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SPOCK'S BEARD V ratings distribution
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(44%) Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(37%) Good, but non-essential (15%) Collectors/fans only (4%) Poor. Only for completionists (1%)
SPOCK'S BEARD V reviews
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I knew the band after they released their third album. Based on recommendation from my prog-mate in Bandung I then purchased all the first three albums. At that time I was not really "into" prog intensely cause I thought that the genre was bit stagnant. When all the three CDs arrived I was bit disappointed with the band music as it was too derivative with bits of "Yes", "Gentle Giant" and oh no. "Gypsy King". So I decided not to spin their music but I still continued buying their CDs. I don't know why. It's probably the band's reputation on the webs as so many people praising them or probably many of my prog mates talked about the band. I just did not want myself to be left behind. Pretentious? Might be. But actually I rarely spin the CDs of the band until I got my Transtlantic SMPTe CD which triggered me to spin some albums of the band.
Well, that's history. Sometime we can only appreciate prog music progressively through a passage of time. When my prog mate, Koni, who lives in Malang (approx 1000 miles away from Jakarta - to the east) urged me to have another try for this album, I accepted. On first couple of spins I still did feel "into" SB music especially on the part which sounds like The Gypsy King (the pop outfit that could flow nicely into my ears - sorry ). For me personally, the music of SB sounds like "being forced" to the way like the music sounds - so it does not seem natural for me. But OK OK. this time I want to see the band's music in totally different perspectives, using different spectacles. And I found the Gentle Giant's choir at "Thoughts (Part II)" is excellent. So I pushed myself to enjoy the music and this is my view.
This album opener is definitely an excellent track and I'm happy that this is positioned at the beginning of the album. It starts very nicely in an ambient mood with soft keyboard / mellotron sounds. This opening piece that ends approx 1 minute is really melodic and has successfully set an uplifting mood for the album. The drum sound enters gradually followed later with full music in funky style led by the beats from a combination of great bass guitar by Dave and drums by Nick. When Neal voice enters the music at first time the rhythm section is dominated by the combination of dynamic bass line, drums and organ at the background. The music turns complex with some great variations on drumming - really great, Nick! The music then flows with a variety of styles: keyboard solo in neo prog vein and slower tempo, jazz fusion style and some transitions with acoustic guitar and percussion (that luckily does not "exactly" sound like The Gypsy King.). The mellotron work by Ryo has enriched the textures of the track and reminds me to the 70s prog packaged in a much more modern sound. The organ solo is stunning! The guitar work by Alan is much indicated as filler but it has augmented the song really well. Oh by the way, I forget to mention - the harmony vocals is excellent! I am really satisfied with this track.
It starts spacey and flows in a mellow style exploring the keyboard sounds and effects. The voice line enters with slow beat drumming. The music then flows in crescendo with higher register singing style. It turns quieter again and returns to mellow style. The music turns a bit complex with organ providing a great rhythm sound and solo. There is a strong influence of jazz especially when I observe the organ / keyboard works. Alan contributes his short guitar solo nicely.
It opens with a nice acoustic guitar rhythm followed with low register notes vocals. "I thought I'd come to you and say / All the things I had on my mind / I thought it might be really great / To show you how I feel inside / Then I think... MAYBE NOT..." - it's a great and atmospheric opening, I think. The music then turns into full sounds nicely with keyboard takes the lead melody. And.. oh man. when the part enters this passage: "You wouldn't speak to me / I would be left behind / We'd be through if you knew / All the things in my mind.." and the music that follows is really SUPERB! It does remind me to the music of Gentle Giant at its best! Quite honest, this track was the one that made me willing to have another spin of this CD. The drumming is marvelous! There is some exploration of orchestra in some transitions. Really wonderful!!! I think all Gentle Giant freaks would be amazed by this track. I think and I am sure! This is a wonderful composition!
I consider this is a ballad rock tune with nice organ / keyboard work that sometimes remind me to Procol Harum style of organ. The music flows straight forwardly with a very minimum variation in style and mood. It's a good track but not essential.
It's another ballad and nice song opened with acoustic guitar. I think Neal is better singing in this low register note. It reminds me to "The Distance to The Sun" track of the bands "Day for Night" album.
Considering the long duration (27:18) of this epic, I expect a lot before enjoying it. It comprises 6 parts. It opens with an ambient sounds followed with an acoustic guitar fills. Nice opening. The music then enters in medium tempo with bass guitar take the lead for the beats and drum as keeper of the bars. When organ starts soaring, Dave performs his dynamic bass guitar work. The vocal enters in quieter passage with only piano (and bit of bass guitar) accompany it. The music turns slowly into faster tempo. I do enjoy when it reaches approx. min 8 when the keyboard / organ takes its solo (and effects!) combined with great bass line. Great work, Ryo and Neal! I really enjoy it. The smooth music then turns into an intermittent one during transition. It's a very good exploration. This epic offers a variety of styles and sounds / effects exploring all the talents the band has. A bit note here is that the guitar work of Alan has been fully explored with this track and in general. The whole album does not explore as much of Alan's fullest. It's probably the figure of Neal (who happens to be a keyboard player as well) is so central and selfish (?) that he does not allow much guitar sound in the middle of this epic. Indeed, Alan's solo concludes this epic nicely (augmented with piano).
I think it is embarrassing if you like prog but do not have this excellent album. Not all tracks are excellent, I think, especially those with ballad styles. But I have to admit that overall, the composition is tight and the musicianship is great. Most people said that the band's existence was highly due to the central role of Neal Morse. I don't think so. Even with the departure of Neal, they still have great sounds and composition in two albums (post Neal):"Feel Euphoria" and "Octane". Even, the band has pushed more in melodic spectrum of their composition under their latest album "Octane". Overall, I put the rating of this "V" album with 4 out of 5 rating. I would give full five star if there were no ballads and Alan's guitar work was given more. Keep on progging!
The Goddam' Peak of their career. The musicianship in this album is impressive and there is no low point in the epics. IF you want only one album from this band, I recommend this one. It has all the elements explored in the first 4 albums mixed together.
1. At The end Of The Days 9.5/10 Starts the album with the band's best song. It is so hard to believe that they will mix pop with prog so well, but they pulled it off! This song is a very accessible long song that grows on you on the same time. Containing very memorable sections of music, great instrumental breaks, and overly beautiful melodies (when Morse sings the lyrics 'At the end of the day' is golden).
2. Revelation 6.5/10: This is a strong song that combines the mellow and the hard rock sides of the band.
3. Thoughts(Part II) 8/10: This song sounds like (but is much better) than 'knots' from Gentle Giant. It is ultra heavy and complex.
4. All on a Sunday 3.5/10: This song is a normal pop song that seems like something Coldplay would write. Bad.
5. Goodbye To Yesterdays 6/10: A very mellow track that sounds similar and inferior to many other songs of Neal.
6. The Great Nothing 8.5/10: OHHH YEAHHHH! A 27 minute long epic that doesn't feel long, this reminds me of Transatlantic's Longest tracks which are full of good ideas. This is the hardest song to get into from the band I think.
Get this album, at least for the 2 epics, you will not be disappointed!.
SPECIAL COLLABORATORHo,norary Collaborator / Retired Admin
For me, this is the best Spock Beard's album from the Neal Morse era... But unfortunately, not a masterpiece!
After the very poppy and commercial "Day For Night", Spock's Beard offered us the best two songs of their career... The End of The Day, and the outstanding masterpiece The Great Nothing. Only The Doorway is comparable to this two great tracks, true lessons of progressive rock. The End of The Day opens in a great and strong way, to end in a typical Spock's chorus... The acoustic parts are great, like the jazzy interlude. But the best of the song are the choirs in the middle section, a lot in the 70's style.
The Time has Come: for me, the best Spock's Beard song. Comparable in style and quality to Supper's Rady from Genesis in my opinion. Incredible bass, magnificent vocal work (the choirs from D'Virginlio are really nice!), outstanding keyboards work... This song has all that a progfan could dream!
So... What's my problem with this album? Of course, the short tracks. Not as good as the long ones in general. Reflections make nothing to me. A soulness song, pretty forgettable... Thoughts (Part II) is not as good as the first one, but the choirs in the style of Gentle Giant are great too. All on a Sunday is the typical Spock's rocking short song, catchy and commercial, but not specially remarkable (nevertheless, the opening keyboard is very addictive). Goodbye to Yesterdays is a very good melancholic ballad, diffrent in style from other Spock's ballads like June, more gloomy and serious. Pretty nice song, my favourite short track from the album, but nothing if you compare with the two epics...
For all that, although this is maybe my favourite Spock's Beard offering, I have to recognize that this is not a perfect album because some short tracks lack interest for me. I would prefered the two long songs alone, because the low quality of these short tracks spoils a little the overall impression of this album... A lot of times, when I hear this album, I only choose the first and last tracks... And It doesn't says very much from the general quality of any album!
Conclusion: two first-class epics (The End of The Day and The Great Nothing), obligated listening for every prog lover... The rest of the album, nothing special in my opinion.
This was actually the first album I bought from this great band, and I have to say, it was a very good start. While not superb like The Light or Snow, it's an excellent effort and probably the best doorway for people who still haven't listened to anything by The Beard.
What I like a lot about Spock's Beard is that, like their american-prog ancestors Kansas, they manage to create complex, progressive music but without getting so extremely technical that the songs lose the "rock" part of the genre's name. But that being said, Spock's Beard's music is more complex and even more in the prog realm that the legendary american band I just talked about. But, as I said, they share with them the notion that rock's songs have to be always ROCK songs, so they never indulge themselves in the extreme technical and musical experimentation that other symphonic legends such as Yes used to. So, in a way, this is more of a "people's prog" than the usual symphonic works of the british 70's legends, off course, keeping in mind that those "people" in the definition I just gave are still usually musicians and progmusic lovers...it's just that even among proggers, there are some that like only the really ultra-complex side of those, The Beard may be too simple, too full of choruses and regular harmonies....
This album is such a great start to dwelfe into Beard's territory because it has a little bit of everything:
At the end of the day (10/10), the absolute highlight of the record, is an epic, fantastic multi-sectional song that is a real showcase of all The Beard's members abilities: it has great melodies, good singing by Neal Morse, it has a symphonic, cyclic structure where there's an intro, a development and a return, it has a jazzy-bluesy part (much like The Light had that spanishdance-flamenco section), which features excellent drumming by great musician (and future SB's frontman) Nick D'Virgilio, jazzy bass lines by master Dave Meros, outstanding piano, mellotron work by Morse himself and Okumoto, and well crafted guitars by Alan Morse. A great song, a long one that never gets boring...a great track
Revelation, (8/10), a good rock-pop song with some prog elements like the great guitars by A.morse and the jazzy influenced keyboards.
Thoughts (9/10), the second best track: a great, short song (too short, that's why I don't give it a 10) that has multi-layered harmonic vocals in a sort of fugue much influenced by the music by prog legends Gentle Giant (a band Morse recognizes as one of his fountains for inspiration). It's the second part of the first Thoughts that was released in the Beware of darkness Cd. But if that Thoughts was playful, even joyful (though with ambiguity), this one reeks of dissapointment, of a kind of apathic sadness... great, great song...I insist: too short.
All on a sunday (7/10), a funny, enjoyable track with allmost no progressive elements....a rock-pop song, sounds like a mix between The Beard, some of the poppy-era-Beatles, and even some of Stone temple pilots in their Tiny Music era. A song you can hear in order to be happy, not in order to be amazed.
Goodbye to yesterdays, (7/10), another rock-pop attempt, much in the vein of the classic Spock Beard song from Kindness of Strangers or Day at Night (not their best albums)...forgettable
The Great Nothing (6/10), this song should have been great as is the longer of the pack but sadly it kind of gets pummeled halfway down....After a terrific introduction, the first warning about the song's quality level is the lack of a good, memorable vocal melody and the problem rally song is too long...I love 20+ minute tracks, but those that flow with ease, that pass by like if they lasted only 5 one gest boring at some point and from there never recovers.... mediocre track
So, I think V is a good album, but could have been better with some tweaks to the last track...after this record SB released their second best album ever (SNOW) and after that one, Neal Morse left the bnd for religious reasons and D'Virgilio assumed the role of singer and on that now....a very good album, if somewhat flawed...
V is Spock's Beard's fifth release (duh), and it's also one of their finest. Lyrically, Neal Morse isn't at the peak he would reach on Snow, but he comes close. As a vocalist he is talented but not a standout. He, along the other members of SB, are talented players but do not let showboating interfere with the music. Thus, no musician stands out, rather they blend as a cohesive whole, relying on one another to move the songs forward.
Funniest beard styles
The albums highlights are, of course, the opening and closing epics At the End of the Day and The Great Nothing. At the End of The Day features some of Neal's best vocals. It's pretty rocking for an epic, with bass lines that wouldn't sound out of place on a Mahavishnu Orchestra album, superb drumming, and Alan's unique take on Steve Howe. The Great Nothing also give Neal vocals a rare spotlight, his lyrics are also top form, dealing with the (d)evolution of music from creativity and experimentation into commercial success. The problem with the Great Nothing is that it meanders towards the end and the band could have forged a masterpiece if it had been only a few minutes shorter.
The epics bookend 4 shorter songs. Revelation is fairly heavy and it's a good segue from At the End of the Day. Thoughts Pt 2 gives Meros his time to shine with a bass solo. The song is also complex and approaching metal.
All On A Sunday is a bit too quick a transtion from the heavy rock of the first half. It's poppy and it wears on you. This is the filler track. Goodbye to Yesterday continues the mid tempo soft emotion of the previous track, though it's an improvement over AOaS. These two songs are woefully out of place on this album, but they are still good.
This was the first Spock's Beard album I heard, and I took them to be prog metal. This is SB's heaviest album at least of the Neal era (I haven't listened to post Neal yet). It's very strong, but the too long outro of the Great Nothing and the mediocre pop of All on a Sunday keep it from being a masterpiece.
I know now why it's got the most reviews.
With the first albums, I thought Spock's was like a blind man with a machine gun, firing a thousand rounds per minute in all directions, but still many bullseyes though.
This time, I hear a 'click' almost all the time. The songs are catchier and 'goes down smoothly' in the majority of the time. Woo-hoo indeed. The recipe is the same, but the cake is baked at perfect temperature: Morse's voice is melodic, the acoustic guitar is good, the bass is loud, the keyboards are tastier than ever!
Everything is the better!
Start here for your Beard collection. It's a wise investment.
One of those love/hate albums that I choose to not enough for a masterpiece. From the cool cover art to the twin epics, this album has enough solid prog for a four star rating.
At the End of the Day. When the synths are tastefully selected, the dual keyboard sound of Morse and Okumoto is though to beat, and just about everything about this song is tasteful to my ears. Fabulous intro: well-paced, interesting arrangements, and lively. The majestic mellotron-ish section is obviously influenced by Yes' And You and I (but not a total rip-off), and the spanish section works for me as well. The mellow mid-section can get a bit boring, but the jam that follows is great: cool synth and organ flourishes, with the drums and bass being very distinguished. It all concludes with a nicely done refrain and fade-out. I love the production, though be warned: this song is VERY catchy, and like all catchy tunes can get old with overplay.
Revelation. Slow and kind of grungy--not my style, but listenable nonetheless.
Thoughts, Part II. There is a lot of creativity in these short five minutes: voilin harmonies, Neal's trademark vocal rounds, and a cool jam in the middle. I especially enjoy the bass in this tune.
All on a Sunday. Bubble gum pop. One listen is more than enough. The pop influences in Neal's style here are not enjoyable.
Goodbye to Yesterday. A mellow tune that attempts to be dreamy and reminiscent. Not bad, though no highlight.
The Great Nothing. Right from the beginning, you know the Beard is not holding back. No doubt the blaring synth vocal choirs at the start are tacky and rediculous, though it's different enough that I love it. The song then goes into a groove that reminds me of Yes' Heart of the Sunrise, though a bit more restrained. I'm not a huge fan of Alan's guitar, but I really like his contributions to this song--there are many instances of entertaining and creative keyboard/guitar interplay. This epic closes with a few refrains from earlier (though with cool additions), a quick chorus, and then an inspired guitar/keyboard final groove. This is one of my top ten epics--no really annoying parts, lots of nicely woven (but not overly extended) jams and instrumentals, great tunes and variations on themes, and a remarkable build for the finale.
Basically, the bookend epics are the highlights and worth the purchase. They convinced me to dig into Neal's solo works (something I'm quite glad I did). This is somewhat derivative and poppy (from a prog perspective), but there's enough creativity, musical talent, and structure to make this a solid four-star. A must for fans of well-produced, keyboard-heavy, symphonic prog.
This is, in my opinion, the second best spock album ever created. It features 4 of their greatest songs and 2 pretty average spock ballads. Now I am a massive spock's beard fan, but that will not stop me from making true critical notes on each piece. My criticism is as follows: -
1. At The End of the Day (9/10) - An excellent track with a great melodic keyboard intro, a good main theme, the traditional spock's beard adventurous middle section, some nice vocal interludes and a great finish. One thing that is desperately wrong with the song however would be the shear repetitiveness from 7:40 - 10:50. Sure, there are some great vocal lines and quite inventive harmonies, but would it really hurt the band to cut that bit down to 1 or 2 minutes? The whole idea of the song is to keep you on your toes (demonstrated by the massive twist from a melodic "Yes"esque theme to a latin american middle section), so why bore the audience with a huge ballad section? it doesn't work and without that part, the song has potential to be one of, if not one of, THE best prog song of decade.
2. Revelation (8/10) - Not exactly a prog song, more of a non-commercial hard rock tune, still I'm not going to because of genre. The tune is fine, the verse is fine, the bridge and guitar solo are both fine once again. Spock are now almost experts at the instrumental by this point, but an issue with the length need once again to be mentioned. The extended jamming at the end i have a massive problem with. I hate minute long choruses with any band, but this really takes the p***. About 30 seconds of a double chorus and 1 and a half minutes of solid "whoa-oh"s with repetitive drum fills just makes me want to switch over the song after the guitar solo to be honest. Otherwise, a top song once again.
3. Thoughts (Part 2) (10/10) - THE BEST SPOCK'S BEARD SONG EVER CREATED. Neal Morse has really brought some of his solo work home with him on this, and i absolutely think that this is their greatest song. No criticism whatsoever (apart from maybe a bit of sloppy keyboard playing), and i have listened to this song about a million time without getting bored. Nice little intro with good, cheesy lyrics, fantastic "Rush"esque riff for the main theme (including the traditional vocal rounds of Neal Morse), leading into a 7/8, 12/8 prog perfect jamming session that could even wipes the floor with some of the 70s prog rock classics, a good drum and bass jam with chamber fills complimenting Rio's keyboards, back to the main tune and finishing abruptly on the 7/8, 12/8, yes and even 5/8 jamming session this time and back to the acoustic ending.
4. All on a Sunday (5/10) - Average, mainstream, bubblegum pop tripe in my opinion, but it may appeal to some people. Simple verse, chorus, verse chorus, bridge, chorus arrangement, some catchy parts but nothing special, and completely disposable.
5. Goodbye to Yesterday (8/10) - Like "I Talk to the Wind" by KC and various classical pieces, this does take a few listens to for a prog rocker, and can be seen as empty, even boring. But if you appreciate melody like a true musician, you will find the joy in this song. It has some real heart-warming, melodic moments with a happy aura following it all the way through. Short and crisp, the way most songs should be, and is one of Spock's better ballads. Very Great Nothing (10/10) - This song has almost everything a prog-rocker wants in a song: catchy classical guitar, heavy riffs, keyboard and guitar jazz solos, uplifting fanfare-like vocal parts, peculiar time signatures, drum fills, blah blah blah... I can't see anything wrong with this song. Other than the appalling length of the guitar solo at the end which doesn't seem to progress anywhere at all. Other than that, including the nice one-chorded piano finish at the end, this is a great musical adventure that can almost comete with the likes of Genesis' "Supper's Ready", Yes' "Gates of Delerium" and Jethro Tull's "Thick as a Brick". Masterpiece.
Altogether, this album just scrapes the surface of being a masterpiece. 8.1/10
Prog's still kickin' into the new millennium!
Truly a marvel of modern music, V stands at the top of it's genre looking down and laughing at it's competitors. Often noted as Dream Theater's [,DT], biggest rival by the press (why? I haven't the slightest, maybe because they're both prog bands?.), Spock's Beard [,SB], definately delivers. Often bashed for being too pop, SB actually does a great job of mixing short form pop-rock songs and full out progressive-pomp-epics. With the powerful Morse brothers behind the guitar and keyboards this band is a force to be reckoned with.
On the topic of Morse, he's not be the best singer in the world, or lyric writer for that matter. He's also a little too over insistent on both fronts, choosing to put lyrics in everywhere where their contemporaries, such as the notorious DT, choose to over insist on the wanking solos. This is completely okay, though. What Morse sings he sings well, and his voice is actually quite soothing once you accept it's limits. As far as his lyrics go, yes, sometimes they're fairly simple, but that's okay, they're a lot easier to relate to personally. People may prefer to listen to AT THE END OF THE DAY to relax rather than try to dissect every section of Neil Peart's Hemispheres and wind up going into a coma over it. Exaggerated, yes, but the point remains.
Moving onto the music, shall we?
The music itself sports a nice bookend of epics containing a number of shorter numbers in the middle. This structure in itself should be familiar to prog-heads, as most Masterpieces are structured this way. Maybe they were simply copying the masters, but hey, it works.
The opening track AT THE END OF THE DAY is quite a work. Opening with some interesting keyboards we're eventually brought into a lush soundscape that is truly soothing on the ears. Shortly in the drum cymbals start and the keys start to pick up. A couple pounding bass chords later and the song explodes into motion. Moving all the way along this song is more or less carried by the drums, keys and bass as it pound along, Morse's voice in tow. Definitely a strong start to the album.
That one aside here comes the short tracks!
Definitely some variety here, the short tracks range from 'great!' to 'meh...'. REVELATIONS is the first short track to be heard and is fairly good. A slowish song with some good Morse screaming moments. Not the best song on the album, but definitely worth listening to. THOUGHTS (part II) sounds like something Gentle Giant could have recorded any day of the week, but it's a very fresh thought on such a 'modern' album. Great song, the harmonizing vocals are used superbly well.
In the short tracks there's one of each, actually. ALL ON A SUNDAY is the definitive high point of the shorter tracks ('Gasp! Blasphemy!' cries the crowd). Is it poppy? Certainly! Is it an incredibly uplifting, catchy song? Yes! So poppy as it may be, it's still a great song, and maybe even the best of the short tracks. GOODBYE TO YESTERDAY is the obligatory slow song on the album, clearly put there by some higher power who pointed down from the clouds and said, 'This album is too perfect, it needs a flaw!'. Not a bad track but not a great track by any means, GOODBYE TO YESTERDAY just drags along and fills some time until the next masterwork.
And then the ever controversial...
THE GREAT NOTHING, SB's big epic journey. Compared to previous 20+ minute prog masterworks does this one compare? Well, it's certainly in a different style yet clearly influenced by the old works. The song opens wonderfully with some guitar and soon the song begins. Defined by some great guitar and keyboard solos that go on long enough for one to get the point without bashing it into your skull (looking at you DT), this track just works. There's some recurring riffs and motifs int here, and they're so wonderfully used that any prog fan might just bob their head along to it. It also features a nice breakdown near the middle not dissimilar to some kind of modern 'Willow Farm' with it's fitting quirkiness. Yeah, sure it can get poppy at times, but this is a truly refreshing epic that fits nicely between DT's instrumental-show-off-look-at-me-I'm-excellent epics and The Flower King's [,TFK], look-at-us-we're-Swedish-and-can-play-long-long-long-songs epics. Then, at the end of it all it simply fades out with the piano still ringing.
4.5 stars. Just short of a masterpiece. Being a bit too poppy in parts and one weak track are all that's keeping this one down. Recommended for DT fans, DT haters, TFK fans, TFK haters and prog fans in general. Like the two band SB is always compared too they're somewhat of an acquired taste, but what prog isn't? Excellent prog album, one of the best from this side of the millennium. Recommended!
While many consider V to be the one when it comes to the Beard's early works, I have to disagree.
At the End of the Day starts things out great, well composed and exciting with a good mix of sounds and tones, however, successive songs simply don't do it for me. Revelation is a noisy mess that comes from, and goes no where, its only effect leaving the listener bored of Morse's bland shouts. Thoughts 2 is better, since it actually demonstrates the band's creative playing unfortunately juxtaposed with horrible lyrics from Morse. All On a Sunday isn't even worth discussing, but Goodbye to Yesterday has a nice, mellow vibe and textures.
The big track, Into the Great Nothing is often lauded as one of the band's finest works which did very little for me. After re-listening, I found it to be somewhat repetitive and bland, there are few melodies and vocal moments worth salvaging, and Morse's guitar only occasionally impresses, but what few lush moments there are (provided by the keyboard players mostly) are welcome as is D'Virgilio's always proficient drumming. All in all, a big, heavy-handed exercise in bombast which wears its inspiration on its sleeve and doesn't give the listener credit enough to enjoy anything other than shout chorus after shout chorus.
In the end, V is only an occasional listen for me-- and not just because Neal Morse bothers me... it simply isn't as creative or dynamic as most of the band's other albums, it's simply loud and operatic for the sake of it.
Songwriting: 4 Instrumental Performances: 4 Lyrics/Vocals: 2 Style/Emotion/Replay: 2
This is probably the hardest Spock's Beard album to get into because of the two longer tracks but if you're up to the challenge then these two great pieces of Neo-Prog are well worth your time!
Neal Morse has a way of making long compositions work pretty much every time and this time it's unfortunately the shorter songs that feel very out of place between the two epic tracks. I would have preferred to have an album consisting only of the two long tracks, that add up to a whooping running time of 43+ minutes, than this current version of the release. In most case I end up skipping through these four middle tracks since they really don't add much to this album.
In fact when I copied over the CD to my portable player I skipped those tracks entirely and instead added the title-track off the band's debut album - The Light. Although it can't match the sound quality of this release this bonus track creates a much better flow for me and it would have easily made and essential Neo-Prog album.
And the band comes back into the appropriate focus. This album sits up quite high on my list, probably my second favorite release from the Beard, next to Beware of Darkness. By this point, most of the prog ideals of complicated time signatures and odd keys are mostly thrown out the door, leaving a sort of symphonic art rock sound. If you're looking for that kind of prog, you probably will be a good bit disappointed. However, if you are looking for quality music that can hold your attention for an hour, this is a wise place to look.
The opener, At the End of the Day, has a driving and fast drum rhythm and a unique sound to it. In fact, this sound will stick around for a lot of the album, and is in my mind the true sound of Spock's Beard. I don't know what it is, but it's a certain combination of a keyboard sound and the bass and the guitar and then Neal singing over the top of all of it. Either way, the song slows down in the middle, but then reappears with such ferocity that I have trouble calling it straight rock. Amazing drum fills and a very crunchy guitar mark the latter half of this piece. The chorus happens to be very catchy as well.
Revelation is a stunning vocal piece. Mellotron (I'm almost positive it's mellotron, but I'm not a keyboardist, so what do I know) tinkles throughout this song, shining in the quiet portions. The choruses, however, showcase such a power and strength in Neal's voice that every time I hear it, I get chills. Anyone who says Neal is not a great vocalist, or even is just an average vocalist, needs to listen to this song. I can't remember for sure, but years ago, this was the song that convinced me Spock's Beard was really worth listening to. Pretty sure it's this one. That or At the End of the Day. Either way, it didn't take long into the record for me decide this band might work for me.
Thoughts (Part II) is quite the worthy successor to the first. Though less interested in the vocal interplay that dominated the first, the instruments this time take the front stage (and the nod to Gentle Giant). The bass is grotesquely fat here, but in a beautiful way. Hard to explain, but it sounds amazing. The drums on the outro bit always inspire me as well. Another nice fun one.
All on a Sunday is rather straightforward, driven by some form of keyboard, but is still really nice. Cheerful, kind of goofy, and with a nice Neal Morse chorus, it's no prog classic, but it's an enjoyable little ditty. And an album with two massive bookends like V, a cheerful and uncomplicated ditty is always nice.
Of course, then comes Goodbye to Yesterday, a pretty but not terrifically amazing ballad. It's one of my favorite Neal ballads, but that still does not mean that it's that high up on the list. The low point of the album, but that also might be on account of the looming shadow of
The Great Nothing. This song is huge. The instruments are amazing. It flows so nicely and almost seamlessly. This is my favorite epic by Spock's Beard, and quite possibly my favorite epic from all of Neal's projects. From the opening ahhs to the concluding tinkle of a piano chord, this song blows my mind. It must be heard.
An essential album. Not all proggy in the 70s sense of the word, but certainly beautiful and amazing. These boys have so much talent and yet keep it restrained for the right moment. Not an album to miss.
In my opinion this is the perfect SPOCK'S BEARD album. It sounds to me like it's more mature than past records, maybe not as dynamic as "The Light" or "Beware Of Darkness" but overall better. I would even go as far to say that this is the best album I have heard that involves Neal Morse. Hey they even kept the time down to 63 1/2 minutes. They thank Greg Walker and Mike Portnoy in the liner notes.
"At The End Of The Day" is the 16 1/2 minute opening track. It's kind of mournful to start with but it kicks into an uptempo, upbeat melody 1 1/2 minutes in. Check out the thunderous bass! Vocals 2 minutes in. Love Neal's voice. A change 5 minutes in as percussion comes in. Chunky bass after 6 minutes followed by a jazzy section. It settles down before 8 minutes with reserved vocals and piano. Mellotron 9 1/2 minutes in as guitar cries. It gets heavy 11 minutes in with some killer organ and incredible drumming. Mellow again 12 1/2 minutes with reserved vocals and piano leading the way. Kicks back in around 14 minutes with some deep bass lines and scorching guitar. Great opening track. "Revelation" is spacey to start with as a pleasant melody comes in with reserved vocals. A powerful sound after a contrast of light and heavy continues. Nice. I like the liquid keys during the mellow sections. Some ripping guitar after 4 minutes with mellotron that continues almost to the end of the song. "Thoughts (Part II)" is a sequel to "Thoughts" from "Beware Of Darkness". Strummed guitar and vocals before some heavy bass and a fuller sound comes in. Those GENTLE GIANT vocal arrangments follow. Themes are repeated. Killer bass before and after 3 minutes and later on. What a song! Some cello in this one too.
"All On A Sunday" has been described by Neal as Prog- Pop. This is such an uplifting song. Like sunshine and a warm breeze. "Goodbye To Yesterday" is an older Neal Morse song that the band had been after him to record for sometime. This one is melancholic with fragile vocals and acoustic guitar. Mellotron comes in on the chorus. Drums before 2 minutes. Some french horn and piano make an appearance too as it comes to life 2 1/2 minutes in. I wished they had kept it restrained all the way through without these fuller sections.
"The Great Nothing" is the 27 minute closer. It's divided into six sections. It opens with what sounds like mellotron. Acoustic guitar after a minute and a full sound before 2 minutes as drums and bass lead the way. Mellotron and guitar joins in. I like the upbeat section that follows. A calm 3 1/2 minutes in as reserved vocals and piano take over. Nice. Meaningful lyrics. It picks up 7 1/2 minutes in. I like the guitar and bass. Nice organ play with drums follow. A calm 11 1/2 minutes in with piano and mellotron. Chunky bass 12 minutes in as it kicks back in. Catchy section before 15 minutes. A cool guitar / organ passage after 17 minutes. A calm 19 minutes in with a huge mellotron wave, acoustic guitar follows. Heavy again after 20 minutes with guitar and bass. An uplifting section 22 minutes in. The album ends in a spacey, mellow way.
Don't know why, but I always been reluctant to listen SPOCK'S BEARD, maybe because I'm tired of the identification of Progheads with Sci Fi (What more related with Sci Fi than a band named for a parallel version of Mr. Spock?) and later for the dislike towards NEAL MORSE and his Evangelistic crusade. I know that this reasons have absolutely no relation with the music, but sometimes external factors affect the perception of the music, and I'm the first one to admit the loss was mine, because I was ignoring some good material.
Well now lets get a bit into the band, Spock's Beard is maligned as Retro Prog by many bit beloved by more loyal fans, others say it's light Prog, some believe they are some kind of Pop Prog (A natural contradiction IMO), but I believe it's a solid Symphonic band with some mainstream reminiscences that I learned to like and respect but not to love as I love bands like GENESIS or ANGLAGARD.
"V" begins with "At the End of the Day" and it's pompous organ intro that sounds ideal for an epic movie, but after a few seconds it morphs into more traditional Symphonic with excellent guitar and drums, the problem begins when Neal Morse adds the vocals, I simply don't like his range too much, makes the songs sound simpler than they are, what isn't bad necessarily, but I believe cuts the atmosphere that the band was creating.
This first epic (16:30 minutes) is very good, but there's something that doesn't convince me totally, as if they lacked of that "je ne sais quoi" that makes the difference between a good and an excellent band. Nice acoustic guitar solo, but the vocals are something that I can't resist.
The contrast between the clearly Symphonic opener and the eclectic "Revelation" is obvious, the second track starts soft and simple, morphs into a ballad that gains strength and turns into Hard Rock and then some sort of light fusion and back again into Hard Rock. Yes, it has radical changes, better vocals and blend of genres, but still there's something missing in the band, in this case some cheesy keyboard passages simply cut all my inspiration.
"Thoughts Part II" starts promising with an excellent acoustic guitar intro that turns into an acoustic power ballad, a very good instrumental break where the band offers their best criminally cut repeatedly by an horrendous choral section that ruins the song despite the outstanding instrumental they only had kept their mouth shut, other would had been the result.
"All on a Sunday" is a nice power ballad with no changes and/or surprises, too predictable, flows gently from start to end with few (if any) variations. The weakest song of the album.
The acoustic guitar intro of "Goodbye to Yesterday" made me believe this song could be the best of the album, but it was a mirage, sadly turns into anther ballad with little interest, which bores me from the moment the singing begun.
"The Great Nothing" is "la piece de resistance", the 27 minutes epic that is supposed to make worth what you paid the album, and really makes the difference, after a mysterious but sober organ intro, Neal delights us with an acoustic guitar passage of great beauty, and then they hit us with unexpected strength.
After a very hard section the band returns to Symphonic territory with an outstanding interplay of all the instruments during a long instrumental break, which ends as abrupt as it started when Neal begins to sing, I can't hide he fact that I hate the vocals, but not so bad to ruin the song.
Along this very good song, the band makes several changes and shows us how they have been influenced by bands like YES and GENESIS, but always managing to stay original. Excellent closer, the best song of the album.
Being that I don't believe "V" is a masterpiece or remotely essential, the rating is easy, 3 stars for an album that I believe is above the average but nothing more. Still The Light" is far beyond in quality.
This fifth album from "Spock's Beard" is not really different from its predecessors. Still, I far much prefer the harmonies featured throughout "V" that the poor stuff available on their previous recording.
This album is kind of back on the roots, which means more YesOriented, more bombastic, more symphonic. I guess that fans can only be enthusiast with such a return to the core of their sound. This being said, the same lack of originality is almost felt at every corner of this CD.
The opening epic offers some fine instrumental parts as well as tender vocal sections. Steve Howe's typical guitar play is often copied (but never matched) and there are truly gorgeous keys moments as well. In all, this epic is quite enjoyable and well performed. It could have been excellent if "Yes" wouldn't be responsible for half of it. Still, this is a highlight of the album.
This album sounds definitely better than 'Day For Night" (which is rather easy). Even if most songs feature strong links with wonderful bands of the greatest prog era, the album is quite OK to listen to. I particularly like the heavy organ available on "Thoughts". But I understand that these Gentle Giant and later Kansas oriented vocals might irritate more than one prog fan.
The closing number and second epic is also a quiet enjoyable track. Another "Yes" revisited long piece of music. You'll get the instrumental intro, the acoustic Howe oriented savours, the melodic vocal lines etc. Still, it is quite a journey (twenty-seven minutes!). One goes through many musical experiences: jazzy, bombastic, melodic, and symphonic. Did I say Flower Kings?
It is obvious that if you like TFK, you will love the Beards (and vice-versa of course). But "The Great Nothing" is more of a combination of several distinctive parts with little interaction with each other than a true epic (I guess that it is needless to tell the ones I am referring to). The whole sounds pleasant, diversified enough to avoid boredom, for sure.
"V" is a good album. Much more interesting than "The Kindness Of Strangers". It should please new prog fans. But in terms of pure inventiveness, I have to say that this album just falls short. Some good musical parts which brings us back into the early seventies. But the ones who were there (like myself) might not be fully satisfied with these "dj entendu" type of music.
Spock's Beard hit a home run with this powerful album. The short middle songs are tracks I would tend to pass over, but the lengthy pieces that bookend this record are not to be missed, and more than qualify this as a five star album. It is truly an amazing and inspiring work.
Funny beard styles
"At the End of the Day" If I only got one Spock's Beard song to enjoy for the rest of my life, this would be it. "At the End of the Day" features an inspiring introduction, amazing lyrics, and a funky little Latin section. The organ and guitar solos leave nothing to be desired, and the arrangement is nearly perfect, as each section is almost seamlessly woven together. The lyrics and accompanying vocal melodies are impeccably uplifting, and something stirs in my heart each time I hear them.
"Revelation" The second song is a soft pleasant one (the chorus is hard-rocking however), one that could've been fronted by the late Marvin Gaye (for the most part anyway). It's a song that drags on a bit, but overall it's enjoyable.
"Thoughts, Pt. 2" As the name hints at, this is a Gentle Giant-like romp through many vocals and strange music, but the lovely acoustic "first verse" betrays this.
"All On a Sunday" The best of the short songs, this has an upbeat rhythm with a pleasant organ and acoustic guitar leading the way. It's nothing more than a pop song, but it's well done and highly enjoyable. It could be the theme song for a hip new teen drama!
"Goodbye to Yesterday" A pleasant acoustic number with some good bass work, it reminds me of Lindsay Buckingham-era Fleetwood Mac, particularly in recent times. The vocals are a little grainy, but the Mellotron is a nice touch in the background. It's a good dance song, if anything.
"The Great Nothing" The epic track took a few listens to grow on me. The lack of flow between the sections was an initial obstacle, but now it runs together perfectly in my ears. The unsettling opening is a strange wall of noise, but it leads into the main theme, which is performed on acoustic guitar. After the three minute introduction, there's a beautiful piano and vocal theme. A brief acoustic interlude with two singers comes in just before the whole band explodes into action, led by lead guitar and synthesizer. What follows is one of the coolest moments on the album- strange sound effects immerse great and funky bass riffs, which continue under some amazing and soulful organ playing. Rapid-fire singing carries on over another musical theme, this one somewhat heavier. The fifth section is the catchiest part of all even though it has some quirky sound effects and words. As per the lyrics, eventually things "quiet down," and the introductory acoustic guitar theme is revisited, which builds back up into further powerful music. A guitar solo and then gentle piano conclude matters.
If Neal Morse wanted to leave Spock's Beard on a high note, it should have been after this album, not the derivative and poorly written "Snow". The album is easily the Beard's best, and contain's Morse's finest compositions, as well.
The album begins and end with excellent prog epics. Both At The End Of The Day and The Great Nothing hold the prog listener's interest from start to finish, flowing effortlessly through their multiple musical themes, and showcasing the talents of each band member.
Revelation is a strong ballad, where Morse manages to push a some religious lyrics without getting preachy or trite, the two easiest traps for Christian songwriters. Not only that, it's a strong composition as well.
Thoughts (Part 2) like it's first part, uses Gentle Giant-like counterpoint with perfect effectiveness. And All On A Sunday and Goodbye To Yesterday provide a bit of breathing room before the final outstanding epic.
While this album isn't quite perfect, it's close enough to rate five stars.
Following the recent news of Nick D'Virgilio's departure, an omen perhaps that the end is nigh for Spock's Beard, I thought it appropriate to reflect on the bands finest hour. As the penultimate album to feature the band's original (and strongest) lineup, "V" reflects the pinnacle of their music achievement.
"V" has four shorter tracks bookended by two epics. It is almost inevitable that the longer tracks will outshine the shorter ones, but that said, the shorter trackso on "V" still hold strong and remain engaging, even after many listens. I enjoy all of them but my particular favourites are Revelation and All on a Sunday.
Then there is the album's opening track, At the End of the Day, an excellent track that would be the main event of most other albums. But those other albums don't close with The Great Nothing. This song is Spock's Beard. It is Neal Morse. It is Nick D'Virgilio. It is Alan Morse. It is Ryo Okumoto. It is Dave Meros. None of these guys are strangers to elongated multi-part compositions, but throughout Spock's Beard history, and all their associated projects, no other song has matched The Great Nothing. Whilst the majority of prog epics have highs and lows, parts you love and parts you are just there for the ride, The Great Nothing is pure refined class from start to finish. In this respect it is comparable to the likes of 2112 and Supper's Ready, and this is no mean feat.
This album is another one of those which tends to divide prog fans the world over. You love it or you hate it. Actually, specifically, you either love Neal Morse or hate him, because I think it is universally accepted that the standard of musicianship here and on other albums by this band is nothing short of exceptional.
For myself, I believe that this work represents a highpoint of Morse's career, probably only eclipsed by the debut Transatlantic effort. It is also, in my opinion, the clear highpoint of this band's output, although I might stress that the two are not necessarily linked.
The album is bookended by two incredible, daring, and massive opus tracks, At The End Of The Day, and the twenty seven minute long Great Nothing.
The opener starts proceedings in magnificent, symphonic, fashion, and is, indeed, the type of track that many Yes fans were hoping the old boys would come out with in 2000. I love the chorus in this, amongst the grand mellotron and symphonic soundscapes. It is, in reality, about the perfect neo-prog track, because it is created with such a knowing and loving nod to the symphonic masters of yore.
In between, we have a series of shorter tracks. Revelation is an interesting, and enjoyable, mix of light and heavy moods, with a distinctive commercial edge to proceedings, particularly in the chorus. Thoughts Part II is more of a throwaway track to me, too frenetic in parts for its own good, but still with some delicate and enjoyable vocals.
All On A Sunday is basically an enjoyable pop/prog romp, with a lovely upbeat rhythm, swirling keyboards, and relentlessly upbeat guitar backing Morse clearly enjoying every second. As with albums such as 90125, to which this album has understandably been compared, there is nothing wrong with a deliberately commercial song, as long as it is as well performed and well meaning as this.
The final short track is Goodbye To Yesterday, and is the type of lush acoustic number which lifts my spirits every time I hear it, all of this underscored by a delicate and mournful mellotron. Morse, I feel, has very rarely sounded better as he sings his heart out on a piece of lost love.
And so to the magnum opus, Great Nothing. You really are asking for trouble when you name a track in such a fashion, but, thankfully such worries are quickly dissipated. The opening section is extremely dark and foreboding with a taste of Wagnerian opera to these ears, with a brief, and lovely, acoustic guitar interlude before a tremendous riff brings the track to life, when Okumoto shows his pure class on organ. The following piano and vocal introduction to the main track is wonderfully lovely, and oozes sheer class. As we move on into the "main section", there is, at first listen, a confusing mix of moods and signatures, and it really isn't until many listens that you learn to appreciate the fact that it does gel together very well. Many passages are extremely reminiscent of The Flower Kings more experimental instances, whilst others are deliberately designed to give the impression that this is Spock's Beard's very own Close To The Edge, or Tales From Topographic Oceans, i.e. a collection of movements creating one whole suite.
Throughout, the band are performing at the top of their game. Such a suite demands tight playing and strong production to bring us the contrasts between bombastic and delicate, and it wins here on every level. I think a special mention should go to Dave Meros, whose ferocious bass playing at the more bombastic phases is simply incredible, but, in reality, all players shine on what is a very ambitious track, which could so easily have fallen apart, but, instead, ranks as one of the finest symphonic pieces of modern times. It also passes that very difficult trick of keeping the listener's attention throughout, right up to the fantastically uplifting conclusion.
This is an extremely good album, and by far my favourite that the band released. For any readers of this review who might have come across Transatlantic late in that project's career, and are curious about exploring the bands that make up the supergroup in more detail, this is the perfect place to start with Spock's Beard, because, in truth, they really didn't come anywhere near the heights of this symphonic delight on other releases.
Four stars for this. An excellent addition to any prog rock collection, and a must for all lovers of symphonic rock. It only just falls short of the masterpiece rating to me.
I may have mentioned before, once or twice, that in my humble opinion Spock's Beard are the best band to ever come from over the pond. Their latest release does nothing at all to make me change that opinion. It took me a little while to get into this album, but once I did then I found that I had real problems trying to listen to anything else. There are a few long numbers, but also some shorter ones. I think that if I had to play one song to try to entice a new fan that it would be one of these, "Thoughts (Part II)". It starts life as a gentle acoustic guitar ballad, but at the end of the introduction Neal puts an edge on his voice as he sings "I thought it might be really great, to show you how I feel inside, but I think, maybe not". This heralds the introduction of the rest of the band, who repeats and then plays around the musical motif. Gradually the pace picks up, and gets more complex then stops dead as the band produce harmony vocals a la Barber Shop form out of nowhere. The song moves from one extreme to another, with the initial phrase returned to twice. It may not be very long, but it is superb.
I am also a big fan of "All On A Sunday" which starts life as a Kansas soundalike, but yet again initial musical perceptions can be misleading and in the case of Spock's Beard downright wrong. Spock's Beard may be the huge fish in a pond that seems to be getting smaller every day, but if the rest of the musical world cannot see what they are missing then that is their loss. Yet another great album from the band that have managed to be prolific without losing quality.
Originally appeared in Feedback #60
That I really enjoy this album has come as somewhat of a surprise to me. Two years ago, when I first understood that I liked what is known as progressive rock and that there were so many bands I had never heard of out there producing exciting quality prog, I began listening to samples on Amazon, iTunes, and YouTube. I tried to get into Spock's Beard but no matter how interesting the music sounded I couldn't accept the vocals. After three attempts to find something that would grab me I gave up on Spock's Beard. Then I read a book by Stephen Lambe where he recommended 'V' and I thought, 'What the heck, I'll buy it,' because Mr. Lambe recommended many other albums which I already owned.
There are three things that I really appreciate about this album:
1. Song length variety. Although there is an epic long song and another over 16 minutes, there are four other songs between 4 and 6 minutes. Long epics can be fantastic but they require patience to get through and appreciate and at times they sound like little more than a medley of disparate songs thrown together for no other purpose than to say, 'We are prog. Check out our long songs.' After the second listen I liked "The Great Nothing" and after the first listen I liked "At the End of the Day".
2. Musical creativity without being overly diverse. The songs are basically rock music in its various modes including quiet acoustic guitar, hard electric guitar, organ, piano, jazzy frills, funky grooves, pop punkish tinges, pretty melodies, and so on. But there are surprises with orchestra and woodwinds, brass, a cappella, and even a Spanish section with some nice percussion. 'Thoughts (Part II)' actually reminds me of a more recent 'Can-Utility and the Coastliners' by Genesis because I once read that Genesis managed to record a classic example of prog rock in a normal length song and this song here by Spock's Beard includes many twists and modern prog turns but barely exceeds four minutes.
3. I like almost the whole album. There's no song that I would call a dud although one or two songs are almost regular radio fodder rock. For the most part this is a very enjoyable album and after the first two listens I was already adding 'At the End of the Day,' 'Thoughts (Part II)', and 'The Great Nothing' to my commute-time playlists. As for the vocals, I wonder what samples I had listened to that turned me off the band in the first place because I have no qualms with the vocals on this album. Though I got the CD only at the beginning of December last year (2013), two of the songs entered the list of 25 most played songs of the year according to my iTunes library (I bought a gross number of CDs last year so there was a lot of competition for listening time).
It's no surprise to know that Neal Morse of Spock's Beard went on to work with Roine Stolt of The Flower Kings in Transatlantic because I can see both bands share a similar musical styling. If you haven't heard Spock's Beard yet, I agree with Stephen Lambe that this album is worth checking out.