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


Spock's Beard


Symphonic Prog

3.85 | 649 ratings

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James Lee
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I instantly liked SPOCK'S BEARD- a modern but mature and distinctive take on the prog sound who seems to have a bit of fun with it all (a lot of prog albums are so unflinchingly serious). This is neither difficult prog nor saccharine pop prog; like ECHOLYN they find brand new ways to interpret the genre, but in contrast SPOCK'S BEARD has a bluesy, groovy, funky feel to bring to the table.

"The Light" is a convoluted but organic and energetic sonic journey through big synth fanfares, playful piano-accompanied narratives, flamenco-tinted caricatures, a brief party, a nicely abrasive distorted vocal verse, and even a chorus section which reminds me pleasantly of CHICAGO. The more unified "Go the Way You Go" has ties to classic rock anthems, but throws in left turns with intricate instrumental breaks and some exhilarating organ and guitar interplay. The pointedly tongue-in-cheek "The Water" has a lot of FLOYD groove-and-gospel, but also a bit of 'primal scream Lennon-meets-Trent Reznor' venting (where Neil gets to say "[%*!#]" more than anyone else in prog, except maybe ZAPPA), and even a tiny bit of country-rock harmony. "On the Edge" begins with a GENESIS piano arpeggio and then blasts off with aggresive, infectious energy (and am I crazy or does Neil sound a little like Jeff Lynne here?) to close the album with a barnstormer.

Besides an affinity for YES, they seem to have more KANSAS influence than I'm used to seeing in the new crop of bands, but that may be due to the big open-air production quality (I can see where a live show would be ideal). Neil Morse has a very distinctive voice- more soulful and ragged than I've come to expect in prog. Lyric-wise, I don't know what to make of it all; I hear sometimes an ingenuous prodigy like early Jon Anderson, an allegorical fancy like very early Bolan and Bowie, but also an ironic prankster like Zappa...but I'm probably reading too much into it. Among the other excellent instrumental performances, the bass playing is some of the best I've heard since "Close to the Edge- in the raspy fuzz if nothing else you can hear the Squire influence throughout.

On the downside, infrequently the songs seem strung together from unrelated parts- there's not always a logic to adjacent passages (probably due to the Canterbury influence). And it can feel pretty indulgent at times, but in an almost self-deprecating way, and definitely no more indulgent than the majority of prog albums, even many classics. But it does so many things so well and so distinctively (and on a debut no less) that I'm almost having a tough time NOT giving it five stars, because this is really the cream of the modern crop.

James Lee | 4/5 |


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