Spock's Beard - Snow

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Metal Blade
Catalog Number: 14406
Format: CD
Total Time: 65:08:00

For many years, progressive masters Spock's Beard have sworn up and down that they'd never do a concept album. Well, here it is ? Snow, a magnificent work which follows the life of one very unusual young man.

I love a good concept album, but I'll confess it usually takes me a few spins to get used to them. Like many other progressive concepts I own ? for example, Pink Floyd's The Wall, Dream Theater's Scenes From A Memory, and Pain of Salvation's Remedy Lane ? two things are true of Snow. Firstly, the plot is pretty damn weird, and until I got the gist of it, all I could think was "Huh?" Secondly, once I did get the hang of the story, it became one of my favourite albums.

Snow is full of great songs ? I love the hard-hitting "Welcome To NYC," the Ryo Okomuto piano solo, and "Solitary Soul," which reminds me of Phil Collins' "Another Day In Paradise" ? but then many of my albums have great songs on them. It's the small things, the little nuances I keep noticing more of every time I play it, that make Snow special.

It's the bluegrass guitar at the beginning of "Stranger In A Strange Land," the psychedelic string glissandos at the end of "I'm Dying," and the gospel choir in "Open Wide The Flood Gates;" it's the piano minuet in the middle of "Love Beyond Words," and its recurrence as an electronic fugue at the beginning of "All Is Vanity." It's the complex canonistic vocal passages in "Long Time Suffering" and "The Devil's Got My Throat," a feature that is used in "Thoughts Part II" (from V, 2000) and which made it one of my favourite Spock's Beard songs. It's the seamless transition to acid jazz for "Welcome To NYC," and the lyrics that make me want to hug people in "Wind At My Back." Snow is a moving work, lavishly constructed by the collective genius of the band. More than any modern progressive album I've ever heard, the musical devices used in Snow are so diverse and so very appropriate.

It's also an inherently spiritual work, no doubt heavily influenced by frontman Neal Morse's devout Christianity. Have a listen to lyrics from songs like "Made Alive / Overture," "Stranger In A Strange Land" and "I Will Go" to get a bit of an idea. Far from handing out preachy religious messages, though, it is instead an uplifting tale of how love and spirituality can change people's lives.

There is a limited box set available as well, including some studio work, out-takes, live songs, a cover of "South Side Of The Sky" by Yes, and three Spock's Beard stickers, which are making my fridge into a much funkier piece of furniture. Since I adore hearing inside stuff about how bands work on their music almost as much as the music itself, I'm extremely glad I picked this up. It is quite a bit more expensive than the regular version, though, so it may not be everyone's thing.

This is one of the most musically perfect, complete and interesting albums I've come across. It's difficult to do it justice in such a short review, and I find myself thinking of more things I want to add. However, I'm running out of room, and thus I will say just one more thing: go and listen to Snow, and find out how good it is for yourself.

Similar to: Pink Floyd, Marillion, Transatlantic

Also released by Radiant Records and by InsideOut (IOMCD 100) in regular and limited edition (IOMLTDCD 100) versions

[This review originally appeared June 2003 at the ProgPower Online review site -ed.]

Disc 1: Made Alive Overture (5:32) / Stranger In A Strange Land (4:29) / Long Time Suffering (6:04) / Welcome To NYC (3:33) / Love Beyond Words (3:24) / The 39th Street Blues (I'm Sick) (4:06) / Devil's Got My Throat (7:17) / Open Wide The Flood Gates (6:14) / Open The Gates Part 2 (3:03) Solitary Soul (7:34) / Wind At My Back (5:12)

Disc 2: Second Overture (3:47) / 4th Of July (3:11) / I'm The Guy (4:48) / Reflection (2:49) / Carie (3:05) / Looking For Answers (5:16) / Freak Boy (2:12) / All Is Vanity (4:36) / I'm Dying (5:09) / Freak Boy Part 2 (3:01) / Devil's Got My Throat Revisited (1:55) / Snow's Night Out (2:05) / Ladies And Gentlemen, Mister Ryo Okumoto On The Keyboards (2:40) / I Will Go (5:09) / Made Alive/Wind At My Back (8:28)

Neal Morse - lead vocals, piano, all synth, acoustic guitar
Ryo Okumoto -hammond and mellotron
Dave Meros - bass, vocals, French horn
Alan Morse - electric guitars, vocals
Nick D'Virgilio - drums, percussion, vocals

Chris Carmichael - violin, viola, cello
Jim Hoke - saxophone, clarinet, autoharp
Neil Rosengarten - flugelhorn, trumpet
Molly Pasutti - background vocals

The Light (1991)
Beware of Darkness (1995)
The Beard Is Out There Live (1995)
Official Live Bootleg (1996)
The Kindness of Strangers (1997)
From The Vault - 1995-1998 (1998)
Day For Night (1999)
Live At The Whiskey and NEARfest (1999)
Don't Try This At Home (2000)
V (2000)
Snow (2002)
Feel Euphoria (2003)
The Light - The Artwork Collector's Series (2004)
Octane (2005)
Gluttons For Punishment (2005)
Spock's Beard (2006)
Live (2008)
X (2010)
Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep (2013)
The Oblivion Particle (2015)
Noise Floor (2018)

The Beard Is Out There Live (VID) (1995)
Spock's Beard's Home Movie (VID) (1998)
Live At The Whisky (VID) (1999)
Making Of V (VID) (2001)
Don't Try This At Home & The Making Of V (DVD) (2002)
The Making Of Snow (DVD) (2004)
Live (DVD) (2008)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: January 31st 2005
Reviewer: Karyn Hamilton
Artist website: www.spocksbeard.com
Hits: 1450
Language: english


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