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Spock's Beard - Snow CD (album) cover

SNOW

Spock's Beard

 

Symphonic Prog

3.86 | 689 ratings

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Epignosis
Special Collaborator
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Much has been made about this album being a distant cousin to Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, especially since both albums are the final one to feature the front man. Musically and thematically, however, I don't see much of a relationship (with a few notable and perhaps deliberate sections). Many of the songs flows into one another, creating an almost uninterrupted stream of music, throughout which the band executes some thrilling performances. The biggest problem with this record, though is it's impossible length. Had the project been trimmed (and believe me when I say there are dispensable parts), it would have been a much more powerful album. Instead, it carries on and carries on, oftentimes offering nothing new, and wearing out its welcome in the process. In this overblown effort, there's simply too much that gets recycled (although the melodic motifs are outstanding). All that said, what's here is a beautiful story of defection and redemption, with many great musical moments. An excellent album despite so many flaws, but ranks ever so slightly above my least favorite Spock's Beard albums.

"Made Alive / Overture" Gentle acoustic guitar and Morse's quiet voice begin, with some lovely sound effects used when appropriate. But the instrumental overture is hard-hitting, full of heavy drums, chunky bass, and dirty guitar.

"Stranger in a Strange Land" The acoustic guitar, along with the slide, gives this song a down home Southern flavor at first. It's a pleasing narrative song that retains its simplicity, even when the rest of the band plays.

"Long Time Suffering" This is a gritty song that may just have a little bit too much going on at once. There's the complex vocal arrangements as heard on songs like "Thoughts," which never did much for me anyway. The chorus is catchy, as many Spock's Beard refrains are.

"Welcome to NYC" The Gentle Giant-like beginning is no indication of what sort of song this is: This is Van Halen music right here, full of heavy guitars and vocal screeching. The song proper gives way to gentle piano, a welcome relief after the loud and raunchy music that came before.

"Love Beyond Words" A poignant piece with harrowing words, quiet piano and guitar, I think this is one of the band's best soft songs. The piano at the end is a real highlight.

"The 39th Street Blues (I'm Sick)" A real nice rocker, this song works well, going as it does from traditional festive rock music to mellow moments where major seventh chords abound.

"Devil's Got My Throat" The lead singing is just grating on this heavier song; there's even more irritating David Lee Roth-imitation shrieking. The best part of the song, however, is the synthesizer solo, the tone of which sounds very much like Patrick Moraz's lead spot toward the end of Yes's "Sound Chaser." The brief organ solo is likewise praiseworthy. The end is more complex a cappella vocals akin to those in "Thoughts."

"Open Wide the Flood Gates" I first heard part of this song in the medley on Neal Morse's ? Live album. It's a pleasing, very memorable song, with some great drumming from Nick D'Virgilio toward the end.

"Open the Gates" This is a more progressive follow up to the previous track; it has several satisfying parts, but for some reason, I prefer what came before.

"Solitary Soul" Mournful piano works underneath Alan Morse's smooth lead guitar until his big brother comes in with acoustic guitar and his deep vocals. I also had previously heard an excerpt from this piece on Morse's ? Live album. It's a very satisfying soft song that I really enjoy listening to, even in isolation.

"Wind at My Back" The last song on the disc returns to the simple acoustic guitar and vocals, the latter of which is laden with short reverb. It's another good pop track, and a pleasing closer to the first CD.

"Second Overture" The beginning of the second disc is a varied piece of music, full of shifting complexities, nice organ, and grating electric guitar business. There's some newscast voiceovers, describing the titular character's powers.

"4th of July" This is another fairly weak track on this album, even though this track is important with respect to the story.

"I'm the Guy" This is a weird song, at least the way it's performed and sung, and it just makes me furrow my brow and want to hit skip. It's probably the weakest moment on the album, even if it serves the narrative well.

"Reflection" A basic narrative bridge, this is really well done. Morse does a great job singing some well-written lyrics. In spite of its length, this is very important part of the story.

"Carie" Acoustic guitar and light vocals abound in this short track that sounds like something from The Eagles in recent times; even the vocalist sounds like Timothy B. Schmidt.

"Looking for Answers" Generic-sounding Spock's Beard, what's here is still no less enjoyable for what it is. The subtle acoustic guitar in the background is nice to just pick out of the mix and focus on.

"Freak Boy" This short song has some good electric guitar and synthesizer, and I really like the lyrics, but overall this song isn't my thing.

"All is Vanity" This song flows quite naturally from the previous one, and is full of great lyrics that echo the main theme from the book of Ecclesiastes. The subsequent synthesizer and bass interplay make for good music. Everything that follows from the beginning of that point is some of the best instrumental business on the album.

"I'm Dying" Semi-metal guitar and buoyant keyboards work under Morse's seething vocals. It's not a bad song, but it's not particularly memorable. The end of it sounds like the band is attempting to imitate Genesis's "The Waiting Room."

"Freak Boy (Part Two)" The second part of this song, the instrumental section, is far superior to the vocal section, but it's a decent reprise.

"Devil's Got My Throat (Revisited)" Yet another reprise, this two minute bit may fit in with the story, but it offers nothing new.

"Snow's Night Out" A jaunty little piece that almost sounds a bit disco, this is one I could do without.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Mister Ryo Okumoto on the Keyboards" Over an applauding crowd, Ryo Okumoto gets ample opportunity to demonstrate his exciting abilities on various instruments, not the least of which is the organ, and he sounds phenomenal playing it. This is easily one of his best performances.

"I Will Go" Melancholic Mellotron, gentle piano, and soft electric guitar set up the climax of the rock opera. There are some painful-sounding vocalizations before the music gels together, ushering in some lovely call-and-response vocal passages that treat the return of the prodigal son theme with elegance.

"Made Alive / Wind at My Back" The first song, with that gorgeous acoustic guitar, visits the listener again, and makes so much thematic sense in terms of the story, completing a beautiful story of redemption.

Epignosis | 4/5 |

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