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Spock's Beard - The Light CD (album) cover


Spock's Beard


Symphonic Prog

3.86 | 666 ratings

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Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars The music on Spock's Beard's debut is strong overall, but nowhere near what they will achieve as they mature together as musicians. Like many great progressive rock bands, this first album merely intimates what greatness will follow. Still, the first two tracks, which are as lengthy as they are enjoyable, make this album well worth having.

"The Light" Beginning with piano and Neal Morse's clear vocals, Spock's Beard's debut soon gives way to their trademark sound, which consists of Dave Meros's punchy bass underneath layers of wild keyboards. The guitars are gritty throughout the introduction. Neal Morse uses granular distortion on his voice, similar to what will be applied on his vocals in "The Water." The song evolves through several segments, giving us a rough idea of what Spock's Beard will sound like on later albums. Sometimes the segments flow together well, and sometimes they don't, but overall the piece is enjoyable. Some parts are a bit wacky (like the "so they had a party" bit or the singing with a bad Mexican accent that follows), which occasionally makes it hard to take them seriously, but even on later releases, which are much stronger, they retain this bit of silliness, refining it so that it's no longer laughable (like on parts of "The Great Nothing" from V). There's a lot of Mellotron, organ and electric guitar throughout, and the piece as a whole shows a great deal of energy. I absolutely love the way the soft piano that begins and ends the piece, and how the lyrics change slightly the second time. For some reason, I cannot help but interpret them through the lens of Neal Morse's later conversion to Christianity.

"Go the Way You Go" The finest track of the album, "Go the Way You Go" opens up with a loud descending riff, Mellotron, and some growling bass. A second main theme plays, which is one of the best parts of the song, just before a jovial little section that gives way to heavier section. Three minutes in, the music ceases, and Morse comes in, singing over a single acoustic guitar. He has a pleasing voice, even if it one could readily accuse him of lacking an original sound. The vocal harmonies are exceptional, however, as is the music throughout. At one point, there's a guitar part that leads into a completely different section, which includes an audience applauding (like Rush used on "The Spirit of Radio"). After this, Dave Meros demonstrates just what kind of capable bassist he is, as Neal Morse shows off his skills on the piano. Some variations on the introduction bring the song back to the vocal section, which is sung over full instrumentation. The final moments consist of the second main theme providing the background music for some rather good guitar work.

"The Water" Quite frankly this is the weirdest song on the album. The cello and the piano are good at first, but soon give way to raucous music similar to what came before, only it's crazier. The intermittent vocals are laden with effects that sometimes just don't sound right. During the second part, the band employs some Pink Floyd-like feminine backup vocalists, perhaps in an attempt to add to what sounds like a band attempting Pink Floyd. The flashing string sections aren't fooling anyone, however. Mellotron takes the listener through the next section, which carries on the pseudo-Pink Floyd sound, especially with the female vocalists, but the rest of the music sounds so melodramatic it's goofy. The next section is the worst, and not because of the language of the section- it just lacks any artistry whatsoever. It's honky-tonk piano and Neal Morse trying to be mellow-dramatic. Throwing around profanities could be effective, but not here. It sounds ridiculous. "Everyone sounds so pathetic," you say Neal? No, just you here. Also, the way the craziness moves into the apology is also musically absurd, but might have a stake in being conceptually correct, since an apology can happen so soon after a terrible fight. What comes after is more like a song from Alabama. The pieces are stop-start, and don't really flow together like good progressive rock should. What's most unfortunate is that the seemingly strongest jab into the belly of progressive rock is just a collection of unrelated pieces that range from vulgar and insipid to just insipid. The piano section doesn't really flow into the next section well at all. The last part is enjoyable, but seems to bear no relation on anything that came before it.

"On the Edge" With piano and Mellotron, the opening few notes sound like "The Carpet Crawlers," but quickly do not. Soon an electric guitar comes in, as do Morse's vocals, crazy guitar work, and innovative bass playing from Meros. Morse's voice goes from one speaker to the other, then to the middle. Overall, the music isn't bad- it's a step ahead over the previous track, but is lackluster really, save for some great bass. The keyboard solo is top notch, as it runs right into the guitar solo. Better progressive rock songs have been heard.

Epignosis | 4/5 |


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