Thursday, 11 April 2013

Spotlight: Spock’s Beard – Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep (2013 Inside Out Music)

Classic Rock Radio Dot EU –Music Reviews
Spotlight: Spock’s Beard – Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep (2013 Inside Out Music)

My association with the band Spock’s Beard started back in’97. That’s when I first heard the group’s music. I was baptized (turned onto by a Yes fan) with their debut album, The Light (1995), accompanied with their sophomore effort, Beware Of Darkness (1996). Not the sole reason, but my newly found fascination with them capped off with my wife and I driving from Houston, Texas to Los Angeles, California to see Spock’s Beard live in concert. Their performance at ProgFest ’97 knocked me out!! Needless to say, I've been a devoted fan ever since. Example, I have their entire studio catalog in my personal CD collection. Can’t call myself a Day One Spock’s Beard fan, but I do come damn close.

As far as the group's history goes, one can say it’s been peaks and valleys all those years like any other hard rock / prog band. Get this, after releasing in the year 2002 what was a crowning moment in Spock’s Beard career, the double disc studio CD Snow, their lead singer / songwriter quit the band due to finding God. It happens. The remaining guys in the group pulled a play out of the Genesis history books by moving the drummer up to main vocalist (performing as the solo drummer on the studio version and sharing duties while performing live). Then, another major personal departure from the group, Nick D'Virgilio, the drummer I just mentioned, after 20 years of devoted service moves on. For the two remaining original members and its keyboardist, who came on board with Spock's Beard second album Beware Of Darkness, still other major changes were about to happen.

Spock’s Beard's Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep is the bands eleventh studio album since forming back in the early nineties. I’m happy to report the music on the new disc starts off with a bang. On the opening song Hiding Out, within seconds the musicians fly into an almost minute and a half totally kick-ass, hard rock / near metal prog instrumental. Then we are introduced to the band’s third times the charm main vocalist, Ted Leonard (Enchant). By the end of the over seven minute first track, I concluded Mr. Leonard demonstrated himself in being able to change vocal styles while having good singing clarity, making him an already above-average lead singer for any hard rock / prog band. Am glad he found a home with Spock’s Beard. The bands new drummer Jimmy Keegan proves himself as well. Welcome Mister Keegan! The new song (Hiding Out) is just the right vehicle to set tone and example for what I believe to be a perfect album from start to finish.

Track Two is called I Know Your Secret. Great fast-tempo song that includes some serious hard rock shredding moments. Contains a rather catchy chorus as well.
Song number three, A Treasure Abandoned, is more a rock power ballad with bits of majestic prog thrown in. Wonderfully showcases the musician’s musical prowess. Lyrics tell a good story also.
A composition called Submerged is the fourth offering by the band. Has a groovy instrumental intro that goes into one of the best performances put in by lead vocalist, Ted Leonard. Matter of fact, dude owns the song! Worthy of radio play, it’s a somewhat mellow track clocking in at just under five minutes.

A highlight of the album is the next track, Afterthoughts. Hearing the song first play via Spock's Beard official sources, this is the song that motivated me more than anything into buying the CD. Besides being a writer, I’m a Spock’s Beard website official product consumer. The experience was satisfying as I concluded they were selling it at the very fair price of $14.00 including shipping. I got the limited edition two disc version by the way. Ordered while it was on pre-sale.

Afterthoughts is a song in a series of Spock's Beard / Neal Morse very entertaining “Thought” compositions. All a feast for the ears combining sarcastic / funny lyrics with outstanding vocal harmonies and a rocking musical accomplishment. Oh, did I mention original member Neal Morse helped pen this one? His first time contributing on a Spock’s Beard album in eleven years. Welcome back Neal! What took you so long?

The sixth composition is one that showcases keyboardist Ryo Okumoto from start to finish. A cool keyboard-heavy bridge betweenAfterthoughts and the next song Something Very Strange. It sounded very much like the score to a science fiction cinema. Then at a minute and nine seconds, an awesome bass line by Dave Meros follows as does another memorable instrumental jam. At three minutes in, we get vocals and a very up-tempo beat. Bass and drums are one well-oiled machine on this collection. Six minutes in and the band is seriously rocking out. Alterthoughts is a stand-out song of mine, with Something Very Strange coming in at a close second. A solid rock / prog track from start to finish and an instant greatest hit in my opinion.

Neal Morse also contributed to the last track on the disc called Waiting For Me. Written with his blood brother Alan, Neal also is credited for playing additional guitar on the closing song. Musically, it’s sounds very much like Yes or Pink Floyd. It rocks-like-hell a minute into it in which the keyboardist gets a cool case of flying fingers. Add to that Mr. Leonard, who puts in yet another very good vocal performance. Ends with an epic sounding grandness to it, and then the serene sound of bells. It would be cool if they start off their new studio album picking up with the bells, a la Dream Theater. A prog rock metal band that’s also worthy of tipping the hat to.

Uncle G’s Rating: Using the one to five star rating system, I give this album 5 STARS to the TENTH POWER !! Out of the studio albums offered since Neal Morse departed, I kind of only really got into an earlier release called Octane (2005). With Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep, not only did Spock’s Beard pull it off, but they created one of the best hard rock / mainstream prog albums I've heard in a long time. Congratulations and welcome back Spock’s Beard!! Let's hope the five band members stay together for a while. As the fictitious character Mr. Spock from the classic television program Star Trek would say; "Live long and prosper."

Standout Musician: Ryo Okumoto – if I had to compare Ryo to other notable rock / prog piano/ organ/ keyboard players past or present, I put him in the same ballpark with Jon Lord. He’s that good !!
Honorable Mention: Alan Morse and Dave Meros. The band needed one hit out of the park. Thanks for doing that guys.

Songwriting: All solid musical compositions. Songs stay with you after hearing them.
Artwork: A very cool fantasy drawing was used to wrap the CD. Nice work, Thomas Ewerhard.
Sound: Uncle G uses Sennheiser headphones when reviewing music CDs. Doing so with Spock's Beard Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep CD was an incredible audio experience.

Long live Spock’s Beard !! As a longtime fan I like to say that I"ve always liked this band, and I would have hated to see it fall by the wayside. Thanks to Inside Out Music also. You certainly know good musicians when you hear them. Thanks for continuing to bring them to our attention.

Official Spock Beard's Website:

Gary Brown ---- Classic Rock Radio Dot EU /

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