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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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4 stars THE LIGHT, the 1995 debut release from American act Spock's Beard, is one of the best entries in the latter-day progressive rock field that I have yet heard. With intelligent, well-crafted lyrics, impassioned vocals and harmonies, soaring guitars, choice piano and superb "retro" Hammond and synth sections, the disc does a very good job of recapturing the sound and spirit of classic 70s prog, but without being hopelessly derivative.

Sure, we can readily point to influences from early prog bands, but, for my grateful ears, the result is not slavish imitation, but a solid album that I enjoy listening to. I'm glad that singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Neal Morse and company seem, in their formative years, to have absorbed the classic works of their pioneering forebears, and then had the courage to inject some much-needed new blood and vitality into a genre that had almost dropped off the musical radar, and/or degenerated into radio-friendly lightweight pop. (You want fries with that new Genesis disc? Extra cheese? Maybe slathering it in ketchup would make it more palatable....) "The Beard," if nothing else, deserve credit for choosing to pursue their muse in a rock sub-genre that (perhaps regrettably -- perhaps not) now seems to preclude radio play, riches and fame. Clearly, they're not "only in it for the money" -- there's a palpable love of, and commitment to the music here.

The title track is a top-notch fifteen+ minute suite (try getting that into regular rotation at the local FM station!) with varied sections and themes that are in turn sensitive and pretty, powerful, and humourous. A tasty, generous and satisfying helping of pure prog!

"Go the Way You Go" is perhaps my overall favourite of a first-class set. While somewhat more pop/accessible than the other material here, it is still heavyweight progressive rock. The speaker-shaking ending has a majestic feel that would be especially effective live -- crank it!

At over twenty-three minutes, "The Water" is the longest piece on the album. This suite contains some of the album's heaviest moments, and the crunchy Hammond riffs at the beginning are particularly welcome to this old rocker's ears. A very varied piece, it holds my interest despite its length, but is a trifle marred for me by the inclusion of the abrasive, almost shouted "FU" section. As a father, I don't play this one when the "shell-pink" ears of my young children are within range!

The final number, "On the Edge," at only six minutes, is, perforce, not as "epic" as the tracks that precede it, but is still a terrific, hard-rocking song that brings this excellent album to a strong finish.

The radiance of a hopeful new day has dawned upon my once "frozen in time" prog collection, and there is fresh growth upon the old tree -- long may THE LIGHT and Neal Morse shine!

Peter | 4/5 |


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