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SYMPHONIC PROG

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Symphonic Prog definition

Symphonic is without doubt the sub-genre that includes the most bands in Progressive Rock because for many people it's almost synonymous classic Prog, something easy to understand being that most of the classic and/or  pioneer bands released music that could be included in this sub-genre, except JETHRO TULL and PINK FLOYD (who still blended some symphonic elements), even KING CRIMSON who very soon expanded their horizons to more experimental music, made their debut with a Symphonic album, "In the Court of the Crimson King" which is a cornerstone in the development of the genre.

The main characteristics of Symphonic are the ones that defined all Progressive Rock: (There's nothing 100% new under the sun) which among others are:
  • Mixture of elements from different genres.
  • Complex time signatures.
  • Lush keyboards.
  • Explorative and intelligent lyrics, in some cases close to fantasy literature, Sci Fi and even political issues.
  • Non commercial approach
  • Longer format of songs

In this specific case the main characteristic is the influence of Classical music (understood as Orchestral works created from the late Gothic to Modern Classical) using normally more complex structure than other related sub-genres like Neo Progressive (That's why sometimes the borderline that divides Symphonic from Neo is so unclear being that is based mostly in a degree of complexity rather than in an evident structural difference)..It is easy to find long keyboard solos reminiscent of Johan Sebastian Bach or melodic works that could have been written by Handel.

As in any other genre, different Symphonic bands had different approaches to Classical music, for example YES and GENESIS are mainly influenced by the Baroque and Classical periods, while EMERSON LAKE & PALMER has a predilection for post Romantic and modern authors like Mussorgsky, Rimsky Korsakov, Bartok or Ginastera, being that their sound is less melodic and more aggressive.

The peak of the genre starts in 1969 and lasts until the mid/late 70's  (more precisely until the release of A Trick of the Tail), when the genre begins to  blend more mainstream influences that took to the birth of Neo Progressive (a new approach for a new decade).


It is important to remember that even though the creative peak of Symphonic Progressive ended before the 80's, we can find a second birth in the 90's coming from the Scandinavian countries (specially Sweden with ANGLAGARD or PAR LINDH PROJECT) and even bands that still in the 21st Century recreate music from this period like SPOCK'S BEARD or ECHOLYN.

Before ending this short description I feel necessary to say (In order to be strictly accurate) that the term Symphonic is not 100% exact, because these bands very rarely played symphonies and was probably used because the music that influenced the genre was performed by Symphony Orchestras, but it is so widely accepted by the Progressive Rock community that would be absurd and futile for anybody to attempt a change after so much time.

Iván Melgar Morey, Peru 2006



Symphonic Team

Current Team as at 09/07/17

Iván Melgar Morey (Iván_Melgar_M)
Anton Fritz (SouthSideoftheSky)
RdtProg (Louis)

Symphonic Prog Top Albums


Showing only studios | Based on members ratings & PA algorithm* | Show Top 100 Symphonic Prog | More Top Prog lists and filters

4.66 | 3965 ratings
CLOSE TO THE EDGE
Yes
4.63 | 3685 ratings
SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND
Genesis
4.60 | 3196 ratings
FOXTROT
Genesis
4.44 | 3121 ratings
FRAGILE
Yes
4.42 | 2786 ratings
NURSERY CRYME
Genesis
4.39 | 2328 ratings
MIRAGE
Camel
4.38 | 1996 ratings
MOONMADNESS
Camel
4.36 | 2695 ratings
RELAYER
Yes
4.38 | 1528 ratings
HYBRIS
Änglagård
4.35 | 1146 ratings
SI ON AVAIT BESOIN D'UNE CINQUIÈME SAISON
Harmonium
4.29 | 2627 ratings
THE LAMB LIES DOWN ON BROADWAY
Genesis
4.29 | 2523 ratings
THE YES ALBUM
Yes
4.29 | 2030 ratings
THE SNOW GOOSE
Camel
4.27 | 2272 ratings
A TRICK OF THE TAIL
Genesis
4.31 | 1034 ratings
SCHEHERAZADE AND OTHER STORIES
Renaissance
4.32 | 766 ratings
DEPOIS DO FIM
Bacamarte
4.24 | 1848 ratings
EMERSON LAKE & PALMER
Emerson Lake & Palmer
4.25 | 953 ratings
VILJANS ÖGA
Änglagård
4.25 | 897 ratings
HAMBURGER CONCERTO
Focus
4.22 | 965 ratings
LEFTOVERTURE
Kansas

Symphonic Prog overlooked and obscure gems albums new


Random 4 (reload page for new list) | As selected by the Symphonic Prog experts team

ET APRÈS
Memoriance
SÈVE QUI PEUT
Ange
BRIDGE ACROSS FOREVER - THE LIMITED EDITION
Transatlantic
GUET-APENS
Ange

Latest Symphonic Prog Music Reviews


 X by SPOCK'S BEARD album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.81 | 517 ratings

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X
Spock's Beard Symphonic Prog

Review by Walkscore

3 stars Mix of Great and Trite.

Their tenth album, this is the last one of the Nick D'Virgilio era (after this, he left the band, and joined Big Big Train, among other things). Like the other albums of this era of SB, this album is of very mixed quality, even on the same track (for example, on "From the Darkness" which itself is highly mixed in quality). And the main problems (when the quality is poor) are, once again, trite lyrics and less-than-musical song-writing, despite the wonderful tight playing. But like their previous albums, when it works, it works very well. Thankfully this album has a Ryo Okumoto instrumental on it, because that seems to always lift the quality. Indeed, the best track on this album is Okumoto's "Kamikaze". Awesome fast wonderful complex piece of music. The other awesome track here is "The Emperor's Clothes" (penned in part by the Morse brothers, Alan and Neil - yes Neil is occasionally back in the picture by this album). Very musical, and with lyrics that make you think instead of cringe. These two tracks feature among SB's best ever. Another great song is the closing track "Jaws of Heaven", which is (mostly) quite musical. After that, I can also listen to the epic "From the Darkness" but only parts 2, 3 and 4. The lyrics for part 1 make me cringe, rendering that part unlistenable to me, and even part 2 is very iffy. But part 3 - what a great wonderful piece of music! I wish they had turned this into the main theme of an extended piece, either instrumental, or with only a few lyrics. Now don't get me wrong, I understand how difficult it is to write lyrics. But in such times when they don't come naturally, I think it best to stick to instrumentals, if that is what one does best. Indeed, I wish the Nick D'Virgilio era SB had made a lot more instrumentals, and played more solos, as their musical talents are so very clear and it is when they extend those talents that their music feels natural and authentic. But when they try to write lyrics, something that clearly does not come naturally to them, the music (and audience) suffers. The music feels forced and trite. Partly for this reason, the rest of the songs on this album leave me flat, although only part 1 of "From the Darkness" is truly bad. I give this album 6.0 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 3 PA stars.

 Feel Euphoria by SPOCK'S BEARD album cover Studio Album, 2003
3.27 | 346 ratings

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Feel Euphoria
Spock's Beard Symphonic Prog

Review by Walkscore

2 stars Their Weakest Album.

Ostensibly an odd name for an album made at the lowest point in their career (picking up the pieces after their leader, primary singer and composer, Neil Morse, left the band), there is in fact much precedent of using album titles to try to convince the audience that the obvious is somehow its opposite (the music-industry version of 'fake news?'). Sly Stone released 'Back on the Right Track' exactly when everyone knew he was anything but. Van der Graff Generator released 'Vital' right before they broke up. Well, I would think SB were not feeling too Euphoric when they made this album. Nick D'Virgilio, SB's amazing (then) drummer, took over on vocals (as many have noted, kindof like Phil Collins after Gabriel left Genesis), and became their front man, while compositional duties would now be shared. But they also (wisely) increasingly brought in their friend John Boegehold to help them write the songs. Boegehold would eventually become, in the Ted Leonard era, their best song-writer, but his positive presence only touches a couple of tunes on this album, and it is not enough. Indeed, on this album, song-writing is definitely a work in progress. I actually think that Nick D'Virgilio is/was the best lead singer that SB ever had. He has the best voice of the three front-men, neither whiny like Morse, nor shrill like Leonard, but instead warm and musical (yes, I like his voice even better than Morse). However, among all his talents (an amazing drummer AND singer!), lyric-writing is not one of them, and the rest of the band were not great at this either. Despite his preachiness, Morse at least had a way with words. I would have thought with such musical talent, and with their main lyricist gone, they might focus on instrumentals more, but they seem to want to infuse as much of this music with vocals as they can. If ever there was a need for a Ryo Okumoto instrumental, it is on this album! But alas, there is not. The result is an album with great playing and good singing, but which is laden with too much poor-quality song-writing and trite lyrics. Indeed, this is the least musical SB album, from my perspective, even less musical than 'Snow'. After listening to it for many years, there is only one song that stands the test of time, and that I can still listen to, the wonderful "The Bottom Line". The rest of the other tunes before the epic are definitely weak, not so bad that you have to turn them off, but after putting in my effort to listen to them a number of times now (>6 times), I feel no burning desire to hear them again. Even worse, the 'epic' ("A Guy Named Syd") is very cliché and trite. It is their worst epic, and among their worst-ever songs. I think they learned from making this album, and that learning led to better albums later on. But given there is only one truly good song on this album, I can only recommend this one to established fans and completionists. I give this album 4.2 out of 10, which translates to 2 PA stars.

 Live: Made In Norway by ÄNGLAGÅRD album cover DVD/Video, 2017
4.89 | 17 ratings

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Live: Made In Norway
Änglagård Symphonic Prog

Review by arschiparschi

5 stars I was really excited when I read about the release of this Blu Ray/ DVD set. It was released by Änglagård's Fan club in the US so it may not be too easy to get hold of outside the US but it's no doubt worth any extra hassle. As stated before, the venue is small and the atmosphere is very intimate. No fancy lighting, no fast cuts or special effects, it's all about the music. With a lovely set that spans across all three albums (basically the same set as on the Live in Japan album with slight changes in arrangements and song length plus Vandringar I Vilsenhet, the drum solo El Ímpetu Del Bosque and Sista Somrar) there is a great representation of what makes their music so unique. I don't think I need to comment on the music too much, I've already watched and listened through it multiple times and there are still new things to discover and pay attention to. The performance is absolutely flawless, the two new members Linus Kåse on keys, soprano saxophone and vocals and Erik Hammarström on drums (unlike stated in the desciption above, Thomas Johnson and Mattias Olsson are not actually featured here) do a superb job and blend seamlessly into the overall sound. Despite the small size of the venue they actually employ all the analog instruments (two Mellotrons, Hammond B3, Fender Rhodes, a moog synth and even a piano), which adds to the great overall sound. Featured on two discs (one Blu Ray and one DVD with identical content) is the full two-hour concert as well as a Picture Gallery. Four cameras or so, mostly slow cuts, many close shots and a crisp sound make for pleasant listening and watching without distractions. There is a short teaser on youtube with a clip of Jordrök, in which you can see the basic setup and get an idea of what to expect. If you're a fan of Änglagård's music and haven't picked this gem up yet, I'd strongly recommend you do so. To me, this is one of the best music DVDs in recent years and a great addition to Änglagård's flawless discography.
 Before Became After by PROTO-KAW album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.88 | 129 ratings

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Before Became After
Proto-Kaw Symphonic Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

4 stars The band Kansas actually had three different line-ups in the 70s with only Kerry Livgren being the sole member to transverse all the different incarnations of the band. The band formed as far back as 1969 and went through a few cast member changes before a second version now referred to as Kansas II emerged in the aftermath. This is the period when Livgren and company produced a plethora of progressive leaning rock that took a cue from all the greats of the era including but limited to King Crimson, Yes, Pink Floyd, Zappa, Deep Purple and beyond. After the positive feedback from releasing their archival "Early Recordings From Kansas 1971-1973" in 2002, the newly named PROTO-KAW felt a magical rekindling of spirits and decided to have a go at taking a stab at the unfulfilled desires which they abandoned thirty years prior. Due to legal restrictions on how the trademarked band name Kansas could be used, the band cleverly found a way of telling the story all in the context of legal loopholes. PROTO (original) plus KAW (name of the Native American tribe also referred to as Kanza or Kansa) produced a name that had an exact equivalency and finally at long last despite most members not even being in contact with each other for three decades cleverly named their debut album of completely new music BEFORE BECAME AFTER.

This newly formed line up of Kansas II aka PROTO-KAW consisted of six musicians and a few extras. The songwriter-in-chief and musical director was Livgren who also contributes guitars, piano, keyboards and served as engineer-in-chief to boot. Also on board is Craig Kew on bass, Brad Schulz on drums, Dan Wright on organ, keys and percussion and the proto-vocalist Lynn Meredith who gave Steve Walsh a distinct style to improve upon. John Bolton is also on board and contributes the sax and flute which were present on the early Kansas that were released archivally and are present on this updated version of PROTO-KAW which give this release a distinct if distant relative type of feel to the popular era of 70s Kansas. Rod Mikinski from the Kansas I era contributes bass to the track "Axolotl" and a couple extra background vocalists are included as well. All tracks are originals with Kerry Livgran serving as songwriter, producer and engineer however the track "Greenburg, Glickstein, Charles, David, Smith and Jones" is a cover of the 1968 song by The Cryan' Shames although properly processed in a progified manner to symphonically fit in with the neighboring tracks that surround it.

BEFORE BECAME AFTER sounds nothing like the unreleased tracks released two years prior. This is a fully updated band that took their stowed away musical mojo and fully unleashed it in the context of the early 21st century. While the early days showed an uncompromising trend to delve into many prog arenas covered by Yes, King Crimson, Genesis and even the most psychedelic arenas, the current PROTO-KAW is firmly placed in the symphonic prog realms and sounds most like Neal Morse and Spock's Beard if you need a firm comparison. This is particularly true of the first track "Alt. More Worlds Than Known" which is a dead ringer for a Morse solo effort but PROTO-KAW never gets stuck in a rut and the tracks while unified in a common overall sound do differ substantially. What keeps them unified is the fact that they revolve around strong melodic hooks, tend to engage in extended jams that exhibit a healthy dose of progressive rock attributes which include time signature deviations as well as extended polyrhythms. The positive Christian oriented lyrics also bring the Morse comparisons to mind however PROTO-KAW is a bit more subtle and refrain from ever delving into the repulsive pits of preachiness.

When all is said and done, BEFORE BECAME AFTER is an excellent set of strong melody oriented progressive rock tunes. Lynn Meredith has an extremely pleasant voice and although not quite on par with Steve Walsh at his peak has definitely maintained his vox box over the years and blows away the abysmal "Somewhere To Elsewhere" which was the Kansas album that attempted to be relevant in the brave new world. It is obvious that these guys had unfinished business and the passion is fully aflame like the glowing bison that graces the album cover. The guitar and bass lines rule the roost here with the drums supporting them, but the keyboards and symphonic touches quite tastefully add the frosting on the cake which make an extremely pleasant album, which to be honest, totally caught me off guard. I was expecting the usual "stuck in the past" approach for an aged cast of band members who lost their opportunity decades prior. Perhaps the reason this works so well is because despite the time that had elapsed, the unfulfilled members still had all those ideas pent up and once in cahoots with Livgren's music world expertise allowed everyone to cross-pollinate into some new musical beast. Whatever the reason, this is superb symphonic prog and although i find there to be a Neal Morse sort of connection seems more cohesive than most of his output. The flute and sax that add a touch of jazz-fusion also contributes to a richer sound. Love this one!

 Early Recordings from Kansas 1971-1973 by PROTO-KAW album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2002
3.75 | 48 ratings

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Early Recordings from Kansas 1971-1973
Proto-Kaw Symphonic Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

4 stars The band Kansas is well known for their phenomenally successful albums that graced the tail end of the 70s including but not limited to "Point Of No Return" and "Leftoverature" with their unique stamp on Heatland boogie rock mixed with symphonic progressive rock sophistication, but like many a band out there actually had some antecedents to their musical ascent. There were actually two versions of Kansas before the third version found a stable line-up that propelled them onto the world stage. Guitarist and keyboardist Kerry Livgren is the common thread amongst all the members who have come and gone in this Topeka, Kansas band that formed all the way back in 1969 and actually began under the name Saratoga before adopting the name of their home state.

After a few line-up shifts and a merging with a rival prog rock band called White Clover, the Kansas I phase of the band's history was complete but wouldn't last long. After another replacement of three members the band would find its second coming with the lineup of eight members and be later tagged as the Kansas II lineup which is the period that recorded the music on this archival collection of previously unreleased tracks titled EARLY RECORDINGS FROM KANSAS 1971-1973. Due to the legal entanglements of the Kansas trademarked band name, this material of which Livgren is the only constant member, had to be released under a totally new moniker thus the brand spanking new name PROTO-KAW was born cleverly taking the prefix PROTO (original) and placing it before the word KAW which is the name of the Native American tribe, who also recognized as the Kanza or Kansa tribe, provided the root word for the state name Kansas as well as the perfect legal loophole to pretty much say the same exact thing!

This version of Kansas turned PROTO-KAW will come as quite a surprise for anyone familiar with the more popular third version of the band as this sounds absolutely nothing (for the most part) like the catchy tunes and sophisticated progressive Heartland rock. While vocalist Lynn Meredith certainly provides a blueprint for which Steve Walsh would improve upon, musically speaking the material recorded during this period has a lot more in common with early King Crimson's progressive heft coupled Yes inspired compositional styles fluffed up with haunting Deep Purple-esque organ runs and rather original time signature frenzies that don't really bring any other influences to mind. The music for the most part is fairly eclectic with tracks sounding very distinct from each other making this an eclectic prog lover's treasure trove. The sound is quite rich since not only is there the usual guitar, bass, keys and drum layout but at this stage Kansas II aka PROTO-KAW had two flautists who doubled on electric and alto saxophones as well as having two drummers although i'm not sure if they actually played simultaneously or just traded-off duties. Lyrically speaking, the first versions of Kansas delved into the arenas of Christian rock and positive enlightening subject matter although at this point a more nebulous spiritual approach delved into Eastern religious mysticism as well.

While tracks like "Hegemonium," "Reunion In The Mountains Of Same" and "Nactolos 21" are crazy complex prog that are as far from the popular versions of Kansas as Krautrock, tracks like "Belexes" and "Incomudro" provided the blueprint for the more familiar Kansas sound with the first aforementioned re-recorded for the debut "Kansas" album and the second ditto for "Song For America." The track "Totus Nemesis" is the true gem as it spans across the prog gamut with everything from well structured prog compositional styles to a full-fledged psychedelic freak-out followed by a bona fide jazz-fusion frenzy not to mention some wild and unhinged electronic accoutrements. The album ends with two live (unreleased) tracks that give a good feel for the exciting prog energy that this lineup engaged in. "Cyclopy" must have been an early creation for it sounds more like a 60s psychedelic organ jam that would have found a home in 1967 San Francisco. My only question is why didn't these guys get signed during this period? Their music was as good as anything else that came out at the time with a completely distinct musical identity.

After this version of Kansas disband in 1973, most of the members with the exception of Livgren would leave the music world altogether and not even have contact with each other for the next 30 years until this compilation of archival artifacts was resurrected to great interest. Surprised by the positive response of this collection, the Kansas II line-up members would rekindle their friendships and musical passions and reform the band although they would carry on in more of a Neal Morse / Spock's Beard type of symphonic prog direction. This collection of ancient artifacts is a true gem and one that should not be missed since it points to the moment in history that shows exactly deep the early Kansas lineup dipped into some of the most adventurous progressive rock arenas and had both the creative chops and adventurous disposition to pull it off. Personally i wish that these guys would've released a few albums of this sort before jumping ship and creating a more accessible sound but the fact that they recorded this stuff and made it available for public consumption will simply have to be enough i guess.

 Snow by SPOCK'S BEARD album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.85 | 620 ratings

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Snow
Spock's Beard Symphonic Prog

Review by Walkscore

2 stars Less musical, too preachy.

For the last of the Morse-era SB albums, Morse wrote a double-concept-album based around a character named Snow who, just like Morse, found himself facing a number of potential life directions and who was eventually led to find religion. The album is made up of a number of shorter tunes, with no epics or even extended songs. Kindof like how Floyd jettisoned longer tunes when it created The Wall. And like The Wall, the character here is full of angst, easily manipulated, and has to face his demons and make a decision about his life near the end, bringing the album to its climax. However, while Floyd's The Wall is rooted in an important political message and said something truly novel, profound and authentic about the human condition beyond/more than the narrow story of the main character Pink, Snow is basically only about the character's (and thus Morse's) personal quest and redemption, in the face of a unredeemable (except through religion) human world. In a way, the album Snow is anti-political, for it seems to assume the world is and will always be morally bankrupt, and that faith and scripture is the only way to truly understand both the world and ones-self, with the homeless person a key metaphor for someone who has not yet found god but who contains the potential. While the lyrics on certain selected tracks are such that one could enjoy them outside the context of the album, the general message of the album is essential one of a religious preacher. Saying this, I still have it in my collection, and there are a few musical songs on it. Of course the main instrumental theme ("Overture") is great, and it is very welcome when that gets repeated, bringing some nice relief from the heaviness of the lyrics (just as Ryo Okumoto's "Ladies and Gentlemen" solo near the end, nice relief). Even some of the otherwise preachy tracks are OK despite the lyrics. "Welcome to New York City" is this album's equivalent to The Wall's "Young Lust" and is very good musically. "Open the Gates, Part II" is great, as is "Freak Boy, Part I". "Devil's Got My Throat" is one of the strongest pieces, musically, making one wish perhaps that the devil still had Morse's throat, as the pieces that are supposed to make the listener identify with Morse's message here are mostly slow sappy ballads. At least one-half to two-thirds of this album leans far too heavily on the latter, making this one of Morse-era SB's most difficult to sit through musically (even apart from the preachiness). And at 114 minutes, that is a lot of slow sappy listening. Overall, I can't give this more than 5.4 out of 10, which translates to high 2 PA stars on my 10-point scale, even if I disregard the preachiness of the lyrics/concept. You have to wade through too much sappy music to get the good stuff. Saying this, if you like Morse and his religious message, you will obviously love this album.

 V by SPOCK'S BEARD album cover Studio Album, 2000
4.14 | 735 ratings

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V
Spock's Beard Symphonic Prog

Review by Walkscore

4 stars The best Morse-era SB, despite some failures.

V is the best of the Morse-era SB albums. Really this should not be the case. It suffers from the same problem as Day for Night: too many less-than-musical pieces - and even worse, is saturated with preaching by Neil Morse who had by this time really found religion and wanted to sing about it. But despite all this (or perhaps partly because of the latter) some of the music here is really excellent. But again, this is a polarized album. The song that many think is the best on the album, and the one that represents this album in their greatest hits collection "The First Twenty Years" - the opening track "At the End of the Day" - is for me the worst track on the album. Again, like Day for Night, it ticks all the boxes for what a good progressive rock song should be. But it is (at least for me) just not at all musical. I have tried and tried. It doesn't flow. It contains really un-musical melodies and chord changes, and just seems forced and concocted, obtuse for the sake of obtuse at the sacrifice of real music (and please remember, I am a huge Crimson, Henry Cow, Soft Machine, and Zappa fan, so I usually like obtuse). But thankfully there are some really great tracks on this album which raise it up high. I actually think that this album contains the two best-ever Morse-era SB songs: "Thoughts, part II" and "Revelation", despite the fact that both were written by Morse and related to his religious conversion. "Thoughts part II" is not only musical, the lyrics speak about someone who is contemplating discussing important (to them) issues with a loved one who they know will just not understand. While for Morse such issues were (likely) religious in nature, the way the song is written it could refer to anything, and I think we all have had those same experiences/thoughts/feelings when trying to discus personal matters with others. It really hits home as authentic, and the music is perfect for the song. "Revelation" is of course even more directly related to Morse's religiosity, which would normally turn me off, but this song is just SO musical. It works amazingly well, and thankfully on this album Morse is talking about himself and not seemingly telling others what to think (so the lyrics are, for me, tolerable). The third, and final, track that I really like on this album is the extended 27-min epic "The Great Nothing". Here Morse seems more subdued and ambiguous with his lyrics and singing, which is nice, given so many of the other tracks on this album are just too preachy for me. This epic is great music. Together, "Thoughts II", "Revelation" and "Great Nothing" make up 60 percent of this album, and are such strong tracks they help raise this album up into the 4-star realm, even though the other tracks are weaker. I give this album 8.0 out of 10, which translates in my 10-point scale to 4 PA stars.

 Day For Night by SPOCK'S BEARD album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.25 | 391 ratings

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Day For Night
Spock's Beard Symphonic Prog

Review by Walkscore

3 stars Really mixed.

After moving (slightly) more toward a radio-friendly format on their previous two albums, SB here shift back toward progressive rock with some longer extended epics and more obtuse arrangements. I find this album both polarized, in that the tracks are either very good or very bad, and polarizing in that it seems there are quite divided opinions not only about the album in general but about the tracks on them. For me, I can't understand why the opening title track, "Day for Night" is loved so much. Of course, it checks all the boxes when it comes to what might be desired in a progressive rock/neo-prog track (difficult virtuoso playing, complex arrangments, etc). But I have listened to this album/song a number of times now (well over 10 for this song, more for the rest of the album), and I find this tune to be simply not musical. Indeed, a lot of the songs on this album are for me not sufficiently musical. "Gibberish" and "Skin" are OK, but I find they get tiring fairly quickly, while the other tune often lauded by fans, "Crack the Sky", is like "Day for Night" just not sufficiently musical. On the other hand, there are two (only) tracks that I still listen too all the time, which I DO find very musical: the song "The Gypsy" which has a lovely groove and very nice melodies, and the extended 22-minute epic "The Healing Colors of Sound". The latter is the shining highlight on this album, in my opinion, and would set the terms for the album that would come next (V). I know there are people out there who take the opposite opinions of these tracks to me (that is, they like "Day for Night" and "Crack the Sky" but not "The Gypsy" or "Healing Colors"). I don't know why, I can't explain it, other than to say I always give albums multiple listens before coming to a conclusion, and what seems great on first listen (because it checks all the right boxes) can get tiring quickly if they are not sufficiently musical. For me, musicality is the key criteria. At any rate, because there are more than the usual number of less-than-musical pieces on this album, I can't rate it any higher than 6.1 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, even though I love the epic and The Gypsy. mid-lower 3 PA stars.

 The Kindness Of Strangers by SPOCK'S BEARD album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.75 | 448 ratings

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The Kindness Of Strangers
Spock's Beard Symphonic Prog

Review by Walkscore

3 stars This album sees SB continue the process, began with "Beware of Darkness" in making their albums more radio-friendly with more shorter and punchier tunes. I actually like this album better than "Beware of Darkness", but I admit they are really very similar in form and style. This begins with one of the best on the album, "The Good Don't Last", a great SB classic. Then come a number of shorter tunes. The best of these is "June", perhaps the only Neil Morse ballad I can actually listen to still. It is in face a lovely tune, and not at all preachy! (although, being Morse, it borders on sappy). "Strange World" and "Cakewalk on Easy Street" are decent, if leaning a bit mainstream. "Flow", which closes the album, is the longest track here, and it is great, almost as good as the long tunes on their debut. The two track I have a harder time with are "Mouth of Madness", which is too mainstream and forgettable, and even more, "Harm's Way", which I don't find sufficiently musical, even though there are some musical sections in it - but the main vocal themes are too sappy sounding for me. After multiple listens, on balance I give this album 7.1 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translate to 3 PA stars.
 Beware Of Darkness by SPOCK'S BEARD album cover Studio Album, 1996
3.65 | 453 ratings

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Beware Of Darkness
Spock's Beard Symphonic Prog

Review by Walkscore

3 stars For their follow-up to The Light, SB focused more on shorter and punchier tunes, and began experimenting with some newer-ish styles, such as the multi-vocal Gentle Giant choral style (on "Thoughts"). This was the album that saw Ryo Okumoto join as the main keyboard player, and he gets some nice solos in. The album is not quite at the same level as "The Light" though. It is not as inventive (despite "Thoughts"), and I find Morse a touch preachier with each passing album. The album opens with a progressive cover of George Harrison's "Beware of Darkness", which works decently, but nothing I would write home about. The best tracks include the wonderful "Thoughts", which even with the choral vocals manages to be quite a diverse and free-flowing tune. The multi-part choral vocals sound remarkably like Gentle Giant, but the rest of the piece is very much SB. "Chataqua" is a beautiful acoustic guitar solo from Alan Morse, and to my mind the best track on the album ? I wish there were more of these on each SB album! "Time has Come" and especially "The Doorway" are also very musical. Meanwhile "Waste Away" is the weakest track. I have to say, I don't find myself putting this one on nearly as much as other Morse-era SB albums though. I give this album 6.9 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to mid 3 PA stars.
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