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Nick D' Virgilio


Review by Gary Hill

On the one hand, Nick D'Virgilio has been out of Spock's Beard for a while now. That means that perhaps the mentions of the band and comparisons aren't entirely appropriate. The thing is, while Neal Morse was considered the mastermind of SB in the first era of the band (with D'Virgilio taking on the vocal role in addition to his drumming duties when Morse left the band), in a lot of ways, each member of a band contributes to that sound, whether they actually write the songs or not. That means that not only is the classic Beard sound reflective of each musician's contributions, but that sound is a part of who they are as musicians. So, it's reasonable to assume some of that remains here.

With all that out of the way, this is an exceptional release. It has a prominent symphonic element built into it. The songs often do make me think of Spock's Beard. There is a wide range of sound built into this thing. I'd say that this is likely to make my "best of 2020" list. It's an exceptionally strong release. In addition to D'Virgilio, there are a number of notable guests here from Jonas Reingold and Carl Verheyen to Tony Levin, Randy McStine, Jordan Rudess, Rick Nielsen and Paul Gilbert.

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Track by Track Review
This is a symphonic instrumental introduction to the album. It runs a little less than two-and-a-half minutes.

Acoustic guitar brings this into being. Lush tones come over the top. The vocals bring a proggy ballad approach to the piece. As it continues there is a rather Beatles-like psychedelic edge to it at times. As the piece gets a bit more oomph further down the road it takes on some minor jazzy and bluesy elements. That section eventually ends it.

Turn Your Life Around
Trippy fusion-like electronic textures start this. There is a smoking hot, blues rock styled guitar line that joins after a bit. Keyboards eventually bring the prog rocking texture over the top as it continues. This is really quite a powerhouse number that definitely calls to mind Spock's Beard. It's a shifting, changing prog instrumental. For nearly two-and-a-half minutes. Then it drops back to a more percussive, rhythm section driven movement for the entrance of the vocals. The arrangement gets much lusher for the chorus. This is a real prog masterpiece, shifting and changing as it drives forward. Strings augment the arrangement later. A killer hard rocking movement later includes some cool backing vocals. This really keeps building upward as it evolves. It drives out into a killer fast paced jam further down the road that is absolutely on fire.
I’m Gone
A funky groove brings this thing into being. The track almost feels like something you might expect from Parliament. The vocals come in with style. The backing vocals bring a real soulful edge to this thing. I dig the keyboard jamming that rises up after a bit. It drops to a mellower movement with layers vocals. The cut shifts from there to another killer prog turned funk rock approach.
Money (That’s What I Want)
I've always said that if you are going to cover a song, you should make it your own. That's what's done here. This number is turned into a trippy, bluesy, psychedelic excursion that's slow and oozes cool. The pace picks up later as it drives to a false ending. The cut comes back in from that for a tasty reprise.
Waiting For No One
Piano and vocals begin this number. The piece evolves as a pretty prog ballad. Symphonic instrumentation and mellower guitar eventually augment the arrangement.
Snake Oil Salesman
A killer rocking groove brings this into being. The cut powers out from there in style. This is almost metallic, or at least based on bluesy hard rock. This is another song that sounds a lot like Spock's Beard to me. It's definitely a bit more "in your face" and rocking, but the prog elements still show up on some of the overlayers of sound.
Where’s The Passion
Starting with piano, this cut works sans vocals for a time, gaining instrumentation and intensity. It crescendos, and then drops back just a bit for the entrance of the vocals. As this number gradually builds in intensity it gets so powerful. It's another that has a lot of that Beard trademark sound to it. The strings really add to the magic of this.
Ambient sounds make up the beginning of this track. This eventually explodes out into a powerhouse frantic driving prog jam that is so classy. After working through sans vocals for a time, we get into the song proper. This is another cut that leans toward metal. It is furiously pounding, yet it's also proggy. The tune shifts toward a dramatic symphonic prog turned metallic movement. This continues to evolve and change as it grows. There is a definite passion and intensity throughout. It drops to a particularly mellow section around the five-minute mark. That motif holds it for a vocal section. Then it gives way to an almost fusion-like bit with some smoking guitar work backed up by decidedly funky bass playing. It eventually makes it way back to the song proper to take it to the end.
After a mellow bit of fantasy, killer guitar work rises up and is augmented by a particularly symphonic and bombastic prog arrangement. The tune continues to evolve and grow. It has a more pronounced and integrated symphonic element than some of the other pieces do. It has a nice balance between mellower and more powered up sounds. The cut is another that calls to mind the mighty Beard in some real ways. The multiple layers of vocals later in the number are particularly Beard-like. However you slice it, this is another powerful prog excursion.
In My Bones
A fast paced rocking tune, this is another that has a lot of Beard-like tendencies. The horns are an interesting touch. This is a fun grind, really. The cut grows and evolves as it continues driving forward. There is some smoking hot bluesy guitar soloing later (courtesy of my hometown's resident guitar rock star, Rick Nielsen), and this thing is just on fire.
Wrong Place, Wrong Time
I dig the fast paced prog jam that opens this. It is a lot of fun. That pulls through and resolves to a bit of metallic crunch before it drops down for the entrance of the vocals. It starts to power up again from there, getting fast and furious. The layers of vocals again call to mind SB. There is a quick fast-paced thing that drops to a spoken, "this is nuts" before the cut fires outward again.
Not My Time To Say Goodbye
A percussive arrangement brings this into being. The vocals come in over the top of a mellower jam. It eventually builds upward and gets pretty hard rocking for a time. This is a compelling piece that has a lot of emotion built into it. It is another that often calls to mind The Beard. There is a seriously symphonic movement later in the song that really soars.
I Know The Way
This melodic prog rocker is another that sounds a lot like Spock's Beard. It's more of a "single" type piece is in a lot of ways. The tune builds upward as it continues, getting pretty intense and rocking as it drives forward.
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