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


Spock's Beard


Symphonic Prog

3.88 | 725 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Neal enjoys a wee swearie

Whether or not you enjoy the music of Spock's Beard, there is no denying that they make progressive rock music in its purest form. For me though, the main reasons their music sometimes fails to hit the mark is that:

a) The vocals are weak. Neal Morse is unquestionably a highly talented musician, but he is at best an average singer.

b) They do not develop themes sufficiently before moving on

c) On long tracks, the various sections which make up the piece do not always sit well together, resulting in the music sounding disjointed.

"The light" was Spock's Beard's first album, so the band can perhaps be forgiven if they appear to be finding their way a bit. It is though an excellent first offering, full of invention and complexity. While the album lasts for almost an hour, there are just four tracks in all. These range from the (comparatively) short closing track "On the edge" at 6 minutes to the 23 minute, seven part, "The water".

The opening (title) track, which clocks in at over 15 minutes and consists of 8 contiguous sections, is an excellent introduction to the band. The listener is immediately presented with a myriad of reminders of the prog greats such as Yes, ELP, Marillion and Genesis, not to mention The Beatles! There are time changes a plenty, loud and soft passages, and more themes than most bands manage in an entire career. The paradox is that these factors are both the strength and the Achilles heel of Spock's Beard. There is no time to enjoy a theme before it has been replaced by another then another. The magic of "Close to the edge" by Yes for example is that they develop each theme before moving on to the next, so when the first theme returns, it has the familiarity of an old friend. With Spock's Beard it's more like the return of an acquaintance with whom you are on nodding terms only, the music seems cold and aloof.

"Go the way you go" continues in the same vein, with an ELP ("Black moon") like intro, leading into some Chris Squire like dominant bass. The track gets a bit messy at times, before the slower big ending.

"The water" is the longest, and most rambling track on the album. There are lyrics here in the "FU" section which I'm sure the post "rebirth" Neal Morse would be extremely reluctant to sing, in fact in the sleeve-notes for the remastered version, he actually apologises for them! The use of female backing vocals is however interesting and effective, if more than a little derivative of (Pink Floyd's) "Great gig in the sky". Once again, the time and mood changes are frequent and at times jarring. The final track, "On the edge" is the most commercial and accessible, with more of a straight rock feel. Morse says of the track that it was written for use as an encore at live gigs.

In all, a highly creditable first album, which indicated that Spock's Beard were more than capable of helping to keep the prog fire burning. Yes it has its faults, but worthy of investigation nonetheless. Some of the final recordings were taken straight from the original demos by Neal Morse and his brother Alan.

The version of the album I have is the "Artwork collectors' series" edition. It is presented in a 7" (vinyl single size) double fold out digipak style sleeve, resembling a mini LP. The lavish packaging includes a poster, postcards, and an excellent booklet with sleeve notes written by Neal Morse. It also has a bonus demo version of the title track.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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