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Spock's Beard: Snow 2002, Metal Blade Records CyberHome: http://www.MetalBlade.com
Snow from Spock's Beard is a progressive effort that deploys a standard progressive rock format that integrates vocals, background music, and soloing sections. The album is a compilation of tactful songs that have some merit to the musical content, though the level of instrumental intensity is not as progressive as many of the instrumentally intensive artists of the day. Instead, the format and instrumentalism is closer to radio format music with a more progressive edge. The compositions is generally pretty good for the style of music that it is and is not without some interesting and bright spots that keep the listener's interest. The tonality stays within the bounds of diatonic rock music for the most part, though with some outside harmonization in places. The rhythms and meters are also within the confines of standard ro! ck rhythms, though the changes and diversity of rhythms are good. Also, the vocals on this effort are of good quality.
Fans of conventional progressive rock geared towards the radio format may find this album to be listen worthy. However, it is doubtful that fans of modern, intrumentally-intensive progressive music are going to be satisfied with the level of instrumentalism involved on this album.
Players: Neal Morse Alan Morse Ryo Okumoto Nick D'Virgillio Dave Meros
Tracks: 1) Made Alive / Overture 2) Stranger in a Strange Land 3) Long Time Suffering &nb! sp; 4) The 39th Street Blues 5) Devil's Got My Throat 6) Wind At My Back 7) Second Overture 8) 4th of July&nbs! p; 9) I'm the Guy 10) Looking for Answers 11) Freak Boy 12) I Will Go
~ Christopher Ruel
Artist: Spock’s Beard Title: Feel Euphoria Genre: Rock/Neo-Progressive Label: Inside Out/SPV-www.insideoutmusic.com Website: www.spocksbeard.com How could you possibly not Feel Euphoria knowing that a new Spock’s Beard album was set to be released? If you are a real head case when it comes to prog-rock like me, you know exactly where I am coming from. Okay, I know you are wondering what they sound like without their main man Neal Morse. Their circumstances were the same as Genesis many years ago when they had to replace their lead man Peter Gabriel, and a drummer by the name of Phil Collins took over the lead vocal spot. Let me ease your minds, Nick D’ Virgilio does an excellent job stepping out from in back of the drum kit (he still plays drums) to take over the lead role with the band. He actually sounds like Morse on a few cuts. It does not surprise me one bit that it was such an easy transition, his solo album Karma absolutely floored me and I wondered why he was not singing more for the band anyway. Morse was the heartbeat of this band for so long, I too had to wonder how their overall sound would hold up throughout this album. I have to admit I was not exactly sure after two listens, I guess the third time is the charm because by the time I had listened completely on the third spin I was convinced that they were different, they had a new kind of energy, and they definitely were still the Spock’s Beard that I loved listening to. Everyone in the band kicks it up a few notches to support D’ Virgilio on his new job and the outcome is spectacular. This band has been at the top of their game for so long now how could anyone expect anything less. The music ranges from the hard rocking title track “Feel Euphoria” to the gorgeous harmonies and lead vocals of “East of Eden, West of Memphis,” featuring sparkling guitar lines, keyboards, bass and drums all produced to perfection. “A Guy Named Sid” is their mini-series/opus in six parts that will have prog-heads salivating. The progression and changes that each individual part goes through is like the cover of the CD, a rainbow of colors dumped into a vast pool of sound and textures, it is all breathtaking rock music. Some long time fans may think that the beard is just stubble right now and it needs to grow in, personally, I think the old growth just had a trim and it grew back in differently to fit the new face. The beard is still there and it has plenty of time to grow. Just like the title of the last two tracks, it is all about “Change” and the will to “Carry On.” ©"Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck July 1, 2003 1. Onomatopoeia 2. The Bottom Line 3. Feel Euphoria 4. Shining Star 5. East Of Eden, West Of Memphis 6. Ghosts Of Autumn A Guy Named Sid: 7. - pt. I - Intro 8. - pt. II - Same Old Story 9. - pt. III - You Don't Know 10. - pt. IV - Judge 11. - pt. V - Sid's Boys Choir 12. - pt. VI - Change 13. Carry On Rating- 4.5 stars of 5 Spock’s Beard Is: Nick D'Virgilio - lead vocals, drums, acoustic and some electric guitars, percussion, and loops Alan Morse - electric and acoustic guitars and vocals Ryo Okumoto - keyboards Dave Meros - basses
Spock's Beard -V (CD, 62:58) Metal Blade Records 3984-14335-2 Metal Blade Records 2828 Cochran St., PMB 302 Simi Valley, CA 93065-2793 CYBERHOME: http://www.metalblade.com Like it or not, there is no doubt that Spock's Beard is one of today's most successful progressive rock acts. Its leader - keyboardist, guitarist and vocalist Neal Morse - is about as prolific as a composer can be, releasing three CDs within the course of a year. The first one was a self-titled solo album, which showed Neal changing direction with several short and accessible pop songs. Then in early 2000, Neal teamed up with musicians from Flower Kings, Marillion, and Dream Theater to form Transatlantic, who achieved success with their old-school progressive sounding SMTP:e complete with half-hour long songs and extended instrumental jams. For his third and most recent release, Morse returned to Spock's Beard to put together V, the bands much-anticipated fifth studio release. While, V succeeds in unexpected areas (namely short, poppy songs), Neal and Co. seem to have problems with the two prog "epics" on the CD. Morse comes across like a pop songwriter trapped in a progressive musician's body, and sometimes the results are less than stellar. This release can really be divided into two sections: the long songs and the short songs. I'll start with the long ones which bookmark the CD. V kicks off in typical Beard fashion with a 16-minute piece titled "At the End of the Day," which comes complete with a mix of horns, Latin-inspired guitar playing, a few heavy-metal riffs, and a very Transatlantic-sounding chorus. This piece flows a little better than many of Beard's other long pieces, but its 6-note motif doesn't quite pack the emotional punch that I think Morse intended. "At the End of the Day" isn't a bad song by any means, it's just a little disappointing after having heard some of Morse's compositional work with Transatlantic. Morse has often been accused with forcing length on his songs, stretching what could have been solid 6 or 7-minute songs in to 20-minute pieces just for the sake of it. This couldn't be more the case than on V's closer, a 28-minute doozy (actually, more like "dozer") titled "The Great Nothing". This song kicks off with Okumoto's ominous mellotron - Genesis' "Watcher of the Skies" immediately came to mind. Unfortunately, the entrancing opening is followed up by a very uninteresting instrumental passage; as a matter of fact the problem with this track as a whole is that it suffers from uninteresting instrumental breaks. Some of the vocal parts of the song work very well, but whenever the instrumental noodling begins the song quickly loses its focus. If Morse could've cut this song in half Beard could've had an excellent extended piece, but there just aren't 28 minutes of good ideas in "The Great Nothing". Oddly enough, it is in between the behemoths where we find Spock's Beard being most effective. Morse has an excellent ear for catchy hooks, and he flaunts this ability on songs such as "All on a Sunday" and "Goodbye to Yesterday". "Sunday" is a very effective pop song tailor-made for alternative radio (although I'm sure it won't make any station's playlist), sounding a little bit like Matthew Sweet or The Rembrandts. "Goodbye to Yesterday" is a "hold your lighter high" ballad that features some very nice acoustic guitar and vocals from Morse and some excellent arranging as well. The only weak spot in the CDs middle section is "Revelation," which is basically a riff-based rocker without a decent riff. Where Beard really shines is on the pseudo-sequel, "Thoughts (Part II)," which I think is supposed to be a follow-up to "Thoughts" from the Beware of Darkness CD. Reason I'm not so sure is because musically, "Part II" has nothing at all to do with the original except for the bizarre vocal harmonies that hearken back to its predecessor. The track has a real extended feel to it, but surprisingly when you look at the CD cover you realize the song clocks in at under 5 minutes. In this limited amount of space, the boys manage to throw in the aforementioned vocal breaks, some great acoustic guitar work, killer bass licks from Dave Meros, and a string section(!) - all to great effect. As a matter of fact, despite it's short length "Thoughts (Part II)" is the most progressive-sounding track on V, proving that size isn't everything in prog. All in all, I think fans of Beard will be pleased with V as long as they're not expecting anything earth-shattering out of Morse and Co. Some fans may object to some of Morse's dabbling in pop music, but it would be unfair to dismiss V simply due to these tracks - they are actually the strength of the album. Although it may be "prog heresy" to say this, I look forward to the day when Spock's Beard releases a CD where all the tracks come in at under 10 minutes - I think Morse's songwriting talents lie more in this range, and it will avoid the "forced" feeling of some of his longer compositions. - Michael Askounes (email@example.com) CREDITS: Neal Morse: Lead Vocals, Piano, All Synths, Acoustic Guitar Ryo Okumoto: Hammond Organ, Mellotron Dave Meros: Bass, Stand-up Bass, Vocals, French Horn Nick D'Virgilio: Drums, Percussion, Vocals Alan Morse: Electric Guitar, Vocals, Cello, and Sampler TRACKLIST: 1. At the End of the Day (16:30) 2. Revelation (6:04) 3. Thoughts (Part II) (4:41) 4. All on a Sunday (4:12) 5. Goodbye to Yesterday (4:40) 6. The Great Nothing (27:18) More information on Spock's Beard can be found at http://www.spocksbeard.com
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