisticated and extremely joyous collection of grandiosely composed songs that rank up high among the best modern progressive rock albums, rivaling other great and important records from that same period, such as 'Images & Words' by Dream Theater, 'Stardust We Are' by The Flower Kings, or 'Signify' by Porcupine Tree. In terms of significance, Spock's Beard debut studio release is quite essential for the genre.

 Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep by SPOCK'S BEARD album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.03 | 711 ratings

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Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep
Spock's Beard Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars This is the album which inaugurated a new era for Spock's Beard, with the departure of Nick D'Virgilio leaving both the frontman's microphone and the drummer's stool vacant. With Jimmy Keegan having served as a touring drummer, that post at least was fairly easy to fill; the new lead singer would be Ted Leonard, vocalist of Enchant, who had taken on the role at some festival appearances that Nick hadn't been able to make.

But wait, who's that in the corner, offering some songwriting notes and a guest appearance here and there? Why, it's Neal Morse! Don't get too excited: Neal didn't come back to the band full-time for this one, content to swing by in a guest role to do a little songwriting on Afterthoughts and Waiting For Me, on the latter of which he provides a little guitar.

Neal had, in fact, performed with this exact line-up of Spock's Beard at the High Voltage festival in London - this being one of those times when Ted filled in - when the band brought him onstage to play The Light and June. Nonetheless, his presence is not overbearing here - he doesn't even sing, perhaps not wanting to overshadow Ted on his debut studio album as lead singer.

As it stands, the selection of Ted seems to be an inspired choice - he may be my favourite Spock's Beard vocalist to date - and the band seem to be in fine songwriting form, mingling their customary prog influences with touches of funk and soul - the sort of thing that they've always dabbled in a bit but which they'd never managed to make work to this extent before. Just listen to Submerged and tell me you can't hear just a pinch of Prince in it, particularly in how Ted Leonard handles the lyric. (I'm reminded, in particular, of the psychedelic-tinged approach Prince would take on albums like Around the World In a Day.) It's not that their past is gone - a Gentle Giant-esque bit of interwoven vocal play, a trademark of their early years, shows up on Afterthoughts, for instance - but it's now set in a new framework.

It all adds up to a fresh new sound for Spock's Beard, rather than a rehash of the Neal-era approach, which means that Neal's guest appearance is able to enhance the album without dominating it; it's an album which respects the band's past (and, via Neal's involvement, receives a certain approval from perhaps the biggest figure from their early years not still with the band) whilst at the same time pushing forward into a new future. Confidently presenting a new sound, it might well be the best put-together album the band have produced since V, even as it's sonic worlds away from that territory.

 Live at High Voltage Festival by SPOCK'S BEARD album cover Live, 2011
2.81 | 28 ratings

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Live at High Voltage Festival
Spock's Beard Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Few would have realised it at the time, but this live release ended up being a preview of things to come for Spock's Beard, as well as a celebration of their past. Jimmy Keegan had been filling in on the drums for their live shows ever since Nick D'Virgilio had taken over as lead singer following the departure of Neal Morse, though Nick was still serving behind the drum stool in the studio.

For his part, Nick was unable to make this festival appearance (or a Swedish one in the previous month) due to clashing commitments with Cirque du Soliel - which would lead to him officially leaving the band some months after this live show, when he realised that something had to give.

That decision might have been made easier by this show - because stepping into the breach was Ted Leonard of Enchant, who would go on to take the lead singer's spot in Spock's Beard full time. Thus, the Beard not only had someone to cover for Nick for these shows, but were also effectively use this as Ted's audition, testing him out both with their material and in front of the live crowd.

A further point of interested is added by the presence of Neal Morse on the last two tracks. Neal's solo band had been appearing at the same festival, with his set occupying a similar slot to Spock's Beard on the previous day, and he and the band were only too happy to take the opportunity to have a little onstage reunion. He's since had occasional appearances with the band both live and in the studio, but it's always been very clear that this has been as a "special guest" capacity rather than displacing any of the existing band members.

For a keen Spock's Beard fan, then, there's good reason to be interested in this release - but there's some caveats to bear in mind. Unfortunately, the sound on the album isn't what it could be; it clears up by the end, but On a Perfect Day sounds particularly poor. This is a by-product of the process used to record it: Concert Live's schtick is that they're able to record a live concert, burn it to CD quickly, and sell the live recording right to fans after the gig's done. This obviously means there's no real capacity to do overdubs, adjust the mix, filter out the sound of the audience, or otherwise give the recording much love. If you must have a raw recording of the gig, complete with the sort of sound issues you'll often run into in a hurried festival performance, here it is - but I wouldn't say this is especially essential unless you want a souvenir of this crucial moment in the band's history.

 X by SPOCK'S BEARD album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.78 | 583 ratings

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X
Spock's Beard Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars X would be Nick D'Virgilio's final album both as the frontman of Spock's Beard - a role he stepped into after the departure of Neal Morse after Snow - as well as full-time drummer, a role he'd held since the band's beginning. (He would eventually come back after his replacement, Jimmy Keegan, left, serving both as a live drummer and guesting in the drum spot on Noise Floor.)

Though the consensus on it seems to be pretty positive, for me it just doesn't quite click the way the other Nick-fronted albums did. Once again, the band are taking a fairly magpie approach to prog, grabbing bits and pieces from other genres as the mood takes them; a song might be chugging along in a fairly contemporary rock vein before abruptly incorporating a Gentle Giant-esque bit of intertwined vocals, for instance.

It's the "abruptly" that was the stumbling block here: at first the compositions just didn't hang together to my ears, with there being a few too many moments where the band are casting about and throwing everything at the wall in the hope that something sticks. I mentioned the Gentle Giant comparisons quite deliberately there, because that was an influence the band wore on their sleeves in the Neal Morse years but had been downplayed since. Here, Spock's Beard seem to be cannibalising themselves a little; some might welcome this because there's more sections here reminiscent of their first six albums than we've heard for a while, but to my taste - even after giving the album a few more chances and coming to like it better - it comes perilously close to Spock's Beard cannibalising itself

Eventually, though, my ear got used to the sheer range of sounds that Spock's Beard throw at the wall here and I ended up reconsidering my opinion. In fact, the compositions here might be tighter than they've been since Neal left - it's just that there's so much stuffed crammed into here that it can be easy to miss that. I don't think it's a flat-out classic for that reason, but I do think it's very easy to underestimate.

 Live by SPOCK'S BEARD album cover Live, 2008
3.69 | 62 ratings

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Live
Spock's Beard Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This live release came out hot on the heels of Spock's Beard's self-titled album, so in principle it should be pretty solid, since to my mind the Nick D'Virgilio-as-frontman era of the band was really tightening up around this time as far as their studio albums were going - Feel Euphoria was a solid release which stabilised the ship, but Octane and Spock's Beard saw things really clicking for the new configuration of the group as they got used to not having Neal Morse as their main songwriter.

Indeed, they seem pretty good onstage here, though I feel like the mix doesn't quite do them justice; there's a few bits where Nick's voice seems a little overwhelmed, for instance, and it's quite hard to judge whether this is down to him struggling or him simply not being where he needs to be in the overall mix. This and the odd little technical blemish here and there on the one hand establishes that this is a fairly untampered-with live recording (which in some respects makes the band's capabilities more impressive than if the material had a bit more of a touch-up), but at the same time I feel like it could have done with a bit more love in between the master tapes and the actual release to the public.

As such, whilst the album contains a competent band playing good versions of some of their best material, at the same time the production is just loose enough to be annoying, and when the studio versions are right there there's not much reason to be too overexcited about what's here. Worth a listen if you are very big on this era of the band, but doesn't feel like a keeper to me unless you want to be a competist.

 Spock's Beard by SPOCK'S BEARD album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.36 | 384 ratings

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Spock's Beard
Spock's Beard Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars After dialling back on the classic prog side of their sound in favour of a more modern-rock-with-a-prog-twist approach on Octane, Spock's Beard seem to have flinched back from that direction. I happened to like it a lot, but I'm also aware that other prog listeners weren't so keen on it, and it's perhaps to win back those fans that Spock's Beard shifted back into a more traditional prog direction here, albeit still with sufficient modern updates that it still feels like the band are doing something new.

Indeed, they seem pretty confident this time around: it's a ballsy move to put out a self-titled album at this stage in your career. Making your first album self-titled is often a no-brainer - your debut is usually going to be the foundation of your sound, after all - but making a later album the self-titled one suggests that you believe that this time around, you have hit on a musical statement which really sums up who you are as a group, and all you've done so far at that.

Well, how do they do? I'd say pretty well! It feels like a significantly more confident take on some of the stuff they were doing on Feel Euphoria, in fact. (Just listen to some of those more modern electronic sounds and drums on With Your Kiss, for instance - those certainly put me in mind of some of the material on that album.) Once again, it feels like there's a significant Genesis component here - something the band had always dipped into a bit, and which they'd leaned on a little further after the departure of Neal Morse and the mild shift away from the Gentle Giant-influenced sound of their first six albums - and in particular, some almost pastoral moments here and there, which perhaps hint at the later compatibility Nick D'Virgilio would discover with the Big Big Train crew later on.

Not that this is Spock's Beard turned into a Genesis clone, mind - though since Nick actually did appear on a Genesis album he's sort of got standing to go there if he wants to, even if it was Calling All Stations. Skeletons At the Feast verges on prog metal in its dark, pulsating, kinetic ferocity, and there the Genesis influences might kick in towards the three minute mark but the journey up to that feels like something more akin to the darker moments of Dream Theater or latter-day IQ.

They're not just going for complexity for complexity's sake, though - Is This Love is a quick high-energy pop song which feels like a modernised Deep Purple number. Is it a little goofy? Yes, sure, but it doesn't outstay its welcome and it's a nice breather after the intense instrumental preceding it. And then take the Here's a Man section of the As Far As the Mind Can See, which offers up Weather Report-esque jazz fusion interspersed with more metal-esque choruses.

The end result is another solid album which, though different in approach from Octane, is to my ears just as strong - and will probably be more pleasing to a greater range of the band's listeners than that one was. If anyone still had any question about Spock's Beard post-Neal Morse, this album should have put paid to those doubts.

 V by SPOCK'S BEARD album cover Studio Album, 2000
4.17 | 866 ratings

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V
Spock's Beard Symphonic Prog

Review by MaxnEmmy

5 stars ONE NOTE TIMELESS: this is the essence of the beard on V. The cover shows a man in the desert and that's essentially where the band was at this time. They wanted to be original and forge a new sound. Neil was the driving force and with the band he made a record for the age. This was Neo progressive rock and when it was released, it was novel and fresh. It made the band into what it is today. Without this album, they may not have reached the heights we see and Mike Portnoy may not have wanted to work with Neil to originate Transatlantic, we may never know, it's history and that's the way it is. Spock's beard is a great band and this is their best album. 4.5 stars.
 Octane by SPOCK'S BEARD album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.13 | 409 ratings

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Octane
Spock's Beard Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The first Spock's Beard album after Neal Morse left, Feel Euphoria, found the band still largely pursuing the prog purist approach which got them noticed on their debut album (The Light) and which had made rich returns on V and Snow. Sure, the precise balance of their blend of modern rock production and execution and classic prog callbacks inevitably shifted without Neal involved, but it was still broadly the same sort of deal, as you might expect for an album whose main mission was to convince everyone that Spock's Beard without Neal was a viable possibility to begin with.

Then came along Octane, and there's a significant shift in their sound here - the band perhaps feeling that having steadied the ship with Feel Euphoria, they could afford to attempt a more comprehensive shift of direction. It's not that the influence of classic prog is gone - far from it, opening number The Ballet of the Impact is awash with Genesis-esque touches, I Wouldn't Let It Go is mostly an acoustic rock number but has these production flourishes reminiscent on those on the straight-ahead acoustic rock pieces Pink Floyd would include on albums like Meddle, and Surfing Down the Avalanche even includes some blink-and-you'll-miss-'em Gentle Giant-esque instrumental breaks amid what is mostly a much more modern-sounding piece.

And that's the key phrase here: "more modern". Past Spock's Beard albums had a strong whiff of retro-prog to them; this was always mixed in with just enough modern touches and influences from outside of prog that they weren't solely and exclusively pandering to the crowd who just want to hear classic prog endlessly rehashed, but there was enough of a homage to yesteryear going on that the audience who did want the nostalgia trip had plenty to chew on.

Here, though, Spock's Beard are less about progressive rock in the sense of "taking inspiration from the prog greats of the 1970s" (though there's still a touch of that) and more in the sense of "applying progressive rock sensibilities to their songwriting, even when making music in an essentially modern mould". On a casual listen, segments of Octane can very much sound like modern-day middle-of-the-road rock - but dig deeper, listen a little longer, and you'll find that even at its AOR-est this is AOR for the thinking listener, and there's prog sensibilities underpinning what they are doing here even if they aren't going out of their way to explicitly signal that.

If you were very, very invested in the Spock's Beard sound as it previously existed, I can see how this might feel like a shift - but like I said, there'd always been a touch of the modern as well as the classic in Spock's Beard's arsenal, and the experiment of focusing on the modern this album feels like it really pays off, especially when if you listen patiently there'll be plenty of prog-oriented moments here and there. The first half hour or so of the album, after all, is a single song-suite - and wasn't Neal always penning long-ish mini-rock operas for the band during his tenure? This really isn't as much of a break from precedent as it might sound - the major shift is that they're leaning less on classic prog sounds in general, and much less on Gentle Giant in particular.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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