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Spock's Beard

Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep

Review by Gary Hill

I hate to have to say it, but I was a little disappointed with this album. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great disc, but after the last Beard album I was expecting a masterpiece. Some of this stuff just feels too mainstream and not up to that kind of masterpiece quality. Of course, this is a transition album with a new drummer and new lead singer. So, that’s kind of to be expected. I should say, though, Ted Leonard’s vocals are great. I would go so far as to say that he’s the best singer the band has ever had. He really rocks. Also, there are some songs that stand up to the level I would expect. This is a double CD version here, and for my money if a couple of the songs from disc two had been traded with songs on the bonus disc and then the whole dropped to one set, it would have been a more consistently strong album. Of course, it’s the Beard, so it’s still pretty darned great, either way. It’s just not as amazing as I expected it to be.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1: Main Disc
Hiding Out

This powers out from a piano introduction. There are some pounding, rocking moments that sound a lot like Kansas to my ears. It’s a very dynamic song that has a lot of different movements and flavors. It just seems a little sterile to me. That said, the vocal performance is great and some of the guitar lines really scream. The instrumental section around the five minute mark is pretty magical.

I Know Your Secret
The keyboard sounds that open this are trademark Spock’s Beard if you ask me. As the track evolves it powers out into a killer high energy progressive rock jam. The bass really drives it. The vocals come in over this backdrop and later there is some killer guitar riffing. Again, we’re taken through a number of changes. This song is much stronger than the opener, though. It drops down near the five minute mark to a mellower movement. Eventually that powers back out into the song proper.
Treasure Abandoned
Roughly the first minute and a half of this song is a lush and powerful instrumental introduction that at times channels the Beatles and Genesis. It gives way to more of a straight ahead (but still melodic) rock song structure for the first vocals. It powers up for the chorus, but for my money this is a little too “mainstream pop rock” and too little Spock’s Beard magic. Later, though, it powers out into a killer prog transition. Then it drops way down to a mellow movement that’s very much old school prog. Eventually that takes us back to the chorus, but with more layers of sound bringing more magic to the table. The instrumental movement that serves as the outro is just plain awesome.
Submerged

This song is good, but just not extremely special. There are a few moments that are magical, but otherwise it doesn’t feel like something different from a hundred other bands. Mind you, it’s still a great tune. It’s just that Spock’s Beard are capable of incredible and something more unique. I like it. I just think as a Beard song it really pales.

Afterthoughts

Here’s a hard rocking riff driven tune. The keyboards are quite cool. This is almost like Led Zeppelin meets Spock’s Beard. The vocal hook is quite catchy. There is an awesome wall of vocal harmonies section later in the piece, too. The cut continues by revisiting those various sections. This one is really magical and in a lot of ways seems the most effective merging of classic Spock’s Beard sounds with modern elements.

Something Very Strange
The introduction on this is about three minutes long. It runs from spacey prog to more energetic progressive rock. This is an awesome tune. There is definitely a psychedelic space rock vibe to the tune. The bass line is awesome and this is one of the best tunes here.
Waiting For Me

The extended introduction on this tune is very Yes-like. Both the bass line and the keyboard sound really drive that home. The song proper is classic Spock’s Beard. That Yesish movement returns at times as punctuation/variation. The instrumental segment mid-track is very much set up in a Yes-like manner and the bass guitar really gets a chance to shine on it. That gives way to a mellow section that works through. As they come out of the vocal movement of that the guitar really brings some hints of David Gilmour and the whole thing feels a bit like Pink Floyd. It rises up with a killer triumphant jam that’s awe-inspiring. As it builds outward it again touches on Yes-like territory, but it’s trademark Beard. This song is the best number on the album. It’s worth having for this tune alone. There’s a triumphant and powerful melodic resolution later in the piece.         

Disc 2: Bonus Disc
Man You're Afraid You Are
Here’s another song that would be a great tune for many bands, but as Spock’s Beard it seems a little lacking. It’s hard rocking and has a cool groove. It’s just not all that special or unique. There is a cool funky jam later in the tune, though. It’s not what you’d expect from the Beard, but it is tasty and pretty cool. Somehow it makes me think of Parliament Funkadelic a bit. There is some killer bass jamming after that leading out into an intriguing prog jam. They eventually take it out to a mellower movement for the next vocals and that segment takes the track out further down the road.
Down a Burning Road
The proggy bluesy rock jam that opens is classic. It drops to mellower modes for the vocals, feeling a bit like Pink Floyd meets The Beatles. This tune works out to a killer jam that’s very proggy but also very accessible. I’d say that this tune is better than some of the stuff on the first disc and perhaps if they put this in the place of one of the weaker songs there, and cut it to just a single CD set, it would have been a better album. There is some great passion built into this thing. Various instruments get chances to shine and it’s really just a powerful piece of music.
Wish I Were Here
This one could also be considered a great choice to trade out with one of the first disc tunes. It’s got a rubbery riff driven vibe to it. It’s not an obvious choice for Spock’s Beard, but it’s incredibly cool. It’s fun and still proggy. There are some great keyboard sounds later. There’s also an awesome, slightly odd (but in a cool way) psychedelically tinged jam later.
Something Very Strange Sanctified Remix

Here’s a remix of the earlier track. I definitely prefer the original version, but this is not bad. It just doesn’t have the same level of magic.

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